Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 960
Mick and his brother Aston live alone together in a West London house until one night Aston brings home Davies, who just left his job as a kitchen helper at a restaurant. The old man proves to be a violent, selfish bigot, uncharitable himself but quick to exploit the kindness of others. He tells Aston that “Blacks, Greeks, Poles” are “treating him like dirt” and that “nobody’s got more rights than I have.” He also vows to get revenge on another employee at the restaurant. In contrast to Davies’ vulgar, abrasive, vengeful attitude, Aston’s is quiet, gentle, and accommodating. In addition to offering Davies a bed for the night, he tries to give him a comfortable pair of shoes. Davies, ungrateful, refuses the shoes, claiming they do not fit. When Aston offers him money, however, Davies accepts it, insisting that he has to “get down to Sidcup,” where he can get his papers and resume his true identity as Mac Davies, instead of living as he was under the assumed name of Bernard Jenkins.
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Davies stays the night, and in the morning Aston complains that Davies made noises. When Aston suggests that perhaps Davies was dreaming, Davies counters by saying that he never dreams and becomes angry when Aston says the “jabbering” kept him from sleeping. Nevertheless, Aston suggests that Davies stay on longer if he wants and gives him a key to the room. Before going out to shop for a jigsaw, Aston recalls an encounter he had recently with a woman he met in a café, who offered “to have a look” at his body. Davies asks him for money, but Aston reminds him that he gave him some money the previous night.
Left alone, Davies begins to rummage through items scattered around the room and is surprised by Mick, who grabs him in a hammerlock and throws him on the floor, asking “What’s the game?” and demanding to know Davies’ real name. Davies lies, saying his name is Jenkins, and, as if to punish him for lying, Mick aggressively interrogates Davies, undercutting his confidence, confusing the old man, critiquing his motives, and questioning his racism, ethnocentrism, suspicions, and arrogance. Mick finally accuses Davies of being “a born fibber” and teases him by not giving him his trousers. He is interrupted, however, by Aston returning with a valise—Davies claimed he left his at the restaurant the previous night. When Aston hands Davies the bag, however, Mick grabs it and continues teasing Davies.
Once Mick finally gives Davies the bag, the old man is so startled and frightened that he staggers back and drops it. Mick then leaves Aston alone with Davies, who, shaken and angry, calls Mick “a real joker.” He also complains that the bag Aston brought him is not his, and though the bag contains some clothes Aston bought him, Davies is indignant, rejecting the gear—except for a smoking jacket which he puts on, claiming that it is not “a bad piece of cloth.”
When Aston suggests the old man can become the caretaker around the house, Davies becames evasive, reciting a list of excuses. Later, Davies returns to the room alone in the dark. Frightened upon discovering that the lights are not working and thinking that he hears an intruder, he pulls a knife, but the intruder turns out to be Mick, who chases Davies around the room with a vacuum cleaner. After sparring mentally with Davies, Mick pretends to befriend him, offering him a sandwich. Once he gains Davies’ trust, however, Mick again sets a trap for him. Suggesting that his brother is odd and lazy, Mick gets Davies to join in the criticism of Aston, calling him a “funny bloke.” Mick then demands that Davies clarify his statement, confusing the old man. To compound Davies’ confusion, Mick asks him to become the caretaker, provided that Davies can produce references. Davies again asserts that his references—his papers—can be verified only if he can get to Sidcup.
The next morning Aston complains again that Davies is making so much noise that Aston cannot sleep. Aston recalls being arrested for having hallucinations and being sent to a doctor, who tells him he would “do something” to his brain. Aston claims that he wrote to his mother, hoping to prevent the treatment, but his mother signed the forms and allowed the doctor to perform shock therapy on him. After the treatment, Aston says, his thoughts “had become very slow.” He says that he suffers from headaches and that he learned to stay out of public places. He also admits that he would like to find the doctor who administered the treatment.
Two weeks later, Davies, alone in the house with Mick, begins to list a series of complaints against Aston. Aston is not talking to him, he is not being “straightforward,” he will not provide him with a clock, and he will not let him sleep. By the time Aston joins the other two, Davies is conspiring against him with Mick. That night, awakened by Aston’s complaints about the old man’s noises, Davies loses his temper and yells that Aston is “half-off.” When Aston makes a move toward Davies, the old man pulls his knife, convincing Aston that it is time for Davies to leave. Davies appeals to Mick for help, but Mick defends his brother’s position. Smashing a bust of Buddha, Mick launches into a tirade against Davies’ selfishness. When Aston notices the broken Buddha, Davies reverses himself against Mick and again appeals to Aston, hoping that Aston will allow him to stay at the house. This time, Aston refuses to help the old man, telling him he cannot stay because he makes “too much noise.”