Arts: Extract `On The Edge'

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"IS THERE any chance of your going back to Kleinwort's?" sighed Mrs Thorpe.

"I don't know," said Peter, to whom it seemed rather less likely than an invasion from Sirius. Kleinwort's was utterly remote to him at the moment. Over the last few days the rest of the world had receded like clouds melting in the heat of an atomic blast. He didn't dare tell his mother that he'd forgotten her telephone number.

"You must be running out of money," she said hopefully.

"Not yet."

"You can't just say you don't know," said Mrs Thorpe.

"Even if it's the truth?"

"But I don't think it is true, not deep down."

"You mean the deepest thing about me is my potential re-employment by a merchant bank?"

"You sound so different," said his mother. "You used to plan for the future."

"Well, just now I'm trying to live in the present."

"That's what animals do, darling, we've got minds."

"And what are they for? Buying life insurance?"

"I can't make out whether they've turned you into a socialist or a Moonie," said Mrs Thorpe.

Peter looked out of the telephone booth. The Pacific, sparkling among the dark branches of a cedar tree, made him pause long enough to disarm.

"You're probably right in a way. I don't really know what I'm up to," he said. "We're all so fragmented, perhaps we can never know ourselves as a whole."

"Are you all right?" said Mrs Thorpe, her opposition replaced for a moment by maternal concern. "You're not cracking up, are you?"

"No, I mean, I had this strange feeling the other day. Maybe I felt whole then, or maybe it was just a new bit of me emerging."

"You are cracking up," said Mrs Thorpe, no longer in any doubt.