A monologue by Charles Battell Loomis

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Modern Literature for Oral Interpretation. Ed. Gertrude E. Johnson. New York: The Century Co., 1920.
  • MR. HAY: Look wild, do I? Well, I feel wild. I'm on my way now to the what do you call him, so much a visit, to find out whether it's regular paresis or only inability to get my tongue on the right word. It's been coming on sometime. I just noticed it when I forgot my own name at the roll-call in the armory. Never could remember other people's names, but when I forgot my own I thought it was getting serious. An easy name like mine [slaps forehead], by golly, it's gone from me now! Wait a minute, don't help me, let me try my memory system. It helps me to a word by association of ideas. My name has something to do with a farm, I know that. Farm,--crops--grass--oh, Hay. The reason I'm going to the doctor is because the other day Mrs. Hay told me to go to a department store and buy her a--now, wait. Pudding--pie--cake--a half dozen--er--pianos--piano keys--ivory keys--Ivory Soap. A half-dozen cakes of Ivory Soap. [writes it down on his cuff] She wanted me to write it down then, but I said I guessed my brains would hold a half-dozen cakes of Ivory Soap, and she said she guessed that's what's in my head instead of brains--you know the way a wife of long standing will talk to a fellow. Well, I went down to the store, thinking of half a dozen ways of remembering [consults his cuff] Ivory Soap, but I was too proud to write it out--then. I consulted the first floor-walker I met and said, "I want to get some--er--something that floats--" "Ships? Toy department in basement," he says. "Life-preservers? They're in the sporting-goods department--fourth floor." I left him in disgust and tried another. I didn't want life-preservers, but I was getting to [consults cuff] --Ivory Soap by my memory system. I said to the next one, "I want to buy six cakes--"

    "Bakery department, sixth floor."

    "No, no. It's something that's in cakes--"

    "Carraway seeds--grocery department, same floor."

    "No, no. They're white cakes--"

    "Angel-food, same floor."

    "Hold on, this thing is advertised everywhere--"

    "Oh, why didn't you say so, that's breakfast food--same department."

    I shook my head and summoning all my wits, I remembered the name. I said, "Say, this thing floats by the baby in the bath tub and you can't lose it--" "What, the baby?" said he, but before I could answer he walked off, and I accosted another. To my joy one of the words I wanted came to me, and I said quickly, "I want to know where I can get soap."

    "Can of what soup?"

    "Not soup, soap!"

    "All the soups are in the grocery department, but I don't think they carry that brand."

    "Brand nothing. I want soap."

    He shook his head and said to another floor-walker who came up just then, "No use, Jackson. I'll have to get an aurist. Deaf as a post. You find out what this gentleman wants." By that time I had lost my temper, and I said to the latest floor-walker, "Oh, you wouldn't know what I want. It's only in every magazine in the world."

    "Is it gunpowder?" said he in a pacifying tone of voice. "If it was powder," I said, "I'd get it and blow this place to smithereens. Making me lose valuable time just because there's no one here with brains enough to guess what I want, although I've described its qualities over and over again. It's what no house-wife should be without."

    "Why, my dear friend," said he, "there are fifty things in the grocery department that sell on that catchline. You'd better take the store aisle by aisle--there's only 240 miles of aisles--and keep your eyes peeled, and when you see what you are looking for put your hand on it and ask for it." So I wandered aimlessly about for half an hour on various floors, and at last I came to the playing card counter, where they have counters of ivory, and as soon as I saw the ivory I gave a whoop, jumped up and down and shouted at the top of my lungs: "I WANT IVORY SOAP! I WANT IVORY SOAP! I WANT IVORY SOAP!" In a minute a detective had seized me and was leading me struggling to the street, for he thought I'd gone mad; but I said, "It's all right, I'm not mad, there it is!" Then I stepped to the clerk standing behind a pyramid of the-- [consults cuff] --Ivory Soap, and said: "Send six cakes of this soap to my house C.O.D." And then I left the store in a hurry and it wasn't until my wife asked me for the soap that evening that I remembered that I'd forgotten--forgotten to give them my name and address, so of course I didn't get the soap after all! So now I'm going to see the doctor--and get him to fix up my brain; for while there's life there's--soap--I mean hope.