“Suddenly she dropped it like a torpedo, sliding underneath her hand and slithering with a flash of red and black and the words: Sir Galahad Distilled Louisville Gin. He took it by the neck and tossed it through the open door into the bathroom.”
Her boss agrees with her decision and attempts to find a nurse with more experience dealing with alcoholics. However, her efforts are in vain. The nurse, inspired by reading about Mary Nightingale, decides to be a hero and return to the man as without her he has nothing. When she arrives back at his home, he is perky and full of life, but this mood is short lived. The topic of booze arises, and the man’s facade vanishes. In the final harrowing lines, the man makes up his mind that he wants to die, and the nurse knows she is powerless to prevent his demise.
“She knew death – she had heard it. Smelt its unmistakable odor, but she had never seen it before it entered into anyone, and she knew it before it entered into anyone, an she knew this man saw it in the corner of his bathroom: that was standing there looking at him while he spat from a feeble cough and rubbed the result into the braid of his trousers. It shone there crackling for a moment as evidence of the last gesture he ever made.”
This short story shows that some obstacles in life are insurmountable. Fitzgerard, being an alcoholic, was painting an admission of his own inability to kick the bottle. As sad as the demise of the man is, it’s a poignant reminder of the vice-like grip that alcohol has over many in society, and the premature end it delivers to those who fall under its spell.