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The Dark Philosophers (1946) (Library of Wales) by Gwyn Thomas

By Gwyn Thomas

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On our right was the northern slope of the tip. This was the place where all the tipping was done and the only place where the tip continued to grow. This was the place where those people, poor elements from some streets called the Terraces, picked coal for Oscar at fivepence a bag and Oscar sold each bag for one and sevenpence. Those elements must have been very poor indeed, lower down even than the dole, I supposed, to be spending their time bending down, skipping out of the way of big lumps of stone that came hurtling out of the trams which were emptied at the top of the tip and picking coal for Oscar at so little profit to themselves and at so great a profit to him.

Oscar owned a lot of these houses and I loved him no more deeply for that. I did not bother to go around the front way to the house. That would have added minutes to my journey and it was getting late. The back wall looked out on to the mountain. There was a door let into this wall. It was bolted from the inside. I climbed the wall. I knew exactly where to put my hands and feet. I had done the climb a thousand times in dark and light. A cat could have done it no better. As I straddled the top of the wall, a policeman passed, flashed his lamp and asked me what I was up to.

You know those people that pick for me on that tip. They’re mine. If it wasn’t for me saying they come and pick my coal they wouldn’t be there picking. When I wanted to I cleared them off the tip. That’s what I can do. If I told them to get off this mountain, off they’d have to get. They’d be rotting about on their beds having more bastards like themselves. I ought to be able to do as I like to people like that. Don’t know what they live for, anyway. Sometimes I’ve watched them. Sometimes when a stone has come rolling down the tip, I’ve watched them run and duck and lie on their guts full stretch to get out of the stone’s way, as if they had as much to live for as a bloody king or me or somebody like that, and sometimes I’ve prayed, I’ve watched the stone and prayed that the stone would be smarter than them and smack their bloody brains out, just to teach them a lesson.

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