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Chapter 2 The Spies

As he opened the door, Winston saw that he had left the diary open on the table. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER was written in it, in letters you could almost read across the room.

But everything was all right. A small, sad-looking woman was standing outside.

‘Oh, Comrade Smith,’ she said, in a dull little voice, ‘do you think you could come across and help me with our kitchen sink?

The water isn’t running away and …’

It was Mrs Parsons, his neighbour. She was about thirty but looked much older. Winston followed her into her flat. These repairs happened almost daily. The Victory Mansions flats were old, built in about 1930, and they were falling to pieces. Unless you did the repairs yourself, the Party had to agree to them. It could take two years to get new glass in a window.

‘Tom isn’t home,’ Mrs Parsons explained.

The Parsons’ flat was bigger than Winston’s and unattractive in a different way. Everything was broken. There were sports clothes and sports equipment all over the floor, and dirty dishes on the table. On the walls were the red flags of the Young People’s League and the Spies and a full-sized poster of Big Brother. There was the usual smell of old food, but also the smell of old sweat. In another room someone was singing with the marching music that was still coming from the telescreen.

‘It’s the children,’ said Mrs Parsons, looking in fear at the door to the other room. ‘They haven’t been out today and of course . . .’

She often stopped without finishing her sentences.

In the kitchen, the sink was full of dirty green water.

’ O f course if Tom was home …’ Mrs Parsons started.

Tom Parsons worked w i t h Winston at the Ministry of Truth.

He was a fat but active man who was unbelievably stupid and endlessly enthusiastic. He was a follower with no mind of his own - the type that the Party needed even more than they needed the Thought Police.

At thirty-five Tom Parsons had only just been thrown out of the Young People’s League, although he had wanted to stay.

Before that he had continued in the Spies for a year beyond the official age. At the Ministry he had a job which needed no intelligence, but he worked for the Party every evening, organizing walks and other activities. The smell of his sweat filled every room he was in and stayed there after he had gone.

Winston repaired the sink, taking out the unpleasant knot of hair that was stopping the water running away. He washed his hands and went back to the other room.

‘Put your hands up!’ shouted a voice.

A big, handsome boy of nine was pointing a toy gun at him.

His small sister, about two years younger, pointed a piece of wood. Both were dressed in the blue, grey and red uniforms of the Spies. Winston put his hands up. The look of hate on the boy’s face made him feel that it was not quite a game.

‘You’re a Eurasian spy!’ screamed the boy. ‘You’re a thoughtcriminal! I ‘ l l shoot you, I ‘ l l vaporize you!’

Suddenly they were both running round him, shouting ‘Spy!

Thoughtcriminal!’ The little girl did everything seconds after her older brother did it. It was frightening, like the games of young, dangerous wild animals that w i ll soon be man-eaters. Winston could see that the boy really wanted to hit or kick him, and was nearly big enough to do so. He was glad that the gun in the boy’s hand was only a toy.

‘They wanted to see the Eurasian prisoners hang. But I ‘ m too busy to take them and Tom’s at . . .’

‘We want to see them hang!’ shouted the boy, and then the girl started shouting it too.

Some Eurasian prisoners, guilty of war crimes against Oceania, were going to hang slowly in the park that evening.

This happened every month or two and was a popular evening’s entertainment. Children were often taken to see it.

Winston said goodbye to Mrs Parsons and walked towards the door. He heard a loud noise as a bomb fell. About twenty or thirty of them were falling on London each week. Then he felt a terrible pain in the back of his neck. He turned and saw Mrs Parsons trying to take some sharp stones from her son’s hand.

‘Goldstein!’ screamed the boy.

But Winston was most shocked by the look of helpless terror on Mrs Parsons’ grey face.

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