For decades this short story has been stuck in my head. We read it in highschool English class once.

As I remember it, it was about a boy leaving his home to encounter a man who was about to hang himself. I think the man is standing on a chair and preparing the ordeal, when the boy meets him. The boy doesn't understand the situation, so he starts a conversation. Not sure how the story ends...

I remember it as a very beautiful short story, but haven't managed to find it.

Can anybody help me?

I think the word 'penny' was involved.

Does anybody know the story?

1 Answer 1


I found it. Strangely enough I never googled it like I did today, using completely different words. Alan Sillitoe, 'On Saturday Afternoon'.

A prevalent theme was also 'feeling black'.

The story is narrated by a teen remembering when he was younger.

As a kid, he followed a guy from the neighborhood who told everyone he was going to hang himself when asked about the rope he was carrying. Being curious, he snuck into the guy's apartment, even going as far as trying to help the guy get it done.

Here's the passage mentioning a penny:

“Shut the door,” he asked me, and I did as I was told. “Ye’re a good lad for your age,” he said to me while I sucked my thumb, and he felt in his pockets and pulled out all that was inside, throwing the handful of bits and bobs on the table: fag-packet and peppermints, a pawnticket, an old comb, and a few coppers. He picked out a penny and gave it to me, saying: “Now listen ter me, young ‘un. I’m going to ‘ang messen, and when I’m swinging I want you to gi’ this chair a bloody good kick and push it away. All right?”

  • 1
    Came here to mention this. I read it in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.
    – SQB
    Sep 20, 2019 at 14:41

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