The house was dim and old, with high beams and dust. It seemed long-abandoned. There was a constant low sweet rustling in the walls, and a dank comforting mousy smell. I lay in a bed there and read of Suso, the self-torturing millionaire. He had inherited all the money he would ever need. He lived among friendly people, in a large house where there were many servants. His father was indulgent. When he was growing up, Suso had merely to express the slightest offhand interest in something, and he would be given lessons in it. Thus, he received lessons in the oboe, in tropical fish cookery, and noodle-making.

Abruptly, when he was fifteen, he became intensely secretive, stopped taking any lessons whatever. With a private delight he sewed steel wool into his cotton undershirt, shaved his chest bare, and wore the undershirt under a tight leather jacket. He went on long walks in it, swinging his arms, and feeling each separate steel strand prickle against him as his arms moved. He walked a great deal in those days. Still, it was not enough. His feet were tired, but when he returned home he soon recovered in the comfort of warm, nourishing food and his parents' friendliness, offering him hot chocolate with a little brandy in front of the warm fireplace. He developed a passion for working on the family car. Until late at night he would toy with little wrenches underneath it, as flakes of rust fell in his eyes and oil-clogged beetles struggled up, to find a refuge on his head. He would go to sleep very late, almost blind from smelling the car's exhaust, to analyze the engine, with his hair ropy and gritty with oil.

His parents became uncomfortable. So they sent Suso to a psychologist, the friend of a family friend. Here at last Suso received some satisfaction, for the psychologist was a twitchy, ginger-haired man with a thin, mean upper lip, who was suddenly and unpredictably nasty. Suso revelled in the cold hardness of that room. It seemed as satisfying as the blade of a sword. Now and then he would throw out a sly cutting remark and feel with delight how the man withdrew, became pale, and coldly began to tell Suso of his diagnosis. Paranoid homosexual inversion ... The ginger haired man talked on, his teeth barely separated, each one clearly visible, snapping up and down with his syllables against a background of purple-red. His eyes were glassy and opaque, turned upon Suso and fixed as if they were dead, and Suso writhed inside, delighted, as his very soul was fixed, frozen, nailed on this man's eyes, his heart was taken out of the relative warmth of his body, and handled by long thin hard fingers, its folds open and peered into ...

Yet, Suso was unhappy. His life, his pleasures were pale. They were contained within narrow bounds. One day the gingery psychologist was suddenly relaxed, happy. His red hair looked like the friendly fur of a dog, suddenly softening the light around his face. Suso saw that the man had a heavy gold ring on his finger. And Suso was alone again. He got rid of the psychologist eventually, although he tolerated the cheerful prattle about relaxation and health for a long time.

That he had almost been satisfied made him think. He went for a weekend camping trip. It was very, very cold, in the middle of the winter, and yet when he stopped in the middle of the day the sun was bright and hot, melting the snow into almost-frozen mud, which ran in rivers across the trail and through his shoes. He sat on an icy mossy rock, and thought. What was this icy blade, the cold hard core of life that he wanted, yet always eluded him? He picked up a rock. Was it to be lumpish, dead like this rock? He thought with a thrill that perhaps the entire world was filled with pain, that this rock might not be inert, but full, screaming and dying with pain. Then the world would be real! But he knew it wasn't, really; the rocks weren't feeling anything at all. Perhaps it was death. Perhaps as he saw death approaching, if he really could see death as it came, then he would be happy. Death with no skin, ringing in the sky like an iron bell; Death with skin rotted off and muscle fibers apparent, rotting away.

And Suso was a millionaire.