Docstoc

Billy Collins.doc

Document Sample
Billy Collins.doc Powered By Docstoc
					Short Story and Poetry Units

  American Studies Block

        2008-2009
                                                                                                                   2
Short Story Unit
Tobias Wolff
“Awake”

“Odysseus turned his back on the harbour and followed a rough track leading through the woods and up to the hills toward
the place where Athene had told him . . .”
     Richard read on for a time. He was restless but tried to take an interest in Odysseus’ journey to the home of his loyal
“swineherd”—what a word, what a way to make a living!—who of course doesn’t recognize him, nobody ever recognized
anybody in these old books, but offers Odysseus a meal anyway and bangs his ear off with complaints. Now and then
Richard glanced over at Ana, asleep beside him. He kept willing her to wake, to turn and open her arms to him—no such
luck. Gloomy, impatient, he went back to the Odyssey. Ana had left it on the bedside table, open to this chapter, which
Richard found boring and implausible. He leafed ahead to the part where Odysseus strings his bow and slaughters all the
suitors, but there was a lot more fancy description and speechifying than he remembered from the version he’d read as a kid.
He was supposed to have read it again, a couple years ago, as part of his freshman core at Columbia, but he’d come down
with the flu that week.
     It was a library book. He studied the withdrawal dates—few of them and far between—then closed it and put it back
down.
     Ana had only stirred a little when he turned on the lamp. Now he switched it off and plumped his pillow and fooled with
the covers, hoping that all this would do the trick, but she slept on, snoring softly, face to the wall. The bed was narrow, and
in the dark he became even more aware of the heat from her back and her legs, especially her legs. He touched his knee to
the tender crook of hers and she drew away, leaving him jangly and resentful, but conscious also that he had no right to be,
that she’d already given herself twice that night and had to get up early with a full day of waitressing ahead of her; he had
only one class to attend, in the afternoon. But knowing this did not take the edge off his need—for it felt like need, nothing
less.
     Jesus! He had to think of something else.
     But what? Even thinking of something else, he’d know that he was doing it to distract himself, and that thought would
lead right back to this bed, to the weight of Ana beside him, her breath, her heat. Still, if he kept it up long enough maybe
he’d fall asleep, or at least be awake and ready when her alarm went off. Not that he’d pressure her. Unless they hurried,
which she didn’t like, she’d have to go to work without breakfast or a shower. He’d just give her a look, his special look, and
she’d know, and then she could do whatever she wanted. And he wouldn’t act hurt if she didn’t want to. Really, he wouldn’t.
Not this time.
     Think of something else. O.K. The Exorcist—this old novel he’d found in his dormitory lounge. Richard had seen the
movie with the possessed girl whose head spins on her neck like a top, but he hadn’t known that it came from a book—not
that the book was great literature or anything. Still, it was pretty interesting. The writer had done a lot of research on
exorcisms, and some of the cases were scary enough to make you believe in the Devil, at least while you were reading the
novel. It turned out that there were certain priests who cast out demons as a specialty. That was their job, their market niche,
waiting around like firemen for the alarm to go off. Demon in Idaho housewife! Demon in Delaware bus driver! How weird
was that? As if being a priest weren’t strange enough already. Richard had been sort of religious when he was young, he’d
said prayers before meals and gone to Sunday school, where he’d stuck cutouts of bearded men onto felt backdrops. Church
was fine, he’d always felt good afterward. He could even see maybe becoming religious again someday, when he was a lot
older. But giving up women? Never kissing a woman, never having a woman’s legs around you—
                                                                                                                  3
     He sat up and reached for the glass of water Ana had left for him on the bedside table. He’d knocked it over
last weekend and made enough of a fuss to wake her, but he didn’t think he should try that again, so he took care picking it
up and putting it down after he’d drunk his fill.
     He settled back against the pillow. He closed his eyes, but just then Ana made a little snort and moved beside him,
giving off a fresh wave of warmth, and, faintly, that sweet warm bed-smell of hers, like baking bread, and he lay there
tensed, waiting, but she didn’t move again. He heard the clock tick, his own breath returning, jagged and raspy.
     He looked up toward the ceiling, at a thin bar of light leaking though the shades from the street lamp outside. No more
thinking about priests—that didn’t help. O.K., then, the Odyssey. He should read it again. He was going to, for sure, this time
in the grownup version! He could get through a few speeches and descriptions, sort of earn his way to the good parts,
especially the slaughter at the end. He liked the idea of Odysseus coming home after all his wanderings and screwups and
setting things right, taking back his woman and his house, no discussion, no messing around.
     Then he would read the Iliad. Also War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov. All the books that Ana had on her
shelf, and actually liked. Richard was an econ major and didn’t have much time for outside reading, and when he did he
kicked back with a mystery, or something scary. O.K., so he wasn’t a big literary type—so sue him! He’d like to see one of
those sensitive souls handle the stuff he was dealing with in his International Environmental Economics seminar. Abatement
Strategy Modules. Alternative Equity Criteria. General Equilibrium Impact Analyses. Go for it, he thought. Be my goddamn
guest.
     Not that Ana was like that—a snob. She wasn’t. She really loved these books, they were important to her, and Richard
knew that he hadn’t been entirely honest about his own tastes when they first met. He’d allowed her to think that he was a
great one for the classics, and she had believed him because she had the idea that Columbia students were not only smart but
cultured, and that they went to the university not to set themselves up for a fat job later on but to search for knowledge and
wisdom. To become better people. She was naïve that way. Richard had liked her innocence, and the sense of adult
benevolence it gave him. She was a few years older than he, and at first it sort of evened things out, him knowing the score
while humoring her, letting her have her notions.
     That was how he saw it then, in the beginning. Not anymore. After two months with Ana, he knew himself to be the
green, untested one. Her family was Russian but they’d lived for many years in Chechnya, where her father managed a food-
processing plant. During the war, the factory had been destroyed and Ana’s oldest brother had been killed. The family lost
everything. She’d been sent to live with her mother’s mother in Tel Aviv—a widow, mean as a witch from some fairy tale.
Now she was staying with an aunt here in Queens, and working illegally at a restaurant on Amsterdam. That was where
Richard had met her. He’d heard her speaking Russian to another waitress, and when she came to his table he tried out a few
phrases from his one year of high-school Russian, and she had almost wept with surprise and joy.
     She wasn’t his type, Ana—a bit heavy, round in the face. Little pockmarks on her forehead. Her English was pretty good
but thickly accented. He hadn’t meant to ask her out. But then he did, the very next night. A week later she took him home,
to this small attic room in her aunt’s house. They were just having fun, that was how he’d seen it, the two of them having
some fun before going their separate ways, as people did, people their age with their whole lives still ahead of them. You
didn’t want to get tied down now, when you didn’t know who you might still meet and what might open up, what chances
and adventures.
     That was the idea. Some good times, no strings. But after a month or so he saw that Ana had gone all serious on him.
She tried to pretend she hadn’t, but she had, and he knew it, and made up his mind to break things off. It would be wrong to
take advantage of her. Also the long subway ride from his dorm and back was getting to him. But then he found that he
couldn’t break it off, because even with friends, even talking to other girls, he missed her, missed her throaty voice and the
strange, direct way she said things. He was desolate on the nights that he had to sleep in his dorm room.
     Loud voices outside—men’s voices, speaking in Spanish. Ana shifted, murmured. The voices moved on. Silence.
Richard sat up and took another drink of water.
                                                                                                                  4
      Being away from her felt unnatural now. Alone in bed, sitting in class, writing an e-mail to his parents, he
thought of her and ached. But it couldn’t last—he knew that. And he knew now that she would be the one to break it off.
Ana was already who she was going to be, and he was not. She was a woman, and he was not a man. He looked like a man,
even an interesting man, dark and ruggedly handsome, with a grave, thoughtful air. But his looks didn’t fit the way he felt—
the way he knew himself to be. Sometimes, walking down the street, he glanced at the window of a store and was thrown by
the sight of himself, as if he were wearing a costume.
      Girls liked him. They assumed certain things about him, and he’d learned to act his part, but he knew this wouldn’t hold
up much longer with Ana. Not because she was older but because his ways of thinking were smaller than hers. He wasn’t
curious, as she was, didn’t like and trust others, as she did, for all the hardships of her life. He complained a lot, and she
never complained. And though he hated being apart from her, when they were out together he looked at other women and
imagined having them, and even brought their images to this bed. Sometimes she caught him studying her coldly—wishing
she’d lose weight, do something about those pockmarks—and he could feel his own smallness and triviality as the color
drained from her face.
      Soon enough she would see him clearly, and understand her mistake. He was already watching for signs of retreat:
impatience, condescension, a certain weariness. He’d seen all this before, with the only other girl he’d been close to. Had
Ana really not caught on yet? How could she not know? Was it just because he was handsome, and always ready?
      Or because he was American, and maybe of use in some scheme?
      No! Ana didn’t think that way. And what sort of mean spirit, knowing her, could even imagine such a thing? Jesus!
What had got into him? Ana was a noblewoman. O.K., that sounded like something from a book, but it was true. It was just
that she’d come to him too soon. . . . She was the one he should have met later, after he’d stuck his neck out and suffered
some losses, after he’d really messed things up, and been screwed over, and got lost, and kept going anyway—when this
little green soul of his had taken some lumps and some weather and bulked up into a man’s soul, so that he could look out of
his own eyes and not feel like a kid in a mask. Then he could have come to her and strung the great bow, and laid waste to
all these chickenshit doubts and wants, and claimed love as his right.
      The bar of light on the ceiling paled away to nothing. Richard heard the groaning of the pipes downstairs—the aunt was
in the shower. A car horn blared in the street below, and Ana stirred, turned, moved against him. He felt her hand on his hip.
She whispered his name. He kept his eyes closed and did not answer. ♦

Sarah Orne Jewett
“Miss Tempy’s Watchers”

    The time of year was April; the place was a small farming town in New Hampshire, remote from any
railroad. One by one the lights had been blown out in the scattered houses near Miss Tempy Dent's; but as
her neighbors took a last look out-of-doors, their eyes turned with instinctive curiosity toward the old house,
where a lamp burned steadily. They gave a little sigh. "Poor Miss Tempy!" said more than one bereft
acquaintance; for the good woman lay dead in her north chamber, and the light was a watcher's light. The
funeral was set for the next day, at one o'clock.
    The watchers were two of the oldest friends, Mrs. Crowe and Sarah Ann Binson. They were sitting in the
kitchen, because it seemed less awesome than the unused best room, and they beguiled the long hours by
steady conversation. One would think that neither topics nor opinions would hold out, at that rate, all through
the long spring night; but there was a certain degree of excitement just then, and the two women had risen to
an unusual level of expressiveness and confidence. Each had already told the other more than one fact that
she had determined to keep secret; they were again and again tempted into statements that either would have
found impossible by daylight. Mrs. Crowe was knitting a blue yarn stocking for her husband; the foot was
already so long that it seemed as if she must have forgotten to narrow it at the proper time. Mrs. Crowe knew
exactly what she was about, however; she was of a much cooler disposition than Sister Binson, who made
futile attempts at some sewing, only to drop her work into her lap whenever the talk was most engaging.
                                                                                                       5
    Their faces were interesting, -- of the dry, shrewd, quick-witted New England type, with thin
hair twisted neatly back out of the way. Mrs. Crowe could look vague and benignant, and Miss Binson was,
to quote her neighbors, a little too sharp-set; but the world knew that she had need to be, with the load she
must carry of supporting an inefficient widowed sister and six unpromising and unwilling nieces and
nephews.
    The eldest boy was at last placed with a good man to learn the mason's trade. Sarah Ann Binson, for all
her sharp, anxious aspect, never defended herself, when her sister whined and fretted. She was told every
week of her life that the poor children never would have had to lift a finger if their father had lived, and yet
she had kept her steadfast way with the little farm, and patiently taught the young people many useful things,
for which, as everybody said, they would live to thank her. However pleasureless her life appeared to
outward view, it was brimful of pleasure to herself.
    Mrs. Crowe, on the contrary, was well to do, her husband being a rich farmer and an easy-going man. She
was a stingy woman, but for all that she looked kindly; and when she gave away anything, or lifted a finger
to help anybody, it was thought a great piece of beneficence, and a compliment, indeed, which the recipient
accepted with twice as much gratitude as double the gift that came from a poorer and more generous
acquaintance. Everybody liked to be on good terms with Mrs. Crowe. Socially she stood much higher than
Sarah Ann Binson. They were both old schoolmates and friends of Temperance Dent, who had asked them,
one day, not long before she died, if they would not come together and look after the house, and manage
everything, when she was gone. She may have had some hope that they might become closer friends in this
period of intimate partnership, and that the richer woman might better understand the burdens of the poorer.
They had not kept the house the night before; they were too weary with the care of their old friend, whom
they had not left until all was over.
    There was a brook which ran down the hillside very near the house, and the sound of it was much louder
than usual. When there was silence in the kitchen, the busy stream had a strange insistence in its wild voice,
as if it tried to make the watchers understand something that related to the past.
    "I declare, I can't begin to sorrow for Tempy yet. I am so glad to have her at rest," whispered Mrs. Crowe.
"It is strange to set here without her, but I can't make it clear that she has gone. I feel as if she had got easy
and dropped off to sleep, and I'm more scared about waking her up than knowing any other feeling."
    "Yes," said Sarah Ann, "it's just like that, ain't it? But I tell you we are goin' to miss her worse than we
expect. She's helped me through with many a trial, has Temperance. I ain't the only one who says the same,
neither."
    These words were spoken as if there were a third person listening; somebody beside Mrs. Crowe. The
watchers could not rid their minds of the feeling that they were being watched themselves. The spring wind
whistled in the window crack, now and then, and buffeted the little house in a gusty way that had a sort of
companionable effect. Yet, on the whole, it was a very still night, and the watchers spoke in a half-whisper.
    "She was the freest-handed woman that ever I knew," said Mrs. Crowe, decidedly. "According to her
means, she gave away more than anybody. I used to tell her 't wa'n't right. I used really to be afraid that she
went without too much, for we have a duty to ourselves."
    Sister Binson looked up in a half-amused, unconscious way, and then recollected herself.
    Mrs. Crowe met her look with a serious face. "It ain't so easy for me to give as it is for some," she said
simply, but with an effort which was made possible only by the occasion. "I should like to say, while Tempy
is laying here yet in her own house, that she has been a constant lesson to me. Folks are too kind, and shame
me with thanks for what I do. I ain't such a generous woman as poor Tempy was, for all she had nothin' to do
with, as one may say."
    Sarah Binson was much moved at this confession, and was even pained and touched by the unexpected
humility. "You have a good many calls on you" -- she began, and then left her kind little compliment half
finished.
    "Yes, yes, but I've got means enough. My disposition's more of a cross to me as I grow older, and I made
up my mind this morning that Tempy's example should be my pattern henceforth." She began to knit faster
than ever.
                                                                                                          6
    "'T ain't no use to get morbid: that's what Tempy used to say herself," said Sarah Ann, after a
minute's silence. "Ain't it strange to say 'used to say'?" and her own voice choked a little. "She never did like
to hear folks git goin' about themselves."
    "'T was only because they're apt to do it so as other folks will say 't wasn't so, an' praise 'em up," humbly
replied Mrs. Crowe, "and that ain't my object. There wa'n't a child but what Tempy set herself to work to see
what she could do to please it. One time my brother's folks had been stopping here in the summer, from
Massachusetts. The children was all little, and they broke up a sight of toys, and left 'em when they were
going away. Tempy come right up after they rode by, to see if she couldn't help me set the house to rights,
and she caught me just as I was going to fling some of the clutter into the stove. I was kind of tired out,
starting 'em off in season. 'Oh, give me them!' says she, real pleading; and she wropped 'em up and took 'em
home with her when she went, and she mended 'em up and stuck 'em together, and made some young one or
other happy with every blessed one. You'd thought I'd done her the biggest favor. 'No thanks to me. I should
ha' burnt 'em, Tempy,' says I."
    "Some of 'em came to our house, I know," said Miss Binson. "She'd take a lot o' trouble to please a child,
'stead o' shoving of it out o' the way, like the rest of us when we're drove."
    "I can tell you the biggest thing she ever done, and I don't know 's there's anybody left but me to tell it. I
don't want it forgot," Sarah Binson went on, looking up at the clock to see how the night was going. "It was
that pretty-looking Trevor girl, who taught the Corners school, and married so well afterwards, out in New
York State. You remember her, I dare say?"
    "Certain," said Mrs. Crowe, with an air of interest.
    "She was a splendid scholar, folks said, and give the school a great start; but she'd overdone herself
getting her education, and working to pay for it, and she all broke down one spring, and Tempy made her
come and stop with her a while, -- you remember that? Well, she had an uncle, her mother's brother, out in
Chicago, who was well off and friendly, and used to write to Lizzie Trevor, and I dare say make her some
presents; but he was a lively, driving man, and didn't take time to stop and think about his folks. He hadn't
seen her since she was a little girl. Poor Lizzie was so pale and weakly that she just got through the term o'
school. She looked as if she was just going straight off in a decline. Tempy, she cosseted her up a while, and
then, next thing folks knew, she was tellin' round how Miss Trevor had gone to see her uncle, and meant to
visit Niagary Falls on the way, and stop over night. Now I happened to know, in ways I won't dwell on to
explain, that the poor girl was in debt for her schoolin' when she come here, and her last quarter's pay had
just squared it off at last, and left her without a cent ahead, hardly; but it had fretted her thinking of it, so she
paid it all; they might have dunned her that she owed it to. An' I taxed Tempy about the girl's goin' off on
such a journey till she owned up, rather 'n have Lizzie blamed, that she'd given her sixty dollars, same 's if
she was rolling in riches, and sent her off to have a good rest and vacation."
    "Sixty dollars!" exclaimed Mrs. Crowe. "Tempy only had ninety dollars a year that came in to her; rest of
her livin' she got by helpin' about, with what she raised off this little piece o' ground, sand one side an' clay
the other. An' how often I've heard her tell, years ago, that she'd rather see Niagary than any other sight in the
world!"
    The women looked at each other in silence; the magnitude of the generous sacrifice was almost too great
for their comprehension.
    "She was just poor enough to do that!" declared Mrs. Crowe at last, in an abandonment of feeling. "Say
what you may, I feel humbled to the dust," and her companion ventured to say nothing. She never had given
away sixty dollars at once, but it was simply because she never had it to give. It came to her very lips to say
in explanation, "Tempy was so situated;" but she checked herself in time, for she would not betray her own
loyal guarding of a dependent household.
    "Folks say a great deal of generosity, and this one's being public-sperited, and that one free-handed about
giving," said Mrs. Crowe, who was a little nervous in the silence. "I suppose we can't tell the sorrow it would
be to some folks not to give, same 's 't would be to me not to save. I seem kind of made for that, as if 't was
what I'd got to do. I should feel sights better about it if I could make it evident what I was savin' for. If I had
a child, now, Sarah Ann," and her voice was a little husky, -- "if I had a child, I should think I washeapin' of
it up because he was the one trained by the Lord to scatter it again for good. But here's Mr. Crowe and me,
                                                                                                      7
we can't do anything with money, and both of us like to keep things same 's they've always been.
Now Priscilla Dance was talking away like a mill-clapper, week before last. She'd think I would go right off
and get one o' them new-fashioned gilt-and-white papers for the best room, and some new furniture, an' a
marble-top table. And I looked at her, all struck up. 'Why,' says I, 'Priscilla, that nice old velvet paper ain't
hurt a mite. I shouldn't feel 't was my best room without it. Dan'el says 't is the first thing he can remember
rubbin' his little baby fingers on to it, and how splendid he thought them red roses was.' I maintain,"
continued Mrs. Crowe stoutly, "that folks wastes sights o' good money doin' just such foolish things. Tearin'
out the insides o' meetin'-houses, and fixin' the pews different; 't was good enough as 't was with mendin';
then times come, an' they want to put it all back same 's 't was before."
    This touched upon an exciting subject to active members of that parish. Miss Binson and Mrs. Crowe
belonged to opposite parties, and had at one time come as near hard feelings as they could, and yet escape
them. Each hastened to speak of other things and to show her untouched friendliness.
    "I do agree with you," said Sister Binson, "that few of us know what use to make of money, beyond
every-day necessities. You've seen more o' the world than I have, and know what's expected. When it comes
to taste and judgment about such things, I ought to defer to others;" and with this modest avowal the critical
moment passed when there might have been an improper discussion.
    In the silence that followed, the fact of their presence in a house of death grew more clear than before.
There was something disturbing in the noise of a mouse gnawing at the dry boards of a closet wall near by.
Both the watchers looked up anxiously at the clock; it was almost the middle of the night, and the whole
world seemed to have left them alone with their solemn duty. Only the brook was awake.
    "Perhaps we might give a look up-stairs now," whispered Mrs. Crowe, as if she hoped to hear some
reason against their going just then to the chamber of death; but Sister Binson rose, with a serious and yet
satisfied countenance, and lifted the small lamp from the table. She was much more used to watching than
Mrs. Crowe, and much less affected by it. They opened the door into a small entry with a steep stairway; they
climbed the creaking stairs, and entered the cold upper room on tiptoe. Mrs. Crowe's heart began to beat very
fast as the lamp was put on a high bureau, and made long, fixed shadows about the walls. She went
hesitatingly toward the solemn shape under its white drapery, and felt a sense of remonstrance as Sarah Ann
gently, but in a business-like way, turned back the thin sheet.
    "Seems to me she looks pleasanter and pleasanter," whispered Sarah Ann Binson impulsively, as they
gazed at the white face with its wonderful smile. "To-morrow 't will all have faded out. I do believe they kind
of wake up a day or two after they die, and it's then they go." She replaced the light covering, and they both
turned quickly away; there was a chill in this upper room.
    "'T is a great thing for anybody to have got through, ain't it?" said Mrs. Crowe softly, as she began to go
down the stairs on tiptoe. The warm air from the kitchen beneath met them with a sense of welcome and
shelter.
    "I don' know why it is, but I feel as near again to Tempy down here as I do up there," replied Sister
Binson. "I feel as if the air was full of her, kind of. I can sense things, now and then, that she seems to say.
Now I never was one to take up with no nonsense of sperits and such, but I declare I felt as if she told me just
now to put some more wood into the stove."
    Mrs. Crowe preserved a gloomy silence. She had suspected before this that her companion was of a
weaker and more credulous disposition than herself. "'T is a great thing to have got through," she repeated,
ignoring definitely all that had last been said. "I suppose you know as well as I that Tempy was one that
always feared death. Well, it's all put behind her now; she knows what 't is." Mrs. Crowe gave a little sigh,
and Sister Binson's quick sympathies were stirred toward this other old friend, who also dreaded the great
change.
    "I'd never like to forgit almost those last words Tempy spoke plain to me," she said gently, like the
comforter she truly was. "She looked up at me once or twice, that last afternoon after I come to set by her,
and let Mis' Owen go home; and I says, 'Can I do anything to ease you, Tempy?' and the tears come into my
eyes so I couldn't see what kind of a nod she give me. 'No, Sarah Ann, you can't, dear,' says she; and then she
got her breath again, and says she, looking at me real meanin', 'I'm only a-gettin' sleepier and sleepier; that's
                                                                                                         8
all there is,' says she, and smiled up at me kind of wishful, and shut her eyes. I knew well enough
all she meant. She'd been lookin' out for a chance to tell me, and I don' know 's she ever said much
afterwards."
    Mrs. Crowe was not knitting; she had been listening too eagerly. "Yes, 't will be a comfort to think of that
sometimes," she said, in acknowledgment.
    "I know that old Dr. Prince said once, in evenin' meetin', that he'd watched by many a dyin' bed, as we
well knew, and enough o' his sick folks had been scared o' dyin' their whole lives through; but when they
come to the last, he'd never seen one but was willin', and most were glad, to go. ''T is as natural as bein' born
or livin' on,' he said. I don't know what had moved him to speak that night. You know he wa'n't in the habit
of it, and 't was the monthly concert of prayer for foreign missions anyways," said Sarah Ann; "but 't was a
great stay to the mind to listen to his words of experience."
    "There never was a better man," responded Mrs. Crowe, in a really cheerful tone. She had recovered from
her feeling of nervous dread, the kitchen was so comfortable with lamplight and firelight; and just then the
old clock began to tell the hour of twelve with leisurely whirring strokes.
    Sister Binson laid aside her work, and rose quickly and went to the cupboard. "We'd better take a little to
eat," she explained. "The night will go fast after this. I want to know if you went and made some o' your nice
cupcake, while you was home to-day?" she asked, in a pleased tone; and Mrs. Crowe acknowledged such a
gratifying piece of thoughtfulness for this humble friend who denied herself all luxuries. Sarah Ann brewed a
generous cup of tea, and the watchers drew their chairs up to the table presently, and quelled their hunger
with good country appetites. Sister Binson put a spoon into a small, old-fashioned glass of preserved quince,
and passed it to her friend. She was most familiar with the house, and played the part of hostess. "Spread
some o' this on your bread and butter," she said to Mrs. Crowe. "Tempy wanted me to use some three or four
times, but I never felt to. I know she'd like to have us comfortable now, and would urge us to make a good
supper, poor dear."
    "What excellent preserves she did make!" mourned Mrs. Crowe. "None of us has got her light hand at
doin' things tasty. She made the most o' everything, too. Now, she only had that one old quince-tree down in
the far corner of the piece, but she'd go out in the spring and tend to it, and look at it so pleasant and kind of
expect the old thorny thing into bloomin'."
    "She was just the same with folks," said Sarah Ann. "And she'd never git more'n a little apernful o'
quinces, but she'd have every mite o' goodness out o' those, and set the glasses up onto her best-room closet
shelf, so pleased. 'T wa'n't but a week ago to-morrow mornin' I fetched her a little taste o' jelly in a teaspoon;
and she says 'Thank ye,' and took it, an' the minute she tasted it she looked up at me as worried as could be.
'Oh, I don't want to eat that,' says she. 'I always keep that in case o' sickness.' 'You're goin' to have the good o'
one tumbler yourself,' says I. 'I'd just like to know who's sick now, if you ain't!' An' she couldn't help
laughin', I spoke up so smart. Oh, dear me, how I shall miss talkin' over things with her! She always sensed
things, and got just the p'int you meant."
    "She didn't begin to age until two or three years ago, did she?" asked Mrs. Crowe. "I never saw anybody
keep her looks as Tempy did. She looked young long after I begun to feel like an old woman. The doctor
used to say 't was her young heart, and I don't know but what he was right. How she did do for other folks!
There was one spell she wasn't at home a day to a fortnight. She got most of her livin' so, and that made her
own potatoes and things last her through. None o' the young folks could get married without her, and all the
old ones was disappointed if she wa'n't round when they was down with sickness and had to go. An' cleanin',
or tailorin' for boys, or rug-hookin', -- there was nothin' but what she could do as handy as most. 'I do love to
work,' -- ain't you heard her say that twenty times a week?"
    Sarah Ann Binson nodded, and began to clear away the empty plates. "We may want a taste o' somethin'
more towards mornin'," she said. "There's plenty in the closet here; and in case some comes from a distance
to the funeral, we'll have a little table spread after we get back to the house."
    "Yes, I was busy all the mornin'. I've cooked up a sight o' things to bring over," said Mrs. Crowe. "I felt 't
was the last I could do for her."
                                                                                                                    9
    They drew their chairs near the stove again, and took up their work. Sister Binson's rocking-
chair creaked as she rocked; the brook sounded louder than ever. It was more lonely when nobody spoke, and
presently Mrs. Crowe returned to her thoughts of growing old.
    "Yes, Tempy aged all of a sudden. I remember I asked her if she felt as well as common, one day, and she
laughed at me good. There, when Mr. Crowe begun to look old, I couldn't help feeling as if somethin' ailed
him, and like as not 't was somethin' he was goin' to git right over, and I dosed him for it stiddy, half of one
summer."
    "How many things we shall be wanting to ask Tempy!" exclaimed Sarah Ann Binson, after a long pause.
"I can't make up my mind to doin' without her. I wish folks could come back just once, and tell us how 't is
where they've gone. Seems then we could do without 'em better."

    The brook hurried on, the wind blew about the house now and then; the house itself was a silent place,
and the supper, the warm fire, and an absence of any new topics for conversation made the watchers drowsy.
Sister Binson closed her eyes first, to rest them for a minute; and Mrs. Crowe glanced at her
compassionately, with a new sympathy for the hard-worked little woman. She made up her mind to let Sarah
Ann have a good rest, while she kept watch alone; but in a few minutes her own knitting was dropped, and
she, too, fell asleep. Overhead, the pale shape of Tempy Dent, the outworn body of that generous, loving-
hearted, simple soul, slept on also in its white raiment. Perhaps Tempy herself stood near, and saw her own
life and its surroundings with new understanding. Perhaps she herself was the only watcher.
    Later, by some hours, Sarah Ann Binson woke with a start. There was a pale light of dawn outside the
small windows. Inside the kitchen, the lamp burned dim. Mrs. Crowe awoke, too.
    "I think Tempy 'd be the first to say 't was just as well we both had some rest," she said, not without a
guilty feeling.
    Her companion went to the outer door, and opened it wide. The fresh air was none too cold, and the
brook's voice was not nearly so loud as it had been in the midnight darkness. She could see the shapes of the
hills, and the great shadows that lay across the lower country. The east was fast growing bright.
    "'T will be a beautiful day for the funeral," she said, and turned again, with a sigh, to follow Mrs. Crowe
up the stairs.


Sherman Alexie
“What You Pawn I Will Redeem”

One day you have a home and the next you don’t, but I’m not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless,
because it’s my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks.
    I’m a Spokane Indian boy, an Interior Salish, and my people have lived within a hundred-mile radius of Spokane,
Washington, for at least ten thousand years. I grew up in Spokane, moved to Seattle twenty-three years ago for college,
flunked out after two semesters, worked various blue- and bluer-collar jobs, married two or three times, fathered two or three
kids, and then went crazy. Of course, crazy is not the official definition of my mental problem, but I don’t think asocial
disorder fits it, either, because that makes me sound like I’m a serial killer or something. I’ve never hurt another human
being, or, at least, not physically. I’ve broken a few hearts in my time, but we’ve all done that, so I’m nothing special in that
regard. I’m a boring heartbreaker, too. I never dated or married more than one woman at a time. I didn’t break hearts into
pieces overnight. I broke them slowly and carefully. And I didn’t set any land-speed records running out the door. Piece by
piece, I disappeared. I’ve been disappearing ever since.
    I’ve been homeless for six years now. If there’s such a thing as an effective homeless man, then I suppose I’m effective.
Being homeless is probably the only thing I’ve ever been good at. I know where to get the best free food. I’ve made friends
with restaurant and convenience-store managers who let me use their bathrooms. And I don’t mean the public bathrooms,
either. I mean the employees’ bathrooms, the clean ones hidden behind the kitchen or the pantry or the cooler. I know it
                                                                                                               10
sounds strange to be proud of this, but it means a lot to me, being trustworthy enough to piss in somebody
else’s clean bathroom. Maybe you don’t understand the value of a clean bathroom, but I do.
     Probably none of this interests you. Homeless Indians are everywhere in Seattle. We’re common and boring, and you
walk right on by us, with maybe a look of anger or disgust or even sadness at the terrible fate of the noble savage. But we
have dreams and families. I’m friends with a homeless Plains Indian man whose son is the editor of a big-time newspaper
back East. Of course, that’s his story, but we Indians are great storytellers and liars and mythmakers, so maybe that Plains
Indian hobo is just a plain old everyday Indian. I’m kind of suspicious of him, because he identifies himself only as Plains
Indian, a generic term, and not by a specific tribe. When I asked him why he wouldn’t tell me exactly what he is, he said,
“Do any of us know exactly what we are?” Yeah, great, a philosophizing Indian. “Hey,” I said, “you got to have a home to
be that homely.” He just laughed and flipped me the eagle and walked away.
     I wander the streets with a regular crew—my teammates, my defenders, my posse. It’s Rose of Sharon, Junior, and me.
We matter to each other if we don’t matter to anybody else. Rose of Sharon is a big woman, about seven feet tall if you’re
measuring over-all effect and about five feet tall if you’re only talking about the physical. She’s a Yakama Indian of the
Wishram variety. Junior is a Colville, but there are about a hundred and ninety-nine tribes that make up the Colville, so he
could be anything. He’s good-looking, though, like he just stepped out of some “Don’t Litter the Earth” public-service
advertisement. He’s got those great big cheekbones that are like planets, you know, with little moons orbiting them. He gets
me jealous, jealous, and jealous. If you put Junior and me next to each other, he’s the Before Columbus Arrived Indian and
I’m the After Columbus Arrived Indian. I am living proof of the horrible damage that colonialism has done to us Skins. But
I’m not going to let you know how scared I sometimes get of history and its ways. I’m a strong man, and I know that silence
is the best method of dealing with white folks.
     This whole story really started at lunchtime, when Rose of Sharon, Junior, and I were panning the handle down at Pike
Place Market. After about two hours of negotiating, we earned five dollars—good enough for a bottle of fortified courage
from the most beautiful 7-Eleven in the world. So we headed over that way, feeling like warrior drunks, and we walked past
this pawnshop I’d never noticed before. And that was strange, because we Indians have built-in pawnshop radar. But the
strangest thing of all was the old powwow-dance regalia I saw hanging in the window.
     “That’s my grandmother’s regalia,” I said to Rose of Sharon and Junior.
     “How you know for sure?” Junior asked.
     I didn’t know for sure, because I hadn’t seen that regalia in person ever. I’d only seen photographs of my grandmother
dancing in it. And those were taken before somebody stole it from her, fifty years ago. But it sure looked like my memory of
it, and it had all the same color feathers and beads that my family sewed into our powwow regalia.
     “There’s only one way to know for sure,” I said.
     So Rose of Sharon, Junior, and I walked into the pawnshop and greeted the old white man working behind the counter.
     “How can I help you?” he asked.
     “That’s my grandmother’s powwow regalia in your window,” I said. “Somebody stole it from her fifty years ago, and
my family has been searching for it ever since.”
     The pawnbroker looked at me like I was a liar. I understood. Pawnshops are filled with liars.
     “I’m not lying,” I said. “Ask my friends here. They’ll tell you.”
     “He’s the most honest Indian I know,” Rose of Sharon said.
     “All right, honest Indian,” the pawnbroker said. “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Can you prove it’s your
grandmother’s regalia?”
     Because they don’t want to be perfect, because only God is perfect, Indian people sew flaws into their powwow regalia.
My family always sewed one yellow bead somewhere on our regalia. But we always hid it so that you had to search really
hard to find it.
     “If it really is my grandmother’s,” I said, “there will be one yellow bead hidden somewhere on it.”
     “All right, then,” the pawnbroker said. “Let’s take a look.”
                                                                                                                      11
     He pulled the regalia out of the window, laid it down on the glass counter, and we searched for that yellow
bead and found it hidden beneath the armpit.
     “There it is,” the pawnbroker said. He didn’t sound surprised. “You were right. This is your grandmother’s regalia.”
     “It’s been missing for fifty years,” Junior said.
     “Hey, Junior,” I said. “It’s my family’s story. Let me tell it.”
     “All right,” he said. “I apologize. You go ahead.”
     “It’s been missing for fifty years,” I said.
     “That’s his family’s sad story,” Rose of Sharon said. “Are you going to give it back to him?”
     “That would be the right thing to do,” the pawnbroker said. “But I can’t afford to do the right thing. I paid a thousand
dollars for this. I can’t just give away a thousand dollars.”
     “We could go to the cops and tell them it was stolen,” Rose of Sharon said.
     “Hey,” I said to her. “Don’t go threatening people.”
     The pawnbroker sighed. He was thinking about the possibilities.
     “Well, I suppose you could go to the cops,” he said. “But I don’t think they’d believe a word you said.”
     He sounded sad about that. As if he was sorry for taking advantage of our disadvantages.
     “What’s your name?” the pawnbroker asked me.
     “Jackson,” I said.
     “Is that first or last?”
     “Both,” I said.
     “Are you serious?”
     “Yes, it’s true. My mother and father named me Jackson Jackson. My family nickname is Jackson Squared. My family
is funny.”
     “All right, Jackson Jackson,” the pawnbroker said. “You wouldn’t happen to have a thousand dollars, would you?”
     “We’ve got five dollars total,” I said.
     “That’s too bad,” he said, and thought hard about the possibilities. “I’d sell it to you for a thousand dollars if you had it.
Heck, to make it fair, I’d sell it to you for nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars. I’d lose a dollar. That would be the moral
thing to do in this case. To lose a dollar would be the right thing.”
     “We’ve got five dollars total,” I said again.
     “That’s too bad,” he said once more, and thought harder about the possibilities. “How about this? I’ll give you twenty-
four hours to come up with nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars. You come back here at lunchtime tomorrow with the
money and I’ll sell it back to you. How does that sound?”
     “It sounds all right,” I said.
     “All right, then,” he said. “We have a deal. And I’ll get you started. Here’s twenty bucks.”
     He opened up his wallet and pulled out a crisp twenty-dollar bill and gave it to me. And Rose of Sharon, Junior, and I
walked out into the daylight to search for nine hundred and seventy-four more dollars.

1 P.M.

Rose of Sharon, Junior, and I carried our twenty-dollar bill and our five dollars in loose change over to the 7-Eleven and
bought three bottles of imagination. We needed to figure out how to raise all that money in only one day. Thinking hard, we
huddled in an alley beneath the Alaska Way Viaduct and finished off those bottles—one, two, and three.

2 P.M.

Rose of Sharon was gone when I woke up. I heard later that she had hitchhiked back to Toppenish and was living with her
sister on the reservation.
                                                                                                               12
    Junior had passed out beside me and was covered in his own vomit, or maybe somebody else’s vomit, and
my head hurt from thinking, so I left him alone and walked down to the water. I love the smell of ocean water. Salt always
smells like memory.
    When I got to the wharf, I ran into three Aleut cousins, who sat on a wooden bench and stared out at the bay and cried.
Most of the homeless Indians in Seattle come from Alaska. One by one, each of them hopped a big working boat in
Anchorage or Barrow or Juneau, fished his way south to Seattle, jumped off the boat with a pocketful of cash to party hard at
one of the highly sacred and traditional Indian bars, went broke and broker, and has been trying to find his way back to the
boat and the frozen North ever since.
    These Aleuts smelled like salmon, I thought, and they told me they were going to sit on that wooden bench until their
boat came back.
    “How long has your boat been gone?” I asked.
    “Eleven years,” the elder Aleut said.
    I cried with them for a while.
    “Hey,” I said. “Do you guys have any money I can borrow?”
    They didn’t.

3 P.M.

I walked back to Junior. He was still out cold. I put my face down near his mouth to make sure he was breathing. He was
alive, so I dug around in his bluejeans pockets and found half a cigarette. I smoked it all the way down and thought about my
grandmother.
     Her name was Agnes, and she died of breast cancer when I was fourteen. My father always thought Agnes caught her
tumors from the uranium mine on the reservation. But my mother said the disease started when Agnes was walking back
from a powwow one night and got run over by a motorcycle. She broke three ribs, and my mother always said those ribs
never healed right, and tumors take over when you don’t heal right.
     Sitting beside Junior, smelling the smoke and the salt and the vomit, I wondered if my grandmother’s cancer started
when somebody stole her powwow regalia. Maybe the cancer started in her broken heart and then leaked out into her breasts.
I know it’s crazy, but I wondered whether I could bring my grandmother back to life if I bought back her regalia.
     I needed money, big money, so I left Junior and walked over to the Real Change office.

4 P.M.

Real Change is a multifaceted organization that publishes a newspaper, supports cultural projects that empower the poor and
the homeless, and mobilizes the public around poverty issues. Real Change’s mission is to organize, educate, and build
alliances to create solutions to homelessness and poverty. It exists to provide a voice for poor people in our community.
     I memorized Real Change’s mission statement because I sometimes sell the newspaper on the streets. But you have to
stay sober to sell it, and I’m not always good at staying sober. Anybody can sell the paper. You buy each copy for thirty
cents and sell it for a dollar, and you keep the profit.
     “I need one thousand four hundred and thirty papers,” I said to the Big Boss.
     “That’s a strange number,” he said. “And that’s a lot of papers.”
     “I need them.”
     The Big Boss pulled out his calculator and did the math.
     “It will cost you four hundred and twenty-nine dollars for that many,” he said.
     “If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t need to sell the papers.”
     “What’s going on, Jackson-to-the-Second-Power?” he asked. He is the only person who calls me that. He’s a funny and
kind man.
                                                                                                                    13
    I told him about my grandmother’s powwow regalia and how much money I needed in order to buy it
back.
    “We should call the police,” he said.
    “I don’t want to do that,” I said. “It’s a quest now. I need to win it back by myself.”
    “I understand,” he said. “And, to be honest, I’d give you the papers to sell if I thought it would work. But the record for
the most papers sold in one day by one vender is only three hundred and two.”
    “That would net me about two hundred bucks,” I said.
    The Big Boss used his calculator. “Two hundred and eleven dollars and forty cents,” he said.
    “That’s not enough,” I said.
    “And the most money anybody has made in one day is five hundred and twenty-five. And that’s because somebody gave
Old Blue five hundred-dollar bills for some dang reason. The average daily net is about thirty dollars.”
    “This isn’t going to work.”
    “No.”
    “Can you lend me some money?”
    “I can’t do that,” he said. “If I lend you money, I have to lend money to everybody.”
    “What can you do?”
    “I’ll give you fifty papers for free. But don’t tell anybody I did it.”
    “O.K.,” I said.
    He gathered up the newspapers and handed them to me. I held them to my chest. He hugged me. I carried the
newspapers back toward the water.

5 P.M.

Back on the wharf, I stood near the Bainbridge Island Terminal and tried to sell papers to business commuters boarding the
ferry.
     I sold five in one hour, dumped the other forty-five in a garbage can, and walked into McDonald’s, ordered four
cheeseburgers for a dollar each, and slowly ate them.
     After eating, I walked outside and vomited on the sidewalk. I hated to lose my food so soon after eating it. As an
alcoholic Indian with a busted stomach, I always hope I can keep enough food in me to stay alive.

6 P.M.

With one dollar in my pocket, I walked back to Junior. He was still passed out, and I put my ear to his chest and listened for
his heartbeat. He was alive, so I took off his shoes and socks and found one dollar in his left sock and fifty cents in his right
sock.
     With two dollars and fifty cents in my hand, I sat beside Junior and thought about my grandmother and her stories.
     When I was thirteen, my grandmother told me a story about the Second World War. She was a nurse at a military
hospital in Sydney, Australia. For two years, she healed and comforted American and Australian soldiers.
     One day, she tended to a wounded Maori soldier, who had lost his legs to an artillery attack. He was very dark-skinned.
His hair was black and curly and his eyes were black and warm. His face was covered with bright tattoos.
     “Are you Maori?” he asked my grandmother.
     “No,” she said. “I’m Spokane Indian. From the United States.”
     “Ah, yes,” he said. “I have heard of your tribes. But you are the first American Indian I have ever met.”
     “There’s a lot of Indian soldiers fighting for the United States,” she said. “I have a brother fighting in Germany, and I
lost another brother on Okinawa.”
     “I am sorry,” he said. “I was on Okinawa as well. It was terrible.”
                                                                                                                  14
    “I am sorry about your legs,” my grandmother said.
    “It’s funny, isn’t it?” he said.
    “What’s funny?”
    “How we brown people are killing other brown people so white people will remain free.”
    “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
    “Well, sometimes I think of it that way. And other times I think of it the way they want me to think of it. I get
confused.”
    She fed him morphine.
    “Do you believe in Heaven?” he asked.
    “Which Heaven?” she asked.
    “I’m talking about the Heaven where my legs are waiting for me.”
    They laughed.
    “Of course,” he said, “my legs will probably run away from me when I get to Heaven. And how will I ever catch them?”
    “You have to get your arms strong,” my grandmother said. “So you can run on your hands.”
    They laughed again.
    Sitting beside Junior, I laughed at the memory of my grandmother’s story. I put my hand close to Junior’s mouth to
make sure he was still breathing. Yes, Junior was alive, so I took my two dollars and fifty cents and walked to the Korean
grocery store in Pioneer Square.

7 P.M.

At the Korean grocery store, I bought a fifty-cent cigar and two scratch lottery tickets for a dollar each. The maximum cash
prize was five hundred dollars a ticket. If I won both, I would have enough money to buy back the regalia.
     I loved Mary, the young Korean woman who worked the register. She was the daughter of the owners, and she sang all
day.
     “I love you,” I said when I handed her the money.
     “You always say you love me,” she said.
     “That’s because I will always love you.”
     “You are a sentimental fool.”
     “I’m a romantic old man.”
     “Too old for me.”
     “I know I’m too old for you, but I can dream.”
     “O.K.,” she said. “I agree to be a part of your dreams, but I will only hold your hand in your dreams. No kissing and no
sex. Not even in your dreams.”
     “O.K.,” I said. “No sex. Just romance.”
     “Goodbye, Jackson Jackson, my love. I will see you soon.”
     I left the store, walked over to Occidental Park, sat on a bench, and smoked my cigar all the way down.
     Ten minutes after I finished the cigar, I scratched my first lottery ticket and won nothing. I could only win five hundred
dollars now, and that would only be half of what I needed.
     Ten minutes after I lost, I scratched the other ticket and won a free ticket—a small consolation and one more chance to
win some money.
     I walked back to Mary.
     “Jackson Jackson,” she said. “Have you come back to claim my heart?”
     “I won a free ticket,” I said.
     “Just like a man,” she said. “You love money and power more than you love me.”
                                                                                                               15
     “It’s true,” I said. “And I’m sorry it’s true.”
     She gave me another scratch ticket, and I took it outside. I like to scratch my tickets in private. Hopeful and sad, I
scratched that third ticket and won real money. I carried it back inside to Mary.
     “I won a hundred dollars,” I said.
     She examined the ticket and laughed.
     “That’s a fortune,” she said, and counted out five twenties. Our fingertips touched as she handed me the money. I felt
electric and constant.
     “Thank you,” I said, and gave her one of the bills.
     “I can’t take that,” she said. “It’s your money.”
     “No, it’s tribal. It’s an Indian thing. When you win, you’re supposed to share with your family.”
     “I’m not your family.”
     “Yes, you are.”
     She smiled. She kept the money. With eighty dollars in my pocket, I said goodbye to my dear Mary and walked out into
the cold night air.

8 P.M.

I wanted to share the good news with Junior. I walked back to him, but he was gone. I heard later that he had hitchhiked
down to Portland, Oregon, and died of exposure in an alley behind the Hilton Hotel.

9 P.M.

Lonesome for Indians, I carried my eighty dollars over to Big Heart’s in South Downtown. Big Heart’s is an all-Indian bar.
Nobody knows how or why Indians migrate to one bar and turn it into an official Indian bar. But Big Heart’s has been an
Indian bar for twenty-three years. It used to be way up on Aurora Avenue, but a crazy Lummi Indian burned that one down,
and the owners moved to the new location, a few blocks south of Safeco Field.
    I walked into Big Heart’s and counted fifteen Indians—eight men and seven women. I didn’t know any of them, but
Indians like to belong, so we all pretended to be cousins.
    “How much for whiskey shots?” I asked the bartender, a fat white guy.
    “You want the bad stuff or the badder stuff?”
    “As bad as you got.”
    “One dollar a shot.”
    I laid my eighty dollars on the bar top.
    “All right,” I said. “Me and all my cousins here are going to be drinking eighty shots. How many is that apiece?”
    “Counting you,” a woman shouted from behind me, “that’s five shots for everybody.”
    I turned to look at her. She was a chubby and pale Indian woman, sitting with a tall and skinny Indian man.
    “All right, math genius,” I said to her, and then shouted for the whole bar to hear. “Five drinks for everybody!”
    All the other Indians rushed the bar, but I sat with the mathematician and her skinny friend. We took our time with our
whiskey shots.
    “What’s your tribe?” I asked.
    “I’m Duwamish,” she said. “And he’s Crow.”
    “You’re a long way from Montana,” I said to him.
    “I’m Crow,” he said. “I flew here.”
    “What’s your name?” I asked them.
    “I’m Irene Muse,” she said. “And this is Honey Boy.”
                                                                                                               16
    She shook my hand hard, but he offered his hand as if I was supposed to kiss it. So I did. He giggled and
blushed, as much as a dark-skinned Crow can blush.
    “You’re one of them two-spirits, aren’t you?” I asked him.
    “I love women,” he said. “And I love men.”
    “Sometimes both at the same time,” Irene said.
    We laughed.
    “Man,” I said to Honey Boy. “So you must have about eight or nine spirits going on inside you, enit?”
    “Sweetie,” he said. “I’ll be whatever you want me to be.”
    “Oh, no,” Irene said. “Honey Boy is falling in love.”
    “It has nothing to do with love,” he said.
    We laughed.
    “Wow,” I said. “I’m flattered, Honey Boy, but I don’t play on your team.”
    “Never say never,” he said.
    “You better be careful,” Irene said. “Honey Boy knows all sorts of magic.”
    “Honey Boy,” I said, “you can try to seduce me, but my heart belongs to a woman named Mary.”
    “Is your Mary a virgin?” Honey Boy asked.
    We laughed.
    And we drank our whiskey shots until they were gone. But the other Indians bought me more whiskey shots, because I’d
been so generous with my money. And Honey Boy pulled out his credit card, and I drank and sailed on that plastic boat.
    After a dozen shots, I asked Irene to dance. She refused. But Honey Boy shuffled over to the jukebox, dropped in a
quarter, and selected Willie Nelson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” As Irene and I sat at the table and laughed and
drank more whiskey, Honey Boy danced a slow circle around us and sang along with Willie.
    “Are you serenading me?” I asked him.
    He kept singing and dancing.
    “Are you serenading me?” I asked him again.
    “He’s going to put a spell on you,” Irene said.
    I leaned over the table, spilling a few drinks, and kissed Irene hard. She kissed me back.

10 P.M.

Irene pushed me into the women’s bathroom, into a stall, shut the door behind us, and shoved her hand down my pants. She
was short, so I had to lean over to kiss her. I grabbed and squeezed her everywhere I could reach, and she was wonderfully
fat, and every part of her body felt like a large, warm, soft breast.

MIDNIGHT

Nearly blind with alcohol, I stood alone at the bar and swore I had been standing in the bathroom with Irene only a minute
ago.
     “One more shot!” I yelled at the bartender.
     “You’ve got no more money!” he yelled back.
     “Somebody buy me a drink!” I shouted.
     “They’ve got no more money!”
     “Where are Irene and Honey Boy?”
     “Long gone!”

2 A.M.
                                                                                                                17
"Closing time!” the bartender shouted at the three or four Indians who were still drinking hard after a long,
hard day of drinking. Indian alcoholics are either sprinters or marathoners.
    “Where are Irene and Honey Boy?” I asked.
    “They’ve been gone for hours,” the bartender said.
    “Where’d they go?”
    “I told you a hundred times, I don’t know.”
    “What am I supposed to do?”
    “It’s closing time. I don’t care where you go, but you’re not staying here.”
    “You are an ungrateful bastard. I’ve been good to you.”
    “You don’t leave right now, I’m going to kick your ass.”
    “Come on, I know how to fight.”
    He came at me. I don’t remember what happened after that.

4 A.M.

I emerged from the blackness and discovered myself walking behind a big warehouse. I didn’t know where I was. My face
hurt. I felt my nose and decided that it might be broken. Exhausted and cold, I pulled a plastic tarp from a truck bed,
wrapped it around me like a faithful lover, and fell asleep in the dirt.

6 A.M.

Somebody kicked me in the ribs. I opened my eyes and looked up at a white cop.
    “Jackson,” the cop said. “Is that you?”
    “Officer Williams,” I said. He was a good cop with a sweet tooth. He’d given me hundreds of candy bars over the years.
I wonder if he knew I was diabetic.
    “What the hell are you doing here?” he asked.
    “I was cold and sleepy,” I said. “So I lay down.”
    “You dumb-ass, you passed out on the railroad tracks.”
    I sat up and looked around. I was lying on the railroad tracks. Dockworkers stared at me. I should have been a railroad-
track pizza, a double Indian pepperoni with extra cheese. Sick and scared, I leaned over and puked whiskey.
    “What the hell’s wrong with you?” Officer Williams asked. “You’ve never been this stupid.”
    “It’s my grandmother,” I said. “She died.”
    “I’m sorry, man. When did she die?”
    “Nineteen seventy-two.”
    “And you’re killing yourself now?”
    “I’ve been killing myself ever since she died.”
    He shook his head. He was sad for me. Like I said, he was a good cop.
    “And somebody beat the hell out of you,” he said. “You remember who?”
    “Mr. Grief and I went a few rounds.”
    “It looks like Mr. Grief knocked you out.”
    “Mr. Grief always wins.”
    “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you out of here.”
    He helped me up and led me over to his squad car. He put me in the back. “You throw up in there and you’re cleaning it
up,” he said.
    “That’s fair.”
    He walked around the car and sat in the driver’s seat. “I’m taking you over to detox,” he said.
                                                                                                                   18
    “No, man, that place is awful,” I said. “It’s full of drunk Indians.”
    We laughed. He drove away from the docks.
    “I don’t know how you guys do it,” he said.
    “What guys?” I asked.
    “You Indians. How the hell do you laugh so much? I just picked your ass off the railroad tracks, and you’re making
jokes. Why the hell do you do that?”
    “The two funniest tribes I’ve ever been around are Indians and Jews, so I guess that says something about the inherent
humor of genocide.”
    We laughed.
    “Listen to you, Jackson. You’re so smart. Why the hell are you on the street?”
    “Give me a thousand dollars and I’ll tell you.”
    “You bet I’d give you a thousand dollars if I knew you’d straighten up your life.”
    He meant it. He was the second-best cop I’d ever known.
    “You’re a good cop,” I said.
    “Come on, Jackson,” he said. “Don’t blow smoke up my ass.”
    “No, really, you remind me of my grandfather.”
    “Yeah, that’s what you Indians always tell me.”
    “No, man, my grandfather was a tribal cop. He was a good cop. He never arrested people. He took care of them. Just like
you.”
    “I’ve arrested hundreds of scumbags, Jackson. And I’ve shot a couple in the ass.”
    “It don’t matter. You’re not a killer.”
    “I didn’t kill them. I killed their asses. I’m an ass-killer.”
    We drove through downtown. The missions and shelters had already released their overnighters. Sleepy homeless men
and women stood on street corners and stared up at a gray sky. It was the morning after the night of the living dead.
    “Do you ever get scared?” I asked Officer Williams.
    “What do you mean?”
    “I mean, being a cop, is it scary?”
    He thought about that for a while. He contemplated it. I liked that about him.
    “I guess I try not to think too much about being afraid,” he said. “If you think about fear, then you’ll be afraid. The job is
boring most of the time. Just driving and looking into dark corners, you know, and seeing nothing. But then things get heavy.
You’re chasing somebody, or fighting them or walking around a dark house, and you just know some crazy guy is hiding
around a corner, and hell, yes, it’s scary.”
    “My grandfather was killed in the line of duty,” I said.
    “I’m sorry. How’d it happen?”
    I knew he’d listen closely to my story.
    “He worked on the reservation. Everybody knew everybody. It was safe. We aren’t like those crazy Sioux or Apache or
any of those other warrior tribes. There’ve only been three murders on my reservation in the last hundred years.”
    “That is safe.”
    “Yeah, we Spokane, we’re passive, you know. We’re mean with words. And we’ll cuss out anybody. But we don’t shoot
people. Or stab them. Not much, anyway.”
    “So what happened to your grandfather?”
    “This man and his girlfriend were fighting down by Little Falls.”
    “Domestic dispute. Those are the worst.”
    “Yeah, but this guy was my grandfather’s brother. My great-uncle.”
    “Oh, no.”
                                                                                                                       19
      “Yeah, it was awful. My grandfather just strolled into the house. He’d been there a thousand times. And his
brother and his girlfriend were drunk and beating on each other. And my grandfather stepped between them, just as he’d
done a hundred times before. And the girlfriend tripped or something. She fell down and hit her head and started crying. And
my grandfather kneeled down beside her to make sure she was all right. And for some reason my great-uncle reached down,
pulled my grandfather’s pistol out of the holster, and shot him in the head.”
      “That’s terrible. I’m sorry.”
      “Yeah, my great-uncle could never figure out why he did it. He went to prison forever, you know, and he always wrote
these long letters. Like fifty pages of tiny little handwriting. And he was always trying to figure out why he did it. He’d write
and write and write and try to figure it out. He never did. It’s a great big mystery.”
      “Do you remember your grandfather?”
      “A little bit. I remember the funeral. My grandmother wouldn’t let them bury him. My father had to drag her away from
the grave.”
      “I don’t know what to say.”
      “I don’t, either.”
      We stopped in front of the detox center.
      “We’re here,” Officer Williams said.
      “I can’t go in there,” I said.
      “You have to.”
      “Please, no. They’ll keep me for twenty-four hours. And then it will be too late.”
      “Too late for what?”
      I told him about my grandmother’s regalia and the deadline for buying it back.
      “If it was stolen, you need to file a report,” he said. “I’ll investigate it myself. If that thing is really your grandmother’s,
I’ll get it back for you. Legally.”
      “No,” I said. “That’s not fair. The pawnbroker didn’t know it was stolen. And, besides, I’m on a mission here. I want to
be a hero, you know? I want to win it back, like a knight.”
      “That’s romantic crap.”
      “That may be. But I care about it. It’s been a long time since I really cared about something.”
      Officer Williams turned around in his seat and stared at me. He studied me.
      “I’ll give you some money,” he said. “I don’t have much. Only thirty bucks. I’m short until payday. And it’s not enough
to get back the regalia. But it’s something.”
      “I’ll take it,” I said.
      “I’m giving it to you because I believe in what you believe. I’m hoping, and I don’t know why I’m hoping it, but I hope
you can turn thirty bucks into a thousand somehow.”
      “I believe in magic.”
      “I believe you’ll take my money and get drunk on it.”
      “Then why are you giving it to me?”
      “There ain’t no such thing as an atheist cop.”
      “Sure, there is.”
      “Yeah, well, I’m not an atheist cop.”
      He let me out of the car, handed me two fivers and a twenty, and shook my hand.
      “Take care of yourself, Jackson,” he said. “Stay off the railroad tracks.”
      “I’ll try,” I said.
      He drove away. Carrying my money, I headed back toward the water.

8 A.M.
                                                                                                               20
On the wharf, those three Aleuts still waited on the wooden bench.
    “Have you seen your ship?” I asked.
    “Seen a lot of ships,” the elder Aleut said. “But not our ship.”
    I sat on the bench with them. We sat in silence for a long time. I wondered if we would fossilize if we sat there long
enough.
    I thought about my grandmother. I’d never seen her dance in her regalia. And, more than anything, I wished I’d seen her
dance at a powwow.
    “Do you guys know any songs?” I asked the Aleuts.
    “I know all of Hank Williams,” the elder Aleut said.
    “How about Indian songs?”
    “Hank Williams is Indian.”
    “How about sacred songs?”
    “Hank Williams is sacred.”
    “I’m talking about ceremonial songs. You know, religious ones. The songs you sing back home when you’re wishing
and hoping.”
    “What are you wishing and hoping for?”
    “I’m wishing my grandmother was still alive.”
    “Every song I know is about that.”
    “Well, sing me as many as you can.”
    The Aleuts sang their strange and beautiful songs. I listened. They sang about my grandmother and about their
grandmothers. They were lonesome for the cold and the snow. I was lonesome for everything.

10 A.M.

After the Aleuts finished their last song, we sat in silence for a while. Indians are good at silence.
    “Was that the last song?” I asked.
    “We sang all the ones we could,” the elder Aleut said. “The others are just for our people.”
    I understood. We Indians have to keep our secrets. And these Aleuts were so secretive they didn’t refer to themselves as
Indians.
    “Are you guys hungry?” I asked.
    They looked at one another and communicated without talking.
    “We could eat,” the elder Aleut said.

11 A.M.

The Aleuts and I walked over to the Big Kitchen, a greasy diner in the International District. I knew they served homeless
Indians who’d lucked into money.
    “Four for breakfast?” the waitress asked when we stepped inside.
    “Yes, we’re very hungry,” the elder Aleut said.
    She took us to a booth near the kitchen. I could smell the food cooking. My stomach growled.
    “You guys want separate checks?” the waitress asked.
    “No, I’m paying,” I said.
    “Aren’t you the generous one,” she said.
    “Don’t do that,” I said.
    “Do what?” she asked.
    “Don’t ask me rhetorical questions. They scare me.”
                                                                                                                  21
     She looked puzzled, and then she laughed.
     “O.K., Professor,” she said. “I’ll only ask you real questions from now on.”
     “Thank you.”
     “What do you guys want to eat?”
     “That’s the best question anybody can ask anybody,” I said. “What have you got?”
     “How much money you got?” she asked.
     “Another good question,” I said. “I’ve got twenty-five dollars I can spend. Bring us all the breakfast you can, plus your
tip.”
     She knew the math.
     “All right, that’s four specials and four coffees and fifteen per cent for me.”
     The Aleuts and I waited in silence. Soon enough, the waitress returned and poured us four coffees, and we sipped at
them until she returned again, with four plates of food. Eggs, bacon, toast, hash-brown potatoes. It’s amazing how much
food you can buy for so little money.
     Grateful, we feasted.

NOON

I said farewell to the Aleuts and walked toward the pawnshop. I heard later that the Aleuts had waded into the salt water near
Dock 47 and disappeared. Some Indians swore they had walked on the water and headed north. Other Indians saw the Aleuts
drown. I don’t know what happened to them.
     I looked for the pawnshop and couldn’t find it. I swear it wasn’t in the place where it had been before. I walked twenty
or thirty blocks looking for the pawnshop, turned corners and bisected intersections, and looked up its name in the phone
books and asked people walking past me if they’d ever heard of it. But that pawnshop seemed to have sailed away like a
ghost ship. I wanted to cry. And just when I’d given up, when I turned one last corner and thought I might die if I didn’t find
that pawnshop, there it was, in a space I swear it hadn’t occupied a few minutes ago.
     I walked inside and greeted the pawnbroker, who looked a little younger than he had before.
     “It’s you,” he said.
     “Yes, it’s me,” I said.
     “Jackson Jackson.”
     “That is my name.”
     “Where are your friends?”
     “They went travelling. But it’s O.K. Indians are everywhere.”
     “Do you have the money?”
     “How much do you need again?” I asked, and hoped the price had changed.
     “Nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars.”
     It was still the same price. Of course, it was the same price. Why would it change?
     “I don’t have that,” I said.
     “What do you have?”
     “Five dollars.”
     I set the crumpled Lincoln on the countertop. The pawnbroker studied it.
     “Is that the same five dollars from yesterday?”
     “No, it’s different.”
     He thought about the possibilities.
     “Did you work hard for this money?” he asked.
     “Yes,” I said.
                                                                                                                            22
    He closed his eyes and thought harder about the possibilities. Then he stepped into the back room and
returned with my grandmother’s regalia.
    “Take it,” he said, and held it out to me.
    “I don’t have the money.”
    “I don’t want your money.”
    “But I wanted to win it.”
    “You did win it. Now take it before I change my mind.”
    Do you know how many good men live in this world? Too many to count!
    I took my grandmother’s regalia and walked outside. I knew that solitary yellow bead was part of me. I knew I was that
yellow bead in part. Outside, I wrapped myself in my grandmother’s regalia and breathed her in. I stepped off the sidewalk
and into the intersection. Pedestrians stopped. Cars stopped. The city stopped. They all watched me dance with my
grandmother. I was my grandmother, dancing. ♦


Ambrose Bierce
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
   A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's
hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber
above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the sleepers supporting the metals of the
railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners--two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in
civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his
rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as "support," that is to
say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest--a formal and
unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was
occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.
   Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving,
was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground--a gentle acclivity
topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of
a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway of the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators--a single company of
infantry in line, at "parade rest," the butts of the rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right
shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieu tenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his
left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the
bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The
captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when
he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of
military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.
   The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge
from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good--a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his
long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat. He wore a mustache
and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have
                                                                                                                            23
expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes
provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.
     The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been
standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart
one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned
three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had
been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would
step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his
judgment as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast
footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood
caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move, What a sluggish stream!
     He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the
brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift--all had distracted him.
And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could
neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil; it had
the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by--it seemed both. Its recurrence
was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and--he knew not why--
apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer, the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the
sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard
was the ticking of his watch.
     He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. "If I could free my hands," he thought, "I might throw off the noose
and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and
get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader's farthest
advance."
As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it
the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.

II

     Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other
slave owners a politician he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an
imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with the gallant army that had
fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the
release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it
comes to all in war time. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in aid of the South, no
adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in
good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and
war.
                                                                                                                         24
      One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-
clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only toe, happy to serve him with her own white
hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.
"The Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl
Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted
everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels or trains will be summarily hanged.
I saw the order."
"How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?" Farquhar asked.
"About thirty miles."
"Is there no force on this side the creek?"
"Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge."
"Suppose a man--a civilian and student of hanging--should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel," said
Farquhar, smiling, "what could he accomplish?"
The soldier reflected. "I was there a month ago," he replied. "I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of
driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tow."
The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode
away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a
Federal scout.

III

      As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this
state he was awakened--ages later, it seemed to him--by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of
suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These
pains appeared to flash along well-defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed
like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of
fulness--of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced;
he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he
was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast
pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful
roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had
fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the
water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river!--the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the
darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter
and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface--
knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. "To be hanged and drowned," he thought? "that is not so bad; but I do
not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair."
      He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the
struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort!--what
magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated
                                                                                                                           25
upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and
then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of
a water snake. "Put it back, put it back!" He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been
succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire; his heart, which had been
fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an
insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick,
downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded
convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a
shriek!
   He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful
disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt
the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the
individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf--saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the
grey spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of
grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies' wings, the strokes of
the water-spiders' legs, like oars which had lifted their boat--all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and
he heard the rush of its body parting the water.
   He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the
pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his
executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn
his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.
   Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face
with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising
from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He
observed that it was a grey eye and remembered having read that grey eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them.
Nevertheless, this one had missed.
   A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking into the forest on the bank opposite the
fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a
distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had
frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieu. tenant on shore was
taking a part in the morning's work. How coldly and pitilessly--with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing
tranquillity in the men--with what accurately measured inter vals fell those cruel words:
"Attention, company! . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready! . . . Aim! . . . Fire!"
   Farquhar dived--dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dulled
thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly
downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his
collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.
   As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther down
stream nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they
                                                                                                                         26
were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again,
independently and ineffectually.
   The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as
his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning.
   The officer," he reasoned, "will not make that martinet's error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He
has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!"
   An appalling plash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, diminuendo, which seemed to travel back
through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps!
   A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken a hand in the
game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air
ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
   "They will not do that again," he thought; "the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the
smoke will apprise me--the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun."
   Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round--spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge,
fort and men--all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color-
-that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made
him giddy and sick. In a few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream--the southern bank--
and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his
hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and
audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The
trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms.
A strange, roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Æolian
harps. He had no wish to perfect his escape--was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.
   A whiz and rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had
fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.
   All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a
break in it, not even a woodman's road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the
revelation.
   By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famishing. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road
which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No
fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the
trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective.
Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great garden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange
constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side
was full of singular noises, among which--once, twice, and again--he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.
   His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had
bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by
thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue--he could no
longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!
                                                                                                                                       27
   Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene--perhaps he
has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the
morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a
flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of
the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He
springs forward with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding
white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon--then all is darkness and silence!
   Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek
bridge.


Charlotte Perkins Gilman
“The Yellow Wallpaper”

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
      A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity--but that would be asking too
much of fate!
      Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.
      Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?
      John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
      John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not
to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
      John is a physician, and perhaps--(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)--perhaps
that is one reason I do not get well faster.
      You see he does not believe I am sick!
      And what can one do?
      If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but
temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency-- what is one to do?
      My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
      So I take phosphates or phosphites--whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work"
until I am well again.
      Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
      Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
      But what is one to do?
      I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal--having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
      I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus--but John says the very worst thing I can do is
to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
      So I will let it alone and talk about the house.
      The most beautiful place! It is quite alone standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English
places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.
      There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden--large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered
arbors with seats under them.
      There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.
      There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.
      That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don't care--there is something strange about the house--I can feel it.
      I even said so to John one moonlight evening but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
      I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.
      But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself-- before him, at least, and that makes me very
tired.
      I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-
fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.
      He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another.
      He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
      I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.
      He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise depends on your
strength, my dear," said he, "and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time. ' So we took the nursery at the top of
the house.
      It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then
playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.
      The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off--the paper in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as
                                                                                                                                      28
far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
      One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
      It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame
uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of
contradictions.
      The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
      It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.
      No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.
      There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to have me write a word.
                                                                           ----------

      We have been here two weeks, and I haven't felt like writing before, since that first day.
      I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of
strength.
      John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.
      I am glad my case is not serious!
      But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.
      John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.
      Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!
      I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!
      Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able,--to dress and entertain, and order things.
      It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!
      And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.
      I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!
      At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a
nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.
      He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of
the stairs, and so on.
      "You know the place is doing you good," he said, "and really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for a three months' rental."
      "Then do let us go downstairs," I said, "there are such pretty rooms there."
      Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and have it
whitewashed into the bargain.
      But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things.
      It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a
whim.
      I'm really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper.
      Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deepshaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees.
      Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs
down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to give way to
fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner
of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try.
      I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.
      But I find I get pretty tired when I try.
      It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well, John says we will ask Cousin Henry
and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about
now.
      I wish I could get well faster.
      But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!
      There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.
      I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd,
unblinking eyes are everywhere There is one place where two breaths didn't match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher
than the other.
      I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a
child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.
      I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong
friend.
      I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.
      The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used
as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the children have made here.
      The wall-paper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother--they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.
      Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we
found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.
      But I don't mind it a bit--only the paper.
      There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.
      She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me
sick!
      But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows.
                                                                                                                                       29
     There is one that commands the road, a lovely shaded winding road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely
country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows.
     This wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a, different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not
clearly then.
     But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just so--I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk
about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.
     There's sister on the stairs!

                                                                       ----------

      Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are all gone and I am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we
just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week.
      Of course I didn't do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now.
      But it tired me all the same.
      John says if I don't pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.
      But I don't want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!
      Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.
      I don't feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I'm getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.
      I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
      Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.
      And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her
to.
      So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.
      I'm getting really fond of the room in spite of the wall-paper. Perhaps because of the wall-paper.
      It dwells in my mind so!
      I lie here on this great immovable bed--it is nailed down, I believe--and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I
assure you. I start, we'll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time
that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.
      I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or
symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of.
      It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise.
      Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes--a kind of "debased Romanesque" with delirium tremens--
go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.
      But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of
wallowing seaweeds in full chase.
      The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that
direction.
      They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds wonderfully to the confusion.
      There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the crosslights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can
almost fancy radiation after all,--the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal
distraction.
      It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap I guess.

                                                                       ----------

     I don't know why I should write this.
     I don't want to.
     I don't feel able. And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way--it is such a relief!
     But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.
     Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much.
     John says I mustn't lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.
     Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell
him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.
     But he said I wasn't able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying
before I had finished .
     It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose.
     And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my
head.
     He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well.
     He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.
     There's one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wall-paper.
     If we had not used it, that blessed child would have! What a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn't have a child of mine, an impressionable little
thing, live in such a room for worlds.
     I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.
     Of course I never mention it to them any more--I am too wise,--but I keep watch of it all the same.
     There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
                                                                                                                                       30
    Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
    It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
    And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit. I wonder--I begin to think--I wish John
would take me away from here!

                                                                       ----------

      It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.
      But I tried it last night.
      It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around just as the sun does.
      I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by one window or another.
      John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I felt creepy.
      The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.
      I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.
      "What is it, little girl?" he said. "Don't go walking about like that--you'll get cold."
      I thought it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away.
      "Why darling!" said he, "our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can't see how to leave before.
      "The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger, I could and would, but
you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I
feel really much easier about you."
      "I don't weigh a bit more," said 1, "nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the
morning when you are away!"
      "Bless her little heart!" said he with a big hug, "she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let's improve the shining hours by going to sleep,
and talk about it in the morning!"
      "And you won't go away?" I asked gloomily.
      "Why, how can 1, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house
ready. Really dear you are better!"
      "Better in body perhaps--" I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could
not say another word.
      "My darling," said he, "I beg of you, for my sake and for our child's sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that
idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust
me as a physician when I tell you so?"
      So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn't, and lay there for
hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.

                                                                       ----------

     On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.
     The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.
     You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back somersault and there you are. It slaps you in
the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.
     The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of
toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions--why, that is something like it.
     That is, sometimes!
     There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.
     When the sun shoots in through the east window--I always watch for that first long, straight ray--it changes so quickly that I never can quite
believe it.
     That is why I watch it always.
     By moonlight--the moon shines in all night when there is a moon--I wouldn't know it was the same paper.
     At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean,
and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.
     I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.
     By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.
     I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can.
     Indeed he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal.
     It is a very bad habit I am convinced, for you see I don't sleep.
     And that cultivates deceit, for I don't tell them I'm awake--O no!
     The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.
     He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look.
     It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis,--that perhaps it is the paper!
     I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I've caught
him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.
     She didn't know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she
was doing with the paper--she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry-- asked me why I should frighten her so!
     Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John's, and she wished
                                                                                                                                     31
we would be more careful!
    Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!

                                                                      ----------

     Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do
eat better, and am more quiet than I was.

John is so pleased to see me improve ! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper.
      I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wall-paper--he would make fun of me. He might even want
to take me away.
      I don't want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more, and I think that will be enough.

                                                                      ----------

      I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the
daytime.
      In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.
      There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried
conscientiously.
      It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw--not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old
foul, bad yellow things.
      But there is something else about that paper-- the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was
not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.
      It creeps all over the house.
      I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.
      It gets into my hair.
      Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it--there is that smell!
      Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like.
      It is not bad--at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.
      In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me.
      It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house--to reach the smell.
      But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.
      There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of
furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed over and over.
      I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round--round and round and round--it makes me
dizzy!

                                                                      ----------

     I really have discovered something at last.
     Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out.
     The front pattern does move--and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!
     Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all
over.
     Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.
     And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that is why it has so
many heads.
     They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!
     If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.

                                                                      ----------

   I think that woman gets out in the daytime!
   And I'll tell you why--privately--I've seen her!
   I can see her out of every one of my windows!
   It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.
   I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.
   I don't blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight!
   I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can't do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.
   And John is so queer now, that I don't want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don't want anybody to get that
woman out at night but myself.
   I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once.
   But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time.
                                                                                                                                         32
     And though I always see her, she may be able to creep faster than I can turn!
     I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.

                                                                       ----------

     If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little.
     I have found out another funny thing, but I shan't tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.
     There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don't like the look in his eyes.
     And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give.
     She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.
     John knows I don't sleep very well at night, for all I'm so quiet!
     He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind.
     As if I couldn't see through him!
     Still, I don't wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months.
     It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.

                                                                       ----------

     Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John to stay in town over night, and won't be out until this evening.
     Jennie wanted to sleep with me--the sly thing! but I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone.
     That was clever, for really I wasn't alone a bit! As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up
and ran to help her.
     I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.
     A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.
     And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it to-day!
     We go away to-morrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were before.
     Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing.
     She laughed and said she wouldn't mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired.
     How she betrayed herself that time!
     But I am here, and no person touches this paper but me,--not alive !
     She tried to get me out of the room--it was too patent! But I said it was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down
again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner--I would call when I woke.
     So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the
canvas mattress we found on it.
     We shall sleep downstairs to-night, and take the boat home to-morrow.
     I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.
     How those children did tear about here!
     This bedstead is fairly gnawed!
     But I must get to work.
     I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.
     I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, till John comes.
     I want to astonish him.
     I've got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!
     But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on!
     This bed will not move!
     I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner--but it hurt my teeth.
     Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads
and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!
     I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong
even to try.
     Besides I wouldn't do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued.
     I don't like to look out of the windows even-- there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.
     I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?
     But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope--you don't get me out in the road there !
     I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!
     It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!
     I don't want to go outside. I won't, even if Jennie asks me to.
     For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow.
     But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.
     Why there's John at the door!
     It is no use, young man, you can't open it!
     How he does call and pound!
     Now he's crying for an axe.
     It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!
     "John dear!" said I in the gentlest voice, "the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf!"
     That silenced him for a few moments.
                                                                                                                                  33
    Then he said--very quietly indeed, "Open the door, my darling!"
    "I can't," said I. "The key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf!"
    And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it of course, and
came in. He stopped short by the door.
    "What is the matter?" he cried. "For God's sake, what are you doing!"
    I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.
    "I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"
    Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall , so that I had to creep over him every
time!


Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery”
The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were
blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between
the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two
days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the
whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to
allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.


The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily
on most of them; they tended to gather together quietly for a while before they broke into boisterous play. and their talk
was still of the classroom and the teacher, of books and reprimands. Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full
of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and
Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix-- the villagers pronounced this name "Dellacroy"--eventually made a great pile of
stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys. The girls stood aside, talking
among themselves, looking over their shoulders at the boys. and the very small children rolled in the dust or clung to
the hands of their older brothers or sisters.


Soon the men began to gather. surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes. They
stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than
laughed. The women, wearing faded house dresses and sweaters, came shortly after their menfolk. They greeted one
another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands. Soon the women, standing by their
husbands, began to call to their children, and the children came reluctantly, having to be called four or five times.
Bobby Martin ducked under his mother's grasping hand and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones. His father spoke
up sharply, and Bobby came quickly and took his place between his father and his oldest brother.


The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers. who
had time and energy to devote to civic activities. He was a round-faced, jovial man and he ran the coal business, and
people were sorry for him. because he had no children and his wife was a scold. When he arrived in the square,
carrying the black wooden box, there was a murmur of conversation among the villagers, and he waved and called.
"Little late today, folks." The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed him, carrying a three- legged stool, and the stool was put
in the center of the square and Mr. Summers set the black box down on it. The villagers kept their distance, leaving a
space between themselves and the stool. and when Mr. Summers said, "Some of you fellows want to give me a hand?"
there was a hesitation before two men. Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter. came forward to hold the box steady on
the stool while Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it.


The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been
put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the
villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black
box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one
that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here. Every year, after the lottery, Mr.
Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's
                                                                                                               34
being done. The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but
splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.


Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, held the black box securely on the stool until Mr. Summers had stirred the
papers thoroughly with his hand. Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Summers had
been successful in having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations. Chips of
wood, Mr. Summers had argued. had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was
more than three hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was necessary to use something that would fit more easily
into he black box. The night before the lottery, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves made up the slips of paper and put them
in the box, and it was then taken to the safe of Mr. Summers' coal company and locked up until Mr. Summers was
ready to take it to the square next morning. The rest of the year, the box was put way, sometimes one place, sometimes
another; it had spent one year in Mr. Graves's barn and another year underfoot in the post office. and sometimes it
was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there.


There was a great deal of fussing to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open. There were the lists to
make up--of heads of families. heads of households in each family. members of each household in each family. There
was the proper swearing-in of Mr. Summers by the postmaster, as the official of the lottery; at one time, some people
remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory. tuneless
chant that had been rattled off duly each year; some people believed that the official of the lottery used to stand just so
when he said or sang it, others believed that he was supposed to walk among the people, but years and years ago this
p3rt of the ritual had been allowed to lapse. There had been, also, a ritual salute, which the official of the lottery had
had to use in addressing each person who came up to draw from the box, but this also had changed with time, until
now it was felt necessary only for the official to speak to each person approaching. Mr. Summers was very good at all
this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans. with one hand resting carelessly on the black box. he seemed very proper
and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins.


Just as Mr. Summers finally left off talking and turned to the assembled villagers, Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly
along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd.
"Clean forgot what day it was," she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly.
"Thought my old man was out back stacking wood," Mrs. Hutchinson went on. "and then I looked out the window and
the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running." She dried her hands on her
apron, and Mrs. Delacroix said, "You're in time, though. They're still talking away up there."


Mrs. Hutchinson craned her neck to see through the crowd and found her husband and children standing near the
front. She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell and began to make her way through the crowd. The people
separated good-humoredly to let her through: two or three people said. in voices just loud enough to be heard across
the crowd, "Here comes your, Missus, Hutchinson," and "Bill, she made it after all." Mrs. Hutchinson reached her
husband, and Mr. Summers, who had been waiting, said cheerfully. "Thought we were going to have to get on without
you, Tessie." Mrs. Hutchinson said. grinning, "Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you. Joe?,"
and soft laughter ran through the crowd as the people stirred back into position after Mrs. Hutchinson's arrival.


"Well, now." Mr. Summers said soberly, "guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work.
Anybody ain't here?"


"Dunbar." several people said. "Dunbar. Dunbar."


Mr. Summers consulted his list. "Clyde Dunbar." he said. "That's right. He's broke his leg, hasn't he? Who's drawing for
him?"


"Me. I guess," a woman said. and Mr. Summers turned to look at her. "Wife draws for her husband." Mr. Summers
said. "Don't you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?" Although Mr. Summers and everyone else in the village
                                                                                                               35
knew the answer perfectly well, it was the business of the official of the lottery to ask such questions
formally. Mr. Summers waited with an expression of polite interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered.


"Horace's not but sixteen vet." Mrs. Dunbar said regretfully. "Guess I gotta fill in for the old man this year."


"Right." Sr. Summers said. He made a note on the list he was holding. Then he asked, "Watson boy drawing this year?"


A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand. "Here," he said. "I m drawing for my mother and me." He blinked his eyes
nervously and ducked his head as several voices in the crowd said thin#s like "Good fellow, lack." and "Glad to see
your mother's got a man to do it."


"Well," Mr. Summers said, "guess that's everyone. Old Man Warner make it?"


"Here," a voice said. and Mr. Summers nodded.


A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers cleared his throat and looked at the list. "All ready?" he called. "Now,
I'll read the names--heads of families first--and the men come up and take a paper out of the box. Keep the paper
folded in your hand without looking at it until everyone has had a turn. Everything clear?"


The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions: most of them were quiet. wetting
their lips. not looking around. Then Mr. Summers raised one hand high and said, "Adams." A man disengaged himself
from the crowd and came forward. "Hi. Steve." Mr. Summers said. and Mr. Adams said. "Hi. Joe." They grinned at one
another humorlessly and nervously. Then Mr. Adams reached into the black box and took out a folded paper. He held
it firmly by one corner as he turned and went hastily back to his place in the crowd. where he stood a little apart from
his family. not looking down at his hand.


"Allen." Mr. Summers said. "Anderson.... Bentham."


"Seems like there's no time at all between lotteries any more." Mrs. Delacroix said to Mrs. Graves in the back row.


"Seems like we got through with the last one only last week."


"Time sure goes fast.-- Mrs. Graves said.


"Clark.... Delacroix"


"There goes my old man." Mrs. Delacroix said. She held her breath while her husband went forward.


"Dunbar," Mr. Summers said, and Mrs. Dunbar went steadily to the box while one of the women said. "Go on. Janey,"
and another said, "There she goes."


"We're next." Mrs. Graves said. She watched while Mr. Graves came around from the side of the box, greeted Mr.
Summers gravely and selected a slip of paper from the box. By now, all through the crowd there were men holding the
small folded papers in their large hand. turning them over and over nervously Mrs. Dunbar and her two sons stood
together, Mrs. Dunbar holding the slip of paper.


"Harburt.... Hutchinson."


"Get up there, Bill," Mrs. Hutchinson said. and the people near her laughed.


"Jones."
                                                                                                              36
"They do say," Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, "that over in the north village
they're talking of giving up the lottery."


Old Man Warner snorted. "Pack of crazy fools," he said. "Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them.
Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live hat way for a while.
Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' First thing you know, we'd all be eating stewed
chickweed and acorns. There's always been a lottery," he added petulantly. "Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up
there joking with everybody."


"Some places have already quit lotteries." Mrs. Adams said.


"Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools."


"Martin." And Bobby Martin watched his father go forward. "Overdyke.... Percy."


"I wish they'd hurry," Mrs. Dunbar said to her older son. "I wish they'd hurry."


"They're almost through," her son said.


"You get ready to run tell Dad," Mrs. Dunbar said.


Mr. Summers called his own name and then stepped forward precisely and selected a slip from the box. Then he called,
"Warner."


"Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery," Old Man Warner said as he went through the crowd. "Seventy-seventh
time."


"Watson" The tall boy came awkwardly through the crowd. Someone said, "Don't be nervous, Jack," and Mr. Summers
said, "Take your time, son."


"Zanini."


After that, there was a long pause, a breathless pause, until Mr. Summers. holding his slip of paper in the air, said,
"All right, fellows." For a minute, no one moved, and then all the slips of paper were opened. Suddenly, all the women
began to speak at once, saving. "Who is it?," "Who's got it?," "Is it the Dunbars?," "Is it the Watsons?" Then the voices
began to say, "It's Hutchinson. It's Bill," "Bill Hutchinson's got it."


"Go tell your father," Mrs. Dunbar said to her older son.


People began to look around to see the Hutchinsons. Bill Hutchinson was standing quiet, staring down at the paper in
his hand. Suddenly. Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers. "You didn't give him time enough to take any paper
he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!"


"Be a good sport, Tessie." Mrs. Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, "All of us took the same chance."


"Shut up, Tessie," Bill Hutchinson said.


"Well, everyone," Mr. Summers said, "that was done pretty fast, and now we've got to be hurrying a little more to get
done in time." He consulted his next list. "Bill," he said, "you draw for the Hutchinson family. You got any other
households in the Hutchinsons?"
                                                                                                                37
"There's Don and Eva," Mrs. Hutchinson yelled. "Make them take their chance!"


"Daughters draw with their husbands' families, Tessie," Mr. Summers said gently. "You know that as well as anyone
else."


"It wasn't fair," Tessie said.


"I guess not, Joe." Bill Hutchinson said regretfully. "My daughter draws with her husband's family; that's only fair. And
I've got no other family except the kids."


"Then, as far as drawing for families is concerned, it's you," Mr. Summers said in explanation, "and as far as drawing
for households is concerned, that's you, too. Right?"


"Right," Bill Hutchinson said.


"How many kids, Bill?" Mr. Summers asked formally.


"Three," Bill Hutchinson said.


"There's Bill, Jr., and Nancy, and little Dave. And Tessie and me."


"All right, then," Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you got their tickets back?"


Mr. Graves nodded and held up the slips of paper. "Put them in the box, then," Mr. Summers directed. "Take Bill's and
put it in."


"I think we ought to start over," Mrs. Hutchinson said, as quietly as she could. "I tell you it wasn't fair. You didn't give
him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that."


Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and put them in the box. and he dropped all the papers but those onto the
ground. where the breeze caught them and lifted them off.


"Listen, everybody," Mrs. Hutchinson was saying to the people around her.


"Ready, Bill?" Mr. Summers asked. and Bill Hutchinson, with one quick glance around at his wife and children.
nodded.


"Remember," Mr. Summers said. "take the slips and keep them folded until each person has taken one. Harry, you help
little Dave." Mr. Graves took the hand of the little boy, who came willingly with him up to the box. "Take a paper out of
the box, Davy." Mr. Summers said. Davy put his hand into the box and laughed. "Take just one paper." Mr. Summers
said. "Harry, you hold it for him." Mr. Graves took the child's hand and removed the folded paper from the tight fist
and held it while little Dave stood next to him and looked up at him wonderingly.


"Nancy next," Mr. Summers said. Nancy was twelve, and her school friends breathed heavily as she went forward
switching her skirt, and took a slip daintily from the box "Bill, Jr.," Mr. Summers said, and Billy, his face red and his
feet overlarge, near knocked the box over as he got a paper out. "Tessie," Mr. Summers said. She hesitated for a
minute, looking around defiantly. and then set her lips and went up to the box. She snatched a paper out and held it
behind her.


"Bill," Mr. Summers said, and Bill Hutchinson reached into the box and felt around, bringing his hand out at last with
the slip of paper in it.
                                                                                                                          38
The crowd was quiet. A girl whispered, "I hope it's not Nancy," and the sound of the whisper reached the
edges of the crowd.


"It's not the way it used to be." Old Man Warner said clearly. "People ain't the way they used to be."


"All right," Mr. Summers said. "Open the papers. Harry, you open little Dave's."


Mr. Graves opened the slip of paper and there was a general sigh through the crowd as he held it up and everyone
could see that it was blank. Nancy and Bill. Jr.. opened theirs at the same time. and both beamed and laughed.
turning around to the crowd and holding their slips of paper above their heads.


"Tessie," Mr. Summers said. There was a pause, and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill Hutchinson, and Bill unfolded
his paper and showed it. It was blank.


"It's Tessie," Mr. Summers said, and his voice was hushed. "Show us her paper. Bill."


Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black
spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it
up, and there was a stir in the crowd.


"All right, folks." Mr. Summers said. "Let's finish quickly."


Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The
pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper
that had come out of the box Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to
Mrs. Dunbar. "Come on," she said. "Hurry up."


Mr. Dunbar had small stones in both hands, and she said. gasping for breath. "I can't run at all. You'll have to go
ahead and I'll catch up with you."


The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.


Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers
moved in on her. "It isn't fair," she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, "Come on,
come on, everyone." Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.


"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.



Flannery O’Connor
“A Good Man is Hard to Find”

The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennes- see and she was seizing
at every chance to change Bailey's mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at
the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. "Now look here, Bailey," she said, "see here, read this," and she stood
with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. "Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit
is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I
wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did."

Bailey didn't look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children's mother, a young woman in slacks,
whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top
like rabbit's ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his apricots out of a jar. "The children have been to Florida before,"
                                                                                                                        39
the old lady said. "You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the
world and be broad. They never have been to east Tennessee."

The children's mother didn't seem to hear her but the eight-year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with glasses, said, "If you
don't want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?" He and the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the
floor.

"She wouldn't stay at home to be queen for a day," June Star said without raising her yellow head.

"Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?" the grandmother asked.

"I'd smack his face," John Wesley said.

"She wouldn't stay at home for a million bucks," June Star said. "Afraid she'd miss something. She has to go everywhere we go."

"All right, Miss," the grandmother said. "Just re- member that the next time you want me to curl your hair."

June Star said her hair was naturally curly.

The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the head
of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn't intend for the
cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one
of her gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, Bailey, didn't like to arrive at a motel with a cat.

She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children's mother and
the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five with the mileage on the car at 55890. The grandmother wrote this
down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty
minutes to reach the outskirts of the city.

The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front
of the back window. The children's mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the
grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white
dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of
cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a
lady.

She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the speed
limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped out
after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue
granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the
various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of
them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and their mother and gone back to sleep.

"Let's go through Georgia fast so we won't have to look at it much," John Wesley said.

"If I were a little boy," said the grandmother, "I wouldn't talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains and
Georgia has the hills."

"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground," John Wesley said, "and Georgia is a lousy state too."

"You said it," June Star said.

"In my time," said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, "children were more respectful of their native states and their
parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro child
standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture, now?" she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro
out of the back window. He waved
                                                                                                                       40
"He didn't have any britches on," June Star said.

"He probably didn't have any," the grandmother explained. "Little riggers in the country don't have things like we do. If I could
paint, I'd paint that picture," she said.

The children exchanged comic books.

The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children's mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her knee
and bounced him and told him about the things they were passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her
leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five
or fix graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. "Look at the graveyard!" the grandmother said, pointing it out. "That
was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation."

"Where's the plantation?" John Wesley asked.

"Gone With the Wind" said the grandmother. "Ha. Ha."

When the children finished all the comic books they had brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother ate a peanut
butter sandwich and an olive and would not let the children throw the box and the paper napkins out the window. When there was
nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley
took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn't
play fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother.

The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and waved
her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she was a maiden lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins
Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking man and a gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon
every Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T. Well, one Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon
and there was nobody at home and he left it on the front porch and returned in his buggy to Jasper, but she never got the
watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T. ! This story tickled John Wesley's funny bone
and he giggled and giggled but June Star didn't think it was any good. She said she wouldn't marry a man that just brought her a
watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentle man
and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few years ago, a very wealthy man.

They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sand- wiches. The Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling station and dance hall
set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on the
building and for miles up and down the highway saying, TRY RED SAMMY'S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE FAMOUS
RED SAMMY'S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH THE HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY'S YOUR MAN!

Red Sammy was lying on the bare ground outside The Tower with his head under a truck while a gray monkey about a foot high,
chained to a small chinaberry tree, chattered nearby. The monkey sprang back into the tree and got on the highest limb as soon as
he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward him.

Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a counter at one end and tables at the other and dancing space in the middle. They all
sat down at a board table next to the nickelodeon and Red Sam's wife, a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter than her
skin, came and took their order. The children's mother put a dime in the machine and played "The Tennessee Waltz," and the
grandmother said that tune always made her want to dance. She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but he only glared at her.
He didn't have a naturally sunny disposition like she did and trips made him nervous. The grandmother's brown eyes were very
bright. She swayed her head from side to side and pretended she was dancing in her chair. June Star said play something she could
tap to so the children's mother put in another dime and played a fast number and June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and did
her tap routine.

"Ain't she cute?" Red Sam's wife said, leaning over the counter. "Would you like to come be my little girl?"

"No I certainly wouldn't," June Star said. "I wouldn't live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!" and she ran back to
the table.

"Ain't she cute?" the woman repeated, stretching her mouth politely.
                                                                                                                           41
"Arn't you ashamed?" hissed the grandmother.

Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging on the counter and hurry up with these people's order. His khaki trousers
reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt. He came over and sat
down at a table nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. "You can't win," he said. "You can't win," and he wiped his
sweating red face off with a gray handkerchief. "These days you don't know who to trust," he said. "Ain't that the truth?"

"People are certainly not nice like they used to be," said the grandmother.

"Two fellers come in here last week," Red Sammy said, "driving a Chrysler. It was a old beat-up car but it was a good one and
these boys looked all right to me. Said they worked at the mill and you know I let them fellers charge the gas they bought? Now
why did I do that?"

"Because you're a good man!" the grandmother said at once.

"Yes'm, I suppose so," Red Sam said as if he were struck with this answer.

His wife brought the orders, carrying the five plates all at once without a tray, two in each hand and one balanced on her arm. "It
isn't a soul in this green world of God's that you can trust," she said. "And I don't count nobody out of that, not nobody," she
repeated, looking at Red Sammy.

"Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that's escaped?" asked the grandmother.

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he didn't attack this place right here," said the woman. "If he hears about it being here, I wouldn't
be none surprised to see him. If he hears it's two cent in the cash register, I wouldn't be a tall surprised if he . . ."

"That'll do," Red Sam said. "Go bring these people their Co'-Colas," and the woman went off to get the rest of the order.

"A good man is hard to find," Red Sammy said. "Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your
screen door unlatched. Not no more."

He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way
things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking
about it, she was exactly right. The children ran outside into the white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry
tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy.

They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with her own snoring.
Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a
young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it and
two little wooden trellis arbors on either side in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the garden. She recalled
exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but
the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing.
"There was a secret:-panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that
all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . ."

"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find it! We'll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you
turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off there?"

"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!" June Star shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, can't
we go see the house with the secret panel!"

"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother said. "It wouldn't take over twenty minutes."

Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe. "No," he said.

The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the
front seat and June Star hung over her mother's shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on
                                                                                                                            42
their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley
kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.

"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one
second? If you don't shut up, we won't go anywhere."

"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother murmured.

"All right," Bailey said, "but get this: this is the only time we're going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time."

"The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile back," the grandmother directed. "I marked it when we passed."

"A dirt road," Bailey groaned.

After they had turned around and were headed toward the dirt road, the grandmother recalled other points about the house, the
beautiful glass over the front doorway and the candle-lamp in the hall. John Wesley said that the secret panel was probably in the
fireplace.

"You can't go inside this house," Bailey said. "You don't know who lives there."

"While you all talk to the people in front, I'll run around behind and get in a window," John Wesley suggested.

"We'll all stay in the car," his mother said.

They turned onto the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a swirl of pink dust. The grandmother recalled the times when
there were no paved roads and thirty miles was a day's journey. The dirt road was hilly and there were sudden washes in it and
sharp curves on dangerous embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the blue tops of trees for miles
around, then the next minute, they would be in a red depression with the dust-coated trees looking down on them.

"This place had better turn up in a minute," Bailey said, "or I'm going to turn around."

The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months.

"It's not much farther," the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so
embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The
instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto
Bailey's shoulder.

The children were thrown to the floor and their mother, clutching the baby, was thrown out the door onto the ground; the old lady
was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once and landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road. Bailey
remained in the driver's seat with the cat gray-striped with a broad white face and an orange nose clinging to his neck like a
caterpillar.

As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and legs, they scrambled out of the car, shouting, "We've had an
ACCIDENT!" The grandmother was curled up under the dashboard, hoping she was injured so that Bailey's wrath would not come
down on her all at once. The horrible thought she had had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so vividly
was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.

Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and flung it out the window against the side of a pine tree. Then he got out
of the car and started looking for the children's mother. She was sitting against the side of the red gutted ditch, holding the
screaming baby, but she only had a cut down her face and a broken shoulder. "We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed
in a frenzy of delight.

"But nobody's killed," June Star said with disappointment as the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to her head
but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle and the violet spray hanging off the side. They all sat down in the ditch,
except the children, to recover from the shock. They were all shaking.
                                                                                                                        43
"Maybe a car will come along," said the children's mother hoarsely.

"I believe I have injured an organ," said the grandmother, pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey's teeth were clattering.
He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots designed in it and his face was as yellow as the shirt. The grandmother
decided that she would not mention that the house was in Tennessee.

The road was about ten feet above and they could see only the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they were
sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill,
coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract
their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top
of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearselike automobile. There were three men in it.

It came to a stop just over them and for some minutes, the driver looked down with a steady expressionless gaze to where they
were sitting, and didn't speak. Then he turned his head and muttered something to the other two and they got out. One was a fat
boy in black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion embossed on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of
them and stood staring, his mouth partly open in a kind of loose grin. The other had on khaki pants and a blue striped coat and a
gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most of his face. He came around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke.

The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it, looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two. His hair
was just beginning to gray and he wore silver-rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased face and
didn't have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun. The
two boys also had guns.

"We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed.

The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the bespectacled man was someone she knew. His face was as familiar to her as if
she had known him all her life but she could not recall who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come down the
embankment, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn't slip. He had on tan and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles were
red and thin. "Good afternoon," he said. "I see you all had you a little spill."

"We turned over twice!" said the grandmother.

"Once", he corrected. "We seen it happen. Try their car and see will it run, Hiram," he said quietly to the boy with the gray hat.

"What you got that gun for?" John Wesley asked. "Whatcha gonna do with that gun?"

"Lady," the man said to the children's mother, "would you mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make me
nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there where you're at."

"What are you telling US what to do for?" June Star asked.

Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth. "Come here," said their mother.

"Look here now," Bailey began suddenly, "we're in a predicament! We're in . . ."

The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. "You're The Misfit!" she said. "I recognized you at once!"

"Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known, "but it would have been better for all
of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me."

Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his mother that shocked even the children. The old lady began to cry and The
Misfit reddened.

"Lady," he said, "don't you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he don't mean. I don't reckon he meant to talk to you
thataway."
                                                                                                                            44
"You wouldn't shoot a lady, would you?" the grandmother said and removed a clean handkerchief from her cuff and
began to slap at her eyes with it.

The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and made a little hole and then covered it up again. "I would hate to have to,"
he said.

"Listen," the grandmother almost screamed, "I know you're a good man. You don't look a bit like you have common blood. I know
you must come from nice people!"

"Yes mam," he said, "finest people in the world." When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. "God never made a finer
woman than my mother and my daddy's heart was pure gold," he said. The boy with the red sweat shirt had come around behind
them and was standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted down on the ground. "Watch them children, Bobby Lee," he
said. "You know they make me nervous." He looked at the six of them huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be
embarrassed as if he couldn't think of anything to say. "Ain't a cloud in the sky," he remarked, looking up at it. "Don't see no sun
but don't see no cloud neither."

"Yes, it's a beautiful day," said the grandmother. "Listen," she said, "you shouldn't call yourself The Misfit because I know you're a
good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell."

"Hush!" Bailey yelled. "Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!" He was squatting in the position of a runner about to
sprint forward but he didn't move.

"I pre-chate that, lady," The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the butt of his gun.

"It'll take a half a hour to fix this here car," Hiram called, looking over the raised hood of it.

"Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to step over yonder with you," The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey and
John Wesley. "The boys want to ast you something," he said to Bailey. "Would you mind stepping back in them woods there with
them?"

"Listen," Bailey began, "we're in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is," and his voice cracked. His eyes were as
blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained perfectly still.

The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand. She
stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground. Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old
man. John Wesley caught hold of his father's hand and Bobby I,ee followed. They went off toward the woods and just as they
reached the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a gray naked pine trunk, he shouted, "I'll be back in a minute,
Mamma, wait on me!"

"Come back this instant!" his mother shrilled but they all disappeared into the woods.

"Bailey Boy!" the grandmother called in a tragic voice but she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground in front
of her. "I just know you're a good man," she said desperately. "You're not a bit common!"

"Nome, I ain't a good man," The Misfit said after a second ah if he had considered her statement carefully, "but I ain't the worst in
the world neither. My daddy said I was a different breed of dog from my brothers and sisters. 'You know,' Daddy said, 'it's some
that can live their whole life out without asking about it and it's others has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters. He's
going to be into everything!"' He put on his black hat and looked up suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he were
embarrassed again. "I'm sorry I don't have on a shirt before you ladies," he said, hunching his shoulders slightly. "We buried our
clothes that we had on when we escaped and we're just making do until we can get better. We borrowed these from some folks we
met," he explained.

"That's perfectly all right," the grandmother said. "Maybe Bailey has an extra shirt in his suitcase."

"I'll look and see terrectly," The Misfit said.

"Where are they taking him?" the children's mother screamed.
                                                                                                                           45
"Daddy was a card himself," The Misfit said. "You couldn't put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with
the Authorities though. Just had the knack of handling them."

"You could be honest too if you'd only try," said the grandmother. "Think how wonderful it would be to settle down and live a
comfortable life and not have to think about somebody chasing you all the time."

The Misfit kept scratching in the ground with the butt of his gun as if he were thinking about it. "Yestm, somebody is always after
you," he murmured.

The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were just behind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him.
"Do you every pray?" she asked.

He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle between his shoulder blades. "Nome," he said.

There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by another. Then silence. The old lady's head jerked around. She could
hear the wind move through the tree tops like a long satisfied insuck of breath. "Bailey Boy!" she called.

"I was a gospel singer for a while," The Misfit said. "I been most everything. Been in the arm service both land and sea, at home
and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen a man
burnt alive oncet," and he looked up at the children's mother and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white and
their eyes glassy; "I even seen a woman flogged," he said.

"Pray, pray," the grandmother began, "pray, pray . . ."

I never was a bad boy that I remember of," The Misfit said in an almost dreamy voice, "but somewheres along the line I done
something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive," and he looked up and held her attention to him by a steady
stare.

"That's when you should have started to pray," she said. "What did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time?"

"Turn to the right, it was a wall," The Misfit said, looking up again at the cloudless sky. "Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it
was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I done, lady. I set there and set there, trying to remember what it was I done
and I ain't recalled it to this day. Oncet in a while, I would think it was coming to me, but it never come."

"Maybe they put you in by mistake," the old lady said vaguely.

"Nome," he said. "It wasn't no mistake. They had the papers on me."

"You must have stolen something," she said.

The Misfit sneered slightly. "Nobody had nothing I wanted," he said. "It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had done
was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a thing
to do with it. He was buried in the Mount Hopewell Baptist churchyard and you can go there and see for yourself."

"If you would pray," the old lady said, "Jesus would help you."

"That's right," The Misfit said.

"Well then, why don't you pray?" she asked trembling with delight suddenly.

"I don't want no hep," he said. "I'm doing all right by myself."

Bobby Lee and Hiram came ambling back from the woods. Bobby Lee was dragging a yellow shirt with bright blue parrots in it.

"Thow me that shirt, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. The shirt came flying at him and landed on his shoulder and he put it on. The
grandmother couldn't name what the shirt reminded her of. "No, lady," The Misfit said while he was buttoning it up, "I found out
                                                                                                                           46
the crime don't matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because
sooner or later you're going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it."

The children's mother had begun to make heaving noises as if she couldn't get her breath. "Lady," he asked, "would you and that
little girl like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram and join your husband?"

"Yes, thank you," the mother said faintly. Her left arm dangled helplessly and she was holding the baby, who had gone to sleep, in
the other. "Hep that lady up, Hiram," The Misfit said as she struggled to climb out of the ditch, "and Bobby Lee, you hold onto that
little girl's hand."

"I don't want to hold hands with him," June Star said. "He reminds me of a pig."

The fat boy blushed and laughed and caught her by the arm and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and her mother.

Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There was
nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and closed her mouth several times before
anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus," meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it
sounded as if she might be cursing.

"Yes'm, The Misfit said as if he agreed. "Jesus shown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He
hadn't committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course," he said,
"they never shown me my papers. That's why I sign myself now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything you
do and keep a copy of it. Then you'll know what you done and you can hold up the crime to the punishment and see do they match
and in the end you'll have something to prove you ain't been treated right. I call myself The Misfit," he said, "because I can't make
what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment."

There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely by a pistol report. "Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is
punished a heap and another ain't punished at all?"

"Jesus!" the old lady cried. "You've got good blood! I know you wouldn't shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray!
Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I'll give you all the money I've got!"

"Lady," The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the woods, "there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip."

There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called,
"Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break.

"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything off
balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's
nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house
or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

"Maybe He didn't raise the dead," the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down
in the ditch with her legs twisted under her.

"I wasn't there so I can't say He didn't," The Misfit said. "I wisht I had of been there," he said, hitting the ground with his fist. "It
ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady," he said in a high voice, "if I had of been
there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now." His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared for
an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my
babies. You're one of my own children !" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake
had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and
began to clean them.

Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood over the ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and half
lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.

Without his glasses, The Misfit's eyes were red-rimmed and pale and defenseless-looking. "Take her off and thow her where you
thown the others," he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing itself against his leg.
                                                                                                                   47
"She was a talker, wasn't she?" Bobby Lee said, sliding down the ditch with a yodel.

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

"Some fun!" Bobby Lee said.

"Shut up, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. "It's no real pleasure in life."


William Faulkner
“A Rose for Emily”

                                                                    I


When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a
fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-
servant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.


It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies
in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and
cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was
left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps—an eyesore among
eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-
bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of
Jefferson.


Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from
that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor—he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on
the streets without an apron—remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into
perpetuity. Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that
Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of
repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have
believed it.


When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some
little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. February came, and there was no reply. They
wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her
himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin,
flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also enclosed,
without comment.


They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through
which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were
admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and
disuse—a close, dank smell. The Negro led them into the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture.
When the Negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat
down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray. On a tarnished
gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father.
                                                                                                                 48
They rose when she entered—a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist
and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare;
perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a
body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked
like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors
stated their errand.


She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling
halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain.


Her voice was dry and cold. "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can
gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves."


"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?"


"I received a paper, yes," Miss Emily said. "Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff. . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson."


"But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see. We must go by the—"


"See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson."


"But, Miss Emily—"


"See Colonel Sartoris." (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!" The
Negro appeared. "Show these gentlemen out."


                                                               II


So she vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.
That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart—the one we believed would marry
her—had deserted her. After her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly
saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the
place was the Negro man—a young man then—going in and out with a market basket.


"Just as if a man—any man—could keep a kitchen properly," the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the smell
developed. It was another link between the gross, teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons.


A neighbor, a woman, complained to the mayor, Judge Stevens, eighty years old.


"But what will you have me do about it, madam?" he said.


"Why, send her word to stop it," the woman said. "Isn't there a law?"


"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Stevens said. "It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the
yard. I'll speak to him about it."


The next day he received two more complaints, one from a man who came in diffident deprecation. "We really must do
something about it, Judge. I'd be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily, but we've got to do something." That
night the Board of Aldermen met—three graybeards and one younger man, a member of the rising generation.
                                                                                                               49
"It's simple enough," he said. "Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it
in, and if she don't . . ."


"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"


So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing
along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with
his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the
outbuildings. As they recrossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light
behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol. They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow
of the locusts that lined the street. After a week or two the smell went away.


That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her
great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what
they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of
them as a tableau; Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the
foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when
she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she
wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.


When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last
they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the
old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.


The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss
Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was
not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let
them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her
father quickly.


We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had
driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.


                                                             III


She was sick for a long time. When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague
resemblance to those angels in colored church windows—sort of tragic and serene.


The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the summer after her father's death they began the
work. The construction company came with niggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a
Yankee—a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face. The little boys would follow in groups
to hear him cuss the niggers, and the niggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks. Pretty soon he knew
everybody in town. Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the
center of the group. Presently we began to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled
buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable.


At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson would not
think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer." But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could
not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige—without calling it noblesse oblige. They just said, "Poor Emily. Her
                                                                                                                50
kinsfolk should come to her." She had some kin in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with
them over the estate of old lady Wyatt, the crazy woman, and there was no communication between the two families.
They had not even been represented at the funeral.


And as soon as the old people said, "Poor Emily," the whispering began. "Do you suppose it's really so?" they said to one
another. "Of course it is. What else could . . ." This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies
closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: "Poor Emily."


She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than
ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her
imperviousness. Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic. That was over a year after they had begun to say
"Poor Emily," and while the two female cousins were visiting her.


"I want some poison," she said to the druggist. She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual,
with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as
you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look. "I want some poison," she said.


"Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I'd recom—"


"I want the best you have. I don't care what kind."


The druggist named several. "They'll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is—"


"Arsenic," Miss Emily said. "Is that a good one?"


"Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma'am. But what you want—"


"I want arsenic."


The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag. "Why, of course," the
druggist said. "If that's what you want. But the law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for."


Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and
got the arsenic and wrapped it up. The Negro delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn't come back.
When she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and bones: "For rats."


                                                             IV


So the next day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be
seen with Homer Barron, we had said, "She will marry him." Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because Homer
himself had remarked—he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club—that he
was not a marrying man. Later we said, "Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the
glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and
whip in a yellow glove.


Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people. The
men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily's people were Episcopal—to
call upon her. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again. The next
                                                                                                              51
Sunday they again drove about the streets, and the following day the minister's wife wrote to Miss Emily's
relations in Alabama.


So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat back to watch developments. At first nothing happened. Then we
were sure that they were to be married. We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a man's toilet
set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of
men's clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, "They are married. " We were really glad. We were glad because the
two female cousins were even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been.


So we were not surprised when Homer Barron—the streets had been finished some time since—was gone. We were a
little disappointed that there was not a public blowing-off, but we believed that he had gone on to prepare for Miss
Emily's coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. (By that time it was a cabal, and we were all Miss
Emily's allies to help circumvent the cousins.) Sure enough, after another week they departed. And, as we had expected
all along, within three days Homer Barron was back in town. A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen
door at dusk one evening.


And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron. And of Miss Emily for some time. The Negro man went in and out with
the market basket, but the front door remained closed. Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, as
the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but for almost six months she did not appear on the streets. Then
we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many
times had been too virulent and too furious to die.


When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew
grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and-salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning. Up to the day of her
death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.


From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty,
during which she gave lessons in china-painting. She fitted up a studio in one of the downstairs rooms, where the
daughters and grand-daughters of Colonel Sartoris' contemporaries were sent to her with the same regularity and in
the same spirit that they were sent to church on Sundays with a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate.
Meanwhile her taxes had been remitted.


Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and fell
away and did not send their children to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the ladies'
magazines. The front door closed upon the last one and remained closed for good. When the town got free postal
delivery Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She
would not listen to them.


Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out with the market basket.
Each December we sent her a tax notice, which would be returned by the post office a week later, unclaimed. Now and
then we would see her in one of the downstairs windows—she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house—like the
carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which. Thus she passed from
generation to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.


And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. We
did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up trying to get any information from the Negro. He talked to
no one, probably not even to her, for his voice had grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.
                                                                                                                               52
She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped on a
pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.


                                                                      V


The negro met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in, with their hushed, sibilant voices and their quick,
curious glances, and then he disappeared. He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again.


The two female cousins came at once. They held the funeral on the second day, with the town coming to look at Miss
Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier and the
ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men—some in their brushed Confederate uniforms—on the porch and the
lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and
courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a
diminishing road, but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the
narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years.


Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which
would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.


The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb
seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose
color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man's toilet
things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and
tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent in the dust. Upon a chair hung
the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes and the discarded socks.


The man himself lay in the bed.


For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once
lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love,
had cuckolded him. What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from
the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding
dust.


Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and
leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.




D.H. Lawrence (British Author who greatly impacted American short fiction)

    There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love
turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them. They looked at her coldly,
as if they were finding fault with her. And hurriedly she felt she must cover up some fault in herself. Yet what it was that she must cover up
she never knew. Nevertheless, when her children were present, she always felt the centre of her heart go hard. This troubled her, and in
her manner she was all the more gentle and anxious for her children, as if she loved them very much. Only she herself knew that at the
centre of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody. Everybody else said of her: "She is such a good
mother. She adores her children." Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes.
    There were a boy and two little girls. They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves
superior to anyone in the neighbourhood.
Although they lived in style, they felt always an anxiety in the house. There was never enough money. The mother had a small income, and
the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up. The father went into town to some
                                                                                                                                53
office. But though he had good prospects, these prospects never materialised. There was always the grinding sense of the
shortage of money, though the style was always kept up.
     At last the mother said: "I will see if I can't make something." But she did not know where to begin. She racked her brains, and tried this
thing and the other, but could not find anything successful. The failure made deep lines come into her face. Her children were growing up,
they would have to go to school. There must be more money, there must be more money. The father, who was always very handsome and
expensive in his tastes, seemed as if he never would be able to do anything worth doing. And the mother, who had a great belief in herself,
did not succeed any better, and her tastes were just as expensive.
     And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money! The children
could hear it all the time though nobody said it aloud. They heard it at Christmas, when the expensive and splendid toys filled the nursery.
Behind the shining modern rocking-horse, behind the smart doll's house, a voice would start whispering: "There must be more money!
There must be more money!" And the children would stop playing, to listen for a moment. They would look into each other's eyes, to see if
they had all heard. And each one saw in the eyes of the other two that they too had heard. "There must be more money! There must be
more money!"
     It came whispering from the springs of the still-swaying rocking-horse, and even the horse, bending his wooden, champing head, heard
it. The big doll, sitting so pink and smirking in her new pram, could hear it quite plainly, and seemed to be smirking all the more self-
consciously because of it. The foolish puppy, too, that took the place of the teddy-bear, he was looking so extraordinarily foolish for no
other reason but that he heard the secret whisper all over the house: "There must be more money!"
     Yet nobody ever said it aloud. The whisper was everywhere, and therefore no one spoke it. Just as no one ever says: "We are
breathing!" in spite of the fact that breath is coming and going all the time.
     "Mother," said the boy Paul one day, "why don't we keep a car of our own? Why do we always use uncle's, or else a taxi?"
     "Because we're the poor members of the family," said the mother.
     "But why are we, mother?"
     "Well - I suppose," she said slowly and bitterly, "it's because your father has no luck."
The boy was silent for some time.
     "Is luck money, mother?" he asked, rather timidly.
     "No, Paul. Not quite. It's what causes you to have money."
     "Oh!" said Paul vaguely. "I thought when Uncle Oscar said filthy lucker, it meant money."
     "Filthy lucre does mean money," said the mother. "But it's lucre, not luck."
     "Oh!" said the boy. "Then what is luck, mother?"
     "It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you
may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money."
     "Oh! Will you? And is father not lucky?"
     "Very unlucky, I should say," she said bitterly.
The boy watched her with unsure eyes.
     "Why?" he asked.
     "I don't know. Nobody ever knows why one person is lucky and another unlucky."
     "Don't they? Nobody at all? Does nobody know?"
     "Perhaps God. But He never tells."
     "He ought to, then. And aren't you lucky either, mother?"
     "I can't be, it I married an unlucky husband."
     "But by yourself, aren't you?"
     "I used to think I was, before I married. Now I think I am very unlucky indeed."
     "Why?"
     "Well - never mind! Perhaps I'm not really," she said.
The child looked at her to see if she meant it. But he saw, by the lines of her mouth, that she was only trying to hide something from him.
     "Well, anyhow," he said stoutly, "I'm a lucky person."
     "Why?" said his mother, with a sudden laugh.
He stared at her. He didn't even know why he had said it.
     "God told me," he asserted, brazening it out.
     "I hope He did, dear!", she said, again with a laugh, but rather bitter.
     "He did, mother!"
     "Excellent!" said the mother, using one of her husband's exclamations.
The boy saw she did not believe him; or rather, that she paid no attention to his assertion. This angered him somewhere, and made him
want to compel her attention.
     He went off by himself, vaguely, in a childish way, seeking for the clue to 'luck'. Absorbed, taking no heed of other people, he went
about with a sort of stealth, seeking inwardly for luck. He wanted luck, he wanted it, he wanted it. When the two girls were playing dolls in
the nursery, he would sit on his big rocking-horse, charging madly into space, with a frenzy that made the little girls peer at him uneasily.
Wildly the horse careered, the waving dark hair of the boy tossed, his eyes had a strange glare in them. The little girls dared not speak to
him.
     When he had ridden to the end of his mad little journey, he climbed down and stood in front of his rocking-horse, staring fixedly into its
lowered face. Its red mouth was slightly open, its big eye was wide and glassy-bright.
     "Now!" he would silently command the snorting steed. "Now take me to where there is luck! Now take me!"
And he would slash the horse on the neck with the little whip he had asked Uncle Oscar for. He knew the horse could take him to where
there was luck, if only he forced it. So he would mount again and start on his furious ride, hoping at last to get there.
     "You'll break your horse, Paul!" said the nurse.
     "He's always riding like that! I wish he'd leave off!" said his elder sister Joan.
But he only glared down on them in silence. Nurse gave him up. She could make nothing of him. Anyhow, he was growing beyond her.
One day his mother and his Uncle Oscar came in when he was on one of his furious rides. He did not speak to them.
     "Hallo, you young jockey! Riding a winner?" said his uncle.
                                                                                                                                 54
    "Aren't you growing too big for a rocking-horse? You're not a very little boy any longer, you know," said his mother.
But Paul only gave a blue glare from his big, rather close-set eyes. He would speak to nobody when he was in full tilt. His mother watched
him with an anxious expression on her face.
    At last he suddenly stopped forcing his horse into the mechanical gallop and slid down.
    "Well, I got there!" he announced fiercely, his blue eyes still flaring, and his sturdy long legs straddling apart.
    "Where did you get to?" asked his mother.
    "Where I wanted to go," he flared back at her.
    "That's right, son!" said Uncle Oscar. "Don't you stop till you get there. What's the horse's name?"
    "He doesn't have a name," said the boy.
    "Gets on without all right?" asked the uncle.
    "Well, he has different names. He was called Sansovino last week."
    "Sansovino, eh? Won the Ascot. How did you know this name?"
    "He always talks about horse-races with Bassett," said Joan.
The uncle was delighted to find that his small nephew was posted with all the racing news. Bassett, the young gardener, who had been
wounded in the left foot in the war and had got his present job through Oscar Cresswell, whose batman he had been, was a perfect blade
of the “turf.” He lived in the racing events, and the small boy lived with him.
    Oscar Cresswell got it all from Bassett.
    "Master Paul comes and asks me, so I can't do more than tell him, sir," said Bassett, his face terribly serious, as if he were speaking of
religious matters.
    "And does he ever put anything on a horse he fancies?"
    "Well - I don't want to give him away - he's a young sport, a fine sport, sir. Would you mind asking him himself? He sort of takes a
pleasure in it, and perhaps he'd feel I was giving him away, sir, if you don't mind.
    Bassett was serious as a church.
    The uncle went back to his nephew and took him off for a ride in the car.
    "Say, Paul, old man, do you ever put anything on a horse?" the uncle asked.
    The boy watched the handsome man closely.
    "Why, do you think I oughtn't to?" he parried.
    "Not a bit of it! I thought perhaps you might give me a tip for the Lincoln."
The car sped on into the country, going down to Uncle Oscar's place in Hampshire.
    "Honour bright?" said the nephew.
    "Honour bright, son!" said the uncle.
    "Well, then, Daffodil."
    "Daffodil! I doubt it, sonny. What about Mirza?"
    "I only know the winner," said the boy. "That's Daffodil."
    "Daffodil, eh?"
There was a pause. Daffodil was an obscure horse comparatively.
    "Uncle!"
    "Yes, son?"
    "You won't let it go any further, will you? I promised Bassett."
    "Bassett be damned, old man! What's he got to do with it?"
    "We're partners. We've been partners from the first. Uncle, he lent me my first five shillings, which I lost. I promised him, honour bright,
it was only between me and him; only you gave me that ten-shilling note I started winning with, so I thought you were lucky. You won't let it
go any further, will you?"
    The boy gazed at his uncle from those big, hot, blue eyes, set rather close together. The uncle stirred and laughed uneasily.
    "Right you are, son! I'll keep your tip private. How much are you putting on him?"
    "All except twenty pounds," said the boy. "I keep that in reserve."
The uncle thought it a good joke.
    "You keep twenty pounds in reserve, do you, you young romancer? What are you betting, then?"
    "I'm betting three hundred," said the boy gravely. "But it's between you and me, Uncle Oscar! Honour bright?"
    "It's between you and me all right, you young Nat Gould," he said, laughing. "But where's your three hundred?"
    "Bassett keeps it for me. We're partners."
    "You are, are you! And what is Bassett putting on Daffodil?"
    "He won't go quite as high as I do, I expect. Perhaps he'll go a hundred and fifty."
    "What, pennies?" laughed the uncle.
    "Pounds," said the child, with a surprised look at his uncle. "Bassett keeps a bigger reserve than I do."
Between wonder and amusement Uncle Oscar was silent. He pursued the matter no further, but he determined to take his nephew with
him to the Lincoln races.
    "Now, son," he said, "I'm putting twenty on Mirza, and I'll put five on for you on any horse you fancy. What's your pick?"
    "Daffodil, uncle."
    "No, not the fiver on Daffodil!"
    "I should if it was my own fiver," said the child.
    "Good! Good! Right you are! A fiver for me and a fiver for you on Daffodil."
    The child had never been to a race-meeting before, and his eyes were blue fire. He pursed his mouth tight and watched. A Frenchman
just in front had put his money on Lancelot. Wild with excitement, he flayed his arms up and down, yelling "Lancelot!, Lancelot!" in his
French accent.
    Daffodil came in first, Lancelot second, Mirza third. The child, flushed and with eyes blazing, was curiously serene. His uncle brought
him four five-pound notes, four to one.
    "What am I to do with these?" he cried, waving them before the boys eyes.
    "I suppose we'll talk to Bassett," said the boy. "I expect I have fifteen hundred now; and twenty in reserve; and this twenty."
                                                                                                                                    55
His uncle studied him for some moments.
     "Look here, son!" he said. "You're not serious about Bassett and that fifteen hundred, are you?"
     "Yes, I am. But it's between you and me, uncle. Honour bright?"
     "Honour bright all right, son! But I must talk to Bassett."
     "If you'd like to be a partner, uncle, with Bassett and me, we could all be partners. Only, you'd have to promise, honour bright, uncle, not
to let it go beyond us three. Bassett and I are lucky, and you must be lucky, because it was your ten shillings I started winning with ..."
Uncle Oscar took both Bassett and Paul into Richmond Park for an afternoon, and there they talked.
     "It's like this, you see, sir," Bassett said. "Master Paul would get me talking about racing events, spinning yarns, you know, sir. And he
was always keen on knowing if I'd made or if I'd lost. It's about a year since, now, that I put five shillings on Blush of Dawn for him: and we
lost. Then the luck turned, with that ten shillings he had from you: that we put on Singhalese. And since that time, it's been pretty steady,
all things considering. What do you say, Master Paul?"
     "We're all right when we're sure," said Paul. "It's when we're not quite sure that we go down."
     "Oh, but we're careful then," said Bassett.
     "But when are you sure?" smiled Uncle Oscar.
     "It's Master Paul, sir," said Bassett in a secret, religious voice. "It's as if he had it from heaven. Like Daffodil, now, for the Lincoln. That
was as sure as eggs."
     "Did you put anything on Daffodil?" asked Oscar Cresswell.
     "Yes, sir, I made my bit."
     "And my nephew?"
Bassett was obstinately silent, looking at Paul.
     "I made twelve hundred, didn't I, Bassett? I told uncle I was putting three hundred on Daffodil."
     "That's right," said Bassett, nodding.
     "But where's the money?" asked the uncle.
     "I keep it safe locked up, sir. Master Paul he can have it any minute he likes to ask for it."
     "What, fifteen hundred pounds?"
     "And twenty! And forty, that is, with the twenty he made on the course."
     "It's amazing!" said the uncle.
     "If Master Paul offers you to be partners, sir, I would, if I were you: if you'll excuse me," said Bassett.
Oscar Cresswell thought about it.
     "I'll see the money," he said.
They drove home again, and, sure enough, Bassett came round to the garden-house with fifteen hundred pounds in notes. The twenty
pounds reserve was left with Joe Glee, in the Turf Commission deposit.
     "You see, it's all right, uncle, when I'm sure! Then we go strong, for all we're worth, don't we, Bassett?"
     "We do that, Master Paul."
     "And when are you sure?" said the uncle, laughing.
     "Oh, well, sometimes I'm absolutely sure, like about Daffodil," said the boy; "and sometimes I have an idea; and sometimes I haven't
even an idea, have I, Bassett? Then we're careful, because we mostly go down."
     "You do, do you! And when you're sure, like about Daffodil, what makes you sure, sonny?"
     "Oh, well, I don't know," said the boy uneasily. "I'm sure, you know, uncle; that's all."
     "It's as if he had it from heaven, sir," Bassett reiterated.
     "I should say so!" said the uncle.

   But he became a partner. And when the Leger was coming on Paul was 'sure' about Lively Spark, which was a quite inconsiderable
horse. The boy insisted on putting a thousand on the horse, Bassett went for five hundred, and Oscar Cresswell two hundred. Lively Spark
came in first, and the betting had been ten to one against him. Paul had made ten thousand.
"You see," he said. "I was absolutely sure of him."

   Even Oscar Cresswell had cleared two thousand.
   "Look here, son," he said, "this sort of thing makes me nervous."
   "It needn't, uncle! Perhaps I shan't be sure again for a long time."
   "But what are you going to do with your money?" asked the uncle.
   "Of course," said the boy, "I started it for mother. She said she had no luck, because father is unlucky, so I thought if I was lucky, it
might stop whispering."
   "What might stop whispering?"
   "Our house. I hate our house for whispering."
   "What does it whisper?"
   "Why - why" - the boy fidgeted - "why, I don't know. But it's always short of money, you know, uncle."
   "I know it, son, I know it."
   "You know people send mother writs, don't you, uncle?"
   "I'm afraid I do," said the uncle.
   "And then the house whispers, like people laughing at you behind your back. It's awful, that is! I thought if I was lucky -"
   "You might stop it," added the uncle.
The boy watched him with big blue eyes, that had an uncanny cold fire in them, and he said never a word.
   "Well, then!" said the uncle. "What are we doing?"
   "I shouldn't like mother to know I was lucky," said the boy.
   "Why not, son?"
   "She'd stop me."
   "I don't think she would."
                                                                                                                                56
    "Oh!" - and the boy writhed in an odd way - "I don't want her to know, uncle."
    "All right, son! We'll manage it without her knowing."
    They managed it very easily. Paul, at the other's suggestion, handed over five thousand pounds to his uncle, who deposited it with the
family lawyer, who was then to inform Paul's mother that a relative had put five thousand pounds into his hands, which sum was to be paid
out a thousand pounds at a time, on the mother's birthday, for the next five years.
    "So she'll have a birthday present of a thousand pounds for five successive years," said Uncle Oscar. "I hope it won't make it all the
harder for her later."
    Paul's mother had her birthday in November. The house had been 'whispering' worse than ever lately, and, even in spite of his luck,
Paul could not bear up against it. He was very anxious to see the effect of the birthday letter, telling his mother about the thousand
pounds.
    When there were no visitors, Paul now took his meals with his parents, as he was beyond the nursery control. His mother went into
town nearly every day. She had discovered that she had an odd knack of sketching furs and dress materials, so she worked secretly in the
studio of a friend who was the chief 'artist' for the leading drapers. She drew the figures of ladies in furs and ladies in silk and sequins for
the newspaper advertisements. This young woman artist earned several thousand pounds a year, but Paul's mother only made several
hundreds, and she was again dissatisfied. She so wanted to be first in something, and she did not succeed, even in making sketches for
drapery advertisements.
    She was down to breakfast on the morning of her birthday. Paul watched her face as she read her letters. He knew the lawyer's letter.
As his mother read it, her face hardened and became more expressionless. Then a cold, determined look came on her mouth. She hid the
letter under the pile of others, and said not a word about it.
    "Didn't you have anything nice in the post for your birthday, mother?" said Paul.
    "Quite moderately nice," she said, her voice cold and hard and absent.
She went away to town without saying more.
    But in the afternoon Uncle Oscar appeared. He said Paul's mother had had a long interview with the lawyer, asking if the whole five
thousand could not be advanced at once, as she was in debt.
    "What do you think, uncle?" said the boy.
    "I leave it to you, son."
    "Oh, let her have it, then! We can get some more with the other," said the boy.
    "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, laddie!" said Uncle Oscar.
    "But I'm sure to know for the Grand National; or the Lincolnshire; or else the Derby. I'm sure to know for one of them," said Paul.
    So Uncle Oscar signed the agreement, and Paul's mother touched the whole five thousand. Then something very curious happened.
The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening. There were certain new furnishings, and Paul had a
tutor. He was really going to Eton, his father's school, in the following autumn. There were flowers in the winter, and a blossoming of the
luxury Paul's mother had been used to. And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from
under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: "There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be
more money. Oh, now, now-w! Now-w-w - there must be more money! - more than ever! More than ever!"
    It frightened Paul terribly. He studied away at his Latin and Greek with his tutor. But his intense hours were spent with Bassett. The
Grand National had gone by: he had not 'known', and had lost a hundred pounds. Summer was at hand. He was in agony for the Lincoln.
But even for the Lincoln he didn't 'know', and he lost fifty pounds. He became wild-eyed and strange, as if something were going to explode
in him.
    "Let it alone, son! Don't you bother about it!" urged Uncle Oscar. But it was as if the boy couldn't really hear what his uncle was saying.
    "I've got to know for the Derby! I've got to know for the Derby!" the child reiterated, his big blue eyes blazing with a sort of madness.
His mother noticed how overwrought he was.
    "You'd better go to the seaside. Wouldn't you like to go now to the seaside, instead of waiting? I think you'd better," she said, looking
down at him anxiously, her heart curiously heavy because of him.
    But the child lifted his uncanny blue eyes.
    "I couldn't possibly go before the Derby, mother!" he said. "I couldn't possibly!"
    "Why not?" she said, her voice becoming heavy when she was opposed. "Why not? You can still go from the seaside to see the Derby
with your Uncle Oscar, if that that's what you wish. No need for you to wait here. Besides, I think you care too much about these races. It's a
bad sign. My family has been a gambling family, and you won't know till you grow up how much damage it has done. But it has done
damage. I shall have to send Bassett away, and ask Uncle Oscar not to talk racing to you, unless you promise to be reasonable about it: go
away to the seaside and forget it. You're all nerves!"
    "I'll do what you like, mother, so long as you don't send me away till after the Derby," the boy said.
    "Send you away from where? Just from this house?"
    "Yes," he said, gazing at her.
    "Why, you curious child, what makes you care about this house so much, suddenly? I never knew you loved it."
He gazed at her without speaking. He had a secret within a secret, something he had not divulged, even to Bassett or to his Uncle Oscar.
But his mother, after standing undecided and a little bit sullen for some moments, said: "Very well, then! Don't go to the seaside till after
the Derby, if you don't wish it. But promise me you won't think so much about horse-racing and events as you call them!"
    "Oh no," said the boy casually. "I won't think much about them, mother. You needn't worry. I wouldn't worry, mother, if I were you."
    "If you were me and I were you," said his mother, "I wonder what we should do!"
    "But you know you needn't worry, mother, don't you?" the boy repeated.
    "I should be awfully glad to know it," she said wearily.
    "Oh, well, you can, you know. I mean, you ought to know you needn't worry," he insisted.
    "Ought I? Then I'll see about it," she said.
    Paul's secret of secrets was his wooden horse, that which had no name. Since he was emancipated from a nurse and a nursery-
governess, he had had his rocking-horse removed to his own bedroom at the top of the house.
    "Surely you're too big for a rocking-horse!" his mother had remonstrated.
    "Well, you see, mother, till I can have a real horse, I like to have some sort of animal about," had been his quaint answer.
    "Do you feel he keeps you company?" she laughed.
                                                                                                                                  57
    "Oh yes! He's very good, he always keeps me company, when I'm there," said Paul.
So the horse, rather shabby, stood in an arrested prance in the boy's bedroom.
    The Derby was drawing near, and the boy grew more and more tense. He hardly heard what was spoken to him, he was very frail, and
his eyes were really uncanny. His mother had sudden strange seizures of uneasiness about him. Sometimes, for half an hour, she would
feel a sudden anxiety about him that was almost anguish. She wanted to rush to him at once, and know he was safe.
    Two nights before the Derby, she was at a big party in town, when one of her rushes of anxiety about her boy, her first-born, gripped her
heart till she could hardly speak. She fought with the feeling, might and main, for she believed in common sense. But it was too strong.
She had to leave the dance and go downstairs to telephone to the country. The children's nursery-governess was terribly surprised and
startled at being rung up in the night.
    "Are the children all right, Miss Wilmot?"
    "Oh yes, they are quite all right."
    "Master Paul? Is he all right?"
    "He went to bed as right as a trivet. Shall I run up and look at him?"
    "No," said Paul's mother reluctantly. "No! Don't trouble. It's all right. Don't sit up. We shall be home fairly soon." She did not want her
son's privacy intruded upon.
    "Very good," said the governess.
    It was about one o'clock when Paul's mother and father drove up to their house. All was still. Paul's mother went to her room and
slipped off her white fur cloak. She had told her maid not to wait up for her. She heard her husband downstairs, mixing a whisky and soda.
And then, because of the strange anxiety at her heart, she stole upstairs to her son's room. Noiselessly she went along the upper corridor.
    Was there a faint noise? What was it?
    She stood, with arrested muscles, outside his door, listening. There was a strange, heavy, and yet not loud noise. Her heart stood still. It
was a soundless noise, yet rushing and powerful. Something huge, in violent, hushed motion. What was it? What in God's name was it?
She ought to know. She felt that she knew the noise. She knew what it was.
    Yet she could not place it. She couldn't say what it was. And on and on it went, like a madness.
Softly, frozen with anxiety and fear, she turned the door-handle.
    The room was dark. Yet in the space near the window, she heard and saw something plunging to and fro. She gazed in fear and
amazement.
    Then suddenly she switched on the light, and saw her son, in his green pyjamas, madly surging on the rocking-horse. The blaze of light
suddenly lit him up, as he urged the wooden horse, and lit her up, as she stood, blonde, in her dress of pale green and crystal, in the
doorway.
    "Paul!" she cried. "Whatever are you doing?"
    "It's Malabar!" he screamed in a powerful, strange voice. "It's Malabar!"
    His eyes blazed at her for one strange and senseless second, as he ceased urging his wooden horse. Then he fell with a crash to the
ground, and she, all her tormented motherhood flooding upon her, rushed to gather him up.
    But he was unconscious, and unconscious he remained, with some brain-fever. He talked and tossed, and his mother sat stonily by his
side.
    "Malabar! It's Malabar! Bassett, Bassett, I know! It's Malabar!"
So the child cried, trying to get up and urge the rocking-horse that gave him his inspiration.
    "What does he mean by Malabar?" asked the heart-frozen mother.
    "I don't know," said the father stonily.
    "What does he mean by Malabar?" she asked her brother Oscar.
    "It's one of the horses running for the Derby," was the answer.
    And, in spite of himself, Oscar Cresswell spoke to Bassett, and himself put a thousand on Malabar: at fourteen to one.
The third day of the illness was critical: they were waiting for a change. The boy, with his rather long, curly hair, was tossing ceaselessly on
the pillow. He neither slept nor regained consciousness, and his eyes were like blue stones. His mother sat, feeling her heart had gone,
turned actually into a stone.
    In the evening Oscar Cresswell did not come, but Bassett sent a message, saying could he come up for one moment, just one moment?
Paul's mother was very angry at the intrusion, but on second thoughts she agreed. The boy was the same. Perhaps Bassett might bring him
to consciousness.
    The gardener, a shortish fellow with a little brown moustache and sharp little brown eyes, tiptoed into the room, touched his imaginary
cap to Paul's mother, and stole to the bedside, staring with glittering, smallish eyes at the tossing, dying child.
    "Master Paul!" he whispered. "Master Paul! Malabar came in first all right, a clean win. I did as you told me. You've made over seventy
thousand pounds, you have; you've got over eighty thousand. Malabar came in all right, Master Paul."
    "Malabar! Malabar! Did I say Malabar, mother? Did I say Malabar? Do you think I'm lucky, mother? I knew Malabar, didn't I? Over eighty
thousand pounds! I call that lucky, don't you, mother? Over eighty thousand pounds! I knew, didn't I know I knew? Malabar came in all
right. If I ride my horse till I'm sure, then I tell you, Bassett, you can go as high as you like. Did you go for all you were worth, Bassett?"
    "I went a thousand on it, Master Paul."
    "I never told you, mother, that if I can ride my horse, and get there, then I'm absolutely sure - oh, absolutely! Mother, did I ever tell you?
I am lucky!"
    "No, you never did," said his mother.
    But the boy died in the night.

   And even as he lay dead, his mother heard her brother's voice saying to her, "My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good,
and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a
winner."


Sherman Alexie
                                                                                                    58

“I Hated Tonto (Still Do)”

   I was a little Spokane Indian boy who read every book and saw every movie about Indians, no matter how
terrible. I'd read those historical romance novels about the stereotypical Indian warrior ravaging the virginal
white schoolteacher.

  I can still see the cover art.

   The handsome, blue-eyed warrior (the Indians in romance novels are always blue-eyed because half-
breeds are somehow sexier than full-blooded Indians) would be nuzzling (the Indians in romance novels are
always performing acts that are described in animalistic terms) the impossibly pale neck of a white woman as
she reared her head back in primitive ecstasy (the Indians in romance novels always inspire white women to
commit acts of primitive ecstasy).

   Of course, after reading such novels, I imagined myself to be a blue-eyed warrior nuzzling the necks of
various random, primitive and ecstatic white women.

   And I just as often imagined myself to be a cinematic Indian, splattered with Day-Glo Hollywood war
paint as I rode off into yet another battle against the latest actor to portray Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

  But I never, not once, imagined myself to be Tonto.

  I hated Tonto then and I hate him now.

  However, despite my hatred of Tonto, I loved movies about Indians, loved them beyond all reasoning and
saw no fault with any of them.

  I loved John Ford's The Searchers.

   I rooted for John Wayne as he searched for his niece for years and years. I rooted for John Wayne even
though I knew he was going to kill his niece because she had been "soiled" by the Indians. Hell, I rooted for
John Wayne because I understood why he wanted to kill his niece.

  I hated those savage Indians just as much as John Wayne did.

   I mean, jeez, they had kidnapped Natalie Wood, transcendent white beauty who certainly didn't deserve to
be nuzzled, nibbled, or nipped by some Indian warrior, especially an Indian warrior who only spoke in
monosyllables and whose every movement was accompanied by ominous music.

   In the movies, Indians are always accompanied by ominous music. And I've seen so many Indian movies
that I feel like I'm constantly accompanied by ominous music. I always feel that something bad is about to
happen.

  I am always aware of how my whole life is shaped by my hatred of Tonto. Whenever I think of Tonto, I
hear ominous music.

   I walk into shopping malls or family restaurants, as the ominous music drops a few octaves, and imagine
that I am Billy Jack, the half-breed Indian and Vietnam vet turned flower-power pacifist (now there's a
combination) who loses his temper now and again, takes off his shoes (while his opponents patiently wait for
him to do so), and then kicks the red out of the necks of a few dozen racist white extras.
                                                                                                  59

  You have to remember Billy Jack, right?

  Every Indian remembers Billy Jack. I mean, back in the day, Indians worshipped Billy Jack.

   Whenever a new Billy Jack movie opened in Spokane, my entire tribe would climb into two or three vans
like so many circus clowns and drive to the East Trent Drive-In for a long evening of greasy popcorn, flat
soda pop, fossilized licorice rope and interracial violence.

  We Indians cheered as Billy Jack fought for us, for every single Indian.

   Of course, we conveniently ignored the fact that Tom Laughlin, the actor who played Billy Jack, was
definitely not Indian.

   After all, such luminary white actors as Charles Bronson, Chuck Connors, Burt Reynolds, Burt Lancaster,
Sal Mineo, Anthony Quinn and Charlton Heston had already portrayed Indians, so who were we to argue?

   I mean, Tom Laughlin did have a nice tan and he spoke in monosyllables and wore cowboy boots and a
jean jacket just like Indians. And he did have a Cherokee grandmother or grandfather or butcher, so he was
Indian by proximity, and that was good enough in 1972, when disco music was about to rear its ugly head
and bell-bottom pants were just beginning to change the shape of our legs.

  When it came to the movies, Indians had learned to be happy with less.

  We didn't mind that cinematic Indians never had jobs.

  We didn't mind that cinematic Indians were deadly serious.

  We didn't mind that cinematic Indians were rarely played by Indian actors.

  We made up excuses.

  "Well, that Tom Laughlin may not be Indian, but he sure should be."

   "Well, that movie wasn't so good, but Sal Mineo looked sort of like Uncle Stubby when he was still living
out on the reservation."

  "Well, I hear Burt Reynolds is a little bit Cherokee. Look at his cheekbones. He's got them Indian
cheekbones."

  "Well, it's better than nothing."

  Yes, that became our battle cry.

  "Sometimes, it's a good day to die. Sometimes, it's better than nothing."

   We Indians became so numb to the possibility of dissent, so accepting of our own lowered expectations,
that we canonized a film like Powwow Highway.

  When it was first released, I loved Powwow Highway. I cried when I first saw it in the theater, then cried
again when I stayed and watched it again a second time.
                                                                                                   60

   I mean, I loved that movie. I memorized whole passages of dialogue. But recently, I watched the film for
the first time in many years and cringed in shame and embarrassment with every stereotypical scene.

   I cringed when Philbert Bono climbed to the top of a sacred mountain and left a Hershey chocolate bar as
an offering.

   I cringed when Philbert and Buddy Red Bow waded into a stream and sang Indian songs to the moon.

  I cringed when Buddy had a vision of himself as an Indian warrior throwing a tomahawk through the
window of a police cruiser.

   I mean, I don't know a single Indian who would leave a chocolate bar as an offering. I don't know any
Indians who have ever climbed to the top of any mountain. I don't know any Indians who wade into streams
and sing to the moon. I don't know of any Indians who imagine themselves to be Indian warriors.

   Wait -

  I was wrong. I know of at least one Indian boy who always imagined himself to be a cinematic Indian
warrior.

   Me.

   I watched the movies and saw the kind of Indian I was supposed to be.

   A cinematic Indian is supposed to climb mountains.

   I am afraid of heights.

   A cinematic Indian is supposed to wade into streams and sing songs.

   I don't know how to swim.

   A cinematic Indian is supposed to be a warrior.

   I haven't been in a fistfight since sixth grade and she beat the crap out of me.

  I mean, I knew I could never be as brave, as strong, as wiser as visionary, as white as the Indians in the
movies.

   I was just one little Indian boy who hated Tonto because Tonto was the only cinematic Indian who looked
like me.

Richard Connell

“The Most Dangerous Game”

"Off there to the right--somewhere--is a large island," said Whitney." It's rather a mystery--"

"What island is it?" Rainsford asked.
                                                                                                              61
"The old charts call it `Ship-Trap Island,"' Whitney replied." A suggestive name, isn't it? Sailors have a
curious dread of the place. I don't know why. Some superstition--"

"Can't see it," remarked Rainsford, trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its
thick warm blackness in upon the yacht.

"You've good eyes," said Whitney, with a laugh," and I've seen you pick off a moose moving in the brown fall bush at
four hundred yards, but even you can't see four miles or so through a moonless Caribbean night."

"Nor four yards," admitted Rainsford. "Ugh! It's like moist black velvet."

"It will be light enough in Rio," promised Whitney. "We should make it in a few days. I hope the jaguar guns have
come from Purdey's. We should have some good hunting up the Amazon. Great sport, hunting."

"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.

"For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."

"Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar
feels?"
"Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney.

"Bah! They've no understanding."

"Even so, I rather think they understand one thing--fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death."

"Nonsense," laughed Rainsford. "This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of
two classes--the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters. Do you think we've passed that island yet?"

"I can't tell in the dark. I hope so."

"Why? " asked Rainsford.

"The place has a reputation--a bad one."

"Cannibals?" suggested Rainsford.

"Hardly. Even cannibals wouldn't live in such a God-forsaken place. But it's gotten into sailor lore, somehow. Didn't
you notice that the crew's nerves seemed a bit jumpy today?"

"They were a bit strange, now you mention it. Even Captain Nielsen--"

"Yes, even that tough-minded old Swede, who'd go up to the devil himself and ask him for a light. Those fishy blue
eyes held a look I never saw there before. All I could get out of him was `This place has an evil name among seafaring
men, sir.' Then he said to me, very gravely, `Don't you feel anything?'--as if the air about us was actually poisonous.
Now, you mustn't laugh when I tell you this--I did feel something like a sudden chill.

"There was no breeze. The sea was as flat as a plate-glass window. We were drawing near the island then. What I felt
was a--a mental chill; a sort of sudden dread."

"Pure imagination," said Rainsford.

"One superstitious sailor can taint the whole ship's company with his fear."

"Maybe. But sometimes I think sailors have an extra sense that tells them when they are in danger. Sometimes I think
                                                                                                              62
evil is a tangible thing--with wave lengths, just as sound and light have. An evil place can, so to speak,
broadcast vibrations of evil. Anyhow, I'm glad we're getting out of this zone. Well, I think I'll turn in now, Rainsford."

"I'm not sleepy," said Rainsford. "I'm going to smoke another pipe up on the afterdeck."

"Good night, then, Rainsford. See you at breakfast."

"Right. Good night, Whitney."

There was no sound in the night as Rainsford sat there but the muffled throb of the engine that drove the yacht swiftly
through the darkness, and the swish and ripple of the wash of the propeller.

Rainsford, reclining in a steamer chair, indolently puffed on his favorite brier. The sensuous drowsiness of the night
was on him." It's so dark," he thought, "that I could sleep without closing my eyes; the night would be my eyelids--"

An abrupt sound startled him. Off to the right he heard it, and his ears, expert in such matters, could not be mistaken.
Again he heard the sound, and again. Somewhere, off in the blackness, someone had fired a gun three times.

Rainsford sprang up and moved quickly to the rail, mystified. He strained his eyes in the direction from which the
reports had come, but it was like trying to see through a blanket. He leaped upon the rail and balanced himself there, to
get greater elevation; his pipe, striking a rope, was knocked from his mouth. He lunged for it; a short, hoarse cry came
from his lips as he realized he had reached too far and had lost his balance. The cry was pinched off short as the blood-
warm waters of the Caribbean Sea dosed over his head.

He struggled up to the surface and tried to cry out, but the wash from the speeding yacht slapped him in the face and
the salt water in his open mouth made him gag and strangle. Desperately he struck out with strong strokes after the
receding lights of the yacht, but he stopped before he had swum fifty feet. A certain coolheadedness had come to him;
it was not the first time he had been in a tight place. There was a chance that his cries could be heard by someone
aboard the yacht, but that chance was slender and grew more slender as the yacht raced on. He wrestled himself out of
his clothes and shouted with all his power. The lights of the yacht became faint and ever-vanishing fireflies; then they
were blotted out entirely by the night.

Rainsford remembered the shots. They had come from the right, and doggedly he swam in that direction, swimming
with slow, deliberate strokes, conserving his strength. For a seemingly endless time he fought the sea. He began to
count his strokes; he could do possibly a hundred more and then--

Rainsford heard a sound. It came out of the darkness, a high screaming sound, the sound of an animal in an extremity
of anguish and terror.

He did not recognize the animal that made the sound; he did not try to; with fresh vitality he swam toward the sound.
He heard it again; then it was cut short by another noise, crisp, staccato.

"Pistol shot," muttered Rainsford, swimming on.

Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his ears--the most welcome he had ever heard--the
muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore. He was almost on the rocks before he saw them; on a
night less calm he would have been shattered against them. With his remaining strength he dragged himself from the
swirling waters. Jagged crags appeared to jut up into the opaqueness; he forced himself upward, hand over hand.
Gasping, his hands raw, he reached a flat place at the top. Dense jungle came down to the very edge of the cliffs. What
perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainsford just then. All he knew was that
he was safe from his enemy, the sea, and that utter weariness was on him. He flung himself down at the jungle edge
and tumbled headlong into the deepest sleep of his life.

When he opened his eyes he knew from the position of the sun that it was late in the afternoon. Sleep had given him
new vigor; a sharp hunger was picking at him. He looked about him, almost cheerfully.
                                                                                                                 63

"Where there are pistol shots, there are men. Where there are men, there is food," he thought. But what kind of men, he
wondered, in so forbidding a place? An unbroken front of snarled and ragged jungle fringed the shore.

He saw no sign of a trail through the closely knit web of weeds and trees; it was easier to go along the shore, and
Rainsford floundered along by the water. Not far from where he landed, he stopped.

Some wounded thing--by the evidence, a large animal--had thrashed about in the underbrush; the jungle weeds were
crushed down and the moss was lacerated; one patch of weeds was stained crimson. A small, glittering object not far
away caught Rainsford's eye and he picked it up. It was an empty cartridge.

"A twenty-two," he remarked. "That's odd. It must have been a fairly large animal too. The hunter had his nerve with
him to tackle it with a light gun. It's clear that the brute put up a fight. I suppose the first three shots I heard was when
the hunter flushed his quarry and wounded it. The last shot was when he trailed it here and finished it."

He examined the ground closely and found what he had hoped to find--the print of hunting boots. They pointed along
the cliff in the direction he had been going. Eagerly he hurried along, now slipping on a rotten log or a loose stone, but
making headway; night was beginning to settle down on the island.

Bleak darkness was blacking out the sea and jungle when Rainsford sighted the lights. He came upon them as he turned
a crook in the coast line; and his first thought was that be had come upon a village, for there were many lights. But as
he forged along he saw to his great astonishment that all the lights were in one enormous building--a lofty structure
with pointed towers plunging upward into the gloom. His eyes made out the shadowy outlines of a palatial chateau; it
was set on a high bluff, and on three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows.
"Mirage," thought Rainsford. But it was no mirage, he found, when he opened the tall spiked iron gate. The stone steps
were real enough; the massive door with a leering gargoyle for a knocker was real enough; yet above it all hung an air
of unreality.

He lifted the knocker, and it creaked up stiffly, as if it had never before been used. He let it fall, and it startled him with
its booming loudness. He thought he heard steps within; the door remained closed. Again Rainsford lifted the heavy
knocker, and let it fall. The door opened then--opened as suddenly as if it were on a spring--and Rainsford stood
blinking in the river of glaring gold light that poured out. The first thing Rainsford's eyes discerned was the largest man
Rainsford had ever seen--a gigantic creature, solidly made and black bearded to the waist. In his hand the man held a
long-barreled revolver, and he was pointing it straight at Rainsford's heart.

Out of the snarl of beard two small eyes regarded Rainsford.

"Don't be alarmed," said Rainsford, with a smile which he hoped was disarming. "I'm no robber. I fell off a yacht. My
name is Sanger Rainsford of New York City."

The menacing look in the eyes did not change. The revolver pointing as rigidly as if the giant were a statue. He gave no
sign that he understood Rainsford's words, or that he had even heard them. He was dressed in uniform--a black uniform
trimmed with gray astrakhan.

"I'm Sanger Rainsford of New York," Rainsford began again. "I fell off a yacht. I am hungry."
The man's only answer was to raise with his thumb the hammer of his revolver. Then Rainsford saw the man's free
hand go to his forehead in a military salute, and he saw him click his heels together and stand at attention. Another man
was coming down the broad marble steps, an erect, slender man in evening clothes. He advanced to Rainsford and held
out his hand.

In a cultivated voice marked by a slight accent that gave it added precision and deliberateness, he said, "It is a very
great pleasure and honor to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford, the celebrated hunter, to my home."

Automatically Rainsford shook the man's hand.
                                                                                                             64
"I've read your book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet, you see," explained the man. "I am General
Zaroff."

Rainsford's first impression was that the man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original,
almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but
his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come. His eyes,
too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face--the face of a man used to
giving orders, the face of an aristocrat. Turning to the giant in uniform, the general made a sign. The giant put away his
pistol, saluted, withdrew.

"Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow," remarked the general, "but he has the misfortune to be deaf and dumb. A simple
fellow, but, I'm afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage."

"Is he Russian?"

"He is a Cossack," said the general, and his smile showed red lips and pointed teeth. "So am I."

"Come," he said, "we shouldn't be chatting here. We can talk later. Now you want clothes, food, rest. You shall have
them. This is a most-restful spot."

Ivan had reappeared, and the general spoke to him with lips that moved but gave forth no sound.

"Follow Ivan, if you please, Mr. Rainsford," said the general. "I was about to have my dinner when you came. I'll wait
for you. You'll find that my clothes will fit you, I think."

It was to a huge, beam-ceilinged bedroom with a canopied bed big enough for six men that Rainsford followed the
silent giant. Ivan laid out an evening suit, and Rainsford, as he put it on, noticed that it came from a London tailor who
ordinarily cut and sewed for none below the rank of duke.

The dining room to which Ivan conducted him was in many ways remarkable. There was a medieval magnificence
about it; it suggested a baronial hall of feudal times with its oaken panels, its high ceiling, its vast refectory tables
where twoscore men could sit down to eat. About the hall were mounted heads of many animals--lions, tigers,
elephants, moose, bears; larger or more perfect specimens Rainsford had never seen. At the great table the general was
sitting, alone.

"You'll have a cocktail, Mr. Rainsford," he suggested. The cocktail was surpassingly good; and, Rainsford noted, the
table apointments were of the finest--the linen, the crystal, the silver, the china.

They were eating borsch, the rich, red soup with whipped cream so dear to Russian palates. Half apologetically
General Zaroff said, "We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here. Please forgive any lapses. We are
well off the beaten track, you know. Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long ocean trip?"

"Not in the least," declared Rainsford. He was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable host, a true
cosmopolite. But there was one small trait of .the general's that made Rainsford uncomfortable. Whenever he looked
up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.

"Perhaps," said General Zaroff, "you were surprised that I recognized your name. You see, I read all books on hunting
published in English, French, and Russian. I have but one passion in my life, Mr. Rains. ford, and it is the hunt."

"You have some wonderful heads here," said Rainsford as he ate a particularly well-cooked filet mignon. " That Cape
buffalo is the largest I ever saw."

"Oh, that fellow. Yes, he was a monster."

"Did he charge you?"
                                                                                                              65

"Hurled me against a tree," said the general. "Fractured my skull. But I got the brute."

"I've always thought," said Rains{ord, "that the Cape buffalo is the most dangerous of all big game."

For a moment the general did not reply; he was smiling his curious red-lipped smile. Then he said slowly, "No. You
are wrong, sir. The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game." He sipped his wine. "Here in my preserve on
this island," he said in the same slow tone, "I hunt more dangerous game."

Rainsford expressed his surprise. "Is there big game on this island?"

The general nodded. "The biggest."

"Really?"

"Oh, it isn't here naturally, of course. I have to stock the island."

"What have you imported, general?" Rainsford asked. "Tigers?"

The general smiled. "No," he said. "Hunting tigers ceased to interest me some years ago. I exhausted their possibilities,
you see. No thrill left in tigers, no real danger. I live for danger, Mr. Rainsford."

The general took from his pocket a gold cigarette case and offered his guest a long black cigarette with a silver tip; it
was perfumed and gave off a smell like incense.

"We will have some capital hunting, you and I," said the general. "I shall be most glad to have your society."

"But what game--" began Rainsford.

"I'll tell you," said the general. "You will be amused, I know. I think I may say, in all modesty, that I have done a rare
thing. I have invented a new sensation. May I pour you another glass of port?"

"Thank you, general."

The general filled both glasses, and said, "God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He
made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said. He was a very rich man with a quarter of a million
acres in the Crimea, and he was an ardent sportsman. When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially
made in Moscow for me, to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys with it, he did not punish me;
he complimented me on my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus when I was ten. My whole life has
been one prolonged hunt. I went into the army--it was expected of noblemen's sons--and for a time commanded a
division of Cossack cavalry, but my real interest was always the hunt. I have hunted every kind of game in every land.
It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed."

The general puffed at his cigarette.

"After the debacle in Russia I left the country, for it was imprudent for an officer of the Czar to stay there. Many noble
Russians lost everything. I, luckily, had invested heavily in American securities, so I shall never have to open a
tearoom in Monte Carlo or drive a taxi in Paris. Naturally, I continued to hunt--grizzliest in your Rockies, crocodiles in
the Ganges, rhinoceroses in East Africa. It was in Africa that the Cape buffalo hit me and laid me up for six months. As
soon as I recovered I started for the Amazon to hunt jaguars, for I had heard they were unusually cunning. They
weren't." The Cossack sighed. "They were no match at all for a hunter with his wits about him, and a high-powered
rifle. I was bitterly disappointed. I was lying in my tent with a splitting headache one night when a terrible thought
pushed its way into my mind. Hunting was beginning to bore me! And hunting, remember, had been my life. I have
heard that in America businessmen often go to pieces when they give up the business that has been their life."
                                                                                                              66
"Yes, that's so," said Rainsford.

The general smiled. "I had no wish to go to pieces," he said. "I must do something. Now, mine is an analytical mind,
Mr. Rainsford. Doubtless that is why I enjoy the problems of the chase."

"No doubt, General Zaroff."

"So," continued the general, "I asked myself why the hunt no longer fascinated me. You are much younger than I am,
Mr. Rainsford, and have not hunted as much, but you perhaps can guess the answer."

"What was it?"

"Simply this: hunting had ceased to be what you call `a sporting proposition.' It had become too easy. I always got my
quarry. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection."

The general lit a fresh cigarette.

"No animal had a chance with me any more. That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. The animal had nothing
but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. When I thought of this it was a tragic moment for me, I can
tell you."

Rainsford leaned across the table, absorbed in what his host was saying.

"It came to me as an inspiration what I must do," the general went on.
"And that was?"

The general smiled the quiet smile of one who has faced an obstacle and surmounted it with success. "I had to invent a
new animal to hunt," he said.
"A new animal? You're joking." "Not at all," said the general. "I never joke about hunting. I needed a new animal. I
found one. So I bought this island built this house, and here I do my hunting. The island is perfect for my purposes--
there are jungles with a maze of traits in them, hills, swamps--"

"But the animal, General Zaroff?"

"Oh," said the general, "it supplies me with the most exciting hunting in the world. No other hunting compares with it
for an instant. Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have a quarry with which I can match my wits."

Rainsford's bewilderment showed in his face.

"I wanted the ideal animal to hunt," explained the general. "So I said, `What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?' And
the answer was, of course, `It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason."'

"But no animal can reason," objected Rainsford.

"My dear fellow," said the general, "there is one that can."

"But you can't mean--" gasped Rainsford.

"And why not?"

"I can't believe you are serious, General Zaroff. This is a grisly joke."

"Why should I not be serious? I am speaking of hunting."

"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."
                                                                                                             67

The general laughed with entire good nature. He regarded Rainsford quizzically. "I refuse to believe that so modern
and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your
experiences in the war--"

"Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder," finished Rainsford stiffly.

Laughter shook the general. "How extraordinarily droll you are!" he said. "One does not expect nowadays to find a
young man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naive, and, if I may say so, mid-Victorian point of
view. It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine. Ah, well, doubtless you had Puritan ancestors. So many Americans
appear to have had. I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in
store for you, Mr. Rainsford."

"Thank you, I'm a hunter, not a murderer."

"Dear me," said the general, quite unruffled, "again that unpleasant word. But I think I can show you that your scruples
are quite ill founded."

"Yes?"

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put
here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt
the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or
hound is worth more than a score of them."

"But they are men," said Rainsford hotly.

"Precisely," said the general. "That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can reason, after a fashion. So they
are dangerous."

"But where do you get them?"

The general's left eyelid fluttered down in a wink. "This island is called Ship Trap," he answered. "Sometimes an angry
god of the high seas sends them to me. Sometimes, when Providence is not so kind, I help Providence a bit. Come to
the window with me."

Rainsford went to the window and looked out toward the sea.

"Watch! Out there!" exclaimed the general, pointing into the night. Rainsford's eyes saw only blackness, and then, as
the general pressed a button, far out to sea Rainsford saw the flash of lights.

The general chuckled. "They indicate a channel," he said, "where there's none; giant rocks with razor edges crouch like
a sea monster with wide-open jaws. They can crush a ship as easily as I crush this nut." He dropped a walnut on the
hardwood floor and brought his heel grinding down on it. "Oh, yes," he said, casually, as if in answer to a question, "I
have electricity. We try to be civilized here."

"Civilized? And you shoot down men?"

A trace of anger was in the general's black eyes, but it was there for but a second; and he said, in his most pleasant
manner, "Dear me, what a righteous young man you are! I assure you I do not do the thing you suggest. That would be
barbarous. I treat these visitors with every consideration. They get plenty of good food and exercise. They get into
splendid physical condition. You shall see for yourself tomorrow."

"What do you mean?"
                                                                                                              68
"We'll visit my training school," smiled the general. "It's in the cellar. I have about a dozen pupils down
there now. They're from the Spanish bark San Lucar that had the bad luck to go on the rocks out there. A very inferior
lot, I regret to say. Poor specimens and more accustomed to the deck than to the jungle." He raised his hand, and Ivan,
who served as waiter, brought thick Turkish coffee. Rainsford, with an effort, held his tongue in check.

"It's a game, you see," pursued the general blandly. "I suggest to one of them that we go hunting. I give him a supply of
food and an excellent hunting knife. I give him three hours' start. I am to follow, armed only with a pistol of the
smallest caliber and range. If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, he wins the game. If I find him "--the general
smiled--" he loses."

"Suppose he refuses to be hunted?"

"Oh," said the general, "I give him his option, of course. He need not play that game if he doesn't wish to. If he does
not wish to hunt, I turn him over to Ivan. Ivan once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White
Czar, and he has his own ideas of sport. Invariably, Mr. Rainsford, invariably they choose the hunt."

"And if they win?"

The smile on the general's face widened. "To date I have not lost," he said. Then he added, hastily: "I don't wish you to
think me a braggart, Mr. Rainsford. Many of them afford only the most elementary sort of problem. Occasionally I
strike a tartar. One almost did win. I eventually had to use the dogs."

"The dogs?"

"This way, please. I'll show you."

The general steered Rainsford to a window. The lights from the windows sent a flickering illumination that made
grotesque patterns on the courtyard below, and Rainsford could see moving about there a dozen or so huge black
shapes; as they turned toward him, their eyes glittered greenly.

"A rather good lot, I think," observed the general. "They are let out at seven every night. If anyone should try to get
into my house--or out of it--something extremely regrettable would occur to him." He hummed a snatch of song from
the Folies Bergere.

"And now," said the general, "I want to show you my new collection of heads. Will you come with me to the library?"

"I hope," said Rainsford, "that you will excuse me tonight, General Zaroff. I'm really not feeling well."

"Ah, indeed?" the general inquired solicitously. "Well, I suppose that's only natural, after your long swim. You need a
good, restful night's sleep. Tomorrow you'll feel like a new man, I'll wager. Then we'll hunt, eh? I've one rather
promising prospect--" Rainsford was hurrying from the room.

"Sorry you can't go with me tonight," called the general. "I expect rather fair sport--a big, strong, black. He looks
resourceful--Well, good night, Mr. Rainsford; I hope you have a good night's rest."

The bed was good, and the pajamas of the softest silk, and he was tired in every fiber of his being, but nevertheless
Rainsford could not quiet his brain with the opiate of sleep. He lay, eyes wide open. Once he thought he heard stealthy
steps in the corridor outside his room. He sought to throw open the door; it would not open. He went to the window
and looked out. His room was high up in one of the towers. The lights of the chateau were out now, and it was dark and
silent; but there was a fragment of sallow moon, and by its wan light he could see, dimly, the courtyard. There,
weaving in and out in the pattern of shadow, were black, noiseless forms; the hounds heard him at the window and
looked up, expectantly, with their green eyes. Rainsford went back to the bed and lay down. By many methods he tried
to put himself to sleep. He had achieved a doze when, just as morning began to come, he heard, far off in the jungle,
the faint report of a pistol.
                                                                                                               69
General Zaroff did not appear until luncheon. He was dressed faultlessly in the tweeds of a country squire.
He was solicitous about the state of Rainsford's health.

"As for me," sighed the general, "I do not feel so well. I am worried, Mr. Rainsford. Last night I detected traces of my
old complaint."

To Rainsford's questioning glance the general said, "Ennui. Boredom."

Then, taking a second helping of crêpes Suzette, the general explained: "The hunting was not good last night. The
fellow lost his head. He made a straight trail that offered no problems at all. That's the trouble with these sailors; they
have dull brains to begin with, and they do not know how to get about in the woods. They do excessively stupid and
obvious things. It's most annoying. Will you have another glass of Chablis, Mr. Rainsford?"

"General," said Rainsford firmly, "I wish to leave this island at once."

The general raised his thickets of eyebrows; he seemed hurt. "But, my dear fellow," the general protested, "you've only
just come. You've had no hunting--"

"I wish to go today," said Rainsford. He saw the dead black eyes of the general on him, studying him. General Zaroff's
face suddenly brightened.

He filled Rainsford's glass with venerable Chablis from a dusty bottle.

"Tonight," said the general, "we will hunt--you and I."

Rainsford shook his head. "No, general," he said. "I will not hunt."

The general shrugged his shoulders and delicately ate a hothouse grape. "As you wish, my friend," he said. "The choice
rests entirely with you. But may I not venture to suggest that you will find my idea of sport more diverting than
Ivan's?"

He nodded toward the corner to where the giant stood, scowling, his thick arms crossed on his hogshead of chest.

"You don't mean--" cried Rainsford.

"My dear fellow," said the general, "have I not told you I always mean what I say about hunting? This is really an
inspiration. I drink to a foeman worthy of my steel--at last." The general raised his glass, but Rainsford sat staring at
him.

"You'll find this game worth playing," the general said enthusiastically." Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft
against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?"

"And if I win--" began Rainsford huskily.

"I'll cheerfully acknowledge myself defeat if I do not find you by midnight of the third day," said General Zaroff. "My
sloop will place you on the mainland near a town." The general read what Rainsford was thinking.

"Oh, you can trust me," said the Cossack. "I will give you my word as a gentleman and a sportsman. Of course you, in
turn, must agree to say nothing of your visit here."

"I'll agree to nothing of the kind," said Rainsford.

"Oh," said the general, "in that case--But why discuss that now? Three days hence we can discuss it over a bottle of
Veuve Cliquot, unless--"
                                                                                                               70
The general sipped his wine.

Then a businesslike air animated him. "Ivan," he said to Rainsford, "will supply you with hunting clothes, food, a
knife. I suggest you wear moccasins; they leave a poorer trail. I suggest, too, that you avoid the big swamp in the
southeast corner of the island. We call it Death Swamp. There's quicksand there. One foolish fellow tried it. The
deplorable part of it was that Lazarus followed him. You can imagine my feelings, Mr. Rainsford. I loved Lazarus; he
was the finest hound in my pack. Well, I must beg you to excuse me now. I always' take a siesta after lunch. You'll
hardly have time for a nap, I fear. You'll want to start, no doubt. I shall not follow till dusk. Hunting at night is so much
more exciting than by day, don't you think? Au revoir, Mr. Rainsford, au revoir." General Zaroff, with a deep, courtly
bow, strolled from the room.

From another door came Ivan. Under one arm he carried khaki hunting clothes, a haversack of food, a leather sheath
containing a long-bladed hunting knife; his right hand rested on a cocked revolver thrust in the crimson sash about his
waist.

Rainsford had fought his way through the bush for two hours. "I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve," he said
through tight teeth.

He had not been entirely clearheaded when the chateau gates snapped shut behind him. His whole idea at first was to
put distance between himself and General Zaroff; and, to this end, he had plunged along, spurred on by the sharp
rowers of something very like panic. Now he had got a grip on himself, had stopped, and was taking stock of himself
and the situation. He saw that straight flight was futile; inevitably it would bring him face to face with the sea. He was
in a picture with a frame of water, and his operations, clearly, must take place within that frame.

"I'll give him a trail to follow," muttered Rainsford, and he struck off from the rude path he had been following into the
trackless wilderness. He executed a series of intricate loops; he doubled on his trail again and again, recalling all the
lore of the fox hunt, and all the dodges of the fox. Night found him leg-weary, with hands and face lashed by the
branches, on a thickly wooded ridge. He knew it would be insane to blunder on through the dark, even if he had the
strength. His need for rest was imperative and he thought, "I have played the fox, now I must play the cat of the fable."
A big tree with a thick trunk and outspread branches was near by, and, taking care to leave not the slightest mark, he
climbed up into the crotch, and, stretching out on one of the broad limbs, after a fashion, rested. Rest brought him new
confidence and almost a feeling of security. Even so zealous a hunter as General Zaroff could not trace him there, he
told himself; only the devil himself could follow that complicated trail through the jungle after dark. But perhaps the
general was a devil--

An apprehensive night crawled slowly by like a wounded snake and sleep did not visit Rainsford, although the silence
of a dead world was on the jungle. Toward morning when a dingy gray was varnishing the sky, the cry of some startled
bird focused Rainsford's attention in that direction. Something was coming through the bush, coming slowly, carefully,
coming by the same winding way Rainsford had come. He flattened himself down on the limb and, through a screen of
leaves almost as thick as tapestry, he watched. . . . That which was approaching was a man.

It was General Zaroff. He made his way along with his eyes fixed in utmost concentration on the ground before him.
He paused, almost beneath the tree, dropped to his knees and studied the ground. Rainsford's impulse was to hurl
himself down like a panther, but he saw that the general's right hand held something metallic--a small automatic pistol.

The hunter shook his head several times, as if he were puzzled. Then he straightened up and took from his case one of
his black cigarettes; its pungent incenselike smoke floated up to Rainsford's nostrils.

Rainsford held his breath. The general's eyes had left the ground and were traveling inch by inch up the tree. Rainsford
froze there, every muscle tensed for a spring. But the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb
where Rainsford lay; a smile spread over his brown face. Very deliberately he blew a smoke ring into the air; then he
turned his back on the tree and walked carelessly away, back along the trail he had come. The swish of the underbrush
against his hunting boots grew fainter and fainter.

The pent-up air burst hotly from Rainsford's lungs. His first thought made him feel sick and numb. The general could
                                                                                                            71
follow a trail through the woods at night; he could follow an extremely difficult trail; he must have
uncanny powers; only by the merest chance had the Cossack failed to see his quarry.

Rainsford's second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being. Why had
the general smiled? Why had he turned back?

Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true, but the truth was as evident as the sun that had by
now pushed through the morning mists. The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another
day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror.

"I will not lose my nerve. I will not."

He slid down from the tree, and struck off again into the woods. His face was set and he forced the machinery of his
mind to function. Three hundred yards from his hiding place he stopped where a huge dead tree leaned precariously on
a smaller, living one. Throwing off his sack of food, Rainsford took his knife from its sheath and began to work with
all his energy.

The job was finished at last, and he threw himself down behind a fallen log a hundred feet away. He did not have to
wait long. The cat was coming again to play with the mouse.

Following the trail with the sureness of a bloodhound came General Zaroff. Nothing escaped those searching black
eyes, no crushed blade of grass, no bent twig, no mark, no matter how faint, in the moss. So intent was the Cossack on
his stalking that he was upon the thing Rainsford had made before he saw it. His foot touched the protruding bough
that was the trigger. Even as he touched it, the general sensed his danger and leaped back with the agility of an ape. But
he was not quite quick enough; the dead tree, delicately adjusted to rest on the cut living one, crashed down and struck
the general a glancing blow on the shoulder as it fell; but for his alertness, he must have been smashed beneath it. He
staggered, but he did not fall; nor did he drop his revolver. He stood there, rubbing his injured shoulder, and Rainsford,
with fear again gripping his heart, heard the general's mocking laugh ring through the jungle.

"Rainsford," called the general, "if you are within sound of my voice, as I suppose you are, let me congratulate you.
Not many men know how to make a Malay mancatcher. Luckily for me I, too, have hunted in Malacca. You are
proving interesting, Mr. Rainsford. I am going now to have my wound dressed; it's only a slight one. But I shall be
back. I shall be back."

When the general, nursing his bruised shoulder, had gone, Rainsford took up his flight again. It was flight now, a
desperate, hopeless flight, that carried him on for some hours. Dusk came, then darkness, and still he pressed on. The
ground grew softer under his moccasins; the vegetation grew ranker, denser; insects bit him savagely.

Then, as he stepped forward, his foot sank into the ooze. He tried to wrench it back, but the muck sucked viciously at
his foot as if it were a giant leech. With a violent effort, he tore his feet loose. He knew where he was now. Death
Swamp and its quicksand.

His hands were tight closed as if his nerve were something tangible that someone in the darkness was trying to tear
from his grip. The softness of the earth had given him an idea. He stepped back from the quicksand a dozen feet or so
and, like some huge prehistoric beaver, he began to dig.

Rainsford had dug himself in in France when a second's delay meant death. That had been a placid pastime compared
to his digging now. The pit grew deeper; when it was above his shoulders, he climbed out and from some hard saplings
cut stakes and sharpened them to a fine point. These stakes he planted in the bottom of the pit with the points sticking
up. With flying fingers he wove a rough carpet of weeds and branches and with it he covered the mouth of the pit.
Then, wet with sweat and aching with tiredness, he crouched behind the stump of a lightning-charred tree.

He knew his pursuer was coming; he heard the padding sound of feet on the soft earth, and the night breeze brought
him the perfume of the general's cigarette. It seemed to Rainsford that the general was coming with unusual swiftness;
he was not feeling his way along, foot by foot. Rainsford, crouching there, could not see the general, nor could he see
                                                                                                           72
the pit. He lived a year in a minute. Then he felt an impulse to cry aloud with joy, for he heard the sharp
crackle of the breaking branches as the cover of the pit gave way; he heard the sharp scream of pain as the pointed
stakes found their mark. He leaped up from his place of concealment. Then he cowered back. Three feet from the pit a
man was standing, with an electric torch in his hand.

"You've done well, Rainsford," the voice of the general called. "Your Burmese tiger pit has claimed one of my best
dogs. Again you score. I think, Mr. Rainsford, Ill see what you can do against my whole pack. I'm going home for a
rest now. Thank you for a most amusing evening."

At daybreak Rainsford, lying near the swamp, was awakened by a sound that made him know that he had new things to
learn about fear. It was a distant sound, faint and wavering, but he knew it. It was the baying of a pack of hounds.

Rainsford knew he could do one of two things. He could stay where he was and wait. That was suicide. He could flee.
That was postponing the inevitable. For a moment he stood there, thinking. An idea that held a wild chance came to
him, and, tightening his belt, he headed away from the swamp.

The baying of the hounds drew nearer, then still nearer, nearer, ever nearer. On a ridge Rainsford climbed a tree. Down
a watercourse, not a quarter of a mile away, he could see the bush moving. Straining his eyes, he saw the lean figure of
General Zaroff; just ahead of him Rainsford made out another figure whose wide shoulders surged through the tall
jungle weeds; it was the giant Ivan, and he seemed pulled forward by some unseen force; Rainsford knew that Ivan
must be holding the pack in leash.

They would be on him any minute now. His mind worked frantically. He thought of a native trick he had learned in
Uganda. He slid down the tree. He caught hold of a springy young sapling and to it he fastened his hunting knife, with
the blade pointing down the trail; with a bit of wild grapevine he tied back the sapling. Then he ran for his life. The
hounds raised their voices as they hit the fresh scent. Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels.

He had to stop to get his breath. The baying of the hounds stopped abruptly, and Rainsford's heart stopped too. They
must have reached the knife.

He shinned excitedly up a tree and looked back. His pursuers had stopped. But the hope that was in Rainsford's brain
when he climbed died, for he saw in the shallow valley that General Zaroff was still on his feet. But Ivan was not. The
knife, driven by the recoil of the springing tree, had not wholly failed.

Rainsford had hardly tumbled to the ground when the pack took up the cry again.

"Nerve, nerve, nerve!" he panted, as he dashed along. A blue gap showed between the trees dead ahead. Ever nearer
drew the hounds. Rainsford forced himself on toward that gap. He reached it. It was the shore of the sea. Across a cove
he could see the gloomy gray stone of the chateau. Twenty feet below him the sea rumbled and hissed. Rainsford
hesitated. He heard the hounds. Then he leaped far out into the sea. . . .

When the general and his pack reached the place by the sea, the Cossack stopped. For some minutes he stood regarding
the blue-green expanse of water. He shrugged his shoulders. Then be sat down, took a drink of brandy from a silver
flask, lit a cigarette, and hummed a bit from Madame Butterfly.

General Zaroff had an exceedingly good dinner in his great paneled dining hall that evening. With it he had a bottle of
Pol Roger and half a bottle of Chambertin. Two slight annoyances kept him from perfect enjoyment. One was the
thought that it would be difficult to replace Ivan; the other was that his quarry had escaped him; of course, the
American hadn't played the game--so thought the general as he tasted his after-dinner liqueur. In his library he read, to
soothe himself, from the works of Marcus Aurelius. At ten he went up to his bedroom. He was deliciously tired, he said
to himself, as he locked himself in. There was a little moonlight, so, before turning on his light, he went to the window
and looked down at the courtyard. He could see the great hounds, and he called, "Better luck another time," to them.
Then he switched on the light.

A man, who had been hiding in the curtains of the bed, was standing there.
                                                                                                                73

"Rainsford!" screamed the general. "How in God's name did you get here?"

"Swam," said Rainsford. "I found it quicker than walking through the jungle."

The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game."

Rainsford did not smile. "I am still a beast at bay," he said, in a low, hoarse voice. "Get ready, General Zaroff."

The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds.
The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford." . . .

He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.

Flannery O'Connor
“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”

      THE OLD WOMAN and her daughter were sitting on their porch when Mr. Shiftlet came up their road for the first
time. The old woman slid to the edge of her chair and leaned forward, shading her eyes from the piercing sunset with her
hand. The daughter could not see far in front of her and continued to play with her fingers. Although the old woman lived
in this desolate spot with only her daughter and she had never seen Mr. Shiftlet before, she could tell, even from a distance,
that he was a tramp and no one to be afraid of. His left coat sleeve was folded up to show there was only half an arm in it
and his gaunt figure listed slightly to the side as if the breeze were pushing him. He had on a black town suit and a brown
felt hat that was turned up in the front and down in the back and he carried a tin tool box by a handle. He came on, at an
amble, up her road, his face turned toward the sun which appeared to be balancing itself on the peak of a small mountain.
      The old woman didn't change her position until he was almost into her yard; then she rose with one hand fisted on
her hip. The daughter, a large girl in a short blue organdy dress, saw him all at once and jumped up and began to stamp and
point and make excited speechless sounds.
      Mr. Shiftlet stopped just inside the yard and set his box on the ground and tipped his hat at her as if she were not in
the least afflicted; then he turned toward the old woman and swung the hat all the way off. He had long black slick hair that
hung flat from a part in the middle to beyond the tips of his ears on either side. His face descended in forehead for more
than half its length and ended suddenly with his features just balanced over a jutting steel-trap jaw. He seemed to be a
young man but he had a look of composed dissatisfaction as if he understood life thoroughly.
      "Good evening," the old woman said. She was about the size of a cedar fence post and she had a man's gray hat pulled
down low over her head.
      The tramp stood looking at her and didn't answer. He turned his back and faced the sunset. He swung both his whole
and his short arm up slowly so that they indicated an expanse of sky and his figure formed a crooked cross. The old woman
watched him with her arms folded across her chest as if she were the owner of the sun, and the daughter watched, her head
thrust forward and her fat helpless hands hanging at the wrists. She had long pink-gold hair and eyes as blue as a peacock's
neck.
      He held the pose for almost fifty seconds and then he picked up his box and came on to the porch and dropped down
on the bottom step. "Lady," he said in a firm nasal voice, "I'd give a fortune to live where I could see me a sun do that
every evening."
      "Does it every evening," the old woman said and sat back down. The daughter sat down too and watched him with a
cautious sly look as if he were a bird that had come up very close. He leaned to one side, rooting in his pants pocket, and in
a second he brought out a package of chewing gum and offered her a piece. She took it and unpeeled it and began to chew
without taking her eyes off him. He offered the old woman a piece but she only raised her upper lip to indicate she had no
teeth.
      Mr. Shiftlet's pale sharp glance had already passed over everything in the yard-the pump near the comer of the house
and the big fig tree that three or four chickens were preparing to roost in-and had moved to a shed where he saw the
square rusted back of an automobile. "You ladies drive?" he asked.
      "That car ain't run in fifteen year," the old woman said. "The day my husband died, it quit running."
      "Nothing is like it used to be, lady," he said. "The world is almost rotten."
      "That's right," the old woman said. "You from around here?"
      "Name Tom T. Shiftlet," he murmured, looking at the tires.
                                                                                                                  74
      "I'm pleased to meet you," the old woman said. "Name Lucynell Crater and daughter Lucynell Crater.
What you doing around here, Mr. Shiftlet?"
      He judged the car to be about a 1928 or '29 Ford. "'Lady," he said, and turned and gave her his full attention, "lemme
tell you something. There's one of these doctors in Atlanta that's taken a knife and cut the human heart-the human heart,"
he repeated, leaning forward, "out of a man's chest and held it in his hand," and he held his hand out, palm up, as if it were
slightly weighted with the human heart, "and studied it like it was a day-old chicken, and lady," he said, allowing a long
significant pause in which his head slid forward and his clay-colored eyes brightened, "he don't know no more about it than
you or me."
      "That's right," the old woman said.
      "Why, if he was to take that knife and cut into every corner of it, he still wouldn't know no more than you or me.
What you want to bet?"
      "Nothing," the old woman said wisely. "Where you come from, Mr. Shiftlet?"
      He didn't answer. He reached into his pocket and brought out a sack of tobacco and a package of cigarette papers and
rolled himself a cigarette, expertly with one hand, and attached it in a hanging position to his upper lip. Then he took a box
of wooden matches from his pocket and struck one on his shoe. He held the burning match as if he were studying the
mystery of flame while it traveled dangerously toward his skin. The daughter began to make loud noises and to point to his
hand and shake her finger at him, but when the flame was just before touching him, he leaned down with his hand cupped
over it as if he were going to set fire to his nose and lit the cigarette.
      He flipped away the dead match and blew a stream of gray into the evening. A sly look came over his face. "Lady," he
said, "nowadays, people'll do anything anyways. I can tell you my name is Tom T. Shiftlet and I come from Tarwater,
Tennessee, but you never have seen me before: how you know I ain't lying? How you know my name ain't Aaron Sparks,
lady, and I come from Singleberry, Georgia, or how you know it's not George Speeds and I come from Lucy, Alabama, or
how you know I ain't Thompson Bright from Toolafalls, Mississippi?"
      "I don't know nothing about you," the old woman muttered, irked.
      "Lady," he said, "people don't care how they lie. Maybe the best I can tell you is, I'm a man; but listen lady," he said
and paused and made his tone more ominous still, "what is a man?"
      The old woman began to gum a seed. "What you carry in that tin box, Mr. Shiftlet?" she asked.
      "Tools," he said, put back. "I'm a carpenter."
      "Well, if you come out here to work, I'll be able to feed you and give you a place to sleep but I can't pay. I'll tell you
that before you begin," she said.
      There was no answer at once and no particular expression on his face. He leaned back against the two-by-four that
helped support the porch roof. "Lady," he said slowly, "there's some men that some things mean more to them than
money." The old woman rocked without comment and the daughter watched the trigger that moved up and down in his
neck. He told the old woman then that all most people were interested in was money, but he asked what a man was made
for. He asked her if a. man was made for money, or what. He asked her what she thought she was made for but she didn't
answer, she only sat rocking and wondered if a one-armed man could put a new roof on her garden house. He asked a lot
of questions that she didn't answer. He told her that he was twenty-eight years old and had lived a varied life. He had been
a gospel singer, a foreman on the railroad, an assistant in an undertaking parlor, and he had come over the radio for three
months with Uncle Roy and his Red Creek Wranglers. He said he had fought and bled in the Arm Service of his country
and visited every foreign land and that everywhere he had seen people that didn't care if they did a thing one way or
another. He said he hadn't been raised thataway.
      A fat yellow moon appeared in the branches of the fig tree as if it were going to roost there with the chickens. He said
that a man had to escape to the country to see the world whole and that he wished he lived in a desolate place like this
where he could see the sun go down every evening like God made it to do.
      "Are you married or are you single?" the old woman asked.
      There was a long silence. "Lady," he asked finally, "where would you find you an innocent woman today'? I wouldn't
have any of this trash I could just pick up."
      The daughter was leaning very far down, hanging her head almost between her knees, watching him through a
triangular door she had made in her overturned hair; and she suddenly fell in a heap on the floor and began to whimper.
Mr. Shiftlet straightened her out and helped her get back in the chair.
      "Is she your baby girl?" he asked.
      "My only," the old woman said, "and she's the sweetest girl in the world. I wouldn't give her up for nothing on earth.
She's smart too. She can sweep the floor, cook, wash, feed the chickens, and hoe. I wouldn't give her up for a casket of
jewels."
      "No," he said kindly, "don't ever let any man take her away from you."
      "Any man come after her," the old woman said, " 'll have to stay around the place."
                                                                                                                  75
      Mr. Shiftlet's eye in the darkness was focused on a part of the automobile bumper that glittered in the
distance. "Lady," he said, jerking his short arm up as if he could point with it to her house and yard and pump, "there ain't a
broken thing on this plantation that I couldn't fix for you, one-arm jackleg or not. I'm a man," he said with a sullen dignity,
"even if I ain't a whole one. I got," he said, tapping his knuckles on the floor to emphasize the immensity of what he was
going to say, "a moral intelligence!" and his face pierced out of the darkness into a shaft of doorlight and he stared at her as
if he were astonished himself at this impossible truth.
      The old woman was not impressed with the phrase. "I told you you could hang around and work for food," she said,
"if you don't mind sleeping in that car yonder."
      "Why listen, Lady," he said with a grin of delight, "the monks of old slept in their coffins!"
      "They wasn't as advanced as we are," the old woman said.

       The next morning he began on the roof of the garden house while Lucynell, the daughter, sat on a rock and watched
him work. He had not been around a week before the change he had made in the place was apparent. He had patched the
front and back steps, built a new hog pen, restored a fence, and taught Lucynell, who was completely deaf and had never
said a word in her life, to say the word "bird."
       The big rosy-faced girl followed him everywhere, saying "Burrttddt ddbirrrttdt," and clapping her hands. The old
woman watched from a distance, secretly pleased. She was ravenous for a son-in-law.
       Mr. Shiftlet slept on the hard narrow back seat of the car with his feet out the side window. He had his razor and a can
of water on a crate that served him as a bedside table and he put up a piece of mirror against the back glass and kept his
coat neatly on a hanger that he hung over one of the windows.
       In the evenings he sat on the steps and talked while the old woman and Lucynell rocked violently in their chairs on
either side of him. The old woman's three mountains were black against the dark blue sky and were visited off and on by
various planets and by the moon after it had left the chickens. Mr. Shiftlet pointed out that the reason he had improved this
plantation was because he had taken a personal interest in it. He said he was even going to make the automobile run.
       He had raised the hood and studied the mechanism and he said he could tell that the car had been built in the days
when cars were really built. “You take now,” he said, “one man puts in one bolt and another man puts in another bolt and
another man puts in another bolt so that it's a man for a bolt. That's why you have to 'pay so much for a car: you’re paying
all those men. Now if you didn't have to pay but one man, you could get you a cheaper car and one that had had a personal
interest taken in it, and it would be a better car.” The old woman agreed with him that this was so.
       Mr. Shiftlet said that the trouble with the world was that nobody cared, or stopped and took any trouble. He said he
never would have been able to teach Lucynell to say a word if he hadn't cared and stopped long enough.
       "Teach her to say something else," the old woman said.
       "What you want her to say next?" Mr. Shiftlet asked.
       The old woman's smile was broad and toothless and suggestive. "Teach her to say 'sugarpie,'" she said.
       Mr. Shiftlet already knew what was on her mind.
       The next day he began to tinker with the automobile and that evening he told her that if she would buy a fan belt, he
would be able to make the car run.
       The old woman said she would give him the money. "You see that girl yonder?" she asked, pointing to Lucynell who
was sitting on the floor a foot away, watching him, her eyes blue even in the dark. "If it was ever a man wanted to take her
away, I would say, 'No man on earth is going to take that sweet girl of mine away from me!' but if he was to say, 'Lady, I
don't want to take her away, I want her right here,' I would say, 'Mister, I don't blame you none. I wouldn't pass up a
chance to live in a permanent place and get the sweetest girl in the world myself. You ain't no fool,' I would say.”
       "How old is she?" Mr. Shiftlet asked casually.
       "Fifteen, sixteen," the old woman said. The girl was nearly thirty but because of her innocence it was impossible to
guess.
       "It would be a good idea to paint it too," Mr. Shiftlet remarked. "You don't want it to rust out."
       "We'll see about that later," the old woman said.
       The next day he walked into town and returned with the parts he needed and a can of gasoline. Late in the afternoon,
terrible noises issued from the shed and the old woman rushed out of the house, thinking Lucynell was somewhere having
a fit. Lucynell was sitting on a chicken crate, stamping her feet and screaming, "Burrddttt! bddurrddtttt!" but her fuss was
drowned out by the car. With a volley of blasts it emerged from the shed, moving in a fierce and stately way. Mr. Shiftlet
was in the driver's seat, sitting very erect. He had an expression of serious modesty on his face as if he had just raised the
dead.
       That night, rocking on the porch, the old woman began her business at once. "You want you an innocent woman,
don't you?" she asked sympathetically. "You don't want none of this trash."
       "No'm, I don't," Mr. Shiftlet said.
                                                                                                                   76
      "One that can't talk," she continued, "can't sass you back or use foul language. That's the kind for you to
have. Right there," and she pointed to Lucynell sitting cross-legged in her chair, holding both feet in her hands.
      "That's right," he admitted. "She wouldn't give me any trouble."
      "Saturday," the old woman said, "you and her and me can drive into town and get married."
      Mr. Shiftlet eased his position on the steps.
      "I can't get married right now," he said. "Everything you want to do takes money and I ain't got any."
      "What you need with money?" she asked.
      "It takes money," he said. "Some people'll do anything anyhow these days, but the way I think, I wouldn't marry no
woman that I couldn't take on a trip like she was somebody. I mean take her to a hotel and treat her. I wouldn't marry the
Duchesser Windsor," he said firmly, "unless I could take her to a hotel and give her something good to eat.
      "I was raised thataway and there ain't a thing I can do about it. My old mother taught me how to do."
      "Lucynell don't even know what a hotel is," the old woman muttered. "Listen here, Mr. Shiftlet," she said, sliding
forward in her chair, "you'd be getting a permanent house and a deep well and the most innocent girl in the world. You
don't need no money. Lemme tell you something: there ain't any place in the world for a poor disabled friendless drifting
man."
      The ugly words settled in Mr. Shiftlet's head like a group of buzzards in the top of a tree. He didn't answer at once. He
rolled himself a cigarette and lit it and then he said in an even voice, "Lady, a man is divided into two parts, body and
spirit."
      The old woman clamped her gums together.
      "A body and a spirit," he repeated. "The body, lady, is like a house: it don't go anywhere; but the spirit, lady, is like a
automobile: always on the move, always . . ."
      "Listen, Mr. Shiftlet," she said, "my well never goes dry and my house is always warm in the winter and there's no
mortgage on a thing about this place. You can go to the courthouse and see for yourself And yonder under that shed is a
fine automobile." She laid the bait carefully. "You can have it painted by Saturday. I'll pay for the paint."
      In the darkness, Mr. Shiftlet's smile stretched like a weary snake waking up by a fire. After a second he recalled himself
and said, "I'm only saying a man's spirit means more to him than anything else. I would have to take my wife off for the
week end without no regards at all for cost. I got to follow where my spirit says to go."
      "I'll give you fifteen dollars for a week-end trip," the old woman said in a crabbed voice. "That's the best I can do."
      "That wouldn't hardly pay for more than the gas and the hotel," he said. "It wouldn't feed her."
      "Seventeen-fifty," the old woman said. "That's all I got so it isn't any use you trying to milk me. You can take a lunch."
      Mr. Shiftlet was deeply hurt by the word "milk." He didn't doubt that she had more money sewed up in her mattress
but he had already told her he was not interested in her money. "I'll make that do," he said and rose and walked off without
treating with her further.
      On Saturday the three of them drove into town in the car that the paint had barely dried on and Mr. Shiftlet and
Lucynell were married in the Ordinary's office while the old woman witnessed. As they came out of the courthouse, Mr.
Shiftlet began twisting his neck in his collar. He looked morose and bitter as if he had been insulted while someone held
him. "That didn't satisfy me none," he said. "That was just something a woman in an office did, nothing but paper work
and blood tests. What do they know about my blood? If they was to take my heart and cut it out," he said, "they wouldn't
know a thing about me. It didn't satisfy me at all."
      "It satisfied the law," the old woman said sharply.
      'The law," Mr. Shiftlet said and spit. "It's the law that don't satisfy me."
      He had painted the car dark green with a yellow band around it just under the windows. The three of them climbed in
the front seat and the old woman said, "Don't Lucynell look pretty? Looks like a baby doll." Lucynell was dressed up in a
white dress that her mother had uprooted from a trunk and there was a Panama hat on her head with a bunch of red
wooden cherries on the brim. Every now and then her placid expression was changed by a sly isolated little thought like a
shoot of green in the desert. "You got a prize!" the old woman said.
      Mr. Shiftlet didn't even look at her.
      They drove back to the house to let the old woman off and pick up the lunch. When they were ready to leave, she
stood staring in the window of the car, with her fingers clenched around the glass. Tears began to seep sideways out of her
eyes and run along the dirty creases in her face. "I ain't ever been parted with her for two days before," she said.
      Mr. Shiftlet started the motor.
      "And I wouldn't let no man have her but you because I seen you would do right. Good-by, Sugarbaby," she said,
clutching at the sleeve of the white dress. Lucynell looked straight at her and didn't seem to see her there at all. Mr. Shiftlet
eased the car forward so that she had to move her hands.
      The early afternoon was clear and open and surrounded by pale blue sky. Although the car would go only thirty miles
an hour, Mr. Shiftlet imagined a terrific climb and dip and swerve that went entirely to his head so that he forgot his
                                                                                                                   77
morning bitterness. He had always wanted an automobile but he had never been able to afford one before. He
drove very fast because he wanted to make Mobile by nightfall.
      Occasionally he stopped his thoughts long enough to look at Lucynell in the seat beside him. She had eaten the lunch
as soon as they were out of the yard and now she was pulling the cherries off the hat one by one and throwing them out
the window. He became depressed in spite of the car. He had driven about a hundred miles when he decided that she must
be hungry again and at the next small town they came to, he stopped in front of an aluminum-painted eating place called
The Hot Spot and took her in and ordered her a plate of ham and grits. The ride had made her sleepy and as soon as she
got up on the stool, she rested her head on the counter and shut her eyes. There was no one in The Hot Spot but Mr.
Shiftlet and the boy behind the counter, a pale youth with a greasy rag hung over his shoulder. Before he could dish up the
food, she was snoring gently.
      "Give it to her when she wakes up," Mr. Shiftlet said. "I'll pay for it now."
      The boy bent over her and stared at the long pink-gold hair and the half-shut sleeping eyes. Then he looked up and
stared at Mr. Shiftlet. "She looks like an angel of Gawd," he murmured.
      "Hitch-hiker," Mr. Shiftlet explained. "I can't wait. I got to make Tuscaloosa."
      The boy bent over again and very carefully touched his finger to a strand of the golden hair and Mr. Shiftlet left.
      He was more depressed than ever as he drove on by himself. The late afternoon had grown hot and sultry and the
country had flattened out. Deep in the sky a storm was preparing very slowly and without thunder as if it meant to drain
every drop of air from the earth before it broke. There were times when Mr. Shiftlet preferred not to be alone. He felt too
that a man with a car had a responsibility to others and he kept his eye out for a hitch-hiker. Occasionally he saw a sign that
warned: "Drive carefully. The life you save may be your own."
      The narrow road dropped off on either side into dry fields and here and there a shack or a filling station stood in a
clearing. The sun began to set directly in front of the automobile. It was a reddening ball that through his windshield was
slightly flat on the bottom and top. He saw a boy in overalls and a gray hat standing on the edge of the road and he slowed
the car down and stopped in front of him. The boy didn't have his hand raised to thumb the ride, he was only standing
there, but he had a small cardboard suitcase and his hat was set on his head in a way to indicate that he had left somewhere
for good. "Son," Mr. Shiftlet said, "I see you want a ride."
      The boy didn't say he did or he didn't but he opened the door of the car and got in, and Mr. Shiftlet started driving
again. The child held the suitcase on his lap and folded his arms on top of it. He turned his head and looked out the
window away from Mr. Shiftlet. Mr. Shiftlet felt oppressed. "Son," he said after a minute, "I got the best old mother in the
world so I reckon you only got the second best."
      The boy gave him a quick dark glance and then turned his face back out the window.
      "It's nothing so sweet," Mr. Shiftlet continued, "as a boy's mother. She taught him his first prayers at her knee, she
give him love when no other would, she told him what was right and what wasn't, and she seen that he done the right
thing. Son," he said, "I never rued a day in my life like the one I rued when I left that old mother of mine."
      The boy shifted in his seat but he didn't look at Mr. Shiftlet. He unfolded his arms and put one hand on the door
handle.
      "My mother was a angel of Gawd," Mr. Shiftlet said in a very strained voice. "He took her from heaven and giver to
me and I left her." His eyes were instantly clouded over with a mist of tears. The car was barely moving.
      The boy turned angrily in the seat. "You go to the devil!" he cried. "My old woman is a flea bag and yours is a stinking
pole cat!" and with that he flung the door open and jumped out with his suitcase into the ditch.
      Mr. Shiftlet was so shocked that for about a hundred feet he drove along slowly with the door stiff open. A cloud, the
exact color of the boy's hat and shaped like a turnip, had descended over the sun, and another, worse looking, crouched
behind the car. Mr. Shiftlet felt that the rottenness of the world was about to engulf him. He raised his arm and let it fall
again to his breast. "Oh Lord!" he prayed. "Break forth and wash the slime from this earth!"
      The turnip continued slowly to descend. After a few minutes there was a guffawing peal of thunder from behind and
fantastic raindrops, like tin-can tops, crashed over the rear of Mr. Shiftlet's car. Very quickly he stepped on the gas and with
his stump sticking out the window he raced the galloping shower into Mobile.


Ralph Ellison

“Battle Royal”

It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried
to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was
naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long
                                                                                                                        78
time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been
born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!

And yet I am no freak of nature, nor of history. I was in the cards, other things having been equal (or unequal) eighty-five years
ago. I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been
ashamed. About eighty-five years ago they were told they were free, united with others of our country in everything pertaining to
the common good, and, in everything social, separate like the fingers of the hand. And they believed it. They exulted in it. They
stayed in their place, worked hard, and brought up my father to do the same. But my grandfather is the one. He was an odd old guy,
my grandfather, and I am told I take after him. It was he who caused the trouble. On his deathbed he called my father to him and
said, "Son, after I'm gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all
my born days, a spy in the enemy's country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the
lion's mouth. I want you to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction, let 'em swoller
you till they vomit or bust wide open." They thought the old man had gone out of his mind. He had been the meekest of men. The
younger children were rushed from the room, the shades drawn and the flame of the lamp turned so low that it sputtered on the
wick like the old man's breathing. "Learn it to the younguns," he whispered fiercely; then he died.

But my folks were more alarmed over his last words than over his dying. It was as though he had not died at all, his words caused
so much anxiety. I was warned emphatically to forget what he had said and, indeed, this is the first time it has been mentioned
outside the family circle. It had a tremendous effect upon me, however. I could never be sure of what he meant. Grandfather had
been a quiet old man who never made any trouble, yet on his deathbed he had called himself a traitor and a spy, and he had spoken
of his meekness as a dangerous activity. It became a constant puzzle which lay unanswered in the back of my mind. And whenever
things went well for me I remembered my grandfather and felt guilty and uncomfortable. It was as though I was carrying out his
advice in spite of myself. And to make it worse, everyone loved me for it. I was praised by the most lily-white men in town. I was
considered an example of desirable con- duct-just as my grandfather had been. And what puzzled me was that the old man had
defined it as treachery. When I was praised for my conduct I felt a guilt that in some way I was doing something that was really
against the wishes of the white folks, that if they had understood they would have desired me to act just the opposite, that I should
have been sulky and mean, and that that really would have been what they wanted, even though they were fooled and thought they
wanted me to act as I did. It made me afraid that some day they would look upon me as a traitor and I would be lost. Still I was
more afraid to act any other way because they didn't like that at all. The old man's words were like a curse. On my graduation day I
delivered an oration in which I showed that humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress. (Not that I believed this-
how could I, remembering my grandfather?—I only believed that it worked.) It was a great success. Everyone praised me and I
was invited to give the speech at a gathering of the town's leading white citizens. It was a triumph for the whole community.

It was in the main ballroom of the leading hotel. When I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker, and I was
told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part
of the entertainment. The battle royal came first.

All of the town's big shots were there in their tuxedoes, wolfing down the buffet foods, drinking beer and whiskey and smoking
black cigars. It was a large room with a high ceiling. Chairs were arranged in neat rows around three sides of a portable boxing
ring. The fourth side was clear, revealing a gleaming space of polished floor. I had some misgivings over the battle royal, by the
way. Not from a distaste for fighting but because I didn't care too much for the other fellows who were to take part. They were
tough guys who seemed to have no grandfather's curse worrying their minds. No one could mistake their toughness. And besides, I
suspected that fighting a battle royal might detract from the dignity of my speech. In those pre-invisible days I visualized myself as
a potential Booker T. Washington. But the other fellows didn't care too much for me either, and there were nine of them. I felt
superior to them in my way, and I didn't like the manner in which we were all crowded together in the servants' elevator. Nor did
they like my being there. In fact, as the warmly lighted floors flashed past the elevator we had words over the fact that I, by taking
part in the fight, had knocked one of their friends out of a night's work.

We were led out of the elevator through a rococo hall into an anteroom and told to get into our fighting togs. Each of us was issued
a pair of boxing gloves and ushered out into the big mirrored hall, which we entered looking cautiously about us and whispering,
lest we might accidentally be heard above the noise of the room. It was foggy with cigar smoke. And already the whiskey was
taking effect. I was shocked to see some of the most important men of the town quite tipsy. They were all there-bankers, lawyers,
judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants. Even one of the more fashionable pastors. Something we could not see was going
on up front. A clarinet was vibrating sensuously and the men were standing up and moving eagerly forward. We were a small tight
                                                                                                                        79
group, clustered together, our bare upper bodies touching and shining with anticipatory sweat: while up front the big
shots were becoming increasingly excited over something we still could not see. Suddenly I heard the school superintendent, who
had told me to come, yell, "Bring up the shines, gentlemen! Bring up the little shines!"

We were rushed up to the front of the ballroom, where it smelled even more strongly of tobacco and whiskey. Then we were
pushed into place. I almost wet my pants. A sea of faces, some hostile, some amused, ringed around us, and in the center, facing
us, stood a magnificent blonde—stark naked. There was dead silence. I felt a blast of cold air chill me. I tried to back away, but
they were behind me and around me. Some of the boys stood with lowered heads, trembling. I felt a wave of irrational guilt and
fear. My teeth chattered, my skin turned to goose flesh, my knees knocked. Yet I was strongly attracted and looked in spite of
myself. Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. The hair was yellow like that of a circus kewpie doll, the
face heavily powdered and rouged, as though to form an abstract mask, the eyes hollow and smeared a cool blue, the color of a
baboon's butt. I felt a desire to spit upon her as my eyes brushed slowly over her body. Her breasts were firm and round as the
domes of East Indian temples, and I stood so close as to see the fine skin texture and beads of pearly perspiration glistening like
dew around the pink and erected buds of her nipples. I wanted at one and the same time to run from the room, to sink through the
floor, or go to her and cover her from my eyes and the eyes of the others with my body; to feel the soft thighs, to caress her and
destroy her, to love her and to murder her, to hide from her, and yet to stroke where below the small American flag tattooed upon
her belly her thighs formed a capital V. I had a notion that of all in the room she saw only me with her impersonal eyes.

And then she began to dance, a slow sensuous movement; the smoke of a hundred cigars clinging to her like the thinnest of veils.
She seemed like a fair bird-girl girdled in veils calling to me from the angry surface of some gray and threatening sea. I was
transported. Then I became aware of the clarinet playing and the big shots yelling at us. Some threatened us if we looked and
others if we did not. On my right I saw one boy faint. And now a man grabbed a silver pitcher from a table and stepped close as he
dashed ice water upon him and stood him up and forced two of us to support him as his head hung and moans issued from his thick
bluish lips. Another boy began to plead to go home. He was the largest of the group, wearing dark red fighting trunks much too
small to conceal the erection which projected from him as though in answer to the insinuating low-registered moaning of the
clarinet. He tried to hide himself with his boxing gloves.

And all the while the blonde continued dancing, smiling faintly at the big shots who watched her with fascination, and faintly
smiling at our fear. I noticed a certain merchant who followed her hungrily, his lips loose and drooling. He was a large man who
wore diamond studs in a shirtfront which swelled with the ample paunch underneath, and each time the blonde swayed her
undulating hips he ran his hand through the thin hair of his bald head and, with his arms upheld, his posture clumsy like that of an
intoxicated panda, wound his belly in a slow and obscene grind. This creature was completely hypnotized. The music had
quickened. As the dancer flung herself about with a detached expression on her face, the men began reaching out to touch her. I
could see their beefy fingers sink into her soft flesh. Some of the others tried to stop them and she began to move around the floor
in graceful circles, as they gave chase, slipping and sliding over the polished floor. It was mad. Chairs went crashing, drinks were
spilt, as they ran laughing and howling after her. They caught her just as she reached a door, raised her from the floor, and tossed
her as college boys are tossed at a hazing, and above her red, fixed-smiling lips I saw the terror and disgust in her eyes, almost like
my own terror and that which I saw in some of the other boys. As I watched, they tossed her twice and her soft breasts seemed to
flatten against the air and her legs flung wildly as she spun. Some of the more sober ones helped her to escape. And I started off the
floor, heading for the anteroom with the rest of the boys.

Some were still crying and in hysteria. But as we tried to leave we were stopped and ordered to get into the ring. There was nothing
to do but what we were told. All ten of us climbed under the ropes and allowed ourselves to be blindfolded with broad bands of
white cloth. One of the men seemed to feel a bit sympathetic and tried to cheer us up as we stood with our backs against the ropes.
Some of us tried to grin. "See that boy over there?" one of the men said. "I want you to run across at the bell and give it to him
right in the belly. If you don't get him, I'm going to get you. I don't like his looks." Each of us was told the same. The blindfolds
were put on. Yet even then I had been going over my speech. In my mind each word was as bright as a flame. I felt the cloth
pressed into place, and frowned so that it would be loosened when I relaxed.

But now I felt a sudden fit of blind terror. I was unused to darkness, it was as though I had suddenly found myself in a dark room
filled with poisonous cottonmouths. I could hear the bleary voices yelling insistently for the battle royal to begin.

"Get going in there!"

"Let me at that big nigger!"
                                                                                                                        80
I strained to pick up the school superintendent's voice, as though to squeeze some security out of that slightly more
familiar sound.

"Let me at those black sonsabitches!" someone yelled.

"No, Jackson, no!" another voice yelled. "Here, somebody, help me hold Jack."

"I want to get at that ginger-colored nigger. Tear him limb from limb," the

first voice yelled.

I stood against the ropes trembling. For in those days I was what they called ginger-colored, and he sounded as though he might
crunch me between his teeth like a crisp ginger cookie.

Quite a struggle was going on. Chairs were being kicked about and I could hear voices grunting as with terrific effort. I wanted to
see, to see more desperately than ever before. But the blindfold was as tight as a thick skin, puckering scab and when I raised my
gloved hands to push the layers of white aside a voice yelled, “Oh, no you don't, black bastard! Leave that alone!"

"Ring the bell before Jackson kills him a coon!" someone boomed in the sudden silence. And I heard the bell clang and the sound
of the feet scuffling forward.

A glove smacked against my head. I pivoted, striking out stiffly as someone went past, and felt the jar ripple along the length of my
arm to my shoulder. Then it seemed as though all nine of the boys had turned upon me at once. Blows pounded me from all sides
while I struck out as best I could. So many blows landed upon me that I wondered if I were not the only blindfolded fighter in the
ring, or if the man called Jackson hadn't succeeded in getting me after all.

Blindfolded, I could no longer control my motions. I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man. The smoke
had become thicker and with each new blow it seemed to sear and further restrict my lungs. My saliva became like hot bitter glue.
A glove connected with my head, filling my mouth with warm blood. It was everywhere. I could not tell if the moisture I felt upon
my body was sweat or blood. A blow landed hard against the nape of my neck. I felt myself going over, my head hitting the floor.
Streaks of blue light filled the black world behind the blindfold. I lay prone, pretending that I was knocked out, but felt myself
seized by hands and yanked to my feet. "Get going, black boy! Mix it up!" My arms were like lead, my head smarting from blows.
I managed to feel my way to the ropes and held on, trying to catch my breath. A glove landed in my midsection and I went over
again, feeling as though the smoke had be- come a knife jabbed into my guts. Pushed this way and that by the legs milling around
me, I finally pulled erect and discovered that I could see the black, sweat- washed forms weaving in the smoky, blue atmosphere
like drunken dancers weaving to the rapid drum-like thuds of blows.

Everyone fought hysterically. It was complete anarchy. Everybody fought everybody else. No group fought together for long. Two,
three, four, fought one, then turned to fight each other, were themselves attacked. Blows landed below the belt and in the kidney,
with the gloves open as well as closed, and with my eye partly opened now there was not so much terror. I moved carefully,
avoiding blows, although not too many to attract attention, fighting group to group. The boys groped about like blind, cautious
crabs crouching to protect their midsections, their heads pulled in short against their shoulders, their arms stretched nervously
before them, with their fists testing the smoke-filled air like the knobbed feelers of hypersensitive snails. In one comer I glimpsed a
boy violently punching the air and heard him scream in pain as he smashed his hand against a ring post. For a second I saw him
bent over holding his hand, then going down as a blow caught his unprotected head. I played one group against the other, slip- ping
in and throwing a punch then stepping out of range while pushing the others into the melee to take the blows blindly aimed at me.
The smoke was agonizing and there were no rounds, no bells at three minute intervals to relieve our exhaustion. The room spun
round me, a swirl of lights, smoke, sweating bodies surrounded by tense white faces. I bled from both nose and mouth, the blood
spattering upon my chest.

The men kept yelling, "Slug him, black boy! Knock his guts out!"

"Uppercut him! Kill him! Kill that big boy!"

Taking a fake fall, I saw a boy going down heavily beside me as though we were felled by a single blow, saw a sneaker-clad foot
shoot into his groin as the two who had knocked him down stumbled upon him. I rolled out of range, feeling a twinge of nausea.
                                                                                                                       81
The harder we fought the more threatening the men became. And yet, I had begun to worry about my speech again.
How would it go? Would they recognize my ability? What would they give me?

I was fighting automatically when suddenly I noticed that one after another of the boys was leaving the ring. I was surprised, filled
with panic, as though I had been left alone with an unknown danger. Then I understood. The boys had arranged it among
themselves. It was the custom for the two men left in the ring to slug it out for the winner's prize. I discovered this too late. When
the bell sounded two men in tuxedoes leaped into the ring and removed the blindfold. I found myself facing Tatlock, the biggest of
the gang. I felt sick at my stomach. Hardly had the bell stopped ringing in my ears than it clanged again and I saw him moving
swiftly toward me. Thinking of nothing else to do I hit him smash on the nose. He kept coming, bringing the rank sharp violence of
stale sweat. His face was a black blank of a face, only his eyes alive-with hate of me and aglow with a feverish terror from what
had happened to us all. I became anxious. I wanted to deliver my speech and he came at me as though he meant to beat it out of
me. I smashed him again and again, taking his blows as they came. Then on a sudden impulse I struck him lightly and we clinched.
I whispered, "Fake like I knocked you out, you can have the prize."

"I'll break your behind," he whispered hoarsely.

"For them?"

"For me, sonafabitch!”

They were yelling for us to break it up and Tatlock spun me half around with a blow, and as a joggled camera sweeps in a reeling
scene, I saw the howling red faces crouching tense beneath the cloud of blue-gray smoke. For a moment the world wavered,
unraveled, flowed, then my head cleared and Tatlock bounced before me. That fluttering shadow before my eyes was his jabbing
left hand. Then falling forward, my head against his damp shoulder, I whispered.

"I'll make it five dollars more."

"Go to hell!"

But his muscles relaxed a trifle beneath my pressure and I breathed, "Seven?"

"Give it to your ma," he said, ripping me beneath the heart.

And while I still held him I butted him and moved away. I felt myself bombarded with punches. I fought back with hopeless
desperation. I wanted to de- liver my speech more than anything else in the world, because I felt that only these men could judge
truly my ability, and now this stupid clown was ruining my chances. I began fighting carefully now, moving in to punch him and
out again with my greater speed. A lucky blow to his chin and I had him going too—until I heard a loud voice yell, "I got my
money on the big boy."

Hearing this, I almost dropped my guard. I was confused: Should I try to win against the voice out there? Would not this go against
my speech, and was not this a moment for humility, for nonresistance? A blow to my head as I danced about sent my right eye
popping like a jack-in-the-box and settled my dilemma. The room went red as I fell. It was a dream fall, my body languid and
fastidious as to where to land, until the floor became impatient and smashed up to meet me. A moment later I came to. An hypnotic
voice said FIVE emphatically. And I lay there, hazily watching a dark red spot of my own blood shaping itself into a butterfly,
glistening and soaking into the soiled gray world of the canvas.

When the voice drawled TEN I was lifted up and dragged to a chair. I sat dazed. My eye pained and swelled with each throb of my
pounding heart and I wondered if now I would be allowed to speak. I was wringing wet, my mouth still bleeding. We were
grouped along the wall now. The other boys ignored me as they congratulated Tatlock and speculated as to how much they would
be paid. One boy whimpered over his smashed hand. Looking up front, I saw attendants in white jackets rolling the Portable ring
away and placing a small square rug in the vacant space surrounded by chain. Perhaps, I thought, I will stand on the mg to deliver
my speech.

Then the M.C. called to us. "Come on up here boys and get your money."

We ran forward to where the men laughed and talked in their chairs, waiting. Everyone seemed friendly now.
                                                                                                                       82
"There it is on the rug," the man said. I saw the rug covered with coins of all dimensions and a few crumpled bills.
But what excited me, scattered here and there, were the gold pieces.

"Boys, it's all yours," the man said. "You get all you grab."

"That's right, Sambo," a blond man said, winking at me confidentially.

I trembled with excitement, forgetting my pain. I would get the gold and the bills. I thought. I would use both hands. I would throw
my body against the boys nearest me to block them from the gold.

"Get down around the rug now," the man commanded, "and don't anyone touch it until I give the signal."

"This ought to be good," I heard.

As told, we got around the square rug on our knees. Slowly the man raised his freckled hand as we followed it upward with our
eyes.

I heard, "These niggers look like they're about to pray!"

Then, "Ready", the man said. "Go!"

I lunged for a yellow coin lying on the blue design of the carpet, touching it and sending a surprised shriek to join those around me.
I tried frantically to remove my hand but could not let go. A hot, violent force tore through my body, shaking me like a wet rat.
The rug was electrified. The hair bristled up on my head as I shook myself free. My muscles jumped, my nerves jangled, writhed.
But I saw that this was not stopping the other boys. Laughing in fear and embarrassment, some were holding back and scooping up
the coins knocked off by the painful contortions of others. The men roared above us as we struggled.

"Pick it up, goddamnit, pick it up!" someone called like a bass-voiced parrot. "Go on, get it!"

I crawled rapidly around the floor, picking up the coins, trying to avoid the coppers and to get greenbacks and the gold. Ignoring
the shock by laughing, as I brushed the coins off quickly, I discovered that I could contain the electricity—a contradiction but it
works. Then the men began to push us onto the rug. Laughing embarrassedly, we struggled out of their hands and kept after the
coins. We were all wet and slippery and hard to hold. Suddenly I saw a boy lifted into the air, glistening with sweat like a circus
seat, and dropped, his wet back landing flush upon the charged rug, heard him yell and saw him literally dance upon his back, his
elbows beating a frenzied tattoo upon the floor, his muscles twitching like the flesh of a horse stung by many flies. When be finally
rolled off, his face was gray and no one stopped him when he ran from the floor amid booming laughter.

"Get the money," the M.C. called. "That's good hard American cash!"

And we snatched and grabbed, snatched and grabbed. I was careful not to come too close to the rug now, and when I felt the hot
whiskey breath descend upon me like a cloud of foul air I reached out and grabbed the leg of a chair. It was occupied and I held on
desperately.

"Leggo, nigger! Leggo!"

The huge face wavered down to mine as he tried to push me free. But my body was slippery and he was too drunk. It was Mr.
Colcord, who owned a chain of movie houses and "entertainment palaces." Each time he grabbed me I slipped out of his hands. It
became a real struggle. I feared the rug more than I did the drunk, so I held on, surprising myself for a moment by trying to topple
him upon the rug. It was such an enormous idea that I found myself actually carrying it out. I tried not to be obvious, yet when I
grabbed his leg, trying to tumble him out of the chair, he raised up roaring with laughter, and, looking at me with soberness dead in
the eye, kicked me viciously in the chest. The chair leg flew out of my hand and I felt myself going and rolled. It was as though I
had rolled through a bed of hot coals. It seemed a whole century would pass before I would roll free, a century in which I was
seared through the deepest levels of my body to the fearful breath within me and the breath seared and heated to the point of
explosion. It'll all be over in a flash, I thought as I rolled clear. It'll all be over in a flash.

But not yet, the men on the other side were waiting, red faces swollen as though from apoplexy as they bent forward in their chairs.
Seeing their fingers coming toward me I rolled away as a fumbled football rolls off the receiver's finger, tips, back into the coals.
                                                                                                                         83
That time I luckily sent the rug sliding out of place and heard the coins ringing against the floor and the boys
scuffling to pick them up and the M.C. calling, "All right, boys, that's all. Go get dressed and get your money."

I was limp as a dish rag. My back felt as though it had been beaten with wires. When we had dressed the M.C. came in and gave us
each five dollars, except Tatiock, who got ten for being the last in the ring. Then he told us to leave. I was not to get a chance to
deliver my speech, I thought. I was going out into the dim alley in despair when I was stopped and told to go back. I returned to the
ballroom, where the men were pushing back their chairs and gathering in small groups to talk.

The M.C. knocked on a table for quiet. "Gentlemen," he said, "we almost forgot an important part of the program. A most serious
part, gentlemen. This boy was brought here to deliver a speech which he made at his graduation yesterday . . ."

"Bravo!"

"I'm told that he is the smartest boy we've got out there in Greenwood. I'm told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized
dictionary."

Much applause and laughter.

"So now, gentlemen, I want you to give him your attention."

There was still laughter as I faced them, my mouth dry, my eyes throbbing. I began slowly, but evidently my throat was tense,
because they began shouting.

"Louder! Louder!"

"We of the younger generation extol the wisdom of that great leader and educator," I shouted, "who first spoke these flaming
words of wisdom: 'A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was
seen a signal: "Water, water; we die of thirst!" The answer from the friendly vessel came back: "Cast down your bucket where you
are." The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh sparkling
water from the mouth of the Amazon River.' And like him I say, and in his words, 'To those of my race who depend upon bettering
their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white
man, who is his next-door neighbor, I would say: "Cast down your bucket where you are'!—cast it down in making friends in every
manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded . . ."'

I spoke automatically and with such fervor that I did not realize that the men were still talking and laughing until my dry mouth,
filling up with blood from the cut, almost strangled me. I coughed, wanting to stop and go to one of the tall brass, sand-filled
spittoons to relieve myself, but a few of the men, especially the superintendent, were listening and I was afraid. So I gulped it
down, blood, saliva and all, and continued. (What powers of endurance I had during those days! What enthusiasm! What a belief in
the rightness of things!) I spoke even louder in spite of the pain. But still they talked and still they laughed, as though deaf with
cotton in dirty ears. So I spoke with greater emotional emphasis. I closed my ears and swallowed blood until I was nauseated. The
speech seemed a hundred times as long as before, but I could not leave out a single word. All had to be said, each memorized
nuance considered, rendered. Nor was that all. Whenever I uttered a word of three or more syllables a group of voices would yell
for me to repeat it. I used the phrase "social responsibility" and they yelled:

"What's the word you say, boy?"

"Social responsibility," I said.

"What?"

"Social . . ."

"Louder."

". . . responsibility."

"More!”
                                                                                                                       84
"Respon—"

“Repeat!"

"---sibility."

The room filled with the uproar of laughter until, no doubt, distracted by having to gulp down my blood, I made a mistake and
yelled a phrase I had often seen denounced in newspaper editorials, heard debated in private.

"Social . . ."

"What?" they yelled.

". . . equality—.”

The laughter hung smokelike in the sudden stillness. I opened my eyes, puzzled. Sounds of displeasure filled the room. The M.C.
rushed forward. They shouted hostile phrases at me. But I did not understand.

A small dry mustached man in the front row blared out, “Say that slowly, son!

"What, sir?"

"What you just said!"

"Social responsibility, sir,” I said.

"You weren't being smart, were you boy?" he said, not unkindly.

"No, Sir!"

"You sure that about 'equality' was a mistake?"

"Oh, yes, Sir," I said. "I was swallowing blood."

"Well, you had better speak more slowly so we can understand. We mean to do right by you, but you've got to know your place at
all times. All right, now, go on with your speech."

I was afraid. I wanted to leave but I wanted also to speak and I was afraid they'd snatch me down.

"T'hank you, Sir," I said, beginning where I had left off, and having them ignore me as before.

Yet when I finished there was a thunderous applause. I was surprised to see the superintendent come forth with a package wrapped
in white tissue paper, and, gesturing for quiet, address the men.

"Gentlemen, you see that I did not overpraise the boy. He makes a good speech and some day he'll lead his people in the proper
paths. And I don't have to tell you that this is important in these days and times. This is a good, smart boy, and so to encourage him
in the right direction, in the name of the Board of Education I wish to present him a prize in the form of this . . ."

He paused, removing the tissue paper and revealing a gleaming calfskin briefcase.

". . . in the form of this first-class article from Shad Whitmore's shop."

"Boy," he said, addressing me, "take this prize and keep it well. Consider it a badge of office. Prize it. Keep developing as you are
and some day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the destiny of your people."

I was so moved that I could hardly express my thanks. A rope of bloody saliva forming a shape like an undiscovered continent
drooled upon the leather and I wiped it quickly away. I felt an importance that I had never dreamed.

"Open it and see what's inside," I was told.
                                                                                                                      85
My fingers a-tremble, I complied, smelling fresh leather and finding an official-looking document inside. It was a
scholarship to the state college for Negroes. My eyes filled with tears and I ran awkwardly off the floor.

I was overjoyed; I did not even mind when I discovered the gold pieces I had scrambled for were brass pocket tokens advertising a
certain make of automobile.

When I reached home everyone was excited. Next day the neighbors came to congratulate me. I even felt safe from grandfather,
whose deathbed curse usually spoiled my triumphs. I stood beneath his photograph with my briefcase in hand and smiled
triumphantly into his stolid black peasant's face. It was a face that fascinated me. The eyes seemed to follow everywhere I went.

That night I dreamed I was at a circus with him and that he refused to laugh at the clowns no matter what they did. Then later he
told me to open my briefcase and read what was inside and I did, finding an official envelope stamped with the state seal: and
inside the envelope I found another and another, endlessly, and I thought I would fall of weariness. "Them's years," he said. "Now
open that one." And I did and in it I found an engraved stamp containing a short message in letters of gold. "Read it," my
grandfather said. "Out loud."

"To Whom It May Concern," I intoned. "Keep This Nigger-Boy Running."

I awoke with the old man's laughter ringing in my ears.


Kate Chopin

“A Pair of Silk Stockings”


Little Mrs Sommers one day found herself the unexpected possessor of fifteen dollars. It seemed to her a
very large amount of money, and the way in which it stuffed and bulged her worn old porte-monnaie gave
her a feeling of importance such as she had not enjoyed for years.

The question of investment was one that occupied her greatly. For a day or two she walked about
apparently in a dreamy state, but really absorbed in speculation and calculation. She did not wish to act
hastily, to do anything she might afterward regret. But it was during the still hours of the night when
she lay awake revolving plans in her mind that she seemed to see her way clearly toward a proper and
judicious use of the money.

A dollar or two should be added to the price usually paid for Janie's shoes, which would insure their
lasting an appreciable time longer than they usually did. She would buy so and so many yards of percale
for new shirt waists for the boys and Janie and Mag. She had intended to make the old ones do by skilful
patching. Mag should have another gown. She had seen some beautiful patterns, veritable bargains in
the shop windows. And still there would be left enough for new stockings – two pairs apiece – and what
darning that would save for a while! She would get caps for the boys and sailor-hats for the girls. The
vision of her little brood looking fresh and dainty and new for once in their lives excited her and made
her restless and wakeful with anticipation.

The neighbors sometimes talked of certain ‘better days’ that little Mrs Sommers had known before she
had ever thought of being Mrs Sommers. She herself indulged in no such morbid retrospection. She had
no time – no second of time to devote to the past. The needs of the present absorbed her every faculty.
A vision of the future like some dim, gaunt monster sometimes appalled her, but luckily to-morrow never
comes.
                                                                                                  86
Mrs Sommers was one who knew the value of bargains; who could stand for hours making her
way inch by inch toward the desired object that was selling below cost. She could elbow her way if need
be; she had learned to clutch a piece of goods and hold it and stick to it with persistence and
determination till her turn came to be served, no matter when it came.

But that day she was a little faint and tired. She had swallowed a light luncheon – no! when she came to
think of it, between getting the children fed and the place righted, and preparing herself for the shopping
bout, she had actually forgotten to eat any luncheon at all!

She sat herself upon a revolving stool before a counter that was comparatively deserted, trying to gather
strength and courage to charge through an eager multitude that was besieging breastworks of shirting
and figured lawn. An all-gone limp feeling had come over her and she rested her hand aimlessly upon the
counter. She wore no gloves. By degrees she grew aware that her hand had encountered something very
soothing, very pleasant to touch. She looked down to see that her hand lay upon a pile of silk stockings.
A placard near by announced that they had been reduced in price from two dollars and fifty cents to one
dollar and ninety-eight cents; and a young girl who stood behind the counter asked her if she wished to
examine their line of silk hosiery. She smiled, just as if she had been asked to inspect a tiara of diamonds
with the ultimate view of purchasing it. But she went on feeling the soft, sheeny luxurious things – with
both hands now, holding them up to see them glisten, and to feel them glide serpent-like through her
fingers.

Two hectic blotches came suddenly into her pale cheeks. She looked up at the girl.

“Do you think there are any eights-and-a-half among these?”

There were any number of eights-and-a-half. In fact, there were more of that size than any other. Here
was a light-blue pair; there were some lavender, some all black and various shades of tan and gray. Mrs
Sommers selected a black pair and looked at them very long and closely. She pretended to be examining
their texture, which the clerk assured her was excellent.

“A dollar and ninety-eight cents,” she mused aloud. “Well, I'll take this pair.” She handed the girl a
five-dollar bill and waited for her change and for her parcel. What a very small parcel it was! It seemed
lost in the depths of her shabby old shopping-bag.

Mrs Sommers after that did not move in the direction of the bargain counter. She took the elevator,
which carried her to an upper floor into the region of the ladies' waiting-rooms. Here, in a retired corner,
she exchanged her cotton stockings for the new silk ones which she had just bought. She was not going
through any acute mental process or reasoning with herself, nor was she striving to explain to her
satisfaction the motive of her action. She was not thinking at all. She seemed for the time to be taking a
rest from that laborious and fatiguing function and to have abandoned herself to some mechanical
impulse that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.

How good was the touch of the raw silk to her flesh! She felt like lying back in the cushioned chair and
reveling for a while in the luxury of it. She did for a little while. Then she replaced her shoes, rolled the
cotton stockings together and thrust them into her bag. After doing this she crossed straight over to the
shoe department and took her seat to be fitted.

She was fastidious. The clerk could not make her out; he could not reconcile her shoes with her
stockings, and she was not too easily pleased. She held back her skirts and turned her feet one way and
                                                                                                87
her head another way as she glanced down at the polished, pointed-tipped boots. Her foot
and ankle looked very pretty. She could not realize that they belonged to her and were a part of herself.
She wanted an excellent and stylish fit, she told the young fellow who served her, and she did not mind
the difference of a dollar or two more in the price so long as she got what she desired.

It was a long time since Mrs Sommers had been fitted with gloves. On rare occasions when she had
bought a pair they were always ‘bargains’, so cheap that it would have been preposterous and
unreasonable to have expected them to be fitted to the hand.

Now she rested her elbow on the cushion of the glove counter, and a pretty, pleasant young creature,
delicate and deft of touch, drew a long-wristed ‘kid’ over Mrs Sommers's hand. She smoothed it down
over the wrist and buttoned it neatly, and both lost themselves for a second or two in admiring
contemplation of the little symmetrical gloved hand. But there were other places where money might be
spent.

There were books and magazines piled up in the window of a stall a few paces down the street. Mrs
Sommers bought two high-priced magazines such as she had been accustomed to read in the days when
she had been accustomed to other pleasant things. She carried them without wrapping. As well as she
could she lifted her skirts at the crossings. Her stockings and boots and well fitting gloves had worked
marvels in her bearing – had given her a feeling of assurance, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed
multitude.

She was very hungry. Another time she would have stilled the cravings for food until reaching her own
home, where she would have brewed herself a cup of tea and taken a snack of anything that was
available. But the impulse that was guiding her would not suffer her to entertain any such thought.

There was a restaurant at the corner. She had never entered its doors; from the outside she had
sometimes caught glimpses of spotless damask and shining crystal, and soft-stepping waiters serving
people of fashion.

When she entered her appearance created no surprise, no consternation, as she had half feared it might.
She seated herself at a small table alone, and an attentive waiter at once approached to take her order.
She did not want a profusion; she craved a nice and tasty bite – a half dozen blue-points, a plump chop
with cress, a something sweet – a crème-frappée, for instance; a glass of Rhine wine, and after all a small
cup of black coffee.

While waiting to be served she removed her gloves very leisurely and laid them beside her. Then she
picked up a magazine and glanced through it, cutting the pages with a blunt edge of her knife. It was all
very agreeable. The damask was even more spotless than it had seemed through the window, and the
crystal more sparkling. There were quiet ladies and gentlemen, who did not notice her, lunching at the
small tables like her own. A soft, pleasing strain of music could be heard, and a gentle breeze, was
blowing through the window. She tasted a bite, and she read a word or two, and she sipped the amber
wine and wiggled her toes in the silk stockings. The price of it made no difference. She counted the
money out to the waiter and left an extra coin on his tray, whereupon he bowed before her as before a
princess of royal blood.

There was still money in her purse, and her next temptation presented itself in the shape of a matinée
poster.
                                                                                                       88
It was a little later when she entered the theatre, the play had begun and the house seemed to
her to be packed. But there were vacant seats here and there, and into one of them she was ushered,
between brilliantly dressed women who had gone there to kill time and eat candy and display their
gaudy attire. There were many others who were there solely for the play and acting. It is safe to say
there was no one present who bore quite the attitude which Mrs Sommers did to her surroundings. She
gathered in the whole – stage and players and people in one wide impression, and absorbed it and
enjoyed it. She laughed at the comedy and wept – she and the gaudy woman next to her wept over the
tragedy. And they talked a little together over it. And the gaudy woman wiped her eyes and sniffled on
a tiny square of filmy, perfumed lace and passed little Mrs Sommers her box of candy.

The play was over, the music ceased, the crowd filed out. It was like a dream ended. People scattered in
all directions. Mrs Sommers went to the corner and waited for the cable car.

A man with keen eyes, who sat opposite to her, seemed to like the study of her small, pale face. It
puzzled him to decipher what he saw there. In truth, he saw nothing – unless he were wizard enough to
detect a poignant wish, a powerful longing that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and
on with her forever.

William Faulkner

“Barn Burning”

The store in which the justice of the Peace's court was sitting smelled of cheese. The boy, crouched on his
nail keg at the back of the crowded room, knew he smelled cheese, and more: from where he sat he could see
the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat, dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach
read, not from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils and the silver curve
of fish-this, the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he
smelled coming in intermittent gusts momen. tary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and
sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood. fie could not see the
table where the Justice sat and before which his father and his father's enemy (our en- he thought in that
despair; ourn! mine and hisn both! He's my father!) stood, but he could hear them, the two of them that is,
because his father had said no word yet:

"But what proof have you, Mr. Harris?"

"I told you. The hog got into my corn. I caught it up and sent it back to him, I le had no fence that would hold
it. I told him so, warned him. The next time I put the hog in my pen. When he came to get it I gave him
enough wire to patch tip his pen. The next time I put the hog up and kept it. I rode down to his house and saw
the wire I gave him still rolled on to the spool in his yard. I told him he could have the hog when he paid me
a dollar pound fee.' That evening a came with the dollar and got the hog. He was a strange . He said, 'He say
to tell you wood and hay kin burn.' I said, 'What?' 'That whut he say to tell you,' the aid. 'Wood and hay kin
burn.' That night my barn burned. I got the stock out but I lost the barn."

"Where is the ? Have you got him?"

"He was a strange , I tell you. I don't know what became of him."

But that's not proof. Don't you see that's not proof?"
                                                                                                      89
"Get that boy up here. He knows." For a moment the boy thought too that the man meant his
older brother until Harris said, "Not him. The little one. The boy." and, crouching, small for his age, small
and wiry like his father, in patched and faded jeans even too small for him, with straight, uncombed, brown
hair and eyes gray and wild as storm scud, he saw the men between himself and the table part and become a
lane of grim faces, at the end of which he saw the justice, a shabby, collarless, graying man in spectacles,
beckoning him, he felt no floor under his bare feet; he seemed to walk beneath the palpable weight of the
grim turning faces. His father, stiff in his black Sunday coat donned not for the trial but for the moving, did
not even look at him, He aims for me to lie, he thought, again with that frantic grief and despair. And I will
have to do hit.

'What's your name, boy?" the Justice said.

"Colonel Sartoris Snopes," the boy whispered.

"Hey?" the Justice said. "Talk louder. Colonel Sartoris? I reckon anybody named for Colonel Sartoris in this
country can't help but tell the truth, can they?" The boy said nothing. Enemy! Enemy! he thought; for a
moment he could not even see, could not see that the justice's face was kindly nor discern that his voice was
troubled when he spoke to the man named Harris: "Do you want me to question this boy?" But he could hear,
and during those subsequent long seconds while there was absolutely no sound in the crowded little room
save that of quiet and intent breathing it was as if he had swung outward at the end of a grape vine, over a
ravine, and at the top of the swing had been caught in a prolonged instant of mesmerized gravity, weightless
in time.

"No!" Harris said violently, explosively. "Damnation! Send him out of here!" Now time, the fluid world,
rushed beneath him again, the voices coming to him again through the smell of cheese and sealed meat, the
fear and despair and the old grief of blood:

"This case is closed. I can't find against you, Snopes, but I can give you advice. Leave this county and don't
come back to it."

His father spoke for the first time, his voice cold and harsh, level, without emphasis: "I aim to. I don't figure
to stay in a country among people who . . ." he said something unprintable and vile, addressed to no one.

"That'll do," the justice said. "Take your wagon and get out of this county before dark. Case dismissed. "

His father turned, and he followed the stiff black coat, the wiry figure walking a little stiffly from where a
Confederate provost's man's musket ball had taken him in the heel on a stolen horse thirty years ago,
followed the two backs now, since his older brother had appeared from somewhere in the crowd, no taller
than the father but thicker, chewing tobacco steadily, between the two lines of grim-faced men and out of the
store and across the worn gallery and down the sagging steps and among the dogs and half-grown boys in the
mild May dust, where as he passed a voice hissed:

"Barn burner!"

Again he could not see, whirling; there was a face in a red haze, moonlike, bigger than the full moon, the
owner of it half again his size, he leaping in the red haze toward the face, feeling no blow, feeling no shock
when his head struck the earth, scrabbling up and leaping again, feeling no blow this time either and tasting
no blood, scrabbling up to see the other boy in full flight and himself already leaping into pursuit as his
father's hand jerked him back, the harsh, cold voice speaking above him: "Go get in the wagon."
                                                                                                      90
It stood in a grove of locusts and mulberries across the road. His two hulking sisters in their
Sunday dresses and his mother and her sister in calico and sunbonnets were already in it, sitting on and
among the sorry residue of the dozen and more movings which even the boy could remember-the battered
stove, the broken beds and chairs, the clock inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which would not run, stopped at
some fourteen minutes past two o'clock of a dead and forgotten day and time, which had been his mother's
dowry. She was crying, though when she saw him she drew her sleeve across her face and began to descend
from the wagon. "Get back," the father said.

He's hurt. I got to get some water and wash his. . .

"Get back in the wagon," his father said, he got in too, over the tail-gate. His father mounted to the seat
where the older brother already sat and struck the gaunt mules two savage blows with the peeled willow, but
without heat. It was not even sadistic; it was exactly that same quality which in later years would cause his
descendants to over-run the engine before putting a motor car into motion, striking and reining back in the
same movement. The wagon went on, the store with its quiet crowd of grimly watching men dropped behind;
a curve in the road hid it. Forever he thought. Maybe he's done satisfied now, now that he has ... stopping
himself, not to say it aloud even to himself. His mother's hand touched his shoulder.

"Does hit hurt?" she said.

"Naw," he said. "Hit don't hurt. Lemme be."

"Can't you wipe some of the blood off before hit dries?"

"I'll wash to-night," he said. "Lemme be, I tell you."

The wagon went on. He did not know where they were going. None of them ever did or ever asked, because
it was always somewhere, always a house of sorts waiting for them a day or two days or even three days
away. Likely, his father bad already arranged to make a crop on another farm before he ... Again he had to
stop himself. He (the father) always did. There was something about his wolflike independence and even
courage, when the advantage was at least neutral, which impressed strangers, as if they got from his latent
ravening ferocity not so much a sense of dependability as a feeling that his ferocious conviction in the
rightness of his own actions would be of advantage to all whose interest lay with his.

That night they camped, in a grove of oaks and beeches where a spring ran. The nights were still cool and
they had a fire against it, of a rail lifted from a nearby fence and cut into lengths-a small fire, neat, niggard
almost, a shrewd fire; such fires were his father's habit and custom always, even in freezing weather. Older,
the boy might have remarked this and wondered why not a big one; why should not a man who had not only
seen the waste and extravagance of war, but who had in his blood an inherent voracious prodigality with
material not his own, have burned everything in sight?

Then he might have gone a step farther and thought that that was the reason: that niggard blaze was the living
fruit of nights passed during those four years in the woods hiding from all men, blue or gray, with his strings
of horses (captured horses, he called them). And older still, he might have divined the true reason: that the
element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father's being, as the element of steel or of powder
spoke to other men, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were not worth the
breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.

But, he did not think this now and he had seen those same niggard blazes all his life. He merely ate his
supper beside it and was already half asleep over his iron plate when his father called him, and once more he
followed the stiff back, the stiff and ruthless limp, up the slope and on to the starlit road where, turning, he
                                                                                                       91
could see his father against the stars but without face or depth-a shape black, flat, and bloodless
as though cut from tin in the iron folds of the frockcoat which had not been made lot him, the voice harsh
like tin and without heat like tin:

"You were fixing to tell them. You would have told him," He didn't answer. His father struck him with the
flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat, exactly as he had struck the two mules at the
store, exactly as he would strike either of them with any stick in order to kill a horse fly, his voice still
without heat or anger: "You're getting to be a man. You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own
blood or you ain't going to have any blood to stick to you. Do you think either of them, any man there this
morning, would? Don't you know all they wanted was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them
beat? Eh?" Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, " If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he
would have hit me again." But now he said nothing. He was not crying. He just stood there. "Answer me,"
his father said.

"Yes," he whispered. His father turned.

"Get on to bed. We'll be there tomorrow."

To-morrow they were there. In the early afternoon the wagon stopped before a paintless two-room house
identical almost with the dozen others it had stopped before even in the boy's ten years, and again, as on the
other dozen occasions, his mother and aunt got down and began to unload the wagon, although his two
sisters and his father and brother had not moved.

"Likely hit ain't fitten for hawgs," one of the sisters said.

"Nevertheless, fit it will and you'll hog it and like it," his father said. "Get out of them chairs and help your
Ma unload."

The two sisters got down, big, bovine, in a flutter of cheap ribbons; one of them drew from the jumbled
wagon bed a battered lantern, the other a worn broom. His father handed the reins to the older son and began
to climb stiffly over the wheel. "When they get unloaded, take the team to the barn and feed them." Then he
said, and at first, the boy thought he was still speaking to his brother: "Come with me."

"Me?" he said.

"Yes," his father said. "you."

"Abner," his mother said. His father paused and looked back-the harsh level state beneath the shaggy,
graying, irascible brows.

I reckon I'll have a word with the man that aims to begin tomorrow owning me body and soul for the next
eight months."

They went back up the road. A week ago-or before last night, that is-he would have asked where they were
going, but not now. His father had struck him before last night but never before had he paused afterward to
explain why, it was as if the blow and the following calm, outrageous voice still rang, repercussed, divulging
nothing to him save the terrible handicap of being young, the light weight of his few years, just heavy enough
to prevent his soaring free of the world as it seemed to be ordered but not heavy enough to keep him footed
solid in it, to resist it and try to change the course of its events.
                                                                                                     92
Presently he could see the grove of oaks and cedars and the other flowering trees and shrubs
where the house would be, though not the house yet. They walked beside a fence massed with honeysuckle
and Cherokee roses and came to a gate swinging open between two brick pillars, and now, beyond a sweep
of drive, he saw the house for the first time and at that instant he forgot his father and the terror and despair
both, and even when he remembered his father again (who had not stopped) the terror and despair did not
return. Because, for all the twelve movings, they had sojourned until now in a poor country, a land of small
farms and fields and houses, and he had never seen a house like this before. Hits big as a courthouse he
thought quietly, with a surge of peace and joy whose reason he could not have thought into words, being too
young for that: They are safe from him. People whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity are beyond his
touch, he no more to them than a buzzing wasp: capable of stinging for a little moment but that's all,- the
spell of this peace and dignity rendering even the barns and stable and cribs which belong to it impervious to
the puny flames he might contrive . . . this, the peace and joy, ebbing for an instant as he looked again at the
stiff black back, the stiff and implacable limp of the figure which was not dwarfed by the house, for the
reason that it had never looked big anywhere and which now, against the serene columned backdrop, had
more than ever that impervious quality of something cut ruthlessly from tin, depthless, as though, sidewise to
the sun, it would cast no shadow. Watching him, the boy remarked the absolutely undeviating course which
his father held and saw the stiff foot come squarely down in a pile of fresh droppings where a horse had
stood in the drive and which his father could have avoided by a simple change of stride. But it ebbed only for
a moment, though he could not have thought this into words either, walking on in the spell of the house,
which he could ever want but without envy, without sorrow, certainly never with that ravening and jealous
rage which unknown to him walked in the ironlike black coat before him; Maybe he will feel it too, Maybe it
will even change him now from what maybe be couldn't help but be.

They crossed the portico. Now he could hear his father's stiff foot as it came down on the boards with
clocklike finality, a sound out of all proportion to the displacement of the body it bore and which was not
dwarfed either by the white door before it, as though it had attained to a sort of vicious and ravening
minimum not to be dwarfed by anything-the flat, wide, black hat, the formal coat of broadcloth which had
once been black but which had now that friction-glazed greenish cast of the bodies of old house flies, the
lifted sleeve which was too large, the lifted hand like a curled claw. The door opened so promptly that the
boy knew the Negro must have been watching them all the time, an old man with neat grizzled hair, in a
linen jacket. who stood barring the door with his body, saying, "Wipe yo foots, white man, fo you come in
here, Major ain't home nohow."

"Get out of my way, ," his father said, without heat too, flinging the door back and the Negro also and
entering, his hat still on his head. And now the boy saw the prints of the stiff foot on the doorjamb and saw
them appear on the pale rug behind the machinelike deliberation of the foot which seemed to bear (or
transmit) twice the weight which the body compassed. The Negro was shouting "Miss Lula! Miss Lula! "
somewhere behind them, then the boy, deluged as though by a warm wave by a suave turn of carpeted stair
and a pendant glitter of chandeliers and a mute gleam of gold frames, heard the swift feet and saw her too, a
lady-perhaps he had never seen her like before either-in a gray, smooth gown with lace at the throat and an
apron tied at the waist and the sleeves turned back, wiping cake or biscuit dough from her hands with a towel
as she came up the hall, looking not at his father at all but at the tracks on the blond rug with an expression of
incredulous amazement.

"I tried," the Negro cried. "I tole him to . . ."

"Will you please go away?" she said in a shaking voice. "Major de Spain is not at home. Will you please go
away?"

His father had not spoken again. He did not speak again. He did not even look at her. He just stood stiff in
the center of the rug, in his hat, the shaggy iron-gray brows twitching slightly above the pebble-colored eyes
                                                                                                    93
as he appeared to examine the house with brief deliberation. Then with the same deliberation he
turned; the boy watched him pivot on the good leg and saw the stiff foot drag round the arc of the turning,
leaving a final long and fading smear. His father never looked at it, he never once looked down at the rug,
The Negro held the door, It closed behind them, upon the hysteric and indistinguishable woman-wail. His
father stopped at the top of the steps and scraped his boot clean on the edge of it. At the gate he stopped
again. He stood for a moment, planted stiffly on the stiff foot, looking back at the house. 'Pretty and white,
ain't it?" he said. "That's sweat. weat. Maybe it ain't white enough yet to suit him. Maybe he wants to mix
some white sweat with it."

Two hours later the boy was chopping wood behind the house within which his mother and aunt and the two
sisters (the mother and aunt, not the two girls, he knew that; even at this distance and muffled by walls the
flat loud voices of the two girls emanated an incorrigible idle inertia) were setting up the stove to prepare a
meal, when he heard the hooves and saw the linen-clad man on a fine sorrel mare, whom he recognized even
before he saw the rolled rug in front of the Negro youth following on a fat boy carriage horse-a suffused,
angry face vanishing, still at full gallop, beyond the corner of the house where his father and brother were
sitting in the two tilted chairs; and a moment later, almost before he could have put the axe down, he heard
the hooves again and watched the sorrel mare go back out of the yard, already galloping again. Then his
father began to shout one of the sisters' names, who presently emerged backward from the kitchen door
dragging the rolled rug along the ground by one end while the other sister walked behind it.

"If you ain't going to tote, go on and set up the wash pot," the first said.

"You, Sarty! " the second shouted. "Set up the wash pot!" His father appeared at the door, framed against that
shabbiness, as he had been against that other bland perfection, impervious to either, the mother's anxious face
at his shoulder.

"Go on," the father said. "Pick it up." The two sisters stooped, broad, lethargic; stooping, they presented an
incredible expanse of pale cloth and a flutter of tawdry ribbons.

"If I thought enough of a rug to have to git hit all the way from France I wouldn't keep hit where folks
coming in would have to tromp on hit," the first said. They raised the rug,

"Abner, " the mother said. "Let me do it."

"You go back and git dinner," his father said. "I'll tend to this."

From the woodpile through the rest of the afternoon the boy watched them, the rug spread flat in the dust
beside the bubbling wash-pot, the two sisters stooping over it with that profound and lethargic reluctance,
while the father stood over them in turn, implacable and grim, driving them though never raising his voice
again. He could smell the harsh homemade lye they were using; he saw his mother come to the door once
and look toward them with an expression not anxious now but very like despair; he saw his father turn, and
he fell to with the axe and saw from the corner of his eye his father raise from the ground a flattish fragment
of field stone and examine it and return to the pot, and this time his mother actually spoke: "Abner. Abner.
Please don't. Please, Abner,"

Then he was done too. it was dusk; the whippoorwills had already begun. He could smell coffee from the
room where they would presently eat the cold food remaining from the mid-afternoon meal, though when he
entered the house he realized they were having coffee again probably because there was a fire on the hearth,
before which the rug now lay spread over the backs of the two chairs. The tracks of his father's foot were
gone. Where they had been were now long, water-cloudy scoriations resembling the sporadic course of a
lilliputian mowing machine.
                                                                                                     94
It still hung there while they ate the cold food and then went to bed, scattered without order or
claim up and down the two rooms, his mother in one bed, where his father would later lie, the older brother
in the other, himself, the aunt, and the two sisters on pallets on the floor. But his father was not in bed yet.
The last thing the boy remembered was the depthless, harsh silhouette of the hat and coat bending over the
rug and it seemed to him that he had not even closed his eyes when the silhouette was standing over him, the
fire almost dead behind it, the stiff foot prodding him awake. "Catch up the mule," his father said.

When he returned with the mule his father was standing in the black door, the rolled rug over his shoulder.
"Ain't you going to ride?" he said.

"No, Give me your foot."

He bent his knee into his father's hand, the wiry, surprising power flowed smoothly, rising, he rising with it,
on to the mule's bare back (they had owned a saddle once; the boy could remember it though not when or
where) and with the same effortlessness his father swung the rug up in front of him. Now in the starlight they
retraced the afternoon's path, up the dusty road rife with honeysuckle, through the gate and up the black
tunnel of the drive to the lightless house, where he sat on the mule and felt the rough warp of the rug drag
across his thighs and vanish.

"Don't you want me to help?" he whispered. His father did not answer and now he heard again that stiff foot
striking the hollow portico with that wooden and clock like deliberation, that outrageous overstatement of the
weight it carried. The rug, hunched, not flung (the boy could tell that even in the darkness) from his father's
shoulder struck the angle of wall and floor with a sound unbelievably loud, thunderous, then the foot again,
unhurried and enormous; a light came on in the house and the boy sat, tense, breathing steadily and quietly
and just a little fast, though the foot itself did not increase its beat at all, descending the steps now; now the
boy could see him.

'Don't you want to ride now?" he whispered. "We kin both ride now," the light within the house altering now,
flaring up and sinking. He's coming down the stairs now, he thought. fie had already ridden the mule up
beside the horse block; presently his father was up behind him and he doubled the reins over and slashed the
mule across the neck, but before the animal could begin to trot the hard, thin arm came round him, the hard,
knotted hand jerking the mule back to a walk.

In the first red rays of the sun they were in the lot, putting plow gear on the mules. This time the sorrel mare
was in the lot before he heard it at all, the rider collarless and even bareheaded, trembling, speaking in a
shaking voice as the woman in the house had done, his father merely looking up once before stooping again
to the hame3 he was buckling, so that the man on the mare spoke to his stooping back;

"You must realize you have ruined that rug, Wasn't there anybody here, any of your women ." he ceased,
shaking, the boy watching him, the older brother leaning now in the stable door, chewing, blinking slowly
and steadily at nothing apparently "It cost a hundred dollars. But you never had a hundred dollars. You never
will. So I'm going to charge you twenty bushels of corn against your crop. I'll add it in your contract and
when you come to the commissary you can sign it. That won't keep Mrs. de Spain quiet but maybe it will
teach you to wipe your feet off before you enter her house again."

Then he was gone. The boy looked at his father, who still had not spoken or even looked up again, who was
now adjusting the logger-head4 in the hame.

"Pap," be said. I His father looked at him-the inscrutable face, the shaggy brows beneath which the gray eyes
glinted coldly. Suddenly the boy went toward him, fast, stopping also, suddenly. "You done the best you
                                                                                                     95
could!" he cried. "If he wanted hit done different why didn't he wait and tell you how? He won't
git no twenty bushels! He won't git none! We'll gether hit and hide hit! I kin watch . . . "

"Did you put the cutter back in that straight stock like I told you?"'

"No, sir," he said.

"Then go do it."

That was Wednesday. During the rest of that week he worked steadily, at what was within his scope and
some which was beyond it, with an industry that did not need to be driven nor even commanded twice; he
had this from his mother, with the difference that some at least of what he did he liked to do, such as splitting
wood with the half-size axe which his mother and aunt had earned; or saved money somehow, to present him
with at Christmas. In company with the two older women (and on one afternoon, even one of the sisters), he
built pens for the shoat and the cow which were a part of his father's contract with the landlord, and one
afternoon, his father being absent, gone somewhere on one of the mules, he went to the field.

They were running a middle buster now, his brother holding the plow straight while he handled the reins, and
walking beside the straining mule, the rich black sod shearing cool and damp against his bare ankles, he
thought Maybe this is the end of it. Maybe even that twenty bushels that seems hard to have to pay for just a
rug will be a cheap price for him to stop forever and always from being what he used to he; thinking,
dreaming now, so that his brother had to speak sharply to him to mind the mule: Maybe he even won't collect
the twenty bushels, Maybe it will all add up and balance and vanish-corn, rug, fire,- The terror and grief the
being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses-gone, done with for ever and ever

Then it was Saturday; he looked Lip from beneath the mule he was harnessing and saw his father in the black
coat and hat. " Not that, " his father said. "The wagon gear." And then, two hours later, sitting in the wagon
bed behind his father and brother on the seat, the wagon accomplished a final curve, and he saw the
weathered paintless store with its tattered tobacco- and patent-medicine posters and the tethered wagons and
saddle animals below the gallery. He mounted the gnawed steps behind his father and brother, and there
again was the lane of quiet, watching faces for the three of them to walk through. I le saw the man in
spectacles sitting at the plank table and he did not need to be told this was a Justice of the Peace; he sent one
glare of fierce, exultant, partisan defiance at the man in collar and cravat now, whom he had seen but twice
before in his life, and that on a galloping horse, who now wore on his face an expression riot of rage but of
amazed unbelief which the boy could not have known was at the incredible circumstance of being sued by
one of his own ten ants, and came and stood against his father and cried at the Justice: "He ain't done it! fie
ain't burnt . . "

"Go back to the wagon," his father said.

"Burnt?" the Justice said. "Do I understand this rug was burned too?"

"Does anybody here claim it was?" his father said. "Go back to the wagon." But he did not, he merely
retreated to the rear of the room, crowded as that other had been, but not to sit down this time, instead, to
stand pressing among the motionless bodies, listening to the voices:

"And you claim twenty bushels of corn is too high for the damage you did to the rug? "

"Ile brought the rug to me and said he wanted the tracks washed out of it. I washed the tracks out and took
the rug back to him,"
                                                                                                      96
"But you didn't carry the rug back to him in the same condition it was in before you made the
tracks on it."

His father (lid not answer, and now for perhaps half a minute there was no sound at all save that of breathing,
the faint, steady suspiration of complete and intent listening .

"You decline to answer that, Mr. Snopes?" Again his father did not answer. -Fir going to find against you,
Mr. Snopes. I'm going to find that you were responsible for" the injury to Major de Spain's rug and hold you
liable for it. But twenty bushels of corn seems a little high for a man in your circumstances to have to pay.
Major de Spain claims it cost a hundred dollars. October corn will be worth about fifty cents. I figure that if
Major de Spain can stand a ninety-five dollar loss on something he paid cash for, you can stand a five-dollar
loss you haven't earned yet. I hold you in damages to Major de Spain to the amount of ten bushels of corn
over and above your contract with him, to be paid to him out of your crop at gathering time. Court adjourned.

It had taken no time hardly, the morning was but half begun. He thought they would return home and perhaps
back to the field, since they were late, far behind all other farmers. But instead his father passed on behind
the wagon, merely indicating with his hand for the older brother to follow with it, and crossed the road
toward the blacksmith shop opposite, pressing on after his father, overtaking him, speaking, whispering up at
the harsh, calm face beneath the weathered hat: "He won't git no ten bushels neither. Ile won't git one. We'll"
until his father glanced for an instant down at him, the face absolutely calm, the grizzled eyebrows tangled
above the cold eyes, the voice almost pleasant, almost gentle:

"You think so? Well, we'll wait till October anyway."

The matter of the wagon-the setting of a spoke or two and the tightening of the tires-did not take long either,
the business of the tires accomplished by driving the wagon into the spring branch behind the shop and
letting it stand there, the mules nuzzling into the water from time to time, and the boy on the seat with the
idle reins, looking up the slope and through the sooty tunnel of the shed where the slow hammer rang and
where his father sat on an upended cypress bolt, easily, either talking or listening, still sitting there when the
boy brought the dripping wagon up out of the branch and halted it before the door.

"Take them on to the shade and hitch," his father said. He did so and returned. His father and the smith and a
third man squatting on his heels inside the door were talking, about crops and animals; the boy, squatting too
in the ammoniac dust and hoof parings and scales of rust, heard his father tell a long and unhurried story Out
of the time before the. birth of the older brother even when he had been a professional horsetrader. And then
his father came Lip beside him where he stood before a tattered last year's circus poster on the other side of
the store, gazing rapt and quiet it the scarlet horses, the incredible poisings and convolutions of tulle and
tights and painted leers of comedians, and said, "It's time to eat."

But not at home. Squatting beside his brother against the front wall, he watched his lather emerge from the
store and produce from a paper sack a segment of cheese and divide it carefully and deliberately into three
with his pocket knife and produce crackers from the same sack. They all three squatted on the gallery and
ate, slowly, without talking; then in the store again, they drank from a tin dipper tepid water 'Melling of the
cedar bucket an(.] of living beech trees. And still they did not go home. It was as a horse lot this time, a tall
rail fence upon and along which men stood and sat and out of which one by one horses were led, to be
walked and trotted and then cantered back and forth along the road while the slow swapping and buying went
on and the sun began to slant westward, they-the three of them-watching and listening, the older brother with
his Muddy eyes and his steady, inevitable tobacco, the father commenting now and then on certain of the
animals, to no one in particular.
                                                                                                     97
It was after sundown when they reached home. They ate supper by lamplight, then, sitting on the
doorstep, the boy watched the night fully accomplish, listening to the whippoorwills and the frogs, when he
heard his mother's voice: "Abner! No! No! 0h, God. 0h, God. Abner!" and he rose, whirled, and saw the
altered light through the door where a candle stub now burned in a bottle neck on the table and his father,
still in the hat and coat, at once formal and burlesque as though dressed carefully for some shabby and
ceremonial violence, emptying the reservoir of the lamp back into the five-gallon kerosene can from which it
had been filled, while the mother tugged at his arm until he shifted the lamp to the other hand and flung her
back, not savagely or viciously, just hard, into the wall, her hands flung out against the wall for balance, her
mouth open and in her face the same quality of hopeless despair as had been in her voice. Then his father saw
him standing in the door. "Go to the barn and get that can of oil we were oiling the wagon with," he said. The
boy did not move. Then he could speak.

"What . . ." he cried. "What are you….”

"Go get that oil," his father said. "Go,"

Then he was moving, running, outside the house, toward the stable: this the old habit, the old blood which he
had not been permitted to choose for himself, which had been bequeathed him willy nilly and which had run
for so long (and who knew where, battening on what of outrage and savagery and lust) before it came to him.
I could keep on, he thought. I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again.
Only I can't, I can't, the rusted can in his hand now, the liquid sploshing in it as he ran back to the house and
into it, into the sound of his mothers weeping in the next room, and handed the can to his father.

"Ain't you going to even send a ? " he cried. "At least you sent a before! "

This time his father didn't strike him, The hand came even faster than the blow had, the same hand which had
set the can on the table with almost excruciating care flashing from the can toward him too quick for him to
follow it, gripping him by the back of his shirt and on to tiptoe before he had seen it quit the can, the face
stooping at him in breathless and frozen ferocity, the cold, dead voice speaking over him to the older brother
who leaned against the table, chewing with that steady, curious, sidewise motion of cows:

"Empty the can into the big one and go on. I'll catch up with you."

"Better tie him up to the bedpost," the brother said.

"Do like I told you", the father said. Then the boy was moving, his bunched shirt and the hard, bony hand
between his shoulder der- blades, his toes just touching the floor, across the room and into the other one, past
the sisters sitting with spread heavy thighs in the two chairs over the cold hearth, and to where his mother
and aunt sat side by side on the bed, the aunt's arms about his mother's shoulders.

"Hold him," the father said. The aunt made a startled movement. "Not you.' the father said. "Lennie. Take
hold of him. I want to see you do it." His mother took him by the wrist. "You'll hold him better than that. If
he gets loose don't you know what he is going to do? He will go up yonder." Ile jerked his head toward the
road." Maybe I'd better tie him."

"I'll hold him," his mother whispered.

"See you do then." Then his father was gone, the stiff foot heavy and measured upon the boards, ceasing at
last.
                                                                                                    98
Then he began to struggle. His mother caught him in both arms, he jerking and wrenching at
them. He le would be stronger in the end, he knew that. But he had no time to wait for it. "Lemme go!" he
cried. "I don't want to have to hit you!"

"Let him go! " the aunt said. "If he don't go, before God, I am going up there myself! "

"Don't you see I can't?" his mother cried. "Sarty! Sarty! No! No! Help me, Lizzie! "

Then he was free. His aunt grasped at him but it was too late. He whirled, running, his mother stumbled
forward on to her knees behind him, crying to the nearer sister: "Catch him, Net! Catch him! " But that was
too late too, the sister (the sisters were twins, born at the same time, yet either of them now gave the
impression of being, encompassing as much living meat and volume and weight as any other two of the
family) not yet having begun to rise from the chair, her head, face, alone merely turned, presenting to him in
the flying instant an astonishing expanse of young female features untroubled by any surprise even, wearing
only an expression of bovine interest. Then he was out of the room, out of the house, in the mild dust of the
starlit road and the heavy rifeness of honeysuckle, the pale ribbon unspooling with terrific slowness under his
running feet, reaching the gate at last and turning in, running, his heart and lungs drumming, on up the drive
toward the lighted house, the lighted door. I le did not knock, he burst in, sobbing for breath, incapable for
the moment of speech; he saw the astonished face of the Negro in the linen jacket without knowing when the
Negro had appeared.

"De Spain! " he cried, panted. "Where's then he saw the white man too emerging from a white door down the
hall. "Barn!" he cried. "Barn!"

"What?" the white man said. "Barn?

"Yes!" the boy cried. "Barn!"

"Catch him!" the white man shouted,

But it was too late this time too. The Negro grasped his shirt, but the entire sleeve, rotten with washing,
carried away, and he was out that door too and in the drive again, and had actually never ceased to run even
while he was screaming into the white man's face.

Behind him the white man was shouting, "My horse! Fetch my horse!" and he thought for an instant of
cutting across the park and climbing the fence into the road, but he did not know the park nor how high the
vine-massed fence might be and he dared not risk it. So he ran on (town the drive, blood and breath roaring;
presently he was in the road again though he could not see it. He could not hear either: the galloping mare
was almost upon him before he heard her, and even then he held his course, as if the \,cry urgency of his wild
grief and need must in a moment more find him wings, waiting until the ultimate instant to hurl himself aside
and into the weed-choked roadside ditch as the horse thundered past and on, for an instant in furious
silhouette against the stars, the tranquil early summer night sky which, even before the shape of the horse and
rider vanished, stained abruptly and violently upward: a long, swirling roar incredible and soundless, blotting
the stars, and he springing up and into the road again, running again, knowing it was too late yet still running
even after he heard the shot and, an instant later, two shots, pausing now without knowing he had ceased to
run, crying "Pap! Pap!," running again before he knew he had begun to run, stumbling, tripping over
something and scrabbling Lip again without ceasing to run, looking backward over his shoulder at the glare
as he got up, running on among the invisible trees, panting, sobbing, "Father! Father!"

At midnight he was sitting on the crest of a hill. He did not know it was midnight and he did not know how
far he had come. But there was no glare behind him now and he sat now, his back toward what he had called
                                                                                                    99
home for four days anyhow, his face toward the dark woods which he would enter when breath
was strong again, small, shaking steadily in the chili darkness, hugging himself into the remainder of his thin,
rotten shirt, the grief and despair now no longer terror and fear but just grief and despair. Father, My father,
he thought, "He was brave!" he cried suddenly, aloud but not loud, no more than a whisper: "Ile was! He was
in the war! lie was in Colonel Sartoris' cav'ry! " not knowing that his father had gone to that war a private in
the fine old European sense, wearing no uniform, admitting the authority of and giving fidelity to no man or
army or flag, going to war as Malbrouck6 himself did; for booty--it meant nothing and less than nothing to
him if it were enemy booty or his own.

The slow constellations wheeled on. It would be dawn and then sun -up after a while and he would he hungry
But that would be to-morrow and now he was only cold, and walking would cure that. His breathing was
easier now, and he decided to get up and go on, and then he found that he bad been asleep because he knew it
was almost dawn, the night almost over. He could tell that from the whippoorwills. They were everywhere
now among the dark trees below him, constant and inflectioned and ceaseless, so that, as the instant for
giving over to the day birds drew nearer and nearer, there was no interval at all between them. He got up. He
was a little stiff, but walking would cure that too as it would the cold, and soon there would be the sun. He
went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the birds, called
unceasing-the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not
look back.


Frank Stockton

“The Lady or the Tiger”

        In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose ideas, though somewhat polished
and sharpened by the progressiveness of distant Latin neighbors, were still large, florid, and
untrammeled, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of exuberant fancy, and,
withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts. He was
greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done.
When every member of his domestic and political systems moved smoothly in its appointed course, his
nature was bland and genial; but, whenever there was a little hitch, and some of his orbs got out of
their orbits, he was blander and more genial still, for nothing pleased him so much as to make the
crooked straight and crush down uneven places.
           Among the borrowed notions by which his barbarism had become semified was that of the
public arena, in which, by exhibitions of manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were refined
and cultured.
           But even here the exuberant and barbaric fancy asserted itself. The arena of the king was
built, not to give the people an opportunity of hearing the rhapsodies of dying gladiators, nor to enable
them to view the inevitable conclusion of a conflict between religious opinions and hungry jaws, but for
purposes far better adapted to widen and develop the mental energies of the people. This vast
amphitheater, with its encircling galleries, its mysterious vaults, and its unseen passages, was an agent
of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and
incorruptible chance.
           When a subject was accused of a crime of sufficient importance to interest the king, public
notice was given that on an appointed day the fate of the accused person would be decided in the
king's arena, a structure which well deserved its name, for, although its form and plan were borrowed
from afar, its purpose emanated solely from the brain of this man, who, every barleycorn a king, knew
no tradition to which he owed more allegiance than pleased his fancy, and who ingrafted on every
adopted form of human thought and action the rich growth of his barbaric idealism.
           When all the people had assembled in the galleries, and the king, surrounded by his court, sat
high up on his throne of royal state on one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door beneath him
opened, and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheater. Directly opposite him, on the other
side of the enclosed space, were two doors, exactly alike and side by side. It was the duty and the
privilege of the person on trial to walk directly to these doors and open one of them. He could open
                                                                                             100
either door he pleased; he was subject to no guidance or influence but that of the
aforementioned impartial and incorruptible chance. If he opened the one, there came out of it a hungry
tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon him and tore
him to pieces as a punishment for his guilt. The moment that the case of the criminal was thus decided,
doleful iron bells were clanged, great wails went up from the hired mourners posted on the outer rim of
the arena, and the vast audience, with bowed heads and downcast hearts, wended slowly their
homeward way, mourning greatly that one so young and fair, or so old and respected, should have
merited so dire a fate.
            But, if the accused person opened the other door, there came forth from it a lady, the most
suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects, and to this lady
he was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence. It mattered not that he might already
possess a wife and family, or that his affections might be engaged upon an object of his own selection;
the king allowed no such subordinate arrangements to interfere with his great scheme of retribution
and reward. The exercises, as in the other instance, took place immediately, and in the arena. Another
door opened beneath the king, and a priest, followed by a band of choristers, and dancing maidens
blowing joyous airs on golden horns and treading an epithalamic measure, advanced to where the pair
stood, side by side, and the wedding was promptly and cheerily solemnized. Then the gay brass bells
rang forth their merry peals, the people shouted glad hurrahs, and the innocent man, preceded by
children strewing flowers on his path, led his bride to his home.
            This was the king's semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is
obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady; he opened either he
pleased, without having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be devoured or
married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one door, and on some out of the other. The
decisions of this tribunal were not only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused person was
instantly punished if he found himself guilty, and, if innocent, he was rewarded on the spot, whether he
liked it or not. There was no escape from the judgments of the king's arena.
            The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered together on one of the
great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious
wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have
attained. Thus, the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could
bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person have the whole matter in
his own hands?
            This semi-barbaric king had a daughter as blooming as his most florid fancies, and with a soul
as fervent and imperious as his own. As is usual in such cases, she was the apple of his eye, and was
loved by him above all humanity. Among his courtiers was a young man of that fineness of blood and
lowness of station common to the conventional heroes of romance who love royal maidens. This royal
maiden was well satisfied with her lover, for he was handsome and brave to a degree unsurpassed in all
this kingdom, and she loved him with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it
exceedingly warm and strong. This love affair moved on happily for many months, until one day the
king happened to discover its existence. He did not hesitate nor waver in regard to his duty in the
premises. The youth was immediately cast into prison, and a day was appointed for his trial in the
king's arena. This, of course, was an especially important occasion, and his majesty, as well as all the
people, was greatly interested in the workings and development of this trial. Never before had such a
case occurred; never before had a subject dared to love the daughter of the king. In after years such
things became commonplace enough, but then they were in no slight degree novel and startling.
            The tiger-cages of the kingdom were searched for the most savage and relentless beasts,
from which the fiercest monster might be selected for the arena; and the ranks of maiden youth and
beauty throughout the land were carefully surveyed by competent judges in order that the young man
might have a fitting bride in case fate did not determine for him a different destiny. Of course,
everybody knew that the deed with which the accused was charged had been done. He had loved the
princess, and neither he, she, nor any one else, thought of denying the fact; but the king would not
think of allowing any fact of this kind to interfere with the workings of the tribunal, in which he took
such great delight and satisfaction. No matter how the affair turned out, the youth would be disposed
of, and the king would take an aesthetic pleasure in watching the course of events, which would
determine whether or not the young man had done wrong in allowing himself to love the princess.
            The appointed day arrived. From far and near the people gathered, and thronged the great
galleries of the arena, and crowds, unable to gain admittance, massed themselves against its outside
walls. The king and his court were in their places, opposite the twin doors, those fateful portals, so
                                                                                            101
terrible in their similarity.
           All was ready. The signal was given. A door beneath the royal party opened, and the lover of
the princess walked into the arena. Tall, beautiful, fair, his appearance was greeted with a low hum of
admiration and anxiety. Half the audience had not known so grand a youth had lived among them. No
wonder the princess loved him! What a terrible thing for him to be there!
           As the youth advanced into the arena he turned, as the custom was, to bow to the king, but
he did not think at all of that royal personage. His eyes were fixed upon the princess, who sat to the
right of her father. Had it not been for the moiety of barbarism in her nature it is probable that lady
would not have been there, but her intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent on an
occasion in which she was so terribly interested. From the moment that the decree had gone forth that
her lover should decide his fate in the king's arena, she had thought of nothing, night or day, but this
great event and the various subjects connected with it. Possessed of more power, influence, and force
of character than any one who had ever before been interested in such a case, she had done what no
other person had done - she had possessed herself of the secret of the doors. She knew in which of the
two rooms, that lay behind those doors, stood the cage of the tiger, with its open front, and in which
waited the lady. Through these thick doors, heavily curtained with skins on the inside, it was impossible
that any noise or suggestion should come from within to the person who should approach to raise the
latch of one of them. But gold, and the power of a woman's will, had brought the secret to the princess.
           And not only did she know in which room stood the lady ready to emerge, all blushing and
radiant, should her door be opened, but she knew who the lady was. It was one of the fairest and
loveliest of the damsels of the court who had been selected as the reward of the accused youth, should
he be proved innocent of the crime of aspiring to one so far above him; and the princess hated her.
Often had she seen, or imagined that she had seen, this fair creature throwing glances of admiration
upon the person of her lover, and sometimes she thought these glances were perceived, and even
returned. Now and then she had seen them talking together; it was but for a moment or two, but much
can be said in a brief space; it may have been on most unimportant topics, but how could she know
that? The girl was lovely, but she had dared to raise her eyes to the loved one of the princess; and,
with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric
ancestors, she hated the woman who blushed and trembled behind that silent door.
           When her lover turned and looked at her, and his eye met hers as she sat there, paler and
whiter than any one in the vast ocean of anxious faces about her, he saw, by that power of quick
perception which is given to those whose souls are one, that she knew behind which door crouched the
tiger, and behind which stood the lady. He had expected her to know it. He understood her nature, and
his soul was assured that she would never rest until she had made plain to herself this thing, hidden to
all other lookers-on, even to the king. The only hope for the youth in which there was any element of
certainty was based upon the success of the princess in discovering this mystery; and the moment he
looked upon her, he saw she had succeeded, as in his soul he knew she would succeed.
           Then it was that his quick and anxious glance asked the question: "Which?" It was as plain to
her as if he shouted it from where he stood. There was not an instant to be lost. The question was
asked in a flash; it must be answered in another.
           Her right arm lay on the cushioned parapet before her. She raised her hand, and made a
slight, quick movement toward the right. No one but her lover saw her. Every eye but his was fixed on
the man in the arena.
           He turned, and with a firm and rapid step he walked across the empty space. Every heart
stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye was fixed immovably upon that man. Without the
slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it.
           Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady ?
           The more we reflect upon this question, the harder it is to answer. It involves a study of the
human heart which leads us through devious mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find our
way. Think of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the question depended upon yourself, but upon
that hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess, her soul at a white heat beneath the combined fires of
despair and jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have him?
           How often, in her waking hours and in her dreams, had she started in wild horror, and
covered her face with her hands as she thought of her lover opening the door on the other side of which
waited the cruel fangs of the tiger!
           But how much oftener had she seen him at the other door! How in her grievous reveries had
she gnashed her teeth, and torn her hair, when she saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened the
door of the lady! How her soul had burned in agony when she had seen him rush to meet that woman,
                                                                                               102
with her flushing cheek and sparkling eye of triumph; when she had seen him lead her
forth, his whole frame kindled with the joy of recovered life; when she had heard the glad shouts from
the multitude, and the wild ringing of the happy bells; when she had seen the priest, with his joyous
followers, advance to the couple, and make them man and wife before her very eyes; and when she
had seen them walk away together upon their path of flowers, followed by the tremendous shouts of
the hilarious multitude, in which her one despairing shriek was lost and drowned!
           Would it not be better for him to die at once, and go to wait for her in the blessed regions of
semi-barbaric futurity?
           And yet, that awful tiger, those shrieks, that blood!
           Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights of
anguished deliberation. She had known she would be asked, she had decided what she would answer,
and, without the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.
           The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered, and it is not for me to
presume to set myself up as the one person able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which
came out of the opened door - the lady, or the tiger?


          Poetry Unit
          Gwendolyn Brooks

                 “We Real Cool”

                    THE POOL PLAYERS.
                          SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.

                 We real cool. We
                 Left school. We

                 Lurk late. We
                 Strike straight. We

                 Sing sin. We
                 Thin gin. We

                 Jazz June. We
                 Die soon.
                                 --1960

          e. e. cummings

                 “In Just”

                        -in Just-
                 spring     when the world is mud-
                 luscious the little
                 lame balloonman

                 whistles    far       and wee

                 and eddieandbill come
                 running from marbles and
                 piracies and it's
                                                    103
      spring

      when the world is puddle-wonderful

      the queer
      old balloonman whistles
      far    and     wee
      and bettyandisbel come dancing

      from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

      it's
      spring
      and
          the

                goat-footed

      balloonMan        whistles
      far
      and
      wee


Emily Dickinson

      Untitled (use the first line as a title)

      Because I could not stop for Death,
      He kindly stopped for me;
      The carriage held but just ourselves
      And Immortality.

      We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
      And I had put away
      My labor, and my leisure too,
      For his civility.

      We passed the school, where children strove
      At recess, in the ring;
      We passed the fields of gazing grain,
      We passed the setting sun.

      Or rather, be passed us;
      The dews grew quivering and chill,
      For only gossamer my gown,
      My tippet only tulle.

      We paused before house that seemed
      A swelling of the ground;
                                                          104
      The roof was scarcely visible,
      The cornice but a mound.

      Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
      Feels shorter than the day
      I first surmised the horses' heads
      Were toward eternity.

Robert Frost

      “Mending Wall”

      Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
      That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
      And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
      And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
      The work of hunters is another thing:
      I have come after them and made repair
      Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
      But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
      To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
      No one has seen them made or heard them made,
      But at spring mending-time we find them there.
      I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
      And on a day we meet to walk the line
      And set the wall between us once again.
      We keep the wall between us as we go.
      To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
      And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
      We have to use a spell to make them balance:
      "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
      We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
      Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
      One on a side. It comes to little more:
      There where it is we do not need the wall:
      He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
      My apple trees will never get across
      And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
      He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
      Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
      If I could put a notion in his head:
      "Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
      Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
      Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
      What I was walling in or walling out,
      And to whom I was like to give offence.
      Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
      That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
      But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
      He said it for himself. I see him there
      Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
                                                           105
      In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
      He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
      Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
      He will not go behind his father's saying,
      And he likes having thought of it so well
      He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."


      “The Road Not Taken”

      Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
      And sorry I could not travel both
      And be one traveler, long I stood
      And looked down one as far as I could
      To where it bent in the undergrowth;

      Then took the other, as just as fair,
      And having perhaps the better claim,
      Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
      Though as for that the passing there
      Had worn them really about the same,

      And both that morning equally lay
      In leaves no step had trodden black.
      Oh, I kept the first for another day!
      Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
      I doubted if I should ever come back.

      I shall be telling this with a sigh
      Somewhere ages and ages hence:
      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
      I took the one less traveled by,
      And that has made all the difference.


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

      “Theme for English B”

      The instructor said,

        Go home and write
        a page tonight.
        And let that page come out of you--
        Then, it will be true.

      I wonder if it's that simple?
      I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
      I went to school there, then Durham, then here
      to this college on the hill above Harlem.
      I am the only colored student in my class.
                                                         106
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me--we two--you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me--who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records--Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white--
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me--
although you're older--and white--
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.


“Ballad of the Landlord”

Landlord, landlord,
My roof has sprung a leak.
Don't you 'member I told you about it
Way last week?

Landlord, landlord,
These steps is broken down.
When you come up yourself
It's a wonder you don't fall down.

Ten Bucks you say I owe you?
Ten Bucks you say is due?
Well, that's Ten Bucks more'n I'l pay you
                                            107
Till you fix this house up new.

What? You gonna get eviction orders?
You gonna cut off my heat?
You gonna take my furniture and
Throw it in the street?

Um-huh! You talking high and mighty.
Talk on-till you get through.
You ain't gonn a be able to say a word
If I land my fist on you.

Police! Police!
Come and get this man!
He's trying to ruin the government
And overturn the land!

Copper's whistle!
Patrol bell!
Arrest.
Precinct Station.
Iron cell.
Headlines in press:
MAN THREATENS LANDLORD
TENANT HELD NO BAIL
JUDGE GIVES NEGRO 90 DAYS IN COUNTY JAIL!


“Dream Deferred”

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?


“Dream Boogie”

Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?
Listen closely:
You'll hear their feet
                                                                         108
      Beating out and Beating out a --
      You think
      It's a happy beat?
      Listen to it closely:
      Ain't you heard
      something underneath
      like a --
      What did I say?
      Sure,
      I'm happy!
      Take it away!
      Hey, pop!
      Re-bop!
      Mop!
      Y-e-a-h!

Adrienne Rich

      “V”

      This apartment full of books could crack open
      to the thick jaws, the bulging eyes
      of monsters, easily: Once open the books, you have to face
      the underside of everything you've loved -
      the rack and pincers held in readiness, the gag
      even the best voices have had to mumble through,
      the silence burying unwanted children -
      women, deviants, witness - in desert sand.
      Kenneth tells me he's been arranging his books
      so he can look at Blake and Kafka while he types;
      Yes; and we still have to reckon with Swift
      loathing the women's flesh while praising her mind,
      Goethe's dread of the mothers, Claudel vilifying Gide,
      and the ghosts - their hands clasped for centuries -
      of artists dying in childbirth, wise-women charred at the stake,
      Centuries of books unwritten piled behind these shelves;
      and we still have to stare into absence
      of men who would not, women who could not, speak
      to our life - this still unexcavated hole
      called civilization, this act of translation, this half - world.

      “VI”

      Your small hands, precisely equal to my own -
      only the thumb is larger, longer - in these hands
      I could trust the world, or in many hands like these,
      handling power-tools or steering-wheel
      or touching a human face...such hands could turn
      the unborn child rightways in the birth canal
      or pilot the exploratory rescue-ship
      through icebergs, or piece together
                                                               109
the fine, needle-like shreds of a great krater-cup
bearing on its sides
fingers of ecstatic women striding
to the sibyl's den or the Eleusinian cave -
such hands might carry out an unavoidable violence
with such restraint, with such a grasp
of the range and limits of violence
that violence ever after would be obsolete.

“VII”

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
- and yet, writing words like these, I'm also living.
Is all this close to the wolverine's howled signals,
that modulated cantana of the wild?
or, when away from you I try to create you in words,
am I simply using you, like a river or a war?
And how have I used rivers, how have I used wars
to escape writing of the worst thing of all -
not the crimes of others, not even our own death,
but the failure to want our own freedom passionately enough
so that blighted elms, sick rivers, massacres would seem
mere emblems of that desecration of ourselves?


“Hunger”
--for Audre Lorde

1.
A fogged hill-scene on an enormous continent,
intimacy rigged with terrors,
a sequence of blurs the Chinese painter's ink-stick planned,
a scene of desolation comforted
by two human figures recklessly exposed,
leaning together in a sticklike boat
in the foreground. Maybe we look like this,
I don't know. I'm wondering
whether we even have what we think we have--
lighted windows signifying shelter,
a film of domesticity
over fragile roofs. I know I'm partly somewhere else--
huts strung across a drought-stretched land
not mine, dried breasts, mine and not mine, a mother
watching my children shrink with hunger.
I live in my Western skin,
my Western vision, torn
and flung to what I can't control or even fathom.
Quantify suffering, you could rule the world.

2.
                                                              110
They can rule the world while they can persuade us
our pain belongs in some order.
Is death by famine worse than death by suicide,
than a life of famine and suicide, if a black lesbian dies,
if a white prostitute dies, if a woman genius
starves herself to feed others,
self-hatred battening on her body?
Something that kills us or leaves us half-alive
is raging under the name of an "act of god"
in Chad, in Niger, in the Upper Volta--
yes, that male god that acts on us and on our children,
that male State that acts on us and on our children
till our brains are blunted by malnutrition,
yet sharpened by the passion for survival,
our powers expended daily on the struggle
to hand a kind of life on to our children,
to change reality for our lovers
even in a single trembling drop of water.

3.
We can look at each other through both our lifetimes
like those two figures in the sticklike boat
flung together in the Chinese ink-scene;
even our intimacies are rigged with terror.
Quantify suffering? My guilt at least is open,
I stand convicted by all my convictions--
you, too. We shrink from touching
our power, we shrink away, we starve ourselves
and each other, we're scared shitless
of what it could be to take and use our love,
hose it on a city, on a world,
to wield and guide its spray, destroying
poisons, parasites, rats, viruses--
like the terrible mothers we long and dread to be.

4.
The decision to feed the world
is the real decision. No revolution
has chosen it. For that choice requires
that women shall be free.
I choke on the taste of bread in North America
but the taste of hunger in North America
is poisoning me. Yes, I'm alive to write these words,
to leaf through Kollwitz's women
huddling the stricken children into their stricken arms
the "mothers" drained of milk, the "survivors" driven
to self-abortion, self-starvation, to a vision
bitter, concrete, and wordless.
I'm alive to want more than life,
want it for others starving and unborn,
to name the deprivations boring
                                                             111
     into my will, my affections, into the brains
     of daughters, sisters, lovers caught in the crossfire
     of terrorists of the mind.
     In the black mirror of the subway window
     hangs my own face, hollow with anger and desire.
     Swathed in exhaustion, on the trampled newsprint,
     a woman shields a dead child from the camera.
     The passion to be inscribes her body.
     Until we find each other, we are alone.


Yusef Komunyakaa

     “Toys in a Field”

     Using the gun mounts
     for monkey bars,
     children skin the cat,
     pulling themselves through,
     suspended in doorways
     of abandoned helicopters
     in graveyards. With arms
     spread-eagled they imitate
     vultures landing in fields.
     Their play is silent
     as distant rain,
     the volume turned down
     on the 6 o’clock news,
     except for the boy
     with American eyes
     who keeps singing
     rat-a-tat-tat, hugging
     a broken machine gun.


     “Please”

     Forgive me, soldier.
     Forgive my right hand
     for pointing you
     to the flawless
     tree line now
     outlined in my brain.
     There was so much
     bloodsky at daybreak
     in Pleiku, but I won’t say
     those infernal guns
     blinded me on that hill.

     Mistakes piled up men like clouds
     pushed to the dark side.
                                            112
Sometimes I try to retrace
them, running
fingers down the map
telling less than a woman’s body—
we followed the grid coordinates
in some battalion commander’s mind.
If I could make my mouth
unsay those orders,
I’d holler: Don’t
move a muscle. Stay put,
keep your fucking head
down, soldier.

Ambush. Gutsmoke.
Last night while making love
I cried out, Hit the dirt!
I’ve tried to swallow my tongue.
You were a greenhorn, so fearless,
even foolish, & when I said go,
Henry, you went dancing on a red string
of bullets from that tree line
as it moved from a low cloud.


“Camouflaging the Chimera”

We tied branches to our helmets.
We painted our faces & rifles
with mud from a riverbank,

blades of grass hung from the pockets
of our tiger suits. We wove
ourselves into the terrain,
content to be a hummingbird's target.

We hugged bamboo & leaned
against a breeze off the river,
slow-dragging with ghosts

from Saigon to Bangkok,
with women left in doorways
reaching in from America.
We aimed at dark-hearted songbirds.

In our way station of shadows
rock apes tried to blow our cover
throwing stones at the sunset. Chameleons

crawled our spines, changing from day
to night: green to gold,
gold to black. But we waited
till the moon touched metal,

till something almost broke
inside us. VC struggled
                                                                    113
       with the hillside, like black silk

       wrestling iron through grass.
       We weren't there. The river ran
       through our bones. Small animals took refuge
       against our bodies; we held our breath,

       ready to spring the L-shaped
       ambush, as a world revolved
       under each man's eyelid.


Bruce Smith

       “The Piano Lost in the Divorce”

       We love each other now
              As we loved each other then:
       always and seldom. What’s changed is the how
              and why and the when.

       Now one wants the heirloom endowed
                with purple, the hammers loud red
       felt; the other wants what’s owed
                on the mortgage: the pledge of the dead.

       One wants what moved through the rooms like a nurse
              bringing something for a fever.
       It made us howl. It makes us curse
              the family and the family’s curse: money and power.

       Too little money, and the power to hold
               a pedal down. The air sustains us.
       It gives us something. It withholds.
               Now, the most heinous

       acts we perform like a nocturn
              for the two hands behind the back.
       Art lovers: it’s art and love that monster
              us and move us to take an axe

       to the lid, then the keys and the hammers
                and strings, true percussions
       for the faithlessly wed, amateurs
                of hate and its improvisations.


Billy Collins

       “Introduction To Poetry”

       I ask them to take a poem
                                                      114
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


“Japan”

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It's the one about the one-ton temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,
                                                                 115

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it at the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.


“Forgetfulness”

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
                                                                 116
      to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
      No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
      out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


Edna St. Vincent Millay

      “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”

      What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
      I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
      Under my head till morning; but the rain
      Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
      Upon the glass and listen for reply;
      And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
      For unremembered lads that not again
      Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
      Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
      Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
      Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
      I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
      I only know that summer sang in me
      A little while, that in me sings no more.


Dylan Thomas

      “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

      Do not go gentle into that good night,
      Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
      Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
      Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
      Because their words had forked no lightning they
      Do not go gentle into that good night.
      Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
      Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
      Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
      Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
      And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
      Do not go gentle into that good night.
      Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
      Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
      Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
      And you, my father, there on the sad height,
      Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
      Do not go gentle into that good night.
      Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Walt Whitman
                                                                                   117

      “Cavalry Crossing A Ford”

      A line in long array where they wind betwixt green islands,
      They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun - hark to the
           musical clank,
      Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop to drink,
      Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person a picture, the negligent rest on the
      saddles,
      Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the ford - while,
      Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
      The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.


Ted Kooser

      “Abandoned Farmhouse”

      He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
      on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
      a tall man too, says the length of the bed
      in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
      says the Bible with a broken back
      on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
      but not a man for farming, say the fields
      cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

      A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
      papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
      covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
      says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
      Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
      and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
      And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
      It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

      Something went wrong, says the empty house
      in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
      say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
      in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
      And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
      like branches after a storm - a rubber cow,
      a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
      a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.


William Carlos Williams

      “The Red Wheelbarrow”
                                                        118
       so much depends
       upon

       a red wheel
       barrow

       glazed with rain
       water

       beside the white
       chickens.


Lucille Clifton

       “Miss Rosie”

       when I watch you
       wrapped up like garbage
       sitting, surrounded by the smell
       of too old potato peels
       or
       when I watch you
       in your old man's shoes
       with the little toe cut out
       sitting, waiting for your mind
       like next week's grocery
       I say
       when I watch you
       you wet brown bag of a woman
       who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia
       used to be called the Georgia Rose
       I stand up
       through your destruction
       I stand up

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:179
posted:5/24/2012
language:English
pages:118
handongqp handongqp
About