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Cover by Marius Sznajderman
SUMMER 19 5 0
PUBLISHED QUARTERLY AT THE SCHOOL OF GENERAL STUDIES, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
VOLUME I , ISSUE 4
THE TABBY CAT Paul Rader
came over the rise from Tthe creek and heard the clank-clank of HE LITTLE BOY
| the well engine, too far in the distance because the slant light from the west, red through the trees, meant that the sun was down in the dust. Old man Toohey would be yelling for him in a minute and Ruff would come with the blue mares and the water wagon. He picked a burr off of his stocking, rubbed his sore knees, and hurried on over the slick earth that was brown and bloodied with autumn leaves. He had crouched at the creek edge for an hour with a worm on a pin on a string hung down in the green secrets under the rainbowed oil. Ruff caught fish there, fives and tens of them that would lie on the bank making faces until Toohey came with a big knife and sliced them down the middle. Christ a'mighty, Toohey said, you ain't big enough to catch a crawdad, but he gave him the string and the pin and a sinker and said if you fall in I'll skin you alive.
He left the path and cut straight for the rig, going by the engine noises and the whinnying of the drill line through the derrick. Right over his head he heard dead leaves spinning in the red branches, and blackbird cries from over the creek. He ran harder and harder until one foot tripped the other and he fell on his hands in the cold winterweed. "T for Texas, T for Tennessee," a voice came singing, crying over the ground. The little boy sprang back on his knees and looked backward and sideways. "T for Thelma, that gal who made a fool out of me . . ." There it was, lying flat in the leaves under a wildberry bush. A tiger, a tabby cat. A big one. The little boy edged away, then changed his mind and stood firm. He pushed the bill of his cap back and picked up a stick and went over creeping, peering, ready to run and yell. "Oh, gimme some water," the tabby cat said. "You ain't a tabby cat," the little boy said, holding his breath. "Yes, I is," the tabby cat moaned. "Cain't you see I is? Go gimme some water from the crick." "I cain't,"the little boy said, backing away. "I got to go." "Gimme just a little bit." The tabby cat groaned and rustled the leaves and looked at him. It had a black face sticking out from the dirty stripes, and a round cap of grey hair and red eyes. "I got a hole in me that let all the water out." "Ruff says the crick water ain't no good. It's got oil in it." "I don't care." The tabby flopped its head. "Do you hear something going ruck-ruck, ruck-ruck? Some little old animal?" "No," the little boy said, and he listened hard. "Something been crawling round my head all day â€” ruckruck, ruck-ruck like that." The tabby had little clouds of gnats buzzing over its eyes, and the boy brushed at them with his stick. "I cain't hear nothing but that old ruck-ruck, and I cain't see. I ain't got no hands and no feet it don't seem. Oh, my. Where's that old man who took me down to the crick? He dipped me in Brazus crick and say, oh there, see the light? Ain't it pretty flashing up? He say, oh there, see the light? And I had my head in that warm old water." "What that ruck-ruck?" The tabby flopped its head again. "Where my water?"
"I'll get Ruff to bring some," the little boy said. "He's my uncle and he'll bring you some good water." "No, Ruv'U shoot this tabby. I don't want no good water." "Then I got to go." "Sure. I go with you. Ever hear that song that go . . . T for Texas?" The tabby cat sang out in a thin cry. ". . . rather drink muddy water an' sleep in a hollow log, than drink cherry wine an' be kicked around like a dog." "I'm going," the little boy said. "Sure. Here I is right with you." "No you ain't." "It go . . . listen . . . it go . . . rather sleep in muddy water . . . an kick around like a dog." "It go . . . kick around like a dog." The tabby cat shivered. "Brazus," it screamed. The little boy stumbled backward, then picked himself up and ran. He ran until he reached the wooden derrick in the clearing and he started yelling Toohey and Ruff. He climbed up the wooden stairs to the catwalk, edged by the big mean rocker arm, then ran into the engine shack where Toohey was. He pulled at Toohey's pant leg until the old man put down his oil can and shut off the engine. "What's the matter, Billy? Didn't you catch no fish?" "Where's Ruff?" "Why, he's coming." Toohey picked up the little boy and carried him out of the engine shack and back across the catwalk. "Did you get a cold out there, big boy? Your nose is running all over the place." Toohey took a big dirty handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped at Billy's face. "I got to see Ruff," Billy said, turning his face away from the handkerchief. "Well, by golly, there he is now." The big water wagon was coming down the hill with the blue mares skidding and holding back and Ruff waving from the seat. "We'll just close down this old sink hole now and go home." The water wagon drew up beside the well and Ruff reined the mares in and hopped down. The little boy struggled away
from Toohey and ran to meet Ruff. He grabbed the big man's hand and hung on. "Come on with me, Ruff." "What's the matter there, Jack Sprat?" "I want to show you something." "Show me something? Where?" "Over in the woods." Billy jabbed toward the trees with his thumb, then pulled at RufFs hand with both of his. Ruff let his leather glove slip off and caught the little boy as he fell backward. "We ain't going into no woods," he laughed. "We're going home and eat supper. What was you doing in the woods anyway?" "I let him go over to the crick to fish," Toohey called down from the catwalk." "By himself?" "Sure. Why the hell not? The crick's only six inches deep in the middle." "Yeah, but if Harry knew that baby was wandering around by himself down here, he'd skin me alive." "I can see Harry skinning you alive. Come on up here and help me with the drill." Billy hung on to Ruff and wouldn't let go. He put his teeth against the man's knuckles and bit. "Cripes " Ruff said. "What the hell?" "I want to show you the tabby cat, Ruff. It's got to have some water." "Listen, Buster. If you seen a wild old tabby, it'll be half way to blazes by now." "It wasn't a tabby cat." "Well, what was it? A tiger?" Ruff winked up at Toohey. "I don't know." Billy started crying and wiped a muddy hand across his face. "Oh, Jesus," Ruff said. "Don't cry, honey." He picked up the little boy and carried him over the catwalk and put him down. "You stand right there until Toohey and I get done. Then well all go home before it gets cold and dark." Ruff and Toohey unscrewed the bit from the drill with a big Stillson wrench and the boy watched them and kept crying to himself.
"I sure wish you hadn't let him go to the crick, Toohey. He'll talk about it when he gets home." "Okay," the old man said sharply, straining against the wrench handle. "The next time you want to goof off you leave the kid at home. He was doing better down at the crick than hanging around the well here." "Well, you just don't say anything about me leaving him here at all." Toohey shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose you got what you was looking for?" he said. "Sure," Ruff grinned. "It was just like falling off a log." "I'd tell your wife, if I gave a damn. Which I don't." "She figures I'm minding my own business when I have Rose's baby with me." "You take a lot of pains," the old man said. "Someday you'll learn it ain't worth the trouble." They tied the drill line down and the steel cable clattered and whined up the length of the derrick. Toohey picked up his jacket and his lunch pail and Ruff jumped over to the boy's side and swung him up to his shoulders. "Hang on for the big jump," Ruff shouted and sprang off to the ground. The boy hung on to his hair and kept on crying. "Say hello to Betsy and Blue Girl," Ruff said. "They been a good patient team today." Billy looked into the big eyes of the mares and turned his head. "The tabby cat had red eyes, Ruff. And it said it had to have some water." "You wasn't even close enough to see its eyes, Jack Sprat. You quit spoofing me or I'll tabby cat you." sat lost on the wagon seat between the two men and he could smell the smoke of their pipes drifting down and heard the slosh-slosh of the water in the tank under him. The blue backs of the mares rose and fell as the wagon went up the road. He thought about the tabby cat screaming brazus, or whatever it screamed, and he started crying again. Ruff had said I'll tabby cat you, but he couldn't help it. "Listen," Ruff said down to him. "Even if we went back and found the old tabby we'd just have to shoot him. They ain't no good after they go wild. It'd kill mama's chicken and if you tried to pet it, it'd just scratch your eyes out." THE LITTLE BOY
Billy looked up at Ruff's mouth with the pipe hanging out of it and bouncing smoke as he talked. "What if you shot a hole in it, Ruff?" "Why, it would lay out there dead and the ants would start crawling all over it, and pretty soon it'd smell worst than Toohey's crick." Billy started shivering and Ruff reached down and turned his coat collar over his neck and pushed his cap down over his ears. "You better hope he didn't catch a fever," Toohey said. The wagon turned on to the main road and the Magnolia tanks across the fields were white-bellied to the late sun. They looked like big fish puffed up, ready to explode, and the little boy cringed down on the seat. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a black pumping line slithering back and forth across a field, a black snake going for the tabby cat. The ants would get there first and the tabby's head would flop and it would scream brazus. The tabby cat ate a chicken and somebody shot a hole in it and let all the water out. "The tabby cat went teefaw, teefaw . . ." "You shut up," Ruff said. "It did. It did." The little boy clinched his eyes and hit RufFs knee with his fist. The wagon passed over a wooden bridge that was being worked on and there were big kegs of nails and planks lining each side. A prison guard waved a red lantern and Ruff and Toohey waved back. "Have you caught your man yet?" Toohey called. "Naw," the guard said. "We went through the woods again last night, but we figure he's headed for West Texas where he come from." "Think he'll make it?" Ruff said. "Naw sir. He's an old man and he ain't likely to get far in that uniform. Anyhow, we ain't much worried. We figure he might have a hole in his back." "Well, if I see him I'll give him a new suit and a ten dollar bill," Toohey said. The guard grinned and waved the wagon on. "I wouldn't turn a man back to those bastards for a thousand dollars," Toohey said when the wagon got over the bridge. 6
"I reckon I would," Ruff said, "for about half that." Toohey shrugged. "I figure no man, black or white, is mean enough to be chained in this hole. It's beginning to smell like one big slush pool." "I don't remember it smelling like anything else," Ruff said, sticking his nose in the air. "Especially after the sun goes down." "What'll happen to the tabby cat when the sun goes down, Ruff?" "Chase cats and little boys." Billy saw two waste-gas flares over the mares' backs, glowing red slits deep in an oil swamp, tabby cat eyes looking for him because he didn't bring it any water. He stuck his head under Ruff's arm. "Don't do that, honey," Ruff said. "Look, we're coming in to town." The little boy peeped out and saw dirty Model T's angleparked in front of the grey plank store porches. Delco lights blinked on the filling station and grey bats played tag around the gasoline pumps. A touring car load of Indians sat in front of the general store, lying back with their feet propped up, listening to "Red River Valley" crackle out of a gramophone. "Goddam it, they're going to own the country again in five years," Ruff said. "I want to go home, Ruff," Billy said. The tabby cat was slinking along in back of the wagon and he could feel its red eyes without looking. "We're going to drop off Toohey, then home you go, Jack Sprat." Toohey climbed down when the wagon stopped and Ruff handed him his lunch pail. "You better not bring the baby down to my place anymore," Toohey said. "The rig might be blowing gas any day." Ruff hesitated and fingered the reins. "What am I going to do with him?" "Leave him alone," the old man said sharply and walked off across his yard. came out of the house when Ruff pulled up to the gate. He held the reins with one hand and swung Billy ROSE AND HARRY
down to Rose with the other. The little boy started crying again and buried his face in his mother's hair. "What's the matter with him?" Harry said up to Ruff. "Well, you know how funny he is about cats. He seen an old tabby down at Toohey's well, and he wanted to bring it home. Of course, the critter blew off to hell and gone when I tried to catch it." "I hope you didn't let him get down from the wagon at Toohey's," Rose said. "That swamp's full of fever." "Oh, no. He seen the cat from the wagon." "Did you have a good run today?" Harry asked. "Usual thing. There ain't much to handing water out to drillers." "Well, I sure hope you keep this job, Ruff. At least till Bernice gets well. She's proud to have you working, no matter what you're doing." "Hell, I'm going to keep the job," Ruff said and jerked at the reins. "Thanks for taking the baby along," Rose called after him. "I sure got a lot of work done today." along through the swamp toward him, its eyes getting bigger and redder, and he couldn't move. It said teefaw, tax-uz, teefaw tax-uz, you didn't bring me no water. "Mama," he screamed. "I'm here, honey." Rose came into the room with a coal oil lamp. "I'm here." "How is he?" Ruff said from the doorway. "He's been taking on like this ever since you brought him home at supper," Harry said. "It's that tabby cat he seen," Ruff said. "He just can't get it out of his head, I'll bet." "I'm going to tabby cat him if he keeps on crying," Harry said. "He's keeping the other kids awake." "I brought him something that's going to make him quit crying," Ruff said. He pulled a kitten from his coat pocket. "I found this in my barn." "Look there what Uncle RufFs got," Rose said, holding the baby's head up. "Just look at that." "Let me talk to him, Rose. I bet I can have him to sleep in two minutes." IT WAS CRAWLING
"Sure," Rose tiptoed out of the room. "You bring the lamp with you when you come." "And come on back to the kitchen," Harry said. "I got something back there." "Look what I brought you, Jack Sprat," Ruff said to Billy when the door closed. He put the kitten down on the sheet and tickled its ear. "You didn't see the tabby cat, Ruff," Billy said, staring up at the big man. "Sure I seen it. Right behind your back." "What'd it look like?" "Well, it had black and yellow stripes and a tail that stuck straight up in the air." "You didn't see it." The little boy began to cry. "What did it say?" "Hush now, honey. It didn't say nothing. But ain't you going to say thank you for what I brought?" The little boy turned his face away and pushed the kitten aside with his hand. "Even after I brought it all the way over here in the rain?" Ruff picked the kitten up and set it on Billy's shoulder. It sprawled there and licked its paw. "What kind of animal goes ruck-ruck?" the little boy said into his pillow. "Why, there ain't no animal that goes that way, honey." "Yes, there is," the boy screamed and put his hands over his ears. The kitten scrambled off of his shoulder and curled up on the sheet. The little boy settled down to crying again and after a minute Ruff took the coal oil lamp and tiptoed out of the room. "How is he?" Rose called from the back bedroom as Ruff passed by the door. "Why, he's fine as far as I can see," Ruff said. He turned down the wick of the lamp and carried it on back to the kitchen where Harry was and said he had something.
PAUL RADER makes his first published appearance with THE TABBY CAT, a story written in Martha Foley's Short Story Workshop. He has half-completed a novel.
ON MORNINGS WINGS
Over an earth abed in snow, two grey-brown sparrows fiercely go, darting for depths of steel-blue sky, shadow-dots on the world below. How quick the flight, how shrill their cry, fast-fading from the straining eye! But they will not spin out so far, nor move so fast, nor soar so high, that they would brush a hanging star, to bruise a wing or burn a scar. For they are dwellers of the hedge, down where the low-thrust branches are. All summer's stay they hop the ledge and trespass there, or slyly edge along the parching lips of springs that slowly grope between the sedge. When dawns are free of stronger wings the eye can see these grey-brown things sweep out and climb the air in stride, as morning calls her underlings. â€” JAMES C. MORRIS
SOMETHING LEFT OVER Bruce Cameron JTLORA LIFTED her hands from the soapy dishwater, shook them over the sink and then wiped them carefully on her apron. Her cheeks were flushed for, while leaning there, absent-mindedly dragging her hand across the bottom of the sink in search of silverware, she remembered with sudden vividness that she had been bending like this, washing dishes, when the salesman from San Antonio got up from the table and slipped his arms about her. She could still feel his anxious fingers pressing her, taking possession of her full breasts and molding them as if they were for his hands alone. Was it only an hour ago that he had left? She suddenly felt hungry for him, as if it had been weeks and weeks, and she was full of the emotion that Douglas never saw in her nowadays. The thought of Douglas stirred her restlessly. She dropped her apron, smoothed it as she walked to the screen door and stared out into the back yard. Hot. God, it was hot! It had been boiling all week, but today was worse than ever. Texas: how she hated it. She wished Douglas had gotten a job somewhere else. Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, anywhere but dry, barren Texas with its puny little bushes and its puny little hills. Why couldn't he pick fruit, dig ditches or drive trucks in Florida rather than Texas? Jacksonville. Now there was a town she liked. And so near home. She closed her eyes and tried to picture Jacksonville, but all she could conjure behind her heavy lids was the figure of the salesman from San Antonio who had slipped his arms around her that morning. She opened her eyes and glared out at the low hill swelling behind their house, following its brownish ridge as it drew an irregular line across the pale sky. The sun wasn't a ball of fire, like some folks said, it was a sheet of white light; so white it blinded one to even look up into the sky. She blinked and
drew her gaze down the hill, past the shallow pit Douglas had dug for garbage, past the outhouse which was beginning to sink on one side, giving it a crazy angle that kept the door swung open all the time. Her eyes hesitated and clung for a moment on the chicken-wire fence Douglas had started to put up but had abandoned because he was too tired. Several yards of the wire were flimsily nailed to a few runted posts. The rest lay in a large bulky roll that was already beginning to gather weeds and rust. To one side of the wire was a square of weeds all but hiding a few withered tomato plants. You couldn't grow anything in this ground, not just by digging and watering and planting. You had to pour so much fertilizer into the soil that it ended up cheaper for Douglas to buy everything at the store. Nothing grew but that damn pecan tree. She didn't do anything to it, but there it was, as arrogant as could be. Her eyes lowered from its crown and followed the trunk until it disappeared into the humped earth. Her restless gaze fell and remained on Celinda. She was sitting in a small patch of shade, her legs crossed, her hands clutching a stick which she was beating against the stubble of grass poking up through the parched earth. Her pink dress was dirt-streaked and gathered around her waist. Celinda. Five. It didn't seem possible. Five years and still crawling. Pretty. Flora's eyes lighted as she studied her daughter. Yes, she was prettier than any child in the neighborhood. If she would only get up and walk. Flora lifted her arm to push the screen door open when a thick, hot breeze whipped up suddenly, swerved across the back yard and pressed against her, puffing out her house dress, panting against her damp skin. She shivered and thought again of the salesman. Was it only an hour ago? She turned and ran through the three-room house to the bedroom. It was true. He had been here. There was the evidence. She walked over to the bed and picked up a pair of black lace step-ins and brassiere to match. She held first one and then the other up to her, posing before the yellowish mirror of her dresser. "I'd like to see these on you." It was as if the salesman were standing in front of her now, smiling and holding them up against her as she was now doing. Only, when she had accepted his dare to model them he had followed her into the bedroom and she never got around to trying them on. Now . . . she 12
whipped her apron off, unbuttoned her house dress and stood naked before the mirror as she slipped into the black underclothing. She studied her reflection, stroking the blonde hair that hung loosely on her shoulders. There was a freshness to her skin that glowed and stood out now that the black lace provoked a contrast. Even after ten years of being married to Douglas, living first in one state and then another, always in some dirty run-down shanty on the outskirts of town, always washing, cooking, scrubbing, bearing two children, she knew she was still attractive. Twenty-five, that isn't old, she thought. Her eyes moved up and down slowly as she stared admiringly at her full, round figure, at her strong legs and at her smooth shoulders. Only her hands showed the labor that had been thrust upon her. They were rough, scarred, and red. Too big for my small wrists, she thought. She drew her arms behind her back and smiled. Maybe if she put these on tonight, Douglas would find her as tempting as the salesman had. She turned sideways and placed her hand on her hip and then saw that she was frowning at the thought. No, he wouldn't. He'd want to know where she got them. He knew she had no money, for today was payday and they had been out of money for three days. No, she'd have to put them away and wait. The salesman said he'd be back next month. Then she could get them out. A dog's sharp barking broke into her thoughts. "Rex," she said aloud. "So you're back." She turned and faced the mirror and laughed. He had left two days ago, racing determinedly along with a pack of dogs after that yellow bitch down the street. He's probably hungry, dirty and looks like hell, she thought, undressing. She slipped into her housedress and then packed the underclothing away. When she returned to the kitchen, Rex was nuzzling the screen door. He was a large collie with a pointed head and nose. His brown fur was shaggy and filled with briars. "Had a big time, huh?" Flora said to him. He barked again, his head turning as he followed her movement across the kitchen to the door. She stood there, one hand raised to push open the screen, when she saw Celinda. The little girl was crawling madly across the back yard, laughing gaily, her hands flapping down against the ground with a strength that shook Flora. Why doesn't she get up and walk? Five is plenty of time. Plenty of time. But she 13
wouldn't. She didn't even talk. Just smiled and crawled and made funny noises all the time . . . all the time. Flora dropped her hand and watched her daughter plop up behind the dog, butting its hind legs with her golden head, at the same time imitating a growl. The collie turned its head, looked at the child and wagged its tail. "Stand up, Celinda," Flora said. Celinda sat back with a thump, crossed her long legs and looked up at her mother, a smile frozen on her face. "Stand up, understand." Celinda clapped her hands, shook her head so that her hair fell down over her eyes and growled again. Flora sighed and then felt herself stiffen as a quick fear stabbed. What if today's affair with the salesman made her pregnant? She tried counting back how long it had been since Douglas had had her in his arms. Too long, she thought. And then aloud she said, "Too long to make it look right." She thought of the lace step-ins in her dresser. Maybe if she put them on tonight Douglas would stay awake long enough to . . . to . . . She couldn't bring herself around to thinking of it in terms of words. She tried to think of Douglas in terms of pictures, but there was little to remember. Ten years ago, yes, but Douglas was forty-five now. He came home weary, dirty and dead tired. He'd just eat, sit with Celinda on his lap while she washed the dishes, then he'd wander into the bedroom and would be sound asleep by the time she had gotten Celinda and Ralph to bed. How long, she thought, how long since Douglas has stayed awake for me? She counted on her fingers and suddenly said: "Why, it's been five months! No wonder that salesman found me so willing." The collie barked at the sound of her voice and Flora W e buy and sell
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drew her eyes back to him and smiled. Celinda was sitting still, her head bent forward, her hair hanging down to the tip of her nose which she was picking. "Dirty," Flora said, shaking her head. Celinda looked up and shook her head. Five years, Flora thought â€” no, it's going on six. Six years since that funny man with the Model T and the wooden trailer parked in their back yard in New Orleans. Celinda was just like him. Funny Douglas had never said how much alike Celinda and the man in New Orleans were. He couldn't talk, just made funny noises like Celinda. He had never seemed interested in anything, just coming and going, sleeping in that tiny house trailer, puttering around with old boxes and papers and junk he collected and sold. She could see him now, a big man with shoulders twice as broad as Douglas'. You couldn't tell whether he was young or old, for he was always grinning like Celinda. In fact she always thought he never paid any attention to women until one morning after Douglas had gone to work, he came into the house for a pail of water. She was in the kitchen in her house dress, like the one she was wearing now. When he filled the pail and turned, sloshing water on the drain board, he began looking at her with a strange expression. She had smiled and he suddenly put the pail down and came toward her, his eyes bright. She could feel him now, lifting her up in his strong arms and carrying her into the bedroom. That had been when Ralph was three and was bouncing around the house. He had stood outside her door, pounding to get in, crying while she lay laughing in the arms of that strange man who made love to her with funny little animal noises gurgling in his throat. After that he came to her every day for a week. Then one morning when she got up, his trailer and Model T were gone. She never saw him again. Yet here he was in Celinda. Only she had Flora's blonde hair, her sturdiness and her pretty features. But she didn't talk. That he had given her. Yet Douglas never suspected. All he ever said was, "Slow. She'll learn. She'll pick up. Some takes time." Once again the fear tugged within her. What if today meant another child? She tried to picture a boy like the salesman from San Antonio, a short, solid little man with a round face and a flair for sporty clothes. Any son of his would be a fast talker, filling everyone with laughs and stories. What a man with 15
the women he'd be! Not like her son, Ralph. He was another Douglas, slow, calm, already looking like his father. "Woof." Flora's head jerked up and she saw Ralph on his hands and knees, crawling around the end of the house toward Celinda, his school books tied with a strap and dragging on the ground behind him. "Woof!" He growled and shook his head. Celinda tensed the muscles in her throat and growled back, showing him her sharp, pointed little teeth. She then leaned forward and pushed herself up on her hands and knees and faced her brother. The collie turned, sat down on a step and watched them sternly. "Woof!" Ralph barked again and then said, "You're a little mad dog. So am I." "Ralph! Get up this minute. Quit teasin' Celinda." Ralph jumped up, frightened by the sharp tone of his mother's voice. He was eight, tall and lanky for his age, with a flat nose like his father and thin lips that now were pressed tightly together. His face was dotted with freckles and his overalls were dirty and patched. He was barefoot and the dirt was caked between his toes. A ring of gray mud had dried around his ankles, telling Flora that he had disobeyed her again and had been wading through the mud flats at the far end of the street. Flora met his serious gaze and her tone softened as she added, "You shouldn't talk that way to Celinda. She's slow, that's all." "The fellows at school say she's a little mad dog. They yell all the time, Ralphy's got a sister who thinks she's a dog. Ralphy's got a . . . " "Ralph!" "Well, they say it." "It ain't true. Celinda's only slow. Your pa says so." Ralph looked down at Celinda, who was now crawling toward the collie, growling and shaking her head so that her hair flopped wildly over her face, hiding it. The dog stood up, came down the steps and lowered his head, sniffing as he pushed his pointed nose through the hair. Celinda growled louder and then sat back quickly and clapped her hands. "See, ma," Ralph said, pointing. "Shut up and come inside. You're a mess. And pick up your books." 16
Flora opened the screen door and Ralph slipped past her, drawing his books up under his arm. "Stand up, Celinda. Understand." Flora's voice snapped as the screen door banged. Celinda quit clapping her hands and leaned forward and tried to lick the collie's face. "And quit actin' silly. Sometimes I think you never will grow up." Celinda fluttered her tongue at the dog and then squealed. At times she does act funny, Flora thought. Five years of the same thing, always crawling. You'd think she'd get tired of that. And now for the past year she's followed that dog, always imitating him. Maybe if she'd start talking and stand up she'd quit pretending she was a dog. Flora tried to picture Celinda running around like other children of her own age. Once she thought maybe there was something wrong with her legs even though they were sturdy and strong, but when she mentioned it to Douglas he merely said, "Nothin' wrong. Lot a slow startin' folks in the world. Look at Ralph. Didn't start talkin' until he was nigh on four. Quit frettin'. When she gets tired of pretendin' she'll get up and gallivant so fast you won't keep up with her." Well, maybe there was nothing wrong, only she wished Celinda would quit pretending. Before you knew it, she would like crawling better than walking, then they'd have a hard time teaching her. Even now when Douglas held her hands and made her walk ahead of him, she'd drop down on all fours the moment he released her. "Ma, kin I have some bread 'n' sugar?" Flora turned and saw Ralph standing with a piece of bread in his hand, sugar sprinkled thickly over it. "No, your paw'll be comin' soon. Now put that back and wash up and behave yourself." "I ain't done nothin." "Shut up." As Flora walked past him she took the bread from his hand and placed it on the drainboard. Ralph sucked his tooth loudly and then went into the front room. Flora turned to the small ice box and lifted the top. Supper. First it was breakfast; then it was lunch, only today instead of just lunch for Celinda and herself, there had been the salesman. And now, supper. What would it be? Three days and no money to buy food. There were some turnip greens, some potatoes and ham left. That was a good ham Douglas had gotten last week. She 17
lifted a round platter from the icebox and studied the ham bone and the gouged chunks of ham still clinging to one end. She broke off a thread of meat, tasted it and chewed thoughtfully. She could make a gravy, dump in the rest of the ham and they could pour it over the potatoes. That, with the turnip greens and bread and coffee, would have to do it. After supper Douglas would take her to the market and she could stock up again. She quit chewing and felt her cheeks flushing. Tonight he'd feel better, as he always did on pay day, for he'd come home with a few beers in him. And if he was in a real good mood she might dare to put on the black lace things and tell him she had been saving them for a special surprise. Bought them last year. That was it. Last year with pennies she had saved when they were in Houston. Yes, if Douglas was in a good mood she could say that and he would only chuckle and say, "Women beat all things." Then . . . her head turned automatically and she looked through the door leading into the living room. Beyond it she could see four or five bronze rungs of the bedstead. A smile moved her lips as she turned back to the drainboard and began cutting the rest of the ham from the bone. When she finished she picked the bone up, gnawed at a couple of patches of ham she had missed. Then she thought of the collie and went to the door and called, "Here, Rex, come on, boy, here's somethin' to fill you." She pushed the screen open and threw the bone toward the dog who was sitting with Celinda under the pecan tree. He stood up, moved slowly toward the house and then changed direction as the bone fell near the tree. Flora pulled the screen shut, wishing Douglas would put on the spring he had promised to get two months ago. The flies were getting worse, buzzing over the garbage pail and clinging to the screen even as she batted her hand against it, saying, "Dirty Texas flies!" As she started to turn back into the kitchen, she caught sight of Celinda and the collie; they were facing each other, the collie standing tensely with its head down, Celinda before him on her hands and knees, her round head thrown up, her eyes shifting first from the collie to the ham bone and then back to the collie again. As the dog moved, she began shaking her head slowly, imitating the growl that rumbled in his throat. Then they both began moving forward cautiously, eyeing the ham bone. 18
Flora sighed and called, "Celinda, quit your teasin' Rex. Get away from that ham bone." Celinda growled louder and continued moving forward. Suddenly she stopped and reached out, grabbing the bone just as the collie's mouth opened to pick it up. She sat back quickly, crossing her legs as she lifted the bone to her bared teeth. The collie growled, barked once and then sat down in front of her, his head cocked to one side. Flora smiled as she watched Celinda sniff the bone just as the collie always did. The child really was a tease. Flora laughed and called out, "You shouldn't tease Rex that a way." The dog glanced toward the house and then looked back at Celinda as she stretched out on her stomach and began gnawing the bone. Flora laughed again and then she felt the hot Texas breeze stir across the yard, penetrate the screen and puff out the front of her house dress, flowing between her breasts. She closed her eyes and sucked in her lower lip, at the same time taking a deep breath through her nose, expanding her lungs until she felt the warm, moist pressure of the cloth. Tonight, she thought, tonight Douglas will stay awake. Her eyes opened slowly as she turned and walked back to the sink and automatically began preparing supper. BRUCE CAMERON wrote SOMETHING LEFT OVER while attending the writing workshop of Mabel Louise Robinson at the School of General Studies, Columbia University. He is now back in the Army as a major.
The camera is the one machine that will hide a shy man. No jerry-built usurper of fate's arrogance, nor toothed to fang the human flaw, it does not deafen with the noise of its importance but click! neatly makes terse footnotes, click! in a two-dimensional shorthand to life's pedagogic gossip and harangue. A great illusionist, presto! the street's brick glance becomes a meek bouquet, eager subjects simpering at the serpent's eye, anxious to be made immortal in an answering wink, while the photographer under the cover of his body strolls on, unmartyred, compiling portraits of himself.
It is a dark room infested with latent memories and ghosts in which stalactite images will crystalize. But thing, and steel, it does not suffer from our treacherous blood, glancing at murder with a kind indifference. No heretic, it bans opinion with the word, polished, sanitary, precise, never slips like the guilt-rooted tongue. It is directed outward, like a gun.
â€” EDITH WEAVER
HIGH HEELS Alan Gillies
The mid-morning sun reflected off the sidewalk so hot the boy ran awkwardly on his bare toes to catch up with his sister. He was tired, and his feet were still pinched and red from the brown shoes he had taken off and now carried, tied together, in his hand. Along the sidewalk the two-lane concrete road ran, streaked with rust and grease, dazzling with reflected light and heat. The road was straight and flat and seemed to come to a point in the hazy distance. Scrawny propped-up maple trees, their leaves dark and dull with soot, and small wooden houses, identical, except for their varying sooted colors, lined the road on either side. The boy shaded his eyes, wishing he had waited and come down to the new house in the car with the family. "Lillian, wait for me," Vinnie said. His white linen shorts were too small for him and smudged already at the seat from sitting on the curb to take off his shoes. Out of the tight pants his legs appeared, two long brown stalks covered with scratches and bruises in various stages of repair.
"Wait." Lillian was walking very rapidly ahead, as if out of spite. She wrenched her ankle several times, but seemed to pay no attention, and walked on as fast as she could with her head inclined slightly forward. She was wearing her first pair of high-heeled shoes for the first time. The shoes were of black suede and cleanlooking. She had lipstick on, too. In her new white-beaded purse she had the only key to the new house. They were going to open it up for the moving men. It was a long walk from Uncle Jack's on the hill to the new house. Lillian and Vinnie and the rest of the family â€” 22
Harmon and Wesley and Mama and Pa â€”had stayed at Uncle Jack's overnight, waiting for the moving men to arrive, bringing the things from the country. It was a long walk from Uncle Jack's on the hill. The same small frame houses were along the narrow flat concrete road for seven blocks now. In a spurt, Vinnie caught up with Lillian, and, dancing alongside her on the hot sidewalk, gasped, "Why didn't you wait, Lillian?" "You can just walk behind me, Vinnie, until you put those shoes on again," she said. 'You can't stop me from walking alongside of you," he said. She stopped. "Yes, I can," she said. "I'm not walking another step until you put those shoes on." "They hurt." "They don't hurt so much you can't wear them," she said. "They're too small, Lillian." "Listen, Vinnie, listen. This isn't like Plimpton. In town everybody wears shoes all of the time." "I had these shoes even since I was eight," he said. "That's your hard luck for not wearing them out." They walked a few steps, and Vinnie thought he was let off. But she stopped suddenly. "Put them on" she said. "You're not my boss." On the other side of the street there was an open space in the row of houses. Enclosed in a fenced-in yard covered with glittering pink pebbles was a long red-brick building with many tall windows. On one end of the building was a brown door, over which was carved the word Boyv. On the opposite end of the building was a similar door. Over this was the word Girls. There was a fancier door in the middle, but that didn't say anything over it. The fence around the building was made of wire and very high. "What's that?" he said. He pointed at the building. "You know what it is." "A school." "Your school," she said. "It has three doors," he said. Two boys walked towards them and past, and stared at them standing there on the sidewalk. Lillian flushed deeply, and 23
looked down at her high-heeled shoes. "Please put your shoes on, Vinnie," she said in a low voice. Vinnie looked after the two boys, listening to the self-conscious mumble of their conversation as it mixed with the static grind of a trolley going up an incline somewhere far-off. Then he turned, and Lillian was flushed to the roots yet. He said, "They weren't even looking at you." "No," she said, "they were looking at you and your dirty bare feet. Put your shoes on, Vinnie. It's only for a block more." "A block?" "Yes, I think only a block," she said. "The way Uncle Jack said, it's Harrison Street we're coming to." The leaves on the trees between the curbing and the sidewalk drooped so much the shade of the trees was made small, and they got none of it. From under heavy lids Vinnie looked through the sweat-matted hairs that veiled his forehead and fringed his eyes at the tar bubbling up in the crack where two sections of concrete were joined together. He slumped, mesmerized by a tar bubble that expanded, slowly expanded until he thought it would burst with a black pop â€” but it continued to grow. "Want some tar to chew?" he said. Lillian arched her head like a swan and looked at him with narrow enraged eyes, but her lips were turned in tight and her voice, when it came, was low and quavering, as if it were ready to give over to crying. "I'm just going to tell Mama on you, Vinnie," she said. "I'm going to tell her you took your shoes off twice and wouldn't mind." "There's some good soft tar," he said, "down in that crack." "O God!" The pent-up sound of her voice was too much to bear in the heat. He turned and looked at her contemptuously. "And I'll tell Mama you took God's name in vain," he said. "God, God, God! There!" Lillian said. "Four times you took God's name in vain." "People are looking at us, Vinnie," she said. "Now, come on, please, put your shoes on and I'll give you something nice." His mouth made a wry thin line across his face. "What?" A kiss? I don't see any people." There were no people on the street at that moment. There 24
was no sign of life but the open windows of the houses near the sidewalk. The flimsy curtains at the windows were drawn aside to reveal cool dark emptyness. An auto speeding by suddenly wrapped them in a blast of quivering warm air. The auto, passing over the tar crack, exploded one of the tar bubbles with an elastic snap. "Let's get some tar, Lillian," he said. "I don't chew tar," she said. He looked at her, the corners of his lips moving. "It's filthy," she said. The color of her moist forehead rose evenly. His eyes narrowed, and a trace of a smile was on his lips. "It gets your teeth black," she said. "I forgot you were fifteen." She continued to look at him blankly. "You used to chew it last year," he said. "You used to chew it last month." I did not, formed on her lips. She said, "Vinnie, put your shoes on and let's go." Vinnie smiled at her. Her arms were stiff at her sides and her hands were clenching and unclenching loosely. "I never was so embarrassed in my life. Everybody will think we're just old stick-in-the muds from the country." "Well, we are," Vinnie said. She began, at last, to walk self-consciously on; Vinnie pranced at her heels. "These houses look awfully small," he said. "I wish we would have stayed on the farm, don't you, Lil?" She walked ahead of him in silence, lips pressed tight together, her face red. "I don't think Pa'll get better living in town, do you, Lil? I don't think Mama'll like going to work at all, do you?" She walked on as fast as she could, lurching with the unfamiliarity of the high-heeled shoes. "Maybe you ought to take your shoes off too," he said. "You don't walk so good in them high heels." She did not stop or slow down. "Mama's smart," he said, trotting to keep up. "She doesn't wear high-heeled shoes and go falling all over herself." Lillian said finally, bitterly, "Mama doesn't know how people ought to act." 25
They came to the street corner and she turned on him suddenly, saying, "Vinnie Wexley, damn you, you put those shoes on." For a moment there was a barrier of heat between them, and he was surprised that she even remembered that he did not have them on. "What difference does it make?" he said. "What difference does it make? I might as well have come over in the car with the family if I'm going to walk up into the new neighborhood with you looking the way you do." "I wish I'd come down with Pa," he said. "I wish you had, too." "No, you don't, you were afraid to walk over here by yourself." "Afraid? What help would you be if I were afraid?" "I don't know," he said. "But you were afraid." "Well, I wish you weren't here now." He accepted this, and looked up the street, Harrison Street. The new neighborhood. The frame houses were small, of identical design, with just enough space between them for driveways. The street was only old enough for the maple trees in front of the houses to have grown as high as the second storey eaves. The cramped peaked-roof symmetry of the street impressed itself dully on Vinnie. It was very uninteresting. There was not a single tree on the street that he wouldn't be able to climb right off. He squinted, throwing the street, the trees and houses along it, out of focus. With a start he felt the intrusion of Lillian standing next to him. He said, "Listen, Lillian, now let's not just stand here. The moving men are probably up to the house already, and you have the only key." "I'm not taking you up the street with me," she said, in a cold final voice. "All right," he said, "give me the key and I'll go up myself. Somebody has to let them in." "And I won't give you the key." "Mother will wallop you." "I don't care," she said. Then after a moment, "It's you shell wallop." 26
He curled one foot over the other and stood feeling the dusty dryness on the bottoms of his feet. Yes, Lillian was too big to be walloped, now, when she needed it most. They stood poised, looking at one another. "All right," he said, looking away, "you walk ahead, and 111 come behind you." She licked her upper lip thinly with the tip of her tongue. "If you'd only put your shoes on . . ." He looked at her angrily. "No! They hurt. Theyll make me a cripple," he said, believing himself. "Khi! Cripple." She sniggered. She turned, and not turning again to look at him, began to walk up Harrison Street in rapid calculated high-heeled steps. Vinnie stood a minute dumbly staring at his feet. They were still curved one over the other, the toes moving strangely, interlocking â€” as if he had no control over them. In the measured clock-clip-clock of Lillian's high heels he began to frame a knot of anger. He looked up at Lillian walking about fifty feet up the street and began mechanically to follow her. Watching her narrow hips, tautened with her red and white checked cotton skirt, move in angular slight jabs from left to right with her high-heeled walking, he became incensed with the regular slight motion. "Lillian," he said, out loud. "That's my sister Lillian," he called out. (Lillian did not turn, but she heard him. The nape of her neck, below the short cut hair, reddened.) "That's my sister Lillian!" he said, louder, but nothing in the small houses along the street stirred, no one was on the street. There was no sound but that of insects and his high shattering voice in the hot morning. "My sister Lillian!" Lillian walked more rapidly ahead of him, glancing from side to side at house numbers. "That's my sister Lillian, and I have dirty bare feet, and we're going to live here!" he chanted, but now his voice was hollow, realized. There was no moving van on the street. In a moment Lillian would be at the house. He knew what would happen. He knew so clearly it was as if it had already happened. She would open the door and walk in. After a minute he would follow her. The room would be small, the parlor, small 27
and square in these small houses, small and cool after the outside, dim, the room in which she would turn around and smack him full in the face. The slap would echo throughout the small empty house. In the dark airless room he would move the muscles of his face to keep tears from coming, and the sparks from the slap would move out, out, in circles that would widen forever in the empty cool room. Then he would look at her, his face a blank, and say, 'What did I do?' And she would see he was about to cry. But he couldn't. She, instead, would do the crying. He would just stand there watching her. She would blubber something awful in the empty echoing room: 7 don't know. I don't know. Oh Vinnie, I'm sorry. I'll buy you an ice cream.' And she would try to kiss him with her greased-up lips, or hug him, and he would suddenly shove her away in disgust. Lillian's neck was crimson and she turned quickly into the short walk of the shabby brown-shingled house with the small open front porch. Number forty-six. She was taking the key out of her small white-beaded purse. Vinnie watched the clock-clip-clock of her high-heeled shoes. He couldn't get used to them on her. You'd hardly know it was Lillian for the high-heeled shoes. "That's my sister Lillian" he cried out as she began to mount the steps. "My name is Vinnie Wexley, and there are six people in our family. My father's got the heart disease, and we're moving into this neighborhood. That's Lillian, my sister, in the only high-heeled shoes she's got!"
ALAN GILLIES gives QUARTO another short story in the Vinnie series with HIGH HEELS. The first of these stories THE GOOD HOT PART OF THE AFTERNOON appeared
in the Winter Issue. He is now at work on a novel.
Auto Death Brings Tragedy To Brooklyn by Robert Marien
at Fairlawn cemetery. LOMAN—WILLIAM, age 63, beloved hus-
band of Linda Loman and devoted father of William Loman, Jr., and George Loman. Interment tomorrow at Greenwood Cemetery. LONG—MARY MARGARET, age 43, at her home
IN MEMORIAM LOMAN—WILLIAM. In fond memory of Willy Loman, a neighbor and a good friend
ODE "We are the music makers And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams; World-losers and world-foresakers On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems . . ." A. W. O'Shaughnessy Charley
Man Dies in Auto Mishap A car driven by William Loman, 63, retired salesman of 753 Prospecter Ave., Brooklyn, went out of control striking the "El" at Flatbush and Fulton Streets at 10:45 p.m., last night. The driver, the sole occupant of the car, was killed instantly. The Kings County Hospital ambulance responded and he was declared dead at 11:20 p.m. by the ambulance doctor. The body was removed to the New Morgue where it was claimed by his sons, William, Jr., and George Loman of the same address.
Wagner Prods pf
4 9 / . . . j!
Man Dies as Car Runs W i l d , Hits " E l " Pillar in Flatbush by Florabel Knight and Art Kling What makes a news story? Death came to downtown Brooklyn last night. He came to keep an appointment with an unimportant little man named William Loman. A few scars on a Flatbush "El" pillar tell all the rest there is to tell. But that isn't news. Any cub reporter knows that story rates a couple of inches on a back page. William Loman â€” Willie his friends called him â€” was just another guy. He had a wife, a couple of kids and a house . . . like us, like someone you know, or maybe even something like you. We were there when Willy Loman died. By some crazy chance we were at the corner of Flatbush and Fulton Streets about ten fortyfive last night when Death came for Willie Loman. There was no warning. Just the noise of the crash. Then, after a minute, the police car from Traffic C. Then the big Emergency Squad truck and the ambulance. Dr. J. Weinburg, ambulance doctor from Kings County Hospital, pronounced Willy (continued on page 33)
Dies In Crash
wanted from life: a house, a car, a garden . . . and most of all, a family that he loved and that loved him. He thought he had everything he needed to be a contented man. Maybe like someone you know? He was just a little guy who wanted for himself and his family to be happy. Maybe something like you.
(continued from page 32) Loman dead after Emergency Squad had gotten him out. It had taken fifteen minutes work with crow-bars. Everything was quiet at the Loman cottage, 753 Prospecter Street. The police had given Willie's family the news. They sat in the small living room as Tibetan Oligarchy if they were waiting for Willie There are only 13 Yellow-Hat to come walking in the front door and tell them it wasn't true. Lamas in all of Tibet. Mrs. Linda Loman was an attractive woman in her late fifties. She did not speak except to ask one of her sons to bring us some tea. She had two sons. The older, William "Biff" Loman, Jr., was HOEVER YOU ARE, a high school football star a WHEREVER YOU'RE FROM few years ago. The younger boy, George, who was called "Happy," appeared to be on . . . when you visit the verge of tears. When asked Columbia, be sure to stop about their father the boys didn't seem to know what to say. at the "He was a good pal. He always was a hardworking, unappreciated man . . . do you understand? A real prince." William Loman had just retired. He had worked hard all his life and was looking forward 2888 Broadway to the years he would spend with his family. Willie had what he
THEATER NEWS by Carlton Brooks The Old Vic's brilliant production of that greatest of the Shakespearean tragedies, Hamlet, at the Albion Theater, last night, brought warm tears of joy to the eyes of at least this one happy reviewer. For a few hours there were no fetters of a mean "conditioned reaction." There stood upon the stage great men. Faults they had, yes! But, Lord, they were great faults. The tragic heroes are gone. Great virtue and great vice alike have fled before the onslaught of the sociological norm. We have set about tutoring ourselves in the ways of small men, and our success is the crowning achievement of the last two centuries. We have only to search to see that we no longer have Othellos, Lears, Macbeths, an Oedipus or even a Brutus. Where shall we find an Othello, loving not wisely but too well? Where is there a Lear shackled with a stubborn pride? Where a Macbeth who for ambition will dare all? What Roman do we have to fall upon his sword for his ideals, or yet a Juliet who would die to live. No need to ask, Modern Man has not seen his like. Our word "tragedy" now bears an humbler meaning. For all is tragedy to us that calls for the bearing of a burden of sorrow. No fall, for us, is tragedy, unless it be in the bath tub. No grinding destruction at the hands of the gods is there for us, unless we impact ourselves upon some wayward "Elevated" pillar. However, the high art of Bruce Boswell brought to life
OUR READERS SPEAK Bawls Out Carlton Brooklyn: I am not a professional critic as is your Carlton Brooks. The only things I ever knew about Drama I forgot the day after I got out of college. Brooks would classify most of what I think are tragedies as of the "pathetic" variety, but as a human being, and as one of the large group of Modern Men, I think that I have as much right to shoot my mouth off as Carlton Brooks. Brooks has no use for the weak, timid young men of his generation. Slipping in the bath tub or driving into an "El" pillar; there are the petty actions of petty men. The best man that I ever knew was killed not so many days ago by driving into an "El" pillar. He was no tragic figure. He had no castle but the cottage he got by the work of his hands. He had no kingdom to gamble; he didn't want any. Everything looks different from a distance, and when that distance is to the peak of Parnassus, Oh, how the Gods seem Save Water! SAVE WATER!
nobler! Familiarity breeds contempt, but men like Carlton Brooks are contemptuous of Man without knowing him or his problems. Brooks lives in the world of play-acting. Someday the American Theater will produce a writer capable of a Modern tragedy. When he does appear he may be as good as, but he will be no better than, my friend Willie. â€”Bernard Doesn't Like Us Harlem: I only read your filthy rag when I find it lying in the gutter. Make the type bigger so I can read it from where it belongs. I dare you to print this. The Worker's Worker CORRECTION In line with this paper's desire to print the news accurately and fully we wish to make the following correction: In the story of a fatal auto accident in B'klyn the day before yesterday, the ambulance doctor's name was erroneously reported as J. Weinberg in the First edition, and J. Weiner in the Five Star Final. It should have read Dr. J. Weinerberg.
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AFTER THEY'VE SEEN PAREE Lucian A. Lewis
1 HE TALL HOLLYHOCKS along the fence stirred lazily in the cool evening breeze and, in the dimming light, the footprints in the sand of the road looked like small, dark-rimmed canyons. Jimboy stretched, put his feet up on the scarred bannister of the porch and leaned back upon the hind legs of his chair. He could see in the distance the lights of Central Avenue, bright red over the roof tops, blending upwards into the darkening sky. From somewhere nearby he heard insect sounds, dogs barking, and the slow, lazy sound of a blues . . . "Big-leg woman wid de meat shaking on her bones, everytime she shakes some skinny gal done lost her home . . ." Behind him the house was dark. He heard, now and then, the rustling sound of his wife, Anjee, scraping about the kitchen in her slippered feet. He was home again. He hadn't known what to expect this afternoon when he'd been brought back from Ruby's. All the way out he had been uneasy and apprehensive. He was relieved that Anjee was still at work when he and Mis' Carson drove up. He waited for her, working around the place, doing little things to pass the long hours. The tension which he'd felt earlier had left him. Now his muscles tingled and he felt good. It had been nearly dark when Anjee came home. She had not been surprised to see him; she acted as if she had expected him all along, as if she were annoyed at seeing him. Sullen and silent, she had not spoken to him all evening. He sighed and tried to think of something nice that he would do for her, something special which would please her. He'd fix things up around the place. Some of the boards along the side of the house had loosened and he figured that it wouldn't take too long to tack them back. Perhaps he'd buy her something. Mentally he counted up the money he had. It 37
was nearly ten dollars; if he gave it to her she could buy a dress or some shoes. Tomorrow he would do all this. He was turning over in his mind what he could say to her tonight when he went in to bed when he heard the crunching swish of sand and he knew from long years of listening that it would be Miss Talley on her way home from work. For a moment he did not want to see her and he wished desperately that he were inside, but his thoughts were interrupted by the squeaking of the hinges on the slat fence and he saw her huge bulk collecting itself at his gate. "Evenin' Jimboy," Miss Talley said pleasantly, "how's Anjee?" "She's all right, mam," he answered, "jest came in a while ago. She's inside right now." "Ain't seen you for a spell, glad you're back, son," she murmured, sighing. "Kinda' nice now, ain't it? Gittin' kinda' cool." "Yas'm," he echoed, "kinda' nice now." "Well, you tell Anjee 111 stop by for her in the mornin'. Why don't you come on and go to mornin' service tomorrow, son? Be real nice. Most everybody'll be there. Lots of white folks is coming. The Senior Choir's singing their annual recital. I'm doin' two solos, myself." "Yas'm," he said, "I'll see." "Well, you try. Tell Anjee don't forget about wearing white gloves." "Yas'm," he answered, watching her disappear slowly up the road, one arm crooked over a package, until the outline of her broad back blended into the dimness. He knew what was in the package and he thought of it bitterly; that old thank-you bag, same as always. "Leftovers from the white folks' tables will feed us, and Jesus will lead us." Work all week and sing spirituals on Sunday, that's what the white folks like. He shook his head and smiled to himself because he was reminded of something that had happened at his first army camp a long time ago. The neat rows of dark olive barracks stretched along the road to company headquarters; a neat, squat building whose well-kept lawn seemed alien among its scrub-weed neighbors. He thought how it really was a place apart; from it the company's all white officer staff ruled their small domain. Each morning three girls passed the barracks on their 38
way to work as secretaries to the officers. He particularly remembered the little blonde who bounced along in her flat sandals; her breasts and buttocks seemed to be continually struggling against the tight sweaters and skirts which confined them. The other two women came together, walking down the road quickly, eyes straight ahead, mouths set in tight, thin lines. She came alone, usually later, strolling casually down the street, enjoying apparently the admiration she knew came from beyond the windows. Her eyes and her smile wandered where they would, playing a teasing game and playing it expertly. Sometimes there were low furtive whistles as she passed, insinuating "whoees" which came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. That's how it started. It ended the day the Company had to fall out, dressed, with complete gear, and he recalled how they'd been drilled thirty miles and back along a hard road which cut through jungle-like woods. He could again hear the scrawny little Lieutenant, the one the fellows hated most, saying,"This'll give you people something to do besides whistling at white women." There was the sneering way he said you people making it stand for another hated word. There was the way he said white, emphasizing the word, so that it sounded more like "Wyatt . . ." Jimboy heard that the blonde had tired of the game after she started running around with this little officer, and had complained loudly and indignantly to him. He could understand that part of it, she wanted to get in good with the officer, but somehow he felt as if she betrayed him personally. A mosquito stung him and he slapped at the place. He heard its buzzing escape and he rubbed the sore spot. From the kitchen he could smell the pungent odor of burning hair and frying, sweet-scented grease. Anjee was straightening her hair. He heard the sizzling sounds as she took the hot irons from a burning can of Sterno and ran it through her short, frizzled hair. Suddenly he was angry with Anjee. For a brief moment he hated her intensely; hated her for her blackness, for her slow-moving walk, her thick accent and unlearned speech, for her churchgoing, and her quiet, pouting ways. Most of all he hated her hair and her attempts to straighten it. More than anything else, this was to him all the hopeless attempts of black people to imitate whites. Then he felt foolish for hating her, and his hatred left him. 39
He wanted to pity her, to caress and comfort her, to touch and love her. He thought sadly that she couldn't help being what she was, any more than he could, or any more than any of us can; like Lisette. Then he was hating Anjee again. ". . . Who's that?" Lisette had asked when he'd stooped to pick the picture off the floor. She was lying across the bed, face down, watching him undress, her head dangling over the side so that her long blonde hair fell about her shoulders in a wide, broken circle, leaving bare her soft, milk-white neck. "Oh, that's my little sister," he'd lied. "I think she's very pretty," Lisette said, "she has such nice eyes and white, even teeth. Someday, when the war is over, I am going to meet her." She made the question a fact. For a moment he believed her. Strange girl, his Lisette. Foreigner, but she spoke English better than he did, with only a slight nasal accent. Her voice was deep, intimate, as if she smoked too much. That's how he'd met her. He smiled, remembering. A plump kid with frightened eyes, she'd asked him for a cigarette one night, they'd got acquainted, and she'd ended up by sharing his bed and the food he brought each night, or sent to her from the mess hall where he cooked during the day. Lisette was warm and sweet-smelling. He could remember the smoothness of her pale skin as if she were again near him. He liked being with her, yet could never quite forget what he'd left behind. He remembered the feeling he had had so often, that it was all a fantastic dream that would soon end. She understood him. He felt it instinctively. He recalled how he used to primp to go in to her; fresh-pressed suit, bathed and clean, hair shining with thick pomade. He almost laughed, thinking of the day she'd asked him why he slicked his hair, told him that she liked it better natural, and thereafter he'd just let 147 West 14th Street Between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
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it be natural and, for the first time, did not feel ashamed of its tight curl. There were other little things she did. He remembered a game he'd taught her. Whenever they couldn't decide something, they'd flip a coin. Lisette always chose heads. He laughed aloud, remembering her childlike joy when it fell on heads. She'd squeal joyously, then, in the very next moment say, "Oh, mon pauvre cheri, you lost," kissing him, changing from English to French as easily as she changed her moods. Sometimes she sang to him; little songs in different languages . . . "Ma premiere amour, c'est toi," "La Paloma," and even "How ya' gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" There, with Lisette, he had, for the first time felt free, really free. She was crying softly that night as he kissed her. "I love you, I love you," she repeated. "Love me. Take me with you. Keep me yours always." He thought for a time of remaining in Europe after the war, but things happened so fast: the company started moving from one camp to another. She wrote him once. She had enclosed a letter in hers, the one in which Anjee had written in her cramped style, "Here is a picture. Hope it don't scare all the bedbugs away, Your loving wife, Anjee." Thinking of it, he grew resentful. It was all over so quickly, he felt cheated, and now, hearing Anjee slamming the door behind him, he felt as if she were responsible for it all. She seemed always to be intruding; in his memories, or in his life, and sometimes, even in his heart. "You hongry?" Anjee asked. "A little." "Well, c'mon in the kitchen and I'll warm up somethin'." "Can't you bring it out here where it's cool?" "Humph!" she snorted, "do I look like yo' brown-skin servant? Ah'm tired. Worked hard all day, and now ah'm tired. If you git anything this night, you'll dern-sight come in and get it," she said with finality, turning sharply and going inside. He was annoyed . . . evil black wench. One day I'll clear out and leave her looking on. Her and that damned Mis' Carson she's always raving about. Give her a few rags, a pat on the back, and she'll damn near work her fool self to death. Didn't have no better sense than to send that woman after me . . ." 41
He was working himself up. Sweat rolled down from his armpits. He began silently to curse Mis' Carson. She, for whom Anjee had worked these last seven years — since they were first married — who'd brought them together after their two big fights when it seemed they had busted up for good, and this time . . . He felt a welling up inside him as he remembered that it was Mis' Carson who'd given up her ration coupons so that Anjee could send him cakes on his birthday, that she had sent him money at holidays, that she had been kind to him. He felt ashamed because he hated her. Because he was being unfair to hate her along with the others. Guilt and hate were mixed up inside him, creeping through his mind, covering every image that came to him. He hated Mis' Carson because she was one of those who refused to give him a job, who forced him to be humble and half a man. He hated her moreover, because she made him think that he, himself, was weak; that all this was only what he deserved for being weak. Her, always interfering. Why, he thought, if it hadn't been for her meddling, he wouldn't be here now, with Anjee acting the fool. Suddenly he wondered what there had ever been between Anjee and himself. They'd known each other all their lives, got married when they were young, and, he thought, got to be strangers. The first few days at home he had grown tired of trying to make conversation with her and had taken to going up to Ruby's. At least Ruby liked to talk, and she loved to hear him tell about his adventures. She had him tell them over and over again, demanding details he would have been embarrassed to tell Anjee, until all the flavor had gone out of the telling, and he'd just make up something new. He never told her of Lisette. She was his private memory. . . . He saw it all over again. Mis' Carson driving the car up to the end of Center Street where it turned off into the sandy, unpaved colored section; walking up the street past the staring people, knocking at Ruby's door. "Is Jimboy here?" she asked. "Who wants him?" Ruby yelled, cracking the whitewashed door then stepping out onto the porch, arms akimbo. "He ain't here," she sneered, "I don't know where he's at." "I know he's in there all right," Mis' Carson said. "Well, you certainly know a heap more'n I do. You know he don't live here. I pays the rent here, 1*11 thank you." 42
"I know where he lives well enough," Mis' Carson snapped, "at least where he's supposed to live. He's only been home a few weeks, and Anjee, his wife, said she came home the other night and most of his clothes were gone, and that he's moved up here." "That's what she thinks. Tell her if she wants him so bad to come get him herself, if she thinks she's woman enough to whip me. Seems to me you white women get mighty interested in what goes on down here. You oughtta mind your own damned business. Furthermore, you can tell that skinny black gal what sent you here that if she ever shows her ugly face around here, I'll cut her every way but loose." "Why, you impudent thing, you!" Mis' Carson gasped. "I'll have the police on you. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. I know well enough why you came down here. Following soldiers around from camp to camp! Everybody in town knows about you and your kind. Painting, and dressing up, and sleeping with them, and selling that old bootleg whiskey. Why, I'll have the police on you before you can say Jack Sprat, if you don't mind! They'll take care of the likes of you."
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with them white women. Maybe you think I ain't good enough tor you anymore!" There was anger in her voice. There was something else: a fierce woman-hurt and a futile confusion which caught at her throat so that her words were bitter, disjointed. She seemed unable to control their angry flow. "Well, why'd you come back? You ain't no good to me, and I hopes you knows it. And I ain't gonna wait on you! I don't know if you're used to bein' waited on where you been spending all your time lately, but if you misses it so much, then why don't you go back. Or won't Miss Good-Livin' Ruby take you back?" He jumped up then. She tensed. There was something about her movement that said she was ready for a fight. Bitterness showed on her face and set her eyes in a hard stare. He stood watching her for a moment then brushed past her into the bedroom. A flickering kerosene lamp gave the room a dull yellow glow against the plaster-white of the walls. He found his battered suitcase, threw it on the bed, and pulled at a drawer of the rickety washstand. It stuck and he gave a hard yank so that it opened lopsided. He felt as if he hadn't a moment to spare, as if time was closing in on him and there was an urgent need to escape. He sucked his lip in hard against his teeth. His eyes were watering and his chest hurt when he breathed. Then he was aware of Anjee. She seemed to be screaming at him in an incredibly shrill voice . . . "Where you think you're goin'? Who do you think you can go to? You ain't nothing, and nobody wants nothing. You ain't got no money. You ain't got one blessed thing but a hand full of gimme and a mouth full of thank-you-not. You can't get no further'n you can spit. You'se black. What's more, you'se lazy black, and there's a big wall around lazy blacks. A big white wall. Go on, beat your head against it. You can't dent it. And you ain't got the guts to clear out. All you can do is go to town, get a woman, and get drunk. Then you'll come crawling back here like you always have, and pick on me. You'll never leave here, bet your sweet life on that. You'll be back." He tried to pack. The clothes spilled out of the suitcase over the bed. He kept balling them up, the same pieces over and over again. His hands were heavy and wet with sweat. The sweat made his hands stick to the clothes, stick to the suitcase, even his fingers seemed to stick together. 46
Her voice became echoes, rising to a crescendo in a singsong chant, repeating over and over again the words, "You'll never leave here — you'll be back." It seemed to fill all the corners of his mind like an army of giant, stinging insects. He turned from the bed and leaned his wet forehead against the wall. Anjee's words echoed again and again in his mind, swelling, urgent. His hands clinched into fists against his sides. The walls of the room closed in on him, trapping him so that he could not move. There was no escape from them. The pounding, the jungle pounding, was inside his head, trying to escape, beating against his skull until it seemed his head would burst. Above and behind the crescendo he seemed to hear other voices . . . Ruby's, Mis' Carson's, the Lieutenant's, Lisette's . . . echoing Anjee's words, blending into a chorus until he could not untangle them. "You'll never leave — you'll be back!" He pushed himself away, half-turning, from the wall, drew back his fist and with all the strength of his body smashed it against the wall. The voices stopped. His arm went numb. The wall was the same except for a small spot of blood and the plaster dust sifting down from the old cracks. He sank onto the bed; his arm began to throb. The dust settled on him, on his clothes, on the suitcase, covering them with a fine powder, fine and white. LUCIAN A. LEWIS is majoring in Economics at Columbia's School of General Studies. He has appeared professionally as an actor and as a nightclub singer. AFTER THEY'VE SEEN PAREE was written while he was a member of Vernon hoggins' Short Story Writing Class.
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