QUARTO WINTER 1954
VOLUME V • 25 cents • Number I
QUARTO VOLUME V, NUMBER 1
A Literary Magazine PUBLISHED AT THE SCHOOL OF GENERAL STUDIES COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY NARRATIVE Mule Ride And A Stepchild 3 Delmas W. Abbott The Gifts 19 Jo Sinclair The Bride Fee 34 Robin White The Unknown Man 45 Clarence Alva Powell Moonlight On Glass 51 V. Sheridan Fonda Banzai 72 Norman H. Bonter ARTICLE The Eternal Armenian 76 Leon Surmelian POETRY A Sunday of Yellow and White Spartacus Ocean, Mr., Mrs. Blink Most Overflowing Friend of Mountains Is Not Known Spontaneous Song For a Bird Love Song Begotten Of A Mountain View Contributors
18 Charles Edward Eaton 71 E. E. Walters 41 Eli Siegel 43 Eli Siegel 44 Eli Siegel 50 LeGarde S. Doughty 84 Wendell B. Anderson 85
Robert Cluett, IV
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is published semi-annually during the winter and spring sessions by the students of the School of General Studies, Columbia University. Copyright 1954 by QUARTO. Office of Publication and Editorial Office, 801 Business Building, Columbia University, New York 27, N.Y. Manuscripts will not be returned unless accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. No material in this magazine may be reprinted without permission of the Publishers. QUARTO
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MULE RIDE AND A STEPCHILD Delmas W. Abbott
not even bother to pull on the bridle reins and stop the mule. She slipped her hand under her apron and had her thirtytwo out in a sudden movement. When she fired the one quick shot, the mule flinched and shied to the side of the road. The black snake, with the bones broken just below its head, lay squirming in the grass under the little cedar tree. With frantic jerks the toad freed itself from the snake's mouth and hopped erratically out of sight under a limestone slab. The shooting had been sudden. Effie had not stopped to think about it when she saw the black snake trying to swallow the toad. It was getting to be the time of year when a body did not very often see a toad or a snake either, but there they were right out in plain sight, the snake trying to eat the toad. Effie had no grievance against black snakes when she saw them alone. They were good snakes usually, but Effie couldn't stand to see the toad being eaten alive without a chance to defend itself. After the toad had disappeared with blood streaking its hindparts, she watched the snake wriggle in spasms, and she said out loud, "Sun's about down. You'll be dead soon, you varmint you." The flop-eared mule soon drooped back into his day dreaming, and Effie put her pistol back into its holster. Straddle-fashioned on a folded coffee sack, she rode the old mule up the hollow from the county road. The mule's head dropped low toward the ground and bobbed up and down in a rhythm as slow as his gait. Footing was easy in the soft, sandy wagon ruts of the valley road. Effie had to kick the mule's flanks every once in a while to keep him from stopping right in his tracks. She knew he would rather stay down there in the sand than to climb up the rocky, lopsided path to her two-roomed log cabin in a cleared saddle of Epperson's Ridge. But that was the way of a mule, lazy, not having sense enough to know it was better to be up on a hill where a body could see over the crests of many other hills and EFFIE DID
be close to the sun than to be down in a hollow where it was like being in a deep winding ditch with nothing to see but the two hills that penned a body in and made him miss the early and late hours of the sun. Effie had been gone all afternoon. She had been down to Ary Blankenship's store to exchange a willow basket full of hen's eggs for sugar, coffee, coal oil, and shotgun shells. She had stopped on the road a little while to talk with Sally Poynter. As she rode now in the early cool of the evening her bare legs swung heavily below the mule's flanks. It was the thick brogans that made her feet hang so heavily. They kept a swallowing hold on her feet because seagrass strings tied through the top two eyes of each shoe held fast. Her bulgy breasts sagged loose under the gray checks of her gingham dress like two half-filled sacks of flour hanging on a wall. Because she rode straddlefashioned, her dress was histed up in front and behind, and it was wrinkled by her weight and the red mule's sweat. She didn't mind that though. There wouldn't be many more real warm days like this. The cool breeze felt good to her naked legs, and she could feel it creeping up under her dress, cooling her hips. Her sunbonnet dropped open on her back like an Indian papoose pack, and it was held there by the two strings bowed at her throat. Her face was grayed tan like weathered harness leather, and it glowed red now from the red streaks of the sun sinking over Epperson's Ridge. Her buckeye-brown hair, streaked a little with gray, was combed straight back tight and hard from her high forehead, and the ends were lost in big coils on the back of her head. Her skin was smooth, and her face was full, and her eyes were brown like her hair. She had been pretty once. She had had no trouble in getting the two men she had married. Her hands, though, were bony and callused and hard from the work she had done in her time. They were strong hands and could do many years of hard work yet. She was only thirtyeight now. As she rode on quietly through the shaded valley, she held her willow basket and the coal oil can in front of her on the red mule's shoulders. Her pistol lay there, too, under her checked apron. From time to time she lifted her head toward the sky or turned it to right or left, and she breathed deeply, opening her nostrils wide. Early fall always smelled good. There was the smell of
ripeness and drying leaves. It was a clean, rich smell. It was a smell that made a body happy because it said there would be plenty for a while. Colored leaves were beginning to spread like big crazy quilts all over the hills. Crops were ripe. Corn and fodder was in the shock. Strings of dried beans and red pepper pods hung on the kitchen walls. Potatoes would soon be buried in cone-shaped holes in the garden. There were pokes of shelled beans and dried apples in the loft with sweet potatoes spread out on the floor. There were rows of canned berries and tomatoes. Out in the pigpen there were two fat pigs to be knocked in the head for meat and lard. Yes, the fall was a good time to be alive, and the smells told a body so. It was times like this that Effie liked, riding along on the old mule by herself. She didn't very often have time to sit and just think. There was always so much work to be done that she never felt right just to sit down and think. But it was different now because she had to go to the store every once in a while to get things that couldn't be raised on the farm, and there wasn't anything else to do but just sit still on the mule until she got back home. She talked to Sally Poynter longer than she had meant to, and she would be late. But Sybil would have supper ready and the milking done. Sybil was a good worker. Effie had done what she ought to do. She had taught Sybil how to do the work any mountain woman had to do. She had started in with Sybil as soon as she was big enough to hold a broom or dishrag. There had been a time while Sybil was just a little tike that Effie had need of what little help she could giveâ€”after Sybil's pappy had just picked up and run off without any warning. Tom hadn't been a good man, and she had been afraid of him some. That's why she started carrying her thirty-two when he left. Even after she knew he was dead and she had married Matt Hargis, she just kept on carrying the gun out of habit. Everybody knew she carried it, but nobody said anything. It came in handy lots of times, too. She was a good enough shot to kill running rabbits and leaping squirrels with it. She could bring back fresh meat any time she went out into the woods. Yes, there was no cause to worry about supper. Sybil was a good cook. Sybil could take care of herself any time. She could
take care of herself with Matt Hargis, Effie's second man, too. Of course neither she nor Matt ever said anything to Effie, but Effie knew what was going on. She wouldn't bother them though, not yet anyhow. She knew what was bound to happen in time. Sybil would never have anything to do with Matt. She would never have anything to do with any other woman's man. Young Elbert Gill was the man she wanted. He was the one she slipped off into the woods to court. He was the one that Matt was beginning to get mean about. Matt was a jealous man. If Elbert Gill stayed out of his way, in time Matt would get over this hungering for Sybil. He was always going down to Jett's Creek or up to the head of Rocky after some young girl when he got drunk on corn liquor with Jake Doolin. He didn't have any sense when he got drunk. He'd run after any pretty girl for a while and get into fights over her, but he always got tired of her and felt ashamed of himself and stayed at home for long spells at a time. He worked hard and made a good crop when he stayed sober. If he wanted to get drunk and run off for a week sometimes, Effie reckoned it was his business. She didn't expect too much of any man anymoreâ€”not since Tom Estes, her first man, had run off while Sybil was still just a little tike and got killed in that coal mine cave-in at Grandy. She'd learned to take care of herself, and she'd never be beholden to any man. She loved Matt in a sensible way, in a way that he could never hurt her with his carrying on. And he'd not hurt Sybil either. Effie felt that she was like a part of the mountains. She knew the hills and valleys and the creeks that ran among them. She knew the soft, deep earth of the bottoms and the thin dry earth of the hillsides. She knew the rocks and trees and the birds and animals that lived among them. She had always lived among them, tooâ€”longed, pleasured, loved, worked among them. Any place else she would know nothing. Here, she knew everything: how to battle the weeds and thin top ridge soil for corn and vegetables; how to find huckleberries and blackberries, wild fruits and nuts; how to make medicine from the wild herbs in the woods; where to turn out the hogs to the richest mast; how to keep her chickens out of the mouths of foxes or weasels or hawks. She knew how to go about her own business and talk little. Effie knew how to love her men when it was necessary, and she could keep her own feelings to herself. She always knew what 6
went on inside her house and outside it, too. Neighbors thought she didn't know about Matt and Sybil because she never talked about it. She had always believed in what old Mammy Mullins used to say: "Live and let live is the best way." Effie never worried much about what the next day would be like unless it was cropping time and rain was needed; then she hoped for enough rain to make the crops grow right. She believed in letting the days come as they would. There wasn't much else she could do about it anyhow. She didn't believe in putting too much store by the words and manners of other people. The earth and the hills were the thing. From them came everything to soothe the soul. Life was work with short fun spells like this ride through the valley, and work was struggle, like the struggle of all things for a breathing and living space in time before they rot back into the earth. There wasn't much a body could do but struggle for what he needed. No use to interfere with anybody else, because they were only trying to do what you were doing. If one tree fell and grounded another tree, no other tree bothered in the affair. That was the way Effie lived, just sort-of living inside herself, not saying much of what she felt and thought to anybody but Sybil. Sybil was her child, and that was different. Sometimes, though, EfBe felt that she could live without people as well as with them as long as she was in the hills and could make a living. Still, she liked living with her man and her child. She'd work her fingers to the bone for them if she had to, and sometimes it seemed that she almost had toâ€”the times when Matt would get on a long drunk and not be any good about the farm. Because a woman needs a man, she had married Matt after she had heard that Sybil's pappy was dead. It was natural to want a man sometimes. Everyone ought to. She knew she had done everything for Matt that a woman should do for her man except have a youngun for him. She couldn't understand why she never had had a youngun by Matt. Maybe if she did have, he'd quit getting so drunk. A man liked to think he was man enough to get his woman in the family way. Once in a while Effie had seen Matt come through the woods flailing the trees with his body, drunk on white mule from Jake Doolin's still. But a man had to be like that sometimes. She had seen him stay drunk for days while the ragweeds grew taller in
the newground, but she had hoed out the weeds and said nothing, because he didn't do it very often, and he would work like the devil was loose in him when he sobered up. He'd be good to her then, and it was good to sleep with him then. He wanted her then. She knew he had a good feeling for her in spite of the things he did. He'd be quick to fight anybody who tried to harm her in any way. Matt was a good man in spite of his streaks of cussedness. Effie know Matt had watched Sybil grow up to be a grown woman just as she had watched her, thinking very little about it until lately. In the seventeen years Sybil had been alive, EfBe had watched her grow strong and sort-of run wild in the woods and the sunshine. In the hills and the sunshine was the best place to raise a child. Effie had always let Sybil go where she pleased in the woods. She had taught her all the secrets a mountain woman knows about living and had let her learn more for herself from the trees, from the animals, from the days and nights. She had early taught her how to shoot and given her a shotgun to carry with her in the woods. She had taught her how to swing her gun and shoot partridges quick on the wing or rabbits darting up fast and away from her. Effie had watched her girl grow and fill out like beans in a pod, like full ripe red tomatoes on a vine. She had seen Sybil's hunger satisfied with beans and tomatoes. She had watched restlessness grow in Sybil, and she had seen it begin to settle when Sybil started running around in the woods with the young Gill boy. She had seen the Gill boy hunger for Sybil, and she hadn't interfered because he was a good strong boy, one who wasn't afraid of a hard day's work. She had known when Matt began to see Sybil in a new way and hunger for her, too. She had seen Matt and the Gill boy grow hungrier and hungrier, not satisfied. She knew it was natural for men to be like that. It was natural for women to be like that, too. She had hungered for both of her men. That was why she had married them, but her hunger didn't come so often any more. A man was different though. Effie had sensed the fight going on inside Matt and Sybil. She knew that hate was growing inside Sybil, fighting Matt off. She knew hate was growing inside Matt for the Gill boy because Sybil was always going off somewhere to meet him. Matt couldn't
help it if Sybil was his own wife's child. He couldn't help what happened inside him. Nobody could help what happened inside. Suddenly, a body just felt something and had to let it have its way or fight it off, and Matt never fought anything off that came inside him. Sybil wasn't his child, and it was natural he would notice her and hunger for her, living right in the same house with her and seeing her every day. When Matt ordered the Gill boy to stay off the place, and said it was because he was killing too many of the squirrels and not leaving enough for seed, Effie was not surprised, and she said nothing. Sybil said nothing either, but she wouldn't even look at Matt and talk to him unless she had to, trying not to let Effie fret about her. Sybil wouldn't want her mother to be grieving. She kept going farther and farther into the woods with her gun to hunt squirrels. She didn't have to say anything. Effie knew she went to meet Elbert Gill somewhere off of Matt's place. And Matt knew it, too. Matt was getting so he tried to find reasons to quarrel with Sybil. He didn't want her to use his doublebarrel shotgun. He didn't want her to go hunting so much. She didn't do enough around the house to help Effie. And while Sybil was hating him, she was laughing at him inside, too. She would say things just to make him mad and then grin about them. She'd slip his gun out for spite. He always kept his gun shined up and oiled and never wanted anybody to touch it. It was a good gun and truer-shooting than Sybil's single barrel. Sybil liked to use it because she could get two quick shots without having to reload it. She could get two partridges instead of one when she scared up a covey. She liked to use it now just to aggravate Matt. Darkness was settling in the valley as the red mule began the tedious climb up Epperson's Ridge. The last caws of crows on wing to the tall pine roosts were dying, and already the lonesome call of a whippoorwill came from down the valley. Soon, Effie knew darkness would come like a giant animal filling in the spaces between the hills with big hovering paws. Effie was at peace and in no hurry since Sybil could have supper ready and waiting, but she clucked at the mule and kicked his flanks to urge him on up the hill. It was a good clean night, a late September night that smelled of ripeness. Soon, the red mule stumbled into the clearing where Effie's cabin was, and right away she sensed that something was wrong.
There was no sound from the house and no light from the kitchen window. Sybil ought to be in the kitchen getting supper ready, but she wasn't there. Suddenly, a loud squawk came from the chicken coop, and a small, dark animal ran out the door and toward the woods dragging a heavy thing with it. A fox had got a hen. Without thinking, Effie reached under her apron for her thirty-two, but just then the two hounds under the house heard the squawk and ran out ofter the fox making it drop the hen and scamper to cover in the woods. Old Jerse, the cow, heard the hoof-beats of the mule and began bawling. It sounded to Effie like she was pleading, like her udder was heavy with milk, like she was hungry for corn nubbins. Almost at once, Matt staggered from the shadows behind the cabin, and Sybil came walking fast out of the woods behind the garden with Mart's gun under her arm. Matt stood with his legs wide apart and shifted to steady his swaying stanch. Effie knew he was drunk, and he hadn't been drunk for several weeks. He'd not have any sense now. "Ye're late, aintche?" Matt asked as Effie rode up beside him. IVithout checking the mule, Effie answered, "I stopped to talk to Sally Poynter fer a spell." "Sybil ain't got supper ready. She's been off som'ers." "Well, jist hold yer tater a while. I'll git supper." Effie was a little put out with Matt. Of course Sybil would be out of his way and him drunk like that. The mule stumbled on to the barn where Sybil was waiting. Effie didn't say anything, but she saw Sybil getting nubbins from the crib for Old Jerse and corn for the mule. Effie jumped down off the red mule, careful not to drop the basket and the coal oil can; then she turned the mule into his stall. Sybil was there with the corn. "I follered th' hounds over to Pine Knob an' went huntin'," Sybil said, "an' 'fore I knowed it, it was dark. Maybe you better start gittin' supper. I'll feed th' mule an' milk Old Jerse. I'll come git th' bucket in a minute." Effie knew Sybil wouldn't say she was staying away from the house because Matt was drunk. She figured that that was why Sybil was hiding out behind the garden, to keep out of Mart's way. She'd give him no chance to bother her. That was the way 10
Sybil was. She'd stay out of the way, but she'd fight like a wildcat if she was ever cornered. "Did ye git to shoot anything?" Effie asked. "These two squirrels." Sybil pulled two squirrels out of her jumper pockets and handed them to Effie. "They'll make right good squirrel stew fer supper," Effie said, and she went on to the house. Matt was sitting on the dogtrot steps, and Sybil's single barrel shotgun was lying on the floor behind him. Effie could make out its shape as she climbed up the steps and passed Matt in the dark. She stepped over the gun and went into the kitchen side of the house, which was also the sitting room and hers and Mart's bedroom. Matt followed her into the room when she had the coal oil lamp lit and sat in a chair where he could rest both arms on the table. He saw the squirrels Effie had put on the table with the willow basket and the coal oil can. Mart's eyes were red, and his lids looked heavy. His hat was off and his hair was long and as tangled as a brush pile. His blue denim jumper was snagged in several places. Effie really wished he'd be off to Jett's Creek or the head of Rocky with Jake Doolin and get out of her way. He had a gallon jug half full of white liquor on the table yet. "You been huntin'?" Matt asked as he saw the squirrels. "Sybil kilt em." "Her or Elbert Gill?" "I said Sybil." At that moment Sybil came from the barn to get the milk bucket. She didn't look at Effie or Matt either. She went straight to the wall behind the cooking stove and took the bucket from a nail; then she went on out into the dark again, and Matt sat staring out the door with his head sort-of drooping forward. "I been huntin', too, but I didn't find nothin' to shoot," Matt said; then he quit talking. Effie started a fire in the cook stove and put away the things from the willow basket; then she threw the basket onto the bed over in the corner. She took the lamp and went out to the dogtrot to clean the squirrels. Matt stayed in the dark room. By the time supper was ready Sybil was back with the milk, but before she sat down to eat, she washed her hands and 11
strained the milk into a crock on the shelf by the stove. "These squirrels has cooked up right tender," Effie said as Sybil sat at the table. "They're younguns," Sybil said. Matt hadn't moved from his chair even to wash his hands and face. He reached for the jug and poured a glass half full of the liquor and drank it down; then he looked up at the two empty nails over the door. "Whur's my gun?" he asked looking straight at Sybil. "It's a-settin' jist outside th' door," Sybil said. "That ain't whur it belongs." Sybil went out and brought it in and hung it on the two nails. Effie's pistol was hanging on another nail beside the door. "Some day ye're a-goin' to take that gun once too often," Matt said. Sybil grinned. "I won't be hyur atter tomorr'," she said. "We better eat these squirrels 'fore they git cold," EfEe said quickly. Matt took another drink of his whiskey and quit talking. Sullen, he began eating his supper, but the lids of his eyes didn't seem quite so heavy to Effie as she glanced at him occasionally. It was like somebody had slapped him real hard and sobered him up, or somebody had thrown a bucket of cold water in his face. His eyes seemd to squint now with a mean determination. Sybil seemed bolder than usual with her talk. It was as though she was suddenly a strange person, and although Effie knew she was still her child, she was different. Effie felt funny inside, like a cold lump of thickening gravy had lodged in her throat. It was a new feeling, a strange feeling for her. Yet, she felt a peculiar happiness, a sort-of freedom. She had known Sybil would be like this and say something like this sometime, and she had hoped it would be soon because of the way Matt was acting lately, but she felt that this was a bad time to say it, and all she could say was, "We better eat our supper." "I'm goin' with Elbert Gill to git married tomorr'," Sybil said, like she had already cut at Matt with a knife and wanted to make the gash a little deeper. "He's a right good boy," Effie said. "He's a one who'll be good to his woman." Sybil looked at Effie's face and said nothing more. Matt ate 12
great mouthfulls of the squirrel stew and followed it with big chunks of cornpone; then he took another drink of the liquor and went outside into the dark. Sybil helped Effie with the dishes and went into the room across the dogtrot and closed the door behind her. Effie was tired, and she was troubled. She felt like she would feel if there was a long dry spell and the planted things drooped and withered in the hot sun. She felt like she had felt when she sat helpless waiting for the rain to come, waiting for the rain to come and make the crop all right. She took off her apron and her dress and put on her long nightgown. She left the door open for Matt and went to bed. That night long after she had gone to bed Effie could hear Matt stumbling around out on the dogtrot, not saying a word. Once, she was sure that he was trying to push Sybil's door open, but it would take more than one man to push through the three big wooden buttons Sybil had nailed onto the door facing inside the room to hold the door closed. Another time, Effie heard him walking heavy-footed out in the yard, around the house and back to the dogtrot. For a long time he was quiet, then there was a splash of water on the ground. Then he came into the room, got another drink of the liquor, and dropped like a big falling log onto the bed beside Effie without taking off his overalls. Effie lay still and said nothing. Matt was soon breathing heavily and regularly, and he was asleep. Effie turned over on her side with her back to him knowing there would be no more stirring from him for several hours. The next morning fog was heavy in the valleys on both sides of the ridge, but it tapered off thin about two hundred steps from the front of the cabin. The woods behind the cabin were just a big blurred sheet. The barn could hardly be seen when Effie first got up. It was not yet good daylight. She stood for a moment in the dogtrot and looked out into the fog, thinking; then she went back into the room and started a fire so she could cook breakfast. Matt was no longer sprawled out on top of the cover. His overalls were dropped in a wad on the floor beside the bed, and he was under the three quilts. Sometime during the night he had gotten cold and sobered up a little. He lay there now on his back with his mouth wide open. He was frowning a little, but there 13
was nothing mean-looking about him. Effie felt sorry for him, the way he let these drinking spells keep him from being the kind of man she knew he really was. She pulled the cover up closer under his chin. She went back out to the dogtrot and washed her face and hands in a pan of water. She coiled her hair on the back of her head and stuck in the hairpins. Then she knocked at the other door and said, "It's might nigh daylight, Sybil." She was mixing dough for biscuits when Sybil came in and got the milk bucket from the nail. "These're goin' to be yer weddin' biscuits," Effie said. Sybil looked at Matt on the bed and said, "Step out hyur a minute, will ye, Maw." Effie followed Sybil over into the other room, and she heard Matt stirring as she went. "I got everything ready an' fixed in a quilt so's I'll be ready when Elbert gits hyur," Sybil said. "I'm goin' to leave them things over there on th' bureau fer you. I don't reckon Elbert an' me'll need 'em 'til we git us a place to live. We'll jist live in with his fokes fer a while." "Ye ort to take that purty pin cushion ye made," Effie said. "It's too purty fer me to use." "No. I'm a-goin' to leave it hyur." Sybil didn't look at Effie as she talked. She just stood there with the milk bucket in her hands and looked at the pin cushion. Effie kept wiping her hands on her apron although they were dry. She couldn't understand what was coming over her. It wasn't like her to be acting like this. "Breakfas'll be ready time ye git done milkin'," Effie said. When Effie got back to the kitchen, Matt was up and dressed. He was pouring a drink from the jug. Effie looked at him for a moment but said nothing. Matt swallowed a full glass of the liquor and set the glass back on the table; then he saw Effie looking at him. He picked the glass up again and said, "I'm a-goin' to drink it all." He poured another glass that emptied the jug. He gulped it down and coughed a little. "Now, by damn," he said; then he went out behind the woodshed for a minute. When he came back in he took down his double-barrel shotgun and oiled it and shined it; then he hung it back up on the 14
nails over the door above Effie's thirty-two. Finally, he sat down at the table to wait for breakfast. Sybil came back from milking, and breakfast was ready. The smell of fresh biscuits and fried ham was strong in the room. Outside, the fog was thinning a little, and down the ridge the treetops were beginning to blur through. In the distance the sun was coming up, but it looked like a yellow smear of butter on hot mashed potatoes. Effie and her man and her child ate in silence. Then suddenly from under the house the dogs ran out barking. They ran toward the woods. Through the kitchen window by which the table stood, EfBe and Sybil and Matt could see the dogs running. Then just as suddenly as they had started barking they stopped barking but ran on blurring into the fog with their tails and hindparts wagging. Nobody said a word. A bite of egg fell off Sybil's fork. Effie looked at Matt and then back at her plate, but she was keeping one eye on the direction the dogs had gone. Matt kept on eating, unmoved. The dogs came back out of the fog and crawled under the house. Then there was the blurred figure of a man coming out of the fog. Before he was far enough for a body to tell who he was he yelled, "Ho-o-o, Sybil," and he was coming on out of the fog with his hands in his pockets. Matt jumped up from the table and grabbed his gun off the wall. "I told that bastard what I'd do if he ever set foot on this place agin!" he said. As Matt walked out onto the dogtrot and raised his gun, almost without thinking, Effie was quickly and quietly behind him taking her thirty-two from the holster on the wall beside the door. As Matt levelled off to fire, she fired two quick shots that went clean through his trigger hand. She couldn't help it. Elbert Gill didn't have a gun, and he was Sybil's man. It was like she had done on the road, shooting the snake with the toad in its mouth before she thought, but not sorry she did it. Matt dropped his gun to the floor and just stood there looking at the blood running out of his hand, and then he looked at Effie, helpless-like. He didn't look drunk anymore. He looked like he was hurt inside more than he was hurt in his hand. He looked like he had suddenly been awakened by some awful thing and 15
couldn't yet make out what it was. It was like he had been surprised and ambushed. Sybil sat at the table looking at her mother. Elbert Gill had stopped in his tracks, not coming on and not going back. Effie had a feeling inside that she had never had before, like she had done something she had to and couldn't quite be sure that it was what she should have done. She just looked at Sybil and said, "Maybe you better go on now. Go on with Elbert Gill and git married." Sybil looked out the window at Elbert Gill, and she went into the other room and got the quilt bundle. "You go with us, Maw," she said. "No. You better go on now," Effie said. Elbert Gill took the bundle from Sybil and turned toward the woods with her. Almost at once they were out of sight in the fog. Without saying a word, Effie went at once into the kitchen. She knew what she had to do. She tore a long strip from an old sheet; she poured hot water from the teakettle into a pan; she got a bottle of turpentine from the cupboard; then she went outside and picked up two round white pebbles about the size of a robin's eggs from under the eaves. She took hold of Mart's elbow and made him come into the kitchen and sit down on the side of the bed. Matt still hadn't said a word. He just looked stunned. Blood had spattered the boards by his feet and had begun to darken. "Thisil make th' bleedin' stop, but th' turpentine'll sting a little," Effie said. She washed the blood off and soaked parts of the torn sheet in turpentine; then she put the two pebbles against the veins above the bullet wounds. She wrapped the cloth around Matt's hand tight and tied it with smaller strips of the sheet. "Maybe ye ort to lay down a while," she said. But Matt just sat on the side of the bed with his wrapped hand in his lap. He was looking at Effie now, and the way he looked at her made Effie feel mean. She went to the cupboard again and brought a fruit jar. She poured half a glass of white liquor from the jar and handed it to Matt. "I've got a little corn liquor, too. Hyur, drink it. I reckon ye got a right to drink it now," she said. Matt took it with his left hand and drank it down; then he 16
grinned a sheepish grin. "I reckon I had it a-comin'," he said. "You're a better shot'n I am, old woman." Effie left the kitchen without saying a word. She wanted to be out in the woods by herself. She wanted to think. Her youngun was gone now. She had got herself a man. And EfBe still had her own man. She had just done what she had to do. She'd not say anything about it. Sometimes a woman had to do a lot of things she didn't want to do.
A SUNDAY OF YELLOW AND WHITE Charles Edward Eaton i
Why has she come into the field at noon? Her yellow hat and Sunday white belong to cityâ€” But there, with her look of something never found, She breathes and feels the lung of love within her Fill until she stands distent, a single flower in the ground, And there the harvester could never come too soon. Already among the early wheat, without pity, She hears the phantom-turning of the engine's whir. An hour before, among them and their praise, She listened to the words that made her body like a cross; Every eye and every house turned up its gaze And looked for profit where they augured loss. With all the monumental power at her back, She stands, enraged to feel so full alone, As though, if love should burst, her yellow hat would blot the sun, Her body fall through time, white and columnar as stone, And she in falling so asunder Be nothing more than love's too violable plunder. Oh, this tranquil agony of being one Who knows the world must fall apart for lack Of nothing more than courage of embrace! Oh, happiness as difficult as grace! To know that the knife of the engine is so skilful Makes flowers mutter underground as though Persephone were cruel.
THE GIFTS Jo Sinclair
Wte HAD BEEN talking of the world today, and what the atomic age could possibly turn out to be. Our host, Ted Brand, began to discuss the meaning of fear. Ted was a newspaperman who turned out a daily column on people, and recently he had done a series of columns devoted to interviews on the meaning of the atom to what he called "the man in the street." Ted's wife, Anne, shook her head. "What got me, I think," she said very gravely, "was the fear Ted met wherever he went. It was so depressing. I mean, everyone was so frank about it. Practically the first thing they told Ted was that they were scared. Pure, simple scared. Of Korea, of the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, germ warfare—the whole fantastic list of nightmares." "Do you think," Lucy Andrews asked rather abruptly, "that the atom has changed the meaning of fear in men? Or the ways in which they can fight their fear?" "Definitely," Ted said at once. "I think the last war made cowards of us all. It ushered in not only the atomic age but the age of selfish, cowering mankind. The time of pure fear. After Korea, it will be some other country, or city—the name doesn't matter, only the emotion does. That'll be the same—only the shivering will be worse." Lucy smiled across the room at her husband. "Dave," she said, "aren't you one of the shivering men who wrote a letter on pure fear once?" Her husband smiled back, set down his glass. "You know, Ted," he said in his slow way, "fear isn't pure. It contains too many ingredients. Lots of them on the plus side. Fear's a rather balanced thing, even when you think you can't handle it." Dave Andrews taught English and drama at the university. He and Lucy, both in their late thirties, were the focal point of a group that met often to talk, to listen to new recordings, and 19
to argue the state of the world. They were a well-loved pair, and entirely different. Dave, the quiet one, liked mostly to listen, to inject a sentence here, a clipped phrase there. Lucy was the emotional one. She would get excited, a tiny vein would begin beating in her neck and she'd be off; her impassioned arguments were always good. Matthews, who ran one of the large book stores in town, said quizzically, "Lucy dear, surely even an idealist like you can't deny the weakness and corruption of a thing like fear. Dave? Can you?" "Yes," Dave said, "I do deny it." He grinned. "I'm about to throw a lot of old-fashioned words into this intellectual room. You're half right about fear. It contains weakness, and perhaps the potential of corruption. But really, Matt, fear is a balance. Delicateâ€”yes. But it can be licked by bringing up certain other delicate ingredients to overbalance the weakness, the selfishness or cowardiceâ€”or whatever you mean by corruption." "What ingredients?" Ted demanded. "I interviewed twentyfive men and women, and not one mentioned anything but complete fear." Dave smiled again. "Very delicate ingredients," he repeated. "So delicate that people sometimes don't know they possess them. I didn't." The vein in Lucy Andrew's slender neck had begun to beat, but her voice stayed gentle. "Dave's talking about old-fashioned, unsophisticated things," she said. "Love, faith, generosity, giving. Mostly, the last." She laughed, and threw Dave a kiss with one of those tender gestures which endeared her so to her friends. "You see," she went on, "Dave and I both know there's no fear possible if you feel things right. And then give some of that feeling. It's like offering a gift. And even the atomic age will take a gift. No, that's not right. What I really mean is, the atomic age must have a gift!" Matthews frowned. "Lucy," he said, "why the riddles? You're usually so clear." "Dave," Lucy said, smiling at Matthews, "I want you to tell them." There was a lovely air of jubilation about her. "There were 20
two gifts Dave gave, once upon a time, and I'll bet you he'll never be afraid again. Of anything. And I won't, eitherâ€”they were enough to take care of any fear I'd ever have." "And what were the gifts?" Ted asked, his voice puzzled. "A photograph," Lucy said. "And a letter. Please tell them, Dave." It was the fall of 1943 (Dave started, in a musing voice), and he had been in the prison camp for close to eight months, the camp known as Stalag Luft III, where all the interned were fliers, nationals of the Allied countries. The story began on a Friday; that was the day the real fear began, the real despair, though there had been some kind of fear every day for eight months. Dave awoke to find his photo of Lucy missing. By Friday afternoon, Dave knew the Kid had stolen the picture. It was the expression in the Kid's eyes that told him; from the most surly, the most lost, eyes in the barracks, they had changed to the most peaceful. The Kid's name was Lieutenant Brown. He was a thin, sullen chap, about twenty-three, who rarely spoke to anyone. He had been in Dave's hut for close to three months, had been moved in when Eschleman died. For a week or two, the men had tried to be friendly, but then they had taken to shrugging. It was Easton who had said one day, "Where's the Kid? Not that it makes me mad when he scrams for a while!" The name had stuck. As a matter of fact, Brown looked more and more like a kid every day. His garden was next to Dave's small plot of land, and when he bent over the tomato plants Dave could see a thin rump like a boy's outlined in the shorts. Below were the long, bony legs of a schoolboy on an athletic field. In the hut, Brown spent most of his time in his bunk. A pair of suspicious, angry eyes would peer out, would watch the other men as they talked or wrote letters or read. Dave did not report the missing photo, or question anyone. A strange thing happened to him that Friday. He discovered that Lucy's picture, on the shelf, had been something like a part of himself, as corporeal, as naturally there, as a blood vessel. From the moment of waking each morning, his eyes going to it the first thing, until he closed his eyes for the night, the picture 21
had been a piece of his life. It was something to pray to, to talk toâ€”without a necessary word. It meant time passing with motion and meaning instead of pressing down on his head and heart with the blurring enormity of prison hours. Dave knew none of these things about the picture and himself until it was gone. By early afternoon of that day he had begun to feel, for the first time in his life, the kind of fear that was so deep and pervading that he wanted to crawl away somewhere and die. And it was a confusing kind of fear, tied hazily to the fact that a man had stolen his dearest possession under circumstances where no man in the world could possibly steal. It was as if two men had been thrown on an island of torment, an isolated place far from the living world, and then one of the men had turned around and taken the other's last small remembrance of that world. The end of the dignity and decency Dave had always expected of any man; and that was one of the thick spokes of the wheel of fear beginning to turn too quickly in him. The other spokes of the wheel?â€”they had been there all along, the war, the prison camp, the way a camp forces lostness and ending down a man's throat, the way the days stretch forever further and more shadowy away from the life a man left when he went to war. There had always been some fear for Dave in the flying. Then, when he was captured, there was the new fear that timelessness creates in a man whose hours had been crammed with living. But now the feeling was different. It was deeper, as abysmal as despair; and it was tied, in that mysterious and terrible way, to the fact that a man like himself, a man with a mind and a heart, had stolen the only real thing he had left. Only he isn't a man, Dave tried to tell himself all that Friday afternoon. He's just a boy. He wanted to run over to Brown's bunk and kill him. He wanted to shout: "Damn you, I need her picture more than you do! I haven't seen her for a year and a half. I know what she looks like, but you've never even seen her once. She's just any woman to you, but she's my wife!" He wanted to murder the Kid but instead, he started a letter to Lucy. He wrote it in his head. Throughout the day, he added to it from time to time, good long paragraphs, each one detailed 22
and carefully enough spun out to take an hour or so of his thinking. He had started the letter in panic, with the realization that the picture was gone. Instead of howling out his loss, instead of lying in his bunk and weeping, he had begun frantically to write the letter inside of him. But as Friday stretched into Saturday, and the letter grew in length and torment and longing, his fear only turned deeper. He was writing her everything, all the rotting, never-moving minutes of his life here. It was the kind of letter he had never permitted himself to put on paper, and he wrote it doggedly as he gardened, added to it as he held a book, polished a paragraph as he walked. Sunday came, and still he had not begun the letter on the actual paper which would go to Lucy. Instead, he continued it in his head, going back over it to the beginning, adding more anguished words, polishing his pain and longing until words gleamed like bones. The two days had been endless, and Dave felt so weak Sunday morning that he had difficulty getting up and dressing. Ill write it today, he thought. Put it all on paper and send it to her. Lucy, Lucy, help me. I'm dying, my mind is going. Lucy, come to me, help me, darling! But he did not write it on paper. Instead, he went on with it in his head, creating it, fashioning the letter as if it were an intricate, jewelled article: . . . and it's not the barbed wire, or even the Nazi mind spread around our enclosure thicker than the wire, that will break a man. It is the loss of a picture. A small soon-faded shadow of what a man has left behind to come to a place like this. Isn't it strange, Lucy my dearest, what will give a man ease or torment? That picture of you I could see first in the morning and last in the night. A picture. In my heart I know you are there, the same, your eyes and your smile. Yes, I swear I know you will be there for me forever, yet when the picture was taken away I felt suddenly that the last remembered bit of earth had been taken from beneath my feet. I felt lost, forsaken. In the monotony and sameness of the months here, your picture was calendar and clock, don't you see? Your picture was horizon, season, the trees outside the house where I was born. Now that it is gone, I do not know where to turn or what to touch. Without the picture 23
I am a man without a name, without reality, a prisoner beyond this single German camp. Pray for me, Lucy. Pray that I do not lose myself in this prison of the soul. Cowardice, defeat. Words a man does not realize until at last his smallest, dearest possession is stolen from him, too. A voice came from outside the open door of the hut. "Lieutenant Andrews. You in there?" Dave looked up from his book, and his eyes slurred over Brown's suddenly averted eyes and the way he sat crouched on the edge of his bunk. "Come in," he called. It was Moore, the shy tall Iowan he had got to know through the theatre workshop he was directing. Dave liked him. He was about thirty-six, on the silent side, a man who never let his feelings get outside himself. There was not a man in the officers' sector who had not cracked, at least once, by word or gesture or tone of voiceâ€”except Moore. Dave had never seen him show what he was actually feeling. He had brown, expressionless eyes which never flicked raw, or tortured, or bitter. Moore's slow, drawling voice had been heard in only one story about back home. He had started flying at seventeen, learning at one of those tiny, tin shacks which spring up in the lonely wastes of the West and Midwest, sun streaming down on the tin roof and on the two rusty-looking airplanes drawn up before the shack; the rough sign stuck into the newly-cleared ground: WORLD FLYING SCHOOL. WE TEACH YOU TO FLY. EASY PAYMENTS.
"The guy was a Swede," Moore told it. "Flew in the first big fracas. You know the kind of crates the guys flew then. Well, the Swede know more about a plane than God. Charged me for the first lesson, then he made me a partner. Swell egg. Left me the school when he died. We used to fly old Doc Eaton around the stateâ€”he had all these patients on all the border lines of Iowa. Wonder if Doc's still alive? If he is, wonder who's flying him and his medicine around?" Moore was one of the officers who had turned up in the Council Hut after the Y.M.C.A. had sent in the stage and Dave had called for actors and stage workers in his monthly column in the prisoners' newspaper. "Shaw?" Moore had said when he turned up. "Never heard of him, but I'm always willing to pass the time. You want me to be in this 'Man of Destiny,' or what?" 24
Dave closed his book as Moore walked into the hut that Sunday. He put it back on the shelf he had made. There were fifteen books on the shelf, Lucy's gifts. The tobacco can, empty for three weeks now, and his pipe stood in the right corner. Lucy's picture had stood in the center, framed by the books and the jar. The empty space still made his head throb. "Hello, Moore," he said, turning from the shelf. "Going to chapel?" the lanky man asked. He had brushed his uniform and several holes had been patched neatly. "That English guy is preaching today. I like him better than Father What's-His-Name. I never know what the little priest is saying, what with that Dago accent." "He says some pretty intelligent things," Dave said, smiling. "That's why he was interned." "Oh, I like the little guy," Moore said. "He plays a sweet outfield. I don't know a heck of a lot about music, but I guess he knows how to fiddle too, doesn't he?" Dave nodded. "He's a fine musician. He conducts, too." "Yeah, I know." Then Moore's voice caught suddenly, in an odd way, and when Dave looked up he saw that his face had turned a pasty white. "Hey, where's your wife's picture?" he said, his voice entirely different. It sounded hoarse, curiously tight. "It's not gone, is it?" In the habitual dimness of the hut, Dave saw the Kid's body burrow deep into the bunk space. "Why, I put the picture away for a bit," Dave said after a moment. The lie was suddenly there, in his mind, along with Lucy's eyes, her generous and endearing smile. "What did you want to do that for?" Moore said. He was stammering, and Dave was amazed at the sudden depth and expression in his eyes. Before Dave could answer, Moore said, "It's been up there all this time. Like a—well, it's like you change the wallpaper in a room. For no good reason! People get used to a thing, Andrews! People—well, heck, it isn't even the same room any more. What did you want to do that for?" It was a deep shock to Dave to feel the man's loss. Were any of the other men questioning that empty space on his shelf?— silently, not able to demand in words the return of that woman's face, her smile, the eyes which had looked into all their eyes? 25
"Heck, Andrews!" Moore was motionless, his hands jammed into his pockets, and his whining tone made Dave wince. "Did those bastards snitch it? Come on, tell me, it's all right—I can take it. Did those Nazi bastards steal your picture?" Dave linked his arm in Moore's and drew him out of the hut. "Coming to chapel, Brown?" he said over his shoulder to the Kid, straining for carelessness. There was no answer, but by that time they were outside the hut. "Listen, Moore," Dave said soothingly, as soon as they were beyond possible earshot, "sometimes you put a thing away for a few days. Then when you take it out again, it's wonderful. All fresh, you know? As if you're seeing it for the first time, kind of. It—well, it's something to look forward to. Puts a punch in life. Makes a kind of new leaf for the calendar. Do you see what I mean? In two or three days, we'll have the picture to look at again. Think about it, will you? Gives us something to wait for." He led Moore toward the Council Hut, where chapel was held every Sunday, hating the Kid with each further lie. Well, it's true, he thought bitterly. It would have given us something to wait for, if I thought for a second he'd return it. The return of that face. The horizon over this damned desert of ours. "Yeah," Moore said uncertainly, "that's one way of looking at it, I guess." "Sure," Dave said, with another tremendous effort to be casual. "Just think about it—there's something to the idea." "Okay, okay, Andrews!" As they walked, Dave felt Moore's arm trembling with his loss. What a personal loss it must have been: a woman's smile, a woman's hair, her parted lips. As they walked, he wrote another bit of the letter to Lucy. Now, suddenly, he had Moore's fear in him, too. What sort of loneliness must he he feeling, dearest?—that Kid, that thief in the night? For weeks he must have looked at you with hungering eyes. As if you were his, and he could dream himself free and alive by watching you. I saw him touch you that way a thousand times a day, the way all of us in the hut did—with our eyes, remembrance of the lost world of woman and love and peace. In the night he must have lain there, his eyes turned in your direction. Like all our eyes. But this did not suffice him. He had to steal you. From me—from all of us, I see 26
(for here is Moore, from the fourth hut over, not even our hut â€” here is Moore shivering inside because you are gone). That boy had to think that the picture belonged to him alone, as if the physical possession of a bit of cardboard, hidden now from all other eyes but his, gives him the right to you. I hate him, I want to kill him. That boy must think now that he has you. He alone, of all of us. That he has you and is safe. Well, perhaps he is right. Perhaps he alone is safe now, and the rest of us are on our knees at last. Yes, I could kill him, that baby! But I can't take the picture away from him. Lucy, I can't. Why can't I? It's mine. You're mine, aren't you? There was a good turnout at chapel. Though Dave was in an all-American barracks, the enclosure housed both British and American air force officers and the chapel was filled with a representation of both. Captain Hamilton, Church of England, was delivering the sermon. Dave could see Father Goudey, the interned civilian priest who spelled Hamilton on sermons, sitting in the front row. His round solemn face was turned up toward the stage on which the captain was standing, and on which he stood so often to play music for the men. "My sermon today," Captain Hamilton said, "is on 'The Evil of Fear.' Is it not true that often we fear things which never happen?" Dave sat listening to the precise voice, watching the thin face and the earnest pale eyes. How peculiar that today's sermon should be for him â€” and for Moore. And if the Kid were here, he could get right up and make his own sermon on the same subject. Listening, Dave went back to his letter, writing it carefully against the background of the drily impassioned voice of the Captain. I am in church now. Perhaps you, too, are in church at this moment? Perhaps I can hear the organ, if I dream right. No, that is difficult. Even a dream begins to be tainted by this waiting, this monotony. It is like wandering perpetually through room after room of the same grayness, the same height and width and temperature and smell. And as we wander we look feverishly about us for one small different thing, one blotch of color in the gray. Well then, it will be tennis this afternoon, and last night 27
I went to hear the Senior American Colonel give a talk on philosophy. Blotches of color? And perhaps next Sunday morning (Sundays are favored), they will be giving out Red Cross parcels. Perhaps a few new clothes — my uniform is quite bad. The parcels are wonderful to have. Jam, butter, condensed milk, chocolate, cigarettes, tins of meat. Are you having any trouble getting tobacco and book labels from the Office of the Provost Marshal General? Ask the Red Cross for help if you need it. I'm out of tobacco, but you know we have a fine exchange system here for surplus foods. We call it "Foodacco," and it's possible to swap for almost anything. For example, cigarettes are forty points per hundred, and chocolate is thirty-seven points per quarter pound. I got quite a number of cigarettes yesterday for some chocolate I had been hoarding (from the last Red Cross parcel). You might send me some more pencils, dear — they have a high-point rating. Oh, Lucy, listen to me babbling! All these things are turning gray, too. The remarkable thing is, we all continue to dash madly from educational pastime to gardening to baseball, to our newspaper stint. Remarkable, for still the time does not pass! Many of us insist on working — though, as I wrote you, officers are not required to work. And yet, whether we work or not, the waiting starts all over again each morning, wounds freshly inflicted. The soul loses ground constantly to a thing called monotony. (In church, may a man speak of "sour?) The clipped, precise voice went on, and an occasional cough came up through it, through the words like "courage, man's inner self, the manifold subtle fears never known before these trying days." Dave continued his letter carefully, slowly, guarding his bellowing mind with each word. This chaplain talks of the evil of fear, and at the back of the Hut two of the guards sit and show their guns to the officer prisoners of Stalag Luft III, who take religion once a week. This, of course, is not the fear we mean — this knowledge that armed guards sit with us as we talk to our God. The fear within, like the religion within — that is the real dangling sword, Lucy. Here, in a prison camp ninety miles Southeast of Berlin in the direction of Breslau, or there in Ohio where you are. The leaves are falling there, aren't they? And it is still warm, I know, and the last of the corn and tomatoes are being picked. Here, it is warm in the afternoons and we still wear shorts outdoors. Bravery, my 28
dear, is not the facing of these German guards, or the strength to wait for the beloved letter. Bravery is a word we do not face until the last small tie to life is destroyed. Defeat is another such word. A woman's picture, my God, my God! No, let's not think about the picture, darling. Let me tell you details of the life here. Let me pretend there is no government censor, that even there is no censor of the mind! Major Easton is camp stooge today. That means he cooks and washes dishes. Tomorrow it's my turn. There are still six of us in the hut. (We hear that in the non-coms enclosure these days a hut is divided into two rooms which accommodate about eighty. But of course we're not sure, as the non-coms are still segregated from us entirely by a high fence.) Double-decker wooden bunks. Our sleeping mattresses are filled with wood fiber. There are electric lights. Really, life is quite adequate — to be impersonal about the whole thing. We have a wood-burning stove in the hut, and we can cook supplementary food right there. We cook our regular meals in the officers' kitchen, under the supervision of the German staff. We eat in our dormitories, and — "Andrews," Moore whispered urgently, from the next seat, "when will you put it out again? On the shelf? Tomorrow? Tuesday?" His whisper was so full of anxiety and pleading that the rawness began in Dave again. He made a gesture for Moore to be quiet, pretending that he wanted to listen to the sermon. Then a feeling of panic rose in him as he thought that soon he would go back to the hut, and Brown would be there. Brown would be silent, smug, strong, the picture hidden. And if the others in the hut asked him where the picture was? Dave thought, the panic deeper. What if Mason asked him? Mason, who couldn't stand things anyway, whose wounds weren't healing properly. Mason cried so easily. Abruptly, Dave leaned and whispered to Moore, "Got to run. See you later." He eased out of the second-last line of chairs, walked swiftly out of the room. Very suddenly he wanted to get back to the hut before the others. Had Brown put the picture back! But Lucy, what if he hasn't put the picture back? And now, more and more, I feel that your picture was the only thing that stood betwen me and — the end of things. The end of even the 29
smallest, last dream. That boy, that man, has stolen my only sight of sky. If a man can steal in a place like this, from a man with whom he shares nothingness, what hope is there for anyone? He was at the hut in a few minutes. In the dimness, Dave walked directly to his shelf and stood there, staring at the empty space. A sinking sensation pulled at him, but in an instant he wheeled and rushed toward Brown's bunk. The Kid was lying on his back, his eyes wide, the whites seeming to flash up in the deeper darkness of the alcove made by the bunk space. Dave glared down at him, his fists clenched, until Brown's eyes closed and a light shudder ran through his body. He seemed to be stretched out in weariness, his head fallen at a tired, pitiful angle. Very suddenly, for no reason that he could imagine, an intense feeling of compassion welled up in Dave. He tasted tears in his throat. In a moment, he said in a voice pebbly with effort, "Listen, Brown, I came over to ask you if you'd like to join my class in world literature. We meet three times a week. It — it helps pass the time, you know. Pretty simple stuff — sort of a rehash of a course I taught at home. It passes the time." And it seemed to him, even as he stood mouthing the words which had come so mechanically to him, that now the hours would never be anything but timeless, that the days would blur into night and then in the mornings the meaningless waiting would start again. No longer the clock of her temples, and the moon of her hair, the sun of her eyes. No longer the rain and the snow of the crooked smile. A grudging chuckle came from the shadows of the bunk. "World literature? Who'd ever think I'd want to tackle stuff like that in Germany, in a prison camp?" "Maybe you've seen our newspaper around," Dave said steadily. "We have a lot of fun getting it out. Sort of like home-town news." "Yeah, I saw it." "I run that column on Page Three, called "The Word'," Dave said. "Books, mostly reviews. Some of the men contribute once in a while. They read a book and do a review — you know? You might be interested in doing one. They're short. Snappy. Passes the time, you know." Passes the time, which is timeless. Bridges a single second of 30
the waiting, so you can go into the further, emptier waiting. And Dave thought dismally: He'll be able to look into her face every morning, every night, when all the rest of us are asleep. He'll have the calendar, he can time his dreams. "What do you say?" he asked. "Think you'd be interested?" The Kid sat up, swung his legs over the bunk, and his face came out of the shadows. "I haven't got any books," he said, and Dave saw that the Kid was watching him intently. "Nobody sends me any stuff. Just the Red Cross package." "I've got quite a few books. Help yourself. They're on my shelf." The memory of the empty space on that shelf jabbed at the back of Dave's head, like an ache. "You want me to do one of those reviews?" Brown said. He was stammering a bit, sitting hunched on the edge of the bunk. "You want me to take one of your books and read it, write it up? Snappy, that way?" At that moment, Dave's muscles slackened. He felt terribly tired, but safe, as if he had climbed past the rotting lip of a deep pit and was out on ground which would not tremble now. "Sure, I'd like you to do one." His voice was low with exhaustion, but still steady. "Take your pick. I haven't used any of these for reviews yet. The deadline for stuff is next Friday." As he turned and walked toward his own bunk, he heard the Kid say in a low, sullen voice, "Thanks." Dave got to his bunk. When he sank into the narrow space, his hands were shaky with that intense weariness that had hit him. He could not understand what had happened to him, inside of him, but he knew he had barely escaped a kind of death. As he had leaned over Brown's bunk to demand his picture of Lucy, he had been on the edge of it â€” the death of decency, of a man's dignity and meaning. He's got her picture for good now, Dave thought, trying to piece things together. He's got the clock, the horizon. But already the poisonous air of his fear was drifting away, the murderous hatred, the bitterness of his loss. And he was suddenly wearily grateful that he had not written out his letter to Lucy and sent it to her. Lying there, with the new, curious ease in his heart, he said into the silence of the hut, "It all passes the time, you know." We were quiet for a while after Dave had finished. Finally I
Matthews cleared his throat. "Quite a story," he said. "I'd almost forgotten you were a prisoner-of-war." Ted had lit a cigarette, was nodding, scowling. "Lucy, forgive an old reporter?" he said gruffly. "You mentioned two gifts. Want to clarify that for me?" Again, Lucy and Dave were smiling at each other. "The letter," she said. "That was Dave's gift to me. He never actually wrote it. I mean, on paper. That fear, that begging for help. He never wrote me about the missing picture, or asked me for another one. In all his letters, he wrote the opposite of fear. Til be home one of these days. Today we started rehearsals on the Ibsen play. I've managed to get two decent reviews for the column.' After he got home, he told me the letter. Every word of it." Dave lifted his glass. "It stuck." "But by that time," Lucy said, "neither of us was afraid. I really don't believe I'll ever be frightened of anything again. The rest of my life." "Dave, tell me something," I said at this point. His eyebrows went up, and he said with a grin, "Ah, I wondered when the philosophy professor would barge in." "All right, I'm barging. Why did you let him keep the photo? I mean, really? Knowing you, you had a reason." "Yes, I did. Though it took me a while to figure it out. One of the delicate ingredients I mentioned a while back, I guess. When I finally got round to thinking, I realized I wanted the Kid to give the photo back on his own. Give it back to all of us â€” not only to me. I suppose, by that time, I realized too, that the camp was our world. Society, our community â€” you know all the words. And a man's got to keep his world intact, doesn't he? Under any circumstances?" The grin was back. "Even in an atomic age, eh? I have a hunch it would work in any age. Sharing, I mean. Unto the most precious, last little possession." "But you hadn't thought it out," I insisted. "That moment when you rushed over to his bunk to get back your picture, or kill him, or something." "Apparently," Dave said wryly, "the brain goes on clicking right through an emotional crisis." "Or the heart," Lucy cried. 32
"Or the heart," he agreed. "I think that I must have thought, at one point or another, that if I could get the Kid to give back the photo on his own, we'd all be stronger. Because he'd be. A — well, a whole sort of man in our midst, let's say. Instead of the scared boy who had to steal. I must have realized that his fear was much deeper than mine." "And the world lit course?" I asked. "The book review?" "Same sort of thing, don't you think?" Dave asked gravely. "You try to give a person a kind of bridge back into the community. It's too lonely when you've isolated yourself. You end up scared. You see, I knew by that time that I had sort of isolated myself, too. In a different sort of way — with Lucy's photograph. No good. Isolation of any sort. Very — corrupting." He picked up his glass again, and said, "The Kid turned in some passable reviews eventually." After a while, Matthews asked softly, "Photo ever get back into circulation?" '"Yes, it did," Dave said, and the wryness was back in his voice. "Took almost a month. The picture reappeared one morning — same spot on my shelf. It was quite a day; all the men were very good-natured, lots of laughter and talk, sort of a holiday air about the place. They hadn't said much to me during the month. They'd come into the hut every day and look at the shelf, to see if I'd put the picture back. Then they'd leave, without a word. Moore had spread the word, you see, and they were all waiting for me to put the picture back. It got to be quite wearing before the Kid gave Lucy back to us."
THE BRIDE FEE Robin White
wife, Devabai, were busy weaving baskets for market day when they first saw Karupan dashing towards them across the paddy fields. He was running violently, to say the least —his vashti held high in both hands, his feet slipping on the mud embankments — and with such obvious fury that Muthu was unable to restrain a smile. Even in the distance they could sense the familiar look of frustration Karupan would have on his wide, boyish face. "Wife trouble again," Muthu predicted, twisting another leaf into his half-formed basket. "And what else, I ask you?" agreed Devabai. They were both squatting on the packed earth in front of the hut, their backs pressed against the cool mud wall, the edge of the thatched roof casting over them a jagged shade. On either side of the low door, number one son, Manikkam, had stacked bushy piles of palmyra leaves, stripped and moistened and ready for weaving, while number two son nursed unperturbedly in the cloth hammock slung around his mother's neck. Noon lay hot and dull upon the ground, and the pancaked carpet of green — the umbrella trees, thorns, banyans, and palms, the paddy marsh and sweltering fields of sugar cane and betel — seemed to exude a thick, humid odor of sleep, an odor that rose sluggishly on shimmering heat waves into the dead air. It was abundantly evident that people in a sane state of mind did not rush about during this hottest part of the day unless on urgent business; and the only business urgent enough to bring Karupan out at a frantic pace was woman trouble. For the past two months, ever since he had given Jaraj the down-payment of the bride fee and brought Sathi home as his wife, he had come running to Muthu on an average of once a week. "Salaam, brother; salaam, sister-in-law," Karupan said, trying
MUTHU AND HIS
to catch his breath as he brushed through the hedge of thorns and came thumping into the clearing around the hut. He was breathing heavily and the dust on his face and hair-plucked chest was streaked with perspiration. From long experience Muthu knew better than to show concern. "Well," he said dryly and without looking up, "what now?" Karupan did not wait for an invitation but flung himself on the ground and rocked back and forth with his head in his hands. "Iyo! Iyo!" he cried, "I am miserable, most miserable, brother." "Come," said Devabai sharply, "enough idleness. There are many baskets to be made." She pushed a bundle of palmyra leaves at him. "Ah," Karupan moaned, "how can I think even of work at a time like this! Iyo! There is nothing left in life for me and I wish only to die." "Sathi again?" Muthu asked, offering his brother a cheroot. "Worse, oh worse, far worse than that." He made a gesture as if he were too wretched to smoke, but he accepted the cheroot anyway. "It is Sathi's father, Jaraj. Now there is an usurious man if I ever saw one! Money alone matters to him, and he will stop at nothing to enrich himself, and â€”" "Needless to say," Muthu interrupted, "you have been unable to pay him the remainder of the bride fee within the allotted time and he has taken Sathi back." Karupan grumblingly admitted that that was the case. "But I fully intended to pay the fee. Have I not already given him a down-payment of fifty rupees? Today I was to have given him fifty more, but that blackguard wouldn't even wait till sundown. He came only within the hour and took Sathi from me. Alas, Muthu, what am I to do?" "Get another wife, a cheaper one, one within your means," said Muthu, feigning indifference. "Marriage is, after all, a business proposition. It is no good unless you can make it show a profit." At this Devabai was heard to snort, but she said nothing, maintaining silence as was the custom when men were talking. "How can you speak thus to me, brother?" Karupan said indignantly. "You do not understand. It is not a matter of price or getting another wife. Sathi and I have fallen in love, and now she has been taken from me." "In love?" Devabai asked. 35
"Ssst!" Muthu said. "Sutham pordathai, pumpillai. Be silent, woman." He turned to Karupan again. "A small matter, Karupan; when you have saved up enough money, go and fetch her back." "There lies the trouble," said Karupan. "Jaraj is this very instant preparing to sell Sathi to Pillaiyar, an old and wealthy Koraver from Manamadurai." "Pillaiyar!" cried Devabai. "Well do I know the old rogue. For many months now has he owed my husband five rupees which he refuses to pay." "What about your fifty rupees down-payment?" Muthu asked. "Jaraj keeps it," Karupan told him. "He claims I have forfeited it." "Are you worried about the money or Sathi?" "Both, Muthu, both. Alas, where am I to raise another fifty rupees, and where am I to find another wife like Sathi. It is unfair. It is unjust. To wait until we have fallen in love and then take her awayl" Muthu shrugged. "Did you not foresee that Jaraj would take Sathi away if you failed to pay the full bride fee within two months?" "Of course," said Karupan. "And I had it all, or was to have had it on time, only this Pillaiyar, this same fat one of Manamadurai, has swindled it from me. He was agreed that for tending his flocks for one year that I was to receive fifty rupees, and now he holds out on me. It is because he has long desired Sathi and holds a grudge against me for having purchased the right to her." "This is indeed a horse of a different color," said Muthu, pushing his work away from him. "You will help me then, Muthu?" "I did not say that. I only said that it is indeed a horse of a different color, which it is." Devabai threw down her basket. "What talk is this?" she said angrily. "Of course you will help your brother." Muthu tugged at his chin defensively. "Of course," he said. "I was just arranging matters of form. Come, now, Karupan, we will go and get Sathi for you." He got to his feet. "And how, may I ask, do you intend to get Sathi?" asked Devabai. "We could steal her," Karupan suggested hopefully. 36
"What else?" said Muthu. "Cheh, cheh, cheh!" Devabai said, making a gesture of contempt. "Now do you explode with madness like a wooden cask of old toddy! If you steal Sathi, what will it profit you? for Pillaiyar would still have legal claim over her. Besides, I do not cherish the thought of having a husband with nose and ears cut off for theft." "As I was about to say, brother," Muthu said, "stealing would be somewhat senseless. Better would it be to do these things subtly." "But how, Muthu?" The two men looked at each other and scratched their heads bewilderedly. "Oh, there is a way," Devabai said. Karupan wrung his hands. "Only speak, sister-in-law, and I will be your devoted slave." A look of cunning crept into Devabai's eyes. "If I help you, who will do the baskets?" "Say no more," said Karupan. "I will do the baskets. But alas! Pillaiyar comes to take Sathi this very afternoon. We must make haste." "Well and good," Devabai said. "But be patient, Karupan, be patient." She clapped her hands for number one son. "Manikkam, you will go now to the house of Jaraj and speak privately with Sathi. Tell her that if she loves Karupan and wishes to have him for a husband she must go with Pillaiyar. But when she reaches the half-way mark to Manamadurai, she must pretend to faint from the heat. The rest will be taken care of. Now hasten, child. Karupan, you will stay here and work on the baskets, and when Muthu and I return we shall bring Sathi." "But how, Devabai? Even if you do get her away, will not Pillaiyar come running with his friends and beat me to death?" "Have no fear," Muthu said, vainly endeavoring to regain control of the situation. "All will go well." He looked sheepishly at Devabai. "What now, woman?" he asked. "We will need the bullock cart," said Devabai. Muthu went obediently and hitched his oxen to the yoke. When he had done this, he rode with Devabai out to the road that ran between Manamadurai and Tirrupoor, and there, at the half-way mark, they waited. Presently they saw Pillaiyar come hobbling down the road 37
with Sathi. As was agreed, Sathi pretended to faint from heat, for it was indeed the hottest part of the day, and even in the shade the ground was painful to the feet. Now Pillaiyar, when he saw that his young bride was overcome, grew alarmed. He tried unsuccessfully several times to rouse her, and then looked about for assistance. Seeing Muthu and his oxcart, he ran to him crying, "Alas, Muthu, my wife has fainted from the heat. Come now and help me, I beg you." Muthu started to descend, but Devabai held him back. "Why should we help you, old man," she said, "when you still owe my husband five rupees and have long since refused to pay? If your wife dies because you are too cheap to provide the necessary transportation and comforts of life for her, it is no skin off our teeth." In desperation Pillaiyar quickly paid Muthu his five rupees and renewed his request for help. Devabai climbed down from the bullock cart leisurely, in no hurry to assist, and went over to Sathi who was lying with her eyes closed, her arms spread awkwardly on the ground. She nudged Sathi with her foot, lifted her eyelids, put her fingers under her nostrils, and said, "It is too late for help, old man. What you need is a funeral pyre to dispose of this corpse." "Iyo!" Pillaiyar moaned, tearing his hair. "What am I to do?" "That is no worry of ours," said Devabai. "After all, it is your corpse. A fine thing this is! I can just see Jaraj when he discovers his daughter has perished from the heat because you were too stupid to take her home in the cool part of the day. Well, it is your worry. My husband and I have work to do. Come Muthu." "Wait!" Pillaiyar cried. "This is too much for me to bear alone. You must help me. What am I to do? It is true she is dead, and when her father finds out, he and his relatives will come and tear me limb from limb. Have pity on an old man and at least help me dispose of the body so that no one will know." "Pah! What nonsense is this?" Devabai said. "Why should my husband and I get involved for nothing in another man's trouble. She is your wife. You find the answer to this problem." She started to push Muthu towards the oxcart. "No. Please do not go. You must help me." Pillaiyar fell to his knees. "I will give you ten rupees if you will help me." 38
"For ten rupees we should risk ourselves? I'd rather report you to the authorities. Go you! Muthu and I want none of your idleness." "Twenty-five!" Muthu and Devabai climbed into the bullock cart. "Hey! Hey!" Muthu yelled to his oxen. "Forty rupees!" Muthu, who was beginning to catch on to this game, cracked his whip. "Fifty! Fifty rupees I will pay you!" "Very well," Muthu said, starting to get off, "for fifty—" "Cheh, cheh, cheh!" said Devabai, with a tug at Muthu's vashti. "Fifty is too cheap." "Name your price, then," Pillaiyar begged. Devabai fixed Pillaiyar with an obstinate stare. "For sixty and no less will we agree to help. That is our price." "It is robbery," Pillaiyar complained, "but anything, anything. Only help me now in my despair." "It must be in advance." "In advance! What madness is this, woman? Do you think I carry that much money about with me?" "Come, Muthu. Plainly we are wasting our time with this old leech." Reticently Muthu complied and urged his oxen forward. "In advance then," said Pillaiyar, taking out his money which was concealed in a small pouch under his vashti. He counted sixty rupees into Muthu's hand, and after Devabai had checked it twice to make sure it was all there, she helped Muthu place Sathi in the rear of the wagon. "Go now, Pillaiyar," she said, "and have no fear. All will be arranged in good order, and we will first dispose of this body and then make it known that Sathi has run off with Karupan." When they had gone a little way — just far enough to be out of Pillaiyar's reach — she nudged Sathi and said, "Sit up and wave goodbye." Sathi revived instantly and did as she was told, while Pillaiyar, who saw too late that he had been tricked, bawled hoarsely after them and then made off as fast as his old legs would carry him in the direction of Jaraj's house. Muthu was trembling with anger. "Why did you tell her to 39
sit up?" he asked Devabai. "Now all will be lost. Pillaiyar will got to Jaraj and their relatives will come and kill us all." "Cheh, cheh, chehl" said Devabai. "You have no faith." She took the money from Muthu, and when they reached the hut she gave fifty rupees of it to Karupan. "You may now pay Jaraj the full price," she told him. "I will go at once," said Karupan. "That will not be necessary," Muthu grumbled. "If I am not mistaken, he will come to you." Muthu was not mistaken. Within the hour not only Jaraj and Pillaiyar, but the villagers of Tirrupoor and all of their relatives came running. The air was filled with angry shouts and there was much waving of index fingers. Throughout the better part of the melee, Devabai remained calmly at her work weaving baskets, and after the shouting had died down a bit she asked, "What seems to be the matter?" Jaraj shook his hands furiously in Devabai's face. "Matter? Matter? This is the matter: Pillaiyar has come to me asking the return of my bride fee, saying that Sathi has run off with Karupan. This is no time for jokes and idle questions from women!" Everyone joined Jaraj in screaming for justice. "Be still and let me say a few things," said Devabai. "Let me tell you, and after you have heard me out, you may do as you wish. Strictly speaking, since the sun has not set, Karupan has yet time to pay the bride fee, as was agreed when he made the down-payment. Karupan, give Jaraj the fifty rupees. Jaraj, return Pillaiyar's money." "But Sathi is my bride," Pillaiyar shouted, "and that is my money." "Silence," said Devabai. "It is not sun-set yet, and thus Jaraj has no right to make other agreements until then. As for the fifty rupees, Pillaiyar owes it to Karupan, as you all know, for work Karupan did. But because of his hard-headness and greed, he has refused to pay it." "But I gave you sixty rupees, not fifty," said Pillaiyar. Devabai fixed Pillaiyar with another of her intense, cold stares. "Would you have me tell Jaraj and the rest what actually happened at the half-way mark?" she asked. Pillaiyar was silent. There was nothing he could say. The 40
several agreements were transacted without further ado, and everyone departed. "Now sit," said Devabai to Karupan, "for you and Sathi have many baskets to make." Karupan and his wife settled down to weaving baskets, and Muthu, exalted after this successful undertaking, retired to the shade of his hut to count over his profits. "Fifteen rupees," he said with a happy chuckle. "It profiteth a man to have troublesome relatives. What I don't understand is why we didn't hold out for more." The happy chuckle died in his throat. With a deft movement, Devabai snatched the money from his hands. "For love," she said, "it is a fair rate of interest. Any more would have been cheating."
OCEAN, MR., MRS. RLINK Eli Siegel
Noise near beaches, 'Mid July. Scampering of thousands of humans who work in factories and stores; and homes. Ocean near the scampering citizens and citizenesses. Citizens go to ocean, Citizenesses scream coyly. Hey, ocean, how far you go. Mr. Blink is on a big wave. The fat legs of Mrs. Blink are pretty beneath the green, heavy ocean waves; such a place for Mrs. Blink's fat, old legs. Brooklyn near, hot Sunday afternoon with trolley-cars going all around and all around; in hot dust, hot dust, going up to Brooklyn's hot sky, July, hot sky. 41
Mr. Blink is on a big, new wave. Mrs. Blink is getting cold. She is on the beach now. Mrs. Blink, mother of three, is walking on the beach now Mrs. Blink is not so graceful. Mrs. Blink's first is called Irving. Mrs. Blink thinks of late supper. Mr. Blink is enjoying a big, new wave, near Brooklyn. Mr. Blink and Mrs. Blink are different. So are two waves. Mrs. Blink is a thinking lady. She thinks all the time. Her second is called Arthur. Her third is called Ethel. Such experience has had Mrs. Blink, housewife of Brooklyn, wife of a dry-goods man of Brooklyn. Mrs. Blink doesn't know her Arthur is going to die soon. Mrs. Blink doesn't know everything. Look at the fat legs of Mrs. Blink in the sun. Look at the hair on Mrs. Blink's fat legs, hair on Mrs. Blink's fat legs in the sun. Mrs. Blink loves her Irving. Irving will be a lawyer. Irving is now at a party. He likes Irma. Those waves; that ocean. That ocean, that ocean. Mrs. Blink's ocean. Mrs. Blink and Mr. Blink are by and in the great big, blue, green ocean, near Brooklyn.
MOST OVERFLOWING FRIEND OF MOUNTAINS Eli Siegel She was accustomed To look at roofs. And she walked With a primal speed. She sang Somewhat as Cataracts fall, in their most hidden manner. For every crash, a note That was sweet, demure and sacred, For every note that was demure A crash, splintering â€” so That concordance of a most Unobserved kind Was present; she stepped on rugs And mused on them; her hands Were like seas; seas her hair was; her mouth Was like a most miniature Glowing universe. And it was in universe she spent her time. It was in universe that she Lifted her hands, closed her lips, lifted her shoulders. She was a most correspondent girl. Every symbol drowsing ecclesiastic, bewildered, could come to was hers. A symbol existed in every polished button of her coat, In every tip of every shoe-lace she ever had. When she murmured, skies were disturbed, Firmaments trembled, And many animals were gleeful. And cryingly she came to Mountains; cryingly, she came from mountains. She was a most overflowing friend of mountains. 43
IS NOT KNOWN Eli Siegel
This river. These trees. A man walking alone. Some cows. France, One summer, And now it is looked at â€” This river, These trees, Those cows. And whether Those cows Saw what is going on Now Is not known.
THE UNKNOWN MAN Clarence Alva Powell
T H E TELEPHONE BANG.
"Hello. Yes. This is Detective Headquarters. Who? Yes, he's here. Just a minute." "It's for you, Chief," Mallory said, pushing his chair back. "Who is it?" The Great Detective asked. "What does he want?" "Hello," Mallory spoke into the 'phone again. "Hello, hello." Cupping the mouthpiece with his hand, he said, "Nobody answers, Chief, but the line's still open." "I'll take it," the Great Detective said. "Put a tracer on the call." "Hello. Yes, speaking. A half hour. OK." He hung up the receiver, brows knit in puzzled thought. "Tugson," he turned to the Captain. "Call in Pete Pliney and Joe Inman." "What's up, Chief?" Mallory inquired. "Anonymous call," the G. D. replied. "Fellow coming here to see me. Peculiar voice and line of lingo â€” sort of flat, dead-like." "Any reason for the call?" "No, and didn't allow me time to ask." Pete Pliney and Joe Inman entered. "Joe," the Great Detective began promptly. 'There's a fellow coming to see me shortly. Something queer about the deal. Hang around the info desk downstairs; watch and listen for stranger and call me at once. Hurry down." Inman left. Turing to Pete Pliney the G. D. said, "When he comes in start a noisy argument with me, pretend you're sore about something, like you're a bookie, for instance, and then get out when I tell you to; only take a good look at the fellow and tail him afterwards." The four of them, the G. D., Mallory, Tugson and Pliney, sat waiting in the office one, two, three, four minutes, and then the 'phone rang. Mallory answered and hanging up the receiver announced tersely, "that call came from downstairs." 45
The door opened noiselessly and a slightly built, unassuming man entered. Joe must have missed him on the way down, the Great Detective thought, observing the stranger casually. Pete Pliney, according to the arrangement, snapped angrily, "Well, what're you going to do about it? I told you, damnit." He stopped abruptly, in mid-speech. The G. D. sat and stared as if in a trance at the stranger, heedless of his words; Mallory and Tugson likewise. Pete turned slowly and gazed at the man, was also compelled to silence, the man's bearing demanding it, his personality overpowering. The unknown man spoke in a barely distinguishable voice, but it plumbed the very depths of the four men there; he said: "A famine is come on the land. The greatest crime in the history of the world, affecting millions, has been perpetrated. Fight, or right this." He turned on his heel and walked from the room, left the four sitting there spellbound. The Great Detective gasped, finally, "Well 111 be damned. Follow him, Pete." Twenty minute later Pete Pliney returned, accompanied by Joe Inman. "Well," the G. D. began. "I can tell you two just about what happened: Joe, waiting downstairs, never noticed him go out; and you, Pete, lost him in the crowd on the street." The two of them nodded, troubled. "Right, Boss," Pete spoke slowly, as if reconstructing in his mind these recent events. "I followed him to Nick's Barbeque — you know, at Ash and Meldrum — and watched him climb onto a stool at the counter. Only when I went in and looked closer it wasn't him." "I never saw anyone who looks so much like so many people I know," Mallory shuddered. "That's it," Pete exclaimed. "He looks like everybody." "Ah," Joe's voice was an escaping sigh. "I know, now. The little fellow. But I thought I knew him. Never paid any attention to him." "That's the man," the Great Detective said. Three days passed, seventy-two hours of continuous deep thought for the G. D. He hardly ate or slept. It seemed to him that his mind never desisted from its tiring efforts to solve the problem. He evolved — or was forced to adopt — an ingenious, a strikingly original approach to its solution, a strange and unorthodox method of crime detection, or mass-analysis. He pro46
ceeded, first, with self-interrogation, and turned then to the pre-construction of vast plot-possibilities; he pyramided huge, astronomical financial sums, and these he equated with social strata and populational statistics, reduced finally to per capita. He selected, as a last resort, one hundred and fifty names from among his relatives, friends and associates, only those of the most honorable, impeccable qualifications — honest, sincere, reliable and virtuous dispositions, some living and some dead, and some from childhood memories, effecting therefore a monumental task; he wrote these names on a large chart, not chronologically but in the order of sequence-impressions; he then undertook the arduous labor of visualizing their individual features, their facial expressions, their bodily appearances, habits and eccentricities; deliveries of speech, mannerisms and personalities; their basic characters; and out of this inchoate mass of human behavior and aspect, he strove with all his powers of concentration, utilizing to the utmost his physical and spiritual reserves, to evolve the composite man. The resulting likeness, of course, was the unknown man — his image and soul. But this was alarming; it told him nothing. Further, it complicated his problem. At Headquarters, or in his home library, he inexorably pursued the elusive answer, reviewed persistently and endlessly the case: motive, objective, proof — of the unknown man. He documented reams of imaginary conversations, expressions and latent thoughts of wisdom, apprehensions and warnings implicit in the reconstructed one hundred and fifty personalities of whom his problem was comprised; and in a minute, step-by-step procedure, he reduced this mass of utterance to the general context of the words spoken by the unknown man. This was idiotic, but it was appallingly true. What was stolen, the Great Detective asked himself. Not the Brinks Agency; no, in the light of this overwhelming experience, such a theft would shrink to triviality. Was it Christ? No, he mused. We know all about that — the Bible tells us that — although there may be some connection. Could it be heaven has been . . . ? No, that we don't know and will know only at the time of Judgment. And this fellow, this unknown man, he felt certain, was not a visitation from God. What is he, then? Now I get it —that's the question: what is he? What is he to me? Where does he strike nearest home in me? What is it of him that 47
is part of me? Ha! Is it guilt, shame, greed, hate? Is it lust, deceit, sin? Is it love, compassion, humility? Is it love or friendship betrayed? Is it conscience â€” the conscience? God, he moaned, what is it? He sat in his home library, and it was late evening. He wondered then how and where, if again, the unknown man would approach him. He scribbled aimlessly, absently and incoherently on the writing pad before him. Yes, he knew now in what manner the contact would be made. It would be by way of a letter, or note. He leaned back in his chair and wearily closed his eyes. Yes, he was nearly as one with the unknown man. He divined almost infallibly the unknown man's feelings and concern for the world and its problems. He felt a presence brush his cheek, a shadow passed behind the darkness of his closed lids, a silent sound whispered in his ear that the letter lay on the desk before him. Opening his eyes and leaning forward, he took up the sealed envelope, opened it removing the typed note, and read: "A famine is truly come. There is no hope for salvation since the millions do not want it, or do not understand it. Therefore I will communicate with you no more." The Great Detective sat for a long time in his chair. His emotions were calm and his thoughts utterly composed. He felt that he almost had deciphered the message. There was a disturbing sound, as of scuffling, outside. He opened the door to the darkness. It was Pete Pliney, the detective. "Release the man," the Great Detective spoke gently. "You have the wrong one." Pete stared in amazement at his captive, a decrepit old man, a vagrant. Joe Inman, ushering in an overgrown lad, was equally chargined. "Don't feel badly, boys," the Great Detective smiled wanly. "I am sure you will never capture him; none of us ever will â€” and anyhow, we are too late." He showed them the note. "What does it mean, Boss?" Pete Pliney almost whispered. "What is the crime he spoke of?" "I don't know," the Great Detective said. "But I am going to find out, if it's the last thing I ever do." With a paternal pat of their weary shoulders, he urged them to go on home and go to bed. He remained in his study all night, pondering the first and only 48
appearance of the unknown man, the perturbing contents of the note, all the preceding incidents and, he felt, those which had been or would yet be subsequent to the established facts. It was well after dawn when he summoned the servant and asked for coffee and the early morning newspaper. He had known, all along, that it would be there â€” the picture on the front page. The unknown man was dead. The caption under the portrait simply said: Unknown. A brief further comment elucidated that the man had apparently "died of slow strangulation." "Strangulation hell," the Great Detective swore softly. "He died of physical exhaustion and spiritual impoverishment." And now the Great Detective perceived quite clearly, for the first time, the true facts of the case. "The damned thief," he groaned. "The Goddamned Murdering Thief!"
SPONTANEOUS SONG FOR A BIRD LeGarde S. Doughty
The nightjar cuts the opal air, a tufted sword swishing clean, without wound, without torture. . . . Instant healing behind the skillful lunge. Were incision bright with blood, what a moment's streak of point lace red as murder at a woman's throat! The nightjar, ballet-duellist, without scowl, without threat, makes drums somehow (is it voice or plunge?), sole actor on this infinite backdrop of the late sun. Stars begin their inward drift like lemon-colored pollen, squanderously to seed the great dark flower looming. This is the cosmos, synthesis of ages counted in ice and fire â€” nothing now! The bird is axial being now, this hour, before it will fuse itself a mottle on a lichened rock. It is more visible than space now, more splendid than art or intellect.
MOONLIGHT ON GLASS V. Sheridan Fonda
southeast corner of the street from the window of her apartment. The late afternoon sun reflected sharply from the creamwhite walls of the corner building. The glare forced her to squint, although she did not look directly at it. She had been sitting for twenty minutes, her head leaning against the window frame, her eyes shifting from the sign fastened to the wall of the creamwhite building which read: Sold By Merton-Sexton, Inc., Real Estate Agents to the window of the empty store beneath it, and then to the Drug Store on the opposite corner. Every man who turned up the street from the avenue, she noticed carefully, opening her eyes to their natural size for a moment and then squinted again. She knew it was not Edmond; still she gazed, following them with her eyes until she could no longer see them, and then withdrew her attention to the street corner once more. Each time she compared their stroll to Edmond's. Edmond walked differently; he pointed his toes outward, and swayed his shoulders and head from side to side, pivoted from one hip to the other. He swung his arms in front of him, narrow sharp curves, as if he was throwing a ball from one hand to the other. Frances smiled, a slow small smile, as she recalled his gait. It isn't graceful, she thought, but, I like it. She rocked her head gently, her shoulders undulated delicately. Not graceful, she continued thinking, but wonderful. Wonderful. Her eyes no longer squinted, her stare fixed on an empty, FRANCES WATCHED THE
crumpled package of cigarettes in the gutter. She continued to smile; her shoulders became still, the gesture of her head gradually declined, until it remained passive. A weak lustre reflected from the crinkled cellophane of the cigarette package. She thought of Edmond, and wanted to recapitulate their meeting, a thing she loved to do and always did. She used the empty cigarette package as a medium to bring her thoughts to a channel of recall. Whenever she wanted to retrace an incident, a scene from a motion picture, a conversation, and lately, whatever she did or said with Edmond, she would look for a spot, or an object. It had to be small. The point of a pin, or, like in her kitchen, the jagged nail hole in the plaster. At the office, it was the dial of the telephone, her gaze flicking from circle to circle until one of them arrested her stare. She could remember things that were trivial; a pointless conversation with the sales clerk in the department store, her Good Morning to the janitor of the building; the dents in the garbage cans, the sound of boiling water, the ice blue color of a gas flame. Her childhood; the ribbons, the friends she never had, and the friends she did have; the text books that were stained by the touch of many hands, the classroom smell of chalk and pencils and ink and dust and oil rubbed into the wooden floors. The pupils of her mother's eyes, the short, scrimpy eyelashes; the sound of her small passive voice, and yet, its passiveness, a weapon, a tiny insistent weapon. Yet, she recalled only to herself. As long as she focused her attention to a certain spot, to a specific object which caught her eye, her thoughts flowed vividly. But when she tried to describe these recollections, she became confused. The person she spoke to disturbed the recall; it blurred, its intensity gone and the flow erratic. Even if Frances fixed her gaze at a chosen spot, the cadence of her own voice broke the channel of her thoughts and they scattered and piled on one another. She attempted writing; this, too, was impossible. It was not there, the ecstasy of recall lost. Somehow, it seemed to Frances, her thoughts were betrayed; if not betrayed, at least during the process became incompatible. Once she had written; 1 remember my father's funeral. There was no effect, just words, neatly written in blue ink. The sentence did not evoke time, the passage of time and the sense of space. On the contrary, it was flat. It 52
made it commonplace, as if it had been a dull routine, like washing one's hands. And yet, when she said it to herself, the words tingled; she sensed this space. Frances saw the thin drizzle of rain, the black, horsedrawn hearse and the black jet black horses. There was a kind of poetry in the words, I remember my fathers funeral, when she said it to herself, and not when she read it on paper written neatly in blue ink. The empty cigarette package in the gutter; it was anaemic, Frances thought. Then it began to radiate, its reflection grew strong, a diamond set upon black cloth. A curious square, that is an irregular square, she could see the jagged edges now, which charmed and made her uneasy. And why? she asked herself. Why? It had been warm on October Eleventh, but not uncomfortable. Mr. Hallam had said the office would be closed for Columbus Day. Frances remembered the way he smiled, his upper lip stretched tight over his teeth, and she had felt Mr. Hallam never really smiled, it was like a hidden snarl. "That's right, Frances," said Mr. Rand, Mr. Hallam's partner. "We're going to be closed tomorrow so you can go out with your boyfriend." Mr. Rand laughed; his voice was loud. Frances rubbed her thumb and forefinger together. His voice, she thought, it bellowed. When he laughed, the jowls shook beneath his chin and his glasses slid down his nose. Frances stared at his false teeth. The fourth tooth of the upper teeth, fourth from center, was chipped. "What's the matter? Don't you have a boyfriend?" Mr. Rand chided and then winked at Mr. Hallam. "A nice girl like you?" "No, Mr. Rand," she said. "Aw â€” g'wan!" "Don't mind Mr. Rand," Mr. Hallam said. "He's only teasing you." "Who's teasing?" Mr. Rand guffawed. "Charlie, you know I never tease Frances. She's too good a girl to tease." Mr. Rand continued to laugh raucously. Frances watched the quivering jowls. Like jelly, she thought. 53
Frances never liked Mr. Rand; she felt she could not trust him, his moods, or what he said. He had a knack of twisting words, a consummate way of telling lies. Mr. Rand was shrewd, and as long as his competitor was of the same intelligence, his shrewdness was that of a fox. With those of higher intelligence, his cunning resorted to a hyena's. Frances did not like the way he sat behind his desk, his attitude of complacency; his hands thrown back behind his head, conceited and aggressive and petty, quick to ridicule anyone, his voice vulgar and nettlesome. It annoyed her because she was ashamed. Ashamed for Mr. Rand; for Mr. Hallam, he was not as vulgar, and whenever a person talked to Mr. Rand, a salesman, or a customer, she would squirm as if his vulgarity in some way reflected upon her character. If the person then paused to speak to her, she always felt her words were shaded with an apology. Mr. Rand would usually come out into her cubicle of an office and say, "Gettin' popular, ain't you? I bet you made a date with him tonight." And she would say, "I did not." Frances stared at Mr. Rand's thick nose and she could see the hair on its bulblike tip. "Good Night," she murmured. "Good Night, Frances," Mr. Rand replied, the words staggered between laughter. "Have a good time tomorrow." Mr. Hallam nodded, a smile like a snarl and murmured, "Good Night." Frances waited for the trolley; she heard the bell signal clanging skittishly, and then the ponderous noise of the locomotive. Well, that's that, she thought. A freight train. There'll be quite a delay now. She gazed down the street at the railroad crossing. The barriers were down and the freight cars crawled and she read the lettering, The Nickelplate â€” the rest was blurred. God knows how long that freight train is, she thought. Well, at least fifteen minutes before the street will be clear again. Frances leaned against the brick wall of the corner building, her eyes seeking a spot to channel her thoughts, and moving rapidly from place to place unable to choose one to her liking. The October sun glittered on the windows of stores. There was something bizarre about this street. Or was it whimsical? 54
She could not tell, really; she thought she had the word, but it always escaped her. It was bare, wretchedly bare, and for this street she felt a shame also. It was uncouth, barren, not like the wastelands in Long Island along the Atlantic side toward Montauk; but, like a cement wall, that was it, a cement wall. The sky could be clear and blue, and yet to Frances, it seemed perpetually dismal over this long street which curved like a giant slug. The sun was harsh, and it glittered, but not the kind of glitter which fascinated, which made you gasp. It only made you terribly ashamed of it, a thing you wanted to hide. Frances got on the trolley. There was nothing beautiful about this street. There was decay, but not a romantic decay; there were old, shingled houses, decrepit, but not quaint. A pile of orange crates were more stimulating. And the trolley, for instance, it was dingy; and the people in it, their faces stamped out of a coarse die, expressionless. Not ugly, not beautiful, just nondescript. She was glad when she got off the trolley and went down to the subway. Here the atmosphere changed. The long, severe station was bleak, and yet, its bleakness attracted her, a kind of brooding which was poetic, and the depressing musty quality of it did not make her squirm. The square white tiles and the oblong tan and pale green tiles together with the cement platform, the square pillars, steel girders which supported the sooty white ceiling of the huge tunnel gave it a stereotyped kind of grace. Nevertheless, it pleased her because of the poetry it evoked. First it had been a giant mass of earth and stones, then a plan, a thing on paper. She thought of the sweat, of a thousand human hands that shaped it, from a sprawling mass to a ditch to a tunnel and to what it was now. Yes, this had poetry; nothing airy; but of girders and rails and thundering thrums. It lived, and God knows, how many died? How many stepped off into the tracks in the path of a train? Decay? Yes, of course; but, it had a strange life, strange music. Frances got on the train and at 14th Street, she transferred to another on the upper platform going uptown. In the subway she always looked for a plaque. It was usually placed at the end of the train nearest the door which communi55
cated to the next car. She found it, dull brass squared letters which read: This Coach Was Built % The AUSteel Car Company She smiled and then began to scrutinize the posters, one by one, the advertisements for candy, brassieres, hair oil, beer, cigarettes. Frances thought this could be classified as a sort of literature, although, it seemed to her, the English language had been forced into a washing machine and then pushed through a wringer. The result was a flourish of such words as, "taste-thrilling," or, "crunchy, tasty, crispy, ravishingly delectable." lt was a falseness, she had to admit. A passionate love hinged upon the proper hair oil used; a happy marriage on the right kind of brassiere, home life on a certain wine, or tooth powder, nail polish, lipstick and candy. This Frances knew was not true, and yet, it gave her a sort of gratification. She said to herself, Well, it might be true. Anyway, it's amusing. This could be bizarre, she thought, but, I like it. It's a fascination. It glitters, not like that street. It screamed at you; it was gross, not like Mr. Rand. It was aggressive; somehow, she did not mind. It did not annoy her and she was not ashamed of it. Frances continued to smile, her gaze going from poster to poster. Then by the door, she saw him, Edmond. He was leaning against it and gazing at her. The first thing she always remembered, that is, when she visualized Edmond, was not a clear overall picture, but, his eyes. Eyes like a murky sky, that might have been blue, and yet more like grey of dirty clouds, with thick black long lashes. Frances stared at him, her lips still smiling. She saw the color of his eyes change, from grey to blue. Then she realized she was smiling at him, not meant for him, but the posters. Her face began to flush, and she puckered her brow with a slight annoyance. How foolish of me, Frances thought and blinked her eyes. Yet, his gaze was compelling. Suddenly she became conscious of the other people in the train. Had they seen this? Is he still looking at me? Frances felt the urge to stare back at him. She forced herself to read the newspaper the woman next to her was reading. She lowered her head. The wheels of the train screeched; 56
the Express on the other track raced by, and she heard the whoomp whoomp whoomp as each car passed. The train stopped and he stepped aside to let people off. Frances took a quick look at him. This time she saw straight black hair, cut short, thin sharp eyebrows, squat nose and balllike chin. When it started again, her eyes were on the newspaper once more. Poor Report Card Because Father Helped With Homework. Frances read the news item, but all the time kept asking herself if he still stared at her. She got off at Lextington and 60th, mustering all the will power within herself not to look back at him. As she approached the stairway, she glanced back quickly. She did not see him in the crowd of people who were coming toward it. Well, that's that, Frances thought. Strange that he should stare at me like that. Really embarrassing. Why, I almost thought he was going to follow me. On the upper platform, she stopped to look at the flower stand, trying to make up her mind whether she should or should not buy some yellow roses. The roses were cheap enough, fifteen cents apiece. No, not tonight, Frances decided, that is if I want to see a show. She swung around quickly and collided into a man. She felt her hat shake on her head and her breath rush out hoarsely. "Oh! I am sorry!" she exclaimed, her hand flicking to her hat. This time she saw a pale lemon yellow collar and the knot of a chocolate brown tie. She knew immediately; it was the young man who had stared at her in the subway. Frances looked up at him. His eyes smiled at her now, faint blue, the grey had vanished toward the edges. She grinned, a little like Mr. Hallam, she thought, and then hurried through the turnstile. Frances walked faster. He's following me, she said to herself. This is irritating. After all, he must be awfully dumb if he thinks I was smiling at him. In the street, she quickened her pace, annoyed because she should be forced to hurry; she did not look nice when she walked fast. I won't give him the chance to catch up to me, Frances thought. In the middle of the next block, Frances glanced over her 57
shoulder. Yes, he was still following her, his shoulders and head swaying from side to side, and smiling broadly as if it was a joke. "This is too much," Frances whispered. "I will certainly call a copl" People must think I'm crazy, she reproached herself. The way I'm rushing along. Where is my mental poise? As Frances turned up her street, she took another furtive glance. "Well!" she said aloud. She was angry and hurt; most of all ashamed. The young man was nowhere in sight. She stopped to make sure, her eyes moving quickly, until she was satisfied he had not halted to look at a store window. Why you perfect fool, Frances said to herself. He wasn't following you at all. Frances was angry at him, at herself, and she imagined she was going to sob at any moment. It was so ridiculous, and no wonder he was smiling as if it was a joke. Why you fool, you fool! What were you thinking? she asked herself. Did you really want him to follow you and annoy you? She entered the vestibule, opened the letterbox and pulled out a printed post card. Why that squat nosed idiot! Frightening me like that. Do You Need Laundry Service? she read on the post card. "Do I what?" Frances whispered. Frances crumpled the card and almost laughed. And yet, she thought, if she could only laugh. The trouble was she couldn't. She just couldn't laugh it off and forget about it. It would have been much better if he had annoyed her; at least she wouldn't feel ridiculous and her anger would have been genuine. But, now â€” she opened the door and hurried up the stairs. o
Frances warmed the supper she cooked the night before. "Soup again," she said aloud. But, why? Why did he stare at me like that? she thought. "Oh, stop it!" She felt irritable and restless. The soup was taking too long to warm up â€” and yes, I've forgotten the water for the tea. She poured two cups of water in the pan and set it on the stove. After she lit the burner, Frances gazed at the match vacantly. 58
She imagined she would burst out with laughter any minute. Frances blew out the match and said aloud, "Oh yes, really whimsical." She finished her supper and sipped the tea; it tasted stale and it was cold. She placed the cup on the saucer, her eyes fixed on its handle which was shaped like a question mark. She wanted to cry; that's what she wanted to do; it had been too cruel a joke. But, why? "Oh! What's the matter with me? A thickheaded fool stares at me and I behave like a perfect ninny!" After all, she continued thinking, he isn't the first man who stared at me. Frances pushed the tea cup away angrily. Well, if he isn't, why fret about it? What's the difference? He didn't follow you and that's that. He doesn't like you and that's that, too. But, the way he looked, the way he smiled, yes, the way he smiled. Her eyes moved to the dish, delicate milky blue in color. And his eyes, blue or grey? "Those dishes!" She got up quickly, circled the kitchen table once nervously. What am I doing? Her eyes sought the jagged nail hole. And his eyes, blue or grey? "Stop it! Stop it!" Frances crossed the kitchen to the bedroom. She looked at the bed and then to the window. Finally she went to the window. Frances gazed down at the street. The darkness of it intrigued her; the corner lamp post sprayed light, and this light soothed her restlessness. The red and green light shuttered on and off; the yellow neon light of the Drug Store was friendly; EmBee Chemists, huge yellow letters, yes, friendly. Frances wanted to be a part of that darkness and feel what it was like to approach the light on the corner slowly; to feel what it was like to be gradually covered by that light. Not the light on the corner especially; any corner, any darkness, any light. She felt she must go into the street and walk in it, from shadows to light, from light to shadows. If any other night, it bored her even to go to a show, tonight, it was something she had to do. It would comfort her, Frances thought, and somehow compensate her. But, why? How? 59
Frances returned to the kitchen; the jagged nail hole attracted her. Now, if she could only think for a while, but, no, it was impossible. She was confused. The restlessness scattered her thoughts. She did not see a jagged nail hole, not tonight anyway; it was just a mark in the plaster, a nail had been there, no doubt, and perhaps, the outline is jagged, but now, it looks round and blurred. Frances washed her face and hands. She went to the dresser in her bedroom, powdered her face and then applied lipstick. She gazed at her mouth. Just lips, that's all. Nothing really special about them. Her eyes? Brown, small, lashes were long all right, but, just long. Frances pressed her lips on a face tissue to remove excess lipstick. Nose? Small nose, too; nostrils, delicate, but all nostrils are delicate. General contour of the face? Ah yes. That was it. A round face with small brown eyes, long lashes and small nose with delicate nostrils — and chin? Awkward! She combed her hair. Hair? Wonderful hair, had said doublechin Rand. But just brown and straight, she thought. Yes, like Mrs. Gleason in the apartment below hers would say, "Why, Frances, I can't do a thing with itl" Ah yes. The neck, slim, no wrinkles— yet. Line of the shoulders and back, good; breasts and — ? Frances stopped, comb in hand midair. Her expression in the mirror was one of surprise. No, no, she thought. This is ridiculous! Foolish! Frances flung the comb on the dresser and snatched up her bag. But, her eyes returned to the mirror again. She wondered what she would look like standing naked before the mirror. She had seen herself naked in the mirror many times, but now the curiosity to see her body was insistent, as if she had to know one thing, that is why should — but this is foolish! What difference can it make? Certainly she knew her own body. Frances could recall every part of it if she wanted to, but, she won't, because it was silly, childish and neurotic. And then — why? Why should she even think of it? Frances held her hand up to the mirror. It was long, much too long fingers — no, I won't. 60
She grabbed up her coat from the bed and hurried out of the apartment. o
Frances was sitting on a bench on the East River Drive, watching the 59th Street Bridge. The whirring of the cars on the Drive was endless. She liked it and listened to it. It was a kind of low whispering which suddenly became loud and then a low whispei once more. Over and over again, the whirr, steady, dropping to a whisper and always rising, maintaining its quality of a whisper. One time it was a single whirr, other times double, then triple; or overlapping, a jumble of soft and loud whispers. Frances thought she heard the rippling of the river, the swish of the tide against the stone wall banks. A kind of hoarse, hollow echo pitched to a single tone and held there. She heard the shuffling of feet on the cement and the thick voice of a man; then this went still; just the whirring of the cars and the swish of the tide and tiny squares of light in the black sky. Her eyes swept toward the bridge once more. Its pylons were flat silhouettes, and yet as a whole, it appeared like a black angular tiara encrusted with countless shades of diamonds. Frances sensed before she heard the tread of feet on the cement. Her body stiffened as the sharp clack of heels came closer, the sound getting louder, until it stopped beside her. Then she heard the muffled scrape of cloth against the wooden seat of the bench. Next, of course, she would hear his voice; she was sure it would be his voice, and she imagined it would be thick. She waited for it. In her mind she saw his mouth, the thin upper lip part from the heavy lower and say, Hello, pretty warm, isn't it? So? she said to herself, the sound of the O echoing in her brain like a flash of light thrown in an arc. The grating of the match jarred her, and the acrid smell of sulphur tickled her nostrils annoyingly. Frances jerked her head toward him. His eyes, she saw, were sharp blue, the pupils tiny pinpoints of grey. He stared at her as he lit the cigarette. The flame flickered lower and lower until it went out, and his eyes grew grey as it dimmed. The match was out, but she could still see the sharp blue of his eyes vividly in her mind. Frances continued to gaze at him, her body stiff, her hands 61
clasped rigidly in her lap. This is ridiculous, she was thinking. I'm acting like a ninny. Stop staring at him! II Frances smiled, her head against the window frame, her eyes still on the empty crumpled cigarette package. She began to rock her head again, slowly; her shoulders undulated. Yes, she said to herself, not graceful, but wonderful. Wonderful. Edmond's eyes, blue or grey? Hard to say. Grey when moody, blue when happy, sharp blue when excited — and yet — all the time a grey cloud. Ah yes. And his voice? Thick? Not really. Husky — that is of a husky quality as if the words rubbed softly over the vocal chords as he spoke. Nothing poetic. That is, there is a kind of poetry in his voice. In his words. The strange way he speaks — as if he talked into a darkness — and Edmond did not talk too much. At least if compared with Mr. Rand, or Mr. Hallam. Then there is this; perhaps I only feel it, it may not be so. When I look into his eyes, I can see only his eyes. And when Edmond speaks, I am conscious of only his eyes. If he laughs, his throat. A force within him drives your attention to parts of his body. Poetic? Yes. Frances lifted her eyes to the corner of the street. Edmond is late this afternoon, she thought as she smiled. The traffic had thinned, less of trucks, and what there was of it, only pleasure cars and buses. There was the Saturday afternoon preparation; Frances could detect it, the way the people walked, the agitated gestures of their hands, and yet, the languorous hanging on, no rush. They had all Saturday night and Sunday. They need not be apprehensive of time until Sunday night. Frances sighed; "Ah, Saturday, Sunday, everybody feels so free." Yes, she thought to herself, no thick dirty green ledgers. Frances got up. Ah yes. 62
She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the dresser and went to it. Lipstick all right, she said to herself. Same eyes, same hair, same face. But a difference was there now. The hair was still straight. And yet, somehow it looked —what? Beautiful? Outstanding? The style, of course; bangs, squarecut across the forehead, then it flowed down to her shoulders. That took care of her round face all right. Just like Edmond said, "Fran, you're a glamour girl, now." Fran, yes, really Fran. She liked that; she wanted him to say it over and over again. No longer Frances Sickles. Really, that name, now, Sickles, Miss Sickles. But, Fran —or Fran Richardson, Fran and Edmond Richardson. That would be wonderful. "But, it's Edmund, Fran, not Edmond," he said to her. "Edmond sounds much better, darling," she replied. Darling, darling, darling, Frances said to herself. Then Edmond would say suddenly, still talking as if into darkness, "I think, I'd call you Francesca." "Francesca?" "Francesca." Francesca Richardson. Ah yes. She laughed softly. Well, Mr. Rand, I've got a boyfriend now. You won't ridicule me any longer. Yes, and she'll tell him that, too. She laughed again, this time a little louder. Frances glanced around the room. It's changed, she thought. There, on the bedside table where she always kept a glass of water at night, there's an ashtray, small, pinched stubs of Edmond's cigarettes. And here on the dresser, his tiepin, his matches. And the bed — what did Edmond say? Never darling, or honey, or sweet, just Fran and then smoke a cigarette. Other times he would smile and stare down at her, the color of his eyes changing quickly. He would twist his head, or rather cock it to one side and shrug his shoulders. "Better make some coffee," Frances said aloud. She laughed once more. Coffee, she thought. It was only tea before. You've even changed that, Edmond. Mother would never have allowed coffee in the house. 63
Frances puckered her brow. Her mother; the first time she thought of her since October. She filled the coffee pot with water, then with coffee, set it on the stove, lit the burner and sat down. She stared at her fingernails; they were long and narrow, the color of the nail polish Plum. That, too, was different, Frances said to herself. Six months ago she would not have cared even to polish her nails. Her mother; dead two years now, a small, brownhaired woman with hazel eyes, and a small, insistent voice. Oh well, she's dead now; but, she would object. To Edmond, as a husband; just imagine what she would say of him as a lover. Yes. What would she say? Frances imagined her mother's voice. "Frances, you, a lover? At your age?" She wouldn't be horrified, no, not that. She'd say it as if Frances was incapable of love. She wouldn't make a scene. Not her mother. She'd ignore it, and emphasize, "You? A lover?" Of course, she'd smile, tenderly. She always did that, and said that whenever Frances had wanted something. No matter what age, whether at ten, eighteen, or thirty, she always said, "Frances, you? At your age?"
It might have been a dress, a book she wanted to read, a party, a movie she would have liked to see. Her mother just looked at her tenderly, or patted her hand and said the inevitable, you at your age remark. Yes. She was selfish, No fault of hers, Frances knew, because she had been a widow too long. And yet, now that she thought of it, why didn't she remarry? Who could have stopped her? Her father's family? They never interfered. They lived a way out in Iowa. And Frances never saw them. Her mother never talked about them, neither one way or the other. Frances tried to remember her father. The recollection was vague, nothing tangible, just his voice and even that was hazy. She must have been six when he died, and although the funeral was still a vivid thing in her mind, she could not recall what he looked like. She remembered hands; hands that might have been his, and a flower. What kind of a flower, she did not know. Just a flower. But the thin drizzle of a rain on a November day, her mother's pinched face and monotonous voice repeating his name, "Henry, Henry." The black horses and the black 64
hearse. All were things that might have happened yesterday, but, with a kind of unreality. Perhaps, it was that, Frances thought, Mother couldn't forget Father. I can understand it now. Perhaps, Father didn't leave much, although Mother never really worked hard. Perhaps, she scrimped to see me through high school, and God knows I've been working since I got out of high school. If it wasn't one job, it was another. Still, she shouldn't have been so selfish. Yes. Selfish in her own way. What I am now. A bookkeeper. Her idea of a good education. "But, dear," she would say tenderly, "a good bookkeeper is an asset. You will study typing also, and stenography." Typing it was, stenography it was. Oh, I can't complain, not really, I'm paid decently. Fifty dollars a week. But, Frances insisted, I wanted it to be my choice, my idea. If I went to a movie, Mother was there, her kind of a movie. If I was invited to a party, Mother always came along and her small laughter managed to spoil the party for me. Especially, if I happened to find a young man I liked. She monopolized him for the rest of the evening. After we were home, I pouted. She reproached me. She said, "Frances, a young man? At your age?" And whatever could I say to that? Yes. Selfish, Frances thought, selfish. Then she remembered one day two years ago. Her mother had been strange, at least she thought so. "Frances, dear, tell me, have I done wrong?" her mother asked. Frances stared at her, and wondered if in her own insistent way, her mother was going to reproach her for something she had done. "Wrong, Mother?" Frances echoed cautiously. "Yes. You are thirty now and â€” not that I'm worried. I was older than you when I eloped with your father." "Eloped!" Frances exclaimed. "Yes, dear, eloped," her mother replied blandly. Frances gazed into her eyes; they were smiling, and the flecks in them seemed to undulate, tan flecks and the pupils were tiny and light brown. Eloped, she said to herself, surprised and a little stunned. Then she became angry. Frances didn't know why, she wanted to slap her mother's face. What was she trying to say? she asked herself. 65
"Don't worry, Mother," Frances finally said. "I won't elope." "Now, Frances, dear, I didn't say that. I am only —well — dear-" Frances could not control her anger any longer. "Oh stop it, Mother!" she snapped. "Isn't it a little too late for that now? Well, answer me, isn't it?" Mrs. Sickles eyed Frances and then lowered her eyes. Frances bit her lip. It had been a cruel remark to say, and yet, why not? She took up so much of her time, demanded so much of her. Frances, dear, get this, get that, talk to me, walk with me, take me here, there. Oh yes, dear, we're going here. "I'm sorry, dear," Frances said afterward. Mrs. Sickles did not reply. She only stared at the wall. Frances shrugged her shoulders and went to the kitchen to wash the dishes. It had been a victory for her, she thought, really a victory. The sound of the bubbling of the coffee scattered Frances' thoughts. She got up and lowered the gas flame and then glanced at her wristwatch. "I wonder what's happened to Edmond?" she said aloud. Frances was by the window again, her eyes on the street corner where Edmond usually turned to come to her apartment. It was getting dark; the red and green light sprayed the sidewalk with red and green alternately. She was restless, like that October night six months ago. She kept running her upper teeth on her lower lip nervously. Any minute now, Frances said to herself, any minute now, hell come strolling around that corner. Yes he will. She looked for the empty cigarette package in the gutter. It was still there. Red and green glancing off the crinkled surface of the cellophane. A small thing in a huge blackness, fascinating, and yet, frightening. But, of what? Her lips were trembling; she knew she would begin to cry soon. Her mind was tired; tired of trying to think where Edmond could be, where she could find him if she decided to go and look for him. Had he fallen asleep in his apartment? No. Asleep and me waiting? No. Has he — oh no! Oh what oh what? "Fran, if you ever need me, you know," he had said, "just in case, call this number. It's my office." 66
But on Saturday night? Frances asked herself. Edmond, Edmond, what's happened? She began to sob suddenly, her body pressed against the window frame, her forefinger crooked between her teeth. Then it stopped as quickly as it had started. This is foolish. He's probably detained somewhere, Frances thought. But where? Where? Frances crossed the bedroom to the dresser for face tissues. She wiped the tears from her eyes and stared at herself in the mirror. Hair? she thought. Stringy. And look at those ridiculous bangs. Such insipid small, brown eyes and irritating small nose with preposterous nostrils. And that chin! That chin! Oh yes glamour girl Sickles. But, Frances asked herself, where is the wonderful hair I saw before? Where is Fran â€” Francesca? The restlessness urged her to take to the streets. The apartment seemed unreal, or rather, too real, that is of the commonplace things. Of small things belonging to her mother and she thought she heard the small insistent voice of her mother saying, "Frances, dear, don't you think this would look fine on the dresser?" It did not matter if she objected, her mother bought it any way. She saw Edmond's tiepin; then she looked at the ashtray on the bedside table filled with pinched stubs of cigarettes. Whose were they? Edmond's? Impossible. There was nothing of Edmond now in this room. Nothing. Just small things. Frances jerked from the dresser. She had to get out of the apartment. Just small insistent things! She flung open the door to the closet and grabbed the coat from the hanger. Her body trembled as she slipped it on. There is only one thing to do, Frances said to herself. Try his apartment. If he's not there, then what? Oh what? Âť Frances was about to ring the bell when she noticed the name, Mr. Walter Muir, on Edmond's doorbell. She stared at it, puzzled, and wondered if she had made a mistake. Perhaps, she entered the wrong building. She looked up at the house number. 67
"One Seven Seven," she murmured. Yes, I'm right, she thought, but — ? Frances stared again at the name on the doorbell. She frowned and tilted her head to one side, her eyes opened wide. Then she rang the Superintendent's bell. The buzzer droned and the door swung open under the pressure of her hand. Frances waited in the corridor. She saw a door in the rear of the corridor ajar and then the head of a middle age woman thrust between the door and the door frame. "Well, who is it? Who is it?" the woman asked. "Superintendent?" Frances asked, her voice going up a scale. The woman stepped into the corridor and then said, "Yes, what is it?" She came toward Frances; she was tall, gawky, flat-chested and she wore rimless eyeglasses. "Mr. Richardson, Mr. Edmund Richardson," Frances began, trying to sound as casual as possible, but knowing her voice was edging toward hysteria. "Mr. Richardson?" the other echoed. "Yes. Third Floor Rear." "Oh that one!" She glanced at Frances from head to foot. Then she said flatly, "Left yesterday morning." "Oh. Thank you." Frances stared at the thick underlip of the woman. She said again, "Thank you." She walked out of the corridor and into the vestibule. This is ridiculous, Frances thought, impossible! Edmond was with me last night until two o'clock. The Superintendent had followed her into the vestibule. "Something wrong, Miss?" the woman asked. "No — no. Ah — didn't say where he went — I mean left no forwarding address, did he?" "No. But, this Mr. Muir might know. He's a friend of his. That's what the other one said. Works in the same place. Try asking him." "Oh no. I couldn't do that." The woman stabbed a finger at Frances. "Listen, Miss," she said. "If I was in your position —" "Oh yes?" Frances said, her voice becoming stiff, glancing at
the tall gawky woman through the corner of her eyes. "And what sort of position would that be?" The Superintendent laughed; a short flat laughter. It sounded more like a hunph. She said, "Young woman, I've had three daughters, so don't try to give me that purely platonic routine. Thank God, they're all married now." "Look. I only had a date with him tonight." The Superintendent snorted; she put her hand on the doorknob. "A date? With him?" Another short flat laughter. And then she said, "Is that what they call it nowadays?" She inserted the key into the lock swiftly and before Frances could answer, she was inside and going toward her door. Frances stared at the name on the doorbell. Vicious, dried up female, she thought, Gawky ostrich. She rang the bell to Mr. Walter Muir's apartment. She waited; she felt inadequate, that is, this could not be Frances Sickles in this vestibule, ringing this doorbell, who had taken insults from a gawky ostrich, it could not be. At the same time she thought, I'll count until ten. She rang once more; this time she held her finger on the button. Frances gazed at the door jamb. Did it buzz? She counted until thirty-five. There was no reply. Oh what's the use? Frances felt her body quiver; she sobbed suddenly and ran out of the vestibule. She rushed to the corner of the street. She stopped undecided which way to go. The abrupt tha-ta of the train overhead caused her to gasp; the sobbing gave way to small sharp laughter. "A date with him," she said, the words staggered between the laughter. Then she walked toward the East River. Walter Muir, she thought, Walter Muir. Yes. Of course. Edmond did tell me about him. Worked in the same office. The outside man, Edmond said, and he was the inside man. Frances giggled; well, Mr. Walter Muir was outside tonight. She giggled until tears came to her eyes. A date with him? she said to herself. Only a date with him tonight. Her mouth was distorted between a giggle and a whimper.
What's the difference? Mr. Walter Muir wouldn't tell her anyway. If Edmond has left the apartment, then he's left his job. He's left the city. Frances giggled louder. Oh Frances, you? At your age? And to think I've only been to Edmond's apartment twice. Once on that night of October six months ago and then—when was it — ? And as if this too was meant to be funny, the giggling increased, fitfully, her voice going gradually higher until it cracked. « Mm Frances Sickles, she thought, Sickles. So now, what will it be Frances at your age? Hallam & Rand, Steel Products Of Every Description. Ah yes marvelous now really. Thick dirty green ledgers. What, Mr. G? Your discount? Why, list price less forty and ten. Ah yes. Listening to Mr. Rand's superb rendition of the English language. "Awl G'wan! A nice goil like you?" Nothing poetic. But it was, it was. That was it, Miss Sickles, or, Miss Stickles, the way Mr. Rand always pronounced her name, no matter how many times she corrected him. Miss Sickles of Hallam & Rand's. Bookkeeper for Steel Products Of Every Description. Looking day in and day out at the washed out face of Ernie, the warehouseman. "Frances, will you talk to my girlfriend? I'm in the doghouse again." Or, that young stupid Tommy, the shipping clerk, who admired Mr. Rand and thought he should emulate him. "H'ya, Frances, h'ya! Looking sharp, looking sharp." The days of riding the dingy trolley on that long street which wiggled like a giant slug. The same decrepit houses, the same nondescript faces stamped from the same coarse die. That horrible bell clanging whenever a freight train lumbered past the railroad crossing. The terrible triteness, a fixed, monotonous routine; just Miss Sickles Frances Sickles Frances. She stopped walking along the East River Drive and sat down on one of the benches. It was beginning to get chilly and she shivered a little. 70
Glamour girl? she asked herself. Oh yes. Glamour. Loads of it. Nothing wonderful, nothing — just — "Oh Edmond!" she exclaimed aloud. "But, it's Edmund, Fran, not Edmond." Yes, yes, yes, she thought, it's Edmund. It's anything you like, darling, anything. But, why? Why? Not even Fran — Francesca—no. Not even. Frances imagined she heard her mother's voice. "Frances, you, a lover? At your age?" She began to laugh, little jerks of laughter, flat, hollow; as if she finally realized the irony in those words. Then she gasped, checking the laughter abruptly, stunned by another realization. The days, at least the days, somehow the thick dirty green ledgers, the bills, the statements would gloss them over, eat up the minutes and the hours. It was the evenings, the nights with moonlight, whenever there was a moon, on the glass she always placed on her bedside table. Frances could see it now, like a white eye glinting from the glass into her eyes. And that strange white eye from the glass made her afraid. It grew large, the whole of it spreading in her mind, an eye without a pupil.
SPARTACUS (Schism in the Body Social) E. E. Walters He, Gladiator, led one and all Across Italy's sandy demesnes. For two long years before the fall He, Utopian, smashed slaves' chains To found a new and wonderous law. He, Tracian, reigned from 73 to 71 B.C; He freed men on Italy from sea to sea. Spartacus, old boy, all fame for thee: One entire sentence in Toynbee. 71
BANZAI Norman H. Bonter
TODAY CHINA is Red. Yesterday China was gray. Before that, China was golden.
During the golden years, the Yangtze Patrol of the United States Navy based at Hankow, six hundred miles upriver from Shanghai. Hankow was Shanghai in miniature. "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!" The Mikado's naval officers at the Japanese Club roared their tribute to the memory of the Emperor Meiji, the Teddy Roosevelt of Japan. It was November third, Meiji's birthday. Ensign John J. Mulloy, U. S. Nacy, was one of the official guests and he was having a good time. The occasion did not matter. It was the spirit of the thing. As usual the amount of his alcoholic intake was awesome. And, as usual, Captain Bullock was watching him. Captain Bullock was his commanding officer. Mulloy prided himself on his knowledge of spoken Japanese. Across the crowded room he saw Admiral Tanaka, Commander of the Japanese Fleet in Chinese Waters. Admiral Tanaka was the Big Man in that room. VIP was written all over him. Mulloy, somewhat unsteadily, walked over to the admiral, bowed, and said, "Taihen yoroshii, Taisho-san, taihen yoroshii." The little admiral, his hard dark eyes impassive, turned to his aide and muttered a few rapid words. The aide bowed to Mulloy and said, "So sorry. Admiral not like. You talk geisha talk. Admiral not like." Abashed and hurt, Mulloy said, "I was just telling him what a swell party this is." "So sorry." The aide bowed again and turned away. Mulloy said to himself, "Geisha talk. Why the hell should I learn the high dialect? To hell with it. To hell with everything." He glared at Captain Bullock's back and muttered, "And to hell with you." He walked to the entrance, retrieved his cap, and left 72
the Japanese Club. "To hell with it," he said again as he found a rickshaw, tucked in his long legs and returned to his ship. Mulloy dined in the wardroom, then changed into civilian clothes. He could not cajole his messmates into joining him ashore to continue celebrating. "Nobody loves Mulloy," he said to himself, "nobody." As he left the ship he saluted the quarter-deck and said to the startled bo's'n's mate, "To hell with it." As he labored up the stone steps leading to the top of the river embankment, he had an idea. He would show them, by God, he would show them what kind of a man Mulloy was. At a Chinese shop, he bought five dollars worth of firecrackers, enough to fill a steamer trunk. He staggered out of the shop and hailed a rickshaw. The coolie eyed him and grinned. "Japanese Concession," said Mulloy. The coolie stopped grinning. "Jopponeez man no wantchee," he said, pointing to the firecrackers. "Japanese man wantchee." The coolie pleaded, "No wantchee, no wantchee, master." "Wantchee!" Mulloy yelled. He dropped the firecrackers on the floor of the rickshaw. Resigned, the coolie picked up the shafts and padded down the street. His passenger lolled in the seat, at peace with the world, at least for the moment. As they approached the gates of the Japanese Concession, the coolie slowed down, but the sentry did not stop them. A half mile inside the gates the street was dark and quiet. Mulloy bade the coolie halt and slithered out of the rickshaw. He piled the cannon crackers on the sidewalk and lit them. Fearfully the coolie said, "This no goodee, master." "Goodee, very goodee." Suddenly there were tremendous explosions and a stink of acrid smoke. Mulloy leaped into the air, cracked his heels, flailed his arms, and howled like a Comanche warrior. Hundreds of Chinese poured out of their houses. They formed a mob around the young "foreign devil." They gibbered. They cheered. They laughed. Then there was a heavy silence. "Preez." Startled, Mulloy peered in the direction of that sound. A Japanese constable stood by the rickshaw. In his hand there was a brown paper bag. 73
Mulloy laughed. "Sandwiches?" he said, pointing to the paper bag. "Preez. You come." The constable bowed. "What do you mean?" "You come. Porriss Stayshun." A half bow. "What thing Police Station?" "Porriss Stayshun. Porriss Stayshun." No bow. Solemnly Mulloy shambled down the street at the side of the constable who maintained a grim silence. They entered a huge, stone barrack building, passed through a maze of corridors, and halted in a large, bare room. Behind an oak desk sat the police inspector. He had hard eyes, a square jaw, and a crew haircut. The constable bowed and placed the brown paper bag on the desk. Rapidly he made his report. The inspector looked grave. He pointed at Mulloy, then to a sad-looking cane bottomed chair. Mulloy sat down. He sat as though on horseback. The inspector stared at him, took up the paper bag and emptied its contents (a handful of charred bits of red cardboard) on top of the desk. He pointed at the accusing mound of evidence and said, "You have see this before?" Gravely Mulloy said, "Yes. I have see this before." "Why you do this?" No answer. "You know this against raw?" Against the law! Yes, of course, thought Mulloy. Somehow he had forgotten. The Japanese were sensitive about such things. Firecrackers sounded like small arms fire â€” riots, demonstrations. The inspector barked, "Who you are? What name?" Mulloy fumbled in his pockets and produced one of his official cards. As the inspector studied it, his black eyebrows drew together and the muscles of his strong jaws worked. Mulloy began to sweat. Rivulets ran down his face. A court martial! It would ruin his career. Drunk and disorderly. Breaking the law in the Japanese Concession. A cut and dried case. He could see Captain Bullock now, sitting at his desk in his cabin, Naval Courts and Boards opened at the proper page. That face, like an arthritic knee, glaring at him; that voice, like a bull seal's, barking the same tiresome story. "We're sitting on a powder keg out here. Watch your conduct ashore. The Japs are itching for incidents. You represent your government. Stay 74
out of trouble." Then the Old Man would say, "Mulloy, if I've said that once, I've said it a hundred times. Now you go and shoot off firecrackers in the Japanese Concession. Of all the goddam hairbrained idiots in the world, you're the worst. And they have to send you to my ship! But by God, this time well trim ship. Turn in your sword. You're confined to your quarters." "That's the way it'll be," thought Mulloy. "The Old Man is after my scalp and I'm playing right into his hands. Why am I such a damn fool? I'm through. Never again. From now on, I'm on the wagon. No more foolishness. If I get out of this mess." The inspector's head jerked up. He glared at Mulloy. "You are sh — Amerrica offisah!" "Yes." Once again the inspector pointed to the mound on his desk. His metallic voice clipped the words harshly. "Why you do this?" Mulloy became strangely calm. He remembered having read somewhere, "In truth there is salvation." Truth. Why not try it? There was a beatific look in his eyes. He said, "I do this to help celebrate birthday of Emperor Meiji." "Sh — ah — yes. Burrtday Emprah Meiji." The inspector sprang to his feet. Mulloy winced. The inspector yelled, "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!"
Mulloy sprang to his feet. He yelled, "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!" The inspector, Mulloy and the constable roared, "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!" They bowed to each other. The inspector pointed at the door and said, "Can go." Gratefully Mulloy shook hands with him and the constable and bowed again. He went. Without delay. Outside was his faithful rickshaw coolie. Mulloy plumped into the inviting seat and rolled happily toward the gates of the Japanese Concession and freedom. He looked at his watch. Ten P.M. The floor show would be on at the Black Cat Cafe. The whiskey there was lousy, but what the hell! As he pulled out of the Japanese Concession, the coolie half turned and asked, "Where you go master, you go ship-side?" "Black Cat." "You more better go ship-side, master?" "Black Cat," said Mulloy.
THE ETERNAL ARMENIAN Leon Surmelian
through college with no vacations, skimping on my food to save a few dollars and not getting enough sleep and being always on the go began to tell on my health, and instead of returning to my college in Kansas I came to California for a rest on the advice of a doctor, intending to get a job after a month or two and to save some money before resuming my studies. I had less than a year to graduate but I dreaded the winters in Kansas and thought life in Southern California would be more pleasant. I had missed so much for lack of money, perhaps the most important part of my American education, that I didn't want to go back to school without adequate funds. I wanted to be able to take a girl out now and then and spend a few dollars on her, to eat better food and wear better clothes and enjoy an occasional trip and have more time for reading, a little leisure. I had to slow down, and remembered the Italian proverb, Chi va piano va sano, chi va sano va lontano, I had copied so often in my penmanship class as a child. I had always wanted to see California, which seemed so much like Trebizond with its orange, fig and olive trees, with its mountains and beaches. Born in a seaport, I loved the sea and was dying for a breath of sea air. Thousands of my countrymen had settled in California and Fresno was the Armenian "capital" of America. I was the only Armenian in Kansas and there were only three Armenians in Nebraska. I wanted to see Armenian faces and to hear my native tongue spoken again. There was something Mediterranean about Los Angeles, an agreeable blend of the Old World and the New. I liked its Spanish place names and white houses with red roofs and with windows you didn't have to push up and down, they opened out as in the old country, letting in the air and sunshine. And there WORKING MY WAY
were dark foreign faces like mine in the streets. I felt more at home. I stayed at the YMCA on Hope Street. A few blocks away was the squat Egyptian pyramid of the public library with its Babylonian terraces, and a sign on the Bible Institute next to it proclaimed "Jesus Saves." I went to Hollywood but didn't see any movie stars, and I spent an afternoon on the beaches. I almost cried aloud Thalassa! Thalassa! at the sight of the ocean and thought its waters had mixed somewhere with those of the Black Sea. Here I am at the other end of America, I thought, on the shores of the Pacific. What a country. An empire can flourish in New Mexico alone. The Arizona desert might feed millions of people some day. When the train crossed Arizona at night I had the sensation of traveling on the surface of the moon under the moon. I was under the spell of the American continent and the contemplation of its immense natural, human and technological resources quickened my pulse. I wanted to live permanently in this country, to be an American writer. Much as I liked to serve my people I was afraid, now, to go back to Armenia. There were no Armenians left on the Turkish side and on the Russian side no deviations from the Communist party line were tolerated. I thought a non-communist like myself would get in trouble sooner or later. I would be accused of being a bourgeois nationalist, a Trotskyite, a religious man and God knew what. I would not be satisfied with an obscure government position as an American-trained agriculturalist, and unless I joined the Communist party I could not expect to be commissar of agricultureâ€”and I nursed bigger ambitions than that. Some of the Armenian writers and intellectuals who went back were shot, in prison, or had mysteriously disappeared. I had always thought that Armenia could not get along without me, that I would solve all her problems, but the Armenian SSR evidently could do without me. And despite the liquidation of groups and individuals factories were built, the population was increasing, production figures were going up. A good deal of what I wanted to do myself was being done and I thought it isn't absolutely necessary, now, that I go back. I liked this country and decided to stay here and to become an American citizen. America's problems became my personal prob77
lems. I no longer looked upon them dispassionately as a guest, or because of their novelty or human drama. I began to worry about America, about the future of this country, after leaving Kansas. Could America cope with all these frightening complexities of an industrial civilization and its dangerous byproducts? I sensed the explosive areas, the vast human solitudes in the great urban centers, and being a young man with his sword in the stars I was getting ready to use it for America, to defend what I admired and slash at what I hated. If I could not join the fight in Armenia I would join it in America. It was the same fight everywhere. A typewriter would be my machine gun. I rented one and tried to see if I could write salable short stories. I observed the rules in the textbooks but I could not imitate the mercenary cynicism underlying the plotted phantasies in the mass circulation magazines, and in my revulsion for this form I turned to article writing. I could be more honest with facts. I wrote to the editor of a national magazine, suggesting he let me do an article on my college. He was running a series of scintillating essays on Harvard and Princeton and Yale, and why not something on a cow-college, I said? I took care not to tell him I was a foreign student and let him think I was a native Kansan. He wrote back he would like to see my article, and I sent him a six thousand word defense of the cow-colleges in general and the one in Kaw valley in particular, posing as a genuine Westerner with a ten gallon hat. My article was acceptedâ€”the first I had writtenâ€”and I was paid two hundred dollars for it. I bought a new typewriter and a Hart, Schaffner & Marx suit, and celebrated with a girl, who took me for a successful young author. I next sold two articles to another magazine, one on the new Constantinople, or Istanbul, and the significance for the Western world of the Turkish republican reforms, written in a sympathetic and objective tone, and the other on the Georgian Military Road in the Caucasus, and received fifty dollars for each. Hearing of my success with American magazines a printer, Calvin Yaljian, of Protestant missionary background, approached me with his pet project as he called it, to publish an Armenian weekly in English. He was a short, dark, shrewd man, and he figured on a piece of paper how many subscribers such a paper would have in Los Angeles, in Fresno, in San Francisco and else78
where, and he assured me it would pay its own way. He offered me thirty dollars a week to edit it. I had some misgivings, but we signed a contract, and I occupied a small office in his shop, with a desk and telephone, and became the editor of the first Armenian newspaper in America published largely in English â€” The Armenian Messenger. Thus I returned to my people as a young ambassador from America, waving the flag. "America is an immense laboratory in working order," I said to my readers, "wherein a new race of man is being formed, physically a composite of races that have constantly warred against or scorned one another, and mentally exhibiting a superior, a broader, a more humanistic outlook than peoples elsewhere. . . . To the thinker America exhibits problems in solution which are of the greatest significance and point toward that millenium of humanity of which men from Plato on have dreamed." I could fill the English section easily enough, disguised under various names, but the Armenian section in the back pages gave me trouble. I wrote Armenian with difficulty and with a remote inner part of myself, as though it were a foreign language, and it was easier for me now to express myself in English. After a few months I turned the Armenian section over to Hagop Torgomian, an experienced editor who was unemployed, very poor, and going blind for lack of medical attention to his eyes. He had been hanging around my office and his nostrils quivered at the smell of printer's ink. He wore a threadbare blue suit, but his white shirts were always clean with that desperate cleanliness of a broken intellectual trying to look respectable. The sadness of the Armenian writer in exile was carved on his features. Like most Armenian journalists he was also a poet. We spoke in Armenian. His English was limited. "Take a look at this disgraceful Armenian," I said, handing him an editorial I was writing. "Can't write decent Armenian any more." Torgomian held the yellow sheets close to his grey eyes and peered at my handwriting through his thick glasses, making out the words one by one, but his gaze was swift and practiced. "Compared to your Light Delight you have lost a great deal," he said. This reference to my little book of Armenian poems made me uncomfortable. 79
"I have come to a sad conclusion," I said. "I can't write in Armenian any more, and I am not going to." He looked as if I had suddenly slapped him in the face. "It's impossible to write creatively in two languages," I said. "Every language has its own genius, its own rhythm, its own idioms and mysteries of style. Joseph Conrad wrote his novels in English, not in Polish and English, and Michael Arlen hasn't written a word in Armenian." "Don't be another Arlen. He hasn't said a word about our cause and stays away from our people. What kind of Armenian is he?" "Probably a good one in his heart." I showed him the magazine containing my article on Kansas State College and a short story by Michael Arlen. He was impressed. He looked at Arlen's picture in the magazine. "Has an Armenian face all right, thick Armenian eyebrows, nose Armenian too. What does it say about him?" "Where he buys his shirts and shoes, that his tailor is the best in London and he drives the longest Rolls-Royce in existence." "Did he have to change his name? What's wrong with Dikran Kouyoumjian?" "An author has the right to use a nom-de-plume." "But his readers won't know he is Armenian." "The magazine says he is Armenian. That's enough for us." "What does it say about you? I don't see your picture." "The magazine doesn't know I am Armenian and says nothing about me. I fooled them. This is an article about the college I attended in Kansas and it's written in the American style." "How much did you get for it?" "Two hundred." "Two hundred dollars!" "That's nothing. They probably paid Michael Arlen two thousand for his story. With my third or fourth check I might be able to buy a yacht and dictate my stuff to a beautiful blonde secretary as I cruise around Catalina and in Mexican waters. That's the way American writers work. They aren't poor-andburning scribblers like us. You don't want me to starve, do you? And as an American writer I can speak to the whole world." "Who is going to speak to our people? You spoke to our people in your poems. I heard your Recitative On Planting A Tree re80
cited by a class of barefoot refugee school children in Beirut. You should have heard them. Every one of them was planting a tree with you in Armenia." A perennial martyr to his craft, Torgomian looked upon me as one who had deserted Armenian literature, as though I were a traitor. In a land of success, he was a failure. I knew he could never forget his native Van, the deep blue of its lakeâ€”as I could never forget Trebizond, but he did not know it. He had been through Turkish and Russian prisons as a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and in Van he rated above the richest merchant. In Los Angeles he was nobody. Poverty was harder to bear in America, where so many of his countrymen were prospering, and poverty here, in the richest country in the world, had created more prisons for him. "You came to America with a curse on your head," I said. "I wish you had been a simple peasant. You might have become a millionaire with half your brains." "You are right. Here the donkeys become great men. In a way I don't blame you for deserting our literature. You are young, you know English, you can write in an international language, why should you suffer like me?" "I never took myself seriously as an Armenian poet," I said. I dismissed my book as juvenile verse, schoolboy stuff, though I was being reprinted in textbooks and almanacs. "Poetry softens and weakens us," I said. "We Armenians have to be tough and strong in this tough practical world. Poetry has been the consumption of our people, it is bad for our lungs. Let's stop coughing and shedding tears. In Armenia, let's keep our mouths shut and build the factories and roads. First things first." In explaining the editorial policy of the Messenger I told Torgomian my reasons for not attacking Turkey, as was the custom of Armenian papers, and I asked him not to print a word against the Turks, as a people, in the Armenian section. He argued the Turk was the same old Turk, he had not changed and never will. I wanted to reduce the sore problem of Turkish-Armenian relations to a simple one of territory and let bygones be bygones if the Turks withdrew from at least a portion of historic Armenia. The New York Times suggested this editorially. But I knew the Turks would not voluntarily withdraw from Armenian territory even if, by doing so, they would gain the esteem of the civilized 81
world, and I had another plan: to buy some territory from Turkey. I was against war, against arousing national hatreds and vendettas. I wrote a letter to the government of Soviet Armenia and explained my plan. The necessary money could be raised by an internal or international loan, to be guaranteed by the government of USSR. Torgomian said Turkey would not sell Armenia an inch of land, and by writing about it to the Soviet government I had stamped myself as a dangerous nationalist in the eyes of the Communist party. Not a word about Armenian territorial claims was uttered by Armenian communists or by the USSR: that was, in fact, a forbidden subject at that time. As it often happens when two Armenians get together, we tried to save Armenia. I quoted from a book, the Memoirs of Jemal Pasha, I had just read, in which the former Turkish naval minister said the Young Turks prefer the Armenians to the Greeks and Bulgarians, because we are a "finer and braver race, constant in their friendships, constant in their hatreds." Jemal Pasha blamed Russia for the troubles between Armenians and Turks. "We read our poets and don't change," I said. "We never learn. We have been a nation of Don Quixotes on history's firing line and haven't changed for two thousand years â€” constant in our hatreds, constant in our friendships. When are we going to wake up? In political life you have to be able to change sides when necessary, you have to be a son-of-a-bitch. I hold our poets responsible for this suicidal naivete, this stupid honesty. To hell with literature. Poets are the enemies of our people." "I disagree," said Torgomian. "A poet can do more to strengthen the fighting will of a nation than all your practical things and people put together. One man writes La Marseillaise â€” and saves France." "The French can afford to have poets and America would be a better country with more poetry, but for us it's a national disease. There are many things I am in favor of for America that I am absolutely against for Armenia. In America I am against materialism, in Armenia I am for it. Machines and more machines, that's my motto for Armenia. Science. Engineering. Statistics. Not roses and moonlight, not pretty words, and no sentimental sighs." Torgomian's great concern, what worried him, was the pre82
servation of the Armenian language and culture, in Armenia, as well as in America. "The communists have put an end to our national aspirations," he said. "They have distorted our language. After we die no more Armenians will be left." "We can't save our language in this country," I said. "Let's see the situation as it is and not chase after impossible dreams. Most of our young people can't read or speak Armenian, that's the reason why we are publishing a paper in English." "When the language is gone the nation is gone," he said. "It's already gone in America. The melting pot is relentless and time and death show no mercy. The Armenian element will dissolve and disappear in the American amalgam. We can't go against historic processes." "We have gone against historic processes before and we will go again," said my friend, and taking off his shabby coat he started working with me on the new issue of the paper. I couldn't pay him more than five dollars a week out of my own modest salary, which I wasn't getting regularly in spite of my contract with the printer, but Torgomian would have worked for nothing. He went through the stack of papers I received in exchange from all parts of the world, organs of the Armenian Nostalgia in Paris, Athens, Bucharest, Cairo, Venice, Vienna, Aleppo, Boston, New York, Buenos Airesâ€”wherever a group of our countrymen lived and dreamed and remembered together. I didn't have the heart to read them and they accumulated on my desk. Torgomian took a pair of scissors and cut out the items he wanted to use, while I worked on the make-up of the front page, my show window, in which I featured Armenian achievements everywhere. I saw him about an hour later writing a poem. The eternal Armenian was in action. His hand shook as he wrote and he had his greying head bent low, reminding me of the blind minstrels of Armenia, whose verses sounded across the centuries. He was mad, of course. He was the Armenian fool in the cruel court of Time, singing his undying song. Assyria, Parthia, Rome, Byzantium have disappeared from the stage of history, I thought, but Armenia, their contemporary, lives to this day. There was so much pain in my friend's heart, and in mine too. I thought that America was born out of such pains as we two exiles felt, and if my friend lost his battle then Armenia too would surrender to something greater than herself. 83
LOVE SONG BEGOTTEN OF A MOUNTAIN VIEW Wendell B. Anderson
I was led to the mountains by my longing needing you near even though I could only find you in the vision of the valley before me . . . Restless I climbed the mountain trail searching for the sooth of wind and sun taking the odors of sage and pinon to my senses like balm trying to lull my hunger . . . But the mountains were a fuel to the image of you lingering like flame. The immensity of the land with its spread of plain its wrinkled mountains reaching to the sun only added to my longing making me lonely with space. The land's vast silence was a voice speaking of loss, a grandeur begotten of isolation such as the sight of a solitary eagle circling or the reach of a bleak peak that by its height must bear in sublimity and grandeur the wind and the snow alone. ,.~
DELMAS W. ABBOTT was born on a farm in Kentucky. Mr. Abbott was graduated from Berea College, then attended the Graduate School of Social Service at the University of Chicago. He returned to Kentucky as a social worker. During the war (World War II) he served in the Pacific with the Seabees. At present Mr. Abbott is working "in the office of an aggregates (you know, sand and gravel for construction) company." He has been published in Prairie Schooner, California Quarterly, and Austrailia National Journal. Mule Ride And A Stepchild was bought a little over a year ago by Ada McCormick for publication in her magazine, Letter. The magazine is not now being published and Mrs. McCormick has released the story to QUARTO for publication. WENDELL B. ANDERSON has been published in such magazines as Crescendo, Gale, The Bridge, Rough Weather, Inferno, Retort, Experiment, Deer and Dachshund and others. Also in a number of University Quarterlies such as University of Kansas Review, The Carolina Quarterly and Western Humanities Review. Two pamphlet collections of his poetry have been published by The Motive Press, Ranches of Taos, New Mexico. The titles are, The Heart Must Be Half Eagle (1950) and Hawks Hunger (1952). NORMAN BONTER is a retired Marine officer. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Columbia, where he took fiction writing courses under Professor Vernon Loggins and Miss Dorothy McCleary. Banzai is drawn from his experience during his service in China. His work has been published in The Leatherneck, The Infantry Journal, Naval Institute Proceedings, and other Service magazines. Mr. Bonter is the former editor of QUABTO and at present is at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia. L E G A R D E S. D O U G H T T S work â€” long and short fiction, nonfiction, poetry â€” has appeared in many periodicals in this country and abroad, mostly in the University Quarterlies and the serious weeklies. His one novel, The Music is Gone, was issued by Duell,
Sloan & Pearce in 1945. At present Mr. Doughty is Technical Editor (at long distance) of The Humanist, a philosophic magazine issued by the American Humanist Association at Yellow Springs, Ohio. CHARLES EDWARD EATON is the author of two volumes of poetry, The Bright Plain, published in 1942 and The Shadow of the Swimmer, brought out in 1951 by the Fine Editions Press. The latter volume won the Ridgely Torrence Memorial Award for 1951, offered by the Poetry Society of America. Mr. Eaton has been working on a volume of short stories with a Brazilian background, and it is nearly completed. One of these stories has been included in Martha Foley's Best American Short Stories of 1952. Mr. Eaton's other works have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Saturday Review of Literature, and Arbiter (London). V. SHERIDAN FONDA is a student in the School of General Studies, Columbia University. Mr. Fonda is working for a Bachelor of Science Degree, majoring in Writing. He has been published in Prairie Schooner. For seven years he studied art under the late famous sculptor Attilio Piccirilli. He prefers writing to sculpture, but has not entirely abandoned art. Moonlight On Glass is "interim piece," written while attending Mr. John Selby's class The Novel Workshop at Columbia. CLARENCE ALVA POWELL has published poetry and prose in the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand, Houndura, India and France. His work has appeared in the New Mexico Quarterly, Arizona Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, A.D. Magazine, Experiment, The Georgia Review, and many other American magazines. Industrial Sonnets, illustrated by Henry Gorski, was brought out in 1950 by Glass Hill. ELI SIEGEL won Nation Poetry Prize in 1925 with "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana." Poems have appeared in Hound and Horn, Blues, New Act, Johns Hopkins Review, New Republic, Free Verse, Modern Quarterly, Poetry, Harper's Bazaar, Commentary, and other journals. Wrote reviews for Scribner's in Thirties. Chief work has been the writing of poems and the quiet development of the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism. Eli Siegel now teaches Aesthetic Realism. One description of Aesthetic Realism is: "A way of seeing art so that life and things are ex86
plained; a way of representing life and things so that art is seen as in them, explaining them, giving them form." JO SINCLAIR is the author of the Harper Prize Novel Wasteland. In 1951, another novel, Sing At My Wake, was published by McGraw-Hill. The Long Moment, a three-act play, was produced in 1950 at the Cleveland Play House. Miss Sinclair's short stories and articles have appeared in a dozen nationally known magazines. She was born in Brooklyn and now lives at Novelty, Ohio. "A perfect place," she writes, "to grow roses and tomatoes." LEON Z. SURMELIAN is the author of I Ask You Ladies and Gentlemen, a novel, Dutton, 1945, (published also in British, Italian, Swedish, Czech editions, and parts translated in German, Greek, and Armenian literary magazines); of 98.6, a novel, Dutton, 1950. He has been reprinted in Best American Short Stories and other anthologies, and in textbooks. Formerly a screen writer at MGM, deputy probation officer of Los Angeles County. He was graduated from Kansas State College in 1941. E. E. WALTERS in twenty-five, was educated at The University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. His first publication was a story in the April '53 Idiom. Since then he has had poems accepted by several "little magazines." He is currently at work on a novel. ROBIN WHITE was born and brought up in South India, and educated at Yale University where he received the Curtis Prize for an undergraduate essay.
School of General Studies COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Spring Session February 3 to May 27, 1954 For information write: Director of University Admissions, Columbia University Broadway and 116th Street, New York 27, N. Y.
FICTION WRITING: Short Story, Novel, Juvenile
NON-FICTION WRITING: Biographical, Critical, Magazine Article, News and Feature.
POETRY PLAY, RADIO, MOTION PICTURE PUBLIC RELATIONS WRITING FOR BUSINESS USES EDITING AND PUBLISHING Writer's Club meetings: Speakers will include staff members, authors, editors, authors' agents.