William Faulkner LIGHT IN AUGUST back, sprawled, one arm dangling to the floor. His mouth was open. While Christmas watched, he began to snore. Christmas lit the cigarette and snapped the match toward the open door, watching the flame vanish in midair. Thin he was listening for the light, trivial sound which the dead match would make when it struck the floor; and then it seemed to him that he heard it. Then it seemed to him, sitting on the cot in the dark room, that he was hearing a myriad sounds of no greater volume—voices, murmurs, whispers: of trees, darkness, earth; people: his own voice; other voices evocative of names and times and places—which he had been conscious of all his life without knowing it, which were his life, thinking God perhaps and me not knowing that too He could see it like a printed sentence, fullborn and already dead, God loves me too, like the faded and weathered letters on a last year’s billboard, God loves me too. He smoked the cigarette down without once touching it with his hand. He snapped it too toward the door. Unlike the match, it did not vanish in midnight. He watched it twinkle end over end through the door. He lay back on the cot, his hands behind his head, as a man lies who does not expect to sleep, thinking I have been in bed now since ten o’clock and I have not gone to sleep. I do not know what time it is but it is later than midnight and I have not yet been asleep “It’s because she started praying over me,” he said. He spoke aloud, his voice sudden and loud in the dark room, above Brown’s drunken snoring. “That’s it. Because she started praying over me.” He rose from the cot. His bare feet made no sound. He stood in the darkness, in his underclothes. On the other cot Brown snored. For a moment Christmas stood, his head turned toward the sound. Then he went on toward the door. In his underclothes and barefoot he left the cabin. It was a little lighter outdoors. Overhead the slow constellations wheeled, the stars of which he had been aware for thirty years and not one of which had any name to him or meant anything at all by shape or brightness or position. Ahead, rising from out a close mass of trees, he could see one chimney and one gable of the house. The house itself was invisible and dark. No light shown and no sound came from it when he approached and stood beneath the window of the room where she slept, thinking If she is asleep too. If she is asleep The doors were never locked, and it used to be that at whatever hour between dark and dawn that the desire took him, he would enter the house and go to her bedroom and take his sure way through the darkness to her bed. Sometimes she would be awake and waiting and she would speak his name. At others he would waken her with his hard brutal hand and sometimes take her as hard and as brutally before she was good awake. That was two years ago, two years behind them now, thinking Perhaps that is where outrage lies. Perhaps I believe that I have been tricked, fooled. That she lied to me about her age, about what happens to women at a certain age He said, aloud, solitary, in the darkness beneath the dark window: “She ought not to started praying over me. She would have been all right if she hadn’t started praying over me. It was not her fault that she got too old to be any good any more. But she ought to have had better sense than to pray over me.” He began to curse her. He stood beneath the dark window, cursing her with slow and calculated obscenity. He was not looking at the window. In the less than halflight he appeared to be watching his body, seeming to watch it turning slow and lascivious in a whispering of gutter filth like a drowned corpse in a thick still black pool of more than water. He touched himself with his flat hands, hard, drawing his hands hard up his abdomen and chest inside his undergarment. It was held together by a single button at the top. Once he had owned garments with intact buttons. A woman had sewed them on. That was for a time, during a time. Then the time passed. After that he would purloin his own garments from the family wash before she could get to them and replace the missing buttons. When she foiled him he set himself deliberately to learn and remember which buttons were missing and had been restored. With his pocket knife and with the cold and bloodless deliberation of a surgeon he would cut off the buttons which she had just replaced.
Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)