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 PRISM
a magazine of contemporary writin
m
'' iii.ki;|ii!i«  Prism
SUMMER, I961
VOLUME TWO
NUMBER FOUR
CONTENTS
SHORT STORIES
The Sound of Waves
WAYSON   S.   GHOY
4
At the Edge of the Woods
ALDEN   NOWLAN
21
The Island
AVIS   WORTHINGTON
26
Annerl
HENRY   KREISEL
35
The Price of Admission
JACOB   ZILBER
42
POEMS
Black Thread
ALDEN   NOWLAN
16
Danny Quebec
DAVID   MGFADDEN
i7
Murder Will Out
G.  V.   DOWNES
23
The Guest of Honour
LIONEL   KERNS
24
Poem
ROY   MC SKIMMING
25
Breaking
PHYLLIS   WEBB
33
How I Love
JOAN   DE   LONG
34
Comparison
ALDEN   NOWLAN
34
Making
PHYLLIS   WEBB
40 STAFF
editor Jan de Bruyn
associate editors  Elliott B. Gose
Jacob Zilber
Heather Spears Goldenberg
business manager Ken Hodkinson
subscriptions  Yolande Newby
Barbara Beach
Marcus Beach
design   William Mayrs
treasurer Alice Zilber
advertising  Cherie Smith
cover design  William Mayrs
illustrations   William Mayrs
PRINTED BY MORRIS S  PRINTING COMPANY LTD., VICTORIA, B.C.
PRISM is an independent publication, supported by subscriptions, advertising, and
donations. Donations are eligible as Income Tax Deductions. PRISM is published
by The Prism Society.
Annual subscriptions are $3.50, single copies $1.00, and may be obtained by writing to the Subscription
Manager, 349a West 35th Avenue, Vancouver 13, British Columbia. MSS should be submitted to the
Editor at the same address and must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Though small was your allowance
You saved a little store
And those who save a little
Shall get a plenty more.
Thackeray
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• • ■••*.•"   « !.*•». .   .      •.      ••      ».♦....»'
* •-   .•   n a   • •••••    •   .•••,          •♦•••'           •<•••• o
Sunday, a warm spring day by the Moira River. I remember how Bob
suddenly stood up. That year he was seventeen and I was almost fifteen. Bob
was a good looking guy, always full of energy and surprises; he was two
inches from being six foot and looked taller because he was thin and tautly
muscled. We had been sitting silently on the Moira's rock-cliff banks for
almost an hour. Feet dangling, our eyes meandering across the bright horizon,
when all at once Bob gave me a shove and pushed himself up. Naked to the
waist, now warmly tanned by the late April rays, Bob stood with his head
thrown back; then, expanding his chest, he gulped the damp river air and
laughed to feel the warm sun on his back. In the distance the glowing clay
hills seemed to undulate, to shift like a red wave against the blue sky. Whenever the wind blew from these northern Ontario hills the river air tasted
sharply of evergreen, of stunted pines and moist, swaying grass. The wind
sang and spiked the warm afternoon with a dreamy restlessness. Bob's laugh
echoed and died.
I stirred reluctantly, swore a casual goddam and threw a handful of
pebbles down the limestone scarp. The stones made a chattering sound as
they tumbled the twelve feet of steep embankment and then were lost in
the swiftly flowing brown water. At the moment it seemed I had nothing better to do than yawn—to yawn very slowly, reluctantly, to emerge from
my dream world. A world inhabited by blondes and brunettes: long-legged,
full-breasted girls I had yet to touch.
The sun rose higher in the April sky and the afternoon grew hot like a
late summer morning. The breeze caressed our bare backs with sudden
changes of warmth and tickling coolness. We could hear the persimmon tree
stirring behind us. The persimmon grew at the top of the hill, beside the
gravel road that led nowhere; the tree was ugly and tall, and when the sun
shone against it the entangling branches threw shadows on the ground that
stirred like a knot of snakes. The wind now drifted down the steep hill,
swirled dust around Bob's '47 Ford, rattled the persimmon branches above
the car, and swooped gently down around us. The tree smelled sweet and
dusty: gasoline and perfume with an almost perverse appeal. Funny, the
tree always smelled sweet. I started talking like this to Bob. But he only
jammed his big hands into his jeans and laughed impatiently: "What'd you
take at school this week—Wordsworth?" "What's wrong with—?" He threw
a small stone at me and I ducked in time to hear it whizzing passed my right
ear.
"C'mon kid, clam it!"
I shrugged, looked at the Moira twelve feet below, then turned around as
if nothing had happened: yet, in spite of myself, sweat moistened my palms.
Bob stretched, pushed his hands against the sky and gave a wild hog-
calling yell that sent a flock of sparrows fluttering to the sky. The sun mingled
with the light yellow of his hair, and his roguish laughter roared with the
early Moira. Then the wind shifted, blew from the west the pungent odours
of the river; the wind now raced along the limestone cliffs and blew wet with
river spray. Wet and chilly, with the sun warm on my back and Bob suddenly
dropping to one knee, his pitch eyes darkly surveying the Moira.
"Think you can swim that?" Then he laughed loud and wild to see me
gape with surprise. He threw his head back and shot out a half-jeering laugh.
White straight teeth gleamed in the sun and his dark eyes danced in the
light. Quickly he flashed down on his other knee, held his tightly clenched
fists in a mock pose of John L. Sullivan, grinned, and started to wag his
head like a punch drunk: ludicrous and threatening. "C'mon kid, fight me."
The first punch slammed into my left shoulder.
"Hey you bastard!"
The second punch slammed into my chest.
"Cut it! I'm going over!"
His fists blurred with speed as he kept slashing at me. I started shifting,
blocking his jabs, ducking, threw a left that connected. My feet tensed; my
legs dangled precariously over the scarp. "I'm going over!" The fall was
only twelve feet, but the distance down the sharp limestone with its blade
edges would have split a guy's skull. There was nothing I could do. I let my
hands down and gripped the ledge. The last punch landed sharply on my left shoulder, burned for a second and then, just as I felt myself going over,
Bob feigned a last blow and started to laugh again. A weak layer of limestone
chipped under my shifting weight. I made another move and it slipped from
me, crashing down the steep embankment.
Bob was still laughing. I guessed I looked pretty comical sitting there,
afraid of falling in and then, too, trying to defend myself, my feet
dangling over the ledge: I guessed it only looked funny and silly. I realized
I was pretty scrawny. Sometimes I became awkward and nervous. My legs
were too lanky for my size and I had ribs that bulged ridiculously from pale
flesh. Beside Bob I felt like the Oz scarecrow. Maybe he saw that I was hurt,
because he stopped laughing and touched my shoulder. He smiled, gently
gripped me. I was aware of his hand; the weight of his hand felt strange. I
said nothing. Finally he turned away, tossed his hair back, and started looking
for something to do.
Bob lowered his head. Strands of light brown-yellow hair dangled over the
ledge while his ear almost touched the sharp rock. Looking up, Bob's eyes
widened with surprise and he waved his hand for me to bend down. I did,
arching my back until my ear almost scraped the limestone. I listened. A
noise like a rumbling earthquake drew my head lower. Then the Moira
exploded with a freakish dynamite intensity. Slamming roars, wild macabre
roars penetrated the ear like shrapnel. Here the miniature canyon shot the
air with the sound of waves. The din rose and fell and thundered. I felt
myself being drawn away; my head, unreal, detached, now tumbling in the
chaotic current. Rising; falling; whirling ... A touch. Bob's hand. A firm,
gentle grip on my right shoulder. Don't be startled. I jerked awake. Careful.
Getting up, I moved too quickly. There was a tightness in the nape of my
neck. Then nothing. Now every noise was dull and guttural. The sound of
the river was as before: a low, monotonous rumble, a softly palpitating sound
like the tense breathing of a trapped animal. The sky grew blue and radiant;
the rays of the sun shone white. Shading my eyes, I pulled myself from the
razor ledge. Bob picked up a hammer-shape limestone and started chipping
his initials on the scarp. He looked up, then flung the limestone into the
Moira.
"I'm going to try it," he said. "I'm going to swim across."
The sun slanted warm on my back. I took off my shoes and socks and put
them beside my shirt. I glanced at my left shoulder and found it bruised.
The sun gently eased the pain but the heat felt uncomfortable and prickly.
"Think we'll tan, Bob?"
But Bob didn't hear me. He was looking at the river on my right side, his
pitch eyes bright and hard and their light focused straight ahead. Watching
him I heard the rustle of dead leaves mingle with the sound of the river.
"Boy, bet you I'll tan before—"
"Shut up, kid."
The voice was harsh. I withdrew, felt something wither inside me. Look down: twelve feet below the Moira raged with a spring fever. Here and
there the river splashed noisily onto a dark patch of winter leaves; gurgling
brown water broke into the bubbles of green algae, and waves of glassy liquid
rose and shattered against the miniature canyon walls. Bob nudged me.
"Sorry kid . . . Look, you think any one can swim that?"
Look up: the Moira, eighty feet across, pushing violently between the bend
of limestone walls. Sun-slashed, wild and surging; and now suddenly to the
right of that bend, beneath the twisting shadows of a stunted fir, extending
from there and beyond into the sunlight: a strange watery calm, a flat almost
perfect circle fifty feet in diameter; a watery plateau muddy with gold and
raised like a giant penny by the illusory light. But it's calm, that's the main
thing—it's temptingly calm.
Bob smiled, extended his hand and jerked me to my feet. He yanked and
my arm jerked involuntarily. The pain tightened my mouth.
"Didn't know I hit you that hard; sorry kid."
Against the bright April sky Bob stood like a fiery shadow. I turned away,
surveyed the fifty feet of calm. Surrounding it on each side was fifteen or
twenty feet of vicious, swirling brown water. Now I wanted to laugh. No
one could swim across. It was too early in the year. Anyways, how can a guy
get into that calm and then swim out of it? I said this out loud. Bob smiled,
but offhandedly, barely twisting his thin lips, a smile that said plainly you
didn't know what the hell you were talking about.
"Nuts," I said.
The wind blew down from the hills in the north, slithered down the slope
behind us, raising a yellow cloud of dust around our feet: warm and gritty
and whispering.
"No one can do it," I said.
But Bob was facing the Moira. He stood with his hands in his back pockets,
silent, shifting his feet. "Bob?" Now he stood stock still: eyes hazy with
thought: already thinking the things I had yet to understand. For a moment
I felt alone, and then, as the wind died, I thought about him and Jim
Whitney.
Last September Bob decided to hop a freight because Jim Whitney, the
coal man, who was also his buddy, had done it in 1949. Bob didn't give a
damn where the train was going, just so long as he could hop on and see
what it was like. Jim was twenty-eight years old, and he and Bob were close
buddies. They were so close they even went whoring together in Toronto,
in one of those leaning houses along Jarvis Street where naked children still
run out and ask you unashamedly for chocolates or ten cents. I remember
Jim Whitney sitting on his coal sacks in that old garage on Gibson Drive.
The garage was very cool and murky, lit only by the bluish slants that came
through the cracked walls and leaky roof. Bob had just asked him how to
hop a train. Jim looked like a guy who had just hopped one himself. The
lines on his face were black as pencil and his brown hair was streaked with coal dust. If it was a moving train you were supposed to run hard and fast.
"If you don't you'll wrench your arm off," Jim said, and then casually
picked up a long stick and told us about momentum and inertia, drawing
diagrams and arrows in the coal dust. I remember Jim breaking into one of
his coughing fits. His face went dark, his cheeks grew red; he gripped the
pile of coal sacks he was sitting on, his fingers twisting and pulling the fibre.
His cough always ended in a hoarse choking sound. Jim would shake his
head, wipe the sweat from his forehead, then go on talking as if nothing
unusual had happened. "Hey kid," he said to me. "You'd better not fool
around with the trains. Wait till you're taller." I guess he didn't mean to
make me feel bad, but I was hurt. Quickly I said to Bob, "Let's do it together," and Bob laughed. Jim laughed, but suddenly in a funny wheezing
way. The tight wheezing soon gave way to hard choking sounds, and Jim
clutched his sides. Bob sat up, looking like he would run to Jim. Wiping his
forehead, Jim glanced up, saw Bob, and quickly, as if he were hiding a pain,
took out a bottle of whisky from underneath the coal sacks. He offered a
swig to Bob, talking all the while about the whisky being good for colds and
stomach flu. I noticed Jim's hand was shaking when he lifted the bottle to
his lips. He didn't offer me any because he knew I couldn't take the stuff.
Besides, he said, you're too young to be drinking. By next Wednesday Jim's
coughing got pretty bad. Thursday afternoon he was admitted to the hospital.
It was lung infection, and the poison was spreading through his body. The
following Monday, at two o'clock in the morning, Jim was dead.
The day Bob got the news he tore off from work and broke into Jim's
garage. The garage was near the woods. He knew no one would disturb him.
He dug under the coal sacks and found the bottle of whisky. Bob gulped
until his stomach burned; he started laughing and singing and taking swigs
that seared down his throat. Then he smashed the brown bottle on the floor
and pissed over the broken glass. There was an axe leaning against the coal
bin. Bob ended up by pitching it against the garage door; pulling it out,
then pitching it again, until the old door splintered and collapsed. I went to
see Bob the next day. He told me what he did. I didn't say much. He was
moping around like he wanted to hit some one. On the third night, without
telling any one, he got on a CNR train leaving the Belleville Station.
The train chugged along in the dark; the passenger section threw small
squares of light on the ground. Bob started trotting beside it, taking deep
breaths like a swimmer fighting a current. The train picked up speed and
the box cars started passing him by. The tracks were silver in the moonlight,
like luminous antennas, and the window-lit section was now vanishing in
the distance; now the black train was gobbling up the light. Bob sprinted
hard and fast, like Jim told him to, running carefully, measuring his steps
so that he would not trip on the ties and get sucked under the razor wheels.
Bob reached out—quickly—and snatched onto a side ladder, felt a slight
jerking pain as the momentum of the train whipped him up, banging him roughly against the box car. He must have felt exactly as Jim felt: hanging
onto the ladder, feeling the wind and the cool night air rushing past his face,
everything below his feet moving in a soft greyish blur, and only the stars
and the moon pin-pointing the earth ... I looked at the Moira, heard the
water breaking in the wind, and imagined the sound of its waves like the
rattling pandemonium of a swaying box car.
Bob thought he would jump off at Steven's Junction where the train stops
for water and mail. His hands had grown numb from the cold and the tension of hanging on. He was just about to jump when the train gave a violent
jerk and threw him off balance. Hurling in the dark, Bob slammed against a
barb wire fence, tumbled over the needle-sharp wire, and then cracked his
head hard against the iron post. My mother told me how it happened, how
the railroad detective, who was also my uncle, discovered Bob beside a fence
post, his body torn and bleeding. "Isn't that the boy Mr. Morley thinks
burned down his warehouse?" It was, but I said nothing. "He's in a coma."
My mother wiped her hands on her apron. "What a strange boy. He woke
once in the hospital and asked if Jim Whitney's funeral was over. You know
Bob, don't you? His last name is 'Heskite', isn't it? Were he and Jim related?"
I said nothing. I went upstairs to my room and locked the door behind me.
I leaned against the door and felt like crying: I didn't want Bob to die. As
I was thinking this a gull started circling the April sky and the sound of
the river was rising in my ear. Now I wanted to laugh, to ease the tension,
to feel the warm wind on my back and hear the river's roar. The idea of
swimming across was funny. It was too early in the year. No one could do
it now, not in April ... I wanted to smile but my lips froze.
"Look at that calm," Bob was saying. "All I have to do is dive hard and
fast ..."
I stared at the river, at the swift surge of water that rounded the bend.
I must have looked unbelieving. Bob turned angrily to me and said, "You
dare me?"
I shrugged indifferently, felt uneasy.
"Think I can make it, kid?"
I kicked a stone into the river, shrugged awkwardly.
"Don't think so, eh?" he persisted, peeved with my phony nonchalance.
"Hell man, have you ever tried it?"
He stood before me, stopped me from walking away. He roughly ran his
fingers through his hair and pointed to the freak calm, just beyond the river's
bend. I sat down, dangled my feet over the scarp.
I looked to my right, beneath the twisted fir, where the tree's shadow fell
on the river like a blob of black ink. There the calm began to stretch away
from the shore, twenty feet away, and only phantom shadows touched it.
The edge of the calm cut across the bend's terrific undercurrent; here the
muddy flat surface broke like a fluttering curtain. And here ripples swirled
with foam and tiny whirlpools gaped with bayonet tongues. A dangerous net- work of crude stones and contrapositing sharp branches poked out of the
brown water where the bend narrowed to forty feet, then widened, and
finally blossomed to calm: north of that bend, a month ago, I had seen the
carcass of a police dog impaled on a sharp branch. The flesh was a putrid
gray and the head had swollen and decomposed. I remember how the Moira
was slowly shredding the body, slowly tearing the dog apart ... I looked at
Bob: strong, yes, but the river's current, the undertow ... I sat up, conscious
that Bob was expecting me to say something. I turned around. The wind
swiped my face.
"Don't try it."
"Why?"
"Just don't."
I took the hand he offered me; a strong yank and I was standing with my
face too close to his. Bob wasn't smiling but merely stretching his lips mockingly. He tightened his grip.
"Give me one goddamn good reason."
He was six inches taller than me, and I had the uncomfortable position of
looking up and into his eyes. The bruise on my left shoulder began to throb.
I looked back at him and didn't flinch. Now his face was a mockery of himself, the eyes were too intense, the lips were forced and the nostrils flared
with a subtle violence. The wind rose and blew some winter leaves over the
rock cliff; the fragments lifted into the air like brown moths, and then, as
they sank, one leaf tumbled onto Bob's shoulder. I turned away. Bob, you
can't swim across. I felt myself wanting to sink, to fall away, to become
nothing. You can't, goddam, you can't . . .
My mind started to drift, to think of the time when nothing like this
seemed possible: this tension, this annoying silence. Don't push me, Bob.
Don't push me. And I thought how I worked at my father's cafe, and of how
Bob often ate there after his job at the garage. I got to know him better and
we started talking about school sports. Eventually he started coming in
around ten o'clock after his work. Bob always took the stool by the cash
register. He would have his coffee while I swept the floors and stocked the
cigarettes, then we would both go for a drive in his jazzed up '47 Ford.
One night he told me he stole some parts from his boss, Gal Lewis. I laughed
and told him I always stole smokes from my father. Usually we drove to
Jim Whitney's place for coffee, and whisky when he had it, but after Jim
died we drove to the cemetery and would sit there for a long while just
smoking and listening to the night. Once Bob started to ask me about Jim's
funeral. "Were there a lot of flowers?" he said. But the way he asked me it
didn't seem like a question any one could answer. His voice was cold, toneless, and he just stared out of the car not looking at me. "What was the
coffin like?" he said. The cigarette burned my fingers. I threw it out and
looked into the night, at the tombstones and their long grey shadows. There
was nothing I could say. Bob tapped my foot. There was a pause. "I ... I used to have a little brother like you." He began slowly, cautiously,
and then his words came out in a rush, as if he was compelled to tell a joke
that was going to fall flat. "The little guy was crazy about poetry and sunsets.
Every time I saw him he was scribbling things down. Only he was younger
than you. The things he wrote down he never showed any one except maybe
his teacher. Because he knew if he did you would laugh at him. He was only
ten and his spelling was horrible. One day I swiped a piece from his notebook
and read it aloud to Mom. It was a sonnet about a lollipop from Heaven.
The little guy walked into the kitchen and grabbed a knife from mom and
wanted to kill me. Isn't that crazy? He wanted to kill me."
"What happened to him?"
"He died three years ago." And then, as if he were telling a lie: "Caught
polio."
In the night stillness the answer sounded too abrupt; and the sudden cry
of a hawk made everything seem unreal and blurry: the tombstones, the
shadows ... I wanted to say something, to say I was sorry.
"You know kid," he interrupted. "Sometimes I think ... I feel . . ."
But he said no more, and we drove home in silence.
When Bob started training for the spring track meet he dragged me up
in the mornings at six thirty so I could clock his speed on the school field.
The first time I saw him run he tore against the wind until his lungs burned
and he collapsed. "First time . . . first time you give it all you've got." Then
between gasping and spluttering he vomited his breakfast. The school nurse
said he almost ruptured his lungs. He had to rest, she said. "For a week at
least." Three days later Bob was out running again. I stared at the river
and my heart went cold.
I stared at the river, at the deceptive calm, at the rage surrounding it, and
the sharp branches . . . Maybe in two or three weeks when the waters slowed
down . . . But suddenly I saw him racing the train, running in the school
field, the muscles of his leg bursting in the dust: the river was a blur of fine
mist. Bob moved nearer to me.
"I'm going to try it," he said.
I sensed his brooding coming over me like a moist summer fog, rising from
somewhere within me, choking things in me which I could not name, could
not understand. His brown-dark eyes began to flash and he tightened his
fists till the knuckles went white.
"I'll make it," he said, and his voice was uneven, strained.
"It's stupid," I said.
Turning away I gestured a last no with the wave of my hand and began
to pick up our shirts to go home. The wind grew chilly on my bare skin. My
jeans felt uncomfortably rough on my thighs. As I bent down for the plaid
shirts Bob grabbed my arm. I twisted my head angrily and saw the smile
disappear from his lips. Impatient, restless, Bob's hand like a vice: "Cut the
fooling!" "To hell with you," he shot back. "I can do it!"
He pinched his lips together; his grip tightened painfully on my arm. The
rugby scar, the thin curving line over the corner of his left eye, began to
redden as the blood rushed to his cheeks. The lines of his face were tautly
drawn, the square jaw, the wide forehead—but his eyes, brown-dark and
small, seemed to draw into their sockets against the skull. I felt a chill, as if
an icy hand had gripped my stomach. Then a sudden warmth surged to my
cheeks. I began nervously to laugh.
I laughed in his face.
"I can do it!"
I writhed in his grip. He pushed me away. I fell, cutting the palm of my
hand. I sucked at the blood that oozed from the small wound. It didn't hurt
much but I had to turn away. I found myself staring at a jutting ledge that
hung with the dry tendrils of morning glory, grey vines crinkled with winter
sleep, so strangely mocking the life now stirring in its roots. Everything was
hard and real and suddenly mocking. You're a goddamn nut, Bob Heskite,
a goddamn ass. If you weren't so fuckin' big, I'd ... I'd .. . Angry humiliation welled inside me and I put my head on my knee so that he could not
see me want to cry. I fumbled with my shirt.
"I didn't hurt you, did I, kid?"
I put my arms through the shirt.
"Let's see your hand first."
I buttoned up my shirt. He held his hand out, in a gesture for me to get
up.
"C'mon kid."
I wanted to spit in his palm.
"Take it easy, kid."
I shrugged his hand off, put my cut hand down on the ground and pushed
myself up. I stood before him. I wanted to slash his face with a sharp rock
I held in my uncut hand. I wondered what he would do. You think you're
too big, I thought; and then feigned a quick slashing blow, clearly revealing
the pointed rock that would dig out his eyes. Bob only looked at me, not
moving, not even defending himself. There was a distant sadness in his
eyes. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked if anything was wrong. His
hand felt heavy on me. There was a deliberate pause, a tone in his voice
that was as gentle as wind, that crumbled all my fury, my anger . . . The
rock slipped from my hand, falling to the ground with a despondent clack.
My arms hung impotent, useless, as if I could never move them again.
Bob took his hand off my shoulder and then ruffled my hair.
"Look," he said. "I'm going to try swimming that narrow section, that
part near the bend."
A sudden seething and burning tightened my gut; my throat went raw.
My head spun for a moment, and then suddenly I felt I had to know, to be
absolutely sure. Something perverse twisted inside me. I looked at Bob and caught myself smiling.
"Look," he muttered. "Will you help me?"
I thought his voice shook, but his eyes glistened. It was no joke. Surely
if he had smiled, if he had only laughed, turned everything into a joke . . .
"I'm going down to that ledge to strip. Put your shoes on and help me.
C'mon kid, quit worrying."
I bent down to lace up my shoes. Bob started walking to the overhang,
there by the fir tree where the dry tendrils of morning glory hung like
shrivelled snakes. I finished with my shoes and caught up to him. He took
off his watch. The sun shone yellow as gold. "Christ, it's hot," I said.
"When I get down there," Bob said, "I'll take my clothes off and hand
them up to you. Here, take my watch and time me."
I took his watch and slipped it on my wrist. The metal felt cold and
slippery.
"If anything happens to me, kid, you can keep it." He ruffled my hair.
"Yeah sure."
Bob walked away, paused inches from the scarp, then hopped over and
felt for a foothold. I saw how the shadow of the fir tree fell over the river,
pointing to the calm. It was then I said, "Bob, come back if—" He did not
hear me. He descended slowly, his arms and shoulders flinching each time
he made a careless move over the sharp rocks. I remembered how at that
level the sound of the river exploded. All at once I felt the chill in my stomach
grow to fear. I wanted to speak, to cry out; yet, strangely, I put my hand on
his watch and uttered not a sound.
Water slapped against the ledge as Bob climbed down, brushing the dead
vines. Finally he jumped onto an overhang that kids in the summertime used
for diving. A heavy tree trunk floated by us and disappeared down the lower
bend. It bobbed and danced, leaving behind small whirlpools where it had
spun with the surface current.
Bob stood on the overhang and started to unbutton his jeans. I put his
shoes down beside me, and then he handed me his jeans. He cupped his
mouth:
"If it's too strong," he shouted, "I'll make my way back to this side." He
pointed south.
Three hundred feet away. There the grey ledges vanished under reddish
clay soil. The rock-cliffs sloped suddenly into the clay and the Moira spilled
onto the land and lapped small, foam-flecked waves onto the desolate beach.
Lonely trees jabbed the air with their twisted arms. If Bob didn't make it
he intended the current to spill him onto that sloping embankment of clay,
on that embankment already cluttered with driftwood and acrid swamp
smells. There was a back current that held pieces of wood and weed swaying
between the shore and the down current. The shore was muddy with gold,
and dragonflies hovering everywhere glinted in the sun like metal. Three
hundred feet away. Bob, you'll make it, I thought, and suddenly smiled.
13 The air was tense, annoying. I wrapped his jeans around his shoes and
looked to see if any one was near. There was no one in sight. The limestone
cliffs were bare. The clay shore was deserted. The sky stretched over the
emptiness hot and bright, and a solitary tree shook in the warm wind. I
looked down at Bob, saw the wind stir strands of his hair, the quiver of a
muscle on his shoulder. And when he finally dipped his feet to feel the icy
temperature of the water, the thick muscles of his thigh reassured me of his
strength. If the current swept him away I could run down the river with
him. Bob was an excellent swimmer; he could make the shore where the
river was not so swift: he could swim into the back current. Bob knows what
he's doing. He won't make it, but he won't get hurt, he won't get hurt.
I looked behind me, at the top of the hill between the branches of the persimmon tree. The blank sky silhouetted the '47 Ford, and the dent on the
roof reflected the sun.
Two weeks ago Bob overturned the car on Coleman Street, a block away
from Sharon's house. Sharon was a high school girl he wanted to make that
night. As he turned off Bridge and Everette he misjudged the road and at
forty-five miles an hour pitched down a sharp incline, swung into Coleman
Street: braked: screeched past a telephone pole and overturned the Ford.
Bob told the Cop he had slipped on the rainy road. No witnesses. Bob got
off with a traffic ticket and a bill from the towing company. Now the dent
reflected the sun, harshly, so that the light pricked my eyes and I had to turn
away. Bob, I thought, you might break an arm, crack your head, but you'll
come out alive. In my imagination I saw him drenched and running away
from the Moira—his body scarred with blood; and in my bitterness I saw
him crying with pain, heading toward the car like a shot rabbit. A strange
animal compulsion beat in my heart. I stood on the rock-cliff to watch,
safely secured on land.
Bob carefully hopped from the overhang to a smaller ledge nearer the
calm. He raised his arms, readying for a dive in what appeared to be a deep
and clear stretch of water. Now and again the surface would ruffle up;
nevertheless it was the best place to dive into. The stretch of water led
directly to the calm. I looked at Bob's watch. Ten minutes to three. Then I
looked down at Bob. As he stood he seemed for a moment petrified, like a
statue. A pool of brown water on the overhang reflected his tension.
"Time!" Bob's face flashed at me for a brief second, the pupils white and
fearless. "Six to three!" And then he dove magnificently into the ruffled path.
The water rushed over his feet and enveloped his body with darkness.
I got up, waited with my eyes hard on a spot where I thought he would
reappear. Seconds passed. I began to sweat. More seconds. Then his yellow
head bobbed up almost twelve feet away—twelve feet away from where I
had judged he would come up. But there was something wrong: he wasn't
kicking his feet, stroking his arms. He was limp and the current was carrying
his away. Wild, tearing, pulling him along the rim of that strange calm. I clutched at wind, bewildered, shocked, watched his head disappear, then bob
up, then vanish. I started running parallel to the Moira.
I remembered the clay shore. Three hundred feet away. The torrent was
sweeping him in that direction; if he could get into the crosscurrent, into
that clutter of weed and driftwood, stay there long enough for me to reach
him ... I was now rushing down the sloping banks, breathing heavily, my
eyes frantically searching for Bob's head: a white dot: there: fifty feet away.
He was trying to swim into the back current, but the river held him.
The red clay oozed and sucked at my feet, swallowing a shoe. Now I could
see Bob struggling, trying desperately to fight the rip tide, the billow and
surge of the Moira. His arms flailed the air and his feet kicked wildly. The
rumble of the waves fought him, rising over his head and crashing down
as he tried to breathe. Crashing down and choking him with a sandpaper
mixture of air and water and clay. I struggled into the water, felt the back
current sway my legs. The ground slipped from under me and I was swimming. I swam nearer to Bob. He was twenty feet away. Waves rose and
tumbled over him, dashed him onto lethal rocks and then rippled over him
as he fought to avoid a spearing branch. I tore strands of weed from my
legs. When I looked up: Bob's face was slashed. A curtain of blood covered
half his face and then was erased by a wave. I shouted to him, but my voice
choked in the muddy water and drowned in the sound of waves. I swam
harder, kicked with all my might. As I drew nearer to Bob I could feel the
current eddying into the downstream. Bob was still struggling. My feet fought
against the Moira; I pushed my hands frantically, blood bulged the veins of
my arms: closer . . . closer . . . until I reached within five feet of him. The
river taunted him, the current brought him nearer to me only to place him
inches away from my hand. Bob saw me and tried to reach out. I swam
closer, then found myself being hurled into the wild surge of the river. The
undercurrent pushed against my legs, against my whole body until I found
myself in a swift whirlpool, swinging away from the shore. But Bob was
there before me, so close!
In a vortical current the whirlpool held both of us like aimless driftwood, swinging us now towards the clay embankment. I reached out and
grabbed Bob, held him tightly against me. He wasn't moving. I would have
to swim out of the whirlpool. I pushed with my free hand and somehow the
billow of a tide lifted us out, buoying Bob and me like cork. And like playthings we found ourselves spilled onto the soft ooze and slime of weeds, and
finally onto the embankment of wet earth. Then I realized Bob was clinging
to me and I was holding him by the back of his neck. Somehow, in the madness of that moment, I found the strength to grab him about the waist and
drag him nearer to me. I collapsed beside him. There was a burning taste
of vomit in the back of my throat. My arms were bloody and my legs cut. I
looked at the Moira and it flashed back a thousand suns. I closed my eyes
at the sudden explosion of light. Pain twisted my legs and arms. Lights
'5 whirled in my head, spinning me into a growing darkness. My ears began
to hum, as if to destroy the sound of the river: for a moment there was
darkness and humming and the cold wet flesh of Bob against my arm. Someone was saying little man . . . little man . . . with a voice gentle and dying,
till suddenly there was only the drone and the darkness. My mind reeled.
I opened my eyes, my hands slipped over Bob's head. His head turned upwards : an eye missing, the nostril ripped. There was nothing else I could do.
His face was a heresy to life, a cold and torn and bleeding heresy. I held his
head on my lap and gently rocked him. He was dead. There was nothing
else I could do.
BLACK THREAD
ALDEN NOWLAN
My sister sewed her hand,
the soft flesh of her palm,
black thread under the skin,
the starbright needle
pricking her skin.
So that I itched
wherever it went in.
She broke the thread in her teeth
and laughed in my face. The thread
dangling down from her flesh.
I shut both eyes with my fists,
counting each stitch in her flesh.
Counting each stitch in her flesh
while she laughed and laughed like a witch. DANNY QUEBEC
DAVID McFADDEN
The trembling tenorman stands under
the neons of busy Yonge Street at midnight
passing out handbills announcing
the opening of a new jazz club;
the final feeble leap of a hooked trout
sends rhythmic ripples up his wrinkled belly;
forest fires, igloos, and palm trees
can be seen thru the glassy dimple
of his stare:
his forefinger is unaware of his elbow.
Oh heaven what is your oath of unleavened
purity to slide thru the tremulous
zoology of bitter flesh, what glimpse
of silver solace may
I see in the meat above his feet?
Do I pass and enter the tavern
to dream of further black swans
or am I in veritable instance
part of his golden lyre?
Oh send me my watch,
my chain, let the fields of
wheat enchant me into
the song of the brook, birds,
crickets, give me an issue
of your unseen parchment skin
enclosure of sailfish,
let me cross this street
passing thru cars and telephone
poles, let me run back up
and achieve at his feet the last
gasping drama of slender
selfless bridgement of this
upside-down concrete tower
to which all animate things are
intricately attracted, to pass
thru my rock of remembrance,
to be a hero in the
Crimean War.
17 Oh what is this thing I am sobbing?
God, what is this the sickness called life?
Is this a cockeyed symptom, is this love?
God, Jesus, Love, accept my scrumpled self,
Let me snap my silver jug,
Let this harp dissolve,
Let me flow back to my tenorman
with unseen recognition,
show me my subtraction table.
This is not a syllable of slaughter.
This is not even a sonnet.
A sonnet is a symbol of sanity
for all my beautiful symbolizers.
Whitman & Shakespeare
were read by Ezra Pound:
Whitman sobbed on the lip of the continent
Shakespeare sued the lords & laughed.
And Jesus considered Shakespeare a
very enlightened man.
Milking his first cow, the city
man is happy.—■
At 14 years of age my teacher
made me parse the Merchant of Venice
while Gratiano screamed in my ear—
Everyman's daughter is the mother of God.
I left my shattered symbol
brittle on the corner
and slithered on back to the parked car.
With my head resting on the dashboard
I felt
my dead sister giving me her love.
Oh hell and heaven, joy and subterfuge
let me raise my sword and
cut off a chewable mouthful,
let my dreadful body drink
from the shoe of Youth, let
the hair of my soul sink softly
into the dolorous odour
of fishnet and pink.
18 Grace to Jehovah and Heavenly Hosts,
I have thrusted my orchid thru your
stomach and I shall
do it again,
again, again, again, again, again,
Hair of my soul, soften & droop,
you have been excited too long.
Molasses & wine. Milk & water.
The road is softest neither at
night nor during the day but only when
it thinks it is.
Beauty, I don't know what that
ocean is doing in your mirror
but I have gone to the window
twice and each time I have seen
that the snow is all melted
and no longer smoke is
coming out of the city-block
chimneys since
Pudding is off for the day.
Inside the car, my sister kissed
me on the lips and told
me that every design is one
and that is pure and real
and holy and tangible
and now six months later
in the pleasant shelter of
my room I can place her hand
inside my mouth
and know that nothing
is that once was not.
A concrete manifestation of individual desire
is the only object one man needs.
Nobody believes in God anymore.
A heavenly fire will soon rage thru
this university
And the firefighters will turn to stone.
Nobody believes in one love anymore.—
Bodies will turn to pus and end
up on the legless beggar's corner.
The men of my city crawl thru
19 life, every self-action dedicated to
hiding their own inadequacies.
I am not complaining, I'm just digging.
Oh Joseph & Mary, show me your
donkey, let me ride the golden
ass till silver melts; sunstretch
my liberty, gild my leprosy,
buy my limping sack of eskimo hide.
Danny Quebec, it's midnight.
Close the door on the city,
Climb the warming stairs,
Dump your handbills on the
Counter, take your horn off
Your shoulder, put your
Eyes in your ears and blow
Loud stammers from your
Earthly vision, puke
Into your horn,
Drive me out into
The morning vapours
And waterfalls, drive me
Back to my shack by
The river, show me my
Love in the sunlight.
I'll never remember you again. AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS
ALDEN NOWLAN
They hung a blanket in front of the bed but Sistie and I could still hear
them and once when he bent over to blow out the lamp I saw him all naked
and white and I thought of the other One he had told us about, how his
skin was as white as the snow at night, which isn't really white although
everyone says it is and won't let you call it anything else but white, and there
were red scars all over his face where they'd sewn the pieces together, Bobby
said, and when Sistie woke up crying he came through the blanket in his
yellow lumber boots and pulled the quilts off us and beat her with his
leather laces . . . Are you really asleep, honey? she'd whisper, are you really
asleep? And he didn't even light the lamp that night he beat her and Sistie
kept screaming, don't beat me, Bobby, I love you, I really love you, don't
beat me, Bobby. So afterward we pretended to be asleep even when her
voice was warm and sweet as the hot peppermint drink she gave me when
I had a cold: honey, are you awake? Are you awake, honey? Before I knew
better I held my breath but later we learned to breathe deep and slow, with
our throats and bellies, as people do when they're really asleep, the quilts
rising and falling. And neither of them ever knew.
There is the colour you see in the world and there is the colour you see
in the mind, so it doesn't mean anything when I say His face was white,
because nobody can tell the truth no matter how hard he tries. But His face
was white. And Bobby said He came out of the woods at night and crouched
under the window of the cabin (we lived at the edge of the woods and the
trees screeched on windy nights), but even when He rattled the windows I
wouldn't look and Bobby never found out or he'd have made me, he'd have grabbed me and made me look, and I never told Sistie because she told
everything even when I made her ask God to strike her dead if she told.
I covered my head with the quilts because that was a different kind of
darkness, all snug and safe and warm. Are you asleep, honey? Are you asleep?
And once she was sick and he had to carry her and her breath smelled funny,
as if she'd eaten molasses and been sick to her stomach: oh, Bobby, I don't
want my children to see me like this. I don't want my children to see me.
And he said they'd broken into graves and taken the dead men and cut
them into pieces and sewn them together and made Him.
I wondered if He travelled all over the world or did He stay there in the
woods always and how long would it take Him to come from the end of the
world? And I am afraid of the dark places, even in the daytime, because I
cannot believe that He sleeps.
Are you asleep, honey? Are you asleep? And him with his leather laces,
lying there waiting, his eyes opened on the dark! We found a bobcat in the
woodshed and it wiggled down through a hole in the floor and crawled
under the wall and bolted back into the woods and he said bobcats ate
children and could climb walls and we were too scared to tell him that we
were afraid to go to bed.
I asked him what beasts ate and he said they ate children. Fox, bear, bobcat, porcupine. The woods were full of them, porcupines gnawed the well
pole and bears gulped raspberries, thorns, leaves and twigs in the tangle
behind the slaughterhouse. And one night a rat bit Sistie's heel and he woke
up and killed it.
How could there be a picture if He wasn't real? Nobody makes a picture
out of his head. The scars on His face make me think of the time my nose
bled until the pillows were soaked. Bobby said that's where the stitches were.
And she said it was the lid of the coffin that fell down and caught the boy's
coat but he thought the dead man had grabbed him and he was frightened
to death. And they both laughed. Are you asleep, honey? Are you asleep?
They came up the ladder and through the trapdoor, her carrying the lamp
in front of her and above her head and I always woke up, but they never
knew. It took twenty dead men's bodies to make His, he said, and I'd listen
for His footsteps, heavier than a bear's, and sometimes, between gusts of
wind, I could hear Him walking by the well and around the cabin and my
chest hurt when I tried to breathe, listening for Him to pound the door, but
He never did.
The door locked with a wooden button and hung on leather hinges and
the windows didn't open, but in the summer he pulled the nails and took out
the glass and then at night I could smell the trees and the grass and hear
the clouds brushing ever-so-softly against the sky . . . but I never cried. I
never cried. Even when the windows were taken out and I knew He could
reach through and I lay as far from the hole as I could, pressing Sistie
against the wall, I never cried.
22 Are you asleep, honey? Are you asleep?
When I get big I'll come back here and walk down the clay road past the
slaughterhouse and by then I'll be so tall I'll have to stoop to walk under
the clothes line and I'll wear a big black belt with a silver buckle and yellow
lumber boots that lace up to my knees and I'll kick open the door and come
in here and Bobby will be sitting by the stove filing his pulpsaw (because
everything will be the same except I'll be too big to be afraid) and he'll
look up and see me and what the hell are you starin' at, I'll say, and I'll
speak with His voice because I'll be able to do anything then and I wish I
could wake up now and find everything changed.
MURDER WILL OUT
G. V. DOWNES
We had forgotten the corpse in the ice-block
though we had buried it ourselves, quickly,
and were surprised when it stirred on the lawn:
the low sun, lighting an early spring,
disturbed its rest by heat,
by earth's small secret movements.
Through a tube of melting ice it rose,
a posture like that of the womb,
arms crossed, a bland moon smile,
its slackened ankles bound by a fettered chain
with square-cut teeth of silver.
Why should we be surprised?
We buried it ourselves, in November,
and now sicken
as stench from the stirring lawn, death smell,
smothers all lively odours from the beach,
mussels, crab-skeletons, and crusted salt
on fresh green crumpled sea-weed.
23 THE GUEST OF HONOUR
LIONEL KEARNS
Old Uncle you cough and blow your nose in your hand when I suggest you
wait till we get inside before you urinate. I want to add something like "Don't be ashamed Unc even my wife does it occasionally and the baby my gosh! but of course he still can't use a
toilet heh heh ..." I don't say it, just push you gently towards
the door, but the remark remains somewhere in the darkness,
we both sense it and you stiffen.
Old Uncle you are uneasy there on the sofa. You hold your arms awkwardly
in the air. You hawk and find yourself with a mouthful of phlegm
which you swallow after two tries. You fidget and answer in
monosyllables. We both know I want you to relax, and you
tighten your jaw and begin to sweat.
Old Uncle your cigarette ashes fall on your pants; and you are wearing your
sportiest outfit too—a grease-stained windbreaker unzippered at
the neck to show the collar of an old flannel shirt and a silk tie.
As I was helping you off with your mackinaw you thought I
smiled, and now you are sitting there resenting it.
Old Uncle you apologize when you notice that your artificial leg has rucked
the carpet up in a hump, and you go into an endless explanation
of how it doesn't fit properly, how the prosthesis is rubbing an
ulcer on the stump. You don't mention the original, the leg that
floated away. Of course you don't touch a drop now, but there's
the pain, and when you talk of a few 222s we both know it was
at least half a bottle of them to-night, and you turn your punchy
eyes on me in defiance.
Old Uncle your chompers are gone and so you are cutting the steak into tiny
pieces. Your nose is a few inches from the table and you are
bearing down with your knife on the extreme edge of your plate
and it suddenly flips up and clatters to the floor, leaving the
mashed potatoes in your lap. I make it all a big joke, telling my
wife to bring on the dessert. "Heh heh, lucky you'd almost
finished" I go on good naturedly. I don't mind. We both know
I have no reason to be impatient or embarrassed, though you
are speechless with rage.
24 Old Uncle you are breathing hard as I drive you to your rooming house.
You stare out the window and refuse my cigarette. As you step
from the car I know you are even prouder than when you forced
me to invite you.
Old Uncle I leave you standing alone on the dim street. At last, my wizened
and ghostly kinsman, you are triumphant. Do you curse me once
more?
POEM
ROY MacSKIMMING
I know little of life
she said
and she touched
my face
I know nothing of love
she said
in my embrace
and her pale blue
eye looked
hopefully at
the darkening sky.
25 ISLAND
AVIS WORTHINGTON
The phone rang and tears came to her eyes. If only they would let her
alone here in the warmth of her garden she would be all right. Who knew
what a ringing telephone could mean?
Hannah was on her hands and knees, weeding. She had leaned back on
her heels and looked at the flowers; poppies, bloodied by the sun; iris, turning brown; roses. They had seemed like an inexpensive English teapot. She
had laughed and thought of the Old Lady's hat in the "Snow Queen." A
good witch made the roses disappear from among the flowers so that Gerda
might forget them.
"I'd send the daisies away," thought Hannah. "Down, underground to
come up again some other time." They reminded her of the death-like child
and for a moment she felt acutely the damp chill of the earth below the
surface.
Then the phone rang. She moved toward it like some kind of blind, burrowing animal into the sudden darkness of the house. There it was, a shrill
foreign sound among old magazines, old china and freshly cut flowers. She
was sorry she couldn't see anything. Things were so nice. How could people
say materialism was bad?
"Hello." A childlike voice asked for her name. It was Isobel's teacher.
Hannah could see things in the living room now. Isobel's teacher was a
cretin, but she might divert her from the other thing in her mind. This other
thing was, of course, the dead child. Hannah had been the first to come
upon it, lying dead and abandoned in a nearby field. For weeks the neigh-
26 bourhood had been bloated with curiosity and Hannah again thankful that
she so little knew her neighbours.
The exact source of her depression was a mystery to her. She only knew
that the sight of the child had brought to the surface fears and inadequacies
suppressed since adolescence. These feelings refused to leave her and the
subject of the child was one she could not endure. The knowledge of something carrion struck her senses forcibly first. But her next feelings—equally
strong—were akin to Crusoe's when he came upon a Friday footprint.
However, she perked up considerably as the girl on the phone began to
babble a strange jargon of Normal School Psychology. This was a challenge
to Hannah.
I.Q. good, apparently, but social adjustment, tch, tch! This was a crisis
and the girl simply must see her. An Appointment was the thing.
Hannah became embarrassed and her voice faint.
"My husband usually has the car . . ." To leave the house was something
to be avoided, certainly to leave because of this girl.
"Socially maladjusted!" The girl's voice fluted like a bird. The issue to
her was so important.
"Thank God!" said Hannah, trying to pretend that it had slipped out,
but full of malice. Such a naked phrase! She was bursting with biting comments but still dazed by the sunshine and by the silence of the house.
"I . . ." said the girl, mental filing cards clicking and darting. Now disaster
measures were called for. "After the final tea?"
Hannah sighed. The girl had her there. She was sorely tempted. She
loved teas. The sandwiches were so good. She never knew anyone very well,
and it gave one an excuse to wear one's hat.
"Very well," she said. But her half-forgotten fear was back and she felt
cold. Returning to the sunlight a mist of yellow hair floated before her eyes
and she couldn't look at the daisies.
She walked down the graveled driveway to the highway to meet her husband and ride with him back to the house.
"She says Isobel's not adjusted, you know, socially," she told him as they
huddled over drinks at the kitchen table. He was an untidy, tweedy husband
—much more receptive after dinner.
"Did you tell her what we think?" he asked.
"She wouldn't understand. And first thing I'd be giving in to her when
I know she's wrong. I always do that." She had the distinct impression that
she was fluttering in the "little woman" style.
"Let's hope our theories are the same when Isobel's twenty."
"But we don't want her adjusted to an eleven-year-old world." She actually
whined.
"I suppose not," he said, and she knew that he wasn't certain. He thought
no other child in the world could compare with Isobel for all another's
golden hair, perfect teeth or bright quick ways. Nevertheless, away from his
27 work he was a lazy man. Had he not been so lazy she knew he would have
asked about these past weeks. She knew that he had noticed. With luck he
might never ask.
Isobel came slumping home quite late, her books across her stomach, her
hair in her eyes. Her smile through her braces was beautiful. She loved her
family. She was starved. She must have sandwiches and cake and milk before
dinner and drag them off with her to her room.
Hannah went up to her room to call her. She was bent over her little
paint-stained pink desk, chewing a piece of dull, limp hair. She frowned
with concentration.
"School work?" Hannah asked and then hated herself for prying.
"No," Isobel said, shyly.
Suddenly Hannah could feel the inarticulateness of her. She sensed that
this project filled the child with a feeling not to be described. That she
couldn't wait to come home to it.
"It's an island," Isobel said. Her eyes above the awful mechanics of her
braces were naked, pure, flower-like.
Hannah was suddenly hoarse. "An island!" Her voice rose with a condescending enthusiasm that she put away from herself at once.
"Yes," Isobel said, becoming very excited. "See, here's the big house—and
here's the beach where we—the people—go swimming. And down here," her
finger pointed damply to where the bright green paint met painted blue
water, "down here's a cave where there might be treasure."
"Will they find it?" her mother asked.
"I don't know," Isobel said, suddenly becoming private again.
I'm glad she is, thought Hannah. Most people nowadays never are.
"It's lovely, Isobel," she said. How could she mention school at a time
like this? But with rare bravery she did.
"School?" Isobel said. "All right. The other children? They're all right,
I guess."
"Miss Simpson says you're maladjusted," Hannah said, letting her know
how inconsequential she thought this was. Isobel crumpled a bit and said
nothing.
"You don't care, do you?" Hannah said, alarmed. "You have friends,
don't you?"
"Mary lives out the other way. But I don't care." Isobel dipped her brush
in the blue square of paint and began to paint the waves that surrounded her
island.
All these things, the dinner, the dirty dishes, kept Hannah from thinking.
She wandered onto the porch thinking of reticent, baby Isobel walking on
shaky fat legs and poking a fat exploratory finger before her. And then she
remembered her own fear—the other child so pale and mortal—and her
teeth chattered.
Then she thought, was it possible, had she seen it at all? A sensational
28 episode gone over again and again seems fantastic. What if it weren't true?
The neighbourhood had been full of the details. But perhaps she herself had
never really seen it. She stopped herself from running into the light, mothlike, and asking him what he thought. This comfort she denied herself. She
remained shivering on the porch.
She remembered that her mother had always said she couldn't live up to
things. Perhaps I am a trivial woman, she thought. Then she knew that the
supposition itself was trivial. She was she and she was stuck with herself. She
was her universe. Perhaps it was trivial.
Up to the day of the Tea Hannah carried her fear with her like a large
refrigerated stone. When the day came, however, she preened herself in the
sunlight of her garden. Her dress was three years old, yet she felt it did her
credit. At least she wouldn't be strung with rhinestones, she thought with
satisfaction, nor wrapped with a little sheer nylon blouse. She was so elated
that her fears descended upon her only occasionally in little waves whose
true meaning she was too distracted to interpret.
Every now and then Hannah thought that she had subdued that part of
herself that cared about how many times the neighbour went to tea compared
to how many times she went to tea, or how close to the boss so and so was
compared to her husband. Then, like a flicker of lust to a withered and holy
hermit after years of denial and fasting, the social urge would spring to life
again. She would find herself caring, White Rabbit style, thinking, oh dear,
I must run to catch up with the others.
When she arrived, sure enough, there were the mothers with rhinestone
hung here and there. But there were others, svelte, chic, expensive! However,
she felt that her dress, old as it was, was still smart and that this fact gave
her a special distinction. She was quite smug.
The ladies were gathered in the library, a room that gave the impression
of being a bit dusty. There were pictures on the wall designed to encourage
the children to read for pleasure. No trouble there with Isobel!
A gentle buzz filled the room. Sunlight came in through the little old-
English panes of glass and warmed the flowers and the silver of the candle
sticks. Hannah recognized no one. On her left on a little folding chair sat
a woman whose shiny navy suit opened over a scant bosom to reveal a pink
nylon ruffle. Her hair was pulled back tightly into fantastic crumpled curls
leaving her face with a surprised, skinned look. Hannah could picture her
children: pallid brown eyes, pallid little faces, pallid little jackets with
zippers.
She began to enjoy herself, classifying the flora and fauna. She had yet
to speak to any of them, and was breathless with expectation. On the other
side of the pink ruffle was a smooth lady in black and fur. She was utterly
in control of her environment and Hannah appreciated that fact. A fly
crawled slowly up the wall over the lady's head. Seeing it Hannah began to
feel depressed. She shut her eyes for a moment to shut it out. Of course the
29 ladies must discuss the child's death. One knew its mother. Soon it was over
and they went on to other things.
The lady was talking about Isobel's teacher—a lovely girl. But, and the
pink ruffle began to flutter, did they not realize that this girl was only a
replacement? The girl who had been on the staff hadn't come back. Apparently it had been a pregnancy, the pale lady was redder than her blouse.
Her flat high voice went on. Smooth black raised her eyebrows, Hannah
leaned forward in her chair. Soon they were all chattering away.
Then here came the tea—lovely, hot in committee members' china cups.
And the sandwiches spread with various meat pastes and garnished with
cress. Then came cakes, cookies and rich little bars. Hannah was beside
herself. The business at hand, the final summing-up of the school year, she
ignored. Smooth black was taking notes.
Hannah leaned back, a pleasurable smile on her face, and thought of the
romance of the would-be-teacher. She embarked on a gigantic day-dream.
In it Isobel was smiling at her pink desk. The ruined girl, her infant asleep
in a portable crib, was giving Isobel detailed and creative private instruction
in all the Arts and Sciences of the Western World. Hannah could picture
pink ruffle's scarlet face at the scandal and smooth black's disapproval of
education quarantined from one's peers, whoever they were. She glanced up
at the teachers' books over her head and saw the dynamics of this and the
dynamics of that and wondered why teachers were always so dynamic. All
these things fortified her and she felt braced for the coming encounter.
Then, there it was. A small, blond, neat girl was grasping her arm firmly
and she was walking all too rapidly down the long hall. She repressed an
impulse to shake the girl's arm off her elbow, and there they were in the
blank, empty classroom. The girl sat down firmly at her desk. Hannah felt
profoundly oppressed. She hated herself for feeling real fear because of the
normal Normal School girl in front of her. She remembered her other fear—
the fear she had had with her these several weeks. She clutched it to her,
numbing herself, bruising her senses from whatever might come.
The girl opened the manilla folder, containing, it seemed, all that was
important about the girl-child, Isobel. She began to speak—turning the
pages. Her light, high voice barely penetrated the room. She glanced up
occasionally at Hannah.
"But," she finally said, "I don't believe you've heard a word I've said."
Hannah glanced down at a graph on the desk.
"You are probably quite right," she said.
"But," the girl was finding it hard to be polite, "how can I do anything
for her if you won't even listen?"
"You are not required to do anything for her," Hannah said, "except to
teach her the prescribed material for the class in which she is enrolled." It
was a long sentence, but she was quite proud of it. Hannah longed to flood
her with all her ideas and thoughts on the subject but instead began putting
30 on her gloves with what she hoped was dramatic finality. She arose, speechless. Hannah looked at her, fascinated. It had been years since she had
rendered anyone speechless.
"Good day," she said in an affected manner and scurried down the hall.
She knew she would only weaken her position if she kept on. She could
only discourse at any length among close friends, and so few of their close
friends were left in town now.
She felt very powerful in the car after her triumph. Her other fear was
gone. She grasped the wheel firmly and turned into the graveled drive. When
she confronted her husband she was flushed and elated. She made her recitation and he looked at her.
"So! What do you think of that?" she said.
"Still, Isobel is a problem," he said.
"I suppose we shall have to think about it," she said.
He was still looking at her.
"What's the matter?" she said.
He said nothing. She clamped her mouth shut for fear the whole thing
would degenerate into a typical married couple's quarrel. She decided to pry
a bit.
"You want to talk about Isobel?"
"No. What's been bothering you?"
"Don't be silly." She started to get up, snatching her hat off. Suddenly
she felt very relieved—almost elated—that he was this close to finding out.
She clamped her mouth shut, but almost laughed. The whole thing, the
whole day, the tea, Isobel's teacher and now this Hollywoodian quarrel, the
two of them pacing the length of the living room, rising and seating themselves as punctuation, was funny. She must have had a smile on her face, for
she heard him telling her to sit down. She was surprised. They very seldom
interfered with each other, yet were closer than most couples.
What followed was very difficult for Hannah. During their courtship the
two of them had been supremely articulate. Hannah had been inarticulate
as a child and positively tongue-tied as an adolescent. Later for a moment
she had been swayed by the quick rhetoric of her radical fellow-students and
had been tempted to merge herself. But she soon saw that there was no
Cause for her.
Her husband came from a family who "held things in." Until he met
Hannah he had never realized that certain things could be communicated.
Their relief at discovering each other released doors closed since infancy.
Whenever they were not making love, they talked. But proximity tended to
relapse them again into silence.
The incredible fact of her discovery of a child lying dead and abandoned
in the weeds and daisies of a nearby field was almost impossible to transmit.
Feeling very unreal she heard herself telling him. She should have known
31 that, coming as he did from a family who "held things in" his reaction would
be a quiet one.
She had been the first to find the child. This was the fact that upset him
the most. He had a considerable sense of duty, though this sense was more
refined and subtle than is the usual.
The neighbourhood was now free of all sensation. He concluded that there
was nothing to be done at this point. In reality, his motivations were very
close to hers. But he lacked a sense of horror.
Hannah's confession was somewhat purging, yet she knew that she never
would be free of the sight of the child.
"I'm not built for catastrophes," she said. She had always had a terror
of being the only witness of a fatal car accident, or still more, of being involved in a war. Her own environment was all she felt she could control.
Her life had had a certain strange order to it. There was only the image of
a pale child flung carelessly in the grass. This piece did not fit.
32 BREAKING
PHYLLIS WEBB
Give us wholeness, for we are broken.
But who are we asking, and why do we ask?
Destructive element heaves close to home,
our years of work broken against a breakwater.
Shattered gods, self-iconoclasts,
it is with Lazarus unattended we belong
(the fall of the sparrow is unbroken song).
The crucifix has clattered to the ground,
the living Christ has spent a year in Paris,
travelled on the Metro, fallen in the Seine.
We would not raise our silly gods again.
Stigmata sting, they suddenly appear
on every blessed person everywhere.
If there is agitation there is cause.
Ophelia, Hamlet, Othello, Lear,
Kit Smart, William Blake, John Clare,
Van Gogh, Henry IV of Pirandello,
Gerard de Nerval, Antonin Artaud
bear a crown of darkness.
It is better so.
Responsible now each to his own attack,
we are bequeathed their ethos and our death.
Greek marble white and whiter grows
breaking into history of a west.
If we could stand so virtuously white
crumbling in the terrible Grecian light.
There is a justice in destruction.
It isn't "isn't fair".
A madhouse is designed for the insane,
a hospital for wounds that will re-open;
a war is architecture for aggression,
and Christ's stigmata body-minted token.
What are we whole or beautiful or good for
but to be absolutely broken?
33 HOW I LOVE
JOAN DeLONG
Arches on the skeleton of earth
skies are a canopy of brain
the constant awakener.
If I could lie down in the night
and forget. . .
it would be love in the early dark.
I might forget
the circling days,
with the water coming down
I might not see,
and I the dove and you the olive tree.
I would show you how I love,
Drive the passion into your bones
and feel the ache suspended.
COMPARISON
ALDEN A. NOWLAN
Comparing pigs with cattle, Dan the butcher
says he likes cows and understands them. They
go where they're sent and stand until they're struck
by his great hammer, then bleed drowsily.
Pigs, on the other hand, disgust him: running,
darting and leaping and befouling him
with blood that spurts out of their backs because
they won't accept the axe like gentlemen.
34 ANNERJf
v
HENRY KREISEL
We used to see her every day for four months of the year. From the middle
of November to the middle of March. When the snow went from the streets
of Vienna, Annerl went too. During the warm season she was one of the
host of women who walked the streets in the morning, filling them with a
familiar, mournful cry. "Buuuy lavender! Freeesh lavender! Twenty Gros-
chen for a bushel of freeesh lavender! Buuuy lavender!" In the afternoons
she sold little packages of caraway seeds in the market squares of the city.
For four months of the year she sold roasted chestnuts and baked potatoes
on a corner which my friend Heller and I had to pass on our way home from
school.
She always hailed us when she saw us coming from afar. "Heinrich! Hein-
richl Mir grant's vor dir!" she would shout in her raspy market-voice that
had the mournful tinge of the lavender women. "Heinrich! Heinrich! You
disgust me!" and then she would break into a soft, cackling laughter.
She could never remember Heller's name, or if she did remember it, she
never used it. To her he was always "you little freckle-faced bastard", to
35 which Heller would reply, his face very stern, and his lips puckered up
slightly, that his parents had been married in church, and if she didn't believe it he would bring a picture of his mother all in white, with a beautiful
silken veil, "and two little boys went behind her," he said, "and carried the
veil so it wouldn't drag on the floor and get all dirty." His voice became very
solemn on these occasions, and Annerl would cackle a bit and say, "I know,
I know. I don't mean it that way. Come 'ere, there's a chestnut for you, and
now let's see you eat it, you little freckle-faced bastard. It's all in good faith,
boy!"
Around the tenth of November, when the cold set in and we were beginning to wear our winter coats, we would start looking for her. Sometimes she
didn't show up until the twentieth, but never later than that. We could see
the big, greyish-black market umbrella, patched up with pieces of yellow and
blue cloth, from a long way off.
"Annerl's back," I would say, prodding Heller in the ribs, and then we
would start running. She always seemed glad to see us. She asked us what
we'd done in the summer, and how we were getting along in school, and
then came the inevitable conclusion. "You're growing up, lads. My, you're
growing up. Bigger an' bigger every year. Just you keep growing like that,
and you'll grow into heaven yet. You must be pretty near twelve."
"Thirteen," I said proudly. "I was thirteen last June, and Heller here was
thirteen in October."
"Thirteen!" she exclaimed. "Thirteen! Why, you'd never believe that.
Thirteen! You'll soon be going with the girls, and kissing them in the dark
corners and doing things to them, in the summer when the grass is high and
soft." She laughed her dry, cackling laugh, fetching it deep from her chest,
and she laughed still harder when she saw us blush crimson, for we had only
recently been initiated into matters of sex and were still rather touchy on
that point.
Annerl always looked the same. She never changed, and while she didn't
grow younger, she didn't seem to grow any older either. She was a big
woman, and her large buskins, coming up almost to her knees, and the thick,
heavy clothes she wore, made her seem even bigger than she was. She was
muffled in several sweaters, all of different colours, and on top of everything
she wore a tremendous black overcoat, frayed around the edges and ripped
and torn in several places. "I got that coat cheap," she remarked. "Bought
it second-hand off a man. He bought it second-hand off another man. Made
for a big man, all right. Made for a hell of a big man. But it keeps me warm
when the wind is blowing hard around that corner."
Her face was earthen-coloured, a dirty, greyish brown, with a vast network
of wrinkles stretched across it that gave it a wizened appearance and made
it look crude, as if a sculptor had hewn it roughly out of wood. She had a
large, fleshly nose and a reddish wart right on top of it. I never saw her hair,
because she always had it tucked tightly under a kerchief. She wore fingerless
36 gloves on her big hands, and her fingers were very red, chapped by the cold,
and her nails were broken and dirty.
She always sat on a little camp-stool. In front of her was the round, black
brazier, with the chestnuts neatly placed around the rim and the baked
potatoes piled in the middle. In the charcoal embers more chestnuts were
roasting, and when they were ready she withdrew them with a pair of tongs
and laid them around the rim. Behind her stood a big, wooden box in which
she kept her provisions. The top of the box was always open to shield her
from the draft, and arching above her was the greyish-black umbrella.
"The fellow that sold me that umbrella cheated me," she told us once.
"Just let me lay my hands on him. I'm going to drag 'im here by his ears
and knock that goddamn umbrella over his head till it cracks that brain o'
his. Not a drop of rain'll ever get through that,' he told me. 'Not a drop,'
he said. 'Best watertight umbrella money can buy,' he said. Look at it! Just
you look at it! The rain and the snow leaking through it like it was a drainpipe, and me sitting here under it, catching the drops on my head."
Sometimes in the afternoons Josef, her husband, pottered about the stand.
She called him Pepi, and she was always cursing him. He was a small old
man, his face red and sodden from drink. "Thirty years now we been living
together, an' he's never done an honest day's work in all the years," she used
to say bitterly. "If he hasn't done it yet, he'll never do it now. Just eating an'
sleeping an' drinking. That's all he ever done, but never done nothing to
earn it. He's been living off me, sucking me dry for all them years, and
beating me up in the nights when he comes home stinking with the drink.
That's you I'm talking about, you, you miserable old dog. You never been
good for nothing. Now go on, get me that bag of potatoes, and don't you
run off with the money like you done last time."
And old Josef, very meek without his drink, cowering like a beaten dog,
his overcoat held together by a piece of string, and his battered hat pushed
deep into his face, would slink off to get the bag of potatoes. Sometimes
Annerl asked us to go along with him and see that he didn't run off with the
money to buy liquor.
"Don't you ever get mixed up with women," he warned us. "Stay away
from sin. A woman is the curse of a man, leading him on into temptation.
God have mercy on my soul." He crossed himself hurriedly. He became more
eloquent as he panted along with the bag weighing heavy on his back. "See
how mean she's to me. Making me work like I was a horse, and me weak in
the bones and shaky all over."
They had had several children, but Annerl didn't know much about them.
"Some of them died when I had 'em, and some died when they was babies
sucking on the breast, and some of 'em growed up and left this city, and
perhaps they even got out of the country, and some, they're still around
somewhere, but I don't know where, and they never comes around to see me."
One day, towards the end of February, Annerl wasn't there. The wooden
37 box was locked, the closed umbrella strapped tightly on top, and the round
black brazier chained to a lamp-post. The windswept corner seemed like a
desert without her. On the first day we remained loyal to Annerl, and walked
home without stopping to buy chestnuts anywhere else.
"Let's save our money," said Heller, "and when she comes back we can
buy twice as much."
She didn't come back tomorrow, nor the next day, and our loyalty didn't
hold out that long. Temptation in the form of golden-brown chestnuts lay
sprinkled too thick along the way, and going home without stopping off at
some corner to eat a baked potato or some chestnuts somehow spoiled the
rest of the day.
On the fourth day we could see her umbrella again, and the yellow and
blue patches of cloth.
"Annerl's back," I said. "She must have been sick."
She looked fine, and there was no change in her. Her voice was raspy and
loud as always, and she cackled merrily when she saw us. We took our
satchels from our backs and put them down on the ground.
"We missed you, Annerl," I said. "Where've you been? Were you sick in
bed?"
"Sick?" she said, cackling softly, "he-he-he-he-he. Me sick? I don't get
sick. I been standing on this corner for twenty-five years and more perhaps,
in the rain and in the frost and in the snow, and I've not been sick a day.
I don't aim to get sick. When my time's up, I just aim to die. I been away
because Josef, that miserable, good-for-nothing old dog, just went and died
on me."
We stared at her. Heller bowed his head and stopped munching his
chestnut.
"Don't you go looking at me like that," she said. "I didn't kill him, though
God knows many's the time that I could've chopped his head off like he was
a chicken or a pig. But he just went and died on me quicker'n you can snap
your fingers, and me hoping all the time that I would die first and leave 'im
behind to look out for himself, and me praying every night that the good
Lord would take me first. So what does He do? He goes and takes that dog
first. It almost makes you think the Lord God don't hear no prayers any
more." She crossed herself three times.
"The Lord God hears all our prayers," said Heller pompously. "He does
not always choose to grant fulfilment."
"I don't know nothing 'bout that," snapped Annerl. "All I know is that
I been hoping to get there first and look down on that miserable old dog,
and see what he does when there's nobody to push the food down in his
mouth, and nobody to pay the rent so he can have a bed to rest himself
when he comes home stinking with the drink. So he goes an' dies on me.
Only two days before, he comes in at four in the morning, staggering and
swaying round the room like he always done, and then fell in the bed and
38 started beating his fists in my face like he was mad."
"Did he do that?" I asked. "Did he really do that?"
"He never knew what he was doing when he was crazy with the drink,"
she said. "Good thing he was so small an' I could handle him. I just pushed
'im right out and he fell on the floor and rolled 'imself up at the foot of the
bed and there went to sleep, snoring his head off." She paused and wiped
her nose, and there was a touch of tenderness in her voice when she said,
"He was a right good 'un, he was, always wanting to make love, and by
Jesus Christ, he could still do it when he was sober 'nough to know what
the hell he was doing."
I leaned forward a bit and whispered confidentially, "How does a man
do it when he makes love, Annerl?"
Heller leaned forward too.
Annerl laughed. "Never you mind how they do it, boys. Never you mind.
You'll know soon enough how they do it when you do it." She turned to me.
"You been eating five chestnuts," she said. "That's the sixth you're taking
now. You never got more money than's enough to pay for two."
"I've got money today," I said. "I've got enough money to buy ten chestnuts today if I want to."
"What happened?" she said. "Your father robbed a bank or something?"
"No," I said. "I've got some money save up."
"Let's see your money," she demanded.
I showed it to her.
She nodded her head. "It's going to snow this afternoon," she said, looking
at the sky. "It's going to come down heavy this afternoon. Of all the times
in the year he's got to pick the winter to die in, when the snow lies heavy
on the graves and you can't put flowers on or nothing. I bought a wreath
of evergreen and put it on the grave, but when the snow comes down heavy
this afternoon it'll all be covered up. When I die now, there'll be no one left
to put flowers on my grave, an' I always wished for a nice wreath o' carnations. They smell so sweet."
She stood up from her little stool and took a bag of charcoal from the box.
She stirred the embers and the sparks came flying high from the brazier.
Then she put more coals on. "My God," she said, looking into the slowly-
glimmering fire, "unless his patron saint, the holy Josef, went up to the Lord
to pray for him, he's surely gone to hell." She crossed herself. "I'm not wishing him any bad," she said quickly, looking at Heller who was gazing sternly
at her. "I've done all I could for him. He's had a decent Christian burial, an'
I bought two big candles and lit 'em in the church for 'im, and yesterday
afternoon I went up to Father Berthold and paid good money so they would
say a mass for 'im, and two monks are praying for his soul."
We had now finished our chestnuts and pulled out our money to pay her.
She stretched out her hand to take it, hesitated, and then suddenly withdrew it.
39 "Ne'er mind the money today," she said. "Put it away. Go on, put it away,
I said." She was almost shouting at us. "I don't want your money today."
We looked at each other, not knowing quite what to say.
"Wait a minute," she said, when we were finally turning to go. "Here."
She picked up two baked potatoes, split them in the middle, put salt on
them, and handed them to us. "Here," she said, "eat this on your way home,
and never mind about the pay. He didn't have no wake or nothing, for there
was no one cared for him. He was just a drunken, miserable old dog. Here,
you take this an' eat it an' pray for his soul."
We took the potatoes, and Heller said, "Thank you, Annerl. We'll surely
pray for his soul."
Then we picked up our satchels, slung them across our shoulders, and
walked away slowly.
MAKING
PHYLLIS WEBB
Quilted
patches, unlike the smooth slick loveliness
of the bought,
this made-ness out of self-madness
thrown across their bones to keep them warm.
It does.
Making
under the patches a smooth silk loveliness
of parts:
two bodies are better than one for this quilting,
throwing into the dark a this-ness that was not.
It does.
40 Fragments
of the splintered irrelevance of doubt, sharp
hopes, spear and splice into a nice consistency as once
under the pen, the brush, the sculptor's hand
music was made, arises now, blossom on fruit-tree bough.
It does.
Evercise,
exegesis of the will captures and lays
haloes around bright ankles of a saint.
Exemplary under the tree,
Buddha glows out now
making the intolerable, accidental sky
patch up its fugitive ecstasies.
It does.
It does,
and, all doing done, a child on the street runs
dirty from sun
to the warm infant born to soiled sheets
and stares at the patched external face.
It does.
From the making made and, made, now making
certain order—thus excellent despair
is laid, and in the room the patches of the quilt
seize light and throw it back upon the air.
A grace is made, a loveliness is caught
quilting a quiet blossom as a work.
It does.
And do you ,
doubting, fractured, and untaught, St. John of the Cross,
come down and patch the particles and throw
across the mild unblessedness of day
lectures to the untranscended soul.
Then lotus-like you'll move upon the pond,
the one-in-many, the many-in-the-one,
making a numbered floral-essenced sun
resting upon the greening padded frond,
a patched, matched protection for Because.
And for our dubious value it will do.
It always does.
41  JACOB
ZILBER
The Assistant Director found Lazurus having cokes with Bob the janitor
and Jack Covelli in the Workshop behind the gym. "Miss Osborne wants you
up front, Hymie."
"Thanks, Miss Caudwell."
"And she says there were some empty bottles stuck behind the machine
this morning."
Bob's face went red. "Behind the machine!"
"She says if the teen-agers can't put them in the rack we'll have to lock
the machine in the evening."
"We'll get after them, Miss Caudwell," Jack said.
"Better finish up waxing." Bob went out quickly with his coke bottle.
When Miss Caudwell's rubber soles had faded away, Lazurus slapped the
bottle on the table. "I'm going to dig a tunnel, and when the old bitch sends
her spies around, I'm going to drop down and pull the floor after me!"
"Did you see old Bob? You better watch those bottles, Hymie."
Lazurus eyed Jack savagely, and imitating King Kong, swung about the
table. "Be aware of your bottle, be constantly aware that the Outside is everlastingly leaving its bottle out of the rack!"
"Aye, aye, General," Jack said, saluting. "Report! Last year it was me.
Now you get the brainwashing. That woman sure loves to talk to you,
Hymie."
" 'Be aware, Jack'," he said, mimicking her voice, " 'be constantly aware
that the Outside is forever trying to move in on us, and once you open the
door, it keeps coming on!' Be aware, Jack, be constantly aware that the Outside is moving up on the inside and the inside is forever moving up on the
Outside!"
"In one ear, out the other. Do the job, pick up your paycheck at the end
of the month, and leave well enough alone, I say. That woman makes problems where problems don't exist."
"You think she heard what happened last night?"
"She couldn't."
"I bet she's looking for a way to bomb the Drifters."
"Well give her the bull, Hymie."
Lazurus took the coke bottle to the door. "Be aware, Jack, because one of
these days I'm going to get roaring drunk and tell the old bitch what she
can do with her neckties!"
43 Last night after they had admitted six necktied Drifters to the First Floor
Lounge, exchanged the usual jocular banalities, and set up the ping-pong
table, Jack had taken the snare and brushes out of the closet and Hymie
had started picking his banjo. Between making the Drifters keep feet off the
furniture and butts in the ash-trays, they had managed to sail through their
repetoire of Dinah, Sweet Georgia Brown, St. Louis Blues, and, by Drifters'
request, Rock Me Baby in Your Big Fat Cradle. "Kill another night," Hymie
said under his breath.
"Remember the broom," Jack said in rhythm, and laughing, slapped into
a drum solo.
"Yeh, remember that broom, remember that broom!"
"Remember that big fat janitor's broom!"
Eventually, the Drifters would leave for Tony's, a small, reeking cafe on
Second Avenue, and he and Jack would empty the ash-trays, straighten the
furniture, adjust the shades at the same level, check the back door, the
shower, and the bathrooms, shut all but one light, and taking Bob's broom
from a closet, poke open the hall-clock and move the big hand forward
fifteen minutes. Next morning Bob would move it back before she arrived.
At 9: oo, when Hymie heard the front door open, he carried his banjo out
of the room to find Vince Hagan and Guido Gardella advancing down the
hall. They smelled of cheap wine.
"Where you going?"
"Wanna talk to our buddies," Hagan replied. He was rumored to have
suffered a stroke years ago that had caused him to limp, drained his skin,
eyes, and hair of color, established on his face an expression of permanent
sourness, multiplied his grievances against the world, and encouraged him to
steal what was movable and to await through pig-eyes his grand revenge.
"You'll have to see them outside."
"We paid our money, didn't we?" Hagan said.
"We're members, ain't we?" Gardella put in, from his leaning position
against the wall. One of twelve children, he was a thick-shouldered boy permanently in need of a bath, sprouting the weedy beginnings of a mustache,
and, at the moment, ritualistically combing the mat of hair on his head.
"Yes, but you know the rule," Lazurus said, working to keep his voice calm
and reasonable. "Nobody gets in on Lounge night without a necktie."
Hagan's voice rose querulously. "Can't we even talk to our buddies?"
"I'll tell them you're outside, or if you go home and put on a tie—"
"Come on, Hymie, what kind of place is this?"
"Now look—that's the rule, boys, and I don't want—"
Hagan moved forward. "Out of the way, Hymie."
"Wait a minute—■"
"Out of the way, goddamnit!"
As the boy pushed past him Lazurus caught his elbow with a free hand.
Hagan wrenched away, stepped back, shouted, "Who the hell you think
44 you're shoving?", and in a swift movement materialized from his jacket and
drew into the air a machete. "I'll show you who you're shoving!"
Lazurus turned sideways, raised the banjo, and in the moment of the boy's
hesitation, two figures sailed out of the Lounge, hurled themselves at the
screaming Hagan, wrestled him into the street, returned to throw Gardella
down the stairs, and stood in the doorway, shaking their fists. "Trying to get
us all kicked out of here?" Jerry yelled.
"Come back and we'll beat the living crap out of you!" Moonshine shouted.
"They give you any more trouble," Jerry added, as the two went strutting
back to the Lounge, "let us know."
Jack was standing beside him. "You want me to break their heads?"
"No, it's all right."
"When I was a Red Hook boy, we'd've killed punks like that."
Hagan's voice drifted in from the street. "Hey Hymie—we wanna talk
to you!"
"Come on," Jack said, snorting in disgust, "let's hit off a tune."
"Go ahead, I'll be right in."
When Jack had disappeared, Lazurus leaned heavily against the wall. He
had read stories in the paper, but he had never believed that he, personally,
might be killed with a knife.
"Hey Hymie—come out!"
This wasn't his game. Fie would quit and go somewhere else and get a
different job And before he left, he'd tell her to take her necktie rule and—
"Hymie, come out!" Where would he work? At what? Maybe they were
waiting to jump him. He'd done his job. He smiled ironically. "Scum," he
said, and holding the banjo by its neck went down the stairs.
The light had changed and evening traffic, rushing and trembling, beat
its way up First Avenue. On the dark factory across the street a painted girl
smiled down over a bottle of Coca-Cola. Two nuns came along the sidewalk
and disappeared through the door of the adjacent convent against whose
walls the boys leaned sullenly.
"We're sorry—no hard feelings." Mouth stiff, eyes obscure and squinting,
Hagan put out his hand. Amazed, Lazurus shook it, then Gardella's.
"Where'd you get the machete?"
"Phillipines. My brother."
"Better get rid of it."
"A coupla Spiks jumped us on 23rd Street and we're gonna get 'em."
"What do you mean?"
"You know—Puerto Ricans."
"Do you believe in the Bible?" Lazurus asked bitterly.
They eyed him with suspicion. A smirk came over Gardella's face. "Yeh,"
Hagan said. "Why?"
"John says, 'If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar'."
Then the cynicism of his trick swept over him. "You better get rid of that
45 knife before they pick you up." They shook his hand again, and when he had
watched them, stupid rotten savages, slouch out of sight, he turned back
to the Lounge where the drum and banjo would kill time until the Drifters,
wearing the price of admission like scarlet letters, grew bored and left for
Tony's Cafe.
Enthroned behind an oak desk that only she could dwarf, and upon which
the sole, efficient, and doll-like objects were a blotter, telephone, lamp, and
calendar, with two tall windows at her back admitting the cold light of a
First Avenue March, Miss Osborne dominated him not only by the bulk of
her, but by the weight, force, and absolute conviction of the beliefs that she
hurled at his head so that he sat before her like a truant schoolboy or criminal awaiting ultimate judgment. "There was something here before you or I
came, Hyman, and it will be here when you and I have gone. Be aware, be
constantly aware, that the Outside is forever trying to move in on us, and
that once you open the door, it keeps coming on!" She leaned her massive
head forward. "So I hope," she said with profound irony, "that you and
Jack have complete control of this Easter Project!"
He nodded as if he had been receiving her speech for the first time, and
felt a mechanical smile hang like wire on his lips. In the hard light and
under the battery of her words, his eyes began to spin and he tried to remember what he was supposed to defend from her.
A coin dropped in the soda machine outside the door, the bottle beat its
way free, gas escaped, a cap clinked, footsteps discreetly vanished, and he
thought of Jack in the Workshop. If the Drifters would disappear and not
bother him and if she would just let him play the banjo and if the check
kept coming in—because he had nothing to defend, only things to hide. "And
do your Drifters—do your Drifters know that their—" She paused to give
him the benefit of her savage scepticism. "Their guests will have to wear
neckties to the dance?"
He shook his head, realized his error, and trying to keep a cringing note
of apology out of his voice, replied, "We've gone over that carefully and
made it clear that no one will be admitted to the dance without a tie."
"Remember, Hyman, that the Outside would give anything to see us
swept away." She leaned forward again and lowered her voice. "I can say
this to you in confidence—the Church has never accepted us because we are
secular. And of course it has never accepted a Protestant director. It is an
ironic fact that almost every penny of our money comes from Jews and
Protestants. The Outside, Hyman, won't be satisfied until it has gained control. They would like to bring their ideas and their program—oh, I could
have allowed bingo games and raffles!—they would like to ruin us and put
us into the street, do you understand?"
She rushed on over his vague assent. "Before you came, Hyman, an inci-
46 dent occurred that we don't want ever to happen again and that is just
another example of the everlasting attempts of the Outside to move in!" He
feigned interest in her familiar story.
She could be brutal, charming, patronizing, and sometimes, rarely—and
then he supposed it was in part a cover-up for her uneasiness in the presence
of children—professionally sentimental. She designed her own clothes—
ordering the material, he had said to Jack, from Barnum and Bailey—and
the house in Connecticut where she lived with Miss Caudwell and two cats
and to which she went almost every evening and on week-ends when she
closed down the Center. On anyone else, such fat would have been ludicrous,
but she was big-boned, mammoth, powerful, and, like those huge Chinese
wrestlers who could finish an opponent with one lunge, immensely dangerous.
"You're wrong," he and Jack had told the Drifters. "She's one hundred
per cent behind you." "But for God's sake," he'd said, "when you sell tickets,
make sure they understand they can't come to the dance without a tie!"
"They wanted to work with clay in the Crafts Room." He blinked as her
savage monologue broke through his reverie. He squeezed down a sigh of
weariness. His eyes throbbed from the light into which he had been staring.
" 'What guarantee do I have that you'll put that clay to good use?' 'We give
you our word, Miss Osborne.' 'All right,' I said, 'don't forget it'."
He tried to assemble his excuses for the time when, having weakened him,
she would lunge. "I heard a racket, and I went up those stairs and into the
Crafts Room. They'd thrown clay through the windows and were starting
on the walls! 'Get out!' I said. 'And if you ever come back, I'll call the police
and have you committed!' "
However often he had heard those lines, he could never keep his stomach
muscles from flinching. The smile turned crookedly on his lips and he felt
like bursting into idiotic laughter. "I cleaned them out once, Hyman, and
if they come back, it'll be on our terms, or not at all—because," and he felt
his head slumping forward, "it's not what you do, Hyman, it's the way you
doit!"
One of these days, he had said to Jack, he was going to tell her, "If you're
running a bawdy house, at least make it a nice one."
"So be constantly aware, will you, because we are not going to tolerate another incident of that kind!" She began tearing at the pages of her calendar,
and as he saw her about to lunge, he tried to rouse himself. "By the way,
Hyman, the Board of Directors will be having its annual Budget Meeting
on the night of your Project." He could imagine her, as some guest or other
drifted through the halls with a knife, telling them, "That noise you hear
comes from the Drifters—yes," she would say wittily, "they do choose revealing names. But for this basketball game and dance, we have to give them
credit. They saved all year to buy cokes and chips, they saved to hire a professional referee, and they saved for new uniforms. Their first big Project
marks real growth in the teen-age program."
47 "And the First Floor Lounge is the only room big enough to accommodate
all the members." So that was it. Now was the time to rise heroically, to
stand and tell her the facts of life. Instead, he found himself assembling
explanations for the Drifters. But he wouldn't just hand this one to her, like
his head on a platter. He'd go to California and play his banjo in the sun.
"Miss Osborne, we promised the Drifters they could hold the dance in
that room, and we've had it reserved for over a month."
Her jaw slackened for a moment, then, without lifting her eyes from the
calendar, she fired at him, "How many people are coming?"
"I believe they've sold over sixty tickets," he lied with a judicious frown,
but the concealing Drifters had never given him a straight answer, and because she was sure to open the door at least once during the evening and
find, perhaps, only Jack and himself occupying a corner of the room, he
added thoughtfully, "Of course, you never know how many will stay for the
dance."
"How well I know!" She had seen the white flag, and now, since she didn't
need to kill, she ironically smiled him into her world. "The Third Floor
Lounge is lovely and ought to be perfectly suitable."
"We could try it."
Her eyes twinkled. "Good going, Hymie!"
"And Hyman—" Her words caught him as he went stiffly to the door.
"Do insist on neckties!"
"In Chicago, those butcher Navy doctors cut me up and sliced the bone
out of my nose, it comes from boxing, and who wants to look at me now?
And my little girl, gee, she's so darn cute, she curls up to me every night and
says, 'Daddy, when am I gonna get a new mommy?" Jack's wife had committed adultery, and his divorce, in the eyes of the Outside—Miss Osborne's
term for the hostile sea that threatened her secular island—had stigmatized
him.
In the barren gym, immaculate like every part of the Center, Lazurus
listened to Jack rambling ritualistically, but his mind was waiting for, shrinking from, the arrival of the Drifters and their guests. "Sometimes I feel like
taking off for Indiana. I was out there during the war, and gosh, you know,
I was losing this Red Hook accent, and the people were so friendly and they'd
walk down the street and say, 'Howdy'." Muttering vague assent, Lazurus
wondered about Indiana. They wouldn't have heard about Miss Osborne.
Last job? Travelling for experience in the East. Drifters, miserable time-
killing bums. The boys didn't like him. Tolerated him, maybe. He couldn't
get on their level. College-man. Banjo-picker and reader of books. Jew.
Apostate. He'd seen their eyes the time Miss Osborne had introduced him:
"I'm sure you'll enjoy working with Mr. Lazurus. He plays basketball and
what's more he plays the banjo and says he'll be glad to teach anyone that
48 wants to learn." In his suit and necktie he had felt the smile of wire appear
on his face. Yet Hagan had momentarily hesitated when the machete was
about to drop.
"Agree with her," Jack was saying, "get on with the job, and pick up
the paycheck at the end of the month. Sometimes she makes problems where
problems don't exist. Leave well enough alone, I say."
He and Jack had an understanding. Like troops under a detestable General,
they had conducted an underground campaign to keep the Drifters in the
Center. Hovering guiltily in the Lounge, while the Drifters played ping-pong,
drank cokes, chewed gum, they had killed more than one empty night together.
"Change society," his father had said, "and people will be good." That
imagined garden of brotherly love was now a dump, full of bottles, plastic
records, ping-pong balls, butts, knives, saber-toothed rats, and garbaged
hearts.
"Jack, we need a gimmick. How can we make some money?"
"What about your girl-friend, her old man's got money, hasn't he?"
"A little grass shack on Central Park. You know, that's a tremendous joint,
a penthouse, and when you get up there—private elevator—you're in another
world. He has a painting room, all glass, and he sits there and copies from
photographs of his relatives."
"Cut in on it, boy!"
"She went off to Israel to work in a kibbutz, and when she came back
she took a cold-water flat in the Village, so he asked her what he had to do
to get her into the penthouse again. 'Knock this wall down and build me a
fireplace,' she said. So he was going to call somebody on the telephone."
"Slip a ring on her finger, boy, then you and I get up there with the drum
and banjo and we make Miss Osborne hum for her supper."
"Just a shape, Jack, a rich kosher shape. The old man knows she's playing.
Five years from now she'll be doing good works for the National Conference
of Christians and Jews, or whatever it is."
"Don't you believe in your religion?"
"No."
"You're not an atheist."
"Afraid I am."
"There's some things I can't answer, but if I didn't believe in God, I
don't know what I'd do."
Lazurus looked at his watch and stood up. "You know what I'd like to
do? I'd like to put the Drifters, Miss Osborne, and all those rich bastards
in one bag, knot it with a necktie, and drop them in the East River. So be
constantly and everlastingly aware, Jack, that if we get through the night,
we'll have a beer."
49 Lazurus greeted them, took their tickets, stamped Paid on the backs of
their hands, and watched them pour in, cocky, jostling, chewing gun, combing hair, turning collars, asking for the program. Only the Drifters in neckties. Technically, Miss Osborne could not keep them out of the gym, and
the show would go on.
"I don't mind the boys so much," Jack had said sourly, "but take a look
at the women!"
There was Kit's friend in a bursting pink sweater, pencilled eyebrows,
bleached hair, jangling the silver bracelet on her wrist and clouding the air
with perfume and powder. And Kit with the head and jaw of an ape, the
hands and uniform of a mechanic, looking as if she'd just crawled off a
motorcycle—which she had. Technically, there was no rule against the girls
wearing slacks.
And who was the monkey-faced monster, squat and sullen in his silver-
rimmed glasses, knotted hair, and dirty jacket? "That's Gino," Jack said.
"Keep an eye on him."
"After the game I'll stand guard at the third floor—you keep them moving
past the meeting room."
In the gym there were, at a rough count, sixty in the balcony, and not a
necktie in the lot. The teams went through their ritualistic warm-up and the
referee, dispassionate and aloof in black trousers and black-and-white shirt,
a silver whistle dangling from the cord about his neck, stalked from the score-
table to the center of the court, threw a cold glance at the players, and, in
the first two minutes, caught Jerry tripping, Moonshine hooking someone's
pants with his thumb, blasted the whistle like a drum major, fell with arrogant fury on the guilty players, and, to universal amazement, so beat balcony
and players alike into grudging submission that the game proceeded without
violence. The Drifters, white letters on their uniforms of black sateen, led
into the final minutes, held off a drive, and, at the final whistle, sealed matters, when, with the balcony's explosive support, Moonshine stole the ball
and dropped in a simple lay-up.
Heading for the third floor, Lazurus pondered the answer they had given
him when he asked the Drifters why Hagan and Gardella were missing:
"Visiting their grandmothers upstate."
50 "Let's see what they got," the blonde said, following Kit into the Third
Floor Lounge. Standing at the door, he watched them go through the pile
of records and send the phonograph into motion.
Cuh-mawn now, bay-beh!
(Come to dad-ih)
Ca/i-mawn, muh bay-beh!
(Come to you' dad-ih)
Cuh-mawn now muh bay-beh
(Come to you' dad-ih)
Come now, come now, come now, come!
Kit seized her friend, pulled her in and pushed her away to the voice of
the machine, hurled her out and retrieved her with a snap, so that the
blonde's skirt swirled out and up above her knees. Six more girls showed
their stamps and joined the urgent singer. A pleading saxophone came on
and the three new couples swung out onto the floor. Kit was going hard to
the reedy prayer of the sax, the blonde's skirt circled her thighs, the drum
banged the point home.
In front of Lazurus stood the squat, monkey-faced boy named Gino. He
was wearing jeans and a grimy olive-drab jacket over a t-shirt upon which
lay a silver crucifix suspended from a chair. His hair was dry, thick, and
knotted, like the dusty insides of a discarded sofa. "Sorry," Lazurus said, as
the boy began to move past him, "but you have to wear a tie to come in to
the dance."
Gino's dark eyes regarded him from behind the silver-rimmed glasses. Immobile for a second, he raised one hand in such a swift gesture that Lazurus
leaned back to protect himself. And even when he realized that Gino had
tricked him into expecting a knife and that the hand displayed only the
inked word, he felt the hot third floor air suffocatingly about his head. "I
know, but—there's a house rule, you see. If you go out and get a tie, you're
welcome to come in."
Shouts floated up the stairwell as a new cluster of faces squeezed in behind
the immobile Gino. "C'mon, Dad," someone called, "let's move it!"
"Nobody said nuttin' about wearin' ties," Gino said, in a steady, monotonous voice.
"Yeh, what's the story, Dad?"
Gino was probably no more than five feet tall. But every inch of him—
the dark skin, the sideburns, the short hands and sullen, downcurving lips—
carried such a power of malevolence that Lazurus wanted to jump into the
room and lock the door. "I'm sorry if they didn't tell you, but we have this
house rule—"
"I paid my money."
"I know you paid, but—•"
"And I better get in."
"Well look, if you weren't told, maybe—we could work out a refund—"
51 "I don't want no refund."
"Hey Pops," somebody shrieked, "pull the plug, will you?"
"What's your name?" Gino asked.
"Hymie—Hymie Lazurus." Someone snickered. "What's yours?" he asked,
stalling.
"Gino—what's it to you?"
"Well look, Gino, there are a lot of people waiting—"
"It's her rule, eh?"
"No, it's a house rule."
"Where is she?"
"She's at a meeting."
"I wanna see her."
"Hey Dad," someone shouted, "you gonna let us in tonight?"
"You can't, she's at a meeting, Gino."
Come now bay-beh, come now bay-beh,
Come now, come now, come now cornel
"Quiet down in there for a minute, will you?" he called without turning
his back. "In the Lounge, shut that machine off, will you!"
The noise stopped suddenly and in the silence someone yelled, "Pops wants
to tell us a sto-ryl"
"Let's try to settle this reasonably," Lazurus began.
"Before she come in," Gino said monotonously, "we wanted to play ball,
we played ball. We wanted t-shirts, we put on t-shirts. Then she come in
with her rules. I'd like to break her in two."
"I think we can settle this, but we can't—"
"I paid my money." Gino's hands climbed to his pockets. The fingers
curled to the openings. "And I ain't gonna let nobody jew me outta the
dance."
"Nobody gets in without a necktie—period!"
"What's up, Hymie?" Jack was beside him. He had never before welcomed so profoundly that Red Hook accent and smashed face.
"I told them nobody gets in without a tie," he answered, keeping his gaze
on the curled fingers.
In the stairwell someone began to chant: "Open up, Dad! Open up, Dad!"
Others joined in, stamping their feet in rhythm. "Open up, Dad! Open up,
Dad! OPEN UP, DAD!"
"Mr. Lazurus! Mr. Lazurus. MR. LAZURUS." Up the stairwell and
above the shouting chorus came Miss Caudwell's terrified shriek. Suddenly,
the crowd fell silent.
The Assistant Director, wearing an ancient and faded blue formal, emerged
through the excited figures and stood breathlessly before him. "Miss Osborne
wants me to tell you we're holding a meeting—we're trying to hold a
meeting!"
"We're having a discussion."
52 "Well can't you get them out of the halls?"
"Not until we've finished."
"Well can't you talk it over in the room here?" Her voice rose fearfully.
"Not until we've settled the question of neckties, Miss Caudwell!"
"Well why don't you take them into the Waiting Room?"
For the first time he took his eyes from the boy's hands and glanced at
Jack. "It's up to you, Hymie."
"All right."
Suddenly everyone thundered down the steps and he and Jack were
hurrying after Gino.
Adjacent to the Avenue, opposite Miss Osborne's office, and a few yards
away from the First Floor Lounge, the Waiting Room contained a wooden
table, some plastic chairs, a locked upright piano, and two sofas. Those not
fast enough to capture sitting room stood crammed together, smoking, chewing gum, jostling, complaining, their faces lighted with an air of expectant
camaraderie. Like the other Drifters, now ludicrous in their half-loosened
neckties, Jerry and Moonshine tried to merge with the tense and happy
crowd, at the head of whom stood Gino, hands curled at his pockets, eyes
fastened to Lazurus, who had taken a position several feet in front of the
door.
"All right, knock it off!" Jack cried, and the buzzing crowd fell silent.
"Mr. Lazurus wants to talk to you!"
He had staggered down the stairs like a drunken juggler tossing ideas into
the air. He had to protect the Drifters; he had to protect Miss Osborne. He
had to enforce the rule; he had to prevent a riot. If he stuck to the rule, he
would create a riot and likely get a switch-blade in the mouth for good
measure. If he revoked the rule, she would throw the Drifters out, and probably fire him. There was one more idea that he had discovered from Gino:
her rule was right and by enforcing it, he still might save a fragment of that
impossible image from the past.
But as he groped for words, the room was thrown into sudden darkness,
chairs crashed, grunts and a shriek of hysterical joy broke loose from the
invisible forms, and as he waited, stunned, expecting Miss Osborne to rush
in behind him, he heard Jack shout, "Get that light on!", and miraculously,
someone responded to the command.
The chairs were restored, the crowd, their tense and happy faces somehow
strange, ancient in the light, drifted in the smoke of the trembling room,
where Gino's curled fingers had not moved from his pockets. "I'm not going
to put the blame on anyone," he began, not knowing what point he was
trying to make. He wasn't thinking now, but letting words stumble out. He
stopped and began again. "I'm not blaming any one person, because everybody is guilty. And if everyone is guilty, there's not a person in this room,
whether he was told about the rule or wasn't, who's innocent. Because—"
53 He stumbled and forgot what he was going to say. Jack fidgeted nervously
at his side and closed and opened his hands. Someone sneezed, and the room
exploded with laughter. He tried to recover the thread of his argument.
"Because— we offered you neckties when you wanted knives. You wanted
to come in here with knives or machetes or stones or bricks, to beat and slug
and cut in the mouth. You banded together, because—listen—" He shook
his head. His eyes had misted over and when they cleared he found Gino
standing unmoved, but when he raised his glance he saw that the others
were listening, waiting. His voice grew hoarse. "You came in like a murderous band of brothers, full of wickedness, hate, sin, evil, corruption, and you
thought it would prove you were right if you could show us with your
muscles and your knives that you could strangle us with our neckties and
make us cry for mercy. But in here—in here—the necktie means— the necktie means—that we will try—we will try to respect each other." He licked
the salt from his lips. He wiped a sweaty hand across his eyes. If he could
find some ringing phrase, some noble line. "So if you have the courage—
guts—to go home. If you come back with a necktie, you'll be—" He managed
to get the bitter word into the air. "Welcome."
Breathing heavily, he lowered his head under his own incoherence. But
when he forced himself to look again, he knew that they were no longer
behind Gino and that if he could only get by this moment—
He heard the door open behind him, and turning, saw Miss Osborne in a
huge green formal. She glanced about the room and her face was powerful
and ironic, yet radiant with sympathy and understanding, not only for him,
but for all of them, as she smiled and asked, almost tenderly, "Is anything
wrong, Mr. Lazurus?"
A nervous shock of surprise ran through the room. Beside him, clenching
and unclenching his fists, face baffled and fallen, Jack Covelli stood like a
pitiful midget. Gino had turned to watch her. Struggling not to prejudice the
issue, Lazurus said neutrally after a moment, "Some of the boys say they
weren't told about the necktie rule. I've explained why the rule is necessary
and that they're welcome to come in if they get a tie. And that's where it
stands."
Her ironic glance travelled around the room as if to say, I understand, I
sympathize, I know. "Do you think, Mr. Lazurus, that if the boys promise
they won't forget next time, we might in this one case make an exception?"
"Miss Osborne," he said thickly, "may I speak to you in your office for
a moment?"
She frowned. Then the smile reappeared. "Very well. Would you take
charge, Mr. Covelli?"
In her office she closed the door hard. "Well?"
"Miss Osborne, if we stick to the rule, we—we might have a chance to
save something."
"I warned you, Hyman, but you didn't heed my warning. Now I'm not
54 going to let you ruin the Board Meeting!"
"Miss Osborne—"
"You didn't check on the ties, and you didn't know who was coming in!"
"But if we stick to the rule—"
"You've lost control, haven't you, Hyman!"
"If you'll give me a chance to explain—'
"You've had your chance, and there's no time for explanations. You'll
have to let them in and we'll try to clean up this mess another day!" She
pushed open the door and he followed her into the Waiting Room.
Jack made way for her. The crowd, which had shifted and murmured
at their entrance, grew silent. Gino remained immobile in front of them.
At last, Lazurus glanced at Miss Osborne, who smiled and nodded her
head. He wet his lips. Jack fidgeted. The traffic trembled by and shook the
floor. Someone coughed. He looked at her again. She was not smiling. Anger
flared in her eyes, distended her nostrils, and solidified her jaw. "I think Mr.
Lazurus has some good news for you—Mr. Lazurus?"
As he looked at her, the words came up thickly with rage and grief. "I—no
ma'am, I haven't!"
He heard the sigh of astonishment behind him, and tears clouding his
eyes, walked blindly past her sharp "Mr. Lazurus!" and into the hall.
"Mr. Lazurus!"
He swung about to see her framed in the doorway. "Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving."
He spun about, pulled his banjo from the closet, and walked swiftly into
the street, but in the moment of his turning he had seen her stricken face,
and when he heard her call after him, "Hymie! Hymie! Mr. Lazurus, come
back!", he wished that he could be free of guilt, even as a fragment of his
old belief impaled his heart.
55 CONTRIBUTORS
wayson s. choy is a student at the University of British Columbia. "The Sound of
Waves" was originally presented as an exercise in a Creative Writing Course and
was subsequently awarded The Macmillan Prize for the best short story submitted by a student in 1960-61.
joan de long lives in Vancouver. She "didn't learn anything in school but learned
a lot from Father, who loves walking in woods and reading the Odyssey."
gwladys downes teaches French at Victoria College. She has previously published
poetry in Fiddlehead and Canadian Forum.
Lionel kearns first published in Prism in 1959, has recently published poetry in
Delta. "The Guest of Honor" won The Macmillan Prize for poetry at the University of British Columbia for 1961.
henry kreisel, now head of the English Department at the University of Alberta,
won the University of Western Ontario President's Medal for the best Canadian
short story of 1959, "The Travelling Nude," published in Prism's first number. He
has published several articles, short stories and a novel, The Rich Man.
david mcfadden from Hamilton, Ontario, is here published for the first time, but
has had poems accepted elsewhere.
roy mac skimming is a talented high school student from Ottawa, Ontario. He has
previously appeared in Prism's special All-Campus issue, and recently had an
acceptance from Fiddlehead.
alden nowlan is no stranger to Prism's pages. His already impressive list of publications has been augmented by Ryerson's publication of a collection of his poems,
Under the Ice, in January, 1961. A chapbook, Wind in a Rocky Country, is soon
to appear. Alden Nowlan lives in Hartland, New Brunswick, where a Canada
Council grant will enable him in the coming year "to write, and write and write."
Phyllis webb who teaches English at the University of British Columbia after a
lengthy absence from her native B.C. has published a collection of poems Even
Your Right Eye (1956), won a Canadian Government Overseas Award in 1957,
and has prepared a further collection of poetry for publication to be entitled
The Sea is Also a Garden.
Avis m. worthington, graduate of the University of Illinois in Fine Arts, former
News Editor-Reporter for the weekly Crag and Canyon at Banff, Alberta, mother
of two small sons, has done considerable radio and television work for the c.B.c.
in Vancouver. She is presently at work on several short stories and a novel.
jacob zilber teaches English at the University of British Columbia. He is one of
Prism's Associate Editors, and has published fiction previously in such North
American journals as Commentary, Tamarack Review and Carleton Miscellany.
56 OUR FAR-OUT ISSUE
(JAMUARY9 1962)
may reach the moon
t
meanwhile   PillSiVI   is reaching
TORONTO
ATHENS
WARSAW
MOOSE JAW
VANCOUVER
WHALE TOWN
WA WANES A
SAN FRANCISCO
LONDON
NEW YORK
MONTREAL
BROOKLYN
ADDIS ABABA
PRETORIA
CANBERRA
SIDNEY
LOS ANGELES
TERRACE
IS PRISM REACHING YOU? IF NOT, FILL
OUT THE FORM BELOW AND RETURN.
ONE
YEAR
SUBSCRIPTION
$3.50
SINGLE COPIES
$1.00
PRISM
3492 WEST 35TH AVE., VANCOUVER, B.C., CANADA
PLEASE ENTER MY SUBSCRIPTION □ $3.50   I   YEAR
NAME	
ADDRESS	
CITY PROV ZONE	 'choice goods as can be bought for money
THE
unchanged
»
STANDARD
"You are to send us J home! by every return of <
all such
goods as are either defective or not acceptable to the Natives, and
to inform Pus wherein they are deficient And also to direct us ex-
actly as you can of what form, quality & conditions every sort of
goods wch. is demanded there ought to be for the best satisfaction
of the »Indians.   And wee will do our utmost that you shall be
A/A      ,==£
supplied wth. every species of Commodity in perfection."?
Letter to Governor Nixon
From the Governor and Committee
London, May 21,1680.
l^!rt>#m#T$A£ (HWjwttg
INCORPORATED  2?? MAY 1670.

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