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 PRISM  Prism
VOLUME TWO
NUMBER ONE
CONTENTS
FALL, i960
NOVEL  EXCERPT
This Side Jordan     Margaret Laurence
SHORT STORIES
Not For Zenocrate Alone thomas grainger
The Arrowhead w. j. sigurgeirson
The Lice wilfred watson
15
24
34
poems
Sacrifice of my Cousin
Catharsis
A Decision
Contrary to the
Grandeur of God
Sacrifice of
Old Uncle Hans
Random Encounter
JOSEPH LANGLAND
JOSEPH LANGLAND
HOWARD GERWING
RALPH GUSTAFSON
JOSEPH LANGLAND
ANDREW   SUSAG
r3
14
23
23
32
58 STAFF
EDITOR
ASSOCIATE  EDITORS
MANAGING EDITOR
BUSINESS  MANAGER
SUBSCRIPTIONS
DESIGN
TREASURER
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ILLUSTRATIONS
Jan de Bruyn
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Marion Smith
Ken Hodkinson
Donald G. Stephens
Yolande Newby
Norman Pearson
Alice Zilber
Cherie Smith
Judy Brown
Carol Williams
Alex Annan
Michael Sinclair
Pegi Nichol
Melvin Kero
George Siddall
PRINTED BY MORRISS PRINTING COMPANY LTD., VICTORIA, B.C.
Prism is an independent quarterly publication, published by The Prism Society. Annual subscriptions are
$3.50, single copies, $1.00, and may be obtained by writing to the Subscription Manager, 3492 West
35th Avenue, Vancouver 13, British Columbia, Canada. MSS should be submitted to the Editor at
the same address and must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. For your future peace of mind
start saving now
THE CANADIAN
BANK OF COMMERCE
MORE THAN 800 BRANCHES ACROSS CANADA TO SERVE YOU MP.120
VANCOUVER   FILM    GUILD
presents
A Series of Quality Foreign Films
on Sunday evenings
October 16—Dostoevsky's THE IDIOT (Russia 1958)
Cannes Film Festival Winner
October 23—THE FORTY-FIRST (Russia 1951)
October 30—OTHELLO (Russia 1953)
In addition we will be showing the films
TWELFTH NIGHT  (Russia 1959)
and QUIET FLOWS THE DON (Russia 1958)
on 2 Sunday evenings in November
All films have sub-titles and will be shown at the
HOLLYWOOD THEATRE
3123 W. Broadway, Vancouver, B.C., at 8:30 p.m.
Advance tickets $i.oo from H. K. Books, 750 Robson Street.
Also admission by donations accepted at the door. THIS
SIDE
JQRBAI
MARGARET LAURENCE
The following excerpt is from chapter four
of the novel This Side lordan, to be published this Fall by McClelland & Stewart in
Canada, Macmillan in England, and St.
Martin's Press in the United States. The
story is set in Ghana, West Africa, in 1957,
the year that country gained its independence. Nathaniel Amegbe, a school teacher,
is the main African character in the book.
Aya was resting on the bed when Nathaniel came in. He still could not
see the bed without a glow of ownership, for it had been the first piece of
furniture they had bought in Accra and it was still the most splendid. It was
a big brass bed, with a heavy frame above it for curtains or a mosquito-net.
At the four corners, large brass knobs gleamed like gold, and the railings at
foot and head were embellished with metal flowers and bows. Into the centre
rail at the head was set a small mirror, and all four posts, enamelled black
up to the knob, were painted with blue and pink flowers. Nathaniel had
slept in it for six years, but it had never ceased to surprise him that he actually owned its magnificence. Aya looked tired, and yet there was excitement in her eyes.
"My friend came today," she said. "You remember—Charity Donkor.
Victor spoke of her. She is staying with her aunt at Teshie."
Nathaniel began to wash, pouring the water carefully from the earthen
vessel into the tin basin that stood on the dresser.
"You still haven't told me why she's in Accra." "She has been very unfortunate," Aya said, giving him a quick, appraising
glance. "She wants a child. She has been married five years."
"Too bad," Nathaniel said without enthusiasm.
"That is why she came here," Aya went on. "Her aunt was writing to her
all the time about this new suman—"
Nathaniel swung around to face her.
"This new—what?"
"Fetish," Aya repeated patiently. "Its priests have brought it down here
from the Northern Territories. Its home is near Tamale—-"
"All right—go on."
"Well, Charity said she tried her best with the abosom at Koforidua. And
she prayed to her husband's ntoro, and to Tano, Son of Nyame, who is the
god of her people—as of ours. I mean—as it used to be. Also, Charity is a
Baptist, and she said she prayed every day for a child. But nothing worked.
So she is going to—"
"Aya!" Nathaniel cried. "That's enough. She's a Baptist and a pagan, and
she hasn't even the decency to stick to one pagan god. She's like a woman
in the market—which piece of fish is the cheapest, the freshest? Which god
shall I buy today?"
"She is my friend," Aya said with dignity. "It is not necessary for you to
insult her. Victor was right, for once. I should not have told you."
"Look—" Nathaniel said patiently, "I've told you, Aya. We went into
this long ago, when you miscarried. There are many reasons for a woman
not having a child. I don't understand them all, but doctors do. Charity
could pour libation every day for ten years, but it still wouldn't—"
"What harm does it do to try? You don't understand what it is, Nathaniel.
You don't know how it feels to want a child, and not be able—but I know."
Nathaniel's throat ached.
"And what suman did you try," he said slowly, "before, when you thought
you couldn't hold a baby? What one did you go to, without telling me?"
She turned away.
"None," she said in a low voice. "I was afraid. You would not let me,
and—oh Nathaniel—I am ashamed of it now, but sometimes I hated you
for it. For not letting me try."
He believed her. But his desire to hurt could not be suddenly quenched.
"And when you were pregnant," his voice ground out, "I suppose you
thought you wouldn't take any chances this time. I suppose you saw the
sumankwafo to get charms so that no one could harm the child by witchcraft—"
He laughed harshly.
"You couldn't have the cuts made on your forehead for the boto to be
rubbed in," he said. "I would have seen it."
Aya buried her face in the pillow. "Why do you speak of it?" she cried. "I would not go—where you said. We
are Christians."
"I am nothing!" he stormed. "A man is better off to have no gods. They're
all the same. They take, take, but they never give."
She raised her head and looked at him, wide-eyed.
"You are a Christian," she insisted. "You went to Mission School. You
go to church, sometimes anyway."
"That makes me a Christian," he said bitterly. "Good."
"It is Victor," Aya said. "He is a bad influence on you. How can anyone
live without a god?"
"I knew you would say that. It isn't him. Sometimes I believe. Sometimes
—I can't. But in the old gods—never. Not any more. That's gone. Don't
you understand? It's gone."
"For me, also," she said. "I would not go to the fetish priest."
He looked at her, exasperated, and yet moved by her loyalty, which was
loyalty to him.
"You lie like a child," he said. "Like a little girl."
"I am not the right wife for you," Aya cried. "Why did you not marry
someone who could read?"
He took her hands in his, and held them tightly, so she would not think
the same question had ever occurred to him.
"You are beautiful," he said.
She clung to him.
"You will not take a second wife, Nathaniel? I do not want that."
"We are Christians," he said with a grin. "Don't you remember?"
She struck at his hands, half angrily, and he laughed.
The next day, when Nathaniel entered the gate, he knew Aya's mother
was in the house. The hoarse throaty laughter was unmistakably Adua's. He
could tell from the sweet-acrid smell that she was preparing palm-oil chop
for him. He sighed. She did not do it for nothing. He wondered what she
wanted this time.
The old woman sat unmoving beside the charcoal brazier, a gourd ladle
in her hand. Her cloth was black and red, patterned in hands outspread. It
billowed hugely around her, and the dozens of scarlet hands clutched at that
massive body. She gave Nathaniel the customary greeting, but she did not
smile or look up. Always the same—her laughter stopped when he appeared.
He was glad to avoid her eyes. Once he had a dream about the old woman.
All of her had melted in the sun, leaving only those wise-ignorant eyes, those
eyes that searched him, running about on their own tiny legs in the puddle
of oil on the ground.
Aya would never admit anything. And yet he knew that whatever understanding and knowledge of the new ways he patiently wove into her, the old
woman busily unravelled it. Aya looked pleased to see him, but something else as well. Frightened?
Apprehensive? Her face was tired. The child was growing heavy, and the
lines of strain showed in Aya's face. Nathaniel felt a sudden pity for her,
who had to grow in her slow earth what he so quickly sowed.
"If Nyankopon gave me nothing else," Adua said in her wheezy breathless voice, "He gave me the hands to cook with."
"You make the best palm-oil stew I have ever tasted, except my own
mother's," Nathaniel agreed politely.
"She has done it for you," Aya said with a hesitant smile. "She brought
the fish and oil."
Nathaniel nodded. He was getting a headache. He did not feel like dealing with another of those family arguments where everyone's heart gets
sore and bruised and nobody wins. As Adua had promised, the stew was
good, the palm oil just the right red-gold, the pieces of smoked fish succulent
and plentiful. She had prepared kenkey to go with it, balls of steamed fermented corn dough. No matter how much Nathaniel worried, it never made
him lose his appetite. But he felt, with resentment, that each bite put him
in her debt. When the women had eaten, after he had finished, Adua wrapped her cloth around her, belched, then sighed.
"Nathaniel," she whined, "Nathaniel, I am getting old. I have lived here
too long."
Nathaniel felt a rush of relief. She wanted to go back to her village. And
then, despair. The fare for the mammy-lorry. He couldn't. He didn't have
the money. He would gladly have borrowed it, at any interest, to get rid of
Adua. But he had refused money to Kwaale, and if she heard of it she would
never forgive him.
"If it is the money—"
She waved one hand, brushing his words away.
"No, no. My cousin owns a lorry. Had you forgotten? He will take me as
far as Kumasi."
"What is it, then?"
"Nathaniel," she said eagerly, "Aya should bear her child among her own
people. And she is tired. Look at her. You can see how tired she is. She is
alone here. I try to help her, but I have no man to work for me, no rich
relatives. I must work. There, her cousins could help her. She would have
help with the child, too, when it is young."
She paused, and her heavy bosom shook a little. Her eyes searched Nathaniel's face. His own mother was dead, long ago. She was trying to make
him believe it was his mother speaking. Her eyes held him, forcing her terrible terrible love.
"Nathaniel," Adua said, "come back, Nathaniel."
Aya sighed now, gently, as though she had been holding her breath until
the thing was spoken. Nathaniel felt stabbed, betrayed.
"Aya—"
Aya looked away so he could not see her face.
"You do not know," she whispered. "It is not easy for me—"
No, it was not easy for her. How could she hold to the future when the
old woman kept on and on at her, touching her homesickness and her fears,
using every trick?
He turned to Aya's mother.
"I do not want you to talk about it again," he said. "I am not going back.
This is where I work and where I live."
"You could work there," Adua replied. "This Accra, Nathaniel, it is no
good."
"What is wrong with it? Can you tell me?"
" 'It is hard to meet a good man in a big city.' "
He remembered the proverb from long ago. But he knew how to counter
it.
" 'Where you have had joy is better than where you were born,' " he
replied.
It was another proverb, and for a moment Adua did not know how to
answer.
"You have grown to hate your own people," she said finally.
It was an unwise remark. He could see that Aya knew.
"She did not mean—" Aya stumbled.
"I do not hate them," Nathaniel said. "You know I do not hate them. But
I will not go back."
"We send our sons to school, and they spit on us," the old woman said
bitterly.
Nathaniel peered at her. She really believed it. That was the impression
his generation gave.
"No," Nathaniel said. "No. You do not know."
— You do not know that I mourn everything I have lost. I mourn the
gods strangled by my hand. You do not know how often I have wanted to
go back.
"I live here," he repeated stubbornly. "I work here. I cannot go back."
"For Aya's sake," she pleaded, "and the child's—■"
"No!" Nathaniel shouted. "It is for him that I stay! No! Do not talk of it
any more. You hear? No more."
Adua seemed to sag, as though the bones had crumbled within that hulk
of flesh. Nathaniel saw that her eyes were no longer compelling. They were
only the flat, unsurprised eyes of an old woman who plotted and plotted,
scarcely expecting to win.
"Now I do not know whether to go or stay," Adua said plaintively. "I
wanted to hear my grandchildren's voices." Nathaniel tried to remember all the superstitions and fears she had given
Aya. He tried to be angry once more. But he could not. It is not the malice
in a family that drowns us, and not their greed. It is their love, stifling,
inescapable.
Aya reached out and touched his arm.
"I think you have forgotten that a woman goes to her mother's people
when she reaches the eighth month," she said. "But I will not do it,
Nathaniel, even if Adua goes back. I will stay with you."
It was a triumph for him, that Aya spoke the words in the old woman's
presence. But Nathaniel did not feel triumphant.
"I am sorry," he said helplessly, to both of them.
He felt he could not bear it. Anger was easier.
At last, well after midnight, Nathaniel slept.
—All night long my soul wrestled with the devil. Yes—
—My soul wrestled with the devil in the night. The devil of the night.
My soul wrestled with the Sasabonsam in the night. His fur was black and
his fur was red and his face was a grinning mask of rage. His hands plucked
at me, and his breath was evil. He jumped up and down like the great mad
gorilla, and he drummed on his chest. Yes, he drummed on his chest like
the mad gorilla. He drummed on his chest till the blood trembled in my
heart. And he put on a sombrero like the happy boys wear, and he covered
his fur with a pink nylon shirt. He pranced down the street in a pink nylon
shirt, and everyone laughed as he danced a highlife. And he cried, "I am
the City. Oh yes, I'm the City. I am the City, boy, come and dance"
—I knew he lied. I knew he lied. I'd seen him in the forest, old as the
shadows. I know he was the Forest. I knew he was the River. But I was
afraid and I wanted to run. I wanted to run back and back and back.
—When I was a boy I used to swim in a green pool. The palms were
green above it and around it, and the water was cool and green. The village
goats came there to drink, stepping lightly, lightly, lightly, stepping lightly
in the cool brown mud. And the old men sat in the shade chewing kola nut,
and their voices, thin like spiderwebs, spun gossip while the young ones
laughed. I laughed and I swam like a little lithe fish, until my mother called
me home. She would be bending over the great wooden bowl, the wooden
pestle in her hand, pounding yam or guinea corn. She would smile at me.
She had four daughters but only one son. "Is your belly empty, little fish?"
Mammii-O! Mammii-O!
—I came to a forest and I stepped inside. And there in a clearing I saw a
judgement. I saw the judgement, what it would be. The thief was there,
with one hand severed, and the stump dripped blood as he howled with
pain. The adulterer was there, and his face was gaunt with shame, and he
bore a black gaping wound where the branch of life had been. And I was there, yes, I was there. I walked in the clearing with my head held like a
dried gourd between these hands. And my neck shook itself at the self it
could not see, and the eyes stared at the blind thing. And I fled, I fled, I fled.
I ran away to hide myself in the streets.
—All night long my soul wrestled with the devil. You lie, Sasabonsam.
—Then the devil called down from his odum tree—"You will be cursed,
Nathaniel. The blood in you, it is your mother's. Will it not turn sour, will it not clot with this damnation laid upon you who spit on your people? Have
you not your father's ntoro? Will not your very spirit rise up against you?"
—When I was a little boy, in my mother's womb. When I was a little fish,
in the place where my father poured out his life. When I was a little boy, in
my father's tomb. I have drawn my blood from my mother, and I have
drawn my life from my father's life. And they will curse me, for I have forsaken them. Alone, Nathaniel, alone.
—My soul wrestled with the devil, whispering doom in the night. And I
was falling, I was drowning. Down, down, down.
—Onyame, the Shining One, Giver of Sun, help me. Nyankopon, Soul
of Nyame, shooter of Life's Arrows, help me. Tano, God of the River, Lord
of the Planted Forest, help me. Asaase Yaa, Old Mother Earth, mother of
the dead, help me.
—I called upon my gods. I called upon my gods. But I knew they would
not answer.
—I knew my gods would not answer, for they were dead. My gods were
dead in me. They died long ago. How can a god die? What a great death,
when a god dies. The death of a king is only the death of a small boy, when
a god dies.
•—Onyame, the Shining One, is dead. In the compound where offerings
were placed on the altar, only the chickens scratch in the dust. Nyame's
Tree is bare. The altar is deserted.
—Nyankopon, the sun, has died in me and the sun still shines. Odaman-
koma, the Sculptor, He Who Hewed The Thing, he is dead. They say he
created Death and Death killed him. It was not Death that killed him in me.
—My gods do not answer. Asaase Yaa, Mother of Earth, is dead with her
dead. And Tano lies dead beside his River.
—Only, in the night, the Sasabonsam is not dead, and I fear, I fear, I
fear.
—"I am the City, boy, always and always. If you don't like me, you know
where to go."
—Hear him. Sh—listen.
—-"Sometimes I am known as Dr. Paludrine, sometimes Mr. Telephone,
Q.C., or simply Sasabonsam Happy Boy. Charming names. I love them all,
and have a silk tie for each. You see me every day. We often meet. I always
smile."
—You lie. I've seen you in the Forest, old as the shadows, mad gorilla
with feet that point both ways. Mocker of me, doom-dark hunter, haunter
of dreams—you lie. You lie. YOU LIE! (Oh—I cannot hear myself speaking. Am I speaking?)
—All night long my soul wrestled with the devil	
12 Sacrifice
of my Cousin
JOSEPH LANGLAND
Such violence was uncalled for.
Inside the furnace jacket,
Clear in summer my cousin struck a match,
Provident long before his winter came.
And down it blew at once,
All blaze and infernal racket.
How he came up, not even
His God The Father is telling,
But up he came without his hair and clothes
In such disasters that even to mention shame
Were simply to take another
Subject for all our knelling.
Such shocking news defended
But few of our family blessings.
Though we had heard of a furnace and its hot breath
No one had had such agent before his death,
And why it should now appear
Is not even among our guessings.
We hold such a little space,
This more or less to our measure,
And some few friends, both more or less to our taste.
But now my dear cousin is dead. In that rude waste
I honor the flame in us all,
The warmth of our daily pleasure.
13 Catharsis
The mossy breath of woods
Held in a tent of air
The purest solitudes;
Nothing of foul despair,
Nothing of sad alas,
Ran down the autumn there.
Petal and leaf and grass
Faded and fell, uncut,
Upon that old impasse.
Down went the beetle's hut,
The earthworm's undertow;
Then all the earth went shut
Under the sweeping snow.
King Death stood up in a bush,
Its white chills all aglow.
He shivered the spiney hush
Under his frozen hood
Until, in a secret rush,
The bleak world understood
The heart of its greener moods
And rose in the underwood.
JOSEPH LANGLAND
14 Not for Zenocrate Alone
THOMAS GRAINGER
As his double knock invariably left us with notices headed "FINAL DEMAND" in red, or hints from the Board of Guardians on how to turn a
five shillings food voucher into gracious living for six, we were strictly of the
no news is good news persuasion, and were always pleased when the postman whizzed past our house, his uniform a dark blue blur against the green
of the privet hedges opposite.
We were living at this time in a terraced row on the outskirts of town.
We had a small garden in front, and our rear was admirably guarded by
slag heaps that could be changed in a boy's mind into mountains.
Having used up all possible combinations of the three brass figures which
made up our street number we had thrown them away in disgust, since our
mail came through the letter box anyway, together with curt notes from
the postman, telling us to stop messing him about. Good news was so rare
that the odd days when we received any are imbedded in my mind in their
entirety.
One such was the November day soon after my twelfth birthday. As it
was cold, and we had no coal in the house, I had spent most of the day
picking dull, slatey lumps from the slag heaps, in constant terror of being
15 apprehended by either the School Board Inspector or the guards who had
been hired by the company to startle the unemployed miners out of their
lifelong habit of digging for coal, especially from slag heaps.
When I got back with my second haul our mother was standing in the
kitchen with a letter in her hand and a look as near to radiance as it is possible to get on a face after it has been subjected to thirty-odd years of
assorted indignities.
"It's from Stephen," she said. "Your Uncle Steve. He's coming to stay
with us. Next week."
I stood there, a study in pale black, trying to get to grips with the reality
of Uncle Steve's impending visit. My mother's older brother, he was our
one link with a world in which we only half-believed. A world strangely
free from food vouchers, charity women, the Board of Guardians and annual
issues of clothing and clogs.
He had started work, at the age of twelve, as a half-timer in a cotton mill,
leaving at thirteen to become a full-time miner. His physical growth, instead
of being checked by the cramped, arduous labour, was, from then on, rapid.
He was two or three inches over six feet and had stopped growing when
he left the pit behind him for ever on his nineteenth birthday. In a community made up mainly of short, tough, wiry men he was an oddity. He
then joined a company of barnstormers who were working a circuit of North
Country towns, staying with them for two years, getting his keep and pocket
money, and went on to a Shakespearean company in the Midlands. Our
mother had had little direct news from him for the past few years, except
for a card and postal order each Xmas, and small gifts for her birthdays.
"He may stay with us till Xmas," our mother said, pouring hot water
from the huge copper kettle into the bathtub. "Come on, Stevie, let's see
what colour you really are. He might even stay with us till Spring."
"When is he coming?" I asked as I undressed; "I mean, what day next
week?"
"On Monday. He's catching the 9:30 train from London. 9:30 in the
morning. He'll be here by the time you get home from school. I'll have to
make him a bed up on the couch. Get in, and don't splash the water about
all over the place."
She sat down at the table and began reading the letter again. "The
neighbours'U think I've got a fancy man. With your father being away, and
all."
Our father, a shy, shadowy man, ever an easy mark for the hard-hearted
clerks at the Ministry of Labour, had been sent to a training school in the
South, along with two hundred more unemployed miners, mainly bachelors,
from our town. The idea being, that, even if he didn't learn a trade which
would take him off Insurance or relief now and again, he was effectively
deterred, during the time of his training and for at least the minimal gesta-
16 tory period after his return, from filing a claim for yet another dependent.
His departure having been timed to coincide with the arrival of my sister,
Betty, then six months old.
"He says he's tired," our mother murmured, "and needs a long rest. I
hope he's not ill . . . ."
He was ill. Even I could see that as I came into the kitchen that Monday
afternoon,, making a lot of noise with the door latch to cover up my shyness.
"This is your Uncle Steve," said our mother, "and this is Stevie. I called
him after you because he's got your eyes." He was sitting at the table with
a mug of tea and a bottle in front of him. "Hello, Stevie," he said. "Got
my eyes, has he? I wondered where they'd got to."
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"Stevie's the clever one," said my mother, "he's always top of his class."
"Do you like school, Stevie?" he asked. "What kind of teachers have you
got?"
"I . . . it's all right," I managed to say. Then I blurted out, "I like reading and composition best. I don't like sums. I'm no good at sums. Mr.
Aspinall's the best teacher. He buys me a bottle of milk every morning."
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels," said my uncle,
in a different, rich voice, "and have not charity." He broke off and said in
his normal voice with its slight Lancashire accent, "Is that where you get
your rosy cheeks from?" He turned to our mother. "Are the other two boys
like this one?" "No," she smiled, "he's a stray. He takes after you." He
poured a little from the bottle into his tea. "I hope not," he said quietly. "I
hope to God he doesn't." He emptied the mug in one gulp and shuddered
slightly. "Why aren't your brothers home yet?" he asked.
"They'll be here soon," I said, "I ran all the way."
17 "He's excited because you're here, Steve. He's done nothing but talk about
you since your letter came."
"Give him a cup of tea without milk, Ruth. He's had enough milk for
today. I'll put a drop of whiskey in it. Plenty of sugar, though."
He measured out six teaspoonsful into my cup before passing it to me.
Then he poured whiskey into his mug without adding tea. "We'll drink a
toast, Stevie boy." He lifted up his mug. "To the strays of the world, Stevie,
of all classes and conditions. But especially to those trapped in the Lower
Depths. Drink up boy."
My brother came in then, and our mother put our meal on the table.
One egg between the three of us, soft-boiled and chopped up fine so it would
cover three pieces of bread and take the edge off the taste of the margarine.
Followed by raisin cake left over from Sunday.
"Honest to God, Ruth," said my uncle. "I don't know how you do it.
Four youngsters, an absentee husband, a tumbledown house that can only
just be made out from the slag heaps behind it. A chit once a week from
the Board of Guardians to cover the cost of tea and bread and scrape, and
you have the cleanest, best-looking kids in the British Isles."
"Good looks are free in our family," said our mother. "There's a rag-man
comes round who gives soap for empty jam jars. There's no call to be dirty
just because you're poor."
"No, there's no call. And there was no call to keep your poverty hidden
from your own brother. I swear I didn't know you were so hard up. There's
been many a time I've spent more on whiskey in ten minutes than you've
had to keep these kids for a week."
"You've had your own way to make in the world, and most of the time
we didn't know where you were."
"That's true. I've wandered too much and talked too much, and maybe
read too much. But I'm here now, and as long as I'm here," he said, putting
two pound notes by our mother's cup, "there'll be an egg apiece for the
children's tea, and two on Sundays and holidays, or I'll take my custom
elsewhere."
That was how our season of plenty began, with the quiet pushing of two
lovely bits of paper into our mother's hand. There was butter on the table
now in great golden gobs, and meat with its rich brown gravy. Our mother
sang as she baked bread and cakes and the sun shone at full strength for
the first time in our sky.
But my uncle seemed to wander on the rim of our happiness. He would
push his food around on his plate, swallowing a mouthful now and again
to show he was still with us. When he had finished there was always more
left on his plate than he had eaten. He was drinking a lot, both at home and
in the pubs, where his great height and appetite for whiskey made the regulars uneasy, in spite of his occasional call for drinks all round. Often at night he would prowl the narrow streets, muttering a little to himself, nodding
now and then to people he didn't know, and making odd, rambling detours
to back street pubs that strangers rarely entered. He was never drunk, but
his grey eyes were always very bright, with bloodshot whites.
The nights he didn't go out he would sit in our one good chair, King
Stephen's throne he called it, and act scenes from the great plays he knew
by heart. He had a strong, rich and gaudy voice, at its best in speeches from
Marlowe. Tamburlaine was his favourite and tears streamed from his
stricken eyes as he mourned Zenocrate. Chill fingers gripped our spines
when his crazed voice and suddenly ravaged face, spittle dripping from his
mouth, urged his armies on to Babylon as he mounted his chariot drawn by
captured kings. After Tamburlaine he would raise the bottle he kept on the
floor by the throne and drink a toast to "Kit. The most reckless stray and
finest bloody poet who ever talked himself into an early grave."—Then he
would dig deep into his memory for scenes from plays by the half-forgotten
poets who have been overshadowed by the great bulk of Shakespeare. Blood
soaked speeches from Tourneur, Ford and Webster rolled off his tongue
until we gasped in horror and our mother would make him stop, sometimes
in the middle of a speech, and he would turn his head, with its quickly
silvering hair. "I'm sorry, Ruth. I'd forgotten where I was. I'll try to cheer
them up a bit now." And he would be off on a wild jaunt through The
Alchemist, Volpone and The Country Wife. We would be herded upstairs
still laughing in spite of the bitter cold of our bedroom.
That Xmas was the only real Xmas we were to have as children. For the
first time there were presents for all, and enough food. My uncle got his
make up box down from the high shelf where he had hidden it and made
himself up, not as Father Xmas, as we had expected, but as Charles Dickens,
as he was in the last haunted months of his life. After dinner he read from
A Christmas Carol and Pickwick Papers, then went out, still made up as
Dickens, to frighten the townspeople into a proper appreciation of the
season.
On Boxing Day he got up late, drank a pint of black coffee, lay down
again on the couch and towards evening drank more coffee, ate a little of
the chicken that our mother had saved for him and went out. He must have
gone on his usual back street pub crawl, gradually drinking his way to the
town centre, where he went into the lounge of the "George and Dragon," a
smart hotel used by the still solvent middle-class. A little over an hour later
the lounge was closed to the public and my uncle was dragged by four policemen, struggling all the way, into a waiting Black Maria. As he refused, at
first, to give his name to the police we didn't hear of his arrest till the following afternoon. Our mother grabbed her shawl with one hand and me with
the other and we half-ran, half-walked, to the police station, a mile away.
We had to wait for a few minutes in a dismal room lined on three sides
19 with benches. A sergeant, in a railed off part of the room, was drinking tea
and gloomily fingering his bruised right eye. My mother, as always in the
presence of officialdom, put on her blank stupid expression. The sergeant
put down his cup with a bang, spilling tea over some of the papers on his
desk. "You his wife?" he asked, shaking the papers, "you this bloody madman's wife?"
"What madman, sir?"
"What madman, sir?" "Why, the madman who gave me this and put two
of my best men in hospital. That bloody red hot candidate for a padded
cell, Stephen Wright."
"No, sir. I'm his sister."
"Sister, eh?" he said. "I should have known. His kind don't marry. They
never know the taming influence of a round of responsibilities." He stood
up and leaned over the rail. "But I'll tell you this, missis, we'll tame him.
He's lost his good looks already, and he'll lose his fancy ways after he's been
sentenced. And sentenced he will be, missis, take my word for it. He can
get up to five years for last night's little frolic, and that's just about what
he will get. Five years."
They brought my uncle into the room then. He stood for a moment inside
the doorway, with a policeman on each side of him, till he got used to the
daylight that struggled thinly through the high, dirty windows. Then he
walked slowly towards us and our mother started sobbing low, strangled
sobs. He sat down on the bench opposite and the policemen went back and
stood by the door. Both his eyes were bruised raw and he could see only
through tiny slits. His mouth had been torn on one side and his top front
teeth were broken. He had a purple bruise on his neck and his suit was torn
in several places.
"Ruth," he whispered, "Ruth, don't cry. Look, little Stevie's not crying."
"Oh, Stephen. Stephen, what have they done to you? Oh, your poor
face! Stephen, what's happened? What's it all about?"
"My face doesn't matter so much. It'll get better. My teeth were going
bad anyway. Ruth . . . it's my voice. They . . ." he swallowed painfully
and expelled his breath with a whistling sound, "the bastards hit me on the
throat with a truncheon . . . Ruth, I've lost my voice . . . I've lost my
voice."
"It'll come back, Steve. You'll see, it'll come back. As soon as you get out
you'll have false teeth made and you'll be as good as new. You're the best
actor in England, you know you are."
"No," he said, in the strangled whisper, "no. I was finished anyway. They
won't use my kind anymore. I haven't had a part in twelve months. Ruth,
I'll need my other suit. I think they'll let you come again tomorrow. Bring
it with you. There's twenty pounds in the back pocket of the trousers. Spend
it on the kids. I won't need money for a long time." "Stephen, tell us what happened. You haven't told us what happened."
She turned to the sergeant who was still leaning over the rail. "What happened? Do I have to wait till the Journal comes out on Friday, or what?"
"I'll tell you what happened, missis," the sergeant said; "Shakespeare
there ran amok in the 'George' last night, that's what. It took six of us to
hold him down at one time. He put the fear of Christ into some of the town's
leading voters, including the Mayor and half the Town Council. He caused
hundreds of pounds worth of damage to furniture and fittings, put two
constables in hospital and kept two St. John's men hopping around for two
hours mopping up the blood. Don't ask me why he did it, I don't think he
knows himself." The sergeant turned and flopped into his chair behind the
desk and began sorting his papers. The room was silent except for the
squeaking of boots as a constable changed his weight from one foot to the
other. I looked across and up at my uncle. Tears were bubbling through the
tiny slits that were all I could see of his eyes and running into his mouth
and down his chin.
"You've got five minutes, missis," said the sergeant, "then you'll have to go.
You can come again tomorrow."
"Five minutes," our mother shouted. "Is five the only number you know?
Five years for Stephen, five minutes for me. Think of another number, for
Christ's sake."
"I've told you you can come again tomorrow. You can come every day
till his case comes up. I can't be fairer than that, can I?"
"Ruth," he was not whispering now, but his voice was hoarse and ugly,
"Ruth, don't bring Stevie here again. Bring a shirt as well as the suit, and
some cigarettes and matches. And don't worry about me. They take better
care of gaolbirds than they do of the poor sods on relief." He stood up and
walked slowly across to us and knelt down on the dusty floor. "Ruth," he
said, "listen to me. They won't let my kind break through anymore. There's
no place for us, not even as actors. The theatre's been taken over and made
dull and respectable. There's no place there now for passion, and that's all
I've got." He looked round at the two constables. "I was trapped long before they brought me here." He stood up. "Don't worry about me. Take
care of Stevie. He's a stray, too."
The constables came up then and he was led away to the cells. Our
mother turned to the sergeant. Her eyes were dry now. "Let him go," she
said tonelessly, "let him go." She moved quickly to the railing and pounded
on the top of it. "Tear up your papers and let him go." The sergeant pushed
back his chair and stood up. "It's too late, missis," he said, "the whole town
knows about it. Law and order have to be maintained. He's been charged
and the charges have to stand."
"Alter the charges. Make it just drunk and disorderly. Let him pay his
fine and go. Or let him out on bail. He's got twenty pounds at home. I'll
21 run and get it."
"I have no authority to grant bail. A magistrate has, but not a policeman." He walked over and leaned on the railing opposite our mother.
"There're three magistrates in this town. All three were in the 'George'
last night. Your brother banged two of their heads together and threw
whiskey into the face of the other, which was a shocking waste, Joe Flanagan being strictly a brown ale drinker. He hasn't got a chance. Go home
now and come back tomorrow."
"He'll die in prison," our mother shouted, drawing me to her. "Look at
this boy's eyes. You see how bright and innocent they are. My brother's
eyes are just like these and he's forty years old! Do you know what that
means? Send him to prison and you kill him."
"You'll have to go, missis. It's too late now, and I've got work to do."
"Stephen's going to die all alone in one of your gaols," our mother
whispered. "We're all he's got, and poor as we are we'd share all we've got
with him .... Oh, come on, Stevie, it's no use." When we got to the door
she turned. "Too late is it?" she shouted. "I'll tell you something, Mr. Know-
it-all. When a man like Stephen gets sent to prison it's not too late, it's too
bloody early!"
We walked all the way home without speaking. About half way there it
started to snow. Soon the ugliness of the town would be hidden and I would
be able to pretend that the slag heaps were the Alps.
22 One day after school I
bunched off with some other guys
down to a coffee shop -c*-
to talk of nothing DECISION
but big things and we
were having our usual
desperate fun
dipping our characters
in various non-alcoholic drinks HOWARD GERWING
and splashing the mess about
when this queer boy
who was never quite with it anyway
seems to jump on the counter
and smash everybody over the head
by coming up in his quiet way with,
"Einstein said . . . ."
Not to be outdone somebody
threw up Confucious for a laugh
and then more names tumbled down
from the ceiling and sprawled amongst
the young wolves of Hallet's cafe
making everybody gay
but this strange guy
and myself
thirsting for the poison.
CONTRARY TO THE GRANDEUR OF GOD
RALPH GUSTAFSON
We stepped out, by the verandah,
down by the wharf;
The Six Peaks, in the night,
swung by in their snows,
The moon burned in white fire
behind the peak,
in gold fire
within the Lake.
Because of the grandeur of man
I laughed.
23 THE
ARROWHEAD
W. J. SIGURGEIRSON
The old man and I have a place at Nanoose Bay where we spend the
winters. It is a little three-room bachelor's shack. We have a woodshed, and
a boathouse for our troller, "Louise." For the rest of the year we live aboard
the boat, fishing all the grounds from Hecate Straits down through the
Straits of Juan De Fuca. In winter we have only to overhaul the boat and
gear and keep the fire going in the stove with driftwood.
24 Last night, just toward dusk, after the old man had cleared away the
dishes from the evening meal, we were sitting near the window drinking a
little whiskey and watching the herring boats on the bay. Our chairs are
large and comfortable but on the shabby side. They angle toward the window which runs almost the full length of the little room. We get a good
view of the bay from our chairs. There is a wall light behind each chair if
we want to read. The old man had a book in his lap but he wasn't reading
in it. We were both watching the bay.
It was just growing dark and big herring seiners were beginning to circle,
searching for the schools of fish with their echo sounders. The herring would
be schooling up now as the darkness came. It was quiet in the room. We
could just faintly hear the cry of herring gulls out there on the bay and the
hum and throb of the diesels.
"I guess they are going to hang him," the old man said. I didn't answer.
"Can you remember how he was," he said, "when he came to us back there
at Catfish?" Yes, I remembered how he was. But I wished to hell he'd got
himself shot up on the other side of Canada and we'd never heard of it.
No, he had to end up here after thirteen years, with his life all loused up.
And there was nothing we could do to get him out of it. We could only sit
and squirm until they hanged him. We followed the case in the papers, with
all the legal manceuverings to save him failing one after another. We could
25 see it was hopeless. We never talked very much about it. Now his time was
running out.
WhEEEeep! The first seiner blew his whistle to set and steamed full
speed in a circle piling off his big net as he went. He was on a school of
herring. Other boats moved his way. I was following it all with my eyes but
my mind was far from this bay just then.
I was walking in the spring when all the snow was gone, in new boots
laced ankle-high. I could hear the easy creak in the new black leather with
every step. And a new cap on my head. Heavy tweed brown cap with the
top buttoned forward on a short peak. I could feel it low on my forehead
and at a little angle just as the men wore them. Not many of the boys with
new boots or cap like that in those days. And there were some of the boys
hanging around in front of the post office. Martin, Bert and Kenny. What
would they think about the new cap and boots? Not much to worry about
with those three, though. Ah, but there came Danny Parker out of the post
office. Twelve years old like me but mean and tough. That made it all different. Danny wouldn't let anyone off easy with a new cap and boots. Not
Danny in the worn-out boots of his older brother. No, it wouldn't go with
Danny. Danny with the grimy face. Danny with the old beat-out cap. Mean
and tough. I pulled my new cap off before I got there and stuck it in my
back pocket. It would go a little easier with just the new boots.
"Hi, kid," he said. He was calling everyone "kid" now. All winter he had
been calling everyone "buddy." He had a smart way of talking. A sneering
way with his words. The others tried to talk the way he did but no one ever
could get it as mean as Danny.
"Oh my," he said, "just look at the shiny new boots, boys, the kid has on.
My oh my but they are nice and shiny new boots." The others laughed.
They always laughed when Danny talked that way.
"Let's see how they work in the muck," he said nudging me with his
shoulder toward the wet mud-rut in the road. I was thinking how the leather
looked, glowing, new and soft and black. He was pushing me along. His
face was close and wide open. I closed my right fist. I could feel heat rising
in my face. Now was the time to swing on him. Christ, how I'd like to smash
that sneer off his face. The others moved in around us. They would like it
either way. They would like to see me walk through the mud in the new
boots. But they would rather see me fight Danny and be beaten. I walked
into the mud. They all laughed very hard. I grinned too. I wanted them to
think I was doing it as a joke.
Danny snatched the new tweed cap from my back pocket.
"Oh my," he said, "my oh my, a nice new cap too, the kid has. Isn't it a
pretty cap boys?" The others laughed at the way he said this and Danny
threw the cap down into the mud in front of me. "Look, boys," he said, "the
kid's cap just matches his boots now. All nice and muddy." The others
26 laughed. I didn't try to grin this time. Danny was swinging the cap back and
forth slowly in front of me. Mud was dripping off it.
"Give me back my cap," I said. The others laughed and Danny said, "Aw,
he wants his little cap back." They all laughed again.
"Well if he wants his little mud-cap back," said Danny, "then we'll have
to give it to him." He slapped the mud-soaked cap back on my head. The
others laughed. Then they all ran away because a man was drawing near
along the road. He had seen it all as he walked toward us. It was my old
man. He looked after the boys a little and then he looked at me. I felt the
tears on my cheeks burning and the heavy coldness of the cap on my head.
I didn't want to look at the old man's eyes. I kept my head down looking
at the road and my muddy boots.
"Why didn't you fight?" the old man said.
"He would have licked me," I said. "The others would have helped him
too and they would have licked me."
"They licked you," he said quietly. "They licked you all right." We never
mentioned that incident again, the old man or I. But it was always there
between us.
WhEEEee! bEEeeep! More herring boats were letting go on the bay now.
There was herring out there tonight.
"Do you remember his eyes," the old man said, "his fine fierce eyes? And
the way he walked with a swagger? It's lonely to see a kid walk with a swagger." Yes, I remembered the swagger, and all the fight he had in him. I
wished in those days that I had some of it. I guess the old man did too.
"Nothing but a kid," the old man said. "Christ, and walking alone across
the ice that fall. There was good stuff in that kid." Yes, I remembered the
day he knocked on our door. He was cold and hungry but he was tough.
"Name's Jerome, how's about working for a while?" He sounded hostile
almost, he was trying so hard to be tough. "Christ," said the old man, "he
was just a kid."
It was growing dark out on the bay now. The men were working on the
decks under batteries of flood lights. We could see the gleam of their wet
slicker clothes in the light. They were brailing the herring into packers now.
We were starting into our second bottle of whiskey. The old man turned
the light on behind his chair.
"I guess you'll have to go to him," the old man said.
"There isn't anything I can do for him," I said. "There isn't a thing anyone can do for him."
The old man got up and wandered into his bedroom. What in Christ's
name does he want me going out there for, I thought. There's nothing I
can do. Does he think I can console the man in any way? What in hell can
you do for a man who faces the rope?
The old man came back into the room and dropped a small object on the
27 end table beside my chair. It was an arrowhead. It made a little click when it
landed.
"You'll have to take this to him," the old man said. "It belongs to him.
Do you remember it?" The old man poured whiskey into our glasses and
went back to his chair with his. I sat staring at the arrowhead. Yes, I remembered it. I remembered the bow and arrow we made, Jerome and I. So
many hours of tramping to find the proper sapling—ash, I think it was.
Jerome leading, and myself hanging at his side, dog-like. Proud to be a part
of such a fine and serious search. Hang the sapling in the rafters to dry.
String it with a cord of rawhide. And the arrowhead. Pounded into shape
from an iron bolt, heated to a red glow in the old man's simple forge. And
plunged into water for the temper. This ritual repeated many times. The
tempered arrowhead honed till cruelly sharp. And then Jerome and I, great
hunters, prowling the woods with a bow and a single arrow. Jerome, never
wanting to loose his arrow at the far-off squirrels and whiskey-jacks. Then
the neighbour's yellow tom-cat, a hunter and a killer like ourselves, came our
way and stopped before us. And at such a tempting range. Jerome, without
a second thought, put his arrow through him.
I walked away from the arrowhead on the table and put my face against
the window. It was black out there now, on the bay. Only two seiners were
still working. The others were circling far out on the Gulf. I could see their
running lights moving against the blackness. To the right of the boats, across
the Gulf, the lights of the city glowed like dawn in the eastern sky.
My head was spinning from the whiskey. I knew what the old man wanted
me to do. He wanted me to take the arrowhead to the prison. I would have
to get it to Jerome somehow. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to do. He was
in a hospital cell out there. There ought to be a way to do it. Slip it under
his pillow as I talked to him. Or into his hand if I were to shake his hand.
Such a small and thin arrowhead. Maybe it could be done. But there was
sure to be a guard or more than one guard.
The old man rose from his chair. He came over and picked up the arrowhead and handed it to me.
"Take it to him," he said. There was a finality in the words that I had
never heard in his voice before. Everything that had been between us seemed
to hang in the air with his words.
"Put it in your pocket and take it to him."
I looked down at the arrowhead that lay in my open hand. I moved my
hand slowly to see the freshly whetted edges glint where they caught the
light. I threw it down on the table with a shudder. The old man turned and
went into his bedroom without another word.
I poured myself another glass of the strong whiskey and sat down again
in my chair. I wanted my head to stop spinning. I wanted to go to sleep
but I knew it would be useless. The old thoughts kept crowding in on me.
28 Danny Parker and some of the other boys on Catfish Island trapped squirrels that winter. They skinned them and stretched the pelts and got fifteen
cents for each of them. They were able to buy cigarettes and candy and
cokes with the money. Danny had saved enough for a BB gun. I had never
trapped before. I didn't like the idea much but I wanted to have some money
like the others. I didn't have any traps but getting them was the easiest
part of it all.
Sam Mercer had a pool-room joined to his general store by a swinging
door. He would go in there from time to time to put wood in a pot-bellied
heater that stood at the opposite wall from the door. I went to the store
every day for a while and sat on the bottom shelf of the magazine rack looking through the comics and the magazines. Sam didn't mind very much as
long as I was quiet and didn't bother him.
One day when no one else was in the store, Sam went into the pool-room.
I could see from the windows that no one was coming in either direction
along the road. I could hear Sam clattering wood into the stove at the back
of the pool-room. I simply picked up the box of twelve traps and walked
out. It was very easy.
I set the string of traps along the edge of the forest just west of our house.
In the morning I went to see what I had caught. There was nothing in any
of the traps except the last. There was a big jack rabbit in the last trap. He
was caught high on the back leg. He had been thrashing around for some
time before I got there. I didn't like to look at him. I didn't like the look of
the blood. There was too much of it around there. His belly and his back
legs were dark red and soaking wet with it. This was something I wasn't
ready for. Where the steel teeth held his leg I could see some slick-white
bone. I felt sick and ran home. But I couldn't just leave him out there like
that and I couldn't force myself to go back there and kill him. When I
couldn't stand it any longer I told my old man about the rabbit.
He took a rifle from the wall, put a shell in it and went with me to the
place. I stopped a little way off and pointed it out to him. It's up to him
now, I thought, I've showed him the place. But instead he pushed the rifle
into my hands.
"You'll have to go and kill him, boy," he said. I stood looking down at the
rifle in my hands. I didn't want to go close again and see what the trap was
doing to the leg. I couldn't move.
"You," I said, "you do it, he's moving around so much I don't think I
can do it, maybe you should do it."
"You set the goddam trap," he said. His voice was pounding in my ears.
"You will have to kill him."
I couldn't do it. I let the gun fall out of my hands and started to walk
away. I heard the shot behind me and soon the old man caught up to me.
He was holding the trap by its chain.
29 "Where did you get this?" he said. "It's brand new." I didn't answer.
Where'd you get it, boy," he said. "Did you know Sam had a box of these
stolen?"
"I didn't know," I said. "I found that trap."
"You and me better go down and have a talk with Sam," he said. "Maybe you can tell him where the rest are."
30 I was afraid now. But all I could do was stick to my story. I would just
say I found it along the road. But when we got to the store there was old
Sam talking to a mountie. It jolted me to see the mountie there. The little
courage I had left drained out of me.
"I found the traps in our wood shed," I said. "They belong to Jerome.
He said I could use them. He said he bought them here." I felt the old
man's eyes burning right through me. I couldn't look at him.
The mountie came home with us to ask Jerome about it. We rode in the
mountie's car. It felt hot and close in that car. I was sweating. I could feel
the sweat holding the shirt to my chest and back. It would just be a few
more minutes now, I thought. I could never make my story stick against
Jerome's. They would only have to look at me to see the truth. I would
never be able to carry it off.
But when we walked toward the house from the car, an odd thing happened that saved me. Jerome came around the corner of the house barely
twenty feet from us. He stopped still when he saw the mountie. Then suddenly he broke and ran toward the woods. That ended the matter for me.
The mountie caught him and took him away. There were no more questions
about the traps.
"We know this bird," said the mountie to my old man before he took the
boy away. "Just another of those punk kids trying to run away from Melville
School down the lake. They'll know how to straighten him out when I get
him back."
The sky was already brightening for the morning sun when I stumbled
into my bedroom. I fell asleep across my bed in all my clothes. It was growing dark again that evening before I awoke. My head was pounding on the
inside from the whiskey and I was shivering. There was no fire in the stove.
There had been none all day. I looked for my old man in the other rooms.
He was gone. His one good suit and his heavy topcoat were gone too. The
big trunk holding everything he owned was gone. I ran to the end table in
the front room. The arrowhead was gone.
My stomach felt empty but it started to heave and roll now. I needed a
drink. The whiskey burned its way down like acid and I went puking to
the sink. There was nothing more coming up but I stood retching over the
sink until everything was quiet inside me again. Then I took another drink.
This time I mixed the whiskey half and half with water. It stayed down and
I drank another. I was beginning to feel a little stronger.
I went to the window and looked out over the bay. The herring seiners
were beginning to circle out.there, looking for the schools of herring.
31 SACRIFICE OF OLD UNCLE HANS
JOSEPH LANGLAND
He kept the fires and dusted the sacristy
And rang the countryside to worship Sundays.
He watered graves and even dusted tombstones.
I don't know what in the world he did on Mondays.
(People generally laughed
When they mentioned Uncle Hans.)
He lounged outside the men's rooms Sunday evenings,
Social with punks who wanted to be social
And still not too religious. He bowed goodnight
To the last host, and part of the week he rested.
(How much of the week, I wondered,
When I thought of Uncle Hans.)
He never married, but he kept one cow,
A couple of goats, litter of pigs, some trapgear,
Whiskey for when the church got cold and lonely,
And a spry brace of horses he drove everywhere.
(My, what a time we planned,
Waiting for Uncle Hans.)
He came to clear the downlogs from our timber
One winter in his sleigh, and looked so rosy
My brother said he must have nipped his whiskey
And swallowed half the bottle when he broke her.
(Those who disapproved
Allowed that to Uncle Hans.)
32 He came with sleighbells ringing in the roadways
And went with laughter bouncing in us children,
Until my father cut the rope which bore him
Off to the graveyard he had kept so tidy.
(No use in laughing then,
When they mentioned Uncle Hans.)
When the bells rang, Old Hans was in the tower,
And all the ladies' socials on the lawns
Were placed there by his hands. My, off he went,
And no one put a stone where he had gone.
(Most of the stones I knew
Were placed by Uncle Hans.)
Our weekly confidence held no account
With such extravagance of early rest.
So the local mortuary took his litter
Of pigs, goats, and cow, and did their best.
(No one seemed to do)
As well as Uncle Hans.)
But I saw Old Hans hanging from his shed beam,
Dangling beyond the lantern light that found him,
And lying beyond the scripture that we read him.
Some think it isn't so, but he sleeps soundly.
(Paul and the others tried,
But you had to know Uncle Hans.)
He had a heart, well, more than he could afford.
If many things that he did didn't seem quite right,
You knew he was always giving, if you kept any score.
Dear Lord, how jolly! Well, let him sleep a while.
(I won't say any more, now.
You know, I loved Uncle Hans.)
Except that I've got to add that when he was hanging,
Purpled and swollen with rage, nothing we knew
From prophets to Plato to psalms and Luther and back
Seemed of much use. But I won't let memory go.
(It's the best good thing we have.
I remember my Uncle Hans.)
33 THE
LICE
WILFRED WATSON
i.
There was a certain bishop of Edmonton who greatly deplored the behaviour of his congregation and of the people of Edmonton, whom he
thought guilty of covetousness and greed, envy, sloth, drunkenness, gluttony
and lechery, anger, vanity and pride. He would often talk about this matter
with his two priests, especially with the younger, whom he loved. But they
preferred to think of their congregation as being materialistic. No, no—said
the bishop. He liked to call materialism, he said, by its older names. He
would roll off on his tongue the Latin terms for the seven deadly sins: super-
bia, invidia, iracundia, accidia, etc. etc. When the people of Edmonton's
actions deserved these labels, he wouldn't neglect to apply them, he told
his subordinates. That is what these labels were for.
34 He preached a good many powerful sermons on the subject of the deadly
sins. One Lent he preached a series beginning, Pride, and going on through
the list of sins till he got to the last. His congregation took these tongue-
lashings in a tolerant way. They—the serious people among them—agreed
with their bishop about the nature of sin; but though they felt he was right
to preach about the utter holiness of God and the deplorable filthiness of
sin, they felt that the bishop didn't rightly understand the tenacious nature
of sinfulness. How could he? He was a saintly-minded man, and had mastered his passions and appetites. It was easy for him to resist temptation—
and besides, he was a priest, and not only that, getting on in years. He
couldn't comprehend how difficult it is for the non-clergy, even when they
had a mind to, to cure the sinfulness of Adam in our natures—especially
with this demon of materialism attacking us from the radios and television-
sets, from the newspapers and the motion-picture houses, from magazines,
advertising mail and shop-windows.
Mr. Dobbs, a good Christian, though heretical on the difficult topic of
birth-control, said as much to the bishop one day. If only, he ended up by
exclaiming, the people of this diocese could be made to see their sins—in
all their ugliness—as you have described it—then, perhaps, father, then,
perhaps . . .
The bishop thought deeply about what Mr. Dobbs had said to him . . .
But no way to show his flock the nature of sin came to his mind . . .
If only sin could be made visible.
If only . . .
At length, he decided to take his difficulty to God.
If only, he said in his heart, God would make the sin of each sinner in
the diocese into a hunchback, why, how many souls would be saved for the
New Jerusalem, saved in fact from terrible damnation. If only . . . He
shivered a little at the thought. Suppose his own hump were uglier and fatter and more conspicuous than the lump of sin on the backs of his flock?
Suppose he himself were, in spiritual pride, uglier and fouler than any of
his congregation? It would be for the good of his own soul, he decided, if
any condition of sin in him were made manifest.
So the bishop worded an outright prayer, as the spiritual leader of his
flock, to God, that the sins of his congregation and of himself, should be
made visible to himself and to all of them.
Then he fell asleep.
The next morning was Sunday. It was, the bishop saw when he awoke
from dreamless sleep, a glorious clear fresh sunny morning. The sun sang
in the sky like an angel. The blue sky sang. The trees seemed to be wearing
a fresher green than usual, as if they had been washed with rain during
the night—perhaps they had—but no—the ground was dry. It was the sun
shining through the marvellously clear air of Edmonton, that made every-
35 thing so clean and bright.
In church, when the bishop turned round to look over the new clothes
and the clean faces of his congregation, the people themselves seemed newer
and brighter and more colourful than ever before. The gay hats of the
young girls . . . the red dresses . . . the shirts and trousers and jackets of
the men . . . even the blacks of those who had come decently garbed in
black . . . seemed to glow with the colour of the morning and of the sun
outside.
A sombre thought struck the bishop. Perhaps there had been another of
those false "sales" at the Westmount shopping centre . . . and this new
look . . . this freshness was simply just that. It was then that the bishop
remembered his thoughts about hunchbacks and his prayer to God the night
before.
He glanced at the shoulders of his flock to see if his prayer had been—but
no, and he said a 'Thy will be done' to himself, rather hastily. A terrible fear
struck him. He wriggled his shoulders. They seemed, as he did so, rather
odd. He squeezed his elbows to his side, trying to feel his back. He looked
round, and finally, put his hand to his shoulder, as if—and this, he realized
glumly was a deceit, a hypocrisy—he were adjusting his clothing. But no
... his terrible prayer . . . God in his mercy . . . who sees all issues . . .
had ... in his wisdom . . . seen fit not to grant. Non sum dignus . . .
Introibo ad Altare Dei—Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini—I will
go into the altar of God—Our help is in the name of the Lord . . . the
bishop had got so far in the saying of the order of mass. And the confession
was over, Conftteor Deo omnipotenti, beatae Mariae semper Virgini . . .
I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever a virgin .... The bishop
had got as far as the absolution: Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus, et,
dimissis peccatis vestris . . . May almighty God have mercy upon you, and
forgive you your sins . . .
It was then that the bishop's eyes fell upon the crucifix on the altar, for
at this point he had to turn to the altar and say, silently,
Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech thee . . .
The words turned to ice in his throat.
For, streaming from the crucifix . . . was . . . terrible thing to see, a
swarm . . . yes, swarm of some sort of insects . . . No, not streaming from
it . . . but drawn to it ... as if to a magnet . . . which was sucking them
in . . . insects . . .
The bishop didn't know what to think. He wasn't sure what he ought to
do . . . He prostrated himself, burying himself for a time in prayer . . .
Then he stood up before the crucifix . . . and yes ... it was insects that
were hanging in clusters there ... as if a swarm of bees had alighted . . .
as if the blessed crucifix were their queen . . . but, domine misere, it was
not bees, but some small loathsome insects . . .
36 Lice . . . said the bishop. Lice . . . And then, in an instant the meaning of the miracle—for it was a miracle that his eyes were glazed by—dawned
on him, as clearly as if an angel had told him. God had chosen his own way
to make the sins of his congregation (and perhaps the sins of the people of
Edmonton, too) visible to the eye of sense; he had chosen to turn these
foul loathsome wickednesses, evil thoughts, covetousnesses, cupidities of the
flesh, into lice polluting the crucifix.
Even when this realization had punctured its way into his mind, the bishop, like someone who has received a telegram of great importance, understands it, but remains unbelieving, put (or rather pushed) forward his arm,
and stretched his finger out to touch one of the hideous things .... The
insect was crushed by the doubting Thomas finger, and a drop of blood
smeared—polluted the altar-cloth. Polluted? Ought he, the bishop fearfully
checked himself, to conclude, polluted? Might not this blood be the blessed
blood of the Redeemer of mankind? He sank feebly down upon his knees
again, and hid himself in a state between trance and wordless prayer.
Not knowing what they should do, his priests and his acolytes, who had
seen almost in the same instant (but with far less comprehension) what he
had seen, came towards him, fearing that he had been overcome. But he
37 pulled himself together, and signalled to them to turn to their ritual places.
And he went on, as if instructed by God Himself, in this emergency, with
mass. He didn't realize what he was saying. In his mind two ideas were in
conflict—swinging backwards and forwards like an irresistible pendulum,
which swayed him with its motion. He thought: a miracle, a miracle. But
his next thought was: these sins have been turned into lice. As far as the
glory of the one thought raised him up, the shame of the other sucked him
down.
There were hanging to the crucifix, it seemed to him, all sorts of small
noxious pestiferous blood-sucking insects. There was the common louse.
There were beg-bugs, flat and stupid-looking discs of redness; and every
sort of louse. He had seen—once, on the farm he was brought up on, a
chicken-house hanging with ropes of chicken fleas; and he thought of the
pecked rumps of these sorry infected fowl—their featherless backs bleeding
where other chickens with no less melancholy backs, had beaked them, pecking at lice, but beaking through the skin. But no sight as horrible as the one
before his eyes.
When the credo was over, he went down to the communion rail, and stood
facing his flock. Casting his eye over them, as a shepherd counts his sheep,
or as a father casts his eye over his children, he marvelled at their shining
faces, at their shining clothes, at their shining presence—the light seemed to
come from within them—they seemed like a churchful of angels, not people.
The other swing of the pendulum compelled him. He didn't know what to
say to them. It certainly wasn't a time for preaching. At last the words came,
almost of their own.
"My children, turn round your heads and look at one another."
Surprised, they didn't at once obey him, but stared straight and fixedly at
him.
"My children, look at one another."
Shyly, first one and then another turned round to look at his neighbour,
and then, catching his neighbour's eye, turned back in a puzzled fashion to
the old priest. It seemed to them he stood there in front of them like a
shining angel.
"My children," he said over again, with smiling patience, "look at yourselves—turn round and look at yourselves. Take a good look at yourselves.
It is a good look, isn't it?"
Less shyly this time, they did as they were told, and then turned their eyes
back to the priest.
"What is it," he asked them, in the softest voice—in a voice not louder
than a whisper—"what is it you see—what do you see?—You see," he told
them, "the beauty of holiness adorning each one of you."
He stood silent for a long time.
At length he found words to tell them what had happened. "God has
38 performed a wonderful miracle. We think in our hearts that there aren't
any more miracles performed in this twentieth century after Christ's birth—
we think God has lost the ability to do a miracle. But behold, God has performed one. God has shown each of you the beauty of human beings, even
in this shape we stand in—it is a beautiful shape, if it isn't made ugly by sin."
He paused. "Look round you at yourselves again." They still didn't understand him, but they looked around about them, as he told them to.
"And now," he said to them, in a voice sepulchral and low—the voice of
one buried in the grave, "look at the crucifix on the altar . .  ."
Look at the crucifix on the altar . . . when he said this low-voiced injunction a second time, all their eyes were trained on the crucifix.
None of them could see clearly what it was that had darkened, had
clouded over, the shining silver of the cross . . . and the bishop explained
to them what had happened. As he spoke, the vision of brightness which he
saw resting upon them, vanished.
In thrilling fatherly voice he implored them to gaze on the miracle, and
see how God had made visible their sins to them, in the form of lice . . .
lice which he had caused to infest the crucifix, nasty, loathsome, bloodsucking creatures, lice . . . fleas . . . and bedbugs and this was why . . .
His voice trailed away into inaudibility, mere imploration. But everyone
in the church understood what he was trying, and unable, to say.
2.
When the news of the miracle spread to the world outside—as it very
quickly did spread, a nine-day's wonder resulted.
The Edmonton Journal gave the miracle front-page headlines, and for
several weeks reported daily on the ebb and flow of the swarm of insects to
be seen clinging to the cross of the church. Time wrote up the miracle in a
leading article, honoured the bishop with a cover portrait, and commented
on the remarkable reticence he displayed—indeed, complained of it. In truth,
he wasn't interested in this sort of fame. Life sent photographers to him, but
the bishop refused them admittance to the church. Whether they did take
photographs surreptitiously, or whether they manufactured them, photographs of the miraculously infested crucifix appeared, in the current issue
of Life.
Even as far away as Rome, notice was taken of the "miracle of Edmonton," as it was soon called. The Vatican was bound to take an interest in it,
for, as may be expected, scientists of a sceptical turn of mind asked to be
allowed to test the validity of the alleged miraculous happening. The bishop,
however, refused to allow them access to it. They challenged him in the
name of truth. There was no lack of witness to the truth, he said. Many
39 eyewitnesses of unimpeachable veracity testified to what had happened—
and all that sceptics wanted to do was to find some way of throwing doubt
on the occurrence.
The editor of the Edmonton Journal held the bishop's stand to be right.
An editorial appeared which took the bishop's part against the scientists—
this editorial pointed out that the saintliness of the bishop had done more
for Edmonton in the way of publicity than anything else in the city's history,
with the possible exception of the victories of the town's football team, the
Eskimos. To this editorial, a University of Alberta classics professor replied
caustically, in a letter, that he, for one, didn't want Edmonton to become
another home of superstition, like Lourdes, in France.
As for the bishop, he withdrew his skirts with remarkable dexterity from
all these unsavory arguments about what had happened.
His heart indeed was set elsewhere.
And the next Sunday after the appearance of the lice, he rejoiced to
notice that the swarm on the crucifix had very noticeably diminished. He
might have attributed this lessening (or so I am inclined to think) to a
waning of the force of the miracle. But he believed, as a result of their sins
being made visible to them, his congregation had been at some pains to
resist the temptations of sin; and that the crucifix was a gauge of their
success.
When he spoke to them in church, that was what he said. "My children,
I rejoice to see that . . ."
In a low voice, he begged them to try with all their hearts to continue
the improvement of the past week ... he knew that a long-settled-in habit
of vice couldn't be cured in a few days . . . but God was helping them . . .
and he said he looked forward to the time when the crucifix would be completely free of lice which still clung to it in swarms . . .
It is difficult, however, for human beings to resist temptation for periods
of longer than a few days, even when all the world has its eye on what is
happening; and the second Sunday after the miracle occurred showed a
marked increase in the swarming lice.
The bishop in a reproachful voice recalled to his flock what was happening. They looked at his reproachful figure sadly, as if they were all signifying
to him, we can't help it, but . . . we are flesh and blood, merely. They received what he said to them in patience, at least. It was not so on the third
Sunday after the miracle. To the bishop, with anxious eyes on the crucifix
of the church as a true gauge of the sinfulness of his people, it seemed, on
this third Sunday after God had spoken to them with the plague of lice, as
if his flock was more sinful than ever they had been.
His voice, though he tried to modulate it, was petulant. It bit into the
air like an iron rasp. He was not heard in patience. People in the church
stalls fidgeted and squirmed. It was as if one and all were shrugging their
40 shoulders. When he called on them to look at their shame, visible as lice
on the crucifix, they didn't raise their eyes, but looked away almost defiantly.
He sensed their hostility.
I must not lose patience with them, he told himself. Human nature, he
reminded himself, is very very weak. It was natural for his flock to relapse
in this way. He must go out to them, as a father, in loving confidence. He
stood at the door of his church, after mass, and tried to give each of them
his personal assurance of his belief in them . . .
Person to person, some of them relented of their stiff attitude in church.
But others openly rebelled. One of them went so far as to ask, how can we
be sure, reverend father, that what has happened to the cross is a sign from
God, and not an insult from the devil. Another church member said, was it
really a good thing to be able to see one's sins in so dramatic a fashion. He
wasn't speaking for himself, mind you, father—but wouldn't it tend to
harden people's hearts and make them brazen—just as a prostitute is turned
into a brazen huzzy by the outward, open wickedness of her life of vice?
The good bishop shook his head. No, no, he said. We must take it as a
miracle from God. If it is a miracle, how can it work for evil?
One of his priests ventured to speak to this question. The younger of the
two (the one he loved particularly) observed that, if the result of the manifestation of lice on the crucifix did cause more sinfulness, then ought we not
to conclude that it was, on this very argument of the bishop, one of the
works of the devil?
No, no, no, said the bishop in anguish.
The younger priest held his tongue until the bishop had gone, and then
observed, to the other priest, that "we must conclude this, mustn't we?"—"I
don't know what to think," said the elder of the two.
The bishop however, received instructions from his superior, the archbishop, that it was plain, from the scandal of the "miracle," that the
"miracle" must be adjudged "no miracle." He must therefore have the cross
cleansed of the "miraculous" lice, which were, in all probability, due to
some natural cause, and to be accounted for as some unusual but perfectly
natural plague.
This intervention of his superior was perhaps brought about because some
professors of science at the University had examined specimens of the infestation, as they called it, and had pronounced upon the nature of the insects
making up their "sample," obtained with a genuine zeal for truth but in an
unlawful way. All were such varieties of bloodsucking vermin as could easily
be found in Edmonton. There was no satisfactory explanation forthcoming
as to how they occurred where they did in such numbers. However, according to one wag, a rough estimate of the number of insects on the crucifix
could be made; and hence, a count of the number of sins committed in
Edmonton.
41 Moreover, an analysis of blood taken from some of the lice was made. The
reports about this analysis were conflicting. Not all the samples were said
to be human blood; and more than one type of human blood was detected.
It could not be maintained then that the blood in the lice was the blood of
the Saviour, as the bishop was said to suppose. All in all, these investigations
didn't completely prove the miracle to be a fraud, but they left considerable
room for speculation.
With a sad heart, the bishop ordered the crucifix to be cleansed of the lice
infesting it. What his hopes were, may be expected. He was consequently
most despondent when, after vigorous disinfection, the cross was once more
free of lice.
He went to his room and prayed, not for another miracle, but simply
prayed—wordlessly he opened his heart in passive obedience to God. He
remained in prayer for most of the night. When the next morning—it was
Wednesday morning—he again went into the church, he didn't dare raise
his eyes at once to the cross.
When he did so, he saw it was clean—as clean as the cleaning people had
left it. He realized that what had occurred might easily be taken as a defilement of the church—that the church might have to be re-consecrated. The
archbishop indeed had gently hinted as much in an exchange of letters.
On Thursday, the crucifix was still free of infestation. And so it was on
Friday. And on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, the Edmonton Journal reported what had taken
place in the church during the week: the cleansing away of the lice infesting
the crucifix. Though asserting his belief in the sanctity of the bishop, the editor urged his readers not to draw hasty conclusions from exceptional circumstances. Perhaps, this strange happening might prove to be, not a supernatural event, but one of those many natural miracles that our age has
provided, and its solution a feather in the cap, not of religion, but of science.
But when, on Sunday morning, the bishop, about to say mass, raised his
eyes to the cross, there, lo and behold, were the lice clinging to it, as if it had
not been subject to the activities, on the Tuesday before, of the vermin
exterminators.
He wanted to cry out, then and there, Look, O ye of little faith, the lice
have returned—your sins and mine have again been made visible. But he
made no allusion to the repetition of the miracle, as he thought, or to the
re-infestation of the crucifix, as most of his congregation thought. He learned
that they thought so, as he spoke to them after mass.
They seemed to be daring him to assert that the crawling insect life on
the crucifix was, in fact, a miraculous manifestation of their sins.
He held his peace.
By doing so, he earned the approval of his younger priest (the one he
loved), who remarked to his brother priest that he thought the bishop had
42 shown wisdom and discretion in maintaining silence in the face of the return
of the plague of lice.
The bishop again ordered the exterminators into the church. But Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday—though they
exerted all their efforts, the exterminators had no success. They were this
time unable to cleanse the cross of its vermin. Nor could they find any natural cause why it should be infested.
They did spray the sanctuary and the body of the church with quantities
of an insecticide having deodorant properties. The smell of the lice had
become extremely unpleasant—as the younger priest said to his confrere,
"God is not only making our sins known to our eyes, but to our noses." The
odour of the spray which the vermin-exterminators used rather enforced the
stench of the vermin (they seemed unable to kill) than eradicated it or
covered it up. As one entered the church, a strong suspicion of violets made
one's nose quiver. But this scent of violets quickly changed to a strong whiff
of carrion. It was as if, in a flower garden, you were hit by an overpowering
smell given off, say, by the putrefying body of a dead animal, a dead cat or
dog.
43 Because of this smell, and for other reasons, I should have thought that
there would have been no congregation on the following Sunday, but such
was not the case. The fact is, an angry congregation makes a full church.
The bishop, for his part, flatly and without emotion (still calling his flock,
"my children") re-asserted his belief in the miracle. He said that they were
right to be ashamed of what had happened to the crucifix, but, though this
shame was a good thing, they were wrong to think there was no way to end
the pollution of their church.
The church was polluted by sin.
It could be purified by fighting against sin, and God had helped to make
this fight easier, by showing them their sins.
The bishop was nevertheless conscious all through mass of the hostility
of the people.
After mass, very few spoke to him, but one forthright, golden-hearted old
woman spoke out her mind. "I think it is a miracle, father. But it is a very
hard one for human flesh and blood to stomach."
"God will provide us with strength."
"It is a very hard thing, reverend father."
3-
All that next week, the bishop reflected on what she said to him. He wondered if he had been too fanatical in his zeal to reform his flock. He recalled
to mind how he had asked for the miracle, the wonderful vision he had had
of his people, that first morning, when the miracle had come, and the unhappy aftermath. Was God judging him? He felt very despondent.
Little by little, however, he began to repair his morale. He chided himself for lacking courage, he blamed himself for lack of faith—he blamed
himself, too, for not realizing that he must face a desperate struggle with the
forces of evil. He also reminded himself that he had an ally in God.
After all, the bishop told himself, he was the shepherd of his flock, and
the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He himself must give up
his life for his sheep, if need be.
By Saturday, a course of action shaped itself in his brain. That night, he
again prayed articulately to God.
Thy will be done, O Lord—but, if possible, let the pollution of the cross
with the sins of my flock cease—even if the lice could infest me—yes, yes,
the shame of the polluted cross is too great for them—let the lice infest
me . . .
So he prayed.
The next morning, Sunday morning, he knew that his prayer had been
answered, there was no doubt of that. For he himself was covered with the
44 lice. He was torn between thankfulness to God, and the bodily torment of
the plague of vermin.
In church, he saw that the cross was free. As he heard mass being said,
he began to wonder if he had the strength to undertake the task he had
asked for. After the credo, he went to the altar rail, and again stood before
his flock.
"By miracle," he told them, "it has pleased God to show us all, my children, how our sins hurt his Son. But here is another miracle. He will now
show us, such is his will, how his priest is hurt by the sins of his people—
your sins, my children."
There was neither joy nor reproach in the bishop's voice. He spoke in a
factual manner. Having finished speaking, he divested himself of his clothes,
down to the waist. Then he held his arms up above his head, so that all in
the church could see how the lice which had clung to the crucifix, were now
transferred to him.
He walked down the centre aisle of the church and back again, all the
time holding his hands above his head.
Then he drew his clothes about him.
He felt, during the rest of that Sunday, and through the other days of the
week following, that what God had made happen He had made happen for
the best. There was, he believed, a great decrease in the number of lice
crawling over his body. He was by no means free from the physical discomfort of them. The comforting thing was, the lice had decreased.
On the following Sunday, he once again experienced the joy he had
known, in a surpassing degree, on the day of the first miracle.
It seemed to him that the people in the church were shining with a new
cleanness—especially the faces of some of the girls and young women of the
congregation seemed to be lit up with the light that must once have shone
in the Garden of Eden, the garden of aboriginal innocence . . .
But, immediately after mass had been said, he sensed a relapse. He knew
there must be some retrogression—his experience of human nature told him
that. But he suspected from the great increase in the number of lice on his
body that the increase had been disappointingly great.
Throughout the following week, the lice on his body increased. In fact,
on Sunday, he could hardly bring himself to go to mass.
But he did.
And once again, he stood up before the people, and stripped off his
clothes, and showed them his body covered with lice.
"My children," he began, but he got no further.
An unprecedented thing happened.
A woman near him interrupted him. "The smell, father"—this was as far
as she got and stopped surprised at herself. "It's the smell of sin—it's your
smell, my children," the bishop answered her.
45 A loud arrogant male voice took up the woman's complaint.
"I'm a Christian, but it's not sanitary for you to appear like this, father
. . . you ought not to come into church like it . . ."
A chorus of voices took up the protest, and soon everybody joined the
hubbub.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, father, coming to mass like
this . . ."—"Stay at home, father, until you are fit to be seen in public . . ."—"This isn't any miracle, father, it's just filth .... How can we
expect our kids to keep clean and wash the backs of their ears and comb their
hair, father, if you come to church all covered with lice?"—"Be off with
you, father, you're lousy . . ."—"Go and wash, father."—"Take a bath,
father."—"Wash yourself in Lysol, father."
"Shut up," a girl shouted out hysterically.
The bishop steadied himself on the rail of O'Brien's pew, and wrote with
his finger in the dust—for the wind had filled the church with the summer
dust, which hung over the city like a cloud, and, sifting into the church,
made all the wood-work gritty to touch.
A boy's voice whined from the back of the church, "Go de-louse yourself
in the river Jordan, father."
"My children," the bishop began again, "these are your sins . . ."
"No, they are lice, father."
"They look like lice, father."
"My children," the bishop wept . . .
"Off with him."
"Out of the church with him."
"Chase him out."
With the women, girls and children screaming denunciation or encouragement, the male sheep of the bishop's flock pushed out of their stalls, and,
approaching their half-naked shepherd, began to butt him out of the church.
His priests ran to help him into the bishop's residence, which was adjacent.
Once in, he threw his discarded clothing across a wooden library table, and
then searched in the pocket of his jacket for a packet of cigarettes—it was a
packet of Player's he had bought as long ago as the week before the first
miracle. He hadn't smoked a cigarette since then.
He fumbled with trembling fingers at the packet. Approving this indulgence, one of his priests (the younger one he loved), reached into his own
pocket for a booklet of matches, tore off a match, and stood waiting to light
the bishop's cigarette. But when the bishop got his box of smokes open, he
found the half-filled package swarming with lice. They clung to the cigarette
he started to extract, and he pushed it back into the contaminated container.
"Have one of mine, father," urged the younger priest, and offered him a
cigarette of his own.
"No, no—no thank you, my son."
46 "A smoke will do you good, father."
"I will have one of my own," he told his priest. And he extracted the
cigarette he had just rejected, tapped it so that the lice clinging to it dropped
back into the box, and put the cigarette to his mouth.
The priest lit the cigarette.
But the lice had crept into the tobacco, and the stench of burning insects
made the smoking of the cigarette impossible.
The bishop butted it.
As he did so, an upboiling of emotion, a tide burning hot and freezing
cold by turns, seethed through every blood vessel, every artery and vein,
every capillary, every fibre of his flesh. His skin contracted under its covering of vermin. What he experienced was a recognition. He knew ... at this
moment . . . with absolute certainty . . . that he was picked out to be a
martyr . . . and, too, he knew that his suffering . . . the passion of his
martyrdom . . . was now begun.
"Lord," he said, "I am afraid. But let your will be done."
He stood up erect, a sense of glory swelling within him, and pulling at his
stiff, slack, aging skin—a sense of glory made trebly delicious to his senses
by the itching of the lice which clung to him and were sucking his blood. His
skin was aflame. If only the world knew, he thought to himself—it was for
nothing so sensually delicious as this, that men lusted after the caresses of
harlots, and gave up their immortal souls for the embraces of adultery.
Yet it was an agony.
Embarrassed, awkward, his two priests stood beside him, not knowing what
to do, or what to advise. The younger priest was thinking over a course of
action. They were both startled when the bishop spoke to them in a voice of
command.
"Read to me."
"Read what to you, father?"
"Read to me from the scriptures."
"Wouldn't it be better," the younger priest presumed to say, "if you tried
taking a shower—I'm thinking of your personal comfort," he added, for he
saw the look kindling in the bishop's eye.
"Read to me from the scriptures," the bishop ordered him.
"Yes, father, what shall I read?"
"From the last chapter of the Book of Isaiah," decided the bishop. Sion
deserta facta est. Jerusalem desolata est . . . quomodo si cui mater blandia-
tur—but as one who comforts his mother. I will comfort you . . .
He understood now, as the younger priest read to him from Isaiah—he
grasped now with the firm-handed grasp of inner comprehension, the meaning of the phrase, vicarious sacrifice. He . . . God was going to accept him
... as a sacrifice for his flock. Because of the shepherd's love for his sheep,
the sheep would be saved—what foolish sheep they are! But this, it seemed
47 to the bishop, at this moment, was the most precious of the truths of
Christendom. With this imperfect coin of our lives, we can buy the lives of
others, and save them from . . . and so perfect ourselves . . . Yet as he
thought these words, he realized that he had never loved his congregation.
At best, he tolerated them. Indeed, he had despised his flock, he had, hadn't
he, in trying to purify it—make it what it wasn't? Now he knew the formula.
He must offer himself. And God had accepted his pretended love for his
people, as if it had been a real living love. Or was God showing to him his
own worthlessness? No, that was an anthropomorphic idea. Rather, God
was taking him at the word of his lips, and overlooking the empty hollow-
ness behind that word—the emptiness of his heart. The bishop recalled the
exemplum, the little medieval sermon anecdote, of Pers, the usurer. Pers, the
usurer, had never done a charitable deed in all his life. But once he had
flung, not in but out of charity, in anger, a loaf of bread at a starving woman.
This act of violence had been reckoned —after the system of accounting of
heaven—as a good deed to the credit of Pers, the usurer.
"Now let me be for a little while," the bishop said to them, adding, gently,
"my sons." He went up to his room. When the younger of the priests visited
him after a short lapse of time, he found the bishop collecting together his
belongings.
"You are leaving us, father?"
"You have been making arrangements for me to leave you, haven't you,
my son?" The apparent clairvoyance of the bishop disturbed the priest.
"Something must be done soon, father."
"Yes, my son. I'm collecting my personal things together. But I shan't, I
think, have much use for them."
The priest bowed his head, and left.
4.
Later in the day, the bishop agreed, with no fuss, without a single objection, to a proposal of his younger priest. It was that he should leave his see,
leave Edmonton, and go into retirement. If he did agree—all the arrangements, said the younger priest, had been made. An unoccupied farm-house
had been put at the bishop's disposal by a member of the congregation, on
account of the great scandal the church was suffering. It was provided with
bed, table, chest of drawers, other simple furnishings, and the owner wanted
no remuneration for it. Nearby, there lived an old woman who had agreed
to look after the bishop—she was unfortunately a Presbyterian, but otherwise of unexceptionable character. The arrangement, the younger priest
had admitted to the older priest, seemed almost to be a providence of God.
"But will he be persuaded . . ." the older man had wondered. "Ah, yes . . .
that's our difficulty," said the priest whom the bishop loved. It had proved,
48 however, to be no difficulty at all.
After all the arrangements had been made, there did occur some difficulty
in getting the bishop transported out to his new house. No taxicab would
agree to accept the lice-ridden churchman as a fare. No one in the bishop's
congregation seemed anxious to transport the bishop out there—partly from
shame, for no one wanted to be the person chosen to drive the bishop away
from the fold; partly, too, there was fear of infesting the car in which the
verminous bishop would have to ride.
Put to some pressure, finally one church member offered his car and his
services as a driver. It was understood that the car should afterwards be
fumigated thoroughly at the church's expense. If the driver of the car picked
up any of the vermin on his own person, he too was to be compensated.
Some simple precautions were taken. A stout white heavy cotton sheet was
draped over the back seat, and another sheet was stretched across between
the back seat and the driver's seat—so that the driver would be shielded as
much as possible from infestation. Oddly enough, the lice seemed to prefer
the bishop to the car or its driver, for none of them (so I was told) were
afterwards found either on the driver's person, in the back seat upholstery,
in the armrests, in the lining of the car roof, or under the floor-mat. "Isn't
that miraculous," the driver said to the younger priest, who had been largely
responsible for these arrangements. "Very remarkable," was the answer.
49 A fairly large crowd gathered at the bishop's house to witness his departure. The police were present, in case of trouble. But there was no demonstration. His farewells were much abbreviated. The elder priest offered to
come and live with the bishop. But the bishop, with his eye on the younger
priest, whom he loved, wouldn't hear of it. Both priests, he said, were needed
in the church. A few intransigents from his congregation assembled a small
group of children with fir boughs, which were to have been flung under the
car as it drove away. But though the little mites waved their fir boughs
faintly at him, no boughs were cast under the front of the car.
The crowd was rather sheepish. They knew the bishop knew they were
glad he was leaving. So they merely stood about stupidly. Only one jaundiced
teen-ager called out, with a voice of brass and ashes, "Come back, father,
when you've got rid of the lice."
"That will never be," said the bishop, but he spoke to himself merely.
When the bishop had departed, the archbishop from afar caused the
church to be re-consecrated, as he had beforehand decided to do.
5-
The Presbyterian widow who was to look after the bishop discovered him
standing alone in the kitchen of his new house. She had seen his car arrive,
and came down "to be of use," she said. She was shocked by the fact that
he was unescorted by friends, came, in fact, unaccompanied except for the
driver, who, as soon as the bishop had alighted, and his few possessions been
put in the house, fled down the road like a juvenile with a stolen car and
with a few drinks under his windbreaker. Her good honest Presbyterian
heart revolted at what she believed to be the treachery of the bishop's flock.
"And they call themselves God's Christians," she exclaimed angrily to herself, "why, I wouldn't treat a dog so. The dirty Catholics . . ."
She tried to make the bishop feel at home and cared for. But the bishop
was not responsive. The woman herself felt strange in his presence, and
supposed he must feel strange in hers. As for his affliction, she resolutely
closed her eyes to it. She did, however, take pains to assure him that there
was a hot bath for him, whenever he wanted to avail himself of it. (The
house had propane gas, and the younger priest had arranged to have a new
cylinder of gas attached.)
After the bishop had seen where everything was, came introductions.
"What shall I call you, sir?"
"My flock called me 'father,'" the bishop told here.
"Very well, sir, 'father' it is from now on."
"And what shall I call you?" the bishop asked her.
5° "M'name is Mrs. McGinis. You can call me that, if y'like, sir. But the
lads at the ranch, well, they call me mom, or mother . . . guess I am older
than you, sir, if'n we took a count of our years."
"Then if you wish it—I will call you . . . mother," said the bishop.
"There's some lovely nice hot water in the tank," were her parting words,
to which she added, very self-consciously, "father."
"Thank you, thank you," said the bishop.
She went away muttering curses against the Pope, Cardinal Sheen, mon-
signor the archbishop, and all Roman traitors—-"leaving the old man alone,
like this. The dirrty Dogans, the dirrty Dogans."
6.
All day, the bishop's heart had been anaesthetized by inner misery. But
as soon as the Presbyterian widow had left, his feelings began to awake. As
long as his heart had been numb, he hadn't noticed the torment of the lice.
Now that his heart revived, stirred first of all by the solicitude of Mrs. McGinis, and especially by the flowers she had set out for him at his table, desk,
and bedroom altar, he could feel the agony of the lice. He tried to school
himself not to scratch at his hands, arms, limbs, or trunk. But every now
and again he lost control of his fury, and clawed savagely into his flesh, until
the futility of scratching wearied his fingers.
He sat down at the table to eat the meal arranged for him by his part-
time housekeeper. But as he reached for the potato salad, cold meats and
pickles that Mrs. McGinis had left him, lice from his body dropped on to
the plate of food, and though he tried to brush them away, they seemed
viciously intent on getting into his food and contaminating it. At length, he
got up from the table without eating. He made tea, but he drank none, for
it too was spoiled by lice falling into his cup.
He took off his clothes, because the suffering was less when he was almost
naked. He stood up, because the vermin were most bearable in that position.
He was almost caught in half-naked state by Mrs. McGinis, when she
called later on in the evening to see if all was well.
After she had gone, he did eat a very little food, and drink a sip of tea.
He lay down on his back on his camp-cot, and at long last, very late at night,
slept a little. He couldn't pray. All he could do was to keep asking, out of his
affliction, How long, O Lord, how long?
The next day, he tried taking a bath. But though many of the vermin
were drowned in the very hot bath he poured himself, his suffering wasn't
lessened, for the water made his skin more tender to the biting of the bloodsucking insects. He couldn't dry himself, because the chafing of the towel
51 set up an intolerable itching. As he stood dripping onto a towel, he decided
that bathing was a luxury he couldn't repeat. Anxious not to offend Mrs.
McGinis, he was bothered by the state he left the bathtub in. As much as
he tried to wipe it clean of vermin, fresh ones fell into it. Finally, he abandoned the task (— an odd fact this, considering that all the reports I have
had of the matter suggest that the lice were attracted to him as if to a
magnet.)
On the night of the second day, he slept early and long. Next morning,
he awoke greatly improved in his mind. He was able to pray; and he prayed
for strength. When he had finished his prayers, he encouraged himself by
thinking how glorious it was—his terrible fate. He had wanted to cure his
sheep of their sins by showing them how ugly they were. But he was doing
something better. He was actually helping those who couldn't cleanse themselves. He was taking to himself their iniquity. Certainly not in love—in
wilfulness . . . but . . . God, he felt sure, was accepting his pitiful effort
as if it was a true sacrifice. In desperation, he had said, let the sins of my
flock come to me as lice. It was only half a promise, but God had insisted
that he keep it. This was the thought which steadied his heart.
But later that day a relapse occurred. The afternoon was sunny and hot,
the humidity in itself trying. He took off his clothes. He tried to pray, but
couldn't. He shut himself up in his bedroom and wouldn't see Mrs. McGinis, who nevertheless called out to him, when she left, about the availability of bathwater . . . And why didn't he take a nice bath? He would
feel so much better, she was sure .  .  .
Finally, his endurance broke.
O God, he prayed, let me be rid of these accursed lice, so that I can return
to my church. Don't punish me with them any more. I've had enough. O
God, let me be set free of this torment.
He fell into a long sleep.
In the morning, all the lice were gone.
7;
He couldn't at first believe either his eyes or his skin, over which he kept
running his finger. He immediately threw himself into a great tub of water,
and bathed himself with wonderful enjoyment. He was amazed to find that
his skin was completely rid of irritation. He gave himself a marvellously
revitalizing rub-down with the bath towel. He shaved, a thing he hadn't
been able to do. Then, feeling like a new man, he had an excellent breakfast, drank two cups of instant coffee, and smoked three or four cigarettes.
When Mrs. McGinis came about eleven o'clock in the morning, she said
to him, "Why, father, you look as if you'd taken on a new lease on life!—
I see you've had a bath," she added, glancing in at the damp towels in the
52 bathroom. "I told you it was all that was needed—it's the simple remedies
that work. Nothing like soap and water. You see," she told him, "you have
another nice hot bath tonight. Keep them at bay it will."
She insisted on changing his bedsheets. "But—why, you haven't soiled
them at all," she said.
The next morning he took another bath.
He wondered how long he ought to wait before going back to his church.
A day—or two days? He seemed so useless, just waiting around in the farmhouse. He smoked cigarettes, given to him by the younger priest as a farewell
gift. He ate his meals. He thought of how surprised his congregation would
be, to see him again, so quickly. There would be no reproaches. It might be
that he would love them better than he had done hitherto, because of the
bond of failure between them—he had failed and they had failed. There
would be mutual forgiveness. As he conceded his failure, as, putting it on
like a new garment, he got somewhat more used to it, his need for the community of the church became more insistent. He must get back right away.
But at the end of the day, he discovered one thing: he could never go
back. It would require just as much courage of him, to think out the new
philosophy of life going back would require . . . the excuses . . . the new
goals . . . that . . . Ah, just as much   ... as staying.
That night he didn't sleep at all. By morning, he found himself, with his
new vitality, hating his cleanness. He bathed himself contemptuously. If
only, he said to himself, I still had the lice—better the torment of the lice,
than the emptiness of what I am now.
He didn't dare pray.
But, by that evening, he could endure himself no longer. O God, he prayed,
let the lice return to me. Forgive my weakness. Let the lice return, if it is
your will, let the lice return . . . non sum dignus, domine, sed . . .
He fell asleep. When he awoke, it was morning. The lice had returned.
They were much worse than before.
8.
So much worse were they, that before the evening of that day was come,
he had again prayed that the lice leave him. In the morning, he was again
free of them. He couldn't hesitate now—he mustn't play fast and loose like
this. He packed his handbag. He prepared to leave. He would go back and
love his flock, this would be the meaning of all that had happened . . . for
him and for them, for they in return would love him too.
But when he was ready to leave, his decision wavered again. He unpacked
his clothes, he decided to stay. He paced up and down the farm-house, into
and out of all the rooms of it, like a caged tigress, her cubs taken from her
53 and her dugs full of milk. He saw that he couldn't live in this state of irresolution, but it was a long time before he could once again bring himself
to pray. It was early the next morning before he could pray. But then, a little
before two-thirty a.m., he was able to. Let the lice return to me. Let the lice
return to me. He then slept for an hour or two. When he awoke, they had
come back. Back, and much worse than they had been on their second
return. He took off his night clothes and lay for a long time naked on his
bed.
The lice seemed to be multiplying. They were gnawing in his arm-pits—
he tried to clean them out. If he rested on his back, they crawled across his
belly. They crawled across the small of his back, if he lay on his belly. They
got into his groin, and into his ears—he had already put wads of cotton
wool into his ears, to keep the lice out, but they worked their way past that
barrier. Into his ears. What lies, the thought shrieked across his brain, are
my people breeding now? The vermin crawled into his anus. They crawled
across his scrotum, and got into the folds of the glans penis. What sodomy
are they now committing, he cried out, as he scratched at his rectum . . .
what fornication or prostitution or pimping or adultery am I suffering for
now? The lice crawled over his hands—cupidity, cupidity, he told himself ....
They crawled into his naval—across his teats—into his eyes—into his
mouth, even ....
When Mrs. McGinis called promptly at eleven a.m., she found him completely naked. But it wasn't his simple nakedness that horrified her, it was
the sight of the true deformity of his condition, which, till now, had been
more or less hidden from her. Good honest woman that she was, she shrieked
with terrified disgust, when she saw that. All her fear of him turned into
vituperation and reproach. "Why don't you do as I told you?" She threw
the bathroom door open.
"Do as I tell you," she screamed. "Get in there and bath yourself until
you are clean again."
He shook his head piteously.
"Look, father. You're going to obey me. Into that bath."
He shook his head.
"Goddam you," she shouted, "do as I say."
When she found that he wouldn't or couldn't do as she ordered him, she
banged her fist down on the table. "Very well, father. Very well. If you
won't take steps to cure yourself, it's the last you'll see of me. Good-day.
Good-day." She slammed the door, and went muttering to herself up the
path.
The bishop knelt down to pray. Lord, have mercy upon me, he murmured
. . . but, O God, if I pray to be free of the lice .... and I will pray to be
free of them . . . have mercy upon me . . . don't ever listen to my prayer.
54 Don't ever listen to my prayer. Let the lice be with me. When he had said
this prayer, he felt, for a moment of bliss, as if this resolution had carried
him up into the seventh heaven of paradise ... as if his martyrdom was
completed.
He was able to say the Lord's prayer, and to make a brief act of contrition.
My God I love thee.
But then the torment started again. He kept shrieking, take the lice away,
take the lice away, take the lice away. Then he would stop from sheer exhaustion. And then one thought would gnaw in his brain: what is the use
of it? Isn't it all entirely useless, like mountain-climbing, aren't I like the
mountain-climber, who only keeps on to get to the top, because he has engaged himself to get to the top? Again the bishop would moan, take the lice
away, take the lice away. Then again his outcry would exhaust itself, and he
would think, I'm like the Anaconda serpent which has swallowed too large
a deer and can't let go of it because inward-curving snake-teeth have trapped both the snake and the victim. He was, the bishop told himself, the
snake and God, the deer. He couldn't spit God out, if he wanted to. He
also thought, these lice will purify me, but how can they help my flock, how?
They continue as they were. Then once again the bishop would begin to
keen, take the lice away, take the lice away, take the lice away . . .
55 Then his mind could think no more. He could only rage. Far across in
the McGinis ranchhouse, they could hear him roaring. Mrs. McGinis put in
a call to Edmonton, but could get no one at the church. When, however,
the next morning, there was complete silence, the good woman again telephoned, and asked that someone be sent to the bishop's assistance . . . because . . . she was afraid of the worst . . .
9-
It was at the eleventh hour that the bishop gave up the ghost. His friends,
summoned on the next day, did not arrive at the farmhouse until the next
morning after that. They saw then a third miracle, if the lice on the crucifix
was considered as one miracle, and the lice on the bishop himself, another.
What they saw was, out of the mattress of the camp-cot a thick turf of a
marvellously green new grass growing. On, or rather in, this grass, were the
remains of the bishop. All the lice were gone, and only his skeleton was seen,
at first. There was absolutely no sign of any vermin, no flea, no bedbug, no
louse of any kind.
Summoned by the Presbyterian-minded Mrs. McGinis, it was the police
who made a second discovery. One was a constable and the other a corporal.
The constable observed that death couldn't have been recent. The corporal,
however, looking more closely at the bishop's remains, saw that, within the
bony cage of the churchman's ribs, the heart and other chest organs were
still fresh and new.
At this, the clergy were filled with fear, for they knew what had happened
must be a miracle. "I'm afraid," said the constable to the corporal, "there
has been foul play."
These policemen were to be present at the performance of yet another
miracle.
The first to discover the bones, the younger priest (whom the bishop loved
in particular), when he perceived what had happened, drew back. He didn't
want to look at the miracle. It was there. He was convinced that it had
happened. But there was nothing inside him to receive it. I am like a barren
woman, he thought. The bridegroom comes into me, and I don't conceive.
He smiled to himself, thinking what would a psychologist make of a celibate
Roman Catholic priest using such imagery? He went into the bathroom.
When he had made water, he put his hand to the hot water tank. It was,
of course, warm. Then he went into the kitchen, and there he saw the carton of cigarettes, which he had given the bishop as a parting gift. He saw
how many the bishop had smoked. And thinking of what he had done for
56 the bishop (for besides the cigarettes he had out of his own pocket arranged
to have the cylinder of gas attached, so that there could be hot water always
available for the bishop's use), he was ashamed of how little he had done.
Pushing his way through the others who were still wondering at the
bishop's remains, and pushing aside the policemen, who speculated as to the
possibility of a crime, he flung himself down before the bishop, seized the
bishop's hand, and wept, Forgive me, father.
It was then that the final miracle occurred, before the very eyes of the
police. A great swarm of vermin appeared to descend upon the bishop's
heart, as if to devour it.
Seeing this, the younger priest fainted away. When he had been carried
into the kitchen, laid on the floor, and restoratives given, some one of the
party noticed that the lice had consumed the bishop's remaining vitals, and
that the skeleton was now completely free of the organs inside it.
But when they looked for lice, there were none to be found.
57 RANDOM ENCOUNTER
i
Even among the crowd
Her presence, bristling with sense,
Challenged the eye.
II
Desireless, being all desire,
With exquisite aplomb,
She flounces forth.
Ill
The monologue of her walk:
"I, poor devil, am heaven;
Stay in hell."
IV
She glances to catch my glance
And catching it rues,
With fury, her own.
V
That glance, long afterward, left:
In a glass, a rose;
In the rose, a wasp.
ANDREW SUSAC
58 CONTRIBUTORS
HOWARD B. GERWING
is a student at University of British Columbia, working towards an
M.A. in history. His literary career consists of "a few rejection slips
and a strong desire to write." The poem "Decision' is his first publication.
THOMAS GRAINGER
"after a brief skirmish with the three R's" "was swallowed, short pants,
clogs and all by the dark, Satanic mills" of Lancashire. He has "wandered through a hundred jobs and several countries" and now resides
in Vancouver where he was co-founder of The Actors' Theatre and
recently played the lead in a successful opening run of Hamlet. Not
for Zenocrate Alone is his first published work.
RALPH GUSTAFSON
was born in Quebec and is now resident in New York. Three volumes
of poetry, a book of short stories and his contribution as editor of the
Penquin publications Anthology of Canadian Poetry (1942), Canadian
Accent (1944) and The Penquin Book of Canadian Verse (1958), as
well as frequent appearances in Canadian periodicals, have made his
name familiar to all Canadian readers.
JOSEPH LANGLAND
one of America's most distinguished poets, teaches English at the University of Massachusetts. His first collection of poetry, The Green
Town, appeared in 1956. In 1955-6 he held the Amy Lowell Travelling
Poetry Fellowship. He has published poetry in numerous magazines:
Accent, Atlantic, Harper's Bazaar, The New Yorker, Poetry (Chicago)
and many others. He is a member of the editorial staff of The Massachusetts Review. During the summer of i960 he conducted a creative
writing class at the University of B.C. and gave a reading, and recorded
a series of readings for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
59 CANADA
ON
STAGE
THE BLEEDING HEART OF WEE JON
THE GRAND DUCHESS
A MOMENT OF EXISTENCE
VOICES OF DESIRE
THE SHIP OF DREAMS
ZANORIN
LAVENDER GLOVES
OVERLAID
BREAKDOWN
THE COURTING OF MARIE JENVRIN
EDITED BY Stanley Richards
The only Collection of Canadian One-Act Plays
AVAILABLE AT YOUR BOOKSTORE
$3-50
CLARKE IRWIN
TORONTO  -  VANCOUVER
MARGARET LAURENCE
has published stories in Story, Queen's Quarterly and, most recently, in
Prism. The material for her recent stories, and for the novel, This Side
Jordan was accumulated during a stay of several years in Africa. The
novel represented in this issue by an excerpt and published by McClelland and Stewart, will appear in October. Mrs. Laurence lives
in Vancouver, British Columbia.
W. J. SIGURGEIRSON
lives in Steveston, B.C., and makes his living as a fisherman. In offseasons he attends the University of British Columbia. The Arrowhead,
his first publication, was originally written for a Creative Writing class
there.
60 A Vancouver novelist writes with skill and sympathy
of the Gold Coast just prior to independence.
Clw Side Jordan
MARGARET LAURENCE
In this story of Nathaniel Amegbe, teacher and idealist, struggling against the twin burdens of colonialism and tribalism to find
his place in the new Ghana, Margaret Laurence has caught the
atmosphere and feeling of Africa today under the impact of "the
winds of change." October, Cloth $4.00; paper $2.50.
A Book Society Recommendation
McGLELLAND & STEWART LIMITED
ANDREW SUSAC
is head of the Theatre Department at Magana Baptiste Academy of
Integral Arts, San Francisco. He has had nine of his plays produced in
New Orleans, Detroit and San Francisco. Two of his poems appeared
in Prism's first issue.
WILFRED WATSON
is well-known as the author of the book of poems Friday's Child (Faber
& Faber, 1955). In 1955-56 he was holder of Canadian Government
Overseas Fellowship for Creative Writing. He is a member of the
English Department at the University of Alberta.
61 Rfluen
A literary periodical published by the Publications
Board of the Alma Mater Society of the University
of British Columbia.
available: end of October
price: 50 cents
MELVIN KERO
is a graduate of the Vancouver School of Art and now teaches school
in Vancouver. He is also a writer and was introduced to Prism's readers
in Issue 1:3 with the short story "The Compartment."
PEGI NICHOL
a Vancouver School of Art student, now employed at Van-Tel Broadcasting Company in Vancouver, is a native of Edmonton, Alberta, and
formerly worked in production for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto and Vancouver.
GEORGE SIDDALL
has contributed the illustration on page 17. He attends the Vancouver
School of Art.
62 BOOKS
for almost every taste and
purpose can be found, easily, at
DUTHIE BOOKS
901 Robson  (at Hornby) MUtual 4-2718
and PAPERBACK CELLAR
University of British Columbia Book Store
TEXT BOOKS
REFERENCE BOOKS
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
9 am to noon on Saturdays
PAPER BACKS
STATIONERY
HEADQUARTERS FOR YOUR RECORD NEEDS
a large and varied stack of
Folk
Spoken Word
Ethnic and
Language Records
ALEXANDER & AXELSON APPLIANCES LTD.
4508 West 10th Ave.
Vancouver 8, B.C.
CAstle 4-6811
63 Canadian
Anthologies
CANADIAN SHORT STORIES
selected by ROBERT WEAVER
$i.75
THE OXFORD BOOK
OF CANADIAN VERSE
edited by A. J. M. SMITH
$6.00
AN ANTHOLOGY
OF CANADIAN ART
edited by R. H. HUBBARD
$5-50
Oxford
CM
WORKSHOP
CANADIAN AND IMPORTED ARTS AND CRAFTS
4325 WEST  IOTH VANCOUVER 8, B.C.
64 COLLECTORS'
ITEM
PRISM
Number i, Volume i
9
COPIES ONLY LEFT
This issue included Henry Kreisel's satire The Travelling
Nude, awarded the President's Medal for the best Canadian
short story of 1959.
WE ARE OFFERING:
First four of these at $25 each
The next four at $50 each
The last one at $100 choice goods as
can be bought
for money"
THE
unchanged^
STANDARD
y
"Moreover it is much to our credit to
dispatch our bussiness at the chief factory
so that the Indians may see our strenth,
and receve our goods betimes and goe
away satisfied, up into the country
and give intelligence to the other Indians,
of their quick dispatch and good usage..."
Report to the Governor and Committee
by Governor John Nixon
1682
Tj)trt>#m#l^ C&Mtqwttg- ti
INCORPORATED at? MAY 1870.

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