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Prism international Prism international Apr 30, 1961

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a magazine of contemporary writing Hece is histony set to music
Canada's long and lively history has been
|>ked by musical milestones . . . songs of a people
""" ^x^-^p^^ ,he!r Problems a"d the challenges
j   w-j<J^ of a new nation with rhythmic response.
f\->€<?        Here is a fascinating insight into vanished days
*yjs        \fWith songs that evoke the colour and character
of their time. Educators will find this a
\ useful and stimulating collection. ^Er^ Prism
SPRING,  1961
How Long
A Matter of Small Importance
So, the Little Girl Knows
A Child, One Night
Leonard's Story is
Happier Than James's
The Dappled Mares
Canoe Trip
By This Inward Dusk
Friday at the Ex
To an 88-Y ear-Old Russian
in an Old People's Home
Autumn in the Laurentians
Ambulance at Four A.M.
Wash-Day Death
Boa Constricted
Dante; Beatrice; & Mrs. Alighieri
Once Every Day
Christopher Marlowe
Memory of Su
special editor, campus issue Jacob Zilber
editor Jan de Bruyn
associate editors  Elliott B. Gose
Jacob Zilber
Heather Spears Goldenberg
managing editor Marion Smith
business manager  Ken Hodkinson
subscriptions   Yolande Newby
Mabel Laura Mackenzie
design   William Mayrs
treasurer Alice Zilber
advertising  Cherie Smith
publicity Judy Brown
Carol Williams
Alex Annan
Michael Sinclair
cover design   William Mayrs
illustrations   William Mayrs
Desire to encourage young authors and curiosity about what and how Canadian
students are writing led us to invite submissions for this special campus issue. In our
selection of material we were guided by the wish for a variety of form, subject, and
style, and for work marked by talent and sprightliness. We leave our readers to
judge the results of our inquiry. In the meantime, we have asked an independent
committee to choose the best poem and the best piece of prose in this issue. We are
grateful to the Canada Council for enabling us to award $50 prizes. The names of
the winners will appear in our next number.
Our thanks to the Bishop's University Mitre and the McGill Daily for permitting
us to reprint works that originally appeared in those publications, and to the persons
across Canada who helped us gather manuscripts.
PRISM is an independent publication, supported by subscriptions, advertising, and
donations. Donations are eligible as Income Tax Deductions. PRISM is published
by The Prism Society.
Annual subscriptions are $3.50, single copies $1.00, and may be obtained by writing to the Subscription
Manager, 3492 West 35th Avenue, Vancouver 13, British Columbia. MSS should be submitted to the
Editor at the same address and must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. ,-
for almost every taste and
purpose can be found, easily, at
901 Robson (at Hornby)                                                            MUtual 4-2718
11 1 DU J! Wt ET
The   Iconography   of   the   Imagination.   First   issue
(Narcissus) Gone! Second issue (Dionysus as a Child)
contains  short  stories  and  poems  by:   Edward  Yeo-
mans,  Alden Nowlan, Richard Outram,  Phyllis Got-
lieb,  Daryl  Hine.  Norman  Newton  on  "The  Poetry
of Ancient Mexico."
send   $2.00   to   ALPHABET,   17   Craig   Street,
London, Ontario. Edited by JAMES REANEY*
University of British Columbia Book Store
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm                                                                            CTATIHAIPnV
9 am to noon on Saturdays                                                            0 1 A 1 J.WIN £jIY I
COLIN NORMAN She was willing to make decisions, and do things for him, because she
knew that if something big came up, something that really mattered, he
would never let her down. The incident took place after they had left New
York and she had taken a job in a summer theatre up the coast. An old
man named Schneider had offered them a rent-free room.
"I just don't like the sound of it," she said, "that's all." She stood by the
mirror in her half-slip, tugging the sundress over her shoulders in that
thoughtful, slightly tired way she had. Douglas lay back listlessly on the
"All right," he said bluntly. "Forget it."
"It's just that we don't know him or anything." She was pulling her hair
into a pony tail, catching the stray wisps with deft economical movements.
It was ninety in the room and Douglas lay back, vaguely blaming her,
vaguely wondering how she managed to look so cool and fragrant.
"Well let's forget it. I just thought we should look into it, that's all." He
sounded sulky again. Justine knew the danger signs. She came towards him,
letting her hair go, kneeling beside him on the floor. "Of course we will,"
she said. "Don't be silly. Of course we'll look into it."
They had come to the small town because Douglas couldn't write in
New York. New York had worried Douglas. When Douglas worried he became moody and unsure of himself, and that meant that she had to make
the decisions. She had given up the understudy job and fixed the move out
here, feeling sure that the small town atmosphere might help. In fact it
hadn't. His writing hadn't gone any better, and now, because her job paid
less, he was worried about money too. He was worried about money and
his headaches and the pains in his legs. Now Schneider's phone call had
cheered him and she didn't like to interfere.
The sun was hazy when they drove out, and moist air was blowing in
across the Sound. The car was overheating and Douglas seemed jaded and
irritable. The back roads were strange to them but they found it, a clapboard cottage about three miles out along the shoreline. The old man was
waiting in the road.
His body was brown and withered, as if it had eroded to a hard core. He
wore swimming trunks and a loud shirt and a peaked fisherman's cap. Justine
didn't like him. His arms and shoulders twitched as if he was drunk or
laughing, but he seemed very sure of himself. They followed him into the
cottage, into a narrow dark front room taken up mostly by a soiled sleeping
couch. Justine and the old man sat on the couch and Douglas sat opposite
them on a wooden chair. The room smelt damp, like rotting newspaper. The
old man produced a bottle of sherry.
"O.K., let's talk business," he said. "Where you livin'?" His voice was
asthmatic and high pitched. He shook in his secret laughter and the couch
springs squeaked slightly. Justine said, "The Tobasco house. It's on Easton
road, near the throughway." "The what?"
"The Tobasco house. Tobasco."
The old man drank his wine suddenly and exhaled with heavy pleasure.
His teeth were brown from nicotine.
"She talkin' French or sumpin'?"
Douglas coughed and Justine started to reply but the old man cut in,
wheezing at his joke.
"O.K." he said. "How much you payin'? Let's talk business." Douglas
looked at Justine, but she made no move to speak, and it was clear that she
didn't like Schneider, so he said apologetically, "Well, it's very reasonable
really .It's seventeen dollars a week."
"Seventeen dollars." The old man shook again and poured himself another drink. "Tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna make you a proposition. Now this bed folds out, see. And you can use the kitchen. And there's
a bathroom with a shower, so you can take showers." He leaned across and
put his hand on Justine's shoulder.
Douglas twisted on his chair, and started to say, "That's very kind of
you ..." but the old man slammed his other hand on the table so that the
glass jumped. Some sherry splashed on the tabletop.
"Now look here," he said, "you take this room here with the double-bed,
and the kitchen, and the shower, and I won't charge you no rent for a
month." He drained the glass. "After that maybe I'll charge you."
Douglas smiled wanly. "That's very generous," he said.
"Generous hell." He was squeezing Justine's shoulder. "I got money.
That's how it is, an' you need the room, an' I got the money." He laughed.
"Had two kids mo win' grass today. Learnin' to be doctors an' I had them
mowin' grass. And I gave them ten dollars." He picked up the bottle again.
"So when you gonna move in?"
"Well, we hadn't definitely decided. You see, we said we'd stay . . ."
"How much do you owe?"
"We said we'd stay three months . . ."
"How much?"
Douglas worked it out. "The rent would be about two hundred dollars,"
he said.
"I'll give you two hundred dollars."
"Oh no. That wouldn't be necessary."
"I'll give you a check. You buy yourself out." He put his hand on the
nape of Justine's neck for a moment, and swung her head slowly from side
to side. She sat up and reached for her glass. Douglas looked away. "You
wanna see my room, honey?" the old man said. "Whatsa matter? You wanna
see my room?" He stood up, pushing the table away with his knee, taking
her by the wrist and pulling her up. Douglas stood up too. Justine stood
tensely, looking at Douglas. The old man chuckled and let her wrist go.
Hitching his trunks he went over to the doorway. "That's my room, through there," he said. Justine stood where she was,
looking away out of a window, so Douglas walked over dutifully and looked
through the door. The room was dark and acrid-smelling. There was a row
of model boats on the shelf and a large unmade bed in the corner. The old
man stood there giggling, looking back at Justine.
"What's she thinkin' about?" he said. "Whatsa matter honey? You want
a television set? I'll buy you one." He walked back towards her and stood
there between the two of them, his shoulders shaking. He looked pleased
with himself. "You stay here," he said. "I'll buy what you want." Douglas
peered through the darkness at the model boats. Schneider sat down again.
"Now you come back here," he said. "Now I'm gonna make you a real
proposition." He refilled his glass. "You stay here six months and I won't
charge you no rent. I'll buy furniture. I'll buy a television. All you gotta do
is sweep your room clean. An' I won't bother you for nothin'. Except she can
make my bed." He pointed his finger at Justine. "Yeah, that's what you gotta
do," he said. "You gotta make my bed. An' if you don't make my bed I'm
gonna charge you."
His eyes were bright. He sat looking quickly from one to the other, suffused by an odd kind of pleasure, his frame shaking. Justine stood very upright, not moving. Douglas sat down and fumbled for a cigarette. The old
man drained his glass, slowly this time, and set it down deliberately in front
of the girl.
"Pour me a drink," he said quietly.
Justine stood quite immobile, but looking at Douglas, a silent unblinking
pain in her eyes. Otuside, on the road, a car horn sounded faintly. Douglas
half sighed and struck a match, leaning forward on his chair. There was a
moment of complete silence. Then Justine grabbed the bottle by its neck,
splashed some sherry into the glass, and set the bottle down hard on the
"You know," the old man said, looking at Douglas, "this girl's gonna
make lots more money than you. You know that, don't you?" He sat there
laughing. Justine picked up her purse and snapped the catch shut.
"Well," said Douglas, "we'd better be going now."
"When you gonna move in?" said the old man. "He he he. Don't keep
me waitin' now."
"I'll have to look into it," said Douglas. "I'll give you a call and let you
know." He opened the screen door for Justine and followed her into the
light. The old man stood in the doorway, his shoulders bobbing.
They drove in silence for about five minutes, then Douglas ran a hand
up his forehead and said, "Well, we won't go there of course," but she made
no response. Later he said, "I'm sorry. Let's forget it. Please let's forget it."
Finally he slammed his hand on the side of the car and said, "Well, you
needn't look as if you've been raped," but all the time she sat indifferently, her
hands held loosely in her lap, ignoring him and blinking in the bright sunlight.  The party had already begun. Boats were clustered around the dock three
deep, jostling each other like bugs about a light bulb. Hugh Thorpe could
just distinguish the evening's first premature laughter as Al steered the
Mayer family launch up against a great white plexiglass demon. This was a
customary event in the Al Mayer summer weekend, as Hugh understood it,
the party that floated from one summer house to another without any definable beginning or end, buoyed with an unspoken agreement to "eat, drink,
and enjoy each other, for tomorrow the weekend dies." And with the weekend went its people, back to the city, a few back to jobs, but most back to
the do-nothing lethargy of twiddling their toes, a sport supported by a fond
Al switched off the engine and lashed his boat to its next door neighbour,
while Hugh did a hop-skip-and-jump through the backseats of the gathered
luxury to the dock. Landing on the well-painted planking, he suddenly felt
more comfortable with his hands in his pockets. Hugh Thorpe had passed
the awkward stage. It wasn't that. But even at twenty he had the feeling of
being a stranger encroaching upon some long established rite. He watched
Al finish mooring the boat as another launch, brimming with strange faces,
pulled up.
"All hail Caesar," demanded a voice from among the new arrivals. The
contents of the boat, wrapped in bed sheets, spilled onto the dock. "Hey,
fella: Where's your toga? Toga party, you know."
"No, I didn't know. Bedlam in bed sheets, eh?" Hugh countered.
"How do you mean?" perked up a baby-fat-hefty male crew member.
"Later you shove on head masks and reorganize the Ku Klux Klan."
"Sure, fella," he replied, letting the joke fall to its knees. "You get yourself a toga, fella. You being a stranger without even a toga, I can't see our
female friends having much to do with you. Where're you from during the
"The working class." Hugh felt a strange consolation at being able to say
this, even jokingly.
"Oh, to hell with it. I wish I had the time to try and follow you, fella. Hi,
Al! You got the Scotch, Ernie?" The baby-fat fellow and an even heftier
accomplice swung up a set of stairs that seemed to Hugh to wind to and
fro, the way the more stoned guests might on their way down. The road to
Oz, he thought, catching a green light emanating from the window of the
summer house at the top.
Al had started up the path and Hugh now followed, he realized, in a
somewhat ridiculous little brother fashion. The two had been classmates at
one of the more expensive private schools and very close friends, with the
only real dividing line between them one of money. Al had nuzzled and been
a part of wealth all his life. Hugh had been on the outside looking in most
of his. He seemed to bump into wealth, rather than make friends with it the
way Al did. Eventually, he had met and made love to a decidely middle-class girl until her father had found out about it, and after examining the Thorpe
financial situation put a stop to the relationship. The Thorpes weren't nearly
as well off as the proverbial everyday Joneses, and yet they had fought for a
private school education for their son and all but gone into bankruptcy
over it.
Now at college age Hugh suddenly realized the colour of the purgatory
he had stepped into. It struck him as ironic: this expensively well-educated
specimen, Hugh Thorpe, wasn't part or parcel of any one group or class.
He floated somewhere between the upper and the middle strata. His allusions to his private school friends had confused and finally scared the pants
off his girl friend, and at the same time the wealth Al Mayer came from
frightened Hugh. There were the hundreds of small debts and courtesies he
could never return and the friendship that could be interpreted only too
easily as leech-like. What a bloody mess! he often thought. He had somehow
turned up beside a society that wanted no part of him, a group that was
basically, despite all its money, gorgeously dull, untalented, and creatively
sterile, and yet he, already the world's most unpublished twenty year-old
writer, breathed hotly in pursuit. Of what? he wondered. Possibly he expected to bump into a fellow enigma. More probably, he would play the
poor visitor to this impotent wonderland for another twenty years of his
life. He yawned rather loudly as they reached the porch of the summer house.
"Don't anticipate," replied Al, the exception to the rule in a room full of
dull money. The screen door whacked shut behind them, an annoyed and
unheeded butler. "These are the greatest people in the world." Al stepped
forward and the room seemed to swallow him up like a piece of furniture
that was an essential part of the atmosphere. He had the ability of being
everybody's friend all at once, and yet no one person's particular pal. The
art of objectivity, he called it.
Hugh stood back by the door, eyeing Al's Pied Piper tactics with a self-
confessed envy. But, after the ritualistic placing of sandwiches and beer in
the newcomers' hands, Hugh stepped into the group. A severe case of detached introductions began, which the gathering all tried to talk above, and
which eventually petered out.
"For God's sake, why didn't you tell me it was a toga party, Al? Now
we're both going to stick out like the sorest bloody thumbs . . ."
"Hugh, fella, I didn't know. Look, get one of these bedsheeted females
out in the woods, an ugly-wugly, you know, and when she surrenders oh so
willingly, you unravel her. And, presto-chango, you're one of the gang." The
girls smiled a little uneasily. The males in the group fell all over themselves
Hugh could smell the customary kiss of the hops on their breath. Caps had
been popping off bottles for most of them that night long before the party's
inception. And now, with half a dozen warm breaths patronizing him, he
suddenly wanted to dive for the door. With something between diplomacy and panic he eased himself out as far as the porch.
But, here there was something else. A set of eyes seemed to be working
their way through him. Not blankly staring cat eyes, but subtle, apparently
indifferent, yet still 'I'm-conscious-of-your-presence' eyes. He turned to meet
them with a magazine, man of the world smile. Instead he saw only the
distant outline of a girl huddled by herself in the far corner of a badly-
lighted porch, intent on bringing an equally badly-lit cigarette to life. Her
eyelids were lowered in concentration.
As Hugh walked toward her, skirting cliquy sets of tables and chairs, his
first thoughts were all poisonously facetious or just inconsequential. He had
forgotten how to think any other way. His experience, such as it was, had
hardened him toward most females. But the time he was within ten feet of
her, she took the problem of the first words out of his hands.
"I'm hiding what you might call my 'nudity.' But, since you're in virtually
the same boat, I suppose we can drop the sarcasm."
She was wearing an old shirt tied at the midriff, shorts, and no shoes. Most
importantly she had no toga, a point that had unconsciously put Hugh at
ease. Nothing bothered him as much as several dozen neophite clowns,
swathed in bed sheets, going full tilt at twelve o'clock at night.
"So, tell me then, does your 'nudity' bother you?" He suddenly had the
feeling he was pushing forward rather rapidly.
"It would bother me if there was more than one male present to make it
a topic of conversation instead of an experience. Although I can't say I've
ever been in that position before ... in fact, either one."
She had positive and striking good looks with a deep-voiced earnestness
that reminded Hugh of a Dietrich or a Lauren Bacall, a result of his lengthy
relationship with the movies. When he least wanted it, those damned movies
seemed to make everything seem so bloody unoriginal. The word 'sultry'
came into his mind for a moment, but he refused to choke on it.
"How old are you?" he asked, a little undiplomatically.
She smiled. "Sixteen. With the sort of puzzling maturity that seems to
throw genteel middle-aged ladies for a bit of a loop. Apparently, I'm always
coming out with something that's 'over my head' ... so the ladies say . . .
and they don't mean 'angelic'."
"The tea drinkers!" He beamed at his own image of middle age.
"The rabid bridge players," she corrected him delightedly. "I surprise
"I wouldn't be surprised, not once I'd heard your voice. It's quite a few
years ahead of you."
"I sometimes get the impression that everything about me is a few years
ahead ... of 'me.' I only hope I don't sound egocentric."
"You sound like an only-child."
"From what basis have you reached that conclusion?"
" 'Only-children' talk more about themselves than anything else. That's two years of university psychology and the fact that I'm one myself speaking."
"Well, tough little bananas! / have a brother!"
The words ripped into Hugh. They seemed out of character. The girl assumed a sudden, possessive pride, a silly, selfish little-girl stinginess.
"I'm sorry. I'm afraid I've gone a bit too deeply." He could feel her silence
letting the sting of the wound set in. "I have a habit of entering people's
lives . . . feet first," he added.
"I'm just feeling ratty," she finally said. "I've spent so much of the past
few weeks alone. Normally the family comes up here for a month. I'm up for
three weeks as of yesterday. I can't say I'm very keen on the people in this
neck of the woods. So, I thought I'd stay in town and try to get back to my
painting. The trouble is, I couldn't get used to the loneliness of our place. It's
just big enough to be well-haunted. You know, I never even got as far as
dipping a brush in the old oils."
"What did you do with yourself?"
"Usually ended up at the movies. That's everyone's 'easy out,' I guess. It's
funny, I used to paint all the time. Then about two years ago I did a picture
for my brother's birthday. It never appeared in his room, at least not on any
one of its four walls. Six months later I found it in his closet, hanging with his
pajamas. I never said anything, but for some reason or other I've never
painted since. Could you call that spite?" She looked up a bit pathetically.
Hugh quenched the beginnings of a smile by digging his thumb into the
upper part of his leg. "Spite? Yes, I suppose so. But, why not just laugh the
thing off? Brothers can be a heartless . . . ."
"At fourteen laugh it off?" The cool, deep-voiced monotone had momentarily vanished. "I would have kicked him normally, sisterly devotion gone
awry. The only problem is I was adopted, so things aren't all that apple-pie
normal. I've been close to my brother in a way. But, I've always known how
things stood. Whenever I see parent or guardian on an application form, I've
always wanted to strike out the 'parent' and .... Excuse my late modesty,
but what's your name?"
Hugh floundered from his preoccupation with her. "Hugh Thorpe. And
you're . . ."
"Joy Bellingham."
"One of the Bellinghams of Bellingham Steel and Cable?"
"A friend of the family. I suppose that seems like one God-awful thing
to say about the only parents I've got. But, that's the way I've always felt, like
a good friend of the family." She shrugged, then relaxed, eyeing him quietly.
"You never show your tears, do you?" he said finally.
"I try not to. I used to. They never did anything for me but embarrass."
Hugh watched her eyes drop to her lap. "We both seem to have the same
problem. Neither of us understands the blessings of wealth."
She bit her lower lip, smiling wanly. "But, I'm on the inside so I'll have
to make an effort to. You're a one weekend intruder I take it." "Exactly. Imported from the middle-class. Can I get you something to
drink? Beer?" He had an overwhelming urge to keep her separated from the
inside crowd. He wanted to talk. He had to find her, to break through the
crust of composure, to mean something to her. Let the people move where
they would. Let the whole damn party fold into happy double beds. Just to
have the silence to reveal and understand, like the blank space in a newspaper ad, to hold her thoughts and feelings.
"A glass of water would do. Is that too original?" she asked earnestly.
"Like sin at this party." He felt slick, too slick. It was the last way he
wanted to seem to her then.
"A couple of glasses of beer destroy me when I'm tired. Just a water on
the rocks." To his dismay she stood up and began to move after him, toward
the screen door and the bustling inner room.
Hurt, he turned on her with a somewhat foolish expression. "Whither
goest thou?"
"I don't feel like dancing, but I should mingle," she said firmly.
"Limbo! Limbo! Limbo like me!" The chant, and the hand clapping had
swelled to a fever pitch, and the beer had made athletes out of most of the
assembled males and a couple of females. Stomachs were bared in an attempt to
escape the wrath of a lowering pole that threatened to peel off the paunchier
entries passing under it. Then one of the girls lost her balance, and sitting
down suddenly, collapsed into hopeless, tearful spasms of laughter. The
males looked on in disgust. Somebody helped her to her feet.
Hugh watched Joy's expression return to a little girl's world of birthday-
party glee as she absorbed the activity. He approached with the glass of
water and a beer for himself. Her laugh was simple and colourful, but somehow powerfully physical and completely out of character with the world of
urbanity she had wrapped herself in a few minutes before. It looked like a
craving for something, a thirst of some sort. He handed her the glass of
"She's the type that'll always be falling into other peoples' swimming pools
when she's married. At large cocktail parties, and for a price from the
males," Joy spouted.
"Is that bad? You seemed to be enjoying her antics."
"Nervous laughter," she said, covering up rather badly, it seemed to Hugh.
"The party's going to move now. Whenever somebody starts to laugh like
that, it's a pretty good indication the party's moving. They're really all the
"So we're moving. Where to, further into the woods?" he asked a little
disdainfully. Joy was silent. Suddenly, he was aware of the double entendre,
the second meaning she had caught immediately. He had meant to be sarcastic, but somehow the phrase had turned out gloatingly bawdy. "I didn't
mean it that way." Then he saw her smile the smile of acute politeness. At
least she was on an even keel. He drained his glass, and excusing himself
'3 went to find Al. He had to keep her interest in him pulsating. If he couldn't
soften her with a couple of beers, the artificial froth of a speedboat playing
tag with a complacent moon might help. He had come so close to seeing her
with her guard down, that now he couldn't just let her evaporate. Couples
and a few strays had already started to move on down toward the dock
when he finally collared Al losing at bridge to a drunk female acquaintance.
"It's time to move, Al. The golden geese are flying south. Our chariot is
getting impatient and may end up in the midst of the lake without us, if
we don't get a move on."
"Say how many have you had, Hugh?"
"Because, when you start to get poetic, you're well on your way to getting
loaded. You've got a lousy capacity, but you act like a Chinaman with a
hollow leg."
"I'm only on my third glass. But it shows, does it? Good God! It can't,
Al. I can't afford to let it. Instinct tells me I've got to be a pillar of strength
and temperance. All the more reason to get going, get out in the air. I
have met the most wonderful girl, Al, but she has a problem, a sadness as
big as the lump in my throat." Hugh felt tears fringing his eyes. But these
were nine-tenths alcohol, he told himself, and he felt ashamed of them.
Al, unable to win even peering at his drunken friend's cards, threw down
his hand. "Thanks Shaughn." The girl nodded vaguely. "Okay, let's go,
fella. You'd better grab your problem child, if she's coming."
Hugh found Joy out on the porch embracing a glass of beer.
"I thought you were a water-on-the-rocks girl."
"I've decided about this time of night one or two beers give me confidence in myself." The expression on her face suggested she had given away
information most people wouldn't have caught. Hugh had.
"Your confidence isn't built-in then?"
"My friend, I have to live with these people the rest of my life. The impression I make on them tonight rebounds off . . . my parents. Shall we just
say, the artist is trying to work up a not so artistic party spirit."
"Are they that tough to take sober?"
"No, but we have to meet on neutral ground. And, if I've got a little
something in me, I lose that great big pain known as 'artistic drive'."
"Which makes you presentable."
"Which makes me presentable. Artists bother them. And, don't ever
think that writers don't bother them just as much. If you do anything more
creative than sailing, swimming, or making love, the kinder ones will say,
'You must be very artistic,' and avoid you like the plague. Here's to the dying
spirit!" She lifted her glass and drank without feeling the need to acknowledge his expression.
"They're not the important people," he said flatly.
14 "What did you paint?"
"People and things."
"No landscapes?"
"I tried, but I'd always fall asleep. I liked 'human' pictures, probably
because I've never really figured people out. Has anybody!"
"Were you any good?" Hugh felt himself teeter slightly.
"I thought so. A wallpaper firm almost bought a couple of my designs,
but they went bankrupt before the final decision. Very flattering. And there
was a time when I'd have worked in my own blood just to keep painting.
Very melodramatic! Now I'm just a common garden variety ploop." A glint
passed across her eyes and then sank back within her.
"You must have been quite the prodigy."
"My parents didn't think so. They aren't very artistic. They have horses
in their blood-stream, so I rode during the school art classes," she said flatly.
"Just what was the big idea?" Hugh felt himself getting belligerent about
the whole matter. The beer was beginning to catch up with him. "Yes, tell
me, what was the big idea"
"They were busy making a little lady out of me."
"Isn't that sweet!" murmured Hugh, letting his subconscious float to the
surface. "And, you're worried about not being one of them. You're different.
Of course you're different! You're too damned intelligent for this crowd,
and the sooner you escape them the better."
"It's not a question of how. If you don't feel something tearing at you
inside, pushing you, goading the hell out of you, then something in there
has died, wouldn't you say? Has it?"
"It has not," she replied fiercely.
"So paint!" He was wonderful. He could almost hear his words echoing
wildly inside her, carrying her along like the crest of a wave, feeling her out,
and, finally, quietly taking her hand. "Get back to the city! To hell with the
party crowd!" Suddenly, the bottle he held slipped free of Hugh's grasp. The
beer splashed out over the floor, gushing forth like his life blood, drowning
his words, seeming to nullify all he had said and a momentarily god-like
stature with one unforgiving strain. He paused like a man dazed and mortally wounded, but not quite conscious of the fact. After several seconds he
retrieved the bottle rather awkwardly, covering his face with a foolishly
sprawling hand.
"I'm sorry. It didn't splash up on you?"
"No." The expression and spirit had completely drained from her face.
It had only the puzzled look of disillusion. He was drunk. That was all.
"You were right. The party is moving. Shall we vamoose with Mr. Mayer
in his waterproofed pumpkin?" He laughed nervously. Trying to blur the
disillusion was only sending the hurt underground.
"Fine," Joy agreed with a slight, disconcerting smile.
15 As the boat cut through the trackless stretch of midnight water, Hugh
was conscious of only two things, that his legs were trembling with the cold,
and that with Joy squeezed in against him the way she was, his poor insulation was no secret. The beer confronted with a sobering head wind had just
enough effect to reduce his spirit to a sludge, and not enough to keep him
"Where are we headed?" Joy asked.
"Scoop Welland's," Al contributed in the tone of a well-worn tourist
"You're such a fine feathered bird! And yet, nobody touches you, do
they?" Hugh said, staring blankly at her, not looking for an answer, realizing what the beer incident had done to her. His sincerity, his advice, his
belief in her all seemed to be peeling away like a bad job of chrome plating.
But just the alcohol talking? No, it was not! It had helped him spit out the
words; it had goaded him on to pull her out of the do-nothing class, to try
to force her to use the little nugget of creativity none of the others had
lodged in them. And, the words were his. Unexpectedly, the alcohol had
bolstered him, and just as unexpectedly it had turned traitor. What had that
momentary step forward, her belief in him, cost her, he wondered—two steps
backward? Maybe more. The good old bungling Samaritan! More dangerous
than a sniper. His thoughts were pretty damned eloquent, it occurred to him.
He smiled, but he felt dizzy. His stomach felt queasy. He must be tired.
Those three pints were really punishing the hell out of him. He couldn't be
sick here, though. He wouldn't be! The boat roared on with the same droning discontent.
"Are you going back to town Monday?" Hugh ventured.
"I don't know." Joy Bellingham was balancing on some unseen fulcrum.
"I don't really see there's much reason to."
"You didn't bring art materials up with you?"
16 "No, I didn't! Just who do you think you are?" Spray shot across her face,
and she wiped it away. Al said nothing.
"/ was a stand-in conscience for Miss Joy Bellingham. Make a good magazine article, wouldn't it?" Hugh replied. His hand slapped sharply on his
knee. One of the most fruitless persuaders was sarcasm. Hugh knew it. But
his feelings hadn't accepted it.
Joy was at the bursting point, reaching for a whipping boy among her
thoughts as the boat pulled into a narrowing channel. It slumped in the
water as Al decreased the speed.
"Good God, I know where we are! I know this channel," Joy insisted.
She looked up at Al. "It's a brute to maneuver, my friend. Here, give me
the wheel. I'm an expert on it."
"I guess I'll have to take your word for it, kiddo," Al conceded.
Joy's right hand curled around the wheel. Her left pulled the accelerator
back to the "Full Speed" mark, and the boat shot forward, spray cascading
out into a homeless night, twisting, turning, and ducking the marking buoys
like a skier with vengeance. She was wrenching everything she could from
the aging craft. Life and limb be damned!
Hugh watched Joy's face tighten up . . . with the wind and the confidence,
he thought. No shoal and no sand bar would be touched. Independence was
on the loose, was asserting itself. Halleluya! So, the little girl knew what she
was about, knew where she was going. A lost tongue of water splashed across
his forehead. Joy's expression reminded him of the figurine on the front of
a Cadillac. But, who or what was in the driver's seat, he wondered, as the
boat fled on into a deepening night.
Scoop Welland's seemed to be the party's second wind. The liquor was
pushed into the background and now the female came into her own. New
faces entered the fiasco superbo, Hugh noticed, and the toned down voices
seemed to be whispering of a candy-coated illegitimate sex. The woods and
the natural-openness of it made everything all right. It wasn't as if it was
in a motel or its scrubbier city counterpart, except that it ended in the same
thing. Hugh watched, as one or two couples drifted out to the blind euphoria
of the woods behind the place. Male and female were all they had to be to
each other. A different weekend, a different body. And, it was hard luck
if somebody got hurt.
Joy sat moodily in a wicker chair with a group of other girls spread out
across the floor on either side. A dancing fire seemed to be the only common
ground for this little cluster of moths, Hugh concluded. He watched Joy
cross and uncross her legs at least a dozen times in something less than five
minutes, until he couldn't take it any longer. He went over to her, dodging
small knots of the gathering.
"You probably have a right to brood, but I'd like to talk to you."
"Go ahead."
"Out on the porch," he insisted. "Fine." She got up and followed him out.
"I've given you a bumper crop of ups and downs for one evening. The
beer business I want to apologize for," he said. "It could have been coffee or
tea, couldn't it?"
"Of course." Her voice sounded thoroughly unconvinced.
His mind was clear, completely sober after the boat ride, but now Joy's
eyes seemed to be blurring. She had the look of a small girl brimming with
condescending words, but able to wreak havoc, it seemed, without even the
tools of provocation. At least, he hadn't given them to her. Her society had,
if anybody. She stood now, a little impatient as if she had asked to be excused
"You have a terrific thirst for something. What is it? Love?" he asked.
"My God, you're a panic" She flushed self-consciously.
"No, blunt and a bungler maybe. But, if it's love you need . . ."
"Look, chum, apathy is getting the better of me."
"What do you want?"
"To uncomplicate the works . . . life. Forget things."
"Your art and whatever it is makes you tick?"
"I suppose."
"That nonchalantly? And in the process bed down in the woods with
some mutt you don't even know, like the rest of them? Grovel for their
"Why not?" She stared blankly for a moment as if trying to waylay the
idea of tears.
"But you couldn't sleep with me?"
"No. You are everything that has made me a freak and a reject in this
crowd. And, they're the only people I know. I shouldn't have even spoken
to you tonight."
"You don't laugh because you feel you have to, or do you? You won't
make the grade and be happy here because you feel you have to."
"I'm sorry. I promised Scoop's sister I'd help her with the food." She
opened the screen door, held it a second, and finally disappeared inside.
"Don't get lost in there," Hugh mumbled, almost to himself. Her only
reply was the springy swallow of the screen door closing.
For ten or fifteen minutes he sat thinking of what had passed. This time
he had been sober. They had been his words, and the compulsion to get
them out had been his. But his side had lost. He had watched her immaturity
begin to show like a loose slip. For his part, it was hard to seem sincere when
you'd made an ass of yourself only an hour or so before.
Hugh somehow found his feet and shunted himself inside. The room was
heavy with cigarette smoke and chatter now as Al brushed by him carrying
a tray of bits and pieces that rather closely resembled sacrificial innards—
his own insides being passed around, Hugh decided.
"It's marvellous what damage one misplaced beer can do," he piped up.
Al stopped in his canvassing of the room. "Well, what the hell happened
18 to you? One beer certainly didn't lay you out."
"In one respect, I'm afraid it did."
"I wondered where you'd disappeared to when I saw your little girl
friend with some guy in a ski jacket."
"Over behind the couch. The foursome."
Hugh's eye travelled across to a small gamey looking huddle. A dark type
with a black ski jacket had his arm around Joy's waist. Hugh could just
distinguish their conversation.
"You have the sweetest little set of measurements I've seen on anything,"
the friend insisted. "I'd just like to wrap you up and take you home."
"What would you use for wrapping paper?" Joy quizzed.
"My own sweet skin." He pressed his thighs to hers for a brief moment.
"What about a walk, a nice short walk?"
"All right," she blushed uncertainly.
Hugh watched intently as the two meandered out the door and into the
outer evening. "What do you think, Al?"
"Bitch! First class little bitch! He's one of the biggest skin men here. She's
just classified herself. All sadness, simper, and sex."
"I don't think so," Hugh said.
"When she pulls a stunt like that right under your nose! It's just the old
story of the almighty 'broad' well disguised. Forget her."
"I've got to see her face when she comes back."
"I've never seen anyone that liked to punish himself as much as you do,"
muttered Al.
Hugh watched him revert to his job of distributing tidbits. Maybe Al was
right. Maybe he was putting too much faith in humanity, and when he was
disappointed in them, when he found one by one that they were a bunch of
thorough-going bastards, he was punishing himself for their shortcomings.
Some martyr! Never again.
He would have to drift now for maybe an hour or more, but he would
see her face when she came back. And, he wondered what her eyes would
admit. Possibly a trite and non-commital 'I'm no longer your business.' She
would then become a part of that great milling backdrop whose only foreground was one of empty glasses and settling cigarette smoke. He wandered
past two females, name-dropping their way to self-importance by establishing the vital family and social ties. Within themselves, he realized, they were
vacant beings with an ornate shell of names, a crust built up of connections.
And he passed on to another group.
There was the record-breaker, the girl who had to be an integral part of
the lives of at least three men in one evening. Only a spoiled society could
breed her. She didn't expect to be saved from herself. She knew what she
was, and she was making the most of it. That was all there was to it. It was,
in a way, her one redeeming quality, and Hugh understood it.
19 And the men, what were they? The 'would-be's,' the would-be producer,
the would-be band leader, and the would-be stock broker. Somehow they
didn't smell of success or even originality, only of solid bank support for
their early failures which would come before they joined their fathers' companies. Hugh talked with them, forced a laugh for their jokes, and felt in-
cureably empty.
Half an hour had passed. Only one person was in the back of his mind,
but there was no sign of her. The queasiness had left him, but he felt a bit
dehydrated, and he went into the kitchen for a glass of water.
When he returned to the central gathering, he had that inexplicable feeling that something in the room had changed. Somebody had left or somebody had returned. He glanced hurriedly across the faces. His eyes bolted
themselves to one in particular. Joy was sitting quietly between two strange
males. The ski jacket was nowhere in sight. Have you or have you not? he
thought to himself. Lift up your eyes, damn you. Catch mine. Catch mine!
But, her face was passive and disinterested. It told him nothing. He started
toward her, but Al intercepted him.
"Three o'clock, Hugh. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to move along
back to my place. I'm beat."
Well, it's not all the same to me, Hugh wanted to yell at him, but he said
nothing as he elbowed through two small groups to where Joy was sitting.
With a slightly comic twist he wedged himself between Joy and the male
on her left. She looked over at him, annoyed. Then, in realization, her expression dropped. It fell miles, it seemed to Hugh. Like Alice, falling, falling,
falling. It had disillusion. It had hurt. What else? What else? He felt her
hand touch his sport jacket. Then, for no apparent reason, she turned her
face toward a conversation on the other side of her.
"So she said, 'I'm sorry I two timed you.' 'But, you didn't,' I said, 'you
triple timed me.' 'Well,' she said, 'if you're going to be nasty, let's get the
figure straight. I quadruple timed you.' Herb tells that one. Lays me out
every time."
A wave of laughter passed, and a fellow at the far end of the couch
revelled in his minor triumph. Hugh noticed Al signalling from the door. So,
it was time for the guest to depart! He had watched Joy's face striving for
control, complete passivity, as if she were afraid she might betray herself to
him. While she laughed she appeared to be biting her lip. But she kept her
silence. What could he say in return? What had happened inside her? He
leaned toward her, kissing her on the cheek.
"Goodnight, my poor little twerp!" He stood up, walking toward the
door with no reason for looking back. Her thoughts and feelings belonged
only to her now. It had always been that way really. Al preceded him out
the door and they wound on down the path single file. Hugh's expression
was frozen. An alien in the horn of plenty. Everyone else there was out to
gorge himself. Many happy returns of the day!
20 The boat plowed quietly away from the dock, gradually lifting its nose as
it found itself in open water. The cool morning air brushed across the deck
and into the cockpit. Hugh pulled up the lapels of his coat and dug his
hands into his pockets. His right hand wrapped around something. Matches!
What in God's name were matches doing in his pocket? He didn't smoke
and never had. He examined the small folder. It was well-worn, past the
disreputable stage, not at all the sort of thing a business friend would hand
out. "Bellingham Steel Foundries," it announced in straight black type.
"E. T. Bellingham, president." He flipped open the cover. Inside was a lone
match, a bit frayed and quite badly twisted.
Al leaned over, fingering the match cover from curiosity.
"Well, symbolism it gives! Arty, at that! I should have mentioned it. It's
fairly common knowledge among the crowd. She is one of the few females
that, apparently, can treat you like a bastard and still expect a call when
she gets back to town. Get it through your skull, she's a bitch!"
"Um," replied Hugh quietly, half-listening, "maybe." He ran his finger
slowly over the face of the match-book. Then feeling strangely sure of himself, he leaned back, tucking it into his breast pocket. BY THIS INWARD DUSK
By this inward dusk, bodies of darkness emerge moonwhite
Beyond the black mirrors of windows that hold three walls
While the shadowed lights shine. Upon water and black shore
The extended dock gleams in the moonlight. We step down
The languid paths turned to the floating canoe's dark touch
And the surface ground-dappled with images faced like dreams.
Beyond the black mirrors of windows that hold three walls
As we look behind, cedars and tamaracks gleam thin-branched;
The extended dock gleams in the moonlight; we step down
And our toes explore tracks of the moon. Through the wide lakes
The diver's cry shivers and dwells on the windwalks,
The languid paths turned to the floating canoe's dark touch.
As we look behind, cedars and tamaracks gleam thin-branched
In the forest; pines climb into darkness. We slide past,
And our toes explore tracks of the moon through the wide lakes,
In our boat: the boughs shadow the face of the plastic deep;
By ravines and caves tangled and jagged with split trees
The diver's cry shivers and dwells on the windwalks.
In the forest, pines climb into darkness. We slide past
The blistered, clenched rocks and the battleship islands, calm
In our boat the boughs shadow. The face of the plastic deep
Responds to drowned cities of branches; the fireflies
Like burning planes glitter and fall to the black ponds
By ravines and caves tangled and jagged with split trees.
22 The blistered, clenched rocks and the battleship islands, calm
As the folded waves, glide in the night; and the blade-pressed boat
Responds. To drowned cities of branches the fireflies
Meander far, swimming on floods the canoe's light stem
Divides and welds whole; the unquenchable hosts of stars
Like burning planes glitter and fall to the black ponds.
As the folded waves glide in the night and the blade-pressed boat
Through the silent lake streams, we can hear the entranced loon
Meander far-swimming on floods; the canoe's light stem
Transfigured flies low. For the loon in the windless gulf,
The brooding, poised bird in the dazzle of moonburst,
Divides and welds whole the unquenchable hosts of stars.
Through the silent lake-streams, we can hear the entranced loon
And the hills adrift utter and answer. The starred lake
Transfigured flies low for the loon in the windless gulf
Over clouds and wells winding from caverns of curved night.
The diver spills voice from the dusk of its feathered shell,
The brooding, poised bird in the dazzle of moonburst.
And the hills adrift utter and answer. The starred lake,
The stones and branched islands appear in their membered shades
Over clouds and wells winding from caverns of curved night.
Through the changing winds' ways, the transparent canoe flows live
And we glide at rest. Selved in the streams of the vowelled host,
The diver spills voice from the dusk of its feathered shell.
The stones and branched islands appear in their membered shades
By this inward dusk; bodies of darkness emerge moonwhite
Through the changing winds' ways. The transparent canoe flows live
While the shadowed lights shine upon water and black shore
And the surface ground-dappled with images faced like dreams.
And we glide at rest, selved in the streams of the vowelled host.
23 Ifiiiliii!
A Child, One Night
At first I thought it was a dead child. How could anything be so still then?
The wind lashed at the trees and grabbed at things along the ground. It
puffed up the corners of his filthy blanket. No element seemed to touch
him, not even the thick frost on the grass. Why couldn't he move? Why
couldn't he feel? Alarmed, I bent down to see. I reached to move the wild
hair from his forehead. Still he did not stir. I touched his warm cheek and
marvelled that he could sleep so soundly.
Then his eyes opened, but not from a deep sleep. He remained completely
inert. And suddenly he spoke, lazily, with no inflection, no interest. "Why
don't you get up?"
"What are you doing here?" I cried.
"I think I'll get up soon." His voice was clear and untroubled.
"It's late. It's almost the middle of the night. You should be at home in
"Do you think the bear will come down this street now? I saw him before
but I think he won't come on this street."
"There aren't any bears here. They live away from here among the big
trees outside the city. I'm sure you didn't see a bear."
"If he comes here I'll have to go to another place."
"Come now, tell me where you live and I'll take you home."
"Can I get a ride on your back? He might not see me then, and he'd go
under my feet."
"Tell me which way to go."
"Now my head's close to the tree branches. I'll reach up and catch Chip
and Dale. Oh, I keep forgetting! The wind blew them away. They won't be
back till tomorrow. I'm glad they went away. Now they're safe."
"Please listen to me. Which way shall I walk to get to your house?"
24 "I'm not afraid of the bombs, but I bet you are. We'll go down that way,
and if we go to my friend's house we'll be safe. We'll go marching, marching,
marching. Their army's no good. They'll be afraid of us."
He began to keep time to our walk with a persistent humming noise. He
chuckled to himself every once in a while.
"You can't find me, none of you can find me, even in the water I can
swim away," he crooned softly to himself.
We reached the first street corner, and before I could ask further direction,
he grabbed my neck fiercely. "No!" he screamed. "No, no, no! A whole
truck load of bombs! Don't let them go off. They came before. Run, run
Before I had time to reassure him, he suddenly relaxed his grip. "It's all
right now," he said. "They went around the corner. They weren't after us
anyway. Do you like ice cream?"
"There was this whole mountain of it at the school. It was piled up higher
than the fence. Me and Jimmy ate it all. Nobody else got any." He laughed
with delight.
"Who's Jimmy? Is he one of your school friends?"
"He lives right there, in that house with the chicken on the roof. But I
ain't going there now. No, no! Don't you walk that way!"
In spite of his demand I rang the bell of the dark house. A middle-aged
woman of some size appeared after making very slow progress to the door.
She squinted at us through the screen door. "What ya want?"
"I'm sorry to get you up at this hour, but I'm trying to find this boy's
home. Could you tell me . . ."
She pushed the screen slightly ajar, and intensified her squint until her
face looked like an old radish. Finally, she made her decision.
"Ya, ya, it's that kid. My old man chased him outa here already tonight.
Just keep on for the railroad station for two blocks; then in the alley before
you come to it, there's some old yella apartments. I think he lives in one
of 'em."
My thank you was cut in half by the slap of the screen door. The solid
door slammed shut behind it.
The wind was colder, and I quickened my pace. He dug his knees into my
ribs in order to spur me on. I went along with his game, and broke into an
awkward horse trot. As I slowed down I felt his frail body shiver against my
back. Even then he did not draw his blanket over his thin shoulders. Instead,
he draped it carefully over our two heads.
"Here we are in a circus tent," he giggled. "Once I made a circus all myself. It was the best circus anybody ever saw. I fooled them. They thought
there was only a lion. He came up to the top of the tent. He was so fat they
had to stand at the sides. Then he opened his mouth and they all came out,
the clowns, the elephants, the ladies, the monkeys. Then when they were all
25 out the lion fell in half. One clown put on his head and one put on his tail.
It was the best circus."
The street was badly lighted and I had to watch carefully for the alley
with the apartments. Quite suddenly they appeared. It must have been two
a.m. by then, but glaring light bulbs still threw ugly beams from several uncurtained windows. No wonder, I thought. Most likely his parents have
frantically enlisted their friends to search for the child.
There was still not enough light to see clearly. I was picking my way over
a pile of greyed lumber, and I did not notice the man approaching. We must
have seen him at the same moment. The boy threw himself to the ground,
regained his balance, and began to run as I have seen no child run.
The man was faster, though his pace unsteady and lurching. He caught
the child in one hand and dangled him as a cat holds a mouse for inspection. Sweat was running from the man's bare chest, and his unshaven face
was distorted with a snarl.
"So here's the God damn kid! What the hell you think you been doin'?
I'll show ya to take off whenever ya feel like it. Keep yer God damn legs
still. Here's somethin'll help ya remember. Are ya rememberin' now, are ya,
are ya? That's it, howl yer bloody head off. It won't get ya nowhere now."
"Don't, oh don't oh don't! Stop, stop, Daddy. Let me down!"
"No ya don't. Ya need a little more rememberin' yet. How's that and that.
So yer sorry. I'll bet yer sorry."
Suddenly the man lost interest in the object still dangling from his paw.
He let it drop to the ground. The boy lay there in a crouch whimpering, and
caressed the parts of his body which had been most viciously attacked.
"Git up now, and git outa my sight. Move now. Git back where you was
supposed to be in the first place. Here's yer damn blanket."
As the boy made an effort to carry out his orders, a new figure advanced.
It was a woman and she walked sloppily. She was doing up buttons on an
old print dress, but didn't appear too interested in finishing the job. She put
her arm around the man's waist, and grinned up at him.
"What ya been doin' Willie? I didn't know where ya went. Say, what's
that there? Some kid? Who's kid, Willie?"
"Yours? Well, what d'ya know? Hey, he's all beat up. Jesus, ya tryin' to
kill him? Here kid, let's see what Nina can do to fix ya up. C'mon honey,"
she said to the man. "I missed ya."
They started back, but I did not stay to watch them go.
It was almost a year later when I saw him again. Why he should have
been on that bus I do not know. Perhaps he was going to school. He had a
grease-stained paper bag in his hand. He walked very slowly to choose a
seat. He examined the first few rows very carefully, but apparently found
fault with them.
a6 "No, I don't think I'll have any of those." He smiled broadly and addressed himself to the whole bus. "Rabbits are living there now, and there's
no room for me."
He walked on. "Maybe I'll stay here, right on this corner. I'll change
again when we get into Indian country."
Two elderly women occupied the seat behind him and exchanged glances.
"Isn't that sweet?" said one. "Children have such vivid imaginations."
His beard knotted in a makeshift loin-cloth,
his arms around a sagging cardboard box
half filled with cake-mix samples
and raffle slips from hearing-aid firms,
he stumbles over empty bottles,
apple cores and crumpled program leaves
—an escapee from the Shrine Circus.
As the Whip cracks,
the Zoomo-Plane takes people up
and the Snake gives them six minute thrills,
he whispers:
"This midway isn't licensed for wine,
but they can spin candy out of flesh!"
and goes on tossing hoops at cupie dolls
and laughing panda bears.
Now he crosses his legs in full lotus
just beyond the Crown and Anchor stand
where agents display thirty brands
of silver-based deodorant
and pitchmen ramble in their stalls
about a fountain pen that writes on walls.
But the crowd from the Fun-House kick him and jeer,
though the star contortionist
(having always been good at guessing weight)
pivots on one pointed breast
and wipes her eyes with her tattooed heels,
while the sky streaks red above the row of floodlights
and they jostle him up the hill
the three Ferris Wheels.
Pacing slowly and methodically like a sentry
he trudges up and down the fourth floor corridor
attempting to fill the abyss of days
by humming a perpetual song:
a tenuous gypsy air
a delicate musical counterpoint to reality
a dogged affirmation
of the fact of his existence.
He trudges up and down the corridor with a hum
the passing of the hours
marked by the insipid milestones
of meals served at seven, eleven
and five o'clock sharp.
Stop and talk with him for a moment.
Try in an amiable manner
to shake the hum out of him.
Probably within the first two minutes of conversation
you'll come around to his favourite topic:
Of how back in Russia
when he was a young cadet
a doctor at a conscription centre had told him
he had a heart
"as strong as a steel shaft."
Peasant that he was he believed it.
Gypsy that he was he convinced his heart that it was true.
So here he is at eighty-eight
treading the corridors of the fourth floor
28 humming quietly
his steel shaft of a heart
pumping with the pride of a czar.
On this limited journey up and down the hallway
he packs a portable world
a private cosmology of memories:
dreams of Kiev sixty years ago
and the woman who told him she'd wait
until he returned from battle.
To his great surprise she actually did.
They had only met a week before the war,
he hadn't received a letter during the three years,
but when he rode back to town
it was as if they had never parted.
Old man, from whose body life itself springs fresh and new,
immaculate though in your shirt sleeves
with your talmudic wisp of a white beard
your gold watch hanging from your vest
and your eyes five decades and a culture away,
I'm sorry I disturbed your humming
your music that blends in subtle tones
the ringing hooves of Cossack ponies
hammering on a leaden plain
the beat of gypsy guitars and tapping leather boots
and the brightness of sun-drenched wheatfields.
Batter with your song old man
at the walls of this rank sarcophagus
let it echo through the halls
of this dusty, fetid house of the dying.
Sing choirs of angels?
Sing Heavenly Muse?
I'd rather hear Zelig Baltiansky hum:
Humming of eighty-eight years
and a heart as "strong as a steel shaft."
A SHORT STORY TO BE READ ALOUD TO TALENTED EIGHT YEAR OLDS Now, boys and girls, are you all sitting up straight? I think there is one
boy who is not .... Do we have to wait for him with our hands behind our
backs, boys and girls, and waste time from the exciting story about art that
we are going to have today?
Remember, if this unhappy kind of thing happens too often, I may not
let any of you in on the marvelous secret project that we are going to do
next week, and we will all suffer because someone in this class is what we
call a minus person.
That is better, James.
Now, last week we talked about a famous artist who lived a long time ago.
Does anyone recall his name?
Yes, that is right, Susan, it was Rembrandt, and do you remember how he
died of starvation because the people of those days did not recognize the
greatness of the work he did when he was really being sincere.
Yes. That was a sad story, wasn't it, but now we are going to talk about
the story of one of today's artists, and I think you will be surprised to see
how it comes out. But before I begin, how many of you have already heard
of Leonard Andrew?
No one? Susan, surely you have .... No? Well, how many of you have
heard of hydrobiles?
No one again? There was an article in the Vancouver Sun about Leonard
Andrew and his big new hydrobile just three days ago. Did no one see it?
Oh, my goodness. Don't tell me that Leonard Andrew is going to suffer
neglect like poor Rembrandt van Rijn did because no one recognizes his
greatness . . . ah, but I am only teasing you now and what you want to do
is to hear the exciting story of Leonard Andrew—a living Canadian artist
whom you could actually see if you visited his studio in North Vancouver.
Now, while I am telling you about Mr. Andrew and his hydrobiles, I am
going to pass around, starting at the front of Teddy's row, some pictures I
took last summer at the University. There was a sculpture exhibition on, and
in the pool in the courtyard of one of the new buildings, there was a hydro-
I am sorry that the photographs are not too clear—there is so much reflection on the surface of the water. Yet, if you look carefully, you can see
enough of the shapes to get some idea of what a hydrobile looks like. See,
Teddy, I'll show you. Down here, near the corner—the light-coloured shapes
.... No, those are bits of paper. I'm afraid that the older boys and girls at
the University are sometimes untidy too. There—see them? When you have
finished, Teddy, pass the pictures on quickly, so that everyone else can enjoy
them too.
Now, are we all sitting as tall as a house and quiet as a mouse? One boy,
one boy again .... Good.
Now, I will let you in on a secret. I know Mr. Leonard Andrew. Doesn't
that make you feel as though you practically know him too?
31 He was at the Art School when I was there for my year. Fierce—oh my,
he was fierce—with crew-cut and beard, he would stand there in the classroom in his tight denim jeans and turtle-neck sweater, and glare at the still-
life groups until you would think that the squashes and grapes would jump
up and run away in fright. Can't you just see him, boys and girls?
And his intellectual curiosity—you can't imagine it. His mind was everywhere. You may have only heard of some of these things, but he could
discuss anthropology, philosophy, aesthetics, history, music, literature.
But he was not really happy at Art School. Several of the teachers, perhaps
because they were no longer really creative themselves, did not understand
his serious work, not realizing that at the age of thirty-four he had already
thought his way through every step of development in art, or that in the
many kinds of work he had done, he had gained an understanding of life
that few of us can hope to have. Of course, other more sensitive teachers
supported Mr. Andrew, but he ignored all this argument and worked on and
on with his paints and clay and glue, just as we do right here in this room.
Then everything changed for him. Overnight he became a celebrity by
producing a work so completely original and Canadian that everyone simply
gasped. How do you suppose he did it, boys and girls? Put your thinking
caps on, now.
Oh my, not one hand up?
Well, do you remember how I said that we should always be looking at
things in a new, refreshing way, seeing new meanings in them? And do you
remember how we decided that Japanese wind bells were not an art form
because they only tinkled, and that it was not until Alexander Calder used
the wind bell idea to make mobiles which defined space, that we had art?
Well, just like Mr. Calder, Leonard Andrew could immediately recognize
a new art form when he saw it, and could sense its meaning to our society.
One evening, the little mobile he had put in the window over the kitchen
sink fell into his mother's supper dishes. While Mrs. Andrew quickly locked
herself into the bathroom, he walked over to the sink and looked dispassionately at the fallen work.
What do you think he suddenly saw there? Well, just as in the poem we
read yesterday, he was a person who knew that it is in humble gravel where
true diamonds lie. What do you suppose he saw?
There in the water, one part hidden by a plate, another part by a saucer,
was a new art form. Put up your hand if you think he was excited.
He set furiously to work. When the Annual Exhibition of Contemporary
Art came along, Leonard Andrew entered a work called "hydrobile one". He
had built it into a large fish bowl. It consisted of a number of interesting
pieces of wood held in place by threads and cross-arms which were themselves attached to an anchor at the bottom of the tank. It was, in effect, an
inverted mobile. A daring idea.
32 How the critics praised Leonard Andrew! These are grown-up ways of
saying nice things, and you may not understand them, but one critic called
the hydrobile "an intensely felt experience," and another, "a delightful new
insight into the decorative field." Everyone interested in art discussed him,
for now suddenly ahead of him lay a whole new field.
And Leonard Andrew did not shrink from his responsibility. He left Art
School, rented an inexpensive studio, and began creating hydrobiles. In the
following year, he did them in clear water, tinted water, and water with oil
on top. He went through a realistic period in which he set actual objects to
float about in the water; he went through a baroque phase with big lusty
chunks crowded into his water tanks; and just before he won his scholarship
from the Canada Council, he went through a classical phase during which
he hung nothing but the strings.
How different life had become for him! cbc television interviewed him,
Canadian Art wrote about him, and during the summer session at the University he gave three lectures on water and art as the sources of physical and
philosophical life. Perhaps your parents noticed that even our good neighbours to the south mentioned him in the Canadian section of Time Magazine.
With the scholarship I have just mentioned, he went to Paris, and the
moment he left, several students at the Art School, calling themselves The
Marine Group, and including a skin-diver, set about making hydrobiles.
They were nothing but imitators, needless to say, and no one took their work
Do you know what Leonard Andrew did when he got to Paris? He looked
around him and decided that art in British Columbia was much more creative than it was in Europe, and so he came right home to his mother and
friends. Now wasn't that nice of him?
Evidently there is one boy who does not think so, and we all know who he
is, don't we, boys and girls? And he probably thinks that Leonard Andrew's
life was all easy success, with trips to Paris, and fame simply handed to him.
It wasn't. Like all serious artists, he went through a period of suffering. To
many, it may not seem like much in comparison with Rembrandt, but after
his return from Paris, he did suffer in a different way!
Europe had upset him—perhaps the food was too rich, and of course
things are not always too clean there, and in his absence the so-called Marine
Group had almost ruined the hydrobile idiom by their silliness. Why, one
member of the group, the skin-diver I believe, had even floated a hydrobile
in a bowl of soup, as a kind of social protest.
Yes, boys and girls, that was amusing, wasn't it, but let us hurry on with
our story.
When he saw this kind of thing going on, what could Leonard Andrew do
to make the hydrobile the vital thing it once had been? At first, under European influence, he experimented with something not very nice called satire
which he got from a man named Moliere, but no one understood it. Then
33 he tried a lyrical approach with a piece called "Inverse Dehydrobile En-
plumed," but while we knew what it was, we found it so subtle that one of
us actually mistook it for an ordinary mobile, though of course a very lyrical
one. Finally, he attempted a traditional hydrobile, then gave it up when he
heard someone remark that he was beginning to imitate himself. Some of us
almost started to believe that he would fail to become a genius.
This was the darkest period of his life, and do you know what, boys and
girls? It took place just last year, only a few months before I first came to
this school. Doesn't that make you feel as though you are living in exciting
You can just imagine then, what a thrill it was for me to see that Leonard
Andrew's first outdoor hydrobile—the very one you saw in the photographs
today—was chosen as the winning design for a great new student memorial.
As our instructor pointed out to us, the possibilities of this new experiment
in hydrobiles are absolutely limitless. Canada has more lakes and rivers than
any other civilized country in the world.
But already Leonard Andrew's mind has soared beyond to an art true to
the whole new Space Age.
Listen to what he has to say in his Vancouver Sun article about the big
new hydrobile he has been commissioned to do by the students of the University of British Columbia:
Hydrobile thirty-five will be anchored by chains to the shelf off Point Grey
and will swing a half-mile in either direction with the tide. It is conceived
as the ultimate expression of the restless university mind, with the cultural
symbols which are its components fluctuating, shifting, moving constantly,
yet united through the tides to the forces of space and the universe. The
concept is majestic in scale—the vast sweep and roll of the galaxies linked by
an art form to the student mind, hungry for knowledge, and restless in an
element still mired by intellectual deadwood and flotsam .. .
All right, all right, James. You have a question. Quickly, what is it?
No, James, it won't get in the way of boats. And for asking such an impertinent question, you will not be allowed to join us next week, and it is
just too bad, because we are going to do something really creative and exciting. I was not going to tell any of you about it just yet, but now I will. We
are going to come to class in denims and turtle-neck sweaters. The boys will
wear false beards, and the girls will put black makeup on their eyes. Then
we will all write letters to the editor of the Vancouver Sun, telling him how
much we enjoyed hearing about hydrobiles. After that, we will each make
one in the classroom sink—and it will be so much fun.
Put up your hand, boys and girls, if you think James wishes he hadn't
been impertinent.
The topmost leaves
are turning out the insides
of their reversible jackets;
Imperceptibly, the summer has trickled past
like water from a leaking tap;
I see a faint dab of ochre
a little sharp flame of orange
burning in a green forest.
The air is tense.
A cold wind swooped in tonight
like a gull; trees bent,
twigs snapped like icicles from eaves,
the moon grimaced and shivered
drawing a cloud around for warmth.
The ground wore a patched coat of leaves.
The stars expired . . . sparks upon the hearth.
The forest is afire this morning
with splotches of red on a background
of buttered toast.
A pallid face outside my window
has caught the measles.
The chill has set in, and chased the green away.
The skies put out the conflagration,
opening the water nozzles wide.
I tramped ankle-deep in soggy leaves
beneath the trees, thinning like hair on an old man's head.
And after the rains, the autumn hills
smiled with a touch of sunlight
and shed their remaining foliage.
Looking at the highest hill, I saw
winter about to tumble from a precipice.
With a faint but steady hum like the voice in a seashell
the hushed moist baby breath of a city four hours new
filters softly through our window.
Suddenly the air like a goddess surprised bathing
startles to a trembling self-consciousness
at the shrill blast of a siren:
the harbinger of death and pain,
the berserk, frenetic wail,
a giant broom that sweeps
the very night itself from its path.
The demon siren hurtles by our window
astride a liquid streak of whiteness
that careens around the corner
with a peal of tires on pavement.
At this mundane squeal of rubber on cement the spell shatters
and the phantom white ambulance like Cinderella's coach
turned pumpkin
fades into the dim grey light of reality.
Star breaking an eye's light an instant
when have you running to the night's brook
breathed to bend the moon back?
Sitting in a separate bedroom when have I
flung a mirror a glass flame to
cut your face lost in doorframes?
Time passed by with a groan
one early Monday morning.
Women, weary in grey smocks,
draped blue-white sheets on their lines
as flags in service at half-mast.
Dogs, sniffing savoury air, snarled,
then scrambled back to early breakfast.
Beneath the street, the water in pipes
paused, then ran smoothly on again.
The sun wept a giant cloud
and hid within the rest of the day.
Time passed with a cough and shudder,
stopping only to catch the breath
of an old man in a neighbour room.
That old serpent,
Gleaming ruler of our garish, neglected garden,
Is remarkably conscientious,
Takes cultivated care in his gross, remodelled Eden
To leave no exotic weed
Lying limp in the long grass,
(A sleek round head not soon again to rise erect)
Perhaps contemplates sweetsouled, bloodtaloned birdsongs,
Issues tentatively his famous hotred forker
And savours still the reluctant, lingering tang
Of the latest
Not totally unresponsive
37 U/W'
There were three cowhands and they worked for a rancher known all over
that country as the Sidewinder. There was the old man, there was Bill Cox,
and there was Reed. They had a hell of a time that week branding cattle and
all they talked about all week was how they were going to spend Saturday
night. Bill said he was going to stay in town all night and not come back to
the ranch till Sunday. While they were branding cattle the Sidewinder was
out shooting ducks, but they didn't mind that too much because they knew
they might get a duck supper out of it.
Saturday night they rode in sweaty and dirty and headed for the bunk-
house and changed their clothes after washing up. The old man had a new
pair of socks on that the Sidewinder's wife knit for him and a new Stetson
hat that he had bought last month. They weren't going to bother with supper
because they wanted to save time since they were late getting in and besides
they weren't thinking much about eating.
Then the Sidewinder walked into the bunkhouse and said, "Boys, come on
up to the house. The wife's got five roast ducks for supper and I got a bottle
of whisky since last Christmas."
Well right then the old man turned around when he heard that and went
back to his bunk and sat down.
"What's the matter?" Bill Cox asked.
"I reckon I'll stay here," the old man said.
"Come on Bill, let's go," Reed said and he went on up to the house with
the Sidewinder.
"You go on up," Bill called out after him. "I'll be up in a minute."
"Come on," Bill said and slapped him on the back, but the old man just
sat there like he was thinking and didn't say a word. Then just when Bill
was leaving the bunkhouse he said, "Bill, I reckon two horses are worth
forty dollars."
"What horses you got in mind?" Bill asked.
"His best team," the old man said. "The dappled mares."
38 "Well you go ahead and collect your wages any way you see fit. I'm not
going to judge a man until I see what he does."
"You go and see," the old man said and he set his new Stetson down on
his head until it slipped into the red crease around his head—there was a red
crease all around his head from his old hat—and then he walked out and
went down to the barn.
When Bill walked into the ranch house there was the Sidewinder and
Reed having a snort before supper and Reed eyeing the Sidewinder's wife
every chance he could but she wouldn't even look at him. Bill just looked
with a sober face. When he was around the Sidewinder's wife he wouldn't
even look at her.
"Bill come on in and have a shot of this bottle," the Sidewinder said.
Bill had a small one to be polite, which is something the old man wouldn't
have done, not by a damn sight.
And then they heard a noise from the outside. You could hear the horses
whinnying. What the hell's the matter with the old man, Bill was thinking,
can't he steal a damn team of tame horses without raising the whole barn?
"What the hell's going on out in that barn?" the Sidewinder said. "Better
have a look." He was touchy as hell about his horses. "Bill," he said, "you
take a look."
Bill went out the door and stood on the porch until he saw the old man
walk out with the team and hitch them up to the best feed wagon the Sidewinder had on the place—a brand new one he had bought last month—and
the old man rode away slow with his horse tied behind, and when he was a
good piece down the road Bill went in and said everything was all right. But
the Sidewinder had forgotten all about it and didn't hear what Bill said and
he asked Bill where the old man was and Bill said, laying down in the bunkhouse.
"Bill," the Sidewinder said, "I got to talk to you. You know you've always
found me good to work for. You get good meals don't you, and good pay? I
always let you borrow anything you wanted, now isn't that right?"
Bill didn't say a thing. But Reed said, "That sure is right." And he went
and poured himself a good half a glass of that expensive whisky.
"Bill have some Scotch," the Sidewinder said. "I got to tell you something
Bill. You know that new feed wagon I bought last month, well you know
how things happen, it kinda left me short on cash."
Bill just looked at him and didn't say anything. Reed sat there looking at
the Sidewinder's wife and the Sidewinder noticed him but didn't say anything.
"Look Bill," he said, "I can't pay you until next month, is that all right?"
Bill just nodded his head.
"Now come on and have a little of this whisky. I been keeping it since
Christmas. You boys may as well clean it up tonight."
Reed cut what he had down and poured another glass but Bill just looked
39 at his hat for awhile and then stood up and said, "Well I reckon I'll be going
to town," and he started for the door but the Sidewinder called, "Ain't you
gonna have none of that roast duck?" Bill just shook his head and then he
glanced at the Sidewinder's wife just a second.
Reed called out he'd be staying here because he didn't have no money to
go into town. He didn't stop to think that Bill Cox was broke too. But Bill
didn't give any hint. If Bill had said, "Come on Reed let's go," Reed would
have jumped up and left a case of whisky sitting there because he'd go anywhere with Bill but he figured there'd be nothing doing this time.
Bill went on down to the bunkhouse and got his Winchester and a half a
box of shells. He liked it because it was the first gun he could hit with.
Bill loaded the gun and saddled his horse. Then he went up to the barn
and let all the horses loose, fired the rifle three times and the horses went to
beat hell down the road. Bill jumped on his horse and fired another shot,
this one at the kitchen window and then he rode like hell down the road
and fired the gun empty.
When he was halfway to town he met the old man sitting in the wagon.
The dappled team was gone.
"Where you got the team?" Bill asked.
"Up behind that bluff," the old man said.
"I'll make this look better," Bill said and he loaded his Winchester and
fired two shells into the wagon box.
Then they heard Reed and the Sidewinder coming and this must be about
twenty minutes after Bill let the horses out. The old man took out his snuff
and put a wad in his mouth under his lip.
When Reed and the Sidewinder came up, the Sidewinder hollered, "What
happened Bill? What in hell's going on? The horses are gone and somebody
fired at the house."
"They got your team, Sidewinder," the old man said.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Rustlers," Bill said. "They unhitched when they got to the rough stretch
in the road here. I missed 'em but a couple of slugs caught the wagon. What
took you so long Reed?"
"Reed had to saddle up," the Sidewinder said.
"The old man didn't saddle up," Bill said. "He rode bareback and got
here before me too."
"Where's your horse?" Reed asked the old man.
"Up behind that bluff. I left him there. That's the way the rustlers went.
You want to have a look?"
"No," Reed said. "I reckon they got away by now." Bill looked at Reed.
"Reckon they must have," the Sidewinder said. "Still, I hate like hell to
lose that team."
"You want to have a look," Bill asked, "or do you want me and the old
man to go up and have a look?"
40 "You go up and have a look," the Sidewinder said. "Reed and me we'll
take the wagon back."
"They scattered," Bill said. "It might take all night before we see anything so don't count on us until sometime tomorrow."
"No, you go on, we'll see you tomorrow. I'll give you a ten dollar bonus at
the end of the month Bill," the Sidewinder said.
"That's all right," Bill said.
"No, I mean that Bill. You too old man."
Bill and the old man went up the hill to the bluff. They went around it to
where the dappled mares and the old man's horse were. The old man got on
his horse and they waited until they heard the wagon going back and then
they rode down the hill and went to town.
Time once, in that stretched region afterwards
where halls without wind echo no walls, there met
those three: one who was paradised with words;
a writer; and one able to beget.
i never dreamed so deep, Dante began
o wideswung doorless unsung tales . . .
(Whaj-say? croaked Mrs. A., an also ran, &
the divine Beatrice studied her nails.)
. . . There never echoed in this rocking tomb-
less, wigwag, stairless, deathly place, my dreams!
o littleness of word & womb!
Beatrice betrayed no thought. In her still face
a thousand virgin maries reigned in peace. All gloried
shone her emptiness of eyes, & all unwittingly did she
a holy passion, foolish in him so wise.
She'd lived a mermaid-woman, unaware. Unknowingly
she'd up & died. Abstract and vain, she had allowed his
mongrel stare.
She did not care for close-set eyes. Pain-
wracked with seed, the other woman fertilized unthanked.
Grace God it all has passed
Dante & his
freedom stayed uncompromised; he was unfettered to the
last, with whorish chains of nuptial sin.      He loathed
the one he entered in.
By a strange cruel God they were sent to dwell
In his oft-depicted citadel in Hell.
Still he must flap
divine his fleshless gums at lovely Beatrice (now
a skeleton. From her dry body sour an odour comes
of female juices turned to gelatine.)
42 O i have travelled realms above
the cotton silences of flesh, and talk.
With folds of distance i enwrapped our love. In bitter
joy i chose to walk apart, never to feel the futile ache
of ageing intimacy. You did not
bear me a brat, yet for your sake
i multiplied my seed thick & begot for us
a perfect kind of dream.
His breath stinks now, she thought and opened her
legs wide to him to offer up a musty death. Screaming with
pain his soul convulsed
& died.
Once every day he rings our bell,
A little (fourpaws) child
With silent eyes.
"Here is your dry cleaning lady,"
He stoutly cries,
Manfully, though with great care,
(Not wanting it to brush against the sill)
Swinging out nothing to her ready hand.
(Waiting with solemn stance for the airy silver,
His just due)
Then scurrying off without a backward glance,
Indifferent as a cat
And quite as dear.
I wonder,
Will he have grown too old
Next year?
They were making a hundred mile canoe trip. They had been married
for about four months. This day had been especially hard and she was fed
up with it because she wasn't much of an outdoor girl although she was
learning. They walked a lot this day because the river was too rough to
canoe on. She was sitting very seriously by the camp fire very tired out with
dirt on her face, sighing every few minutes from tiredness and he could see
her small breasts move under the wool sweater that she had put on because
it was getting cool. He was very tired himself but he didn't show it because
while he was pulling the canoe up he had washed himself good and wet his
hair and combed it and he didn't look a bit tired. She was sitting there across
the small fire eating an apple and with her other hand over her knee, her
arm around her knee, and her knees close together. She was eating very
seriously and sometimes a wisp of smoke would come from the fire with a
breeze and get in her eyes and then she'd move back a little and put her
hand up and tears would come to her eyes. There were mosquitoes too,
although there had been surprisingly few, he was thinking, and she would
slap at them. She was wondering why the damn smoke never went in his
eyes and why the damn mosquitoes never bit him. I guess I'm just not made
for this life, she thought.
He was finished and sat there looking at her. When she looked at him he
would look above her at the dark clouds and he did this so casually that she
didn't know he was watching her. He liked watching her. She was the loveliest girl in the world to watch. God how he loved to look at her. She doesn't
know what she does to me, he thought.
She finished the apple and threw it. Then she sat and looked at him.
"I'm so tired," she said and she stretched out her feet and lay back with
her arms beneath her head. "All I want to do is sleep. I'm aching all over."
"This is only the third day you know," he said.
44 "Oh I wish we could go back Bill," she said. "Why can't we? Why can't
we just turn around and go back tomorrow?" She looked at him.
"Because we can't."
"You're so selfish."
"We've got to finish the trip," he said.
"Oh I don't care," she said. "All I want to do is go to bed."
"Well I guess you can pitch the tent then," he said looking at the clouds.
He got up slowly because he had eaten a lot and he was tired and lazy.
"Oh Bill you," she said.
"No, I've got to get some wood in case it rains. There isn't very much
dry wood. Unless you want to get the wood."
"No," she said.
Bill didn't say anything. He just walked away and when he was coming
back with the wood about ten minutes later it was starting to rain big drops
and it was thundering. Bill looked up and figured it would pass. When he got
back to the camp he saw her inside the sleeping bag away from the rain.
"You're gonna get it soaked Jan," he said. "Hurry up. Get out and help
me pitch the tent."
"No," she said.
He pitched the tent by himself and got soaked. He went inside and lit the
coal-oil lamp and it made the whole tent yellow from the outside. The rain
quit. Bill took off his clothes and got in the other sleeping bag. He knew
Jan's sleeping bag was soaking wet and he was thinking maybe bringing
two sleeping bags wasn't such a bad idea after all.
"Jan," Bill said. She must be sleeping I guess, he thought. All right let
her sleep there in that soggy mess. It serves her right. Yes but what about
you though. He lay there for awhile waiting.
"Jan wake up," he said.
He got up and went out and knelt beside her and put his head down
inside until he could smell her hair which had a static electric odour and
he could feel the electricity before his face touched her hair.
"Jan," he whispered. "Aren't you wet?"
She said hmmm because she was half asleep. He felt in with his hand.
Hell, it's dry, he thought. I got a better deal than I figured on this sleeping
bag. I gypped her old man on it though for fifteen bucks. But he didn't want
it anymore and I don't like him anyway. God is she nice. God All Mighty
is she nice.
"Jan," he whispered.
She said hmmm. He kissed her.
"No let me sleep," she said.
"Jan wake up," he said. "Come on wake up. Jan."
"Wake up. You're wet. Can't you feel? Come in the tent and get undressed."
45 "I'm not wet."
"Yes, hurry up." He helped her out.
"It's good we brought the other sleeping bag," he said. Then he looked
at her and said, "Do you want to wash your face?"
"Here," he said and he threw the last of their water from the small pail,
ice cold into her face and it went all over her. She gasped from the cold.
She blinked her eyes. They went in the tent and she blinked in the light.
"What did you do that for?" she said, almost awake now.
"It was the only way to get you washed."
She sat down on the sleeping bag and looked out the open door flap. Then
she fell back and closed her eyes. Bill came down beside her.
"Look at me," he said.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. She was perfectly awake.
"Do you really want to go back tomorrow?" he asked.
She didn't say anything for awhile and then she said, "No Bill, I was just
kidding. Really, I like camping."
"So do I."
"I'm glad," she said.
"So am I," he said.
He looked into a passionate mirror
To find his leaning song
The image of his immortality.
With words for wings he climbed
Hoping to pass the point
Where other climbers fell
But once arrived found only
Some old stone faces
And the empty well
Where blind kings dream in webs
And then he tumbled down
Old Jack, with an arm across his eyes.
A quiet golden bell
swayed in the wind's arms
swayed by your fingers
I leaving unfeeling
leaving your hands breathing
Only your face pale
in the light of your
moon half breasts
as a sparrow's flight
tom the apathetic young man
dick a young man speaking with a Welsh accent
how long a young man dressed and speaking like a Chinese
jane a young poetess; black stockings, skirt, sweater, spectacles
sadie     ....    not young, yet attractive in heavy make-up; fringes and beads
reverend lugubrious, middle-aged, clerical collar, black suit
author sporty type; big, commanding figure, middle-aged
5 banner bearers
The Present
Produced at the Frederic Wood Theatre, University of British Columbia,
November 25th-December 3rd, tg6o
under the title, "Look 'Round In
Apathy." The curtain rises on a drab living-room, bleakly furnished. Men's clothes
are draped over chairs, doors; there are also a few items of female wear to
show that the room is occupied by a young couple. Entrance is at the rear,
elevated by a couple of steps. A door at stage left leads to the bedroom. On
an armchair, facing the audience, is Tom. He holds a large newspaper between himself and the audience. After a few seconds he puts down the newspaper, rises, and comes to the front of the stage.
Welcome, everybody. This is an historic occasion. You are about to see the
first play on any stage about the Apathetic Young Men. And I'm the original Apathetic Young Man. The first of the bunch. I'm not an Angry, I'm
not a Beat. I'm just plain, don't-give-a-damn apathetic. Just to show you
what an advanced case I am I'll tell you that I'm not even interested in
money. Now that's pretty hard to believe, isn't it? But it's true. Why a play
about an Apathetic Young Man, you might ask. Well the Angries have run
the course, they've had it. Look at the first Angry Young Men. Sure they
were angry, but they were smart. They knew that anger was a commodity
and they peddled it. Made a mint! After a few years the only thing they're
angry about is the income tax. But don't be hard on them. You'd do the
same. Not me though. I'm apathetic and what you're about to see is my
story. It's the story of a young man who doesn't believe in anything, doesn't
hate anyone, doesn't love anyone. Everything takes place this evening and
occupies in time some three months. The action begins with a knock on the
door, (there is a knock) Well, what do you know. Right on cue. Come in.
(enter Dick)
Hello there, Dai Bach.
Dai Bach he calls me. My name isn't Dai and don't call me Bach. My name
is Tom. (to audience) He's no more a Welshman than I am, or had you
guessed that from his phoney accent? (to Dick) Well, sit down. What have
you been doing?
Makin' plans, Dai Bach. Things is lookin' up in the movement. The wheels
is startin' to turn.
What are you going to do, blow up the Houses of Parliament? Or secede
from the United Kingdom and fight a Civil War?
Oh, you can make fun, Dai Bach, but you don't know. The thought of dyin'
for Wales excites my blood so much I feel I could burst.
(He sings the first verse of "Men of Harlech" in a strong, bold voice as he
marches around the table, finishing up on top of the table where he strikes
an heroic pose)
Don't you feel your blood stirrin'?
Give me a cigarette.
Sorry, Dai, I'm broke.
Given all your money to the movement, I suppose?
That's right. And proud I am to do it, boyo. Why don't you come in with
us, Dai Bach? You've got Welsh blood in your veins; and even if you haven't
you can still join us, as a sympathizer like.
I'd be no good to you. I've got no money.
Why don't let that bother you. Your loyalty is all that matters.
Well, I've no loyalty either.
(There is a timid knock on the door)
Come in.
(Enter how long. He stands nervously in the doorway)
Come in, you Croydon-born Chinaman.
(How Long advances nervously into the room)
Hello, everybody. I am so pleased to meet you.
(to audience) Look at him! Chinese! Did you ever see anything like it?
The closest he's ever been to China is the crockery department at Selfridges.
(to How Long) Tell 'em your name.
(softly) My name is How Long.
Speak up, speak up. The ladies and gentlemen out there want to hear you.
My name is How Long, (he sits)
That's a good one. Here, Dick.
(Tom and Dick advance to front of stage)
(in exaggerated burlesque music-hall style) I have a little question for you,
a little question.
(in similar voice) A little question?
50 TOM
Yerss. A little question. Tell me, my good man, how long is a Chinaman?
How long is a Chinaman? Let me see. Five feet two inches?
Not five feet two inches. Five feet four inches?
No. Try again.
I give up.
You give up, eh?
Yerss, I give up.
I'm not talking about his length. How long is a Chinaman. That's his name.
(Tom and Dick laugh uproariously)
(breaking away and reverting to his normal voice) Pleased to make your
acquaintance, How Long. You don't look very Chinese to me, although I
must admit I never met a Chinaman in my life before.
He's no more a Chinaman than you are a Welshman. Tell him what you are,
How Long.
I am a symbol of the industry and purposiveness of the Chinese people. I
represent six hundred million Chinese who by their drive and energy and
sacrifice are making for themselves a place in the sun.
Well a bloody good symbol you are, sitting there on your arse. Why don't
you go over to the corner and make yourself a little blast furnace. Start
making pig iron or something.
Please. I was only being polite to honourable ladies and gentlemen in audience. Now I go to work.
(He goes over to corner at stage left and busies himself with pieces of wood:
drilling, filing, hammering.)
I should be goin'. I got work to do myself.
Aw, don't leave me here with that. .. that symbol of Chinese industry.
But I'm just a symbol myself, Dai Bach. Welsh nationalism. It may not be
much of a cause, but we believe in it. And we'll die for it if we have to.
Not many people can say that these days, can they?
No, thank God.
(Enter the Reverend)
Did . . . somebody . . . say . . . Gawd?
Well, if it isn't the Reverend. Will you take up the collection, Dick, or shall I?
How do you do, sir. We were just talking about symbols. May I ask what
you're a symbol of?
Surely it's obvious, young man. Doesn't my clerical collar tell you that I
symbolize the grace of our Lord. By whose stripes we are healed, in whose
blood we are washed free of sin.
He's started. He's only just got his foot in the door and he's started. Sit
back, everyone, and he'll give us the sermon on the mount.
(Coming into the room) I haven't come here to preach.
Well, what have you come here for? If you don't mind my askin'.
I understand there is a young heathen here. A Chinese person. I wish to
acquaint him with the word of God.
Oh, you mean How Long. There he is, workin'. He's very busy just now,
workin' very hard. He has to, you see. He represents six hundred million
Chinese. All of them workers.
I'm sure he can spare a moment to listen to the word of God.
How Long! Come over here and meet the Reverend. He wants to have a
word with you.
(How Long comes downstage centre. He sandpapers a block of wood
throughout his conversation)
How are you, my son?
Very busy, sir.
59 REV.
But I'm sure you're not too busy to listen to the good news I bring. Tell me,
did you know that Christ died for you?
Yes sir, I heard about that. It was a long time ago.
Nearly two thousand years ago, my son. And yet just as fresh as though it
had happened this afternoon.
Please sir, my parents died for me. Twelve years ago. It very fresh in memory
too. Seem like only happened this afternoon.
I wonder if you would like to kneel with me and accept Christ as your personal saviour. In these times we need a faith, something to sustain us, something in which to believe.
Please sir, I have something in which to believe. Six hundred million Chinese
and country they are making for themselves.
Yes, yes. But I mean something deeper, something more profound.
Tell us, Reverend, what do you believe in?
What do / believe in?
(How Long returns to his corner and continues working)
Why, I believe in . . . let me see . . . Yes, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten
son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Virgin Mary, suffered under . . .
suffered under . . . Who was conceived of the Virgin Mary . . . suffered . . .
I ... I believe . . .  (he becomes confused, unable to remember, and continues muttering to himself)
What's the matter?
I know what you symbolize. Religion today. Sterile, barren. Why you can't
even remember the Apostles' Creed.
My dear young man, if you'll give me a moment it will all come back to
me. Now let me see . . . (he wanders over to the corner at stage right, muttering parts of the Apostles' Creed to himself)
Do you think that's right, Dick, the Reverend symbolizing modern religion?
Oh yes, what else?
53 (Enter Sadie. She sweeps into the room and extends a hand for Dick to
kiss. He looks embarrassed and ends up by shaking it. Sadie turns to Tom.)
Hello, darling, did you miss me?
Hello Sadie. How much did you make?
How much did I make? Don't be ridiculous. I called to see Aunt Hattie and
what do you think? She gave me twenty-five pounds. Isn't she a darling?
(she hands Tom the money)
Thank you. What would we do without Aunt Hattie?
You're lucky to have a rich auntie. Sadie. I wish I did.
Yes, aren't I lucky? I have a rich aunt and an impotent lover. But my aunt
is getting poorer all the time and my lover isn't exactly improving either.
(to Tom) Darling, you really must do something. It's becoming intolerable.
(to Dick) He's impotent, you know.
Is there anything I can do to help?
Now Dick, you mustn't be naughty. It's Tom I love. You haven't even got
any money.
He's got money but he throws it all away on the movement. He'd do better
to give it to Aunt Hattie.
No, Tom. Don't say anything like that. I think Dick is a wonderful person.
(she crosses over to Dick) You lead such an exciting life; being chased by
the police and the army, blowing up buildings. Have you ever . . . killed
anyone, Dick?
No, I can't say as I have.
When you do you must tell me about it. Everything. Promise?
All right, I promise.
Mmmm (she strokes his arm and nuzzles her cheek against him)
(Becoming embarrassed) Steady, old girl. Tom is just over there you know.
Oh, he doesn't care. Do you, Tom?
54 TOM
What did you say?
I said you wouldn't mind if Dick made love to me.
Mind? Of course I don't mind.
(Becoming very angry) Oh, you infuriate me. What kind of a lover are you,
You know what kind of a lover I am.
Yes, I do. Useless!  Spineless!  (her anger leaves her) But I love you. (she
turns to Dick) I still love him, Dick. I want to help him. I believe in him
as you believe in your home rule for Wales or How Long believes in China.
(The Reverend comes downstage and stands behind and to one side of Sadie.
He coughs discreetly. Sadie turns)
Or as much as the Reverend here believes in ... . What do you believe in,
Thank you, young lady. I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of
heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten son, our Lord,
who was conceived ... oh dear, who was conceived . . . now let me see . . .
who was conceived of the Virgin Mary, suffered under . . . suffered under
the Virgin Mary .... No! Let me see .... I know! I'll show you what I
believe in. Look! Look there
(A large silver cross descends and stops, suspended a few feet above the
There! You see! That's what I believe in!
(Dick rises and goes over to the cross. He takes it in his hands and it crumples
But it's only silver paper. Silver paper and tinsel from Woolworth's.
(The Reverend covers his head with his hands, turns, and with his head
bowed makes his exit)
That wasn't nice, Dick. Why did you humiliate him like that?
I didn't know, did I? I just touched it. Why did he have to go off like that,
anyway? I told you he was a fake. If he had any strength and dignity left. . .
(Enter Jane, she stands in doorway)
Strength and dignity. Noble words! (she comes into the room)
55 TOM
Ah, Jane. Welcome. No gathering is complete without a poet, and if you
can't get a poet you have to settle for a poetess. There's never any shortage
of them.
Stop trying to get a rise out of me. You're supposed to be sunk in apathy.
I should watch that if I were you.
Come on, Tom, let's go out.
Oh, don't go because of me.
My dear, you flatter yourself.
Now look here . . .
Oh Jane, you missed the Reverend. He just left.
Yes, I know. Was he horrible?
Not really, I felt rather sorry for himself. Didn't you, Tom?
Me? I don't even feel sorry for myself.
Well, what have you been doing lately, Jane? Have you written any more
Of course, there's so much to write about. All this decadence, it's exciting.
Do you know, I was in Hampstead the other day and stopped by Keats'
house. It's a public library now, you know. I went into the garden and what
do you think I heard?
A nightingale?
A crow! A bloody great ugly black crow. It went "Caw". Oh, it was lovely.
I'm writing a poem about it now. I call it "Ode to a Crow". It's very
So, you believe in Art, do you? Look at her everyone, the symbol of the
Eternal Artist. The symbol of the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, Ludwig von
Beethoven, and . . . er . . . George Bernard Shaw. What have we come to?
Look here, I may not be much but I'll tell you this. I'd sooner represent the
Eternal Artist, as you call it, than the bloody, weak-minded, helpless, impotent, average man that you represent.
Just a minute, my girl. I don't think you quite understand. I'm a symbol of
all those people in the audience. And not only that; I'm a symbol of all the
people outside, millions and millions of them. Beat that!
I still say you're a pretty poor specimen. And quite frankly I just don't see
what Sadie sees in you. It's unnatural if you ask me.
Well nobody's asking you, so shut your mouth. I happen to be in love with
Tom and he's in love with me and I won't . . .
Love! Hah! That's a good one. Why, you stuck up little tramp. Tom isn't
in love with you and never has been. And you're just looking for a husband.
But no one'11 have you, will they?
You foul-mouthed little bitch. I'll tear your hair out by the roots, (she
attacks Jane and they lock in a struggle)
You and your Aunt Hattie! I know where the money
comes from ... ■  (Together)
You're jealous because you can't get a boy friend . . .
57 (Together)
You're just a cheap tramp. And you're getting old, old!
You're so ugly no wonder no one'll have you. Poet, hah!
For goodness sake, what's the matter all of a sudden, (he tries to separate
them without success)
Have you all gone mad? (he joins the struggle, vainly trying to stop the fight)
(Enter Author. He stands in doorway at top of steps)
(The hubbub gradually ceases and all four of them stare incredulously at
the commanding figure of the Author)
Who . . . are . . . you?
Who am I? I am Alexander the Great and Harold MacMillan. I am Abraham Lincoln and Oliver Cromwell and Hugh Gaitskell. I am the President
of the Oxford Union, Mao Tse Tung and Ivan the Terrible. I am Mahomet, I'm Jesus Christ, I'm the Lord God Almighty. I'm the fellow who wrote
this play, (he descends into the room) Now, what was all the fighting about.
It wasn't in the script.
You're the .... author? Of . . . (he spreads his hands) this play?
Yes, that's right.
But isn't it. . . somewhat unconventional. . . your coming on?
Revolutionary! But don't let that bother you. I'm just one of the characters
like everyone else. Now then, what was all the commotion about?
Tom here tried to get funny with me and then this . . . this trollop tried to
get into the act, so I just told her where to get off.
Why, you lying little bitch. You came walking in here as though you owned
the place and then start throwing insults around . ..
I only told the truth. If you don't like it, that's too bad.
If you ever set foot in here again, I'll. . . I'll....
That's enough. The quarrel's over now.
But the things she said about Tom and me . . .
Yes, I know what she said.
So then I told her . . .
I know what you told her also.
You do?
Of course. I wrote the lines.
You wrote our lines?
That's right.
You didn't write many for How Long did you?
How Long is a very busy man. He doesn't have much time for talking.
While we're on the subject, it's a pretty stupid name, don't you think?
What? How Long? Not at all. I took it from Shaw's "Saint Joan". You must
know the lines, Jane. "O God, that madest us this beautiful earth, when will
it be ready to receive thy saints. How long, O Lord, how long?"
Oh yes, aren't they wonderful lines? I adore Shaw.
(To Author) You were saying a little while ago that you . . . that you wrote
this play.
That's right.
So you could change it if you wanted to?
Well, it's a bit late, but I could if it was something really important.
Oh, it is. It's terribly important.
Tell me about it.
Could I talk to you privately?
Certainly. Would everybody please leave. Exeunts for everyone.
(They all start to leave, except for the Author and Sadie)
No, not you, How Long. You stay here and keep on working (How Long
returns and resumes work) You don't mind if How Long stays, do you?
Oh no, that's all right.
Now, what was it you wanted to see me about?
It's about Tom and me.
What about Tom and you?
He won't marry me. It isn't because I'm not respectable or anything like
that. He's just too apathetic to do anything.
And where do I come in?
I thought you could . . . sort of . . . well, change the script. So that he
wouldn't be apathetic or impotent any more.
Hmm. That's quite an undertaking. I'm not sure that I want to do that.
Oh please. It's my only chance. If I have a baby he'll have to marry me.
You understand, Sadie, if I did change the script it would be just for the
sake of art?
Oh yes, I understand that.
Right! I'll do it. Oh, before I do, though, perhaps I should speak to Tom.
You won't tell him I suggested it, will you?
Of course not. You go now and tell Tom I want to see him for a minute.
Oh, I hope my plan is successful. I'll make him a good wife. (Exit)
(Author strolls over to How Long)
How are you getting along with it, How Long?
Fine, very good.
Yes, you're doing a good job. I like you, How Long. You know I named
the play after you, don't you?
I am honoured.
(Enter Tom)
Ah, Tom. I just wanted to have a little chat with you.
Yes, so Sadie said. What is it?
I'm a bit worried about your apathy, Tom. You're such a dull character I'm
afraid you're going to sink the entire play. What would you say if I changed
your character?
You're the author.
Yes. Well, I'm seriously thinking about it. Tell us a little bit about yourself,
Tom. You haven't always been apathetic, have you?
God, no. At university I believed in all kinds of things, believed in them
What kind of things, Tom?
Oh,  the usual.  Socialism;  freedom for colonial people, not just political,
economic, social freedom. I believed in peace and felt it was worth fighting
for. I believed . . .
O.K. Spare us a catalogue of the things you believed in. You didn't believe
in God, of course?
No, of course not. But I didn't believe in the Class Struggle either.
No, that was a bit before your time. You believed in causes then; were you
active in them?
My God, yes. I organized petitions against the South African government;
demonstrated against Hydrogen-bomb tests; served on all kinds of committees ; went canvassing for the Labour Party . . .
Tell us when you started to change.
After a couple of years I stopped and took stock. I looked around at what
61 had been going on in the world since I became . . . involved in things. Everything was ten times worse. Apartheid more entrenched than ever; Labour
politicians deciding that they wanted the Hydrogen-bomb too; radio-active
fallout increased umpteen times. Everything falling apart . . . and I was
helpless. But it wasn't only that. I looked around and saw who the happy
people were. Do you know who the happy people are? They're the don't-
give-a-damn people. The poor have got the pools and the telly, the pictures
and the pint at the local. The rich have got Ascot and champagne, capital
gains without taxation and out-of-this-world parties. Ask them about the
Hydrogen-bomb and they just look at you . . . blankly. And you know, even
the people who do care, they've got no souls. I went to the local Labour
party branch. Do you know who were there? Three old ladies making tea
and handing 'round biscuits, and a fiercely enthusiastic young Amazon with
a cartridge-belt of statistics and a burning desire to go to the London School
of Economics. Oh, and there were a couple of old men there too, but they
didn't say anything. Where are the young people. I thought.
And did you find out?
I went to the Young Conservatives. They had the young people all right.
Do you know what they were discussing the night I went there? Their
garden party! They were having a garden party! But you know, they were
happy. God bless their clean white collars and their new summer dresses and
their mummies and daddies who make it all possible, they were happy. Not
me, though, (pause) Well, that's my story. What happens now?
(Taking a script from his pocket) I'm going to make a slight change in the
script. You won't be impotent any more, Tom.
Won't be . . . impotent? J- won't be impotent any more? Have you gone
mad? If I'm not impotent then I'm not apathetic; and if I'm not apathetic
there's no point in the play, (pause) Is there?
You let me worry about that. It never does any harm to have a little sex
in a play. In good taste, of course, (he scribbles in script)
Oh, of course.
And you understand it's all for the sake of art ?
Oh, absolutely.
Fine. Then you call in Sadie. I've changed the script. You're not impotent
62 any more,  (calls into wings) Could we have some music for young lovers,
(Dreamy waltz music, lights soften and turn pink-rose colour)
Sadie! Sadie, darling. Come here.
(Enter Sadie. Tom takes her in his arms.)
Darling, the most wonderful thing has happened.
What is it? (she looks at Author) Have you . . . ? (Author nods)
(to Tom) Ah, at last you're mine. Darling, (she kisses him)
This is a day we'll always remember, darling.
Mmmm. Soft lights, sweet music, and you. You're ... all right now, aren't
you, darling?
Want me to prove it? (they are waltzing to the music and on this line they
reach the bedroom door. Tom takes a hand away and turns the knob of the
Tom! (the music stops) Here, take this, (offering him money)
What is it?
It's some money. Here, take it.
What for?
You'll need it later. Come on, take it.
Take it, darling. It must be a wedding present. Our first wedding present.
(Tom hesitates, then takes the money. Exits with Sadie. Enter, Jane, the
Reverend and Dick)
I know what's going on in that bedroom. You should be ashamed of yourself. You incited those two people to sin.
It's all for the sake of art, Reverend, you mustn't mind. Besides, they're both
going to be punished.
I should hope so.
I can't say I blame old Tom, you know. I'd be doin' the same thing myself
if I had a chance.
(Coyly) Are you making improper suggestions to me, you naughty man?
Good Lord, no, thank you. I was only jokin'. I got other things on my mind
What are you going to do?
None of your business, lovey. It's secret and confidential, you understand.
Tell her, Dick. Don't be afraid.
Well, if you think it's all right . . . We're goin' to blow up an ammunition
dump. What are English soldiers doin' on Welsh soil anyway? Can you tell
me that? I'll tell you one thing, though, there'll be a few less after tonight.
(looks at his watch) My goodness, is that the time? I must be off. I've got
a date with a cuddly little hand grenade. Don't wait up for me. (exits)
Goodbye, Dick. That's the last we'll see of him.
I wonder how long those two are going to be in there.
It's such a sinful thing they're doing. I feel I should tell them what a sinful
thing it is they're doing, but they wouldn't listen. Nobody listens to me. And
I've got the answers.
Yes, you've got the answers; but of course nobody listens to you. That's because you don't listen to yourself.
The only person worth listening to is How Long, he never says anything.
(she goes over to How Long, who continues working) That's right, isn't it,
How Long?
Yes, Miss. You quite right.
Poor How Long. Though he speaks with the tongues of men and of angels
and has not the H-bomb, he shall be as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
Ah, I see you are poet.
Sort of. I'm interested in the decline of the western world.
Me too. ~ ■"•■■!■'■■
Tom and Sadie will be coming out in a minute. I'd like everyone off-stage.
They have something very important to discuss.
May I ask what?
You may. Sadie is pregnant. She's going to have a baby.
But that's fantastic. Why, they only went in there five minutes ago.
You're wrong. They went in there three months ago.
Three months! Is this a joke, (looks at his watch) They went in there five
minutes ago I tell you.
Jane, come over here and explain things to the Reverend.
Well, you see, this is a play and time has to be telescoped. We couldn't expect
the ladies and gentlemen in the audience to sit out there for three months,
so we just tell them that three months have passed. Fortunately they have
more imagination than you have.
It's all very bewildering. I'm sure that young Welsh boy is going to be very
surprised when he gets back.
He's not coming back. He blew himself up on a dark night three months
ago. He's buried now, and the grass is growing over his grave.
Oh, the poor boy. God rest his soul. But we must think about the living.
If that poor girl is going to have a baby she needs help and . . . and comfort.
Of course, they must be married immediately.
No. Tom doesn't want to marry her.
But it's his duty.
Nevertheless, I tell you that Tom won't marry her.
Oh dear. Then I must do all I can to help her. Even though she has sinned
she needs help . . . and . . . and . . . and . . . forgiveness.
And do you think you can help her?
Of course. Did not our Lord welcome sinners?
Do you know a good reliable abortionist?
I ... I beg your pardon. Did you say . . .
Abortionist! That's what she needs.
Please. I must ask you .... There is a young lady present.
That's the only way you can help her. That's what she needs.
She needs love . . . and forgiveness.
What she needs is a little privacy so she can talk things over with Tom.
They'll be out here in a moment. Come on, exeunts for everybody. No, not
you, How Long; you stay here and keep on working.
(Author, Jane and the Reverend leave; How Long works noisily for a couple
of seconds, then stops making noise. Enter Tom and Sadie)
Sit down, Sadie.
Well, a fine mess you've got me into, haven't you?
It's not my fault. It's the author's. I have to do what he writes, don't I. Did
I ask him to change me? No.
Aw, you're full of excuses. You've been putting things off, putting things
off .... Nature doesn't stand still, you know.
I know. Look, Sadie, I've still got that money that the Author gave me.
So if you want to have an operation . . . ?
But that's what he gave me the money for. We have to do what the Author
tells us.
It was a wedding present.
A wedding present! Are you crazy? Do you think he'd write a play that
66 ended happily with a wedding? This isn't a fairy story, you know. It's a
I know; that's what bothers me.
Aw, you don't have to worry; it's my tragedy, not yours.
I wish I'd never asked him, now.
Asked who?
The Author. I asked him to change you ... so you'd no longer be impotent.
I thought if I had your baby we could get married, and everything would
be all right.
Well, your little plan isn't working out too well, is it?
It isn't really my plan, it's the author's. It's all in the play.
Exactly. And there's only one way for this little scene to end, isn't there?
I suppose you're right.
Come on, then, let's get it over with.
Tom, what went wrong?
I don't know .... I suppose I've been apathetic for so long it's got into my
bones. I can't really change, even if I wanted to.
(brightly) Any way, I still love you.
(Tom and Sadie leave, there is a pause during which the noise level of How
Long's activity is increased. Then Author, Jane and Reverend enter)
I think it's disgraceful. You know what they're going to do, and yet you
make no effort to stop them. You should be ashamed of yourself. They've
gone beyond sinning now, you know. They're committing a criminal offence.
Easy, Reverend. It has to be this way. And they're both going to be punished.
I should hope so.
I think it's a shame, but you know what you're doing, I suppose.
Of course I do. But tell us, Jane, what have you been doing? Have you had
anything published?
No. Everyone admires my poems but no one will publish them.
Even I can't help you there, I'm afraid.
It doesn't matter as long as I preserve my integrity. Some one with integrity
has to be around to chronicle the last days of the west. I want that job.
I don't think you mind at all, do you, Jane?
Mind what?
The decline of the Western world.
Of course not. It's had a jolly good run for its money, if you ask me. And
any way, decay and death are just as exciting as birth and growth. If I'd
lived in Shakespeare's time I'd have been writing about beginnings, about
life. But I'm living in the second half of the twentieth century so I write
about decay, about death. But don't think I'm being morbid, I'm not.
(Enter Tom, alone)
Well, are you satisfied now?
What happened, Tom?
Sadie had an abortion. It killed her.
It is a judgement on you both. You have aroused the wrath of God and he
has punished you.
It has nothing to do with God. He did it, didn't you?
I'm afraid so. But it was necessary, believe me, Tom. And now, would everyone leave. I want to talk to Tom privately. No, not you, How Long. You
stay here and keep on working.
(Jane and the Reverend leave.)
Well, Tom. For years you've been the Apathetic Young Man: powerless,
helpless, impotent. I gave you a chance to break away, to shake off your
impotence. You messed things up Tom, but I'm going to give you another
68 TOM
No thanks. I don't want another chance.
You mean you want to go back to your old ways?
Yes. Yes, I do.
You like being impotent then, apathetic?
Yes. I was happy then.
Well, at least I wasn't unhappy.
O.K. I'll change the script, (he scribbles in his copy of the script) There you
are. You're the way you were at the beginning. Feel better now?
Much better.
Not so upset about Sadie? (Tom is silent) Are you quite sure you want to
be apathetic? I'd be very willing, indeed happy, to change the script once
more. (Tom remains silent) I like you, Tom. I don't want to see you go
under for the third time. Isn't there inside you just a little something left
to respond, to make your blood quicken? (Tom is silent) There are still a
few, causes left in the world, Tom, and they need you. (Tom is silent) Remember what you're a symbol of, Tom. All those people out there (gesturing
to audience) and all the millions of people outside. Think of that, Tom.
Now this is your last chance. Look, look there.
(Enter a young man bearing a banner, "Join the march against the H-Bomb"
he marches up to Tom and stands before him.)
I never walk if I can take a bus. (exit young man)
(Enter a girl bearing a banner, "Don't Support Racist South Africa. Don't
Buy South African Goods)
I buy where it's cheapest, (exit girl)
(Enter a young man bearing a banner, "Keep Britain White")
That doesn't make sense, (exit young man)
(Enter a girl bearing banner, "Fight Blood Sports: End Stag Hunting")
That's got nothing to do with me. (exit girl)
You're being very difficult, Tom. (he thinks for a moment) I know! Look
there, Tom!
69 (Enter a girl with a blank banner. She holds a paint brush which she offers
to Tom. He turns his head away. Exit girl)
You really are the apathetic young man now, aren't you, Tom?
Yes, I am.
You don't care about anything, do you?
No, I don't.
You're whatever I decide to make you, aren't you?
Yes, I am.
Then you're dead, Tom. You're dead! (Tom is silent) So why don't you lie
down and close your eyes. How Long has made something for you to lie
down in. Come over here, How Long.
(How Long comes forward wheeling a coffin. It is on this that he has been
working the whole time.)
Is right size I hope?
It's perfect, I'm sure. Get in, Tom. Get in and close your eyes.
(Tom climbs stiffly into the coffin. Enter Jane and the Reverend)
It's sad, isn't it?
You didn't think so a few minutes ago.
I know, but seeing him there like that. . .
What are you going to do, Jane?
Me? I shall write a long poem, all about Tom.
What about you, Reverend?
Well, of course, I shall give him the full sacraments of the church.
And what are you going to do, How Long?
Go back to work. Lots of work to do.
Well, I'd better get out of here before he puts me to work, (exit)
70 (How Long comes forward with length of wood. He offers one end to
Reverend who hestitates, then accepts. He offers other end to Jane who also
takes it after a pause. He goes back to his corner, returning with hammers
and other tools. He hands one to Reverend and one to Jane, both of whom
accept them after some hestitation. How Long takes a hammer for himself)
Thank you. (pause) Now we can all get to work.
(Curtain. Sounds of hammering behind curtain)
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eve Norton is an 18 year old student at Bishop's University, where her writing and
art work have appeared in campus journals. We called her poem "nice"; she
replied, "It was not 'nice' at all. If this is an age of horror, we must recognize it."
blake brodie is an editor of Mitre, the Bishop's University student magazine in which
"So, the Little Girl Knows!" first appeared. This story, he says, "has been
known, with simple respect, merely as the longest thing the Mitre ever published
—which can be taken in a variety of ways." He also writes poems and plays and
is now looking for "the time, money, and temperament" to write a novel.
dave solway, whose "Autumn in the Laurentians" first appeared in the McGill Daily
and was a prize-winner in the college literary contest, has published several poems
in Delta. Recently, he has been "writing a poem per day, stage-managing a play,
and writing one of my own."
roy mac skimming, a 17 year old student at Ridgemont High School in Ottawa, has
had two poems accepted for publication by Canadian Forum. "I began writing
poetry mostly because I couldn't adequately express myself in prose." He wants to
travel—"anywhere, and especially in Europe."
eric gudjonson, 21 years old and of Icelandic descent, is a student at the University
of Saskatchewan. The stories in this issue are his first in print.
gary jahnke, a third-year Arts student at the University of Saskatchewan, says that
the poem in this issue, his first publication, "is more or less typical of my work."
thomas Marshall, an Honours History student at Queen's University, has been
Editor-in-Chief of the Queen's Journal and a contributor to Quarry, the campus
literary magazine.
michael malus is in medical school at McGill University. His poems have appeared
in Delta and in student journals; the two in this issue are from the McGill Daily
and were prize-winners in the college literary contest. "Things are confused
enough in the world," he writes. "Let's at least keep poetry straight."
William bedwell teaches at St. John's College, University of Manitoba, where he is
also an m.a. candidate in English. Socialist, pacifist, platonist, he is preparing a
book of poems for summer publication and has appeared in a number of journals,
including Canadian Forum and Canadian Democrat, which he helps edit.
marilyn cowie, now completing her Bachelor of Education degree at the University
of Saskatchewan, began writing short stories "for the reason that most beginning
writers do. We want to learn the craft of writing and feel that the mastery of
this demanding form is the vital step toward that accomplishment." The story
in this issue is her first publication.
melvin kero, a part-time undergraduate at the University of British Columbia and
a teacher of secondary school art in Vancouver, has appeared in Prism both as
illustrator and short-story writer. A former winner of the campus prize for fiction,
he says, "The sickness of contemporary art comes from the artist's disengagement from society and his retreat into his own feelings,"
72 Lionel kearns is completing his studies at the University of British Columbia, where
he won the Brissenden Scholarship for Creative Writing and where "Friday at
the Ex" won the campus prize for poetry. He has previously appeared in
Prism and Delta. He says, "A poet detones; a poem should be a detonation."
Kenneth hodkinson will graduate this year from the University of British Columbia,
where "How Long" was produced in a slightly different version. Debater, actor,
and Prism's Business Manager, he turned from poetry to plays "because campus
poets are a joke, but campus playwrights aren't—yet."
colin norman is now completing his degree in Honours English and Philosophy at
Queen's University, where he has edited Quarry and won several poetry prizes.
Born in England, brought up in South Africa, he has worked as a journalist and
published in Canadian and South African campus journals and in The Outspan,
a South African national magazine.
Christopher Priestley, now working for his m.a. in English at Harvard, was an
undergraduate at University College, University of Toronto, where he won two
Epstein literary awards. His poems have appeared in Tamarack Review, the
Varsity Chapbook, and campus journals.
An exploration of new
form, new style, new
content, new lights in
contemporary writing
Though small was your allowance
You saved a little store
And those who save a little
Shall get a plenty more.
"We have
sent you full Indent of Trading
Goods: Stores and Provisions
and instead of 150 Blankets which we
thought might be too few, we have sent 225.
The Flannel, now sent we have chose out
of a thicker Sort, but yet very fine and good . ..
Let us know whether the Size of the Crown
of the Hats are pleasing
to the Natives."
Letter to
Richard Norton
fPrince of Wales's Fort]
From the Governor
and Committee
May 1, 1740


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