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Short Stories

As It is With Stranger by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Californians Tale by Mark Twain

False Gems by Guy de Maupassant

A Happy Mans Shirt by Italo Calvino

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan


The Cop and the Anthem by O Henry


The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

We Are Many by Pablo Neruda

Psalm 139

The Floral Apron by Marilyn Chin

From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis


Those Winter Days by Robert Hayden

Do Not Love Too Long by William Butler Yeats

The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face by James

Weldon Johnson

Once by the Pacific by Robert Frost


The Art of Jeepney Riding by Resil Mojares


The Ring of General Macias by Josephina


Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Apostrophe, Allusion, Hyperbole,

Litotes, Meiosis, Synecdoche, Metonymy, Paradox, Oxymoron, Verbal

As It is With Strangers
By Susan Beth Pfeffer

It wasn't until right before I went to bed on Thursday that Mom

bothered to tell me that the son she'd given up for adoption twenty years earlier
was coming over for supper the next day.
2 "What

son?" I asked.

"I'm sure I've told you about him," Mom said. "You must have

I figured I probably had. I'm always forgetting little things like my

homework assignments and being elected President of the United States.

Having an older brother must have slipped my mind. "How'd you two find each
other?" I asked. Presumably, Mom never told me that.

"I registered with an agency," she said. "Put my name and address in

a book, so if he ever wanted to find me, he could. I guess he did. Don't be late
for supper tomorrow."
"I won't be," I promised. This was one reunion I had no intention of

School the next day really dragged on. School never goes fast on

Fridays, but when your mind is on some newly acquired half brother, it's real
hard to care about Julius Caesar. I didn't tell anybody, though. It seemed to
me it was Mom's story, not mine, and besides, my friends all think she's crazy
anyway. Probably from the things I've said over the years.

I went straight home from school, and was surprised, first to find the

place spotless, and then to see Mom in the kitchen cooking away.

"I took a sick day," she informed me. "So I could prepare better."


"Everything looks great," I told her. It was true. I hadn't seen the place

look so good since Great-Aunt Trudy came with the goat, but that's another
story. "You look very pretty, too."

got my nails done," Mom said, showing them off for me. They were

coral colored. "And my hair.


I nodded. Mom had taught me that nothing was unbearable if your

hair looked nice.


"Is that what you're planning to wear tonight?" she asked.


"I thought I'd shower and change into my dress," I said. I own a grand

total of one dress, but this seemed to be the right kind of occasion for it.

Morn gave me a smile like I'd just been canonized. "Thank you," she

said. "Tonight's kind of important for me."


I nodded. I wasn't sure just what to say anymore. Mom and I had been

alone for eight years, and you'd figure out by now I'd know how to handle her

any circumstances, but this one had me stumped. "What', for supper?" I finally

"Southern fried chicken," Mom said. "At first I thought I'd make a

roast, but then what if he doesn't like his meat rare? And turkey seemed to be
Thanksgivingish, if you know what I mean. Everybody likes fried chicken. And
I made mashed potatoes and biscuits and a spinach salad."

"Spinach salad?" I asked. I could picture Mom pouring the spinach out

of a can and dousing it with Wishbone.


"From scratch," Mom informed me. "Everything's from scratch. And I

baked an apple pie, too. The ice cream is store bought, but I got one of those
expensive brands. What do you think?"

I thought that there was obviously something to that Prodigal Son

story, since Mom never made anything more elaborate for me than scrambled
eggs. "It smells great," I said. It did, too, the way you picture a house in a
commercial smelling, all homey and warm. "I'm sure everything will go fine."

"I want it to," Mom said, as though I'd suggested that maybe she


There were a few things I knew I'd better clear up before Big Brother

showed up.

"What's his name?" I asked, for starters.


"Jack," Mom said. "That's not what I would have named him. I would

have named him Ronald."


"You would have?" I asked. I personally am named Tiffany, and

Ronald would not have been my first guess.


"That was my boyfriend's name," Mom said. "Ronny."


"Your boyfriend," I said. "You mean his father?"


Mom nodded. "You think of them as boyfriends, not fathers, when

you're sixteen," she said.


Well, that answered question number two. It had seemed to me that

my father was responsible, but who knew? I wasn't there. Maybe he and Mom
had decided they wanted a girl and chucked out any boys that came along first.

Speaking of which. "There aren't any other brothers I've forgotten

about?" I asked. Is this going to be the first of many such dinners?"

31 "Jack's the only one," Mom replied. "I tried to keep him, but Ronny
wasn't about to get married, and Dad said if I gave him up for adoption then I
could go to college. It was the right thing, for him, and for me. And I would
have gone to college if I hadn't met your father. I don't know. Maybe because I

gave up the baby, I was too eager to get married. I never really thought about
32 "Did

Dad know?" I asked.

"I told him," Mom said. "He said it didn't matter to him. And it didn't.

Whatever else was wrong in our marriage, he never threw the baby in my face."

I found myself picturing the baby being thrown in Mom's face, and I

decided I should take my shower fast. So I sniffed the kitchen appreciatively

and scurried out. In the shower I tried to imagine what this Jack would look
like, but he kept resembling Dad's high-school graduation picture, which made
no sense biologically at all. So I stopped imagining.

When I went to change to my bedroom to change, though, I was really

shocked. Mom had extended her cleaning ways to include my room. All my
carefully laid out messes were gone. It would probably take me months to
reassemble things. I considered screaming at Mom about the sanctity of one's
bedroom. But I decided against it. Mom obviously wanted this guy to think she
and I were the perfect American family, and if that meant even my room had
to be clean, then nothing was going to stop her. I could live with it, at least for
the evening.

Mom and I set the table three times before the doorbell finally rang.

When it did, neither one of us knew who should answer it, but Mom finally
opened the door.

"Hello," this guy said. "I'm Jack."


"I'm Linda," Mom replied. "Come on in. It's nice to... well, it's good

seeing you."

"Good to see you, too,' Jack said. He didn't look anything like my


"This is Tiffany," Mom said. "She, uh..."


"Her daughter," I said. "Your sister." I mean, those words were going

to be used at some point during the evening. We might as well get them out of
the way fast. Then when we got around to the big tricky words like mother and
son, at least some groundwork would have been laid.

"It's nice to meet you," Jack said, and he gave me his hand to shake,

so I shook it. They say you can tell a lot about a man from his handshake, but
not when he's your long-lost brother. "I hope my coming like this isn't any kind
of a brother, I mean bother,"

"Not at all," Mom said. "I'm going to check out dinner. Tiffany, why

don't you show Jack the living room? I'll join you in a moment."


This is the living room, I said, which was pretty easy to show Jack,

since we were already standing in it. Want to sit down?"


"Yeah, sure," Jack said. "Have you lived here long?"

46 "Since

the divorce," I said. "Eight years ago."


"That long," Jack said. "Where's your father?"


"He lives in Oak Ridge," I said. "That's a couple of hundred miles from

here. I see him sometimes."


"Is he...?" Jack began. "I mean, I don't suppose you'd know."


"Is he your father, too?" I said. "No. I kind of asked. Your father is

Ronny. My father's name is Mike. I don't know much else about your father
except he didn't want to marry Mom. They were both teenagers, I guess. Do
you want to meet him too?"

"Sometime," Jack said. "Not tonight."


I could sure understand that one. "I've always wanted to have a big

brother, I told him. I always had crushes on my friends' big brothers. Did you
want that have a kid sister, I mean?

"I have one," Jack said. "No, I guess now I have two. I have a sister

back home. Her name is Leigh Ann. She's adopted too. She's Korean."

"Oh," I said. "That's nice. I guess there isn't much of a family

resemblance, then."

"Not much," Jack said, but he smiled. "She's twelve. How old are you?"


"Fifteen," I said. "Do you go to college?"


Jack nodded. "I'm a sophomore at Bucknell," he said. "Do you think

you'll go to college?

"I'd like to," I said. "I don't know if we'll have the money, though."


"It's rough," Jack said. "College costs a lot these days. My father's

always griping about owns a car dealership. New and used. I work there
summers. My mom's a housewife."

I wanted to tell him how hard Mom had worked on supper, how messy

the apartment usually was, how I never wore a dress, and Mom's nails were
always a deep sinful scarlet. I wanted to tell him that maybe someday I'd be
jealous that he'd been given away to a family that could afford to send him to
college, but it was too soon for me to feel much of anything about him. There
was a lot I wanted to say, but I didn't say anything of it.

"What's she like?" Jack asked me, and he gestured toward the kitchen,

as though I might not understand who he was talking about.


"Mom?" I said. "She's terrible. She drinks and she gambles and she

beats me black and blue if I even think something wrong."


Jack looked horrified. I realized he had definitely not inherited Moms

sense of humor.

Im only kidding, I said. I havent even been spanked since I was

five. Shes fine. Shes a good mother. It must have really hurt her to give you
away like that.

Have you known long? Jack asked. About me?


Not until recently, I said. It didnt seem right to tell him Id learned

less than twenty-fours before. I guess Mom was waiting until I was old enough
to understand.

I always knew I was adopted, Jack said. And for years Ive wanted

to meet my biological parents. To see what they looked like. I love Mom and
Dad, you understand. But I felt this need.

I can imagine, I said, and I could too. I was starting to develop a real

need to see what Jacks parent looked like, and we werent even related.

"Tiffany, could you come in here for a minute?" Mom called from the


"Coming, Mom," I said, and left the living room fast. It takes a lot out

of you making small talk with a brother.


What do you think?" Mom whispered as soon as she saw me, "Does

he look like me?"


"He has your eyes," I said. "And I think he has your old hair color."


"I know," Mom said, patting her bottle red hair. "I almost asked them

to dye me hack to my original shade, but I wasn't sure I could remember it

anymore. Do you like him? Does he seem nice?"

"Very nice," I said. "Very good manners."


"He sure didn't inherit those from Ronny," Mom declared. "Come on,

let's start taking the food out."


So we did. We carried out platters of chicken and mashed potatoes and

biscuits and salad. Jack came to the table as soon as he saw what we were

Oh no, he said. "I mean, I'm sorry. I should have told you I'm a


"You are?" Mom said. She looked as shocked as if he'd told her he was

a vampire. Meat is very important to Mom. "You're not sick or anything, are

"No, it's for moral reasons," Jack said. "It drives my mom, my mother,

her name's Cathy, it drives Cathy crazy."


"Your mom," my mom said. "It would drive me crazy, too, if Tiffany

stopped eating meat just for moral reasons."


"Don't worry about it," I told her. "I'll never be that moral."


"There's plenty for me to eat," Jack said. "Potatoes and biscuits and


"The salad lies bacon in it, " Mom said. "I crumbled bacon in it."


"We can wash the bacon off, can't we, Jack?" I said. "You'll eat it if we

wash the bacon off, won't you?"


I thought he hesitated for a moment, but then he said, "Of course, I

can," and for the first time since we'd met, I kind of liked him. I took the salad
into the kitchen and washed it all. The salad dressing went the way of the
bacon, but we weren't about to complain. At least there'd be something green
on Jack's plate. All his other food was gray-white.

Mom hardly ate her chicken, which I figured was out of deference to

the vegetarian, but I had two and a half pieces, figuring it might be years before
Mom made it again. Jack ate more potatoes than I'd ever seen another human
being eat. No gravy, but lots of potatoes. We talked polite during dinner, what
he was studying in college, where Mom worked, the adjustments Leigh Ann
had to make. The real things could only be discussed one on one, so after the
pie and the ice cream, I excused myself and went to Mom's room to watch TV.
Only I couldn't make my eyes focus, so I just crossed the hall to my room, and
recreated my messes. Once I had everything in proper order, though, I put
things back the way Mom had had them. I could hear them talking while I
moved piles around, and I turned on my radio, so I couldn't even hear the
occasional stray word, like father and high school and lawyer. That was a trick
I'd learned years ago, when Mom and Dad were in their fighting stage. The
radio played a lot of old songs that night. It made me feel like I was seven all
over again.

After a while Mom knocked on my door and said Jack was leaving, so

I went to the living room and shook hands with him again. I still couldn't tell
anything about his personality from his handshake, but he did have good
manners, and he gave me a little pecking kiss on my cheek, which I thought
was sweet of him. Mom kept the door open, and watched as he walked the
length of the corridor to the stairs. She didn't close the door until he'd gotten
into a car, his I assumed. Maybe it was a loaner from his father.

"You give away a baby," Mom said, "and twenty years later he turns

up on your doorstep a vegetarian."


"He turns up a turnip," I said.


But Mom wasn't in the mood for those kinds of jokes. "Don't you ever

make that mistake," she said.


"What mistake?" I asked, afraid that she meant making jokes. If I

couldn't make jokes with Mom, I wouldn't know how to talk with her.

"Don't you ever give up something so important to you that it breathes

when you do," Mom said. "It doesn't have to be a kid. It can be a dream, an
ambition, or a marriage, or a house. It can be anything you care about as deeply
as your own life. Don't ever just give it away, because you'll spend the rest of
your life wondering about it, or pretending you don't wonder, which is the same
thing, and you'll wake up one morning and realize it truly is gone and a big
part of you is gone with it. Do you hear me, Tiffany?"

"I hear you," I said. I'd never seen Mom so intense, and I didn't like

being around her. "I'm kind of tired now, Mom. Would you mind if I go to bed

Ill clean up tomorrow," Mom said. "You can go to bed."


So I did. I left her sitting in the living room and went to my bedroom

and closed my door. But this time I didn't turn the radio on, and later, when
I'd been lying on my bed for hours, not able to sleep, I could hear her in her
room crying. I'd heard her cry in her room a hundred times before, and a
hundred times before I'd gotten up and comforted her, and I knew she'd cry a
hundred times again, and I'd comfort her then, too, but that night I just stayed
in my room, on my bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to her cry. I think I
did the right thing, not going in there. That's how it is with strangers. You can
never really comfort them.


The Californian's Tale

by Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Clemens (1835-1910)


Thirty-five years ago I was out prospecting on the Stanislaus, tramping

all day long with pick and pan and horn, and washing a hatful of dirt here and
there, always expecting to make a rich strike, and never doing it. It was a lovely
reason, woodsy, balmy, delicious, and had once been populous, long years
before, but now the people had vanished and the charming paradise was a
solitude. They went away when the surface diggings gave out. In one place,
where a busy little city with banks and newspapers and fire companies and a
mayor and aldermen had been, was nothing but a wide expanse of emerald
turf, with not even the faintest sign that human life had ever been present
there. This was down toward Tuttletown. In the country neighborhood
thereabouts, along the dusty roads, one found at intervals the prettiest little
cottage homes, snug and cozy, and so cobwebbed with vines snowed thick with
roses that the doors and windows were wholly hidden from sight--sign that
these were deserted homes, forsaken years ago by defeated and disappointed
families who could neither sell them nor give them away. Now and then, half
an hour apart, one came across solitary log cabins of the earliest mining days,
built by the first gold-miners, the predecessors of the cottage-builders. In some
few cases these cabins were still occupied; and when this was so, you could
depend upon it that the occupant was the very pioneer who had built the cabin;
and you could depend on another thing, too--that he was there because he had
once had his opportunity to go home to the States rich, and had not done it;
had rather lost his wealth, and had then in his humiliation resolved to sever
all communication with his home relatives and friends, and be to them
thenceforth as one dead. Round about California in that day were scattered a
host of these living dead men-- pride-smitten poor fellows, grizzled and old at
forty, whose secret thoughts were made all of regrets and longings--regrets for
their wasted lives, and longings to be out of the struggle and done with it all.
It was a lonesome land! Not a sound in all those peaceful expanses of
grass and woods but the drowsy hum of insects; no glimpse of man or beast;
nothing to keep up your spirits and make you glad to be alive. And so, at last,
in the early part of the afternoon, when I caught sight of a human creature, I
felt a most grateful uplift. This person was a man about forty-five years old,
and he was standing at the gate of one of those cozy little rose-clad cottages of
the sort already referred to. However, this one hadn't a deserted look; it had
the look of being lived in and petted and cared for and looked after; and so had
its front yard, which was a garden of flowers, abundant, gay, and flourishing.
I was invited in, of course, and required to make myself at home-- it was the
custom of the country.


It was delightful to be in such a place, after long weeks of daily and

nightly familiarity with miners' cabins--with all which this implies of dirt floor,
never-made beds, tin plates and cups, bacon and beans and black coffee, and
nothing of ornament but war pictures from the Eastern illustrated papers
tacked to the log walls. That was all hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation,
but here was a nest which had aspects to rest the tired eye and refresh that
something in one's nature which, after long fasting, recognizes, when
confronted by the belongings of art, howsoever cheap and modest they may be,
that it has unconsciously been famishing and now has found nourishment. I
could not have believed that a rag carpet could feast me so, and so content me;
or that there could be such solace to the soul in wall-paper and framed
lithographs, and bright-colored tidies and lamp-mats, and Windsor chairs, and
varnished what-nots, with sea-shells and books and china vases on them, and
the score of little unclassifiable tricks and touches that a woman's hand
distributes about a home, which one sees without knowing he sees them, yet
would miss in a moment if they were taken away. The delight that was in my
heart showed in my face, and the man saw it and was pleased; saw it so plainly
that he answered it as if it had been spoken.
"All her work," he said, caressingly; "she did it all herself-- every bit,"
and he took the room in with a glance which was full of affectionate worship.
One of those soft Japanese fabrics with which women drape with careful
negligence the upper part of a picture-frame was out of adjustment. He noticed
it, and rearranged it with cautious pains, stepping back several times to gauge
the effect before he got it to suit him. Then he gave it a light finishing pat or
two with his hand, and said: "She always does that. You can't tell just what it
lacks, but it does lack something until you've done that--you can see it yourself
after it's done, but that is all you know; you can't find out the law of it. It's like
the finishing pats a mother gives the child's hair after she's got it combed and
brushed, I reckon. I've seen her fix all these things so much that I can do them
all just her way, though I don't know the law of any of them. But she knows
the law. She knows the why and the how both; but I don't know the why; I only
know the how."
He took me into a bedroom so that I might wash my hands; such a
bedroom as I had not seen for years: white counterpane, white pillows, carpeted
floor, papered walls, pictures, dressing-table, with mirror and pin-cushion and
dainty toilet things; and in the corner a wash-stand, with real china-ware bowl
and pitcher, and with soap in a china dish, and on a rack more than a dozen
towels--towels too clean and white for one out of practice to use without some


vague sense of profanation. So my face spoke again, and he answered with

gratified words:
"All her work; she did it all herself--every bit. Nothing here that hasn't
felt the touch of her hand. Now you would think-- But I mustn't talk so much."
By this time I was wiping my hands and glancing from detail to detail
of the room's belongings, as one is apt to do when he is in a new place, where
everything he sees is a comfort to his eye and his spirit; and I became conscious,
in one of those unaccountable ways, you know, that there was something there
somewhere that the man wanted me to discover for myself. I knew it perfectly,
and I knew he was trying to help me by furtive indications with his eye, so I
tried hard to get on the right track, being eager to gratify him. I failed several
times, as I could see out of the corner of my eye without being told; but at last
I knew I must be looking straight at the thing--knew it from the pleasure
issuing in invisible waves from him. He broke into a happy laugh, and rubbed
his hands together, and cried out:
"That's it! You've found it. I knew you would. It's her picture."
I went to the little black-walnut bracket on the farther wall, and did find
there what I had not yet noticed--a daguerreotype-case. It contained the
sweetest girlish face, and the most beautiful, as it seemed to me, that I had
ever seen. The man drank the admiration from my face, and was fully satisfied.
"Nineteen her last birthday," he said, as he put the picture back; "and
that was the day we were married. When you see her--ah, just wait till you see
"Where is she? When will she be in?"
"Oh, she's away now. She's gone to see her people. They live forty or fifty
miles from here. She's been gone two weeks today."
"When do you expect her back?"
"This is Wednesday. She'll be back Saturday, in the evening-- about nine
o'clock, likely."
I felt a sharp sense of disappointment.
"I'm sorry, because I'll be gone then," I said, regretfully.
"Gone? No--why should you go? Don't go. She'll be disappointed."


She would be disappointed--that beautiful creature! If she had said the

words herself they could hardly have blessed me more. I was feeling a deep,
strong longing to see her--a longing so supplicating, so insistent, that it made
me afraid. I said to myself: "I will go straight away from this place, for my peace
of mind's sake."
"You see, she likes to have people come and stop with us-- people who
know things, and can talk--people like you. She delights in it; for she knows-oh, she knows nearly everything herself, and can talk, oh, like a bird--and the
books she reads, why, you would be astonished. Don't go; it's only a little while,
you know, and she'll be so disappointed."
I heard the words, but hardly noticed them, I was so deep in my
thinkings and strugglings. He left me, but I didn't know. Presently he was
back, with the picture case in his hand, and he held it open before me and said:
"There, now, tell her to her face you could have stayed to see her, and
you wouldn't."
That second glimpse broke down my good resolution. I would stay and
take the risk. That night we smoked the tranquil pipe, and talked till late about
various things, but mainly about her; and certainly I had had no such pleasant
and restful time for many a day. The Thursday followed and slipped
comfortably away. Toward twilight a big miner from three miles away came-one of the grizzled, stranded pioneers--and gave us warm salutation, clothed
in grave and sober speech. Then he said:
"I only just dropped over to ask about the little madam, and when is she
coming home. Any news from her?"
"Oh, yes, a letter. Would you like to hear it, Tom?"
"Well, I should think I would, if you don't mind, Henry!"
Henry got the letter out of his wallet, and said he would skip some of the
private phrases, if we were willing; then he went on and read the bulk of it--a
loving, sedate, and altogether charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with
a postscript full of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and
Charley, and other close friends and neighbors.
As the reader finished, he glanced at Tom, and cried out:
"Oho, you're at it again! Take your hands away, and let me see your eyes.
You always do that when I read a letter from her. I will write and tell her."


"Oh no, you mustn't, Henry. I'm getting old, you know, and any little
disappointment makes me want to cry. I thought she'd be here herself, and
now you've got only a letter."
"Well, now, what put that in your head? I thought everybody knew she
wasn't coming till Saturday."
"Saturday! Why, come to think, I did know it. I wonder what's the matter
with me lately? Certainly I knew it. Ain't we all getting ready for her? Well, I
must be going now. But I'll be on hand when she comes, old man!"
Late Friday afternoon another gray veteran tramped over from his cabin
a mile or so away, and said the boys wanted to have a little gaiety and a good
time Saturday night, if Henry thought she wouldn't be too tired after her
journey to be kept up.
"Tired? She tired! Oh, hear the man! Joe, you know she'd sit up six weeks
to please any one of you!"
When Joe heard that there was a letter, he asked to have it read, and
the loving messages in it for him broke the old fellow all up; but he said he was
such an old wreck that that would happen to him if she only just mentioned
his name. "Lord, we miss her so!" he said.
Saturday afternoon I found I was taking out my watch pretty often.
Henry noticed it, and said, with a startled look:
"You don't think she ought to be here soon, do you?"
I felt caught, and a little embarrassed; but I laughed, and said it was a
habit of mine when I was in a state of expenctancy. But he didn't seem quite
satisfied; and from that time on he began to show uneasiness. Four times he
walked me up the road to a point whence we could see a long distance; and
there he would stand, shading his eyes with his hand, and looking. Several
times he said:
"I'm getting worried, I'm getting right down worried. I know she's not
due till about nine o'clock, and yet something seems to be trying to warn me
that something's happened. You don't think anything has happened, do you?"
I began to get pretty thoroughly ashamed of him for his childishness;
and at last, when he repeated that imploring question still another time, I lost
my patience for the moment, and spoke pretty brutally to him. It seemed to
shrivel him up and cow him; and he looked so wounded and so humble after
that, that I detested myself for having done the cruel and unnecessary thing.


And so I was glad when Charley, another veteran, arrived toward the edge of
the evening, and nestled up to Henry to hear the letter read, and talked over
the preparations for the welcome. Charley fetched out one hearty speech after
another, and did his best to drive away his friend's bodings and apprehensions.
"Anything happened to her? Henry, that's pure nonsense. There isn't
anything going to happen to her; just make your mind easy as to that. What
did the letter say? Said she was well, didn't it? And said she'd be here by nine
o'clock, didn't it? Did you ever know her to fail of her word? Why, you know you
never did. Well, then, don't you fret; she'll be here, and that's absolutely
certain, and as sure as you are born. Come, now, let's get to decorating-- not
much time left."
Pretty soon Tom and Joe arrived, and then all hands set about adoring
the house with flowers. Toward nine the three miners said that as they had
brought their instruments they might as well tune up, for the boys and girls
would soon be arriving now, and hungry for a good, old-fashioned break-down.
A fiddle, a banjo, and a clarinet-- these were the instruments. The trio took
their places side by side, and began to play some rattling dance-music, and
beat time with their big boots.
It was getting very close to nine. Henry was standing in the door with
his eyes directed up the road, his body swaying to the torture of his mental
distress. He had been made to drink his wife's health and safety several times,
and now Tom shouted:
"All hands stand by! One more drink, and she's here!"
Joe brought the glasses on a waiter, and served the party. I reached for
one of the two remaining glasses, but Joe growled under his breath:
"Drop that! Take the other."
Which I did. Henry was served last. He had hardly swallowed his drink
when the clock began to strike. He listened till it finished, his face growing pale
and paler; then he said:
"Boys, I'm sick with fear. help me--I want to lie down!"
They helped him to the sofa. He began to nestle and drowse, but
presently spoke like one talking in his sleep, and said: "Did I hear horses' feet?
Have they come?"


One of the veterans answered, close to his ear: "It was Jimmy Parish
come to say the party got delayed, but they're right up the road a piece, and
coming along. Her horse is lame, but she'll be here in half an hour."
"Oh, I'm so thankful nothing has happened!"
He was asleep almost before the words were out of his mouth. In a
moment those handy men had his clothes off, and had tucked him into his bed
in the chamber where I had washed my hands. They closed the door and came
back. Then they seemed preparing to leave; but I said: "Please don't go,
gentlemen. She won't know me; I am a stranger."
They glanced at each other. Then Joe said:
"She? Poor thing, she's been dead nineteen years!"
"That or worse. She went to see her folks half a year after she was
married, and on her way back, on a Saturday evening, the Indians captured
her within five miles of this place, and she's never been heard of since."
"And he lost his mind in consequence?"
"Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when that
time of year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here, three days before
she's due, to encourage him up, and ask if he's heard from her, and Saturday
we all come and fix up the house with flowers, and get everything ready for a
dance. We've done it every year for nineteen years. The first Saturday there
was twenty-seven of us, without counting the girls; there's only three of us now,
and the girls are gone. We drug him to sleep, or he would go wild; then he's all
right for another year--thinks she's with him till the last three or four days
come round; then he begins to look for her, and gets out his poor old letter, and
we come and ask him to read it to us. Lord, she was a darling!"


The False Gems

by Guy de Maupassant


Monsieur Lantin had met the young girl at a reception at the house of
the second head of his department, and had fallen head over heels in love with
She was the daughter of a provincial tax collector, who had been dead
several years. She and her mother came to live in Paris, where the latter, who
made the acquaintance of some of the families in her neighborhood, hoped to
find a husband for her daughter.
They had very moderate means, and were honorable, gentle, and quiet.
The young girl was a perfect type of the virtuous woman in whose hands
every sensible young man dreams of one day intrusting his happiness. Her
simple beauty had the charm of angelic modesty, and the imperceptible smile
which constantly hovered about the lips seemed to be the reflection of a pure
and lovely soul. Her praises resounded on every side. People never tired of
repeating: Happy the man who wins her love! He could not find a better wife.
Monsieur Lantin, then chief clerk in the Department of the Interior,
enjoyed a snug little salary of three thousand five hundred francs, and he
proposed to this model young girl, and was accepted.
He was unspeakably happy with her. She governed his household with
such clever economy that they seemed to live in luxury. She lavished the most
delicate attentions on her husband, coaxed and fondled him; and so great was
her charm that six years after their marriage, Monsieur Lantin discovered that
he loved his wife even more than during the first days of their honeymoon.
He found fault with only two of her tastes: Her love for the theatre, and
her taste for imitation jewelry. Her friends (the wives of some petty officials)
frequently procured for her a box at the theatre, often for the first
representations of the new plays; and her husband was obliged to accompany
her, whether he wished it or not, to these entertainments which bored him
excessively after his days work at the office.
After a time, Monsieur Lantin begged his wife to request some lady of
her acquaintance to accompany her, and to bring her home after the theatre.
She opposed this arrangement, at first; but, after much persuasion, finally
consented, to the infinite delight of her husband.
Now, with her love for the theatre, came also the desire for ornaments.
Her costumes remained as before, simple, in good taste, and always modest;
but she soon began to adorn her ears with huge rhinestones, which glittered


and sparkled like real diamonds. Around her neck she wore strings of false
pearls, on her arms bracelets of imitation gold, and combs set with glass jewels.
Her husband frequently remonstrated with her, saying:
My dear, as you cannot afford to buy real jewelry, you ought to appear
adorned with your beauty and modesty alone, which are the rarest ornaments
of your sex.
But she would smile sweetly, and say:
What can I do? I am so fond of jewelry. It is my only weakness. We
cannot change our nature.
Then she would wind the pearl necklace round her fingers, make the
facets of the crystal gems sparkle, and say:
Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real.
Monsieur Lantin would then answer, smilingly:
You have bohemian tastes, my dear.
Sometimes, of an evening, when they were enjoying a tete-a-tote by the
fireside, she would place on the tea table the morocco leather box containing
the trash, as Monsieur Lantin called it. She would examine the false gems
with a passionate attention, as though they imparted some deep and secret joy;
and she often persisted in passing a necklace around her husbands neck, and,
laughing heartily, would exclaim: How droll you look! Then she would throw
herself into his arms, and kiss him affectionately.
One evening, in winter, she had been to the opera, and returned home
chilled through and through. The next morning she coughed, and eight days
later she died of inflammation of the lungs.
Monsieur Lantins despair was so great that his hair became white in
one month. He wept unceasingly; his heart was broken as he remembered her
smile, her voice, every charm of his dead wife.
Time did not assuage his grief. Often, during office hours, while his
colleagues were discussing the topics of the day, his eyes would suddenly fill
with tears, and he would give vent to his grief in heartrending sobs. Everything
in his wifes room remained as it was during her lifetime; all her furniture,
even her clothing, being left as it was on the day of her death. Here he was
wont to seclude himself daily and think of her who had been his treasure
the joy of his existence.


But life soon became a struggle. His income, which, in the hands of his
wife, covered all household expenses, was now no longer sufficient for his own
immediate wants; and he wondered how she could have managed to buy such
excellent wine and the rare delicacies which he could no longer procure with
his modest resources.
He incurred some debts, and was soon reduced to absolute poverty. One
morning, finding himself without a cent in his pocket, he resolved to sell
something, and immediately the thought occurred to him of disposing of his
wifes paste jewels, for he cherished in his heart a sort of rancor against these
deceptions, which had always irritated him in the past. The very sight of
them spoiled, somewhat, the memory of his lost darling.
To the last days of her life she had continued to make purchases,
bringing home new gems almost every evening, and he turned them over some
time before finally deciding to sell the heavy necklace, which she seemed to
prefer, and which, he thought, ought to be worth about six or seven francs; for
it was of very fine workmanship, though only imitation.
He put it in his pocket, and started out in search of what seemed a
reliable jewelers shop. At length he found one, and went in, feeling a little
ashamed to expose his misery, and also to offer such a worthless article for
Sir, said he to the merchant, I would like to know what this is worth.
The man took the necklace, examined it, called his clerk, and made some
remarks in an undertone; he then put the ornament back on the counter, and
looked at it from a distance to judge of the effect.
Monsieur Lantin, annoyed at all these ceremonies, was on the point of
saying: Oh! I know well enough it is not worth anything, when the jeweler
said: Sir, that necklace is worth from twelve to fifteen thousand francs; but I
could not buy it, unless you can tell me exactly where it came from.
The widower opened his eyes wide and remained gaping, not
comprehending the merchants meaning. Finally he stammered: You say
are you sure? The other replied, drily: You can try elsewhere and see if any
one will offer you more. I consider it worth fifteen thousand at the most. Come
back; here, if you cannot do better.
Monsieur Lantin, beside himself with astonishment, took up the
necklace and left the store. He wished time for reflection.


Once outside, he felt inclined to laugh, and said to himself: The fool!
Oh, the fool! Had I only taken him at his word! That jeweler cannot distinguish
real diamonds from the imitation article.
A few minutes after, he entered another store, in the Rue de la Paix. As
soon as the proprietor glanced at the necklace, he cried out:
Ah, parbleu! I know it well; it was bought here.
Monsieur Lantin, greatly disturbed, asked:
How much is it worth?
Well, I sold it for twenty thousand francs. I am willing to take it back
for eighteen thousand, when you inform me, according to our legal formality,
how it came to be in your possession.
This time, Monsieur Lantin was dumfounded. He replied:
But but examine it well. Until this moment I was under the
impression that it was imitation.
The jeweler asked:
What is your name, sir?
Lantin I am in the employ of the Minister of the Interior. I live at
number sixteen Rue des Martyrs.
The merchant looked through his books, found the entry, and said: That
necklace was sent to Madame Lantins address, sixteen Rue des Martyrs, July
20, 1876.
The two men looked into each others eyes the widower speechless
with astonishment; the jeweler scenting a thief. The latter broke the silence.
Will you leave this necklace here for twenty-four hours? said he; I will
give you a receipt.
Monsieur Lantin answered hastily: Yes, certainly. Then, putting the
ticket in his pocket, he left the store.
He wandered aimlessly through the streets, his mind in a state of
dreadful confusion. He tried to reason, to understand. His wife could not afford
to purchase such a costly ornament. Certainly not.
But, then, it must have been a present! a present! a present, from
whom? Why was it given her?


He stopped, and remained standing in the middle of the street. A

horrible doubt entered his mind She? Then, all the other jewels must have
been presents, too! The earth seemed to tremble beneath him the tree before
him to be falling; he threw up his arms, and fell to the ground, unconscious. He
recovered his senses in a pharmacy, into which the passers-by had borne him.
He asked to be taken home, and, when he reached the house, he shut himself
up in his room, and wept until nightfall. Finally, overcome with fatigue, he
went to bed and fell into a heavy sleep.
The sun awoke him next morning, and he began to dress slowly to go to
the office. It was hard to work after such shocks. He sent a letter to his
employer, requesting to be excused. Then he remembered that he had to return
to the jewelers. He did not like the idea; but he could not leave the necklace
with that man. He dressed and went out.
It was a lovely day; a clear, blue sky smiled on the busy city below. Men
of leisure were strolling about with their hands in their pockets.
Monsieur Lantin, observing them, said to himself: The rich, indeed, are
happy. With money it is possible to forget even the deepest sorrow. One can go
where one pleases, and in travel find that distraction which is the surest cure
for grief. Oh if I were only rich!
He perceived that he was hungry, but his pocket was empty. He again
remembered the necklace. Eighteen thousand francs! Eighteen thousand
francs! What a sum!
He soon arrived in the Rue de la Paix, opposite the jewelers. Eighteen
thousand francs! Twenty times he resolved to go in, but shame kept him back.
He was hungry, however very hungry and not a cent in his pocket. He
decided quickly, ran across the street, in order not to have time for reflection,
and rushed into the store.
The proprietor immediately came forward, and politely offered him a
chair; the clerks glanced at him knowingly.
I have made inquiries, Monsieur Lantin, said the jeweler, and if you
are still resolved to dispose of the gems, I am ready to pay you the price I
Certainly, sir, stammered Monsieur Lantin.


Whereupon the proprietor took from a drawer eighteen large bills,

counted, and handed them to Monsieur Lantin, who signed a receipt; and, with
trembling hand, put the money into his pocket.
As he was about to leave the store, he turned toward the merchant, who
still wore the same knowing smile, and lowering his eyes, said:
I have I have other gems, which came from the same source. Will you
buy them, also?
The merchant bowed: Certainly, sir.
Monsieur Lantin said gravely: I will bring them to you. An hour later,
he returned with the gems.
The large diamond earrings were worth twenty thousand francs; the
bracelets, thirty-five thousand; the rings, sixteen thousand; a set of emeralds
and sapphires, fourteen thousand; a gold chain with solitaire pendant, forty
thousand making the sum of one hundred and forty-three thousand francs.
The jeweler remarked, jokingly:
There was a person who invested all her savings in precious stones.
Monsieur Lantin replied, seriously:
It is only another way of investing ones money.
That day he lunched at Voisins, and drank wine worth twenty francs a
bottle. Then he hired a carriage and made a tour of the Bois. He gazed at the
various turnouts with a kind of disdain, and could hardly refrain from crying
out to the occupants:
I, too, am rich! I am worth two hundred thousand francs.
Suddenly he thought of his employer. He drove up to the bureau, and
entered gaily, saying:
Sir, I have come to resign my position. I have just inherited three
hundred thousand francs.
He shook hands with his former colleagues, and confided to them some
of his projects for the future; he then went off to dine at the Cafe Anglais.
He seated himself beside a gentleman of aristocratic bearing; and,
during the meal, informed the latter confidentially that he had just inherited
a fortune of four hundred thousand francs.


For the first time in his life, he was not bored at the theatre, and spent
the remainder of the night in a gay frolic.
Six months afterward, he married again. His second wife was a very
virtuous woman; but had a violent temper. She caused him much sorrow.


The Happy Mans Shirt An Italian tale

Told by Italo Calvino, translated by George Martin (from the Elements of


A king had an only son that he thought the world of. But this prince
was always unhappy. He would spend days on end at his window staring
into space.
What on earth do you lack? asked the king. Whats wrong with
I dont even know myself, Father.
Are you in love? If theres a particular girl you fancy, tell me, and Ill
arrange for you to marry her, no matter whether shes the daughter of the
most powerful king on earth of the poorest peasant girl alive!
No, Father, Im not in love.
The king issued a decree, and from every corner of the earth came the
most learned philosophers, doctors, and professors. The king showed them
the prince and asked for their advice. The wise men withdrew to think, then
returned to the king. Majesty, we have given the matter close thought and
we have studied the stars. Heres what you must do. Look for a happy man
whos happy through and through, and exchange your sons shirt for his.
That same day the king sent ambassadors to all part s of the world in
search of the happy man.
A priest was taken to the king. Are you happy? asked the king.
Yes, indeed, Majesty.
Find. How would you like to be my bishop?
Oh, Majesty, if only it were so!
Away with you! Get out of my sight! Im seeking a man whos happy
just as he is, not one whos trying to better his lot.
This the search resumed, and before long the king was told about a
neighboring king, who everybody said was a truly happy man. He had a wife
as good as she was beautiful and a whole slew of children. He had conquered
all his enemies, and his country was at peace. Again hopeful, the king
immediately sent ambassadors to him to ask for his shirt.
The neighboring king received the ambassadors and said, Yes, indeed,
I have everything anybody could possibly want. But at the same time I worry
because Ill have to die one day and leave it all. I cant sleep at night for


worrying about that! The ambassadors thought it wiser to go home without

this mans shirt.
At his wits end, the king went hunting. He fired at a hare but only
wounded it, and the hare scampered away on three legs. The king pursued it,
leaving the hunting party far behind him. Out in the open field he heard a
man singing a refrain. The king stopped in his tracks. Whoever sings like
that is bound to be happy! The song led him into the vineyard, where he
found a young man singing and pruning the vines.
Good day, Majesty, said the youth. So early and already out in the
Bless you! Would you like me to take you to the capital? You will be
my friend.
Much obliged, Majesty, but I wouldnt even consider it. I wouldnt
even change places with the Pope.
Why not? Such a fine young man like you . . .
No, no, I tell you. Im content with just what I have and want nothing
A happy man at last! thought the king. Listen, young man. Do me a
With all my heart, Majesty, if I can.
Wait just a minute, said the king, who, unable to contain his joy any
longer, ran to get his retinue. Come with me! My son is saved! My son is
saved! And he took them to the young man. My dear lad, he began, Ill
give you whatever you want! But give me . . . give me . . .
What, Majesty?
My son is dying! Only you can save him. Come here!
The king grabbed him and started unbuttoning the youths jacket. All
of a sudden he stopped, and his arms fell to his sides.
The happy man wore no shirt.


The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe (1842)


THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had
ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness
and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and
then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon
the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which
shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the
whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of
half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When
his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand
hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court,
and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys.
This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's
own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall
had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy
hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress
or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey
was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance
to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it
was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of
pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were balletdancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these
and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."
It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and
while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero
entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual
It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the
rooms in which it was held. There were seven --an imperial suite. In many
palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding
doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the
whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might
have been expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were
so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a
time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn
a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow
Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings


of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in
accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into
which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue
--and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its
ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was
green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and
lighted with orange --the fifth with white --the sixth with violet. The seventh
apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over
the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same
material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to
correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet --a deep blood
color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or
candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and
fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from
lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed
the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a
brazier of fire that protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly
illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and
fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the
fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted
panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the
countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold
enough to set foot within its precincts at all.
It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall,
a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy,
monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and
the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a
sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so
peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of
the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance,
to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions;
and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the
chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and
the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused
reverie or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter
at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled
as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to
the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar


emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three
thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet
another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and
tremulousness and meditation as before.
But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The
tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He
disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his
conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have
thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear
and see and touch him to be sure that he was not.
He had directed, in great part, the moveable embellishments of the
seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own guiding
taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were
grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm -much of what has been since seen in "Hernani." There were arabesque figures
with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as
the madman fashions. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton,
much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which
might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in
fact, a multitude of dreams. And these --the dreams --writhed in and about,
taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem
as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands
in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent
save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the
echoes of the chime die away --they have endured but an instant --and a light,
half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the
music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than
ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays
from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven,
there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away;
and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the
blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the
sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more
solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more
remote gaieties of the other apartments.
But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat
feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length


there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music
ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and
there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were
twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened,
perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of
the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps,
that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there
were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of
the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single
individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself
whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or
murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise --then, finally, of terror, of
horror, and of disgust.
In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be
supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In
truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure
in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the
prince's indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless
which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom
life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.
The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and
bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall
and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The
mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the
countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had
difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if
not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far
as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood --and
his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the
scarlet horror.
When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a
slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and
fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with
a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened
with rage.
"Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him
--"who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask


him --that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the
It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero
as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and
clearly --for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become
hushed at the waving of his hand.
It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale
courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement
of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near
at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to
the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions
of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put
forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the
prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank
from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly,
but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him
from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple --through the purple to
the green --through the green to the orange --through this again to the white -and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest
him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and
the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six
chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had
seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid
impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the
latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly
and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry --and the dagger dropped
gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell
prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of
despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black
apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and
motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror
at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with
so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come
like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the bloodbedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall.
And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And


the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death
held illimitable dominion over all.


The Cop and the Anthem

by O Henry


On his bench in Madison Square Soapy moved uneasily. When wild

geese honk high of nights, and when women without sealskin coats grow kind
to their husbands, and when Soapy moves uneasily on his bench in the park,
you may know that winter is near at hand.
A dead leaf fell in Soapy's lap. That was Jack Frost's card. Jack is kind
to the regular denizens of Madison Square, and gives fair warning of his
annual call. At the corners of four streets he hands his pasteboard to the North
Wind, footman of the mansion of All Outdoors, so that the inhabitants thereof
may make ready.
Soapy's mind became cognisant of the fact that the time had come for
him to resolve himself into a singular Committee of Ways and Means to provide
against the coming rigour. And therefore he moved uneasily on his bench.
The hibernatorial ambitions of Soapy were not of the highest. In them
there were no considerations of Mediterranean cruises, of soporific Southern
skies drifting in the Vesuvian Bay. Three months on the Island was what his
soul craved. Three months of assured board and bed and congenial company,
safe from Boreas and bluecoats, seemed to Soapy the essence of things
For years the hospitable Blackwell's had been his winter quarters. Just
as his more fortunate fellow New Yorkers had bought their tickets to Palm
Beach and the Riviera each winter, so Soapy had made his humble
arrangements for his annual hegira to the Island. And now the time was come.
On the previous night three Sabbath newspapers, distributed beneath his coat,
about his ankles and over his lap, had failed to repulse the cold as he slept on
his bench near the spurting fountain in the ancient square. So the Island
loomed big and timely in Soapy's mind. He scorned the provisions made in the
name of charity for the city's dependents. In Soapy's opinion the Law was more
benign than Philanthropy. There was an endless round of institutions,
municipal and eleemosynary, on which he might set out and receive lodging
and food accordant with the simple life. But to one of Soapy's proud spirit the
gifts of charity are encumbered. If not in coin you must pay in humiliation of
spirit for every benefit received at the hands of philanthropy. As Caesar had
his Brutus, every bed of charity must have its toll of a bath, every loaf of bread
its compensation of a private and personal inquisition. Wherefore it is better
to be a guest of the law, which though conducted by rules, does not meddle
unduly with a gentleman's private affairs.


Soapy, having decided to go to the Island, at once set about

accomplishing his desire. There were many easy ways of doing this. The
pleasantest was to dine luxuriously at some expensive restaurant; and then,
after declaring insolvency, be handed over quietly and without uproar to a
policeman. An accommodating magistrate would do the rest.
Soapy left his bench and strolled out of the square and across the level
sea of asphalt, where Broadway and Fifth Avenue flow together. Up Broadway
he turned, and halted at a glittering cafe, where are gathered together nightly
the choicest products of the grape, the silkworm and the protoplasm.
Soapy had confidence in himself from the lowest button of his vest
upward. He was shaven, and his coat was decent and his neat black, readytied four-in-hand had been presented to him by a lady missionary on
Thanksgiving Day. If he could reach a table in the restaurant unsuspected
success would be his. The portion of him that would show above the table would
raise no doubt in the waiter's mind. A roasted mallard duck, thought Soapy,
would be about the thing--with a bottle of Chablis, and then Camembert, a
demi-tasse and a cigar. One dollar for the cigar would be enough. The total
would not be so high as to call forth any supreme manifestation of revenge from
the cafe management; and yet the meat would leave him filled and happy for
the journey to his winter refuge.
But as Soapy set foot inside the restaurant door the head waiter's eye
fell upon his frayed trousers and decadent shoes. Strong and ready hands
turned him about and conveyed him in silence and haste to the sidewalk and
averted the ignoble fate of the menaced mallard.
Soapy turned off Broadway. It seemed that his route to the coveted
island was not to be an epicurean one. Some other way of entering limbo must
be thought of.
At a corner of Sixth Avenue electric lights and cunningly displayed
wares behind plate-glass made a shop window conspicuous. Soapy took a
cobblestone and dashed it through the glass. People came running around the
corner, a policeman in the lead. Soapy stood still, with his hands in his pockets,
and smiled at the sight of brass buttons.
"Where's the man that done that?" inquired the officer excitedly.


"Don't you figure out that I might have had something to do with it?"
said Soapy, not without sarcasm, but friendly, as one greets good fortune.
The policeman's mind refused to accept Soapy even as a clue. Men who
smash windows do not remain to parley with the law's minions. They take to
their heels. The policeman saw a man half way down the block running to catch
a car. With drawn club he joined in the pursuit. Soapy, with disgust in his
heart, loafed along, twice unsuccessful.
On the opposite side of the street was a restaurant of no great
pretensions. It catered to large appetites and modest purses. Its crockery and
atmosphere were thick; its soup and napery thin. Into this place Soapy took
his accusive shoes and telltale trousers without challenge. At a table he sat
and consumed beefsteak, flapjacks, doughnuts and pie. And then to the waiter
be betrayed the fact that the minutest coin and himself were strangers.
"Now, get busy and call a cop," said Soapy. "And don't keep a gentleman
"No cop for youse," said the waiter, with a voice like butter cakes and an
eye like the cherry in a Manhattan cocktail. "Hey, Con!"
Neatly upon his left ear on the callous pavement two waiters pitched
Soapy. He arose, joint by joint, as a carpenter's rule opens, and beat the dust
from his clothes. Arrest seemed but a rosy dream. The Island seemed very far
away. A policeman who stood before a drug store two doors away laughed and
walked down the street.
Five blocks Soapy travelled before his courage permitted him to woo
capture again. This time the opportunity presented what he fatuously termed
to himself a "cinch." A young woman of a modest and pleasing guise was
standing before a show window gazing with sprightly interest at its display of
shaving mugs and inkstands, and two yards from the window a large
policeman of severe demeanour leaned against a water plug.
It was Soapy's design to assume the role of the despicable and execrated
"masher." The refined and elegant appearance of his victim and the contiguity
of the conscientious cop encouraged him to believe that he would soon feel the
pleasant official clutch upon his arm that would insure his winter quarters on
the right little, tight little isle.


Soapy straightened the lady missionary's readymade tie, dragged his

shrinking cuffs into the open, set his hat at a killing cant and sidled toward
the young woman. He made eyes at her, was taken with sudden coughs and
"hems," smiled, smirked and went brazenly through the impudent and
contemptible litany of the "masher." With half an eye Soapy saw that the
policeman was watching him fixedly. The young woman moved away a few
steps, and again bestowed her absorbed attention upon the shaving mugs.
Soapy followed, boldly stepping to her side, raised his hat and said:
"Ah there, Bedelia! Don't you want to come and play in my yard?"
The policeman was still looking. The persecuted young woman had but
to beckon a finger and Soapy would be practically en route for his insular
haven. Already he imagined he could feel the cozy warmth of the station-house.
The young woman faced him and, stretching out a hand, caught Soapy's coat
Sure, Mike," she said joyfully, "if you'll blow me to a pail of suds. I'd have
spoke to you sooner, but the cop was watching."
With the young woman playing the clinging ivy to his oak Soapy walked
past the policeman overcome with gloom. He seemed doomed to liberty.
At the next corner he shook off his companion and ran. He halted in the
district where by night are found the lightest streets, hearts, vows and
Women in furs and men in greatcoats moved gaily in the wintry air. A
sudden fear seized Soapy that some dreadful enchantment had rendered him
immune to arrest. The thought brought a little of panic upon it, and when he
came upon another policeman lounging grandly in front of a transplendent
theatre he caught at the immediate straw of "disorderly conduct."
On the sidewalk Soapy began to yell drunken gibberish at the top of his
harsh voice. He danced, howled, raved and otherwise disturbed the welkin.
The policeman twirled his club, turned his back to Soapy and remarked
to a citizen.
"'Tis one of them Yale lads celebratin' the goose egg they give to the
Hartford College. Noisy; but no harm. We've instructions to lave them be."


Disconsolate, Soapy ceased his unavailing racket. Would never a

policeman lay hands on him? In his fancy the Island seemed an unattainable
Arcadia. He buttoned his thin coat against the chilling wind.
In a cigar store he saw a well-dressed man lighting a cigar at a swinging
light. His silk umbrella he had set by the door on entering. Soapy stepped
inside, secured the umbrella and sauntered off with it slowly. The man at the
cigar light followed hastily.
"My umbrella," he said, sternly.
"Oh, is it?" sneered Soapy, adding insult to petit larceny. "Well, why
don't you call a policeman? I took it. Your umbrella! Why don't you call a cop?
There stands one on the corner."
The umbrella owner slowed his steps. Soapy did likewise, with a
presentiment that luck would again run against him. The policeman looked at
the two curiously.
"Of course," said the umbrella man--"that is--well, you know how these
mistakes occur--I--if it's your umbrella I hope you'll excuse me--I picked it up
this morning in a restaurant--If you recognise it as yours, why--I hope you'll--"
"Of course it's mine," said Soapy, viciously.
The ex-umbrella man retreated. The policeman hurried to assist a tall
blonde in an opera cloak across the street in front of a street car that was
approaching two blocks away.
Soapy walked eastward through a street damaged by improvements. He
hurled the umbrella wrathfully into an excavation. He muttered against the
men who wear helmets and carry clubs. Because he wanted to fall into their
clutches, they seemed to regard him as a king who could do no wrong.
At length Soapy reached one of the avenues to the east where the glitter
and turmoil was but faint. He set his face down this toward Madison Square,
for the homing instinct survives even when the home is a park bench.
But on an unusually quiet corner Soapy came to a standstill. Here was
an old church, quaint and rambling and gabled. Through one violet-stained
window a soft light glowed, where, no doubt, the organist loitered over the keys,
making sure of his mastery of the coming Sabbath anthem. For there drifted


out to Soapy's ears sweet music that caught and held him transfixed against
the convolutions of the iron fence.
The moon was above, lustrous and serene; vehicles and pedestrians were
few; sparrows twittered sleepily in the eaves--for a little while the scene might
have been a country churchyard. And the anthem that the organist played
cemented Soapy to the iron fence, for he had known it well in the days when
his life contained such things as mothers and roses and ambitions and friends
and immaculate thoughts and collars.
The conjunction of Soapy's receptive state of mind and the influences
about the old church wrought a sudden and wonderful change in his soul. He
viewed with swift horror the pit into which he had tumbled, the degraded days,
unworthy desires, dead hopes, wrecked faculties and base motives that made
up his existence.
And also in a moment his heart responded thrillingly to this novel mood.
An instantaneous and strong impulse moved him to battle with his desperate
fate. He would pull himself out of the mire; he would make a man of himself
again; he would conquer the evil that had taken possession of him. There was
time; he was comparatively young yet; he would resurrect his old eager
ambitions and pursue them without faltering. Those solemn but sweet organ
notes had set up a revolution in him. To-morrow he would go into the roaring
downtown district and find work. A fur importer had once offered him a place
as driver. He would find him to-morrow and ask for the position. He would be
somebody in the world. He would-Soapy felt a hand laid on his arm. He looked quickly around into the
broad face of a policeman.
"What are you doin' here?" asked the officer.
"Nothin'," said Soapy.
"Then come along," said the policeman.
"Three months on the Island," said the Magistrate in the Police Court
the next morning.


The Road Not Taken

Poem by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


We Are Many
Poem by Pablo Neruda

Of the many men whom I am, whom

we are,
I cannot settle on a single one.
They are lost to me under the cover
of clothing
They have departed for another city.
When everything seems to be set
to show me off as a man of
the fool I keep concealed on my
takes over my talk and occupies my
On other occasions, I am dozing in
the midst
of people of some distinction,
and when I summon my courageous
a coward completely unknown to me
swaddles my poor skeleton
in a thousand tiny reservations.
When a stately home bursts into
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and he is I. There is nothing I can
What must I do to distinguish
How can I put myself together?
All the books I read
lionize dazzling hero figures,
brimming with self-assurance.

Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

I die with envy of them;

and, in films where bullets fly on the
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.
But when I call upon my DASHING
out comes the same OLD LAZY
and so I never know just WHO I AM,
nor how many I am, nor WHO WE
I would like to be able to touch a bell
and call up my real self, the truly
because if I really need my proper
I must not allow myself to disappear.
While I am writing, I am far away;
and when I come back, I have
already left.
I should like to see if the same thing
to other people as it does to me,
to see if as many people are as I am,
and if they seem the same way to
When this problem has been
thoroughly explored,
I am going to school myself so well in
that, when I try to explain my
I shall speak, not of self, but of

1 You

have searched me, LORD, and

14 I

praise you because I am

you know me.

fearfully and wonderfully made;

2 You

your works are wonderful, I know

know when I sit and when I

rise; you perceive my

that full well.

thoughts from afar.

15 My

3 You

you when I was made in the secret

discern my going out and my

frame was not hidden from

lying down; you are familiar with

place, when I was woven

all my ways.

together in the depths of the earth.

4 Before

16 Your

a word is on my tongue

eyes saw my unformed

you, LORD, know it completely.

body; all the days ordained for me

5 You

were written in your book before

hem me in behind and

before, and you lay your hand upon

one of them came to be.


17 How

6 Such

knowledge is too wonderful

precious to me are your

thoughts,[a] God! How vast is the

for me, too lofty for me to attain.

sum of them!

7 Where

18 Were

can I go from your Spirit?

I to count them, they would

Where can I flee from your

outnumber the grains of sand -


when I awake, I am still with you.

8 If

19 If

I go up to the heavens, you are

only you, God, would slay the

there; if I make my bed in the

wicked! Away from me, you who

depths, you are there.

are bloodthirsty!

9 If

20 They

I rise on the wings of the dawn,

speak of you with evil

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

intent; your adversaries misuse

10 even

your name.

there your hand will guide

me, your right hand will hold me

21 Do


you, LORD, and abhor those who

11 If

are in rebellion against you?

I say, Surely the darkness will

I not hate those who hate

hide me and the light become night

22 I

around me,

them; I count them my enemies.

12 even

23 Search

the darkness will not be

have nothing but hatred for

me, God, and know my

dark to you; the night will shine

heart; test me and know my

like the day, for darkness is as

anxious thoughts.

light to you.

24 See

13 For

way in me, and lead me in the way

you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my

mothers womb.

The Floral Apron

Poem by Marilyn Chin

if there is any offensive



The woman wore a floral apron around her neck,

that woman from my mother's village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, "What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?"
She wiped her hand on the apron,
pierced the blade into the first.
There was no resistance,
no blood, only cartilage
soft as child's nose. A last
iota of ink made us wince.
Suddenly, the aroma of ginger and scallion fogged our senses,
and we absolved her for that moment's barbarism.
Then she, and elder of the tribe,
without formal headdress, without elegance,
deigned to teach the younger
about the asian plight.
And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
-on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
the floral apron.

From a Railway

Those Winter



Poem by Robert Louis

Poem by Robert Hayden


Sundays too my father got up early

Faster than fairies, faster than

and put his clothes on in the blueblack



Bridges and houses, hedges and

then with cracked hands that ached


from labor in the weekday weather

And charging along like troops in a



banked fires blaze. No one ever

All through the meadows the horses

thanked him.

and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the

Id wake and hear the cold


splintering, breaking.

Fly as thick as driving rain;

When the rooms were warm, hed call,

And ever again, in the wink of an eye,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

Painted stations whistle by.

fearing the chronic angers of that

Here is a child who clambers and


All by himself and gathering

Speaking indifferently to him,


who had driven out the cold

Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;

and polished my good shoes as well.

And here is the green for stringing the

What did I know, what did I know


of loves austere and lonely offices?

Here is a cart runaway in the road

Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

O Do Not Love Too

The Glory of the


Day Was in Her

Poem by William Butler Yeats


SWEETHEART, do not love too

Poem by James Weldon



I loved long and long,

And grew to be out of fashion

The glory of the day was in her face,

Like an old song.

The beauty of the night was in her

All through the years of our youth

Neither could have known
Their own thought from the
We were so much at one.

And over all her loveliness, the grace
Of Morning blushing in the early
And in her voice, the calling of the

But O, in a minute she changed --


O do not love too long,

Like music of a sweet, melodious part.

Or you will grow out of fashion

And in her smile, the breaking light of

Like an old song.

And all the gentle virtues in her heart.
And now the glorious day, the
beauteous night,
The birds that signal to their mates at
To my dull cars, to my tear-blinded
Are one with all the dead, since she is


Once By the Pacific

Poem by Robert Frost
The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
The cliff in being backed by continent;
It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage.
There would be more than ocean-water broken
Before God's last Put out the light was spoken.


The Art of Jeepney Riding

By Resil B. Mojares (8 March 1992)
Problem: Define a failure. Answer: Someone who is still riding a jeepney after
By that definition, I shall be counted (small consolation) half a failure.
Barring rain, strikes, rush-hour traffic, and the stark necessity of having to get
from here to there, fast, when my old, beat-up car breaks down I enjoy
jeepney-riding. It is an economical field lesson on Philippine culture, a compact
refresher course on being Filipino.
Once, with an American friend, I was in the Danao marketplace to catch
a ride back to Cebu City. The place was a veritable cockpit of jeepneys. Three
jeepneys were competing for passengers, revving up their engines, furiously
moving backward and forward, then backward again, in a game of creating the
illusion that they were about ready to be on their way.
My friend and I committed ourselves to one of them. We were in no
hurry. We watched with much amusement rival conductors jostling with each
other to get the approaching passengers. Even the driver of the vehicle we had
boarded would suddenly stop the jeepney right in the middle of the road, jump
out of his seat, leaving the engine running, to run towards a prospective
passenger he just sighted. Our jeepney would leave the marketplace, making
as though we were finally on our way, only to turn around the block and bring
us back to where we started. A young woman on board our jeepney,
exasperated, abandoned us and boarded a rival jeepney that seemed like it was
winning the contest. My friend, who was enjoying himself, remarked: Sus, she
has defected.
After what seemed an hour, we were finally on our way. We had a full
complement: four in front (the fourth perched on the left-hand side of the
driver), twenty inside (with four seated back to back o tiny stools along the
aisle), two on the running board, clinging, and the young conductor snugly
perched on the spare tire attached to the jeepneys rear.
We were, squeezed and jugged, a microcosm of Philippine society on
which wheels. An ethnographer on board could very well have started taking
down notes (though he obviously would have much of an elbow room to do it):
Note 1: Occupy as small a space as possible. The art lies in making
yourself as small as possible and thus allow a little more space for the fellow
next to you. Across from where I sat, my large American friend was gamely
trying, without much success, to be as tiny as possible. He had remarked to me
once how he felt guilty riding a jeepney, he took so much room. I felt rather
sorry for him. He was an alien body in native space.


I was seated behind a woman who was not at all bad-looking. I could not
but notice, our thighs were glued together and wisps of her hair kept getting
in my face. I kept the composure of a eunuch. I must not send any hint, signal,
of intention or aggression. Thats note 2: Be a natural, anonymous body.
Foreigners have remarked on the intimacy of a jeepney ride, man and woman
squeezed in so tightly together theyre breathing on each others face. Yet, there
is (as a rule) little sexuality in the ride. Were just sexless, anonymous bodies
carelessly packed side by side.
A jeepney ride along a rutted provincial road is not (as ads for travel by
air, executive class, proclaim) ultimate in comfort. Contorted, jugged,
assailed by dust and assorted smells, it calls for an exercise not in convenience
but in transcendence. I noticed how the other passengers aboard our jeepney
obviously experienced riders had quickly settled in for the ride. Their eyes
closed, they all looked placid or asleep. Note 3: Meditate.
A jeepney ride, Ive learned, can be intellectually rewarding. I remember
the times I took quick trips to Carcar where I was doing fieldwork for a book I
was writing. The 45-minute ride was a mental journey as well. I would close
my eyes, will myself into thought about this or that problem in the book and,
almost invariably, by the time I get off at the fork of the road leading to my
research barrio of Valladolid (just outside the Carcar Poblacion), Id have
pieced together in my mind something new. And Id step out of the jeepney,
feeling brighter than when I stepped in. And so Note 4: Remember that the
journey is as much a part of the story as the arriving.
And what is the story of the jeepney ride itself? We spend so much time
riding (Filipinos would take a jeepney, tricycle, or tartanilla to cover distances
that can, in fact, be walked), riding a jeepney (the quintessential Filipino
vehicle, we are repeatedly told) must have something important to say about
our collective soul.
What it says is not quite simple. As with other cultural practices,
jeepney-riding is something changing and dynamic. The cultural rules are
renegotiated and particularly in the city, often flaunted. There is much in
jeepney-riding that shows Filipino fellow-feeling, yet one is met, too, with many
instances of a contrary ethos. There is endseat-hugging (passengers claiming
the space closest to the exit so that new passengers have to squeeze through to
get to the vacant spot up front) and then there is space squatting ( a real
nuisance: passengers spreading their legs and claiming more space than they
should). As in life outside the jeepney, the Filipino character is more and more
split between the fraternal and the opportunistic.
As with other cultural practices, too, jeepney-riding is double-sided. The
Filipinos capacity to absorb pain and discomfort with patience and good humor
is something truly admirable. (Twenty-seven to a jeepney is not a bad ride. I


have been in provincial jeepneys carrying even more, inside-outside, frontback, you can barely move a muscle, and your only consolation is the thought
that, well, you may be participating in setting a world-record of sorts). Yet,
such good-natured patience is also distinctly sad.
This is true of a social world larger than the jeepney. Social scientists
have pointed to how Third-world economies, instead of expanding outwards,
tend to involute. people live off increasingly smaller resources by
overexploiting these resources (witness how only part of the chicken we have
not yet speared with a barbecue stick are its feathers); by exploiting themselves
(working harder for every diminishing returns); by elaborating work
arrangements to turn a job that can be efficiently done by a single person into
one that will be done by more (witness how a single jeepney can support shifts
of drivers, conductors, washers, watchers, and dispatchers); or by turning an
illusion of a job into a real job (witness the watch-your-car-boys). In such a
culture of scarcity and poverty, Filipino ingenuity is often just the other side
of self-exploitation and living at the margins.
Jeepney-riding this emblem of being Filipino celebrates values of
fraternity and fellow-feeling. It is our daily lesson in making do with less so
there will be something left for the other fellow too. Yet, it may be the emblem
as well of the Filipino in minimizing rather than maximizing mode. We make
do with the little and end up settling for even less.
A well-known Filipino author, exasperated at the glorification of the
jeepney, remarked that this antiquated contraption symbolizes some of the
worst tendencies in the Filipino: his bondage to the familiar and his refusal to
take risks, to take that leap of imagination into something grander and bigger.
One of the candidates in the current elections, playing around with images of
isip-sisiw and isip-agila, has pretty much have the same message. They both
have a point. Yet, we have seen how many who have turned agila have turned
into predators as well. Might not the clinging to the homely and the familiar
be a refusal to prey and be preyed upon?
And so the jeepney rides on. Watching all of us huddled together in that
moving contraption moving not so much from Danao to Cebu as to some
common fate I could not help but feel not just a sense of sadness but of love
and pride as well.



The Californians Tale

False Gems

The Happy Mans


Masque of the Red Death

The Cop and the Anthem

The Road Not Taken

We Are Many

Psalm 139

The Floral Apron

From A Railway Carriage

Those Winter Sundays

O Do Not Love Too Long

The Glory of the Day Was in Her


Once by the Pacific

The Art of Jeepney Riding