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May 03, 1941 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-05-03

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Page Three

.By Vernon IBlake

HE HAD LIVED sixty-six years,
and now she lay in this little room,
with the slightly moving white
curtains, the flower-and-berry
wallpaper, the two sad pictures on the
wall, knowing that she was dying, that
she had lived long enough. Now she
remembered the Victorian days that
were not always so sad, when she had
been with the others in the spring, rid-
ing through blossom-scented orchards;
laughing in the shining red-wheeled
buggies, hearing the hiss of the sand
slipping off the steel tires. In those
days there had been dances, real dances,
with drunken Fiddler Charley stomping
his foot and nodding his head and call-
ing the Virginia Reel, the Money Musk,
and the Danes at their silver weddings
would pull down the shades when the
sun came up and dance on into the
day. Now, in her mind, she could hear
all the old songs (sad and beautiful),
silver threads in the gloaming, all those
endearing young charms, drink to me
only with thine eyes, the Afton flowing
gently; songs my mother taught me in
the days -long vanished. Strange that
now, so late, she should remember her
mother at the homely brown organ,
pumping it slowly with her feet, and
singing. There had been church, too,
with the light passing dimly through
the painted glass; there had been much
praying and kneeling and listening to
slow-spoken meaningless words. Over
and over again. Then she had married
one of the good, solid men and had
borne children. One of them, the daugh-
ter, lived on the edge of town, where
her husband had a farm. The other,
the son, was somewhere, but she did
not know him now, had not seen him
since that day. There had been quarrels
with him, so many of them. 't'here was
that day she had never been able to
forget, with all the heavy terrible words.
Then suddenly he had gone, and she had
never seen him again. Only her daugh-
ter kept in vague touch with him, to
know where he was. And so she had lived
on into the new century, the super-
fluous years marked with company from
the city and holiday dinners. She had
lived these leaden years waiting, her
happiness borrowed from the past. And
now she was dying.
(Sometimes a lump is felt beneath
the skin or stabbing pains are felt at
night. Then come invading putrifactive
micro-organisms, and foul ulcers with
thickened edges. Degeneration proceeds
apace. Lymphatic glands and metas-
taces are mentioned, and bile ducts are
also involved. Poisonous products of
putrification are carried by the blood to
distant parts. This sometimes causes
great discomfort, much anxiety, and
varying degrees of pain. However, it may
be accepted that (for all practical pur-
poses) cancer is not to be looked upon
as contagious or infectious. The success
of curative measures depends upon the
intelligent co-operation of the patient
and physician. It is a dread malady.)
People came into the room, groping
for more than the usual words, and soon
left. Between them there was nothing to
say, and yet she wanted to talk to some-
one. She was waiting for her son; they
had told her that he was on his way
home. He would come to see her, because
she was dying.
Finally they rushed up to tell her
that he had arrived, and then he was
alone with her in the little room. "Hello,
mother," he said. His eyes looked slowly
around the room, at the sickly pictures
and the wallpaper with the design in
reddish flowers and berries.
She turned her head very slowly to-
ward him, the face moving separate in
the hair that stayed on the pillow. Was
this her son? She looked at the face,
coarse ad brown; the mouth unsmiling,
with the hard lines drawn down to it.

The curly hair had moved back from
his forehead, and the whole expression
was foreign to her. She was trying to
associate this person with the one she
had known, and was failing, so that
now both the old vision and this strange
one fused together and bewildered her.
But the eyes were the same. She tried
to smile. "Hello - John," she said.
He was supposed to say something
and the words would not come, but he
was hardly embarrassed. He did not
ask her how she felt. And now his eyes
were on her alone, looking on the puffy
but still wrinkled face. There was a
yellowness that lay upon her like a
thin film, and around her eyes and the
corners of her mouth was a tinge of
the purple. He could almost remember

"No, I guess not," he said, wondering
why this.
Then there was another silence, longer.
She spoke suddenly. "It isn't that
I'm afraid of dying. It's just that I
don't want to leave it, like this." There
were a few tears, now. She was remem-
bering the riding and laughing and
dancing again, the smell of wet leaves
and grass after the rains.
Her son did not try to comfcrt her.
Now and then, through the open win-
dow with its slightly moving curtains,
came the sound of light laughter from
the tavern down the street. She will
say something pretty soon, he was think-
ing, I wish it was all over with. I wish
it was all over with, I could go down
there and forget about it.

oniri uifori
Gerald Burns has been called enfant terrible by Mr. Sarasohn of the
Daily, and his personal appearance would seem to bear out this epithet.
Beneath a very full head of hair, Burns looks out at the world with an .
already jaundiced eye, somewhat offset by the cherubic contours of his
face, which does not however prevent him from writing admirable short
stories, several of which have appeared in Perspectives this year. Burns
intends to continue writing, and since his standards are high, he will
probably starve away part of his substance during the first years after he
graduates a year from this June.
Vernon Blake is known as Duke to the general public, but didn't
think it would look very good over a story. This is his first appearance
in this magazine, owing to a tiff with the staff back.in history, but since
he first came here in 1936 he has been known to the literati as one of the
finest writers on campus, and though his work has not yet appeared
in any national magazine, all his rejection slips are letters from the
James Turner Jackson is by now either well-known or notorious to
those of the campus who read. His work is probably the most provoca-
tive, and either highly praised or wailingly misunderstood, of any which
we have printed this year. But we think his is good, and so-. Perhaps
to clear up one prevalent misconception, we should mention the fact that
Jackson is not a realist, which may lead to an adjustment of judgment on
the part of certain individuals who look for adherance to external life
in their reading.
Catherine Ruddy is red-headed and Smiling. Unlike others of the tor-
tured soul class, Kay does not carry over the attitude she takes toward
her work into her day-to-day life. But there is a power and capacity in
her writing, and an understanding of human beings which denies her ex-
travert qualities, and leads us to believe she will one day become a writer
to watch.'
Don Folkman is the baby of the issue. His essay on American dan-
cipation won him a Freshman Hopwood Award this year, and whether
he intends to return to the baton or the typewriter we don't know. We hope
for our own sakes, because we like his style and what he writes about,
that he will stick to the typewriter.
Cleora Forth did her own illustration for her take-off on theses, and
has a swell sense of humor and the feeble side of pedantry, both of which
led to the inclusion of her essay on rats and cigarettes in this issue, depart-
ing from our usual policy of not printing funny essays because they us-
ually aren't funny. Hers is, and thats about all we know about her ex-
cept that her home town is Manistee.
Lawrence Spingarn has become what is known to the trade as a reg-
ular contributor, having written both whimsical and serious verse for us, as
well as some critical work. He is everly-New-England's, and like the en-
tire writing coterie, he is now holding his breath until the Hopwood
Awards are announced.

distant place, damning himself. He had
been coming back, remembering the
girl, her voice, the touch of her, the
way she tossed her head. Lorraine. Ie
would marry her, to hell with what they
said. And then he had heard of her
killing herself, and within her his child.
He had turned back.
"But I didn't, I couldn't . . . ' Oh
God, why does it have to be like this
now, when I'm dying ... Even now she
comes between us. Just a girl she was,
her loose skirts, her dirty attraction my
son called beauty, her thieving family.
To marry my son, still a boy. This
little thing taking him away, put your
foot down he'll get over it he's still
a boy. And what happens to her who
cares, she'll get another, clever little
wench, trying to clamp onto my son,
kissing him there in the dark, I know
what they're doing he's not the same
she's taking him away from me there
in the dark, all these nights. Lorraine.
Her son saw the suffering. It was
worse now, the gnawing and the pain
were coming back. She was breathing
heavily, and her eyes seemed to stay
always in one place. "All right, mother."
he said, "I'm sorry I said those things.
I couldn't help it, it came all at once"
He knew it was near the end, that
would soon be finished.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"About three-thirty."
When his sister came in he did not
know what to do or say, he was embar-
rassed, and went outside. He was on
the porch when the doctor drove up.
"Well, I guess it's just about over,
doe," he said.
The doctor sighed. "Yes, she can't
live more than a few hours now."
"I think she's suffering pretty bad."
"I could give her a hypodermic if-"
"I'll see what my sister says. It would
be a lot better that way."
The doctor nodded. "Shall we go
up?" he said.
John followed him up. The stairs
creaked under the worn carpets, and the
noise seemed very loud. These same
stairs he had climbed so many times,
off to bed without supper, or warm in
flannel after a bath; other times sneak-
ing shoeless, the terrible expectancy,
hearing the sharp voice from the bed-
room almost before it spoke. And now
she was dying, and all these things with
her. He would clear out.
His sister came out o the room, cry-
ing softly. The doctor went in, and
they could hear a low moaning.
"The doctor has a hypodermic. I
would put an end to all this. What do
you think?"
"Oh, I don't know." Her voice was
strained. "It seems so-"
"Something to stop the suffering. A
hypo's the only thing."
"But isn't it-"
"No," he said, "it's the only thing."
As they entered the room, the voice
on the bed started to talk. It rambled,
of scolding, forgiveness, talking of God
and life and dying, spring and winter,
her husband poor man, Lorraine, Lor-
raine, pray for me John pray for me.
A halt, a tremor, a greasy noise from
her throat, and she sank back, shaking.
"Give her the hypo, doc." The voice
was soft.
The daughter said nothing.
There was only a slight movement in
the small form as the pin entered the
puffy flgsh. And when, soon after, the
injection took effect, the gentle rise and
fall was hardly perceptible. There
was no movement under the half-closed
eyelids. She was breathing and being,
but dead already. And now in the room
there was no sound, save for the occa-
sional patch of light laughter from the
tavern down the street.

the other times, the sentimental scenes
passing swiftly through his mind, but
always the vision of that final quarrel,
and what came afterward, would
rise up and push aside the tenderness.
But she wanted to talk. She felt as
if she had something important to say,
and she did not want to die without
saying it.
"John," she said, finally.
He looked up.
"You have seen a lot of places. You've
probably been all over the world."
"Yes, I suppose so." He had gon'
to Sweden on a cattleboat, and had been
shipped out from there. He had been
everywhere, doing everything.
"You've been so many places. But are
the people so much different there than

Then it came. "Why haven't you
been back, John? It's been so long,
waiting here."
"I don't know . . . I guess I couldn't,
after what happened. To her, I mean."
"Yes, I knew that was it. But John,
to stay away all those years because of
-- Oh, I know, but I never realized
it was that way, if you knew how much
I -"
"You killed her," he said. His whole
manner, now, had changed. He was
tense, and the words came slowly, de-
liberately. "If I could have stayed, it
wouldn't have happened. I was away,
and she was afraid. She knew what
would happen, she knew that there
would be no help from you. And in a
town like this." He had thought of it
many times, under the stars in some

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