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May 03, 1941 - Image 4

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

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Page Four


0 .By James Turner Jackson

MORE than he needed six par-
rots with their bills hooked
together, Cesar needed a
phonograph. Recordings of
great noises, blasphemous to harmony
and wonderfully discordant, would re-
store his minid, freeing it from the ter-
rible consistency of the incantation
shrieked by those tangled birds hang-
ing day and night in an open cage
above his bed.
Cesar had not left his room for three
weeks now. The windows, long unopen-
ed, reflected dusty images of its barren-
ness. Like an old orange on a twisted
f string, a single light bulb drooped from
the ceiling. Shadows stalked with cal-
loused familiarity through his few be-
longings, cloaking all colours but the
brilliant blues and greens of the par-
rots' wings and the gold of their arch-
ing beaks.
Each morning, he had-quite stealth-
ily-turned back the covers and leaped
toward the door. But, without excep,
tion, before he arrived there, the par-
rots had seen him and cried:
"Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!"
Then there was nothing to do but
go back to bed and schedule another
attempt for the following morning. The
unanimity of their warning impressed
him. There was something behind that
sharply reiterated "wolf" of theirs, some-
thing that he should heed at all costs.
So had it gone for many days, the
parrots watchful of their charge, and
Cesar watchful for some opportunity to
escape those fluttering guards of Neme-
sis peering from the heights of their
feathered majesty upon his balding
During those long mornings spent
lying fallow in his bed, Cesar thought
of a phonograph. 'With it in my room,'
he decided after troubled consideration,
'I shall be able to elude their call. I shall
turn the dial to the greatest volume
of its cresendo, then, beguiling them,
rush to the door, and-in an instant
of triumph-be gone!' This seemed so
easy to him that he almost ached with
anticipation of the next dawn, only to
be disillusioned by the customary fail-
Once a woman who cleaned the rooms
called through the door.
"Are you ever coming out?"
Cesar didn't answer. He let the par-
rots speak for him. They hooted, with
gusto, clipping the word neatly be-
tween their beaks.
She had gone away, afraid of hearing
them cry wolf too often.
T HERE was a fireplace in Cesar's
room. In remnants and tatters to
be sure, its mantle warped, its stones
awry, but still a fireplace with a legiti-
mate chimney. One morning, after the
usual defeat pronounced upon him by
the six birds, Cesar heard" a slight,
whimsical tapping under the grate. The
sound came from the chimney and was
followed presently b the head of a
strange old man.
Cesar turned over in surprise, his eyes
and those of his birds gazing askance.
"Come!" the old Mnan said, beckon-
ing with an ancient but dainty finger.
"Come! I have something to show you."
Cesar looked up at the parrots.
Their black pinheady eyes looked
down upon him.
"I'm afraid that will be quite impos-
sible," he said, though his curiosity had
soared upon hearing the old man's re-
quest. "My friends think I shouldn't get
up today to go out-of-doors. Perhaps
some other time ..."
The old man kept his finger in mo-
tion. Now he bobbed his head for em-
"Oh, but I'm sure they won't mind. It
.1ill just take a little while."

He paused for a moment.- Singe-
weary curls in his carmine toupee lop-
ed down the sides of his skull to play
with the lobes of his parchment ears.
"Besides, as you shall see, our way
takes us not out-of-doors but through
chimneys and walls ..."
Cesar threw off the bed clothes. He
felt free.
He darted toward the fireplace.
The parrots were completely silent.
Soon he and the stranger were plumb-
ing the depths of the aged, labyrinthic
house. They descended, by degrees,
through idle chimneys and air ducts, to
the cellar.
Arriving there, Cesar's companion
halted to change his clothes. This task
completed, he pointed toward a door

gripping his shoulders loosely, like a
Roman toga, before lowering from those
eminences wan drapes of material to
cover his body and stringy fabrications
to hide his knees and legs.
'When Mr. Dipple walks down the
street,' thought Cesar, 'his suit must
walk with him like a separate person,
so. complete is its independence from its
Soon he learned moreover that Ben-
jamin and his suit were servants to His
Majesty, that long ago his host had
carefully died his cane in a. cellar vat,
making it deceptive in its purple coat-
Here in the cellar, Mr. Dipple had set
up his headquarters; here he flourished
the mauve cane, his spats leaping with

by the same circumspect route, Cesar
took many deep thoughts and problems
to bed with him. He wondered about
the silence of the parrots. They had
not cried out when he disappeared into
the chimney. Now, seemingly asleep,
their wings were intermingled, their
beaks hooked together.
The flash of their wild-hued bodies
arrested his glance like a kaleidoscope;
his fingers dallied with the sweeping
curves of their elegantly drooped tail-
feathers. "I have grown cautious under
their tutelage,' he thought. 'I have pon-
dered too much the parable of the
wolves.' At this point. the great ques-
tion, which had troubled his mind for
weeks, once more monopolized his
thought. 'Have they cried wolf too
often? . . . Have they cried wolf too
often?' But the refrain echoed its
frightening connotations. 'Or too sel-
dom? . . . too seldom?' The old para-
lysis of fear and doubt immobilized his
limbs. He hugged the sheet to his chest.
'If the lady who sweeps the floors
calls again, I shall say that I have taken
up permanent residence here. Then
she will bother me no more with her
"Are you ever coming out?"
Nevertheless, the significance of his
unhampered escape to the chimney
could not be denied. Perhaps all danger
was over, and the parrots would now be
silent if he crept to the door and opened
Cesar was uncertain.
He decided to await the dawn for an
When the dusty windows began to
shimmer with morning light, he made
final preparations. First he dressed him-
self in bed, then he peeked out at the
six birds.
They were motionless, speechless.
Was this the time to start out for
the phonograph? Yes, perhaps this was
the very moment so long expected.
His fingers curled over the top of the
blanket, anxious for freedom, quivering
with hope.
With a sudden lurch he scurried out
of bed and ran for the door.
There was no cry of wolf. There was
no noise at all.
For the first time :n a month, he
stogd before the door. Momentarily, he
glanced back. The parrot's beaks were
poised but silent in a rigid line of gold.
Then he forgot all fear, threw open
the door with a flourish of waving arms,
and ran headlong into the hall.
As he fell rapidly but with no noise
down the great stair well shaft, whose
proximity to his door he had forgot-
ten during those long days and nights
in the barren room, he shouted at the
flights and landings flying past his
rushingly descending range of vision,
Anger thundered into his screams.
But Mr. Dipple, busy at his digging,
made way for the falling body, observ-
ing with some degree of truth incipient
in his calm, rumbling voice as the depths
of his sacred hole closed over Cesar's
"Nay, for thou must weep if tangled
parrots cry wolf .
-James Turner Jacson
The editors wish f thank the
Bookroom, Wahr's and Slater's for
the loan of books reviewed in this


that rose up before them and began to
speak of himself with pride.
"To thpse who worship His Majes-
ty, I-Benjamin Dipple-will not be un-
familiar. Who can forget my gumdrop-
pink collar?"
Cesar emained very silent.
"For that matter, who can easily push
from his mind the memory of these
pink spats? . . . or my burnished fore-
head, cleft-hewn? No, to be. truthful, I
am singularly unforgettable."
And, while shocked by his immodes-
ty, Cesar had to agree with him, though
he knew not to which Majesty he re-
Benjamin Dipple seemed to have
grown out of his cane, for it was as long
and reedy as he. A pale blue suit, with
sulphur-coloured buttons, invested him,

his hops and cavortings. And over the
great door in the dusk, he had lettered
in fat characters: Benjamin Dipple, His
Outer Room for Procurement Prior to
Most important of all, he learned that
behind that door, Mr. Dipple had been
digging, for many years now, in quest
of what he quivered to hear mention-
Cesar suddenly realized the nature of
his companion. Mr. Benjamin Dipple
was a worshipper who seriously intend-
ed to be in league with Mis Majesty. He
was making constructive efforts to con-
tact his beloved, his darksome divinity.
Mr. Dipple said that the idea had
come to him months earlier while he
was cleaning his fingernails.
After he had returned to his room

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