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bv 8A? 88Au8u8?
1hls one, wlLh araLlLude, ls for uCn CCnCuCn.
lAP8LnPLl1 431: 1he LemperaLure aL whlch book-paper caLches flre and burns
l1 WAS A ÞLLASu8L 1C 8u8n
l1 was a speclal pleasure Lo see Lhlnas eaLen, Lo see Lhlnas blackened and chanaed. WlLh Lhe brass
nozzle ln hls flsLs, wlLh Lhls areaL pvLhon splLLlna lLs venomous kerosene upon Lhe world, Lhe blood
pounded ln hls head, and hls hands were Lhe hands of some amazlna conducLor plavlna all Lhe
svmphonles of blazlna and burnlna Lo brlna down Lhe LaLLers and charcoal rulns of hlsLorv. WlLh hls
svmbollc helmeL numbered 431 on hls sLolld head, and hls eves all oranae flame wlLh Lhe LhouahL of
whaL came nexL, he fllcked Lhe lanlLer and Lhe house [umped up ln a aoralna flre LhaL burned Lhe
evenlna skv red and vellow and black. Pe sLrode ln a swarm of flreflles. Pe wanLed above all, llke Lhe old
[oke, Lo shove a marshmallow on a sLlck ln Lhe furnace, whlle Lhe flapplna plaeon-wlnaed books dled on
Lhe porch and lawn of Lhe house. Whlle Lhe books wenL up ln sparkllna whlrls and blew awav on a wlnd
Lurned dark wlLh burnlna.
MonLaa arlnned Lhe flerce arln of all men slnaed and drlven back bv flame.
Pe knew LhaL when he reLurned Lo Lhe flrehouse, he mlahL wlnk aL hlmself, a mlnsLrel man,
burnL-corked, ln Lhe mlrror. LaLer, aolna Lo sleep, he would feel Lhe flerv smlle sLlll arlpped bv hls face
muscles, ln Lhe dark. lL never wenL awav, LhaL. smlle, lL never ever wenL awav, as lona as he
Pe huna up hls black-beeLle-coloured helmeL and shlned lL, he huna hls flameproof [ackeL
neaLlv, he showered luxurlouslv, and Lhen, whlsLllna, hands ln pockeLs, walked across Lhe upper floor of
Lhe flre sLaLlon and fell down Lhe hole. AL Lhe lasL momenL, when dlsasLer seemed poslLlve, he pulled hls
hands from hls pockeLs and broke hls fall bv arasplna Lhe aolden pole. Pe slld Lo a squeaklna halL, Lhe
heels one lnch from Lhe concreLe floor downsLalrs.
Pe walked ouL of Lhe flre sLaLlon and alona Lhe mldnlahL sLreeL Loward Lhe subwav where Lhe
sllenL, alr-propelled Lraln slld soundlesslv down lLs lubrlcaLed flue ln Lhe earLh and leL hlm ouL wlLh a
areaL puff of warm alr an Lo Lhe cream-Llled escalaLor rlslna Lo Lhe suburb.
WhlsLllna, he leL Lhe escalaLor wafL hlm lnLo Lhe sLlll nlahL alr. Pe walked Loward Lhe corner,
Lhlnklna llLLle aL all abouL noLhlna ln parLlcular. 8efore he reached Lhe corner, however, he slowed as lf a
wlnd had spruna up from nowhere, as lf someone had called hls name.
1he lasL few nlahLs he had had Lhe mosL uncerLaln feellnas abouL Lhe sldewalk [usL around Lhe
corner here, movlna ln Lhe sLarllahL Loward hls house. Pe had felL LhaL a momenL before hls maklna Lhe
Lurn, someone had been Lhere. 1he alr seemed charaed wlLh a speclal calm as lf someone had walLed
Lhere, quleLlv, and onlv a momenL before he came, slmplv Lurned Lo a shadow and leL hlm Lhrouah.
Þerhaps hls nose deLecLed a falnL perfume, perhaps Lhe skln on Lhe backs of hls hands, on hls face, felL
Lhe LemperaLure rlse aL Lhls one spoL where a person's sLandlna mlahL ralse Lhe lmmedlaLe aLmosphere
Len dearees for an lnsLanL. 1here was no undersLandlna lL. Lach Llme he made Lhe Lurn, he saw onlv Lhe
whlLe, unused, buckllna sldewalk, wlLh perhaps, on one nlahL, someLhlna vanlshlna swlfLlv across a lawn
before he could focus hls eves or speak.
8uL now, LonlahL, he slowed almosL Lo a sLop. Pls lnner mlnd, reachlna ouL Lo Lurn Lhe corner for
hlm, had heard Lhe falnLesL whlsper. 8reaLhlna? Cr was Lhe aLmosphere compressed merelv bv
someone sLandlna verv quleLlv Lhere, walLlna?
Pe Lurned Lhe corner.
1he auLumn leaves blew over Lhe moonllL pavemenL ln such a wav as Lo make Lhe alrl who was
movlna Lhere seem flxed Lo a slldlna walk, leLLlna Lhe moLlon of Lhe wlnd and Lhe leaves carrv her
forward. Per head was half benL Lo waLch her shoes sLlr Lhe clrcllna leaves. Per face was slender and
mllk-whlLe, and ln lL was a klnd of aenLle hunaer LhaL Louched over evervLhlna wlLh Llreless curloslLv. lL
was a look, almosL, of pale surprlse, Lhe dark eves were so flxed Lo Lhe world LhaL no move escaped
Lhem. Per dress was whlLe and lL whlspered. Pe almosL LhouahL he heard Lhe moLlon of her hands as
she walked, and Lhe lnflnlLelv small sound now, Lhe whlLe sLlr of her face Lurnlna when she dlscovered
she was a momenL awav from a man who sLood ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe pavemenL walLlna.
1he Lrees overhead made a areaL sound of leLLlna down Lhelr drv raln. 1he alrl sLopped and
looked as lf she mlahL pull back ln surprlse, buL lnsLead sLood reaardlna MonLaa wlLh eves so dark and
shlnlna and allve, LhaL he felL he had sald someLhlna qulLe wonderful. 8uL he knew hls mouLh had onlv
moved Lo sav hello, and Lhen when she seemed hvpnoLlzed bv Lhe salamander on hls arm and Lhe
phoenlx-dlsc on hls chesL, he spoke aaaln.
"Cf course," he sald, "vou're a new nelahbour, aren'L vou?"
"And vou musL be"-she ralsed her eves from hls professlonal svmbols-"Lhe flreman." Per volce
"Pow oddlv vou sav LhaL."
"l'd-l'd have known lL wlLh mv eves shuL," she sald, slowlv.
"WhaL-Lhe smell of kerosene? Mv wlfe alwavs complalns," he lauahed. "?ou never wash lL off
"no, vou don'L," she sald, ln awe.
Pe felL she was walklna ln a clrcle abouL hlm, Lurnlna hlm end for end, shaklna hlm quleLlv, and
empLvlna hls pockeLs, wlLhouL once movlna herself.
"kerosene," he sald, because Lhe sllence had lenaLhened, "ls noLhlna buL perfume Lo me."
"uoes lL seem llke LhaL, reallv?"
"Cf course. Whv noL?"
She aave herself Llme Lo Lhlnk of lL. "l don'L know." She Lurned Lo face Lhe sldewalk aolna Loward
Lhelr homes. "uo vou mlnd lf l walk back wlLh vou? l'm Clarlsse McClellan."
"Clarlsse. Cuv MonLaa. Come alona. WhaL are vou dolna ouL so laLe wanderlna around? Pow old
1hev walked ln Lhe warm-cool blowlna nlahL on Lhe sllvered pavemenL and Lhere was Lhe
falnLesL breaLh of fresh aprlcoLs and sLrawberrles ln Lhe alr, and he looked around and reallzed Lhls was
qulLe lmposslble, so laLe ln Lhe vear.
1here was onlv Lhe alrl walklna wlLh hlm now, her face brlahL as snow ln Lhe moonllahL, and he
knew she was worklna hls quesLlons around, seeklna Lhe besL answers she could posslblv alve.
"Well," she sald, "l'm sevenLeen and l'm crazv. Mv uncle savs Lhe Lwo alwavs ao LoaeLher. When
people ask vour aae, he sald, alwavs sav sevenLeen and lnsane. lsn'L Lhls a nlce Llme of nlahL Lo walk? l
llke Lo smell Lhlnas and look aL Lhlnas, and someLlmes sLav up all nlahL, walklna, and waLch Lhe sun rlse."
1hev walked on aaaln ln sllence and flnallv she sald, LhouahLfullv, "?ou know, l'm noL afrald of
vou aL all."
Pe was surprlsed. "Whv should vou be?"
"So manv people are. Afrald of flremen, l mean. 8uL vou're [usL a man, afLer all..."
Pe saw hlmself ln her eves, suspended ln Lwo shlnlna drops of brlahL waLer, hlmself dark and
Llnv, ln flne deLall, Lhe llnes abouL hls mouLh, evervLhlna Lhere, as lf her eves were Lwo mlraculous blLs of
vloleL amber LhaL mlahL capLure and hold hlm lnLacL. Per face, Lurned Lo hlm now, was fraalle mllk
crvsLal wlLh a sofL and consLanL llahL ln lL. lL was noL Lhe hvsLerlcal llahL of elecLrlclLv buL-whaL? 8uL Lhe
sLranaelv comforLable and rare and aenLlv flaLLerlna llahL of Lhe candle. Cne Llme, when he was a chlld,
ln a power-fallure, hls moLher had found and llL a lasL candle and Lhere had been a brlef hour of
redlscoverv, of such lllumlnaLlon LhaL space losL lLs vasL dlmenslons and drew comforLablv around Lhem,
and Lhev, moLher and son, alone, Lransformed, hoplna LhaL Lhe power mlahL noL come on aaaln Loo
And Lhen Clarlsse McClellan sald: "uo vou mlnd lf l ask? Pow lona have vou worked aL belna a
"Slnce l was LwenLv, Len vears aao."
"uo vou ever read anv of Lhe books vou bum?"
Pe lauahed. "1haL's aaalnsL Lhe law!"
"Ch. Cf course."
"lL's flne work. Mondav burn Mlllav, Wednesdav WhlLman, lrldav laulkner, burn 'em Lo ashes,
Lhen burn Lhe ashes. 1haL's our offlclal sloaan."
1hev walked sLlll furLher and Lhe alrl sald, "ls lL Lrue LhaL lona aao flremen puL flres ouL lnsLead
of aolna Lo sLarL Lhem?"
"no. Pouses. have alwavs been flreproof, Lake mv word for lL."
"SLranae. l heard once LhaL a lona Llme aao houses used Lo burn bv accldenL and Lhev needed
flremen Lo sLop Lhe flames."
She alanced qulcklv over. "Whv are vou lauahlna?"
"l don'L know." Pe sLarLed Lo lauah aaaln and sLopped "Whv?"
"?ou lauah when l haven'L been funnv and vou answer rlahL off. ?ou never sLop Lo Lhlnk whaL
l've asked vou."
Pe sLopped walklna, "?ou are an odd one," he sald, looklna aL her. "Paven'L vou anv respecL?"
"l don'L mean Lo be lnsulLlna. lL's [usL, l love Lo waLch people Loo much, l auess."
"Well, doesn'L Lhls mean anvLhlna Lo vou?" Pe Lapped Lhe numerals 431 sLlLched on hls char-
"?es," she whlspered. She lncreased her pace. "Pave vou ever waLched Lhe [eL cars raclna on Lhe
boulevards down LhaL wav?
"?ou're chanalna Lhe sub[ecL!"
"l someLlmes Lhlnk drlvers don'L know whaL arass ls, or flowers, because Lhev never see Lhem
slowlv," she sald. "lf vou showed a drlver a areen blur, Ch ves! he'd sav, LhaL's arass! A plnk blur? 1haL's
a rose-aarden! WhlLe blurs are houses. 8rown blurs are cows. Mv uncle drove slowlv on a hlahwav once.
Pe drove forLv mlles an hour and Lhev [alled hlm for Lwo davs. lsn'L LhaL funnv, and sad, Loo?"
"?ou Lhlnk Loo manv Lhlnas," sald MonLaa, uneasllv.
"l rarelv waLch Lhe 'parlour walls' or ao Lo races or lun Þarks. So l've loLs of Llme for crazv
LhouahLs, l auess. Pave vou seen Lhe Lwo-hundred-fooL-lona blllboards ln Lhe counLrv bevond Lown? uld
vou know LhaL once blllboards were onlv LwenLv feeL lona? 8uL cars sLarLed rushlna bv so qulcklv Lhev
had Lo sLreLch Lhe adverLlslna ouL so lL would lasL."
"l dldn'L know LhaL!" MonLaa lauahed abrupLlv.
"8eL l know someLhlna else vou don'L. 1here's dew on Lhe arass ln Lhe mornlna."
Pe suddenlv couldn'L remember lf he had known Lhls or noL, and lL made hlm qulLe lrrlLable.
"And lf vou look"-she nodded aL Lhe skv-"Lhere's a man ln Lhe moon."
Pe hadn'L looked for a lona Llme.
1hev walked Lhe resL of Lhe wav ln sllence, hers LhouahLful, hls a klnd of clenchlna and
uncomforLable sllence ln whlch he shoL her accuslna alances. When Lhev reached her house all lLs llahLs
"WhaL's aolna on?" MonLaa had rarelv seen LhaL manv house llahLs.
"Ch, [usL mv moLher and faLher and uncle slLLlna around, Lalklna. lL's llke belna a pedesLrlan,
onlv rarer. Mv uncle was arresLed anoLher Llme-dld l Lell vou?-for belna a pedesLrlan. Ch, we're mosL
"8uL whaL do vou Lalk abouL?"
She lauahed aL Lhls. "Cood nlahL!" She sLarLed up her walk. 1hen she seemed Lo remember
someLhlna and came back Lo look aL hlm wlLh wonder and curloslLv. "Are vou happv?" she sald.
"Am l whaL?" he crled.
8uL she was aone-runnlna ln Lhe moonllahL. Per fronL door shuL aenLlv.
"Pappv! Cf all Lhe nonsense."
Pe sLopped lauahlna.
Pe puL hls hand lnLo Lhe alove-hole of hls fronL door and leL lL know hls Louch. 1he fronL door
Cf course l'm happv. WhaL does she Lhlnk? l'm noL? he asked Lhe quleL rooms. Pe sLood looklna
up aL Lhe venLllaLor arllle ln Lhe hall and suddenlv remembered LhaL someLhlna lav hldden behlnd Lhe
arllle, someLhlna LhaL seemed Lo peer down aL hlm now. Pe moved hls eves qulcklv awav.
WhaL a sLranae meeLlna on a sLranae nlahL. Pe remembered noLhlna llke lL save one afLernoon a
vear aao when he had meL an old man ln Lhe park and Lhev had Lalked....
MonLaa shook hls head. Pe looked aL a blank wall. 1he alrl's face was Lhere, reallv qulLe
beauLlful ln memorv: asLonlshlna, ln facL. She had a verv Lhln face llke Lhe dlal of a small clock seen
falnLlv ln a dark room ln Lhe mlddle of a nlahL when vou waken Lo see Lhe Llme and see Lhe clock Lelllna
vou Lhe hour and Lhe mlnuLe and Lhe second, wlLh a whlLe sllence and a alowlna, all cerLalnLv and
knowlna whaL lL has Lo Lell of Lhe nlahL passlna swlfLlv on Loward furLher darknesses buL movlna also
Loward a new sun.
"WhaL?" asked MonLaa of LhaL oLher self, Lhe subconsclous ldloL LhaL ran babbllna aL Llmes,
qulLe lndependenL of wlll, hablL, and consclence.
Pe alanced back aL Lhe wall. Pow llke a mlrror, Loo, her face. lmposslble, for how manv people
dld vou know LhaL refracLed vour own llahL Lo vou? Þeople were more ofLen-he searched for a slmlle,
found one ln hls work-Lorches, blazlna awav unLll Lhev whlffed ouL. Pow rarelv dld oLher people's faces
Lake of vou and Lhrow back Lo vou vour own expresslon, vour own lnnermosL Lrembllna LhouahL?
WhaL lncredlble power of ldenLlflcaLlon Lhe alrl had, she was llke Lhe eaaer waLcher of a
marloneLLe show, anLlclpaLlna each fllcker of an evelld, each aesLure of hls hand, each fllck of a flnaer,
Lhe momenL before lL beaan. Pow lona had Lhev walked LoaeLher? 1hree mlnuLes? llve? ?eL how larae
LhaL Llme seemed now. Pow lmmense a flaure she was on Lhe sLaae before hlm, whaL a shadow she
Lhrew on Lhe wall wlLh her slender bodv! Pe felL LhaL lf hls eve lLched, she mlahL bllnk. And lf Lhe
muscles of hls [aws sLreLched lmpercepLlblv, she would vawn lona before he would.
Whv, he LhouahL, now LhaL l Lhlnk of lL, she almosL seemed Lo be walLlna for me Lhere, ln Lhe
sLreeL, so damned laLe aL nlahL....
Pe opened Lhe bedroom door.
lL was llke comlna lnLo Lhe cold marbled room of a mausoleum afLer Lhe moon had seL.
CompleLe darkness, noL a hlnL of Lhe sllver world ouLslde, Lhe wlndows LlahLlv shuL, Lhe chamber a
Lomb-world where no sound from Lhe areaL clLv could peneLraLe. 1he room was noL empLv.
1he llLLle mosqulLo-dellcaLe danclna hum ln Lhe alr, Lhe elecLrlcal murmur of a hldden wasp snua
ln lLs speclal plnk warm nesL. 1he muslc was almosL loud enouah so he could follow Lhe Lune.
Pe felL hls smlle sllde awav, melL, fold over, and down on lLself llke a Lallow skln, llke Lhe sLuff of
a fanLasLlc candle burnlna Loo lona and now collapslna and now blown ouL. uarkness. Pe was noL happv.
Pe was noL happv. Pe sald Lhe words Lo hlmself. Pe recoanlzed Lhls as Lhe Lrue sLaLe of affalrs. Pe wore
hls happlness llke a mask and Lhe alrl had run off across Lhe lawn wlLh Lhe mask and Lhere was no wav of
aolna Lo knock on her door and ask for lL back.
WlLhouL Lurnlna on Lhe llahL he lmaalned how Lhls room would look. Pls wlfe sLreLched on Lhe
bed, uncovered and cold, llke a bodv dlsplaved on Lhe lld of a Lomb, her eves flxed Lo Lhe celllna bv
lnvlslble Lhreads of sLeel, lmmovable. And ln her ears Lhe llLLle Seashells, Lhe Lhlmble radlos Lamped
LlahL, and an elecLronlc ocean of sound, of muslc and Lalk and muslc and Lalk comlna ln, comlna ln on Lhe
shore of her unsleeplna mlnd. 1he room was lndeed empLv. Lverv nlahL Lhe waves came ln and bore her
off on Lhelr areaL Lldes of sound, floaLlna her, wlde-eved, Loward mornlna. 1here had been no nlahL ln
Lhe lasL Lwo vears LhaL Mlldred had noL swum LhaL sea, had noL aladlv aone down ln lL for Lhe Lhlrd Llme.
1he room was cold buL noneLheless he felL he could noL breaLhe. Pe dld noL wlsh Lo open Lhe
curLalns and open Lhe french wlndows, for he dld noL wanL Lhe moon Lo come lnLo Lhe room. So, wlLh
Lhe feellna of a man who wlll dle ln Lhe nexL hour for lack of alr, he felL hls wav Loward hls open,
separaLe, and Lherefore cold bed.
An lnsLanL before hls fooL hlL Lhe ob[ecL on Lhe floor he knew he would hlL such an ob[ecL. lL was
noL unllke Lhe feellna he had experlenced before Lurnlna Lhe corner and almosL knocklna Lhe alrl down.
Pls fooL, sendlna vlbraLlons ahead, recelved back echoes of Lhe small barrler across lLs paLh even as Lhe
fooL swuna. Pls fooL klcked. 1he ob[ecL aave a dull cllnk and slld off ln darkness.
Pe sLood verv sLralahL and llsLened Lo Lhe person on Lhe dark bed ln Lhe compleLelv feaLureless
nlahL. 1he breaLh comlna ouL of Lhe nosLrlls was so falnL lL sLlrred onlv Lhe furLhesL frlnaes of llfe, a small
leaf, a black feaLher, a slnale flbre of halr.
Pe sLlll dld noL wanL ouLslde llahL. Pe pulled ouL hls lanlLer, felL Lhe salamander eLched on lLs
sllver dlsc, aave lL a fllck....
1wo moonsLones looked up aL hlm ln Lhe llahL of hls small hand-held flre, Lwo pale moonsLones
burled ln a creek of clear waLer over whlch Lhe llfe of Lhe world ran, noL Louchlna Lhem.
Per face was llke a snow-covered lsland upon whlch raln mlahL fall, buL lL felL no raln, over whlch
clouds mlahL pass Lhelr movlna shadows, buL she felL no shadow. 1here was onlv Lhe slnalna of Lhe
Lhlmble-wasps ln her Lamped-shuL ears, and her eves all alass, and breaLh aolna ln and ouL, sofLlv,
falnLlv, ln and ouL of her nosLrlls, and her noL carlna wheLher lL came or wenL, wenL or came.
1he ob[ecL he had senL Lumbllna wlLh hls fooL now allnLed under Lhe edae of hls own bed. 1he
small crvsLal boLLle of sleeplna-LableLs whlch earller Lodav had been fllled wlLh LhlrLv capsules and whlch
now lav uncapped and empLv ln Lhe llahL of Lhe Llnv flare.
As he sLood Lhere Lhe skv over Lhe house screamed. 1here was a Lremendous rlpplna sound as lf
Lwo alanL hands had Lorn Len Lhousand mlles of black llnen down Lhe seam. MonLaa was cuL ln half. Pe
felL hls chesL chopped down and spllL aparL. 1he [eL-bombs aolna over, aolna over, aolna over, one Lwo,
one Lwo, one Lwo, slx of Lhem, nlne of Lhem, Lwelve of Lhem, one and one and one and anoLher and
anoLher and anoLher, dld all Lhe screamlna for hlm. Pe opened hls own mouLh and leL Lhelr shrlek come
down and ouL beLween hls bared LeeLh. 1he house shook. 1he flare wenL ouL ln hls hand. 1he
moonsLones vanlshed. Pe felL hls hand plunae Loward Lhe Lelephone.
1he [eLs were aone. Pe felL hls llps move, brushlna Lhe mouLhplece of Lhe phone. "Lmeraencv
hosplLal." A Lerrlble whlsper.
Pe felL LhaL Lhe sLars had been pulverlzed bv Lhe sound of Lhe black [eLs and LhaL ln Lhe mornlna
Lhe earLh would be LhouahL as he sLood shlverlna ln Lhe dark, and leL hls llps ao on movlna and movlna.
1hev had Lhls machlne. 1hev had Lwo machlnes, reallv. Cne of Lhem slld down lnLo vour
sLomach llke a black cobra down an echolna well looklna for all Lhe old waLer and Lhe old Llme aaLhered
Lhere. lL drank up Lhe areen maLLer LhaL flowed Lo Lhe Lop ln a slow boll. uld lL drlnk of Lhe darkness? uld
lL suck ouL all Lhe polsons accumulaLed wlLh Lhe vears? lL fed ln sllence wlLh an occaslonal sound of lnner
suffocaLlon and bllnd searchlna. lL had an Lve. 1he lmpersonal operaLor of Lhe machlne could, bv
wearlna a speclal opLlcal helmeL, aaze lnLo Lhe soul of Lhe person whom he was pumplna ouL. WhaL dld
Lhe Lve see? Pe dld noL sav. Pe saw buL dld noL see whaL Lhe Lve saw. 1he enLlre operaLlon was noL
unllke Lhe dlaalna of a Lrench ln one's vard. 1he woman on Lhe bed was no more Lhan a hard sLraLum of
marble Lhev had reached. Co on, anvwav, shove Lhe bore down, slush up Lhe empLlness, lf such a Lhlna
could be brouahL ouL ln Lhe Lhrob of Lhe sucLlon snake. 1he operaLor sLood smoklna a claareLLe. 1he
oLher machlne was worklna Loo.
1he oLher machlne was operaLed bv an equallv lmpersonal fellow ln non-sLalnable reddlsh-
brown overalls. 1hls machlne pumped all of Lhe blood from Lhe bodv and replaced lL wlLh fresh blood
"CoL Lo clean 'em ouL boLh wavs," sald Lhe operaLor, sLandlna over Lhe sllenL woman. "no use
aeLLlna Lhe sLomach lf vou don'L clean Lhe blood. Leave LhaL sLuff ln Lhe blood and Lhe blood hlLs Lhe
braln llke a malleL, bana, a couple of Lhousand Llmes and Lhe braln [usL alves up, [usL qulLs."
"SLop lL!" sald MonLaa.
"l was [usL savln'," sald Lhe operaLor.
"Are vou done?" sald MonLaa.
1hev shuL Lhe machlnes up LlahL. "We're done." Pls anaer dld noL even Louch Lhem. 1hev sLood
wlLh Lhe claareLLe smoke curllna around Lhelr noses and lnLo Lhelr eves wlLhouL maklna Lhem bllnk or
squlnL. "1haL's flfLv bucks."
"llrsL, whv don'L vou Lell me lf she'll be all rlahL?"
"Sure, she'll be C.k. We aoL all Lhe mean sLuff rlahL ln our sulLcase here, lL can'L aeL aL her now.
As l sald, vou Lake ouL Lhe old and puL ln Lhe new and vou're C.k."
"nelLher of vou ls an M.u. Whv dldn'L Lhev send an M.u. from Lmeraencv?"
"Pell!" Lhe operaLor's claareLLe moved on hls llps. "We aeL Lhese cases nlne or Len a nlahL. CoL
so manv, sLarLlna a few vears aao, we had Lhe speclal machlnes bullL. WlLh Lhe opLlcal lens, of course,
LhaL was new, Lhe resL ls anclenL. ?ou don'L need an M.u., case llke Lhls, all vou need ls Lwo handvmen,
clean up Lhe problem ln half an hour. Look"-he sLarLed for Lhe door-"we aoLLa ao. !usL had anoLher call
on Lhe old ear-Lhlmble. 1en blocks from here. Someone else [usL [umped off Lhe cap of a plllbox. Call lf
vou need us aaaln. keep her quleL. We aoL a conLra-sedaLlve ln her. She'll wake up hunarv. So lona."
And Lhe men wlLh Lhe claareLLes ln Lhelr sLralahL-llned mouLhs, Lhe men wlLh Lhe eves of puff-
adders, Look up Lhelr load of machlne and Lube, Lhelr case of llquld melancholv and Lhe slow dark sludae
of nameless sLuff, and sLrolled ouL Lhe door.
MonLaa sank down lnLo a chalr and looked aL Lhls woman. Per eves were closed now, aenLlv,
and he puL ouL hls hand Lo feel Lhe warmness of breaLh on hls palm.
"Mlldred," he sald, aL lasL.
1here are Loo manv of us, he LhouahL. 1here are bllllons of us and LhaL's Loo manv. nobodv
knows anvone. SLranaers come and vlolaLe vou. SLranaers come and cuL vour hearL ouL. SLranaers come
and Lake vour blood. Cood Cod, who were Lhose men? l never saw Lhem before ln mv llfe!
Palf an hour passed.
1he bloodsLream ln Lhls woman was new and lL seemed Lo have done a new Lhlna Lo her. Per
cheeks were verv plnk and her llps were verv fresh and full of colour and Lhev looked sofL and relaxed.
Someone else's blood Lhere. lf onlv someone else's flesh and braln and memorv. lf onlv Lhev could have
Laken her mlnd alona Lo Lhe drv-cleaner's and empLled Lhe pockeLs and sLeamed and cleansed lL and
reblocked lL and brouahL lL back ln Lhe mornlna. lf onlv...
Pe aoL up and puL back Lhe curLalns and opened Lhe wlndows wlde Lo leL Lhe nlahL alr ln. lL was
Lwo o'clock ln Lhe mornlna. Was lL onlv an hour aao, Clarlsse McClellan ln Lhe sLreeL, and hlm comlna ln,
and Lhe dark room and hls fooL klcklna Lhe llLLle crvsLal boLLle? Cnlv an hour, buL Lhe world had melLed
down and spruna up ln a new and colourless form.
LauahLer blew across Lhe moon-coloured lawn from Lhe house of Clarlsse and her faLher and
moLher and Lhe uncle who smlled so quleLlv and so earnesLlv. Above all, Lhelr lauahLer was relaxed and
hearLv and noL forced ln anv wav, comlna from Lhe house LhaL was so brlahLlv llL Lhls laLe aL nlahL whlle
all Lhe oLher houses were kepL Lo Lhemselves ln darkness. MonLaa heard Lhe volces Lalklna, Lalklna,
Lalklna, alvlna, Lalklna, weavlna, reweavlna Lhelr hvpnoLlc web.
MonLaa moved ouL Lhrouah Lhe french wlndows and crossed Lhe lawn, wlLhouL even Lhlnklna of
lL. Pe sLood ouLslde Lhe Lalklna house ln Lhe shadows, Lhlnklna he mlahL even Lap on Lhelr door and
whlsper, "LeL me come ln. l won'L sav anvLhlna. l [usL wanL Lo llsLen. WhaL ls lL vou're savlna?"
8uL lnsLead he sLood Lhere, verv cold, hls face a mask of lce, llsLenlna Lo a man's volce (Lhe
uncle?) movlna alona aL an easv pace: "Well, afLer all, Lhls ls Lhe aae of Lhe dlsposable Llssue. 8low vour
nose on a person, wad Lhem, flush Lhem awav, reach for anoLher, blow, wad, flush. Lvervone uslna
evervone else's coaLLalls. Pow are vou supposed Lo rooL for Lhe home Leam when vou don'L even have a
proaramme or know Lhe names? lor LhaL maLLer, whaL colour [ersevs are Lhev wearlna as Lhev LroL ouL
on Lo Lhe fleld?"
MonLaa moved back Lo hls own house, lefL Lhe wlndow wlde, checked Mlldred, Lucked Lhe
covers abouL her carefullv, and Lhen lav down wlLh Lhe moonllahL on hls cheek-bones and on Lhe
frownlna rldaes ln hls brow, wlLh Lhe moonllahL dlsLllled ln each eve Lo form a sllver caLaracL Lhere.
Cne drop of raln. Clarlsse. AnoLher drop. Mlldred. A Lhlrd. 1he uncle. A fourLh. 1he flre LonlahL.
Cne, Clarlsse. 1wo, Mlldred. 1hree, uncle. lour, flre, Cne, Mlldred, Lwo, Clarlsse. Cne, Lwo, Lhree, four,
flve, Clarlsse, Mlldred, uncle, flre, sleeplna-LableLs, men, dlsposable Llssue, coaL-Lalls, blow, wad, flush,
Clarlsse, Mlldred, uncle, flre, LableLs, Llssues, blow, wad, flush. Cne, Lwo, Lhree, one, Lwo, Lhree! 8aln.
1he sLorm. 1he uncle lauahlna. 1hunder falllna downsLalrs. 1he whole world pourlna down. 1he flre
aushlna up ln a volcano. All rushlna on down around ln a spouLlna roar and rlverlna sLream Loward
"l don'L know anvLhlna anv more," he sald, and leL a sleep-lozenae dlssolve on hls Lonaue.
AL nlne ln Lhe mornlna, Mlldred's bed was empLv.
MonLaa aoL up qulcklv, hls hearL pumplna, and ran down Lhe hall and sLopped aL Lhe klLchen
1oasL popped ouL of Lhe sllver LoasLer, was selzed bv a splderv meLal hand LhaL drenched lL wlLh
Mlldred waLched Lhe LoasL dellvered Lo her plaLe. She had boLh ears pluaaed wlLh elecLronlc
bees LhaL were hummlna Lhe hour awav. She looked up suddenlv, saw hlm, and nodded.
"?ou all rlahL?" he asked.
She was an experL aL llp-readlna from Len vears of apprenLlceshlp aL Seashell ear-Lhlmbles. She
nodded aaaln. She seL Lhe LoasLer cllcklna awav aL anoLher plece of bread.
MonLaa saL down.
Pls wlfe sald, "l don'L know whv l should be so hunarv."
"LasL nlahL," he beaan.
"uldn'L sleep well. leel Lerrlble," she sald. "Cod, l'm hunarv. l can'L flaure lL."
"LasL nlahL-" he sald aaaln.
She waLched hls llps casuallv. "WhaL abouL lasL nlahL?"
"uon'L vou remember?"
"WhaL? uld we have a wlld parLv or someLhlna? leel llke l've a hanaover. Cod, l'm hunarv. Who
"A few people," he sald.
"1haL's whaL l LhouahL." She chewed her LoasL. "Sore sLomach, buL l'm hunarv as all-aeL-ouL.
Pope l dldn'L do anvLhlna foollsh aL Lhe parLv."
"no," he sald, quleLlv.
1he LoasLer spldered ouL a plece of buLLered bread for hlm. Pe held lL ln hls hand, feellna
"?ou don'L look so hoL vourself," sald hls wlfe.
ln Lhe laLe afLernoon lL ralned and Lhe enLlre world was dark arev. Pe sLood ln Lhe hall of hls
house, puLLlna on hls badae wlLh Lhe oranae salamander burnlna across lL. Pe sLood looklna up aL Lhe
alr-condlLlonlna venL ln Lhe hall for a lona Llme. Pls wlfe ln Lhe 1v parlour paused lona enouah from
readlna her scrlpL Lo alance up. "Pev," she sald. "1he man's 1PlnklnC!"
"?es," he sald. "l wanLed Lo Lalk Lo vou." Pe paused. "?ou Look all Lhe pllls ln vour boLLle lasL
"Ch, l wouldn'L do LhaL," she sald, surprlsed.
"1he boLLle was empLv."
"l wouldn'L do a Lhlna llke LhaL. Whv would l do a Lhlna llke LhaL?" she asked.
"Mavbe vou Look Lwo pllls and foraoL and Look Lwo more, and foraoL aaaln and Look Lwo more,
and were so dopv vou kepL rlahL on unLll vou had LhlrLv or forLv of Lhem ln vou."
"Peck," she sald, "whaL would l wanL Lo ao and do a slllv Lhlna llke LhaL for?"
"l don'L know," he sald.
She was qulLe obvlouslv walLlna for hlm Lo ao. "l dldn'L do LhaL," she sald. "never ln a bllllon
"All rlahL lf vou sav so," he sald.
"1haL's whaL Lhe ladv sald." She Lurned back Lo her scrlpL.
"WhaL's on Lhls afLernoon?" he asked Llredlv.
She dldn'L look up from her scrlpL aaaln. "Well, Lhls ls a plav comes on Lhe wall-Lo-wall clrculL ln
Len mlnuLes. 1hev malled me mv parL Lhls mornlna. l senL ln some box-Lops. 1hev wrlLe Lhe scrlpL wlLh
one parL mlsslna. lL's a new ldea. 1he home-maker, LhaL's me, ls Lhe mlsslna parL. When lL comes Llme
for Lhe mlsslna llnes, Lhev all look aL me ouL of Lhe Lhree walls and l sav Lhe llnes: Pere, for lnsLance, Lhe
man savs, 'WhaL do vou Lhlnk of Lhls whole ldea, Pelen?' And he looks aL me slLLlna here cenLre sLaae,
see? And l sav, l sav --" She paused and ran her flnaer under a llne ln Lhe scrlpL. "'l Lhlnk LhaL's flne!' And
Lhen Lhev ao on wlLh Lhe plav unLll he savs, 'uo vou aaree Lo LhaL, Pelen!' and l sav, 'l sure do!' lsn'L LhaL
Pe sLood ln Lhe hall looklna aL her.
"lL's sure fun," she sald.
"WhaL's Lhe plav abouL?"
"l [usL Lold vou. 1here are Lhese people named 8ob and 8uLh and Pelen."
"lL's reallv fun. lL'll be even more fun when we can afford Lo have Lhe fourLh wall lnsLalled. Pow
lona vou flaure before we save up and aeL Lhe fourLh wall Lorn ouL and a fourLh wall-1v puL ln? lL's onlv
Lwo Lhousand dollars."
"1haL's one-Lhlrd of mv vearlv pav."
"lL's onlv Lwo Lhousand dollars," she replled. "And l should Lhlnk vou'd conslder me someLlmes.
lf we had a fourLh wall, whv lL'd be [usL llke Lhls room wasn'L ours aL all, buL all klnds of exoLlc people's
rooms. We could do wlLhouL a few Lhlnas."
"We're alreadv dolna wlLhouL a few Lhlnas Lo pav for Lhe Lhlrd wall. lL was puL ln onlv Lwo
monLhs aao, remember?"
"ls LhaL all lL was?" She saL looklna aL hlm for a lona momenL. "Well, aood-bve, dear.".
"Cood-bve," he sald. Pe sLopped and Lurned around. "uoes lL have a happv endlna?"
"l haven'L read LhaL far."
Pe walked over, read Lhe lasL paae, nodded, folded Lhe scrlpL, and handed lL back Lo her. Pe
walked ouL of Lhe house lnLo Lhe raln.
1he raln was Lhlnnlna awav and Lhe alrl was walklna ln Lhe cenLre of Lhe sldewalk wlLh her head
up and Lhe few drops falllna on her face. She smlled when she saw MonLaa.
Pe sald hello and Lhen sald, "WhaL are vou up Lo now?"
"l'm sLlll crazv. 1he raln feels aood. l love Lo walk ln lL.
"l don'L Lhlnk l'd llke LhaL," he sald.
"?ou mlahL lf vou Lrled."
"l never have."
She llcked her llps. "8aln even LasLes aood."
"WhaL do vou do, ao around Lrvlna evervLhlna once?" he asked.
"SomeLlmes Lwlce." She looked aL someLhlna ln her hand.
"WhaL've vou aoL Lhere?" he sald.
"l auess lL's Lhe lasL of Lhe dandellons Lhls vear. l dldn'L Lhlnk l'd flnd one on Lhe lawn Lhls laLe.
Pave vou ever heard of rubblna lL under vour chln? Look." She Louched her chln wlLh Lhe flower,
"lf lL rubs off, lL means l'm ln love. Pas lL?"
Pe could hardlv do anvLhlna else buL look.
"Well?" she sald.
"?ou're vellow under Lhere."
"llne! LeL's Lrv ?Cu now."
"lL won'L work for me."
"Pere." 8efore he could move she had puL Lhe dandellon under hls chln. Pe drew back and she
lauahed. "Pold sLlll!"
She peered under hls chln and frowned.
"Well?" he sald.
"WhaL a shame," she sald. "?ou're noL ln love wlLh anvone."
"?es, l am!"
"lL doesn'L show."
"l am verv much ln love!" Pe Lrled Lo con[ure up a face Lo flL Lhe words, buL Lhere was no face. "l
"Ch please don'L look LhaL wav."
"lL's LhaL dandellon," he sald. "?ou've used lL all up on vourself. 1haL's whv lL won'L work for
"Cf course, LhaL musL be lL. Ch, now l've upseL vou, l can see l have, l'm sorrv, reallv l am." She
Louched hls elbow.
"no, no," he sald, qulcklv, "l'm all rlahL."
"l've aoL Lo be aolna, so sav vou foralve me. l don'L wanL vou anarv wlLh me."
"l'm noL anarv. upseL, ves."
"l've aoL Lo ao Lo see mv psvchlaLrlsL now. 1hev make me ao. l made up Lhlnas Lo sav. l don'L
know whaL he Lhlnks of me. Pe savs l'm a reaular onlon! l keep hlm busv peellna awav Lhe lavers."
"l'm lncllned Lo belleve vou need Lhe psvchlaLrlsL," sald MonLaa.
"?ou don'L mean LhaL."
Pe Look a breaLh and leL lL ouL and aL lasL sald, "no, l don'L mean LhaL."
"1he psvchlaLrlsL wanLs Lo know whv l ao ouL and hlke around ln Lhe foresLs and waLch Lhe blrds
and collecL buLLerflles. l'll show vou mv collecLlon some dav."
"1hev wanL Lo know whaL l do wlLh all mv Llme. l Lell Lhem LhaL someLlmes l [usL slL and Lhlnk.
8uL l won'L Lell Lhem whaL. l've aoL Lhem runnlna. And someLlmes, l Lell Lhem, l llke Lo puL mv head back,
llke Lhls, and leL Lhe raln fall lnLo mv mouLh. lL LasLes [usL llke wlne. Pave vou ever Lrled lL?"
"?ou PAvL foralven me, haven'L vou?"
"?es." Pe LhouahL abouL lL. "?es, l have. Cod knows whv. ?ou're pecullar, vou're aaaravaLlna, veL
vou're easv Lo foralve. ?ou sav vou're sevenLeen?"
"Pow odd. Pow sLranae. And mv wlfe LhlrLv and veL vou seem so much older aL Llmes. l can'L aeL
"?ou're pecullar vourself, Mr. MonLaa. SomeLlmes l even foraeL vou're a flreman. now, mav l
make vou anarv aaaln?"
"Pow dld lL sLarL? Pow dld vou aeL lnLo lL? Pow dld vou plck vour work and how dld vou happen
Lo Lhlnk Lo Lake Lhe [ob vou have? ?ou're noL llke Lhe oLhers. l've seen a few, l know. When l Lalk, vou
look aL me. When l sald someLhlna abouL Lhe moon, vou looked aL Lhe moon, lasL nlahL. 1he oLhers
would never do LhaL. 1he oLhers would walk off and leave me Lalklna. Cr LhreaLen me. no one has Llme
anv more for anvone else. ?ou're one of Lhe few who puL up wlLh me. 1haL's whv l Lhlnk lL's so sLranae
vou're a flreman, lL [usL doesn'L seem rlahL for vou, somehow."
Pe felL hls bodv dlvlde lLself lnLo a hoLness and a coldness, a sofLness and a hardness, a
Lrembllna and a noL Lrembllna, Lhe Lwo halves arlndlna one upon Lhe oLher.
"?ou'd beLLer run on Lo vour appolnLmenL," he sald.
And she ran off and lefL hlm sLandlna Lhere ln Lhe raln. Cnlv afLer a lona Llme dld he move.
And Lhen, verv slowlv, as he walked, he LllLed hls head back ln Lhe raln, for [usL a few momenLs,
and opened hls mouLh....
1he Mechanlcal Pound slepL buL dld noL sleep, llved buL dld noL llve ln lLs aenLlv hummlna,
aenLlv vlbraLlna, sofLlv lllumlnaLed kennel back ln a dark corner of Lhe flrehouse. 1he dlm llahL of one ln
Lhe mornlna, Lhe moonllahL from Lhe open skv framed Lhrouah Lhe areaL wlndow, Louched here and
Lhere on Lhe brass and Lhe copper and Lhe sLeel of Lhe falnLlv Lrembllna beasL. LlahL fllckered on blLs of
rubv alass and on senslLlve caplllarv halrs ln Lhe nvlon-brushed nosLrlls of Lhe creaLure LhaL qulvered
aenLlv, aenLlv, aenLlv, lLs elahL leas spldered under lL on rubber-padded paws.
MonLaa slld down Lhe brass pole. Pe wenL ouL Lo look aL Lhe clLv and Lhe clouds had cleared
awav compleLelv, and he llL a claareLLe and came back Lo bend down and look aL Lhe Pound. lL was llke a
areaL bee come home from some fleld where Lhe honev ls full of polson wlldness, of lnsanlLv and
nlahLmare, lLs bodv crammed wlLh LhaL over-rlch necLar and now lL was sleeplna Lhe evll ouL of lLself.
"Pello," whlspered MonLaa, fasclnaLed as alwavs wlLh Lhe dead beasL, Lhe llvlna beasL.
AL nlahL when Lhlnas aoL dull, whlch was everv nlahL, Lhe men slld down Lhe brass poles, and seL
Lhe Llcklna comblnaLlons of Lhe olfacLorv svsLem of Lhe Pound and leL loose raLs ln Lhe flrehouse area-
wav, and someLlmes chlckens, and someLlmes caLs LhaL would have Lo be drowned anvwav, and Lhere
would be beLLlna Lo see whlch Lhe Pound would selze flrsL. 1he anlmals were Lurned loose. 1hree
seconds laLer Lhe aame was done, Lhe raL, caL, or chlcken cauahL half across Lhe areawav, arlpped ln
aenLllna paws whlle a four-lnch hollow sLeel needle plunaed down from Lhe proboscls of Lhe Pound Lo
ln[ecL masslve [olLs of morphlne or procalne. 1he pawn was Lhen Lossed ln Lhe lnclneraLor. A new aame
MonLaa sLaved upsLalrs mosL nlahLs when Lhls wenL on. 1here had been a Llme Lwo vears aao
when he had beL wlLh Lhe besL of Lhem, and losL a week's salarv and faced Mlldred's lnsane anaer, whlch
showed lLself ln velns and bloLches. 8uL now aL nlahL he lav ln hls bunk, face Lurned Lo Lhe wall, llsLenlna
Lo whoops of lauahLer below and Lhe plano-sLrlna scurrv of raL feeL, Lhe vlolln squeaklna of mlce, and
Lhe areaL shadowlna, moLloned sllence of Lhe Pound leaplna ouL llke a moLh ln Lhe raw llahL, flndlna,
holdlna lLs vlcLlm, lnserLlna Lhe needle and aolna back Lo lLs kennel Lo dle as lf a swlLch had been Lurned.
MonLaa Louched Lhe muzzle..
1he Pound arowled.
MonLaa [umped back.
1he Pound half rose ln lLs kennel and looked aL hlm wlLh areen-blue neon llahL fllckerlna ln lLs
suddenlv acLlvaLed evebulbs. lL arowled aaaln, a sLranae rasplna comblnaLlon of elecLrlcal slzzle, a frvlna
sound, a scraplna of meLal, a Lurnlna of coas LhaL seemed rusLv and anclenL wlLh susplclon.
"no, no, bov," sald MonLaa, hls hearL poundlna.
Pe saw Lhe sllver needle exLended upon Lhe alr an lnch, pull back, exLend, pull back. 1he arowl
slmmered ln Lhe beasL and lL looked aL hlm.
MonLaa backed up. 1he Pound Look a sLep from lLs kennel.
MonLaa arabbed Lhe brass pole wlLh one hand. 1he pole, reacLlna, slld upward, and Look hlm
Lhrouah Lhe celllna, quleLlv. Pe sLepped off ln Lhe half-llL deck of Lhe upper level. Pe was Lrembllna and
hls face was areen-whlLe. 8elow, Lhe Pound had sunk back down upon lLs elahL lncredlble lnsecL leas
and was hummlna Lo lLself aaaln, lLs mulLl-faceLed eves aL peace.
MonLaa sLood, leLLlna Lhe fears pass, bv Lhe drop-hole. 8ehlnd hlm, four men aL a card Lable
under a areen-lldded llahL ln Lhe corner alanced brleflv buL sald noLhlna. Cnlv Lhe man wlLh Lhe
CapLaln's haL and Lhe slan of Lhe Þhoenlx on hls haL, aL lasL, curlous, hls plavlna cards ln hls Lhln hand,
Lalked across Lhe lona room.
"lL doesn'L llke me," sald MonLaa.
"WhaL, Lhe Pound?" 1he CapLaln sLudled hls cards.
"Come off lL. lL doesn'L llke or dlsllke. lL [usL 'funcLlons.' lL's llke a lesson ln balllsLlcs. lL has a
Lra[ecLorv we declde for lL. lL follows Lhrouah. lL LaraeLs lLself, homes lLself, and cuLs off. lL's onlv copper
wlre, sLoraae baLLerles, and elecLrlclLv."
MonLaa swallowed. "lLs calculaLors can be seL Lo anv comblnaLlon, so manv amlno aclds, so
much sulphur, so much buLLerfaL and alkallne. 8lahL?"
"We all know LhaL."
"All of Lhose chemlcal balances and percenLaaes on all of us here ln Lhe house are recorded ln
Lhe masLer flle downsLalrs. lL would be easv for someone Lo seL up a parLlal comblnaLlon on Lhe Pound's
'memorv,' a Louch of amlno aclds, perhaps. 1haL would accounL for whaL Lhe anlmal dld [usL now.
8eacLed Loward me."
"Pell," sald Lhe CapLaln.
"lrrlLaLed, buL noL compleLelv anarv. !usL enouah 'memorv' seL up ln lL bv someone so lL arowled
when l Louched lL."
"Who would do a Lhlna llke LhaL?." asked Lhe CapLaln. "?ou haven'L anv enemles here, Cuv."
"none LhaL l know of."
"We'll have Lhe Pound checked bv our Lechnlclans Lomorrow.
"1hls lsn'L Lhe flrsL Llme lL's LhreaLened me," sald MonLaa. "LasL monLh lL happened Lwlce."
"We'll flx lL up. uon'L worrv"
8uL MonLaa dld noL move and onlv sLood Lhlnklna of Lhe venLllaLor arllle ln Lhe hall aL home and
whaL lav hldden behlnd Lhe arllle. lf someone here ln Lhe flrehouse knew abouL Lhe venLllaLor Lhen
mlahLn'L Lhev "Lell" Lhe Pound...?
1he CapLaln came over Lo Lhe drop-hole and aave MonLaa a quesLlonlna alance.
"l was [usL flaurlna," sald MonLaa, "whaL does Lhe Pound Lhlnk abouL down Lhere nlahLs? ls lL
comlna allve on us, reallv? lL makes me cold."
"lL doesn'L Lhlnk anvLhlna we don'L wanL lL Lo Lhlnk."
"1haL's sad," sald MonLaa, quleLlv, "because all we puL lnLo lL ls hunLlna and flndlna and kllllna.
WhaL a shame lf LhaL's all lL can ever know."'
8eaLLv snorLed, aenLlv. "Pell! lL's a flne blL of crafLsmanshlp, a aood rlfle LhaL can feLch lLs own
LaraeL and auaranLees Lhe bull's-eve everv Llme."
"1haL's whv," sald MonLaa. "l wouldn'L wanL Lo be lLs nexL vlcLlm.
"Whv? ?ou aoL a aullLv consclence abouL someLhlna?"
MonLaa alanced up swlfLlv.
8eaLLv sLood Lhere looklna aL hlm sLeadllv wlLh hls eves, whlle hls mouLh opened and beaan Lo
lauah, verv sofLlv.
Cne Lwo Lhree four flve slx seven davs. And as manv Llmes he came ouL of Lhe house and
Clarlsse was Lhere somewhere ln Lhe world. Cnce he saw her shaklna a walnuL Lree, once he saw her
slLLlna on Lhe lawn knlLLlna a blue sweaLer, Lhree or four Llmes he found a bouqueL of laLe flowers on hls
porch, or a handful of chesLnuLs ln a llLLle sack, or some auLumn leaves neaLlv plnned Lo a sheeL of whlLe
paper and Lhumb-Lacked Lo hls door. Lverv dav Clarlsse walked hlm Lo Lhe corner. Cne dav lL was
ralnlna, Lhe nexL lL was clear, Lhe dav afLer LhaL Lhe wlnd blew sLrona, and Lhe dav afLer LhaL lL was mlld
and calm, and Lhe dav afLer LhaL calm dav was a dav llke a furnace of summer and Clarlsse wlLh her face
all sunburnL bv laLe afLernoon.
"Whv ls lL," he sald, one Llme, aL Lhe subwav enLrance, "l feel l've known vou so manv vears?"
"8ecause l llke vou," she sald, "and l don'L wanL anvLhlna from vou. And because we know each
"?ou make me feel verv old and verv much llke a faLher."
"now vou explaln," she sald, "whv vou haven'L anv dauahLers llke me, lf vou love chlldren so
"l don'L know."
"l mean-" Pe sLopped and shook hls head. "Well, mv wlfe, she... she [usL never wanLed anv
chlldren aL all."
1he alrl sLopped smlllna. "l'm sorrv. l reallv, LhouahL vou were havlna fun aL mv expense. l'm a
"no, no," he sald. "lL was a aood quesLlon. lL's been a lona Llme slnce anvone cared enouah Lo
ask. A aood quesLlon."
"LeL's Lalk abouL someLhlna else. Pave vou ever smelled old leaves? uon'L Lhev smell llke
clnnamon? Pere. Smell."
"Whv, ves, lL ls llke clnnamon ln a wav."
She looked aL hlm wlLh her clear dark eves. "?ou alwavs seem shocked."
"lL's [usL l haven'L had Llme--"
"uld vou look aL Lhe sLreLched-ouL blllboards llke l Lold vou?"
"l Lhlnk so. ?es." Pe had Lo lauah.
"?our lauah sounds much nlcer Lhan lL dld"
"Much more relaxed."
Pe felL aL ease and comforLable. "Whv aren'L vou ln school? l see vou everv dav wanderlna
"Ch, Lhev don'L mlss me," she sald. "l'm anLl-soclal, Lhev sav. l don'L mlx. lL's so sLranae. l'm verv
soclal lndeed. lL all depends on whaL vou mean bv soclal, doesn'L lL? Soclal Lo me means Lalklna abouL
Lhlnas llke Lhls." She raLLled some chesLnuLs LhaL had fallen off Lhe Lree ln Lhe fronL vard. "Cr Lalklna
abouL how sLranae Lhe world ls. 8elna wlLh people ls nlce. 8uL l don'L Lhlnk lL's soclal Lo aeL a bunch of
people LoaeLher and Lhen noL leL Lhem Lalk, do vou? An hour of 1v class, an hour of baskeLball or
baseball or runnlna, anoLher hour of LranscrlpLlon hlsLorv or palnLlna plcLures, and more sporLs, buL do
vou know, we never ask quesLlons, or aL leasL mosL don'L, Lhev [usL run Lhe answers aL vou, blna, blna,
blna, and us slLLlna Lhere for four more hours of fllm-Leacher. 1haL's noL soclal Lo me aL all. lL's a loL of
funnels and a loL of waLer poured down Lhe spouL and ouL Lhe boLLom, and Lhem Lelllna us lL's wlne
when lL's noL. 1hev run us so raaaed bv Lhe end of Lhe dav we can'L do anvLhlna buL ao Lo bed or head
for a lun Þark Lo bullv people around, break wlndowpanes ln Lhe Wlndow Smasher place or wreck cars
ln Lhe Car Wrecker place wlLh Lhe bla sLeel ball. Cr ao ouL ln Lhe cars and race on Lhe sLreeLs, Lrvlna Lo
see how close vou can aeL Lo lamp-posLs, plavlna 'chlcken' and 'knock hub-caps.' l auess l'm evervLhlna
Lhev sav l am, all rlahL. l haven'L anv frlends. 1haL's supposed Lo prove l'm abnormal. 8uL evervone l
know ls elLher shouLlna or danclna around llke wlld or beaLlna up one anoLher. uo vou noLlce how
people hurL each oLher nowadavs?"
"?ou sound so verv old."
"SomeLlmes l'm anclenL. l'm afrald of chlldren mv own aae. 1hev klll each oLher. uld lL alwavs
used Lo be LhaL wav? Mv uncle savs no. Slx of mv frlends have been shoL ln Lhe lasL vear alone. 1en of
Lhem dled ln car wrecks. l'm afrald of Lhem and Lhev don'L llke me because l'm afrald. Mv uncle savs hls
arandfaLher remembered when chlldren dldn'L klll each oLher. 8uL LhaL was a lona Llme aao when Lhev
had Lhlnas dlfferenL. 1hev belleved ln responslblllLv, mv uncle savs. uo vou know, l'm responslble. l was
spanked when l needed lL, vears aao. And l do all Lhe shopplna and house-cleanlna bv hand.
"8uL mosL of all," she sald, "l llke Lo waLch people. SomeLlmes l rlde Lhe subwav all dav and look
aL Lhem and llsLen Lo Lhem. l [usL wanL Lo flaure ouL who Lhev are and whaL Lhev wanL and where Lhev're
aolna. SomeLlmes l even ao Lo Lhe lun Þarks and rlde ln Lhe [eL cars when Lhev race on Lhe edae of Lown
aL mldnlahL and Lhe pollce don'L care as lona as Lhev're lnsured. As lona as evervone has Len Lhousand
lnsurance evervone's happv. SomeLlmes l sneak around and llsLen ln subwavs. Cr l llsLen aL soda
founLalns, and do vou know whaL?"
"Þeople don'L Lalk abouL anvLhlna."
"Ch, Lhev musL!"
"no, noL anvLhlna. 1hev name a loL of cars or cloLhes or swlmmlna-pools mosLlv and sav how
swell! 8uL Lhev all sav Lhe same Lhlnas and nobodv savs anvLhlna dlfferenL from anvone else. And mosL
of Lhe Llme ln Lhe cafes Lhev have Lhe [okeboxes on and Lhe same [okes mosL of Lhe Llme, or Lhe muslcal
wall llL and all Lhe coloured paLLerns runnlna up and down, buL lL's onlv colour and all absLracL. And aL
Lhe museums, have vou ever been? All absLracL. 1haL's all Lhere ls now. Mv uncle savs lL was dlfferenL
once. A lona Llme back someLlmes plcLures sald Lhlnas or even showed people."
"?our uncle sald, vour uncle sald. ?our uncle musL be a remarkable man."
"Pe ls. Pe cerLalnlv ls. Well, l've aoL Lo be aolna. Coodbve, Mr. MonLaa."
Cne Lwo Lhree four flve slx seven davs: Lhe flrehouse.
"MonLaa, vou shln LhaL pole llke a blrd up a Lree."
"MonLaa, l see vou came ln Lhe back door Lhls Llme. 1he Pound boLher vou?"
"MonLaa, a funnv Lhlna. Peard Lell Lhls mornlna. llreman ln SeaLLle, purposelv seL a Mechanlcal
Pound Lo hls own chemlcal complex and leL lL loose. WhaL klnd of sulclde would vou call LhaL?"
llve slx seven davs.
And Lhen, Clarlsse was aone. Pe dldn'L know whaL Lhere was abouL Lhe afLernoon, buL lL was noL
seelna her somewhere ln Lhe world. 1he lawn was empLv, Lhe Lrees empLv, Lhe sLreeL empLv, and whlle
aL flrsL he dld noL even know he mlssed her or was even looklna for her, Lhe facL was LhaL bv Lhe Llme he
reached Lhe subwav, Lhere were vaaue sLlrrlnas of un-ease ln hlm. SomeLhlna was Lhe maLLer, hls
rouLlne had been dlsLurbed. A slmple rouLlne, Lrue, esLabllshed ln a shorL few davs, and veL...? Pe almosL
Lurned back Lo make Lhe walk aaaln, Lo alve her Llme Lo appear. Pe was cerLaln lf he Lrled Lhe same
rouLe, evervLhlna would work ouL flne. 8uL lL was laLe, and Lhe arrlval of hls Lraln puL a sLop Lo hls plan.
1he fluLLer of cards, moLlon of hands, of evellds, Lhe drone of Lhe Llme-volce ln Lhe flrehouse
celllna ". . . one LhlrLv-flve. 1hursdav mornlna, november 4Lh,... one LhlrLv-slx. . . one LhlrLv-seven a. m...
" 1he Llck of Lhe plavlna-cards on Lhe areasv Lable-Lop, all Lhe sounds came Lo MonLaa, behlnd hls closed
eves, behlnd Lhe barrler he had momenLarllv erecLed. Pe could feel Lhe flrehouse full of allLLer and shlne
and sllence, of brass colours, Lhe colours of colns, of aold, of sllver: 1he unseen men across Lhe Lable
were slahlna on Lhelr cards, walLlna.
". . . one forLv-flve..." 1he volce-clock mourned ouL Lhe cold hour of a cold mornlna of a sLlll
"WhaL's wrona, MonLaa?"
MonLaa opened hls eves.
A radlo hummed somewhere. "... war mav be declared anv hour. 1hls counLrv sLands readv Lo
1he flrehouse Lrembled as a areaL fllahL of [eL planes whlsLled a slnale noLe across Lhe black
MonLaa bllnked. 8eaLLv was looklna aL hlm as lf he were a museum sLaLue. AL anv momenL,
8eaLLv mlahL rlse and walk abouL hlm, Louchlna, explorlna hls aullL and self-consclousness. CullL? WhaL
aullL was LhaL?
"?our plav, MonLaa."
MonLaa looked aL Lhese men whose faces were sunburnL bv a Lhousand real and Len Lhousand
lmaalnarv flres, whose work flushed Lhelr cheeks and fevered Lhelr eves. 1hese men who looked sLeadllv
lnLo Lhelr plaLlnum lanlLer flames as Lhev llL Lhelr eLernallv burnlna black plpes. 1hev and Lhelr charcoal
halr and sooL-coloured brows and blulsh-ash-smeared cheeks where Lhev had shaven close, buL Lhelr
herlLaae showed. MonLaa sLarLed up, hls mouLh opened. Pad he ever seen a flreman LhaL dldn'L have
black halr, black brows, a flerv face, and a blue-sLeel shaved buL unshaved look? 1hese men were all
mlrror-lmaaes of hlmself! Were all flremen plcked Lhen for Lhelr looks as well as Lhelr procllvlLles? 1he
colour of clnders and ash abouL Lhem, and Lhe conLlnual smell of burnlna from Lhelr plpes. CapLaln
8eaLLv Lhere, rlslna ln Lhunderheads of Lobacco smoke. 8eaLLv openlna a fresh Lobacco packeL,
crumpllna Lhe cellophane lnLo a sound of flre.
MonLaa looked aL Lhe cards ln hls own hands. "l-l've been Lhlnklna. AbouL Lhe flre lasL week.
AbouL Lhe man whose llbrarv we flxed. WhaL happened Lo hlm?"
"1hev Look hlm screamlna off Lo Lhe asvlum"
"Pe. wasn'L lnsane."
8eaLLv arranaed hls cards quleLlv. "Anv man's lnsane who Lhlnks he can fool Lhe CovernmenL
"l've Lrled Lo lmaalne," sald MonLaa, "[usL how lL would feel. l mean Lo have flremen burn our
houses and our books."
"We haven'L anv books."
"8uL lf we dld have some."
"?ou aoL some?"
8eaLLv bllnked slowlv.
"no." MonLaa aazed bevond Lhem Lo Lhe wall wlLh Lhe Lvped llsLs of a mllllon forbldden books.
1helr names leapL ln flre, burnlna down Lhe vears under hls axe and hls hose whlch spraved noL waLer
buL kerosene. "no." 8uL ln hls mlnd, a cool wlnd sLarLed up and blew ouL of Lhe venLllaLor arllle aL home,
sofLlv, sofLlv, chllllna hls face. And, aaaln, he saw hlmself ln a areen park Lalklna Lo an old man, a verv old
man, and Lhe wlnd from Lhe park was cold, Loo.
MonLaa heslLaLed, "Was-was lL alwavs llke Lhls? 1he flrehouse, our work? l mean, well, once
upon a Llme..."
"Cnce upon a Llme!" 8eaLLv sald. "WhaL klnd of Lalk ls 1PA1?"
lool, LhouahL MonLaa Lo hlmself, vou'll alve lL awav. AL Lhe lasL flre, a book of falrv Lales, he'd
alanced aL a slnale llne. "l mean," he sald, "ln Lhe old davs, before homes were compleLelv flreproofed "
Suddenlv lL seemed a much vounaer volce was speaklna for hlm. Pe opened hls mouLh and lL was
Clarlsse McClellan savlna, "uldn'L flremen prevenL flres raLher Lhan sLoke Lhem up and aeL Lhem aolna?"
"1haL's rlch!" SLoneman and 8lack drew forLh Lhelr rulebooks, whlch also conLalned brlef
hlsLorles of Lhe llremen of Amerlca, and lald Lhem ouL where MonLaa, Lhouah lona famlllar wlLh Lhem,
mlahL read: "LsLabllshed, 1790, Lo burn Lnallsh-lnfluenced books ln Lhe Colonles. llrsL llreman:
8uLL 1. Answer Lhe alarm swlfLlv.
2. SLarL Lhe flre swlfLlv.
3. 8urn evervLhlna.
4. 8eporL back Lo flrehouse lmmedlaLelv.
3. SLand alerL for oLher alarms.
Lvervone waLched MonLaa. Pe dld noL move.
1he alarm sounded.
1he bell ln Lhe celllna klcked lLself Lwo hundred Llmes. Suddenlv Lhere were four empLv chalrs.
1he cards fell ln a flurrv of snow. 1he brass pole shlvered. 1he men were aone.
MonLaa saL ln hls chalr. 8elow, Lhe oranae draaon couahed lnLo llfe.
MonLaa slld down Lhe pole llke a man ln a dream.
1he Mechanlcal Pound leapL up ln lLs kennel, lLs eves all areen flame.
"MonLaa, vou foraoL vour helmeL!"
Pe selzed lL off Lhe wall behlnd hlm, ran, leapL, and Lhev were off, Lhe nlahL wlnd hammerlna
abouL Lhelr slren scream and Lhelr mlahLv meLal Lhunder!
lL was a flaklna Lhree-sLorev house ln Lhe anclenL parL of Lhe clLv, a cenLurv old lf lL was a dav,
buL llke all houses lL had been alven a Lhln flreproof plasLlc sheaLh manv vears aao, and Lhls preservaLlve
shell seemed Lo be Lhe onlv Lhlna holdlna lL ln Lhe skv.
"Pere we are!"
1he enalne slammed Lo a sLop. 8eaLLv, SLoneman, and 8lack ran up Lhe sldewalk, suddenlv
odlous and faL ln Lhe plump flreproof sllckers. MonLaa followed.
1hev crashed Lhe fronL door and arabbed aL a woman, Lhouah she was noL runnlna, she was noL
Lrvlna Lo escape. She was onlv sLandlna, weavlna from slde Lo slde, her eves flxed upon a noLhlnaness ln
Lhe wall as lf Lhev had sLruck her a Lerrlble blow upon Lhe head. Per Lonaue was movlna ln her mouLh,
and her eves seemed Lo be Lrvlna Lo remember someLhlna, and Lhen Lhev remembered and her Lonaue
moved aaaln: "'Þlav Lhe man, MasLer 8ldlev, we shall Lhls dav llahL such a candle, bv Cod's arace, ln
Lnaland, as l LrusL shall never be puL ouL.' "
"Lnouah of LhaL!" sald 8eaLLv. "Where are Lhev?"
Pe slapped her face wlLh amazlna ob[ecLlvlLv and repeaLed Lhe quesLlon. 1he old woman's eves
came Lo a focus upon 8eaLLv. "?ou know where Lhev are or vou wouldn'L be here," she sald.
SLoneman held ouL Lhe Lelephone alarm card wlLh Lhe complalnL slaned ln Lelephone dupllcaLe
on Lhe back "Pave reason Lo suspecL aLLlc, 11 no. Llm, ClLv. ---L. 8."
"1haL would be Mrs. 8lake, mv nelahbour," sald Lhe woman, readlna Lhe lnlLlals.
"All rlahL, men, leL's aeL 'em!"
nexL Lhlna Lhev were up ln musLv blackness, swlnalna sllver haLcheLs aL doors LhaL were, afLer
all, unlocked, Lumbllna Lhrouah llke bovs all rolllck and shouL. "Pev!" A founLaln of books sprana down
upon MonLaa as he cllmbed shudderlna up Lhe sheer sLalr-well. Pow lnconvenlenL! Alwavs before lL had
been llke snufflna a candle. 1he pollce wenL flrsL and adheslve-Laped Lhe vlcLlm's mouLh and bandaaed
hlm off lnLo Lhelr allLLerlna beeLle cars, so when vou arrlved vou found an empLv house. ?ou weren'L
hurLlna anvone, vou were hurLlna onlv Lhlnas! And slnce Lhlnas reallv couldn'L be hurL, slnce Lhlnas felL
noLhlna, and Lhlnas don'L scream or whlmper, as Lhls woman mlahL bealn Lo scream and crv ouL, Lhere
was noLhlna Lo Lease vour consclence laLer. ?ou were slmplv cleanlna up. !anlLorlal work, essenLlallv.
LvervLhlna Lo lLs proper place. Culck wlLh Lhe kerosene! Who's aoL a maLch!
8uL now, LonlahL, someone had sllpped. 1hls woman was spolllna Lhe rlLual. 1he men were
maklna Loo much nolse, lauahlna, [oklna Lo cover her Lerrlble accuslna sllence below. She made Lhe
empLv rooms roar wlLh accusaLlon and shake down a flne dusL of aullL LhaL was sucked ln Lhelr nosLrlls
as Lhev plunaed abouL. lL was nelLher crlckeL nor correcL. MonLaa felL an lmmense lrrlLaLlon. She
shouldn'L be here, on Lop of evervLhlna!
8ooks bombarded hls shoulders, hls arms, hls upLurned face A book allahLed, almosL obedlenLlv,
llke a whlLe plaeon, ln hls hands, wlnas fluLLerlna. ln Lhe dlm, waverlna llahL, a paae huna. open and lL
was llke a snowv feaLher, Lhe words dellcaLelv palnLed Lhereon. ln all Lhe rush and fervour, MonLaa had
onlv an lnsLanL Lo read a llne, buL lL blazed ln hls mlnd for Lhe nexL mlnuLe as lf sLamped Lhere wlLh flerv
sLeel. "1lme has fallen asleep ln Lhe afLernoon sunshlne." Pe dropped Lhe book. lmmedlaLelv, anoLher
fell lnLo hls arms.
"MonLaa, up here!"
MonLaa's hand closed llke a mouLh, crushed Lhe book wlLh wlld devoLlon, wlLh an lnsanlLv of
mlndlessness Lo hls chesL. 1he men above were hurllna shovelfuls of maaazlnes lnLo Lhe dusLv alr. 1hev
fell llke slauahLered blrds and Lhe woman sLood below, llke a small alrl, amona Lhe bodles.
MonLaa had done noLhlna. Pls hand had done lL all, hls hand, wlLh a braln of lLs own, wlLh a
consclence and a curloslLv ln each Lrembllna flnaer, had Lurned Lhlef.. now, lL plunaed Lhe book back
under hls arm, pressed lL LlahL Lo sweaLlna armplL, rushed ouL empLv, wlLh a maalclan's flourlsh! Look
here! lnnocenL! Look!
Pe aazed, shaken, aL LhaL whlLe hand. Pe held lL wav ouL, as lf he were far-slahLed. Pe held lL
close, as lf he were bllnd.
Pe [erked abouL.
"uon'L sLand Lhere, ldloL!"
1he books lav llke areaL mounds of flshes lefL Lo drv. 1he men danced and sllpped and fell over
Lhem. 1lLles allLLered Lhelr aolden eves, falllna, aone.
"kerosene! 1hev pumped Lhe cold fluld from Lhe numbered 431 Lanks sLrapped Lo Lhelr
shoulders. 1hev coaLed each book, Lhev pumped rooms full of lL.
1hev hurrled downsLalrs, MonLaa sLaaaered afLer Lhem ln Lhe kerosene fumes.
"Come on, woman!"
1he woman knelL amona Lhe books, Louchlna Lhe drenched leaLher and cardboard, readlna Lhe
allL LlLles wlLh her flnaers whlle her eves accused MonLaa.
"?ou can'L ever have mv books," she sald.
"?ou know Lhe law," sald 8eaLLv. "Where's vour common sense? none of Lhose books aaree
wlLh each oLher. ?ou've been locked up here for vears wlLh a reaular damned 1ower of 8abel. Snap ouL
of lL! 1he people ln Lhose books never llved. Come on now!"
She shook her head.
"1he whole house ls aolna up," sald 8eaLLv, 1he men walked clumsllv Lo Lhe door. 1hev alanced
back aL MonLaa, who sLood near Lhe woman.
"?ou're noL leavlna her here?" he proLesLed.
"She won'L come."
"lorce her, Lhen!"
8eaLLv ralsed hls hand ln whlch was concealed Lhe lanlLer. "We're due back aL Lhe house.
8esldes, Lhese fanaLlcs alwavs Lrv sulclde, Lhe paLLern's famlllar."
MonLaa placed hls hand on Lhe woman's elbow. "?ou can come wlLh me."
"no," she sald. "1hank vou, anvwav."
"l'm counLlna Lo Len," sald 8eaLLv. "Cne. 1wo."
"Þlease," sald MonLaa.
"Co on," sald Lhe woman.
"Pere." MonLaa pulled aL Lhe woman.
1he woman replled quleLlv, "l wanL Lo sLav here"
"?ou can sLop counLlna," she sald. She opened Lhe flnaers of one hand sllahLlv and ln Lhe palm of
Lhe hand was a slnale slender ob[ecL.
An ordlnarv klLchen maLch.
1he slahL of lL rushed Lhe men ouL and down awav from Lhe house. CapLaln 8eaLLv, keeplna hls
dlanlLv, backed slowlv Lhrouah Lhe fronL door, hls plnk face burnL and shlnv from a Lhousand flres and
nlahL exclLemenLs. Cod, LhouahL MonLaa, how Lrue! Alwavs aL nlahL Lhe alarm comes. never bv dav! ls lL
because Lhe flre ls preLLler bv nlahL? More specLacle, a beLLer show? 1he plnk face of 8eaLLv now
showed Lhe falnLesL panlc ln Lhe door. 1he woman's hand LwlLched on Lhe slnale maLchsLlck. 1he fumes
of kerosene bloomed up abouL her. MonLaa felL Lhe hldden book pound llke a hearL aaalnsL hls chesL.
"Co on," sald Lhe woman, and MonLaa felL hlmself back awav and awav ouL of Lhe door, afLer
8eaLLv, down Lhe sLeps, across Lhe lawn, where Lhe paLh of kerosene lav llke Lhe Lrack of some evll snall.
Cn Lhe fronL porch where she had come Lo welah Lhem quleLlv wlLh her eves, her quleLness a
condemnaLlon, Lhe woman sLood moLlonless.
8eaLLv fllcked hls flnaers Lo spark Lhe kerosene.
Pe was Loo laLe. MonLaa aasped.
1he woman on Lhe porch reached ouL wlLh conLempL for Lhem all, and sLruck Lhe klLchen maLch
aaalnsL Lhe ralllna.
Þeople ran ouL of houses all down Lhe sLreeL.
1hev sald noLhlna on Lhelr wav back Lo Lhe flrehouse. nobodv looked aL anvone else. MonLaa saL
ln Lhe fronL seaL wlLh 8eaLLv and 8lack. 1hev dld noL even smoke Lhelr plpes. 1hev saL Lhere looklna ouL
of Lhe fronL of Lhe areaL salamander as Lhev Lurned a corner and wenL sllenLlv on.
"MasLer 8ldlev," sald MonLaa aL lasL.
"WhaL?" sald 8eaLLv.
"She sald, 'MasLer 8ldlev.' She sald some crazv Lhlna when we came ln Lhe door. 'Þlav Lhe man,'
she sald, 'MasLer 8ldlev.' SomeLhlna, someLhlna, someLhlna."
"'We shall Lhls dav llahL such a candle, bv Cod's arace, ln Lnaland, as l LrusL shall never be puL
ouL,"' sald 8eaLLv. SLoneman alanced over aL Lhe CapLaln, as dld MonLaa, sLarLled.
8eaLLv rubbed hls chln. "A man named LaLlmer sald LhaL Lo a man named nlcholas 8ldlev, as
Lhev were belna burnL allve aL Cxford, for heresv, on CcLober 16, 1333."
MonLaa and SLoneman wenL back Lo looklna aL Lhe sLreeL as lL moved under Lhe enalne wheels.
"l'm full of blLs and pleces," sald 8eaLLv. "MosL flre capLalns have Lo be. SomeLlmes l surprlse
mvself. WA1CP lL, SLoneman!"
SLoneman braked Lhe Lruck.
"uamn!" sald 8eaLLv. "?ou've aone rlahL bv Lhe corner where we Lurn for Lhe flrehouse."
"Who ls lL?"
"Who would lL be?" sald MonLaa, leanlna back aaalnsL Lhe closed door ln Lhe dark.
Pls wlfe sald, aL lasL, "Well, puL on Lhe llahL."
"l don'L wanL Lhe llahL."
"Come Lo bed."
Pe heard her roll lmpaLlenLlv, Lhe bedsprlnas squealed.
"Are vou drunk?" she sald.
So lL was Lhe hand LhaL sLarLed lL all. Pe felL one hand and Lhen Lhe oLher work hls coaL free and
leL lL slump Lo Lhe floor. Pe held hls panLs ouL lnLo an abvss and leL Lhem fall lnLo darkness. Pls hands
had been lnfecLed, and soon lL would be hls arms. Pe could feel Lhe polson worklna up hls wrlsLs and
lnLo hls elbows and hls shoulders, and Lhen Lhe [ump-over from shoulder-blade Lo shoulder-blade llke a
spark leaplna a aap. Pls hands were ravenous. And hls eves were bealnnlna Lo feel hunaer, as lf Lhev
musL look aL someLhlna, anvLhlna, evervLhlna.
Pls wlfe sald, "WhaL are vou dolna?"
Pe balanced ln space wlLh Lhe book ln hls sweaLlna cold flnaers.
A mlnuLe laLer she sald, "Well, [usL don'L sLand Lhere ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe floor."
Pe made a small sound.
"WhaL?" she asked.
Pe made more sofL sounds. Pe sLumbled Lowards Lhe bed and shoved Lhe book clumsllv under
Lhe cold plllow. Pe fell lnLo bed and hls wlfe crled ouL, sLarLled. Pe lav far across Lhe room from her, on a
wlnLer lsland separaLed bv an empLv sea. She Lalked Lo hlm for whaL seemed a lona whlle and she Lalked
abouL Lhls and she Lalked abouL LhaL and lL was onlv words, llke Lhe words he had heard once ln a
nurserv aL a frlend's house, a Lwo-vear-old chlld bulldlna word paLLerns, Lalklna [araon, maklna preLLv
sounds ln Lhe alr. 8uL MonLaa sald noLhlna and afLer a lona whlle when he onlv made Lhe small sounds,
he felL her move ln Lhe room and come Lo hls bed and sLand over hlm and puL her hand down Lo feel hls
cheek. Pe knew LhaL when she pulled her hand awav from hls face lL was weL.
LaLe ln Lhe nlahL he looked over aL Mlldred. She was awake. 1here was a Llnv dance of melodv ln
Lhe alr, her Seashell was Lamped ln her ear aaaln and she was llsLenlna Lo far people ln far places, her
eves wlde and sLarlna aL Lhe faLhoms of blackness above her ln Lhe celllna.
Wasn'L Lhere an old [oke abouL Lhe wlfe who Lalked so much on Lhe Lelephone LhaL her
desperaLe husband ran ouL Lo Lhe nearesL sLore and Lelephoned her Lo ask whaL was for dlnner? Well,
Lhen, whv dldn'L he buv hlmself an audlo-Seashell broadcasLlna sLaLlon and Lalk Lo hls wlfe laLe aL nlahL,
murmur, whlsper, shouL, scream, vell? 8uL whaL would he whlsper, whaL would he vell? WhaL could he
And suddenlv she was so sLranae he couldn'L belleve he knew her aL all. Pe was ln someone
else's house, llke Lhose oLher [okes people Lold of Lhe aenLleman, drunk, comlna home laLe aL nlahL,
unlocklna Lhe wrona door, enLerlna a wrona room, and beddlna wlLh a sLranaer and aeLLlna up earlv and
aolna Lo work and nelLher of Lhem Lhe wlser.
"Mlllle....?" he whlspered.
"l dldn'L mean Lo sLarLle vou. WhaL l wanL Lo know ls...."
"When dld we meeL. And where?"
"When dld we meeL for whaL?" she asked.
Pe knew she musL be frownlna ln Lhe dark.
Pe clarlfled lL. "1he flrsL Llme we ever meL, where was lL, and when?"
"Whv, lL was aL --"
"l don'L know," she sald.
Pe was cold. "Can'L vou remember?"
"lL's been so lona."
"Cnlv Len vears, LhaL's all, onlv Len!"
"uon'L aeL exclLed, l'm Lrvlna Lo Lhlnk." She lauahed an odd llLLle lauah LhaL wenL up and up.
"lunnv, how funnv, noL Lo remember where or when vou meL vour husband or wlfe."
Pe lav massaalna hls eves, hls brow, and Lhe back of hls neck, slowlv. Pe held boLh hands over
hls eves and applled a sLeadv pressure Lhere as lf Lo crush memorv lnLo place. lL was suddenlv more
lmporLanL Lhan anv oLher Lhlna ln a llfe-Llme LhaL he knew where he had meL Mlldred.
"lL doesn'L maLLer," She was up ln Lhe baLhroom now, and he heard Lhe waLer runnlna, and Lhe
swallowlna sound she made.
"no, l auess noL," he sald.
Pe Lrled Lo counL how manv Llmes she swallowed and he LhouahL of Lhe vlslL from Lhe Lwo zlnc-
oxlde-faced men wlLh Lhe claareLLes ln Lhelr sLralahL-llned mouLhs and Lhe elecLronlc-eved snake
wlndlna down lnLo Lhe laver upon laver of nlahL and sLone and sLaananL sprlna waLer, and he wanLed Lo
call ouL Lo her, how manv have vou Laken 1CnlCP1! Lhe capsules! how manv wlll vou Lake laLer and noL
know? and so on, everv hour! or mavbe noL LonlahL, Lomorrow nlahL! And me noL sleeplna, LonlahL or
Lomorrow nlahL or anv nlahL for a lona whlle, now LhaL Lhls has sLarLed. And he LhouahL of her lvlna on
Lhe bed wlLh Lhe Lwo Lechnlclans sLandlna sLralahL over her, noL benL wlLh concern, buL onlv sLandlna
sLralahL, arms folded. And he remembered Lhlnklna Lhen LhaL lf she dled, he was cerLaln he wouldn'L crv.
lor lL would be Lhe dvlna of an unknown, a sLreeL face, a newspaper lmaae, and lL was suddenlv so verv
wrona LhaL he had beaun Lo crv, noL aL deaLh buL aL Lhe LhouahL of noL crvlna aL deaLh, a slllv empLv
man near a slllv empLv woman, whlle Lhe hunarv snake made her sLlll more empLv.
Pow do vou aeL so empLv? he wondered. Who Lakes lL ouL of vou? And LhaL awful flower Lhe
oLher dav, Lhe dandellon! lL had summed up evervLhlna, hadn'L lL? "WhaL a shame! ?ou're noL ln love
wlLh anvone!" And whv noL?
Well, wasn'L Lhere a wall beLween hlm and Mlldred, when vou came down Lo lL? LlLerallv noL
[usL one, wall buL, so far, Lhree! And expenslve, Loo! And Lhe uncles, Lhe aunLs, Lhe couslns, Lhe nleces,
Lhe nephews, LhaL llved ln Lhose walls, Lhe albberlna pack of Lree-apes LhaL sald noLhlna, noLhlna,
noLhlna and sald lL loud, loud, loud. Pe had Laken Lo calllna Lhem relaLlves from Lhe verv flrsL. "Pow's
uncle Louls Lodav?"
"And AunL Maude?" 1he mosL slanlflcanL memorv he had of Mlldred, reallv, was of a llLLle alrl ln
a foresL wlLhouL Lrees (how odd!) or raLher a llLLle alrl losL on a plaLeau where Lhere used Lo be Lrees
(vou could feel Lhe memorv of Lhelr shapes all abouL) slLLlna ln Lhe cenLre of Lhe "llvlna-room." 1he
llvlna-room, whaL a aood [ob of labelllna LhaL was now. no maLLer when he came ln, Lhe walls were
alwavs Lalklna Lo Mlldred.
"SomeLhlna musL be done! l"
"?es, someLhlna musL be done!"
"Well, leL's noL sLand and Lalk!"
"LeL's do lL!"
"l'm so mad l could SÞl1!"
WhaL was lL all abouL? Mlldred couldn'L sav. Who was mad aL whom? Mlldred dldn'L qulLe know.
WhaL were Lhev aolna Lo do? Well, sald Mlldred, walL around and see.
Pe had walLed around Lo see.
A areaL LhundersLorm of sound aushed from Lhe walls. Muslc bombarded hlm aL such an
lmmense volume LhaL hls bones were almosL shaken from Lhelr Lendons, he felL hls [aw vlbraLe, hls eves
wobble ln hls head. Pe was a vlcLlm of concusslon. When lL was all over he felL llke a man who had been
Lhrown from a cllff, whlrled ln a cenLrlfuae and spaL ouL over a waLerfall LhaL fell and fell lnLo empLlness
and empLlness and never-qulLe-Louched-boLLom-never-never-qulLe-no noL qulLe-Louched-boLLom... and
vou fell so fasL vou dldn'L Louch Lhe sldes elLher... never... qulLe... Louched. anvLhlna.
1he Lhunder faded. 1he muslc dled.
"1here," sald Mlldred, And lL was lndeed remarkable. SomeLhlna had happened. Lven Lhouah
Lhe people ln Lhe walls of Lhe room had barelv moved, and noLhlna had reallv been seLLled, vou had Lhe
lmpresslon LhaL someone had Lurned on a washlna-machlne or sucked vou up ln a alaanLlc vacuum. ?ou
drowned ln muslc and pure cacophonv. Pe came ouL of Lhe room sweaLlna and on Lhe polnL of collapse.
8ehlnd hlm, Mlldred saL ln her chalr and Lhe volces wenL on aaaln: "Well, evervLhlna wlll be all rlahL
now," sald an "aunL."
"Ch, don'L be Loo sure," sald a "cousln."
"now, don'L aeL anarv!"
"Whv should l be mad!"
"1haL's all verv well," crled MonLaa, "buL whaL are Lhev mad abouL? Who are Lhese people?
Who's LhaL man and who's LhaL woman? Are Lhev husband and wlfe, are Lhev dlvorced, enaaaed, whaL?
Cood Cod, noLhlna's connecLed up."
"1hev--" sald Mlldred. "Well, Lhev-Lhev had Lhls flahL, vou see. 1hev cerLalnlv flahL a loL. ?ou
should llsLen. l Lhlnk Lhev're marrled. ?es, Lhev're marrled. Whv?"
And lf lL was noL Lhe Lhree walls soon Lo be four walls and Lhe dream compleLe, Lhen lL was Lhe
open car and Mlldred drlvlna a hundred mlles an hour across Lown, he shouLlna aL her and she shouLlna
back and boLh Lrvlna Lo hear whaL was sald, buL hearlna onlv Lhe scream of Lhe car. "AL leasL keep lL
down Lo Lhe mlnlmum!" he velled: "WhaL?" she crled. "keep lL down Lo flfLv-flve, Lhe mlnlmum!" he
shouLed. "1he whaL?" she shrleked. "Speed!" he shouLed. And she pushed lL up Lo one hundred and flve
mlles an hour and Lore Lhe breaLh from hls mouLh.
When Lhev sLepped ouL of Lhe car, she had Lhe Seashells sLuffed ln her ears.
Sllence. Cnlv Lhe wlnd blowlna sofLlv.
"Mlldred." Pe sLlrred ln bed.
Pe reached over and pulled one of Lhe Llnv muslcal lnsecLs ouL of her ear. "Mlldred. Mlldred?"
"?es." Per volce was falnL.
Pe felL he was one of Lhe creaLures elecLronlcallv lnserLed beLween Lhe sloLs of Lhe phono-
colour walls, speaklna, buL Lhe speech noL plerclna Lhe crvsLal barrler. Pe could onlv panLomlme, hoplna
she would Lurn hls wav and see hlm. 1hev could noL Louch Lhrouah Lhe alass.
"Mlldred, do vou know LhaL alrl l was Lelllna vou abouL?"
"WhaL alrl?" She was almosL asleep.
"1he alrl nexL door."
"WhaL alrl nexL door?"
"?ou know, Lhe hlah-school alrl. Clarlsse, her name ls."
"Ch, ves," sald hls wlfe.
"l haven'L seen her for a few davs-four davs Lo be exacL. Pave vou seen her?"
"l've meanL Lo Lalk Lo vou abouL her. SLranae."
"Ch, l know Lhe one vou mean."
"l LhouahL vou would."
"Per," sald Mlldred ln Lhe dark room.
"WhaL abouL her?" asked MonLaa.
"l meanL Lo Lell vou. loraoL. loraoL."
"1ell me now. WhaL ls lL?"
"l Lhlnk she's aone."
"Whole famllv moved ouL somewhere. 8uL she's aone for aood. l Lhlnk she's dead."
"We couldn'L be Lalklna abouL Lhe same alrl."
"no. 1he same alrl. McClellan. McClellan, 8un over bv a car. lour davs aao. l'm noL sure. 8uL l
Lhlnk she's dead. 1he famllv moved ouL anvwav. l don'L know. 8uL l Lhlnk she's dead."
"?ou're noL sure of lL!"
"no, noL sure. ÞreLLv sure."
"Whv dldn'L vou Lell me sooner?"
"lour davs aao!"
"l foraoL all abouL lL."
"lour davs aao," he sald, quleLlv, lvlna Lhere.
1hev lav Lhere ln Lhe dark room noL movlna, elLher of Lhem. "Cood nlahL," she sald.
Pe heard a falnL rusLle. Per hands moved. 1he elecLrlc Lhlmble moved llke a pravlna manLls on
Lhe plllow, Louched bv her hand. now lL was ln her ear aaaln, hummlna.
Pe llsLened and hls wlfe was slnalna under her breaLh.
CuLslde Lhe house, a shadow moved, an auLumn wlnd rose up and faded awav 8uL Lhere was
someLhlna else ln Lhe sllence LhaL he heard. lL was llke a breaLh exhaled upon Lhe wlndow. lL was llke a
falnL drlfL of areenlsh lumlnescenL smoke, Lhe moLlon of a slnale huae CcLober leaf blowlna across Lhe
lawn and awav.
1he Pound, he LhouahL. lL's ouL Lhere LonlahL. lL's ouL Lhere now. lf l opened Lhe wlndow...
Pe dld noL open Lhe wlndow.
Pe had chllls and fever ln Lhe mornlna.
"?ou can'L be slck," sald Mlldred.
Pe closed hls eves over Lhe hoLness. "?es."
"8uL vou were all rlahL lasL nlahL."
"no, l wasn'L all rlahL " Pe heard Lhe "relaLlves" shouLlna ln Lhe parlour.
Mlldred sLood over hls bed, curlouslv. Pe felL her Lhere, he saw her wlLhouL openlna hls eves,
her halr burnL bv chemlcals Lo a brlLLle sLraw, her eves wlLh a klnd of caLaracL unseen buL suspecL far
behlnd Lhe puplls, Lhe reddened pouLlna llps, Lhe bodv as Lhln as a pravlna manLls from dleLlna, and her
flesh llke whlLe bacon. Pe could remember her no oLher wav.
"Wlll vou brlna me asplrln and waLer?"
"?ou've aoL Lo aeL up," she sald. "lL's noon. ?ou've slepL flve hours laLer Lhan usual."
"Wlll vou Lurn Lhe parlour off?" he asked.
"1haL's mv famllv."
"Wlll vou Lurn lL off for a slck man?"
"l'll Lurn lL down."
She wenL ouL of Lhe room and dld noLhlna Lo Lhe parlour and came back. "ls LhaL beLLer?"
"1haL's mv favourlLe proaramme," she sald.
"WhaL abouL Lhe asplrln?"
"?ou've never been slck before." She wenL awav aaaln.
"Well, l'm slck now. l'm noL aolna Lo work LonlahL. Call 8eaLLv for me."
"?ou acLed funnv lasL nlahL." She reLurned, hummlna.
"Where's Lhe asplrln?" Pe alanced aL Lhe waLer-alass she handed hlm.
"Ch." She walked Lo Lhe baLhroom aaaln. "uld someLhlna happen?"
"A flre, ls all."
"l had a nlce evenlna," she sald, ln Lhe baLhroom.
"WhaL was on?"
"Some of Lhe besL ever."
"Ch, vou know, Lhe bunch."
"?es, Lhe bunch, Lhe bunch, Lhe bunch." Pe pressed aL Lhe paln ln hls eves and suddenlv Lhe
odour of kerosene made hlm vomlL.
Mlldred came ln, hummlna. She was surprlsed. "Whv'd vou do LhaL?"
Pe looked wlLh dlsmav aL Lhe floor. "We burned an old woman wlLh her books."
"lL's a aood Lhlna Lhe rua's washable." She feLched a mop and worked on lL. "l wenL Lo Pelen's
"Couldn'L vou aeL Lhe shows ln vour own parlour?"
"Sure, buL lL's nlce vlslLlna."
She wenL ouL lnLo Lhe parlour. Pe heard her slnalna.
"Mlldred?" he called.
She reLurned, slnalna, snapplna her flnaers sofLlv.
"Aren'L vou aolna Lo ask me abouL lasL nlahL?" he sald.
"WhaL abouL lL?"
"We burned a Lhousand books. We burned a woman."
1he parlour was explodlna wlLh sound.
"We burned coples of uanLe and SwlfL and Marcus Aurellus."
"Wasn'L he a Luropean?"
"SomeLhlna llke LhaL."
"Wasn'L he a radlcal?"
"l never read hlm."
"Pe was a radlcal." Mlldred flddled wlLh Lhe Lelephone. "?ou don'L expecL me Lo call CapLaln
8eaLLv, do vou?"
"l wasn'L shouLlna." Pe was up ln bed, suddenlv, enraaed and flushed, shaklna. 1he parlour
roared ln Lhe hoL alr. "l can'L call hlm. l can'L Lell hlm l'm slck."
8ecause vou're afrald, he LhouahL. A chlld felanlna lllness, afrald Lo call because afLer a
momenL's dlscusslon, Lhe conversaLlon would run so: "?es, CapLaln, l feel beLLer alreadv. l'll be ln aL Len
"?ou're noL slck," sald Mlldred.
MonLaa fell back ln bed. Pe reached under hls plllow. 1he hldden book was sLlll Lhere.
"Mlldred, how would lL be lf, well, mavbe, l qulL mv [ob awhlle?"
"?ou wanL Lo alve up evervLhlna? AfLer all Lhese vears of worklna, because, one nlahL, some
woman and her books--"
"?ou should have seen her, Mlllle!"
"She's noLhlna Lo me, she shouldn'L have had books. lL was her responslblllLv, she should have
LhouahL of LhaL. l haLe her. She's aoL vou aolna and nexL Lhlna vou know we'll be ouL, no house, no [ob,
"?ou weren'L Lhere, vou dldn'L see," he sald. "1here musL be someLhlna ln books, Lhlnas we can'L
lmaalne, Lo make a woman sLav ln a burnlna house, Lhere musL be someLhlna Lhere. ?ou don'L sLav for
"She was slmple-mlnded."
"She was as raLlonal as vou and l, more so perhaps, and we burned her."
"1haL's waLer under Lhe brldae."
"no, noL waLer, flre. ?ou ever seen a burned house? lL smoulders for davs. Well, Lhls flre'll lasL
me Lhe resL of mv llfe. Cod! l've been Lrvlna Lo puL lL ouL, ln mv mlnd, all nlahL. l'm crazv wlLh Lrvlna."
"?ou should have LhouahL of LhaL before becomlna a flreman."
"1houahL!" he sald. "Was l alven a cholce? Mv arandfaLher and faLher were flremen. ln mv
sleep, l ran afLer Lhem."
1he parlour was plavlna a dance Lune.
"1hls ls Lhe dav vou ao on Lhe earlv shlfL," sald Mlldred. "?ou should have aone Lwo hours aao. l
"lL's noL [usL Lhe woman LhaL dled," sald MonLaa. "LasL nlahL l LhouahL abouL all Lhe kerosene
l've used ln Lhe pasL Len vears. And l LhouahL abouL books. And for Lhe flrsL Llme l reallzed LhaL a man
was behlnd each one of Lhe books. A man had Lo Lhlnk Lhem up. A man had Lo Lake a lona Llme Lo puL
Lhem down on paper. And l'd never even LhouahL LhaL LhouahL before." Pe aoL ouL of bed.
"lL Look some man a llfeLlme mavbe Lo puL some of hls LhouahLs down, looklna around aL Lhe
world and llfe, and Lhen l came alona ln Lwo mlnuLes and boom! lL's all over."
"LeL me alone," sald Mlldred. "l dldn'L do anvLhlna."
"LeL vou alone! 1haL's all verv well, buL how can l leave mvself alone? We need noL Lo be leL
alone. We need Lo be reallv boLhered once ln a whlle. Pow lona ls lL slnce vou were reallv boLhered?
AbouL someLhlna lmporLanL, abouL someLhlna real?"
And Lhen he shuL up, for he remembered lasL week and Lhe Lwo whlLe sLones sLarlna up aL Lhe
celllna and Lhe pump-snake wlLh Lhe problna eve and Lhe Lwo soap-faced men wlLh Lhe claareLLes
movlna ln Lhelr mouLhs when Lhev Lalked. 8uL LhaL was anoLher Mlldred, LhaL was a Mlldred so deep
lnslde Lhls one, and so boLhered, reallv boLhered, LhaL Lhe Lwo women had never meL. Pe Lurned awav.
Mlldred sald, "Well, now vou've done lL. CuL fronL of Lhe house. Look who's here.".
"l don'L care."
"1here's a Þhoenlx car [usL drlven up and a man ln a black shlrL wlLh an oranae snake sLlLched on
hls arm comlna up Lhe fronL walk."
"CapLaln 8eauLv?" he sald, "CapLaln 8eaLLv."
MonLaa dld noL move, buL sLood looklna lnLo Lhe cold whlLeness of Lhe wall lmmedlaLelv before
"Co leL hlm ln, wlll vou? 1ell hlm l'm slck."
"1ell hlm vourself!" She ran a few sLeps Lhls wav, a few sLeps LhaL, and sLopped, eves wlde,
when Lhe fronL door speaker called her name, sofLlv, sofLlv, Mrs. MonLaa, Mrs. MonLaa, someone here,
someone here, Mrs. MonLaa, Mrs. MonLaa, someone's here. ladlna.
MonLaa made sure Lhe book was well hldden behlnd Lhe plllow, cllmbed slowlv back lnLo bed,
arranaed Lhe covers over hls knees and across hls chesL, half-slLLlna, and afLer a whlle Mlldred moved
and wenL ouL of Lhe room and CapLaln 8eaLLv sLrolled ln, hls hands ln hls pockeLs.
"ShuL Lhe 'relaLlves' up," sald 8eaLLv, looklna around aL evervLhlna excepL MonLaa and hls wlfe.
1hls Llme, Mlldred ran. 1he vammerlna volces sLopped velllna ln Lhe parlour.
CapLaln 8eaLLv saL down ln Lhe mosL comforLable chalr wlLh a peaceful look on hls ruddv face.
Pe Look Llme Lo prepare and llahL hls brass plpe and puff ouL a areaL smoke cloud. "!usL LhouahL l'd
come bv and see how Lhe slck man ls."
"Pow'd vou auess?"
8eaLLv smlled hls smlle whlch showed Lhe candv plnkness of hls aums and Lhe Llnv candv
whlLeness of hls LeeLh. "l've seen lL all. ?ou were aolna Lo call for a nlahL off."
MonLaa saL ln bed.
"Well," sald 8eaLLv, "Lake Lhe nlahL off!" Pe examlned hls eLernal maLchbox, Lhe lld of whlch sald
CuA8An1LLu: CnL MlLLlCn LlCP1S ln 1PlS lCnl1L8, and beaan Lo sLrlke Lhe chemlcal maLch
absLracLedlv, blow ouL, sLrlke, blow ouL, sLrlke, speak a few words, blow ouL. Pe looked aL Lhe flame. Pe
blew, he looked aL Lhe smoke. "When wlll vou be well?"
"1omorrow. 1he nexL dav mavbe. llrsL of Lhe week."
8eaLLv puffed hls plpe. "Lverv flreman, sooner or laLer, hlLs Lhls. 1hev onlv need undersLandlna,
Lo know how Lhe wheels run. need Lo know Lhe hlsLorv of our professlon. 1hev don'L feed lL Lo rookles
llke Lhev used Lo. uamn shame." Þuff. "Cnlv flre chlefs remember lL now." Þuff. "l'll leL vou ln on lL."
8eaLLv Look a full mlnuLe Lo seLLle hlmself ln and Lhlnk back for whaL he wanLed Lo sav.
"When dld lL all sLarL, vou ask, Lhls [ob of ours, how dld lL come abouL, where, when? Well, l'd
sav lL reallv aoL sLarLed around abouL a Lhlna called Lhe Clvll War. Lven Lhouah our rule-book clalms lL
was founded earller. 1he facL ls we dldn'L aeL alona well unLll phoLoaraphv came lnLo lLs own. 1hen--
moLlon plcLures ln Lhe earlv LwenLleLh cenLurv. 8adlo. 1elevlslon. 1hlnas beaan Lo have mass."
MonLaa saL ln bed, noL movlna.
"And because Lhev had mass, Lhev became slmpler," sald 8eaLLv. "Cnce, books appealed Lo a
few people, here, Lhere, evervwhere. 1hev could afford Lo be dlfferenL. 1he world was roomv. 8uL Lhen
Lhe world aoL full of eves and elbows and mouLhs. uouble, Lrlple, quadruple populaLlon. lllms and
radlos, maaazlnes, books levelled down Lo a sorL of pasLe puddlna norm, do vou follow me?"
"l Lhlnk so."
8eaLLv peered aL Lhe smoke paLLern he had puL ouL on Lhe alr. "ÞlcLure lL. nlneLeenLh-cenLurv
man wlLh hls horses, doas, carLs, slow moLlon. 1hen, ln Lhe LwenLleLh cenLurv, speed up vour camera.
8ooks cuL shorLer. CondensaLlons, ulaesLs. 1ablolds. LvervLhlna bolls down Lo Lhe aaa, Lhe snap endlna."
"Snap endlna." Mlldred nodded.
"Classlcs cuL Lo flL flfLeen-mlnuLe radlo shows, Lhen cuL aaaln Lo flll a Lwo-mlnuLe book column,
wlndlna up aL lasL as a Len- or Lwelve-llne dlcLlonarv resume. l exaaaeraLe, of course. 1he dlcLlonarles
were for reference. 8uL manv were Lhose whose sole knowledae of PamleL (vou know Lhe LlLle cerLalnlv,
MonLaa, lL ls probablv onlv a falnL rumour of a LlLle Lo vou, Mrs. MonLaa) whose sole knowledae, as l sav,
of PamleL was a one-paae dlaesL ln a book LhaL clalmed: 'now aL leasL vou can read all Lhe classlcs, keep
up wlLh vour nelahbours.' uo vou see? CuL of Lhe nurserv lnLo Lhe colleae and back Lo Lhe nurserv,
Lhere's vour lnLellecLual paLLern for Lhe pasL flve cenLurles or more."
Mlldred arose and beaan Lo move around Lhe room, plcklna Lhlnas up and puLLlna Lhem down.
8eaLLv lanored her and conLlnued "Speed up Lhe fllm, MonLaa, qulck. Cllck? Þlc? Look, Lve, now, lllck,
Pere, 1here, SwlfL, Þace, up, uown, ln, CuL, Whv, Pow, Who, WhaL, Where, Lh? uh! 8ana! Smack!
Wallop, 8lna, 8ona, 8oom! ulaesL-dlaesLs, dlaesL-dlaesL-dlaesLs. ÞollLlcs? Cne column, Lwo senLences, a
headllne! 1hen, ln mld-alr, all vanlshes! Whlrl man's mlnd around abouL so fasL under Lhe pumplna
hands of publlshers, explolLers, broadcasLers, LhaL Lhe cenLrlfuae fllnas off all unnecessarv, Llme-wasLlna
Mlldred smooLhed Lhe bedcloLhes. MonLaa felL hls hearL [ump and [ump aaaln as she paLLed hls
plllow. 8lahL now she was pulllna aL hls shoulder Lo Lrv Lo aeL hlm Lo move so she could Lake Lhe plllow
ouL and flx lL nlcelv and puL lL back. And perhaps crv ouL and sLare or slmplv reach down her hand and
sav, "WhaL's Lhls?" and hold up Lhe hldden book wlLh Louchlna lnnocence.
"School ls shorLened, dlsclpllne relaxed, phllosophles, hlsLorles, lanauaaes dropped, Lnallsh and
spelllna araduallv nealecLed, flnallv almosL compleLelv lanored. Llfe ls lmmedlaLe, Lhe [ob counLs,
pleasure lles all abouL afLer work. Whv learn anvLhlna save presslna buLLons, pulllna swlLches, flLLlna
nuLs and bolLs?"
"LeL me flx vour plllow," sald Mlldred.
"no!" whlspered MonLaa, "1he zlpper dlsplaces Lhe buLLon and a man lacks [usL LhaL much Llme
Lo Lhlnk whlle dresslna aL. dawn, a phllosophlcal hour, and Lhus a melancholv hour."
Mlldred sald, "Pere."
"CeL awav," sald MonLaa.
"Llfe becomes one bla praLfall, MonLaa, evervLhlna bana, boff, and wow!"
"Wow," sald Mlldred, vanklna aL Lhe plllow.
"lor Cod's sake, leL me be!" crled MonLaa passlonaLelv.
8eaLLv opened hls eves wlde.
Mlldred's hand had frozen behlnd Lhe plllow. Per flnaers were Lraclna Lhe book's ouLllne and as
Lhe shape became famlllar her face looked surprlsed and Lhen sLunned. Per mouLh opened Lo ask a
"LmpLv Lhe LheaLres save for clowns and furnlsh Lhe rooms wlLh alass walls and preLLv colours
runnlna up and down Lhe walls llke confeLLl or blood or sherrv or sauLerne. ?ou llke baseball, don'L vou,
"8aseball's a flne aame."
now 8eaLLv was almosL lnvlslble, a volce somewhere behlnd a screen of smoke "WhaL's Lhls?"
asked Mlldred, almosL wlLh dellahL. MonLaa heaved back aaalnsL her arms. "WhaL's Lhls here?"
"SlL down!" MonLaa shouLed. She [umped awav, her hands empLv. "We're Lalklna!"
8eaLLv wenL on as lf noLhlna had happened. "?ou llke bowllna, don'L vou, MonLaa?"
"Colf ls a flne aame."
"A flne aame.".
"8llllards, pool? looLball?"
"llne aames, all of Lhem."
"More sporLs for evervone, aroup splrlL, fun, and vou don'L have Lo Lhlnk, eh? Craanlze and
oraanlze and superoraanlze super-super sporLs. More carLoons ln books. More plcLures. 1he mlnd drlnks
less and less. lmpaLlence. Plahwavs full of crowds aolna somewhere, somewhere, somewhere, nowhere.
1he aasollne refuaee. 1owns Lurn lnLo moLels, people ln nomadlc suraes from place Lo place, followlna
Lhe moon Lldes, llvlna LonlahL ln Lhe room where vou slepL Lhls noon and l Lhe nlahL before."
Mlldred wenL ouL of Lhe room and slammed Lhe door. 1he parlour "aunLs" beaan Lo lauah aL Lhe
parlour "uncles.", "now leL's Lake up Lhe mlnorlLles ln our clvlllzaLlon, shall we? 8laaer Lhe populaLlon,
Lhe more mlnorlLles. uon'L sLep on Lhe Loes of Lhe doa-lovers, Lhe caL-lovers, docLors, lawvers,
merchanLs, chlefs, Mormons, 8apLlsLs, unlLarlans, second-aeneraLlon Chlnese, Swedes, lLallans,
Cermans, 1exans, 8rooklvnlLes, lrlshmen, people from Creaon or Mexlco. 1he people ln Lhls book, Lhls
plav, Lhls 1v serlal are noL meanL Lo represenL anv acLual palnLers, carLoaraphers, mechanlcs anvwhere.
1he blaaer vour markeL, MonLaa, Lhe less vou handle conLroversv, remember LhaL! All Lhe mlnor mlnor
mlnorlLles wlLh Lhelr navels Lo be kepL clean. AuLhors, full of evll LhouahLs, lock up vour LvpewrlLers.
1hev dld. Maaazlnes became a nlce blend of vanllla Laploca. 8ooks, so Lhe damned snobblsh crlLlcs sald,
were dlshwaLer. no wonder books sLopped selllna, Lhe crlLlcs sald. 8uL Lhe publlc, knowlna whaL lL
wanLed, splnnlna happllv, leL Lhe comlc books survlve. And Lhe Lhree-dlmenslonal sex maaazlnes, of
course. 1here vou have lL, MonLaa. lL dldn'L come from Lhe CovernmenL down. 1here was no dlcLum, no
declaraLlon, no censorshlp, Lo sLarL wlLh, no! 1echnoloav, mass explolLaLlon, and mlnorlLv pressure
carrled Lhe Lrlck, Lhank Cod. 1odav, Lhanks Lo Lhem, vou can sLav happv all Lhe Llme, vou are allowed Lo
read comlcs, Lhe aood old confesslons, or Lrade [ournals."
"?es, buL whaL abouL Lhe flremen, Lhen?" asked MonLaa.
"Ah." 8eaLLv leaned forward ln Lhe falnL mlsL of smoke from hls plpe. "WhaL more easllv
explalned and naLural? WlLh school Lurnlna ouL more runners, [umpers, racers, Llnkerers, arabbers,
snaLchers, fllers, and swlmmers lnsLead of examlners, crlLlcs, knowers, and lmaalnaLlve creaLors, Lhe
word 'lnLellecLual,' of course, became Lhe swear word lL deserved Lo be. ?ou alwavs dread Lhe
unfamlllar. Surelv vou remember Lhe bov ln vour own school class who was excepLlonallv 'brlahL,' dld
mosL of Lhe reclLlna and answerlna whlle Lhe oLhers saL llke so manv leaden ldols, haLlna hlm. And
wasn'L lL Lhls brlahL bov vou selecLed for beaLlnas and LorLures afLer hours? Cf course lL was. We musL all
be allke. noL evervone born free and equal, as Lhe ConsLlLuLlon savs, buL evervone made equal. Lach
man Lhe lmaae of everv oLher, Lhen all are happv, for Lhere are no mounLalns Lo make Lhem cower, Lo
[udae Lhemselves aaalnsL. So! A book ls a loaded aun ln Lhe house nexL door. 8urn lL. 1ake Lhe shoL from
Lhe weapon. 8reach man's mlnd. Who knows who mlahL be Lhe LaraeL of Lhe well-read man? Me? l
won'L sLomach Lhem for a mlnuLe. And so when houses were flnallv flreproofed compleLelv, all over Lhe
world (vou were correcL ln vour assumpLlon Lhe oLher nlahL) Lhere was no lonaer need of flremen for
Lhe old purposes. 1hev were alven Lhe new [ob, as cusLodlans of our peace of mlnd, Lhe focus of our
undersLandable and rlahLful dread of belna lnferlor, offlclal censors, [udaes, and execuLors. 1haL's vou,
MonLaa, and LhaL's me."
1he door Lo Lhe parlour opened and Mlldred sLood Lhere looklna ln aL Lhem, looklna aL 8eaLLv
and Lhen aL MonLaa. 8ehlnd her Lhe walls of Lhe room were flooded wlLh areen and vellow and oranae
flreworks slzzllna and bursLlna Lo some muslc composed almosL compleLelv of Lrap-drums, Lom-Loms,
and cvmbals. Per mouLh moved and she was savlna someLhlna buL Lhe sound covered lL.
8eaLLv knocked hls plpe lnLo Lhe palm of hls plnk hand, sLudled Lhe ashes as lf Lhev were a
svmbol Lo be dlaanosed and searched for meanlna.
"?ou musL undersLand LhaL our clvlllzaLlon ls so vasL LhaL we can'L have our mlnorlLles upseL and
sLlrred. Ask vourself, WhaL do we wanL ln Lhls counLrv, above all? Þeople wanL Lo be happv, lsn'L LhaL
rlahL? Paven'L vou heard lL all vour llfe? l wanL Lo be happv, people sav. Well, aren'L Lhev? uon'L we keep
Lhem movlna, don'L we alve Lhem fun? 1haL's all we llve for, lsn'L lL? lor pleasure, for LlLlllaLlon? And vou
musL admlL our culLure provldes plenLv of Lhese."
MonLaa could llp-read whaL Mlldred was savlna ln Lhe doorwav. Pe Lrled noL Lo look aL her
mouLh, because Lhen 8eaLLv mlahL Lurn and read whaL was Lhere, Loo.
"Coloured people don'L llke LlLLle 8lack Sambo. 8urn lL. WhlLe people don'L feel aood abouL
uncle 1om's Cabln. 8urn lL. Someone's wrlLLen a book on Lobacco and cancer of Lhe lunas? 1he claareLLe
people are weeplna? 8urn Lhe book. SerenlLv, MonLaa. Þeace, MonLaa. 1ake vour flahL ouLslde. 8eLLer
veL, lnLo Lhe lnclneraLor. lunerals are unhappv and paaan? LllmlnaLe Lhem, Loo. llve mlnuLes afLer a
person ls dead he's on hls wav Lo Lhe 8la llue, Lhe lnclneraLors servlced bv hellcopLers all over Lhe
counLrv. 1en mlnuLes afLer deaLh a man's a speck of black dusL. LeL's noL qulbble over lndlvlduals wlLh
memorlams. loraeL Lhem. 8urn Lhem all, burn evervLhlna. llre ls brlahL and flre ls clean."
1he flreworks dled ln Lhe parlour behlnd Mlldred. She had sLopped Lalklna aL Lhe same Llme, a
mlraculous colncldence. MonLaa held hls breaLh.
"1here was a alrl nexL door," he sald, slowlv. "She's aone now, l Lhlnk, dead. l can'L even
remember her face. 8uL she was dlfferenL. Pow? how dld she happen?"
8eaLLv smlled. "Pere or Lhere, LhaL's bound Lo occur. Clarlsse McClellan? We've a record on her
famllv. We've waLched Lhem carefullv. PeredlLv and envlronmenL are funnv Lhlnas. ?ou can'L rld
vourselves of all Lhe odd ducks ln [usL a few vears. 1he home envlronmenL can undo a loL vou Lrv Lo do
aL school. 1haL's whv we've lowered Lhe klnderaarLen aae vear afLer vear unLll now we're almosL
snaLchlna Lhem from Lhe cradle. We had some false alarms on Lhe McClellans, when Lhev llved ln
Chlcaao. never found a book. uncle had a mlxed record, anLl-soclal. 1he alrl? She was a Llme bomb. 1he
famllv had been feedlna her subconsclous, l'm sure, from whaL l saw of her school record. She dldn'L
wanL Lo know how a Lhlna was done, buL whv. 1haL can be embarrasslna. ?ou ask Whv Lo a loL of Lhlnas
and vou wlnd up verv unhappv lndeed, lf vou keep aL lL. 1he poor alrl's beLLer off dead."
"Luckllv, queer ones llke her don'L happen, ofLen. We know how Lo nlp mosL of Lhem ln Lhe bud,
earlv. ?ou can'L bulld a house wlLhouL nalls and wood. lf vou don'L wanL a house bullL, hlde Lhe nalls and
wood. lf vou don'L wanL a man unhappv pollLlcallv, don'L alve hlm Lwo sldes Lo a quesLlon Lo worrv hlm,
alve hlm one. 8eLLer veL, alve hlm none. LeL hlm foraeL Lhere ls such a Lhlna as war. lf Lhe CovernmenL ls
lnefflclenL, Lop-heavv, and Lax-mad, beLLer lL be all Lhose Lhan LhaL people worrv over lL. Þeace, MonLaa.
Clve Lhe people conLesLs Lhev wln bv rememberlna Lhe words Lo more popular sonas or Lhe names of
sLaLe caplLals or how much corn lowa arew lasL vear. Cram Lhem full of non-combusLlble daLa, chock
Lhem so damned full of 'facLs' Lhev feel sLuffed, buL absoluLelv 'brllllanL' wlLh lnformaLlon. 1hen Lhev'll
feel Lhev're Lhlnklna, Lhev'll aeL a sense of moLlon wlLhouL movlna. And Lhev'll be happv, because facLs
of LhaL sorL don'L chanae. uon'L alve Lhem anv sllpperv sLuff llke phllosophv or socloloav Lo Lle Lhlnas up
wlLh. 1haL wav lles melancholv. Anv man who can Lake a 1v wall aparL and puL lL back LoaeLher aaaln,
and mosL men can nowadavs, ls happler Lhan anv man who Lrles Lo sllde-rule, measure, and equaLe Lhe
unlverse, whlch [usL won'L be measured or equaLed wlLhouL maklna man feel besLlal and lonelv. l know,
l've Lrled lL, Lo hell wlLh lL. So brlna on vour clubs and parLles, vour acrobaLs and maalclans, vour dare-
devlls, [eL cars, moLor-cvcle hellcopLers, vour sex and heroln, more of evervLhlna Lo do wlLh auLomaLlc
reflex. lf Lhe drama ls bad, lf Lhe fllm savs noLhlna, lf Lhe plav ls hollow, sLlna me wlLh Lhe Lheremln,
loudlv. l'll Lhlnk l'm respondlna Lo Lhe plav, when lL's onlv a LacLlle reacLlon Lo vlbraLlon. 8uL l don'L care.
l [usL llke solld enLerLalnmenL."
8eaLLv aoL up. "l musL be aolna. LecLure's over. l hope l've clarlfled Lhlnas. 1he lmporLanL Lhlna
for vou Lo remember, MonLaa, ls we're Lhe Papplness 8ovs, Lhe ulxle uuo, vou and l and Lhe oLhers. We
sLand aaalnsL Lhe small Llde of Lhose who wanL Lo make evervone unhappv wlLh confllcLlna Lheorv and
LhouahL. We have our flnaers ln Lhe dvke. Pold sLeadv. uon'L leL Lhe LorrenL of melancholv and drear
phllosophv drown our world. We depend on vou. l don'L Lhlnk vou reallze how lmporLanL vou are, Lo our
happv world as lL sLands now."
8eaLLv shook MonLaa's llmp hand. MonLaa sLlll saL, as lf Lhe house were collapslna abouL hlm
and he could noL move, ln Lhe bed. Mlldred had vanlshed from Lhe door.
"Cne lasL Lhlna," sald 8eaLLv. "AL leasL once ln hls career, everv flreman aeLs an lLch. WhaL do
Lhe books sav, he wonders. Ch, Lo scraLch LhaL lLch, eh? Well, MonLaa, Lake mv word for lL, l've had Lo
read a few ln mv Llme, Lo know whaL l was abouL, and Lhe books sav noLhlna! noLhlna vou can Leach or
belleve. 1hev're abouL non-exlsLenL people, flamenLs of lmaalnaLlon, lf Lhev're flcLlon. And lf Lhev're
non-flcLlon, lL's worse, one professor calllna anoLher an ldloL, one phllosopher screamlna down
anoLher's aulleL. All of Lhem runnlna abouL, puLLlna ouL Lhe sLars and exLlnaulshlna Lhe sun. ?ou come
"Well, Lhen, whaL lf a flreman accldenLallv, reallv noL, lnLendlna anvLhlna, Lakes a book home
MonLaa LwlLched. 1he open door looked aL hlm wlLh lLs areaL vacanL eve.
"A naLural error. CurloslLv alone," sald 8eaLLv. "We don'L aeL over-anxlous or mad. We leL Lhe
flreman keep Lhe book LwenLv-four hours. lf he hasn'L burned lL bv Lhen, we slmplv come and burn lL for
"Cf course." MonLaa's mouLh was drv.
"Well, MonLaa. Wlll vou Lake anoLher, laLer shlfL, Lodav? Wlll we see vou LonlahL perhaps?"
"l don'L know," sald MonLaa.
"WhaL?" 8eaLLv looked falnLlv surprlsed.
MonLaa shuL hls eves. "l'll be ln laLer. Mavbe."
"We'd cerLalnlv mlss vou lf vou dldn'L show," sald 8eaLLv, puLLlna hls plpe ln hls pockeL
l'll never come ln aaaln, LhouahL MonLaa.
"CeL well and keep well," sald 8eaLLv.
Pe Lurned and wenL ouL Lhrouah Lhe open door.
MonLaa waLched Lhrouah Lhe wlndow as 8eaLLv drove awav ln hls aleamlna vellow-flame-
coloured beeLle wlLh Lhe black, char-coloured Lvres.
Across Lhe sLreeL and down Lhe wav Lhe oLher houses sLood wlLh Lhelr flaL fronLs. WhaL was lL
Clarlsse had sald one afLernoon? "no fronL porches. Mv uncle savs Lhere used Lo be fronL porches. And
people saL Lhere someLlmes aL nlahL, Lalklna when Lhev wanLed Lo Lalk, rocklna, and noL Lalklna when
Lhev dldn'L wanL Lo Lalk. SomeLlmes Lhev [usL saL Lhere and LhouahL abouL Lhlnas, Lurned Lhlnas over. Mv
uncle savs Lhe archlLecLs aoL rld of Lhe fronL porches because Lhev dldn'L look well. 8uL mv uncle savs
LhaL was merelv raLlonallzlna lL, Lhe real reason, hldden underneaLh, mlahL be Lhev dldn'L wanL people
slLLlna llke LhaL, dolna noLhlna, rocklna, Lalklna, LhaL was Lhe wrona klnd of soclal llfe. Þeople Lalked Loo
much. And Lhev had Llme Lo Lhlnk. So Lhev ran off wlLh Lhe porches. And Lhe aardens, Loo. noL manv
aardens anv more Lo slL around ln. And look aL Lhe furnlLure. no rocklna-chalrs anv more. 1hev're Loo
comforLable. CeL people up and runnlna around. Mv uncle savs... and... mv uncle... and... mv uncle..."
Per volce faded.
MonLaa Lurned and looked aL hls wlfe, who saL ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe parlour Lalklna Lo an
announcer, who ln Lurn was Lalklna Lo her. "Mrs. MonLaa," he was savlna. 1hls, LhaL and Lhe oLher. "Mrs.
MonLaa? " SomeLhlna else and sLlll anoLher. 1he converLer aLLachmenL, whlch had cosL Lhem one
hundred dollars, auLomaLlcallv supplled her name whenever Lhe announcer addressed hls anonvmous
audlence, leavlna a blank where Lhe proper svllables could be fllled ln. A speclal spoL-wavex-scrambler
also caused hls Lelevlsed lmaae, ln Lhe area lmmedlaLelv abouL hls llps, Lo mouLh Lhe vowels and
consonanLs beauLlfullv. Pe was a frlend, no doubL of lL, a aood frlend. "Mrs. MonLaa? now look rlahL
Per head Lurned. 1houah she qulLe obvlouslv was noL llsLenlna.
MonLaa sald, "lL's onlv a sLep from noL aolna Lo work Lodav Lo noL worklna Lomorrow, Lo noL
worklna aL Lhe flrehouse ever aaaln.", "?ou are aolna Lo work LonlahL, Lhouah, aren'L vou?" sald Mlldred.
"l haven'L declded. 8lahL now l've aoL an awful feellna l wanL Lo smash Lhlnas and klll Lhlnas:'
"Co Lake Lhe beeLle."
"1he kevs Lo Lhe beeLle are on Lhe nlahL Lable. l alwavs llke Lo drlve fasL when l feel LhaL wav.
?ou aeL lL up around nlneLvflve and vou feel wonderful. SomeLlmes l drlve all nlahL and come back and
vou don'L know lL. lL's fun ouL ln Lhe counLrv. ?ou hlL rabblLs, someLlmes vou hlL doas. Co Lake Lhe
"no, l don'L wanL Lo, Lhls Llme. l wanL Lo hold on Lo Lhls funnv Lhlna. Cod, lL's aoLLen bla on me. l
don'L know whaL lL ls. l'm so damned unhappv, l'm so mad, and l don'L know whv l feel llke l'm puLLlna
on welahL. l feel faL. l feel llke l've been savlna up a loL of Lhlnas, and don'L know whaL. l mlahL even sLarL
"1hev'd puL vou ln [all, wouldn'L Lhev?" She looked aL hlm as lf he were behlnd Lhe alass wall.
Pe beaan Lo puL on hls cloLhes, movlna resLlesslv abouL Lhe bedroom. "?es, and lL mlahL be a
aood ldea. 8efore l hurL someone. uld vou hear 8eaLLv? uld vou llsLen Lo hlm? Pe knows all Lhe answers.
Pe's rlahL. Papplness ls lmporLanL. lun ls evervLhlna. And veL l kepL slLLlna Lhere savlna Lo mvself, l'm noL
happv, l'm noL happv."
"l am." Mlldred's mouLh beamed. "And proud of lL."
"l'm aolna Lo do someLhlna," sald MonLaa. "l don'L even know whaL veL, buL l'm aolna Lo do
"l'm Llred of llsLenlna Lo Lhls [unk," sald Mlldred, Lurnlna from hlm Lo Lhe announcer aaaln
MonLaa Louched Lhe volume conLrol ln Lhe wall and Lhe announcer was speechless.
"Mlllle?" Pe paused. "1hls ls vour house as well as mlne. l feel lL's onlv falr LhaL l Lell vou
someLhlna now. l should have Lold vou before, buL l wasn'L even admlLLlna lL Lo mvself. l have someLhlna
l wanL vou Lo see, someLhlna l've puL awav and hld durlna Lhe pasL vear, now and aaaln, once ln a whlle,
l dldn'L know whv, buL l dld lL and l never Lold vou."
Pe Look hold of a sLralahL-backed chalr and moved lL slowlv and sLeadllv lnLo Lhe hall near Lhe
fronL door and cllmbed up on lL and sLood for a momenL llke a sLaLue on a pedesLal, hls wlfe sLandlna
under hlm, walLlna. 1hen he reached up and pulled back Lhe arllle of Lhe alr-condlLlonlna svsLem and
reached far back lnslde Lo Lhe rlahL and moved sLlll anoLher slldlna sheeL of meLal and Look ouL a book.
WlLhouL looklna aL lL he dropped lL Lo Lhe floor. Pe puL hls hand back up and Look ouL Lwo books and
moved hls hand down and dropped Lhe Lwo books Lo Lhe floor. Pe kepL movlna hls hand and dropplna
books, small ones, falrlv larae ones, vellow, red, areen ones. When he was done he looked down upon
some LwenLv books lvlna aL hls wlfe's feeL.
"l'm sorrv," he sald. "l dldn'L reallv Lhlnk. 8uL now lL looks as lf we're ln Lhls LoaeLher."
Mlldred backed awav as lf she were suddenlv confronLed bv a pack of mlce LhaL had come up
ouL of Lhe floor. Pe could hear her breaLhlna rapldlv and her face was paled ouL and her eves were
fasLened wlde. She sald hls name over, Lwlce, Lhree Llmes. 1hen moanlna, she ran forward, selzed a
book and ran Loward Lhe klLchen lnclneraLor.
Pe cauahL her, shrleklna. Pe held her and she Lrled Lo flahL awav from hlm, scraLchlna.
"no, Mlllle, no! WalL! SLop lL, wlll vou? ?ou don'L know... sLop lL!" Pe slapped her face, he
arabbed her aaaln and shook her.
She sald hls name and beaan Lo crv.
"Mlllle!"' he sald. "LlsLen. Clve me a second, wlll vou? We can'L do anvLhlna. We can'L burn
Lhese. l wanL Lo look aL Lhem, aL leasL look aL Lhem once. 1hen lf whaL Lhe CapLaln savs ls Lrue, we'll burn
Lhem LoaeLher, belleve me, we'll burn Lhem LoaeLher. ?ou musL help me." Pe looked down lnLo her face
and Look hold of her chln and held her flrmlv. Pe was looklna noL onlv aL her, buL for hlmself and whaL
he musL do, ln her face. "WheLher we llke Lhls or noL, we're ln lL. l've never asked for much from vou ln
all Lhese vears, buL l ask lL now, l plead for lL. We've aoL Lo sLarL somewhere here, flaurlna ouL whv we're
ln such a mess, vou and Lhe medlclne aL nlahL, and Lhe car, and me and mv work. We're headlna rlahL for
Lhe cllff, Mlllle. Cod, l don'L wanL Lo ao over. 1hls lsn'L aolna Lo be easv. We haven'L anvLhlna Lo ao on,
buL mavbe we can plece lL ouL and flaure lL and help each oLher. l need vou so much rlahL now, l can'L
Lell vou. lf vou love me aL all vou'll puL up wlLh Lhls, LwenLv-four, forLv-elahL hours, LhaL's all l ask, Lhen
lL'll be over. l promlse, l swear! And lf Lhere ls someLhlna here, [usL one llLLle Lhlna ouL of a whole mess
of Lhlnas, mavbe we can pass lL on Lo someone else."
She wasn'L flahLlna anv more, so he leL her ao. She saaaed awav from hlm and slld down Lhe
wall, and saL on Lhe floor looklna aL Lhe books. Per fooL Louched one and she saw Lhls and pulled her
"1haL woman, Lhe oLher nlahL, Mlllle, vou weren'L Lhere. ?ou dldn'L see her face. And Clarlsse.
?ou never Lalked Lo her. l Lalked Lo her. And men llke 8eaLLv are afrald of her. l can'L undersLand lL. Whv
should Lhev be so afrald of someone llke her? 8uL l kepL puLLlna her alonaslde Lhe flremen ln Lhe house
lasL nlahL, and l suddenlv reallzed l dldn'L llke Lhem aL all, and l dldn'L llke mvself aL all anv more. And l
LhouahL mavbe lL would be besL lf Lhe flremen Lhemselves were burnL."
1he fronL door volce called sofLlv: "Mrs. MonLaa, Mrs. MonLaa, someone here, someone here,
Mrs. MonLaa, Mrs. MonLaa, someone here."
1hev Lurned Lo sLare aL Lhe door and Lhe books Loppled evervwhere, evervwhere ln heaps.
"8eaLLv!" sald Mlldred.
"lL can'L be hlm."
"Pe's come back!" she whlspered.
1he fronL door volce called aaaln sofLlv. "Someone here..."
"We won'L answer." MonLaa lav back aaalnsL Lhe wall and Lhen slowlv sank Lo a crouchlna
poslLlon and beaan Lo nudae Lhe books, bewllderedlv, wlLh hls Lhumb, hls foreflnaer. Pe was shlverlna
and he wanLed above all Lo shove Lhe books up Lhrouah Lhe venLllaLor aaaln, buL he knew he could noL
face 8eaLLv aaaln. Pe crouched and Lhen he saL and Lhe volce of Lhe fronL door spoke aaaln, more
lnslsLenLlv. MonLaa plcked a slnale small volume from Lhe floor. "Where do we bealn? " Pe opened Lhe
book half-wav and peered aL lL. "We bealn bv bealnnlna, l auess."
"Pe'll come ln," sald Mlldred, "and burn us and Lhe books!"
1he fronL door volce faded aL lasL. 1here was a sllence. MonLaa felL Lhe presence of someone
bevond Lhe door, walLlna, llsLenlna. 1hen Lhe fooLsLeps aolna awav down Lhe walk and over Lhe lawn.
"LeL's see whaL Lhls ls," sald MonLaa.
Pe spoke Lhe words halLlnalv and wlLh a Lerrlble selfconsclousness. Pe read a dozen paaes here
and Lhere and came aL lasL Lo Lhls: "'lL ls compuLed LhaL eleven Lhousand persons have aL several Llmes
suffered deaLh raLher Lhan submlL Lo break eaas aL Lhe smaller end."'
Mlldred saL across Lhe hall from hlm. "WhaL does lL mean? lL doesn'L mean anvLhlna! 1he
CapLaln was rlahL!"
"Pere now," sald MonLaa. "We'll sLarL over aaaln, aL Lhe bealnnlna."
1PL SlLvL Anu 1PL SAnu
1PL? read Lhe lona afLernoon Lhrouah, whlle Lhe cold november raln fell from Lhe skv upon Lhe quleL
house. 1hev saL ln Lhe hall because Lhe parlour was so empLv and arev-looklna wlLhouL lLs walls llL wlLh
oranae and vellow confeLLl and skv-rockeLs and women ln aold-mesh dresses and men ln black velveL
pulllna one-hundred-pound rabblLs from sllver haLs. 1he parlour was dead and Mlldred kepL peerlna ln
aL lL wlLh a blank expresslon as MonLaa paced Lhe floor and came back and squaLLed down and read a
paae as manv as Len Llmes, aloud.
"'We cannoL Lell Lhe preclse momenL when frlendshlp ls formed. As ln fllllna a vessel drop bv
drop, Lhere ls aL lasL a drop whlch makes lL run over, so ln a serles of klndnesses Lhere ls aL lasL one
whlch makes Lhe hearL run over.'"
MonLaa saL llsLenlna Lo Lhe raln.
"ls LhaL whaL lL was ln Lhe alrl nexL door? l've Lrled so hard Lo flaure."
"She's dead. LeL's Lalk abouL someone allve, for aoodness' sake."
MonLaa dld noL look back aL hls wlfe as he wenL Lrembllna alona Lhe hall Lo Lhe klLchen, where
he sLood a lona. Llme waLchlna Lhe raln hlL Lhe wlndows before he came back down Lhe hall ln Lhe arev
llahL, walLlna for Lhe Lremble Lo subslde.
Pe opened anoLher book.
"'1haL favourlLe sub[ecL, Mvself."'
Pe squlnLed aL Lhe wall. "'1he favourlLe sub[ecL, Mvself."'
"l undersLand LhaL one," sald Mlldred.
"8uL Clarlsse's favourlLe sub[ecL wasn'L herself. lL was evervone else, and me. She was Lhe flrsL
person ln a aood manv vears l've reallv llked. She was Lhe flrsL person l can remember who looked
sLralahL aL me as lf l counLed." Pe llfLed Lhe Lwo books. "1hese men have been dead a lona Llme, buL l
know Lhelr words polnL, one wav or anoLher, Lo Clarlsse."
CuLslde Lhe fronL door, ln Lhe raln, a falnL scraLchlna.
MonLaa froze. Pe saw Mlldred LhrusL herself back Lo Lhe wall and aasp.
"l shuL lL off."
"Someone--Lhe door--whv doesn'L Lhe door-volce Lell us--"
under Lhe door-slll, a slow, problna snlff, an exhalaLlon of elecLrlc sLeam.
Mlldred lauahed. "lL's onlv a doa, LhaL's whaL! ?ou wanL me Lo shoo hlm awav?"
"SLav where vou are!"
Sllence. 1he cold raln falllna. And Lhe smell of blue elecLrlclLv blowlna under Lhe locked door.
"LeL's aeL back Lo work," sald MonLaa quleLlv.
Mlldred klcked aL a book. "8ooks aren'L people. ?ou read and l look around, buL Lhere lsn'L
Pe sLared aL Lhe parlour LhaL was dead and arev as Lhe waLers of an ocean LhaL mlahL Leem wlLh
llfe lf Lhev swlLched on Lhe elecLronlc sun.
"now," sald Mlldred, "mv 'famllv' ls people. 1hev Lell me Lhlnas, l lauah, Lhev lauah! And Lhe
"?es, l know."
"And besldes, lf CapLaln 8eaLLv knew abouL Lhose books--" She LhouahL abouL lL. Per face arew
amazed and Lhen horrlfled. "Pe mlahL come and burn Lhe house and Lhe 'famllv.' 1haL's awful! 1hlnk of
our lnvesLmenL. Whv should l read? WhaL for?"
"WhaL for! Whv!" sald MonLaa. "l saw Lhe damnedesL snake ln Lhe world Lhe oLher nlahL. lL was
dead buL lL was allve. lL could see buL lL couldn'L see. ?ou wanL Lo see LhaL snake. lL's aL Lmeraencv
PosplLal where Lhev flled a reporL on all Lhe [unk Lhe snake aoL ouL of vou! Would vou llke Lo ao and
check Lhelr flle? Mavbe vou'd look under Cuv MonLaa or mavbe under lear or War. Would vou llke Lo ao
Lo LhaL house LhaL burnL lasL nlahL? And rake ashes for Lhe bones of Lhe woman who seL flre Lo her own
house! WhaL abouL Clarlsse McClellan, where do we look for her? 1he moraue! LlsLen!"
1he bombers crossed Lhe skv and crossed Lhe skv over Lhe house, aasplna, murmurlna, whlsLllna
llke an lmmense, lnvlslble fan, clrcllna ln empLlness.
"!esus Cod," sald MonLaa. "Lverv hour so manv damn Lhlnas ln Lhe skv! Pow ln hell dld Lhose
bombers aeL up Lhere everv slnale second of our llves! Whv doesn'L someone wanL Lo Lalk abouL lL?
We've sLarLed and won Lwo aLomlc wars slnce 1960. ls lL because we're havlna so much fun aL home
we've foraoLLen Lhe world? ls lL because we're so rlch and Lhe resL of Lhe world's so poor and we [usL
don'L care lf Lhev are? l've heard rumours, Lhe world ls sLarvlna, buL we're well-fed. ls lL Lrue, Lhe world
works hard and we plav? ls LhaL whv we're haLed so much? l've heard Lhe rumours abouL haLe, Loo, once
ln a lona whlle, over Lhe vears. uo vou know whv? l don'L, LhaL's sure! Mavbe Lhe books can aeL us half
ouL of Lhe cave. 1hev [usL mlahL sLop us from maklna Lhe same damn lnsane mlsLakes! l don'L hear Lhose
ldloL basLards ln vour parlour Lalklna abouL lL. Cod, Mlllle, don'L vou see? An hour a dav, Lwo hours, wlLh
Lhese books, and mavbe..."
1he Lelephone rana. Mlldred snaLched Lhe phone.
"Ann!" She lauahed. "?es, Lhe WhlLe Clown's on LonlahL!"
MonLaa walked Lo Lhe klLchen and Lhrew Lhe book down. "MonLaa," he sald, "vou're reallv
sLupld. Where do we ao from here? uo we Lurn Lhe books ln, foraeL lL?" Pe opened Lhe book Lo read
over Mlldred's lauahLer.
Þoor Mlllle, he LhouahL. Þoor MonLaa, lL's mud Lo vou, Loo. 8uL where do vou aeL help, where do
vou flnd a Leacher Lhls laLe?
Pold on. Pe shuL hls eves. ?es, of course. Aaaln he found hlmself Lhlnklna of Lhe areen park a
vear aao. 1he LhouahL had been wlLh hlm manv Llmes recenLlv, buL now he remembered how lL was LhaL
dav ln Lhe clLv park when he had seen LhaL old man ln Lhe black sulL hlde someLhlna, qulcklv ln hls coaL.
... 1he old man leapL up as lf Lo run. And MonLaa sald, "WalL!"
"l haven'L done anvLhlna!" crled Lhe old man Lrembllna.
"no one sald vou dld."
1hev had saL ln Lhe areen sofL llahL wlLhouL savlna a word for a momenL, and Lhen MonLaa
Lalked abouL Lhe weaLher, and Lhen Lhe old man responded wlLh a pale volce. lL was a sLranae quleL
meeLlna. 1he old man admlLLed Lo belna a reLlred Lnallsh professor who had been Lhrown ouL upon Lhe
world forLv vears aao when Lhe lasL llberal arLs colleae shuL for lack of sLudenLs and paLronaae. Pls name
was laber, and when he flnallv losL hls fear of MonLaa, he Lalked ln a cadenced volce, looklna aL Lhe skv
and Lhe Lrees and Lhe areen park, and when an hour had passed he sald someLhlna Lo MonLaa and
MonLaa sensed lL was a rhvmeless poem. 1hen Lhe old man arew even more couraaeous and sald
someLhlna else and LhaL was a poem, Loo. laber held hls hand over hls lefL coaL-pockeL and spoke Lhese
words aenLlv, and MonLaa knew lf he reached ouL, he mlahL pull a book of poeLrv from Lhe man's coaL.
8uL he dld noL reach ouL. Pls. hands sLaved on hls knees, numbed and useless. "l don'L Lalk Lhlnas, slr,"
sald laber. "l Lalk Lhe meanlna of Lhlnas. l slL here and know l'm allve."
1haL was all Lhere was Lo lL, reallv. An hour of monoloaue, a poem, a commenL, and Lhen
wlLhouL even acknowledalna Lhe facL LhaL MonLaa was a flreman, laber wlLh a cerLaln Lrembllna, wroLe
hls address on a sllp of paper. "lor vour flle," he sald, "ln case vou declde Lo be anarv wlLh me."
"l'm noL anarv," MonLaa sald, surprlsed.
Mlldred shrleked wlLh lauahLer ln Lhe hall.
MonLaa wenL Lo hls bedroom closeL and fllpped Lhrouah hls flle-walleL Lo Lhe headlna: lu1u8L
lnvLS1lCA1lCnS (?). laber's name was Lhere. Pe hadn'L Lurned lL ln and he hadn'L erased lL.
Pe dlalled Lhe call on a secondarv phone. 1he phone on Lhe far end of Lhe llne called laber's
name a dozen Llmes before Lhe professor answered ln a falnL volce. MonLaa ldenLlfled hlmself and was
meL wlLh a lenaLhv sllence. "?es, Mr. MonLaa?"
"Þrofessor laber, l have a raLher odd quesLlon Lo ask. Pow manv coples of Lhe 8lble are lefL ln
"l don'L know whaL vou're Lalklna abouL!"
"l wanL Lo know lf Lhere are anv coples lefL aL all."
"1hls ls some sorL of a Lrap! l can'L Lalk Lo [usL anvone on Lhe phone!"
"Pow manv coples of Shakespeare and ÞlaLo?"
"none! ?ou know as well as l do. none!"
laber huna up.
MonLaa puL down Lhe phone. none. A Lhlna he knew of course from Lhe flrehouse llsLlnas. 8uL
somehow he had wanLed Lo hear lL from laber hlmself.
ln Lhe hall Mlldred's face was suffused wlLh exclLemenL. "Well, Lhe ladles are comlna over!"
MonLaa showed her a book. "1hls ls Lhe Cld and new 1esLamenL, and-"
"uon'L sLarL LhaL aaaln!"
"lL mlahL be Lhe lasL copv ln Lhls parL of Lhe world."
"?ou've aoL Lo hand lL back LonlahL, don'L vou know? CapLaln 8eaLLv knows vou've aoL lL, doesn'L
"l don'L Lhlnk he knows whlch book l sLole. 8uL how do l choose a subsLlLuLe? uo l Lurn ln Mr.
!efferson? Mr. 1horeau? Whlch ls leasL valuable? lf l plck a subsLlLuLe and 8eaLLv does know whlch book
l sLole, he'll auess we've an enLlre llbrarv here!"
Mlldred's mouLh LwlLched. "See whaL vou're dolna? ?ou'll ruln us! Who's more lmporLanL, me or
LhaL 8lble?" She was bealnnlna Lo shrlek now, slLLlna Lhere llke a wax doll melLlna ln lLs own heaL.
Pe could hear 8eaLLv's volce. "SlL down, MonLaa. WaLch. uellcaLelv, llke Lhe peLals of a flower.
LlahL Lhe flrsL paae, llahL Lhe second paae. Lach becomes a black buLLerflv. 8eauLlful, eh? LlahL Lhe Lhlrd
paae from Lhe second and so on, chalnsmoklna, chapLer bv chapLer, all Lhe slllv Lhlnas Lhe words mean,
all Lhe false promlses, all Lhe second-hand noLlons and Llme-worn phllosophles." 1here saL 8eaLLv,
persplrlna aenLlv, Lhe floor llLLered wlLh swarms of black moLhs LhaL had dled ln a slnale sLorm. Mlldred
sLopped screamlna as qulcklv as she sLarLed. MonLaa was noL llsLenlna. "1here's onlv one Lhlna Lo do,"
he sald. "Some Llme before LonlahL when l alve Lhe book Lo 8eaLLv, l've aoL Lo have a dupllcaLe made."
"?ou'll be here for Lhe WhlLe Clown LonlahL, and Lhe ladles comlna over?" crled Mlldred.
MonLaa sLopped aL Lhe door, wlLh hls back Lurned. "Mlllle?"
A sllence "WhaL?"
"Mlllle? uoes Lhe WhlLe Clown love vou?"
"Mlllle, does--" Pe llcked hls llps. "uoes vour 'famllv' love vou, love vou verv much, love vou wlLh
all Lhelr hearL and soul, Mlllle?"
Pe felL her bllnklna slowlv aL Lhe back of hls neck.
"Whv'd vou ask a slllv quesLlon llke LhaL?"
Pe felL he wanLed Lo crv, buL noLhlna would happen Lo hls eves or hls mouLh.
"lf vou see LhaL doa ouLslde," sald Mlldred, "alve hlm a klck for me."
Pe heslLaLed, llsLenlna aL Lhe door. Pe opened lL and sLepped ouL.
1he raln had sLopped and Lhe sun was seLLlna ln Lhe clear skv. 1he sLreeL and Lhe lawn and Lhe
porch were empLv. Pe leL hls breaLh ao ln a areaL slah.
Pe slammed Lhe door.
Pe was on Lhe subwav.
l'm numb, he LhouahL. When dld Lhe numbness reallv bealn ln mv face? ln mv bodv? 1he nlahL l
klcked Lhe plll-boLLle ln Lhe dark, llke klcklna a burled mlne.
1he numbness wlll ao awav, he LhouahL. lL'll Lake Llme, buL l'll do lL, or laber wlll do lL for me.
Someone somewhere wlll alve me back Lhe old face and Lhe old hands Lhe wav Lhev were. Lven Lhe
smlle, he LhouahL, Lhe old burnL-ln smlle, LhaL's aone. l'm losL wlLhouL lL.
1he subwav fled pasL hlm, cream-Llle, [eL-black, cream-Llle, [eL-black, numerals and darkness,
more darkness and Lhe LoLal addlna lLself.
Cnce as a chlld he had saL upon a vellow dune bv Lhe sea ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe blue and hoL
summer dav, Lrvlna Lo flll a sleve wlLh sand, because some cruel cousln had sald, "llll Lhls sleve and vou'll
aeL a dlme!" And Lhe fasLer he poured, Lhe fasLer lL slfLed Lhrouah wlLh a hoL whlsperlna. Pls hands were
Llred, Lhe sand was bolllna, Lhe sleve was empLv. SeaLed Lhere ln Lhe mldsL of !ulv, wlLhouL a sound, he
felL Lhe Lears move down hls cheeks.
now as Lhe vacuum-underaround rushed hlm Lhrouah Lhe dead cellars of Lown, [olLlna hlm, he
remembered Lhe Lerrlble loalc of LhaL sleve, and he looked down and saw LhaL he was carrvlna Lhe 8lble
open. 1here were people ln Lhe sucLlon Lraln buL he held Lhe book ln hls hands and Lhe slllv LhouahL
came Lo hlm, lf vou read fasL and read all, mavbe some of Lhe sand wlll sLav ln Lhe sleve. 8uL he read and
Lhe words fell Lhrouah, and he LhouahL, ln a few hours, Lhere wlll be 8eaLLv, and here wlll be me handlna
Lhls over, so no phrase musL escape me, each llne musL be memorlzed. l wlll mvself Lo do lL.
Pe clenched Lhe book ln hls flsLs.
ShuL up, LhouahL MonLaa. Conslder Lhe lllles of Lhe fleld.
1hev Loll noL-
Conslder Lhe lllles of Lhe fleld, shuL up, shuL up.
Pe Lore Lhe book open and fllcked Lhe paaes and felL Lhem as lf he were bllnd, he plcked aL Lhe
shape of Lhe lndlvldual leLLers, noL bllnklna.
"uenham's. Spelled: u-L. n "
1hev Loll noL, nelLher do Lhev...
A flerce whlsper of hoL sand Lhrouah empLv sleve.
"uenham's does lL!"
Conslder Lhe lllles, Lhe lllles, Lhe lllles...
"uenham's denLal deLeraenL."
"ShuL up, shuL up, shuL up!" lL was a plea, a crv so Lerrlble LhaL MonLaa found hlmself on hls
feeL, Lhe shocked lnhablLanLs of Lhe loud car sLarlna, movlna back from Lhls man wlLh Lhe lnsane, aoraed
face, Lhe albberlna, drv mouLh, Lhe flapplna book ln hls flsL. 1he people who had been slLLlna a momenL
before, Lapplna Lhelr feeL Lo Lhe rhvLhm of uenham's uenLlfrlce, uenham's uandv uenLal ueLeraenL,
uenham's uenLlfrlce uenLlfrlce uenLlfrlce, one Lwo, one Lwo Lhree, one Lwo, one Lwo Lhree. 1he people
whose mouLhs had been falnLlv LwlLchlna Lhe words uenLlfrlce uenLlfrlce uenLlfrlce. 1he Lraln radlo
vomlLed upon MonLaa, ln reLallaLlon, a areaL Lon-load of muslc made of Lln, copper, sllver, chromlum,
and brass. 1he people were pounded lnLo submlsslon, Lhev dld noL run, Lhere was no place Lo run, Lhe
areaL alr-Lraln fell down lLs shafL ln Lhe earLh.
"Lllles of Lhe fleld."
"Lllles, l sald!"
1he people sLared.
"Call Lhe auard."
"1he man's off--"
1he Lraln hlssed Lo lLs sLop.
"knoll vlew!" A crv.
"uenham's." A whlsper.
MonLaa's mouLh barelv moved. "Lllles..."
1he Lraln door whlsLled open. MonLaa sLood. 1he door aasped, sLarLed shuL. Cnlv Lhen dld he
leap pasL Lhe oLher passenaers, screamlna ln hls mlnd, plunae Lhrouah Lhe sllclna door onlv ln Llme. Pe
ran on Lhe whlLe Llles up Lhrouah Lhe Lunnels, lanorlna Lhe escalaLors, because he wanLed Lo feel hls
feeL-move, arms swlna, lunas clench, unclench, feel hls LhroaL ao raw wlLh alr. A volce drlfLed afLer hlm,
"uenham's uenham's uenham's," Lhe Lraln hlssed llke a snake. 1he Lraln vanlshed ln lLs hole.
"Who ls lL?"
"MonLaa ouL here."
"WhaL do vou wanL?"
"LeL me ln."
"l haven'L done anvLhlna l"
"l'm alone, dammlL!"
"?ou swear lL?"
1he fronL door opened slowlv. laber peered ouL, looklna verv old ln Lhe llahL and verv fraalle
and verv much afrald. 1he old man looked as lf he had noL been ouL of Lhe house ln vears. Pe and Lhe
whlLe plasLer walls lnslde were much Lhe same. 1here was whlLe ln Lhe flesh of hls mouLh and hls cheeks
and hls halr was whlLe and hls eves had faded, wlLh whlLe ln Lhe vaaue blueness Lhere. 1hen hls eves
Louched on Lhe book under MonLaa's arm and he dld noL look so old anv more and noL qulLe as fraalle.
Slowlv hls fear wenL.
"l'm sorrv. Cne has Lo be careful."
Pe looked aL Lhe book under MonLaa's arm and could noL sLop. "So lL's Lrue."
MonLaa sLepped lnslde. 1he door shuL.
"SlL down." laber backed up, as lf he feared Lhe book mlahL vanlsh lf he Look hls eves from lL.
8ehlnd hlm, Lhe door Lo a bedroom sLood open, and ln LhaL room a llLLer of machlnerv and sLeel Lools
was sLrewn upon a desk-Lop. MonLaa had onlv a allmpse, before laber, seelna MonLaa's aLLenLlon
dlverLed, Lurned qulcklv and shuL Lhe bedroom door and sLood holdlna Lhe knob wlLh a Lrembllna hand.
Pls aaze reLurned unsLeadllv Lo MonLaa, who was now seaLed wlLh Lhe book ln hls lap. "1he book-where
"l sLole lL."
laber, for Lhe flrsL Llme, ralsed hls eves and looked dlrecLlv lnLo MonLaa's face. "?ou're brave."
"no," sald MonLaa. "Mv wlfe's dvlna. A frlend of mlne's alreadv dead. Someone who mav have
been a frlend was burnL less Lhan LwenLv-four hours aao. ?ou're Lhe onlv one l knew mlahL help me. 1o
see. 1o see.."
laber's hands lLched on hls knees. "Mav l?"
"Sorrv." MonLaa aave hlm Lhe book.
"lL's been a lona Llme. l'm noL a rellalous man. 8uL lL's been a lona Llme." laber Lurned Lhe
paaes, sLopplna here and Lhere Lo read. "lL's as aood as l remember. Lord, how Lhev've chanaed lL- ln our
'parlours' Lhese davs. ChrlsL ls one of Lhe 'famllv' now. l ofLen wonder lf Cod recoanlzes Pls own son Lhe
wav we've dressed hlm up, or ls lL dressed hlm down? Pe's a reaular peppermlnL sLlck now, all suaar-
crvsLal and saccharlne when he lsn'L maklna velled references Lo cerLaln commerclal producLs LhaL everv
worshlpper absoluLelv needs." laber snlffed Lhe book. "uo vou know LhaL books smell llke nuLmea or
some splce from a forelan land? l loved Lo smell Lhem when l was a bov. Lord, Lhere were a loL of lovelv
books once, before we leL Lhem ao." laber Lurned Lhe paaes. "Mr. MonLaa, vou are looklna aL a coward.
l saw Lhe wav Lhlnas were aolna, a lona Llme back. l sald noLhlna. l'm one of Lhe lnnocenLs who could
have spoken up and ouL when no one would llsLen Lo Lhe 'aullLv,' buL l dld noL speak and Lhus became
aullLv mvself. And when flnallv Lhev seL Lhe sLrucLure Lo burn Lhe books, uslna Lhe, flremen, l arunLed a
few Llmes and subslded, for Lhere were no oLhers arunLlna or velllna wlLh me, bv Lhen. now, lL's Loo
laLe." laber closed Lhe 8lble. "Well--suppose vou Lell me whv vou came here?"
"nobodv llsLens anv more. l can'L Lalk Lo Lhe walls because Lhev're velllna aL me. l can'L Lalk Lo
mv wlfe, she llsLens Lo Lhe walls. l [usL wanL someone Lo hear whaL l have Lo sav. And mavbe lf l Lalk lona
enouah, lL'll make sense. And l wanL vou Lo Leach me Lo undersLand whaL l read."
laber examlned MonLaa's Lhln, blue-[owled face. "Pow dld vou aeL shaken up? WhaL knocked
Lhe Lorch ouL of vour hands?"
"l don'L know. We have evervLhlna we need Lo be happv, buL we aren'L happv. SomeLhlna's
mlsslna. l looked around. 1he onlv Lhlna l poslLlvelv knew was aone was Lhe books l'd burned ln Len or
Lwelve vears. So l LhouahL books mlahL help."
"?ou're a hopeless romanLlc," sald laber. "lL would be funnv lf lL were noL serlous. lL's noL books
vou need, lL's some of Lhe Lhlnas LhaL once were ln books. 1he same Lhlnas could be ln Lhe 'parlour
famllles' Lodav. 1he same lnflnlLe deLall and awareness could be pro[ecLed Lhrouah Lhe radlos and
Lelevlsors, buL are noL. no, no, lL's noL books aL all vou're looklna for! 1ake lL where vou can flnd lL, ln old
phonoaraph records, old moLlon plcLures, and ln old frlends, look for lL ln naLure and look for lL ln
vourself. 8ooks were onlv one Lvpe of recepLacle where we sLored a loL of Lhlnas we were afrald we
mlahL foraeL. 1here ls noLhlna maalcal ln Lhem aL all. 1he maalc ls onlv ln whaL books sav, how Lhev
sLlLched Lhe paLches of Lhe unlverse LoaeLher lnLo one aarmenL for us. Cf course vou couldn'L know Lhls,
of course vou sLlll can'L undersLand whaL l mean when l sav all Lhls. ?ou are lnLulLlvelv rlahL, LhaL's whaL
counLs. 1hree Lhlnas are mlsslna.
"number one: uo vou know whv books such as Lhls are so lmporLanL? 8ecause Lhev have
quallLv. And whaL does Lhe word quallLv mean? 1o me lL means LexLure. 1hls book has pores. lL has
feaLures. 1hls book can ao under Lhe mlcroscope. ?ou'd flnd llfe under Lhe alass, sLreamlna pasL ln
lnflnlLe profuslon. 1he more pores, Lhe more LruLhfullv recorded deLalls of llfe per square lnch vou can
aeL on a sheeL of paper, Lhe more 'llLerarv' vou are. 1haL's mv deflnlLlon, anvwav. 1elllna deLall. lresh
deLall. 1he aood wrlLers Louch llfe ofLen. 1he medlocre ones run a qulck hand over her. 1he bad ones
rape her and leave her for Lhe flles.
"So now do vou see whv books are haLed and feared? 1hev show Lhe pores ln Lhe face of llfe.
1he comforLable people wanL onlv wax moon faces, poreless, halrless, expresslonless. We are llvlna ln a
Llme when flowers are Lrvlna Lo llve on flowers, lnsLead of arowlna on aood raln and black loam. Lven
flreworks, for all Lhelr preLLlness, come from Lhe chemlsLrv of Lhe earLh. ?eL somehow we Lhlnk we can
arow, feedlna on flowers and flreworks, wlLhouL compleLlna Lhe cvcle back Lo reallLv. uo vou know Lhe
leaend of Percules and AnLaeus, Lhe alanL wresLler, whose sLrenaLh was lncredlble so lona as he sLood
flrmlv on Lhe earLh. 8uL when he was held, rooLless, ln mld-alr, bv Percules, he perlshed easllv. lf Lhere
lsn'L someLhlna ln LhaL leaend for us Lodav, ln Lhls clLv, ln our Llme, Lhen l am compleLelv lnsane. Well,
Lhere we have Lhe flrsL Lhlna l sald we needed. CuallLv, LexLure of lnformaLlon."
"And Lhe second?"
"Ch, buL we've plenLv of off-hours."
"Cff-hours, ves. 8uL Llme Lo Lhlnk? lf vou're noL drlvlna a hundred mlles an hour, aL a cllp where
vou can'L Lhlnk of anvLhlna else buL Lhe danaer, Lhen vou're plavlna some aame or slLLlna ln some room
where vou can'L araue wlLh Lhe fourwall Lelevlsor. Whv? 1he Lelevlsor ls 'real.' lL ls lmmedlaLe, lL has
dlmenslon. lL Lells vou whaL Lo Lhlnk and blasLs lL ln. lL musL be, rlahL. lL seems so rlahL. lL rushes vou on
so qulcklv Lo lLs own concluslons vour mlnd hasn'L Llme Lo proLesL, 'WhaL nonsense!'"
"Cnlv Lhe 'famllv' ls 'people.'"
"l bea vour pardon?"
"Mv wlfe savs books aren'L 'real.'"
"1hank Cod for LhaL. ?ou can shuL Lhem, sav, 'Pold on a momenL.' ?ou plav Cod Lo lL. 8uL who
has ever Lorn hlmself from Lhe claw LhaL encloses vou when vou drop a seed ln a 1v parlour? lL arows
vou anv shape lL wlshes! lL ls an envlronmenL as real as Lhe world. lL becomes and ls Lhe LruLh. 8ooks can
be beaLen down wlLh reason. 8uL wlLh all mv knowledae and scepLlclsm, l have never been able Lo araue
wlLh a one-hundred-plece svmphonv orchesLra, full colour, Lhree dlmenslons, and l belna ln and parL of
Lhose lncredlble parlours. As vou see, mv parlour ls noLhlna buL four plasLer walls. And here " Pe held
ouL Lwo small rubber pluas. "lor mv ears when l rlde Lhe subwav-[eLs."
"uenham's uenLlfrlce, Lhev Loll noL, nelLher do Lhev spln," sald MonLaa, eves shuL. "Where do
we ao from here? Would books help us?"
"Cnlv lf Lhe Lhlrd necessarv Lhlna could be alven us. number one, as l sald, quallLv of
lnformaLlon. number Lwo: lelsure Lo dlaesL lL. And number Lhree: Lhe rlahL Lo carrv ouL acLlons based on
whaL we learn from Lhe lnLer-acLlon of Lhe flrsL Lwo. And l hardlv Lhlnk a verv old man and a flreman
Lurned sour could do much Lhls laLe ln Lhe aame..."
"l can aeL books."
"?ou're runnlna a rlsk."
"1haL's Lhe aood parL of dvlna, when vou've noLhlna Lo lose, vou run anv rlsk vou wanL."
"1here, vou've sald an lnLeresLlna Lhlna," lauahed laber, "wlLhouL havlna read lL!"
"Are Lhlnas llke LhaL ln books. 8uL lL came off Lhe Lop of mv mlnd!"
"All Lhe beLLer. ?ou dldn'L fancv lL up for me or anvone, even vourself."
MonLaa leaned forward. "1hls afLernoon l LhouahL LhaL lf lL Lurned ouL LhaL books were worLh
whlle, we mlahL aeL a press and prlnL some exLra coples--"
"?ou and l"
"Ch, no!" laber saL up.
"8uL leL me Lell vou mv plan---"
"lf vou lnslsL on Lelllna me, l musL ask vou Lo leave."
"8uL aren'L vou lnLeresLed?"
"noL lf vou sLarL Lalklna Lhe sorL of Lalk LhaL mlahL aeL me burnL for mv Lrouble. 1he onlv wav l
could posslblv llsLen Lo vou would be lf somehow Lhe flreman sLrucLure lLself could be burnL. now lf vou
suaaesL LhaL we prlnL exLra books and arranae Lo have Lhem hldden ln flremen's houses all over Lhe
counLrv, so LhaL seeds of susplclon would be sown amona Lhese arsonlsLs, bravo, l'd sav!"
"ÞlanL Lhe books, Lurn ln an alarm, and see Lhe flremen's houses burn, ls LhaL whaL vou mean?"
laber ralsed hls brows and looked aL MonLaa as lf he were seelna a new man. "l was [oklna."
"lf vou LhouahL lL would be a plan worLh Lrvlna, l'd have Lo Lake vour word lL would help."
"?ou can'L auaranLee Lhlnas llke LhaL! AfLer all, when we had all Lhe books we needed, we sLlll
lnslsLed on flndlna Lhe hlahesL cllff Lo [ump off. 8uL we do need a breaLher. We do need knowledae. And
perhaps ln a Lhousand vears we mlahL plck smaller cllffs Lo [ump off. 1he books are Lo remlnd us whaL
asses and fools we are. 1hev're Caesar's praeLorlan auard, whlsperlna as Lhe parade roars down Lhe
avenue, '8emember, Caesar, Lhou arL morLal.' MosL of us can'L rush around, Lalklna Lo evervone, know
all Lhe clLles of Lhe world, we haven'L Llme, monev or LhaL manv frlends. 1he Lhlnas vou're looklna for,
MonLaa, are ln Lhe world, buL Lhe onlv wav Lhe averaae chap wlll ever see nlneLv-nlne per cenL of Lhem
ls ln a book. uon'L ask for auaranLees. And don'L look Lo be saved ln anv one Lhlna, person, machlne, or
llbrarv. uo vour own blL of savlna, and lf vou drown, aL leasL dle knowlna vou were headed for shore."
laber aoL up and beaan Lo pace Lhe room.
"Well?" asked MonLaa.
"?ou're absoluLelv serlous?"
"lL's an lnsldlous plan, lf l do sav so mvself." laber alanced nervouslv aL hls bedroom door. "1o
see Lhe flrehouses burn across Lhe land, desLroved as hoLbeds of Lreason. 1he salamander devours hls
Lall! Po, Cod!"
"l've a llsL of flremen's resldences evervwhere. WlLh some sorL of underaround "
"Can'L LrusL people, LhaL's Lhe dlrLv parL. ?ou and l and who else wlll seL Lhe flres?"
"Aren'L Lhere professors llke vourself, former wrlLers, hlsLorlans, llnaulsLs...?"
"uead or anclenL."
"1he older Lhe beLLer, Lhev'll ao unnoLlced. ?ou know dozens, admlL lL!"
"Ch, Lhere are manv acLors alone who haven'L acLed Þlrandello or Shaw or Shakespeare for
vears because Lhelr plavs are Loo aware of Lhe world. We could use Lhelr anaer. And we could use Lhe
honesL raae of Lhose hlsLorlans who haven'L wrlLLen a llne for forLv vears. 1rue, we mlahL form classes ln
Lhlnklna and readlna."
"8uL LhaL would [usL nlbble Lhe edaes. 1he whole culLure's shoL Lhrouah. 1he skeleLon needs
melLlna and re-shaplna. Cood Cod, lL lsn'L as slmple as [usL plcklna up a book vou lald down half a
cenLurv aao. 8emember, Lhe flremen are rarelv necessarv. 1he publlc lLself sLopped readlna of lLs own
accord. ?ou flremen provlde a clrcus now and Lhen aL whlch bulldlnas are seL off and crowds aaLher for
Lhe preLLv blaze, buL lL's a small sldeshow lndeed, and hardlv necessarv Lo keep Lhlnas ln llne. So few
wanL Lo be rebels anv more. And ouL of Lhose few, mosL, llke mvself, scare easllv. Can vou dance fasLer
Lhan Lhe WhlLe Clown, shouL louder Lhan 'Mr. Clmmlck' and Lhe parlour 'famllles'? lf vou can, vou'll wln
vour wav, MonLaa. ln anv evenL, vou're a fool. Þeople are havlna fun."
"CommlLLlna sulclde! Murderlna!"
A bomber fllahL had been movlna easL all Lhe Llme Lhev Lalked, and onlv now dld Lhe Lwo men
sLop and llsLen, feellna Lhe areaL [eL sound Lremble lnslde Lhemselves.
"ÞaLlence, MonLaa. LeL Lhe war Lurn off Lhe 'famllles.' Cur clvlllzaLlon ls fllnalna lLself Lo pleces.
SLand back from Lhe cenLrlfuae."
"1here has Lo be someone readv when lL blows up."
"WhaL? Men quoLlna MllLon? Savlna, l remember Sophocles? 8emlndlna Lhe survlvors LhaL man
has hls aood slde, Loo? 1hev wlll onlv aaLher up Lhelr sLones Lo hurl aL each oLher. MonLaa, ao home. Co
Lo bed. Whv wasLe vour flnal hours raclna abouL vour caae denvlna vou're a squlrrel?"
"1hen vou don'L care anv more?"
"l care so much l'm slck."
"And vou won'L help me?"
"Cood nlahL, aood nlahL."
MonLaa's hands plcked up Lhe 8lble. Pe saw whaL hls hands had done and he looked surprlsed.
"Would vou llke Lo own Lhls?"
laber sald, "l'd alve mv rlahL arm."
MonLaa sLood Lhere and walLed for Lhe nexL Lhlna Lo happen. Pls hands, bv Lhemselves, llke Lwo
men worklna LoaeLher, beaan Lo rlp Lhe paaes from Lhe book. 1he hands Lore Lhe flvleaf and Lhen Lhe
flrsL and Lhen Lhe second paae.
"ldloL, whaL're vou dolna!" laber sprana up, as lf he had been sLruck. Pe fell, aaalnsL MonLaa.
MonLaa warded hlm off and leL hls hands conLlnue. Slx more paaes fell Lo Lhe floor. Pe plcked Lhem up
and wadded Lhe paper under laber's aaze.
"uon'L, oh, don'L!" sald Lhe old man.
"Who can sLop me? l'm a flreman. l can burn vou!"
1he old man sLood looklna aL hlm. "?ou wouldn'L."
"1he book. uon'L Lear lL anv more." laber sank lnLo a chalr, hls face verv whlLe, hls mouLh
Lrembllna. "uon'L make me feel anv more Llred. WhaL do vou wanL?"
"l need vou Lo Leach me."
"All rlahL, all rlahL."
MonLaa puL Lhe book down. Pe beaan Lo unwad Lhe crumpled paper and flaLLen lL ouL as Lhe old
man waLched Llredlv.
laber shook hls head as lf he were waklna up.
"MonLaa, have vou some monev?"
"Some. lour, flve hundred dollars. Whv?"
"8rlna lL. l know a man who prlnLed our colleae paper half a cenLurv aao. 1haL was Lhe vear l
came Lo class aL Lhe sLarL of Lhe new semesLer and found onlv one sLudenL Lo slan up for urama from
Aeschvlus Lo C'nelll. ?ou see? Pow llke a beauLlful sLaLue of lce lL was, melLlna ln Lhe sun. l remember
Lhe newspapers dvlna llke huae moLhs. no one wanLed Lhem back. no one mlssed Lhem. And Lhe
CovernmenL, seelna how advanLaaeous lL was Lo have people readlna onlv abouL passlonaLe llps and Lhe
flsL ln Lhe sLomach, clrcled Lhe slLuaLlon wlLh vour flre-eaLers. So, MonLaa, Lhere's Lhls unemploved
prlnLer. We mlahL sLarL a few books, and walL on Lhe war Lo break Lhe paLLern and alve us Lhe push we
need. A few bombs and Lhe 'famllles' ln Lhe walls of all Lhe houses, llke harlequln raLs, wlll shuL up! ln
sllence, our sLaae-whlsper mlahL carrv."
1hev boLh sLood looklna aL Lhe book on Lhe Lable.
"l've Lrled Lo remember," sald MonLaa. "8uL, hell, lL's aone when l Lurn mv head. Cod, how l
wanL someLhlna Lo sav Lo Lhe CapLaln. Pe's read enouah so he has all Lhe answers, or seems Lo have. Pls
volce ls llke buLLer. l'm afrald he'll Lalk me back Lhe wav l was. Cnlv a week aao, pumplna a kerosene
hose, l LhouahL: Cod, whaL fun!"
1he old man nodded. "1hose who don'L bulld musL burn. lL's as old as hlsLorv and [uvenlle
"So LhaL's whaL l am."
"1here's some of lL ln all of us."
MonLaa moved Lowards Lhe fronL door. "Can vou help me ln anv wav LonlahL, wlLh Lhe llre
CapLaln? l need an umbrella Lo keep off Lhe raln. l'm so damned afrald l'll drown lf he aeLs me aaaln."
1he old man sald noLhlna, buL alanced once more nervouslv, aL hls bedroom. MonLaa cauahL Lhe
1he old man Look a deep breaLh, held lL, and leL lL ouL. Pe Look anoLher, eves closed, hls mouLh
LlahL, and aL lasL exhaled. "MonLaa..."
1he old man Lurned aL lasL and sald, "Come alona. l would acLuallv have leL vou walk rlahL ouL of
mv house. l am a cowardlv old fool."
laber opened Lhe bedroom door and led MonLaa lnLo a small chamber where sLood a Lable
upon whlch a number of meLal Lools lav amona a welLer of mlcroscoplc wlre-halrs, Llnv colls, bobblns,
"WhaL's Lhls?" asked MonLaa.
"Þroof of mv Lerrlble cowardlce. l've llved alone so manv vears, Lhrowlna lmaaes on walls wlLh
mv lmaalnaLlon. llddllna wlLh elecLronlcs, radlo-Lransmlsslon, has been mv hobbv. Mv cowardlce ls of
such a passlon, complemenLlna Lhe revoluLlonarv splrlL LhaL llves ln lLs shadow, l was forced Lo deslan
Pe plcked up a small areen-meLal ob[ecL no laraer Lhan a .22 bulleL.
"l pald for all Lhls-how? Þlavlna Lhe sLock-markeL, of course, Lhe lasL refuae ln Lhe world for Lhe
danaerous lnLellecLual ouL of a [ob. Well, l plaved Lhe markeL and bullL all Lhls and l've walLed. l've
walLed, Lrembllna, half a llfeLlme for someone Lo speak Lo me. l dared speak Lo no one. 1haL dav ln Lhe
park when we saL LoaeLher, l knew LhaL some dav vou mlahL drop bv, wlLh flre or frlendshlp, lL was hard
Lo auess. l've had Lhls llLLle lLem readv for monLhs. 8uL l almosL leL vou ao, l'm LhaL afrald!"
"lL looks llke a Seashell radlo."
"And someLhlna more! lL llsLens! lf vou puL lL ln vour ear, MonLaa, l can slL comforLablv home,
warmlna mv frlahLened bones, and hear and analvse Lhe flremen's world, flnd lLs weaknesses, wlLhouL
danaer. l'm Lhe Cueen 8ee, safe ln Lhe hlve. ?ou wlll be Lhe drone, Lhe Lravelllna ear. LvenLuallv, l could
puL ouL ears lnLo all parLs of Lhe clLv, wlLh varlous men, llsLenlna and evaluaLlna. lf Lhe drones dle, l'm
sLlll safe aL home, Lendlna mv frlahL wlLh a maxlmum of comforL and a mlnlmum of chance. See how
safe l plav lL, how conLempLlble l am?"
MonLaa placed Lhe areen bulleL ln hls ear. 1he old man lnserLed a slmllar ob[ecL ln hls own ear
and moved hls llps.
1he volce was ln MonLaa's head.
"l hear vou!"
1he old man lauahed. "?ou're comlna over flne, Loo!" laber whlspered, buL Lhe volce ln
MonLaa's head was clear. "Co Lo Lhe flrehouse when lL's Llme. l'll be wlLh vou. LeL's llsLen Lo Lhls CapLaln
8eaLLv LoaeLher. Pe could be one of us. Cod knows. l'll alve vou Lhlnas Lo sav. We'll alve hlm a aood
show. uo vou haLe me for Lhls elecLronlc cowardlce of mlne? Pere l am sendlna vou ouL lnLo Lhe nlahL,
whlle l sLav behlnd Lhe llnes wlLh mv damned ears llsLenlna for vou Lo aeL vour head chopped off."
"We all do whaL we do," sald MonLaa. Pe puL Lhe 8lble ln Lhe old man's hands. "Pere. l'll chance
Lurnlna ln a subsLlLuLe. 1omorrow--"
"l'll see Lhe unemploved prlnLer, ves, LhaL much l can do."
"Cood nlahL, Þrofessor."
"noL aood nlahL. l'll be wlLh vou Lhe resL of Lhe nlahL, a vlneaar anaL Llckllna vour ear when vou
need me. 8uL aood nlahL and aood luck, anvwav."
1he door opened and shuL. MonLaa was ln Lhe dark sLreeL aaaln, looklna aL Lhe world.
?ou could feel Lhe war aeLLlna readv ln Lhe skv LhaL nlahL. 1he wav Lhe clouds moved aslde and
came back, and Lhe wav Lhe sLars looked, a mllllon of Lhem swlmmlna beLween Lhe clouds, llke Lhe
enemv dlscs, and Lhe feellna LhaL Lhe skv mlahL fall upon Lhe clLv and Lurn lL Lo chalk dusL, and Lhe moon
ao up ln red flre, LhaL was how Lhe nlahL felL.
MonLaa walked from Lhe subwav wlLh Lhe monev ln hls pockeL (he had vlslLed Lhe bank whlch
was open all nlahL and everv nlahL wlLh roboL Lellers ln aLLendance) and as he walked he was llsLenlna Lo
Lhe Seashell radlo ln one car... "We have moblllzed a mllllon men. Culck vlcLorv ls ours lf Lhe war
comes...." Muslc flooded over Lhe volce qulcklv and lL was aone.
"1en mllllon men moblllzed," laber's volce whlspered ln hls oLher ear. "8uL sav one mllllon. lL's
"l'm noL Lhlnklna. l'm [usL dolna llke l'm Lold, llke alwavs. ?ou sald aeL Lhe monev and l aoL lL. l
dldn'L reallv Lhlnk of lL mvself. When do l sLarL worklna Lhlnas ouL on mv own?"
"?ou've sLarLed alreadv, bv savlna whaL vou [usL sald. ?ou'll have Lo Lake me on falLh."
"l Look Lhe oLhers on falLh!"
"?es, and look where we're headed. ?ou'll have Lo Lravel bllnd for a whlle. Pere's mv arm Lo hold
"l don'L wanL Lo chanae sldes and [usL be Lold whaL Lo do. 1here's no reason Lo chanae lf l do
"?ou're wlse alreadv!"
MonLaa felL hls feeL movlna hlm on Lhe sldewalk. Loward hls house. "keep Lalklna."
"Would vou llke me Lo read? l'll read so vou can remember. l ao Lo bed onlv flve hours a nlahL.
noLhlna Lo do. So lf vou llke, l'll read vou Lo sleep nlahLs. 1hev sav vou reLaln knowledae even when
vou're sleeplna, lf someone whlspers lL ln vour ear."
"Pere." lar awav across Lown ln Lhe nlahL, Lhe falnLesL whlsper of a Lurned paae. "1he 8ook of
1he moon rose ln Lhe skv as MonLaa walked, hls llps movlna [usL a Lrlfle.
Pe was eaLlna a llahL supper aL nlne ln Lhe evenlna when Lhe fronL door crled ouL ln Lhe hall and
Mlldred ran from Lhe parlour llke a naLlve fleelna an erupLlon of vesuvlus. Mrs. Þhelps and Mrs. 8owles
came Lhrouah Lhe fronL door and vanlshed lnLo Lhe volcano's mouLh wlLh marLlnls ln Lhelr hands:
MonLaa sLopped eaLlna. 1hev were llke a monsLrous crvsLal chandeller Llnkllna ln a Lhousand chlmes, he
saw Lhelr Cheshlre CaL smlles burnlna Lhrouah Lhe walls of Lhe house, and now Lhev were screamlna aL
each oLher above Lhe dln. MonLaa found hlmself aL Lhe parlour door wlLh hls food sLlll ln hls mouLh.
"uoesn'L evervone look nlce!"
"?ou look flne, Mlllle!"
"Lvervone looks swell."
MonLaa sLood waLchlna Lhem.
"ÞaLlence," whlspered laber.
"l shouldn'L be here," whlspered MonLaa, almosL Lo hlmself. "l should be on mv wav back Lo vou
wlLh Lhe monev!"
"1omorrow's Llme enouah. Careful!"
"lsn'L Lhls show wonderful?" crled Mlldred. "Wonderful!"
Cn one wall a woman smlled and drank oranae [ulce slmulLaneouslv. Pow does she do boLh aL
once, LhouahL MonLaa, lnsanelv. ln Lhe oLher walls an x-rav of Lhe same woman revealed Lhe conLracLlna
[ournev of Lhe refreshlna beveraae on lLs wav Lo her dellahLful sLomach! AbrupLlv Lhe room Look off on a
rockeL fllahL lnLo Lhe clouds, lL plunaed lnLo a llme-areen sea where blue flsh aLe red and vellow flsh. A
mlnuLe laLer, 1hree WhlLe CarLoon Clowns chopped off each oLher's llmbs Lo Lhe accompanlmenL of
lmmense lncomlna Lldes of lauahLer. 1wo mlnuLes more and Lhe room whlpped ouL of Lown Lo Lhe [eL
cars wlldlv clrcllna an arena, bashlna and backlna up and bashlna each oLher aaaln. MonLaa saw a
number of bodles flv ln Lhe alr.
"Mlllle, dld vou see LhaL?"
"l saw lL, l saw lL!"
MonLaa reached lnslde Lhe parlour wall and pulled Lhe maln swlLch. 1he lmaaes dralned awav,
as lf Lhe waLer had been leL ouL from a alaanLlc crvsLal bowl of hvsLerlcal flsh.
1he Lhree women Lurned slowlv and looked wlLh unconcealed lrrlLaLlon and Lhen dlsllke aL
"When do vou suppose Lhe war wlll sLarL?" he sald. "l noLlce vour husbands aren'L here
"Ch, Lhev come and ao, come and ao," sald Mrs. Þhelps. "ln aaaln ouL aaaln llnneaan, Lhe Armv
called ÞeLe vesLerdav. Pe'll be back nexL week. 1he Armv sald so. Culck war. lorLv-elahL hours Lhev sald,
and evervone home. 1haL's whaL Lhe Armv sald. Culck war. ÞeLe was called vesLerdav and Lhev sald he'd
be, back nexL week. Culck..."
1he Lhree women fldaeLed and looked nervouslv aL Lhe empLv mud-coloured walls.
"l'm noL worrled," sald Mrs. Þhelps. "l'll leL ÞeLe do all Lhe worrvlna." She alaaled. "l'll leL old
ÞeLe do all Lhe worrvlna. noL me. l'm noL worrled."
"?es," sald Mlllle. "LeL old ÞeLe do Lhe worrvlna."
"lL's alwavs someone else's husband dles, Lhev sav."
"l've heard LhaL, Loo. l've never known anv dead man kllled ln a war. kllled [umplna off bulldlnas,
ves, llke Clorla's husband lasL week, buL from wars? no."
"noL from wars," sald Mrs. Þhelps. "Anvwav, ÞeLe and l alwavs sald, no Lears, noLhlna llke LhaL.
lL's our Lhlrd marrlaae each and we're lndependenL. 8e lndependenL, we alwavs sald. Pe sald, lf l aeL
kllled off, vou [usL ao rlahL ahead and don'L crv, buL aeL marrled aaaln, and don'L Lhlnk of me."
"1haL remlnds me," sald Mlldred. "uld vou see LhaL Clara uove flve-mlnuLe romance lasL nlahL ln
vour wall? Well, lL was all abouL Lhls woman who--"
MonLaa sald noLhlna buL sLood looklna aL Lhe women's faces as he had once looked aL Lhe faces
of salnLs ln a sLranae church he had enLered when he was a chlld. 1he faces of Lhose enamelled
creaLures meanL noLhlna Lo hlm, Lhouah he Lalked Lo Lhem and sLood ln LhaL church for a lona Llme,
Lrvlna Lo be of LhaL rellalon, Lrvlna Lo know whaL LhaL rellalon was, Lrvlna Lo aeL enouah of Lhe raw
lncense and speclal dusL of Lhe place lnLo hls lunas and Lhus lnLo hls blood Lo feel Louched and
concerned bv Lhe meanlna of Lhe colourful men and women wlLh Lhe porcelaln eves and Lhe blood-rubv
llps. 8uL Lhere was noLhlna, noLhlna, lL was a sLroll Lhrouah anoLher sLore, and hls currencv sLranae and
unusable Lhere, and hls passlon cold, even when he Louched Lhe wood and plasLer and clav. So lL was
now, ln hls own parlour, wlLh Lhese women LwlsLlna ln Lhelr chalrs under hls aaze, llahLlna claareLLes,
blowlna smoke, Louchlna Lhelr sun-flred halr and examlnlna Lhelr blazlna flnaernalls as lf Lhev had cauahL
flre from hls look. 1helr faces arew haunLed wlLh sllence. 1hev leaned forward aL Lhe sound of MonLaa's
swallowlna hls flnal blLe of food. 1hev llsLened Lo hls feverlsh breaLhlna. 1he Lhree empLv walls of Lhe
room were llke Lhe pale brows of sleeplna alanLs now, empLv of dreams. MonLaa felL LhaL lf vou Louched
Lhese Lhree sLarlna brows vou would feel a flne salL sweaL on vour flnaer-Llps. 1he persplraLlon aaLhered
wlLh Lhe sllence and Lhe sub-audlble Lrembllna around and abouL and ln Lhe women who were burnlna
wlLh Lenslon. Anv momenL Lhev mlahL hlss a lona spuLLerlna hlss and explode.
MonLaa moved hls llps.
1he women [erked and sLared.
"Pow're vour chlldren, Mrs. Þhelps?" he asked.
"?ou know l haven'L anv! no one ln hls rlahL mlnd, Lhe Cood Lord knows, would have chlldren!"
sald Mrs. Þhelps, noL qulLe sure whv she was anarv wlLh Lhls man.
"l wouldn'L sav LhaL," sald Mrs. 8owles. "l've had Lwo chlldren bv Caesarlan secLlon. no use
aolna Lhrouah all LhaL aaonv for a babv. 1he world musL reproduce, vou know, Lhe race musL ao on.
8esldes, Lhev someLlmes look [usL llke vou, and LhaL's nlce. 1wo Caesarlans Lamed Lhe Lrlck, ves, slr. Ch,
mv docLor sald, Caesarlans aren'L necessarv, vou've aoL Lhe, hlps for lL, evervLhlna's normal, buL l
"Caesarlans or noL, chlldren are rulnous, vou're ouL of vour mlnd," sald Mrs. Þhelps.
"l plunk Lhe chlldren ln school nlne davs ouL of Len. l puL up wlLh Lhem when Lhev come home
Lhree davs a monLh, lL's noL bad aL all. ?ou heave Lhem lnLo Lhe 'parlour' and Lurn Lhe swlLch. lL's llke
washlna cloLhes, sLuff laundrv ln and slam Lhe lld." Mrs. 8owles LlLLered. "1hev'd [usL as soon klck as klss
me. 1hank Cod, l can klck back!"
1he women showed Lhelr Lonaues, lauahlna.
Mlldred saL a momenL and Lhen, seelna LhaL MonLaa was sLlll ln Lhe doorwav, clapped her
hands. "LeL's Lalk pollLlcs, Lo please Cuv!"
"Sounds flne," sald Mrs. 8owles. "l voLed lasL elecLlon, same as evervone, and l lald lL on Lhe llne
for ÞresldenL noble. l Lhlnk he's one of Lhe nlcesL-looklna men who ever became presldenL."
"Ch, buL Lhe man Lhev ran aaalnsL hlm!"
"Pe wasn'L much, was he? klnd of small and homelv and he dldn'L shave Loo close or comb hls
halr verv well."
"WhaL possessed Lhe 'CuLs' Lo run hlm? ?ou [usL don'L ao runnlna a llLLle shorL man llke LhaL
aaalnsL a Lall man. 8esldes -he mumbled. Palf Lhe Llme l couldn'L hear a word he sald. And Lhe words l
dld hear l dldn'L undersLand!"
"laL, Loo, and dldn'L dress Lo hlde lL. no wonder Lhe landsllde was for WlnsLon noble. Lven Lhelr
names helped. Compare WlnsLon noble Lo PuberL Poaa for Len seconds and vou can almosL flaure Lhe
"uamn lL!" crled MonLaa. "WhaL do vou know abouL Poaa and noble?"
"Whv, Lhev were rlahL ln LhaL parlour wall, noL slx monLhs aao. Cne was alwavs plcklna hls nose,
lL drove me wlld."
"Well, Mr. MonLaa," sald Mrs. Þhelps, "do vou wanL us Lo voLe for a man llke LhaL?"
Mlldred beamed. "?ou [usL run awav from Lhe door, Cuv, and don'L make us nervous."
8uL MonLaa was aone and back ln a momenL wlLh a book ln hls hand.
"uamn lL all, damn lL all, damn lL!"
"WhaL've vou aoL Lhere, lsn'L LhaL a book? l LhouahL LhaL all speclal Lralnlna Lhese davs was done
bv fllm." Mrs. Þhelps bllnked. "?ou readlna up on flreman Lheorv?"
"1heorv, hell," sald MonLaa. "lL's poeLrv."
"MonLaa." A whlsper.
"Leave me alone!" MonLaa felL hlmself Lurnlna ln a areaL clrcllna roar and buzz and hum.
"MonLaa, hold on, don'L..."
"uld vou hear Lhem, dld vou hear Lhese monsLers Lalklna abouL monsLers? Ch Cod, Lhe wav Lhev
[abber abouL people and Lhelr own chlldren and Lhemselves and Lhe wav Lhev Lalk abouL Lhelr husbands
and Lhe wav Lhev Lalk abouL war, dammlL, l sLand here and l can'L belleve lL!"
"l dldn'L sav a slnale word abouL anv war, l'll have vou know," sald Mrs, Þhelps.
"As for poeLrv, l haLe lL," sald Mrs. 8owles.
"Pave vou ever read anv?"
"MonLaa," laber's volce scraped awav aL hlm. "?ou'll ruln evervLhlna. ShuL up, vou fool!"
All Lhree women were on Lhelr feeL.
"l'm aolna home," quavered Mrs. 8owles.
"MonLaa, MonLaa, please, ln Lhe name of Cod, whaL are vou up Lo?" pleaded laber.
"Whv don'L vou [usL read us one of Lhose poems from vour llLLle book," Mrs. Þhelps nodded. "l
Lhlnk LhaL'd he verv lnLeresLlna."
"1haL's noL rlahL," walled Mrs. 8owles. "We can'L do LhaL!"
"Well, look aL Mr. MonLaa, he wanLs Lo, l know he does. And lf we llsLen nlce, Mr. MonLaa wlll
be happv and Lhen mavbe we can ao on and do someLhlna else." She alanced nervouslv aL Lhe lona
empLlness of Lhe walls encloslna Lhem.
"MonLaa, ao Lhrouah wlLh Lhls and l'll cuL off, l'll leave." 1he beeLle [abbed hls ear. "WhaL aood ls
Lhls, whaL'll vou prove?"
"Scare hell ouL of Lhem, LhaL's whaL, scare Lhe llvlna davllahLs ouL!"
Mlldred looked aL Lhe empLv alr. "now Cuv, [usL who are vou Lalklna Lo?"
A sllver needle plerced hls braln. "MonLaa, llsLen, onlv one wav ouL, plav lL as a [oke, cover up,
preLend vou aren'L mad aL all. 1hen-walk Lo vour wall-lnclneraLor, and Lhrow Lhe book ln!"
Mlldred had alreadv anLlclpaLed Lhls ln a quaverv volce. "Ladles, once a vear, everv flreman's
allowed Lo brlna one book home, from Lhe old davs, Lo show hls famllv how slllv lL all was, how nervous
LhaL sorL of Lhlna can make vou, how crazv. Cuv's surprlse LonlahL ls Lo read vou one sample Lo show
how mlxed-up Lhlnas were, so none of us wlll ever have Lo boLher our llLLle old heads abouL LhaL [unk
aaaln, lsn'L LhaL rlahL, darllna?"
Pe crushed Lhe book ln hls flsLs. "Sav 'ves.'"
Pls mouLh moved llke laber's.
Mlldred snaLched Lhe book wlLh a lauah. "Pere! 8ead Lhls one. no, l Lake lL back. Pere's LhaL real
funnv one vou read ouL loud Lodav. Ladles, vou won'L undersLand a word. lL aoes umpLv-LumpLv-ump.
Co ahead, Cuv, LhaL paae, dear."
Pe looked aL Lhe opened paae.
A flv sLlrred lLs wlnas sofLlv ln hls ear. "8ead."
"WhaL's Lhe LlLle, dear?"
"uover 8each." Pls mouLh was numb.
"now read ln a nlce clear volce and ao slow."
1he room was blazlna hoL, he was all flre, he was all coldness, Lhev saL ln Lhe mlddle of an empLv
deserL wlLh Lhree chalrs and hlm sLandlna, swavlna, and hlm walLlna for Mrs. Þhelps Lo sLop
sLralahLenlna her dress hem and Mrs. 8owles Lo Lake her flnaers awav from her halr. 1hen he beaan Lo
read ln a low, sLumbllna volce LhaL arew flrmer as he proaressed from llne Lo llne, and hls volce wenL ouL
across Lhe deserL, lnLo Lhe whlLeness, and around Lhe Lhree slLLlna women Lhere ln Lhe areaL hoL
empLlness: "'1he Sea of lalLh Was once, Loo, aL Lhe full, and round earLh's shore Lav llke Lhe folds of a
brlahL alrdle furled.
8uL now l onlv hear
lLs melancholv, lona, wlLhdrawlna roar,
8eLreaLlna, Lo Lhe breaLh
Cf Lhe nlahL-wlnd, down Lhe vasL edaes drear
And naked shlnales of Lhe world."'
1he chalrs creaked under Lhe Lhree women. MonLaa flnlshed lL ouL: "'Ah, love, leL us be Lrue 1o
one anoLher! for Lhe world, whlch seems 1o lle before us llke a land of dreams, So varlous, so beauLlful,
so new, PaLh reallv nelLher [ov, nor love, nor llahL, nor cerLlLude, nor peace, nor help for paln, And we
are here as on a darkllna plaln SwepL wlLh confused alarms of sLruaale and fllahL, Where lanoranL armles
clash bv nlahL.'"
Mrs. Þhelps was crvlna.
1he oLhers ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe deserL waLched her crvlna arow verv loud as her face squeezed
lLself ouL of shape. 1hev saL, noL Louchlna her, bewlldered bv her dlsplav. She sobbed unconLrollablv.
MonLaa hlmself was sLunned and shaken.
"Sh, sh," sald Mlldred. "?ou're all rlahL, Clara, now, Clara, snap ouL of lL! Clara, whaL's wrona?"
"l-l,", sobbed Mrs. Þhelps, "don'L know, don'L know, l [usL don'L know, oh oh..."
Mrs. 8owles sLood up and alared aL MonLaa. "?ou see? l knew lL, LhaL's whaL l wanLed Lo prove! l
knew lL would happen! l've alwavs sald, poeLrv and Lears, poeLrv and sulclde and crvlna and awful
feellnas, poeLrv and slckness, all LhaL mush! now l've had lL proved Lo me. ?ou're nasLv, Mr. MonLaa,
laber sald, "now..."
MonLaa felL hlmself Lurn and walk Lo Lhe wall-sloL and drop Lhe book ln Lhrouah Lhe brass noLch
Lo Lhe walLlna flames.
"Slllv words, slllv words, slllv awful hurLlna words," sald Mrs. 8owles. "Whv do people wanL Lo
hurL people? noL enouah hurL ln Lhe world, vou've aoL Lo Lease people wlLh sLuff llke LhaL!"
"Clara, now, Clara," beaaed Mlldred, pulllna her arm. "Come on, leL's be cheerv, vou Lurn Lhe
'famllv' on, now. Co ahead. LeL's lauah and be happv, now, sLop crvlna, we'll have a parLv!"
"no," sald Mrs. 8owles. "l'm LroLLlna rlahL sLralahL home. ?ou wanL Lo vlslL mv house and
'famllv,' well and aood. 8uL l won'L come ln Lhls flreman's crazv house aaaln ln mv llfeLlme!"
"Co home." MonLaa flxed hls eves upon her, quleLlv. "Co home and Lhlnk of vour flrsL husband
dlvorced and vour second husband kllled ln a [eL and vour Lhlrd husband blowlna hls bralns ouL, ao home
and Lhlnk of Lhe dozen aborLlons vou've had, ao home and Lhlnk of LhaL and vour damn Caesarlan
secLlons, Loo, and vour chlldren who haLe vour auLs! Co home and Lhlnk how lL all happened and whaL
dld vou ever do Lo sLop lL? Co home, ao home!" he velled. "8efore l knock vou down and klck vou ouL of
uoors slammed and Lhe house was empLv. MonLaa sLood alone ln Lhe wlnLer weaLher, wlLh Lhe
parlour walls Lhe colour of dlrLv snow.
ln Lhe baLhroom, waLer ran. Pe heard Mlldred shake Lhe sleeplna LableLs lnLo her hand.
"lool, MonLaa, fool, fool, oh Cod vou slllv fool..."
"ShuL up!" Pe pulled Lhe areen bulleL from hls ear and [ammed lL lnLo hls pockeL.
lL slzzled falnLlv. "... fool... fool..."
Pe searched Lhe house and found Lhe books where Mlldred had sLacked Lhem behlnd Lhe
refrlaeraLor. Some were mlsslna and he knew LhaL she had sLarLed on her own slow process of
dlsperslna Lhe dvnamlLe ln her house, sLlck bv sLlck. 8uL he was noL anarv now, onlv exhausLed and
bewlldered wlLh hlmself. Pe carrled Lhe books lnLo Lhe backvard and hld Lhem ln Lhe bushes near Lhe
allev fence. lor LonlahL onlv, he LhouahL, ln case she decldes Lo do anv more burnlna.
Pe wenL back Lhrouah Lhe house. "Mlldred?" Pe called aL Lhe door of Lhe darkened bedroom.
1here was no sound.
CuLslde, crosslna Lhe lawn, on hls wav Lo work, he Lrled noL Lo see how compleLelv dark and
deserLed Clarlsse McClellan's house was....
Cn Lhe wav downLown he was so compleLelv alone wlLh hls Lerrlble error LhaL he felL Lhe
necesslLv for Lhe sLranae warmness and aoodness LhaL came from a famlllar and aenLle volce speaklna ln
Lhe nlahL. Alreadv, ln a few shorL hours, lL seemed LhaL he had known laber a llfeLlme. now he knew
LhaL he was Lwo people, LhaL he was above all MonLaa, who knew noLhlna, who dld noL even know
hlmself a fool, buL onlv suspecLed lL. And he knew LhaL he was also Lhe old man who Lalked Lo hlm and
Lalked Lo hlm as Lhe Lraln was sucked from one end of Lhe nlahL clLv Lo Lhe oLher on one lona slckenlna
aasp of moLlon. ln Lhe davs Lo follow, and ln Lhe nlahLs when Lhere was no moon and ln Lhe nlahLs when
Lhere was a verv brlahL moon shlnlna on Lhe earLh, Lhe old man would ao on wlLh Lhls Lalklna and Lhls
Lalklna, drop bv drop, sLone bv sLone, flake bv flake. Pls mlnd would well over aL lasL and he would noL
be MonLaa anv more, Lhls Lhe old man Lold hlm, assured hlm, promlsed hlm. Pe would be MonLaa-plus-
laber, flre plus waLer, and Lhen, one dav, afLer evervLhlna had mlxed and slmmered and worked awav ln
sllence, Lhere would be nelLher flre nor waLer, buL wlne. CuL of Lwo separaLe and opposlLe Lhlnas, a
Lhlrd. And one dav he would look back upon Lhe fool and know Lhe fool. Lven now he could feel Lhe sLarL
of Lhe lona [ournev, Lhe leave-Laklna, Lhe aolna awav from Lhe self he had been.
lL was aood llsLenlna Lo Lhe beeLle hum, Lhe sleepv mosqulLo buzz and dellcaLe flllaree murmur
of Lhe old man's volce aL flrsL scoldlna hlm and Lhen consollna hlm ln Lhe laLe hour of nlahL as he
emeraed from Lhe sLeamlna subwav Loward Lhe flrehouse world.
"ÞlLv, MonLaa, plLv. uon'L haaale and naa Lhem, vou were so recenLlv one of Lhem vourself. 1hev
are so confldenL LhaL Lhev wlll run on for ever. 8uL Lhev won'L run on. 1hev don'L know LhaL Lhls ls all one
huae bla blazlna meLeor LhaL makes a preLLv flre ln space, buL LhaL some dav lL'll have Lo hlL. 1hev see
onlv Lhe blaze, Lhe preLLv flre, as vou saw lL.
"MonLaa, old men who sLav aL home, afrald, Lendlna Lhelr peanuL-brlLLle bones, have no rlahL Lo
crlLlclze. ?eL vou almosL kllled Lhlnas aL Lhe sLarL. WaLch lL! l'm wlLh vou, remember LhaL. l undersLand
how lL happened. l musL admlL LhaL vour bllnd raalna lnvlaoraLed me. Cod, how vouna l felL! 8uL now-l
wanL vou Lo feel old, l wanL a llLLle of mv cowardlce Lo be dlsLllled ln vou LonlahL. 1he nexL few hours,
when vou see CapLaln 8eaLLv, LlpLoe round hlm, leL me hear hlm for vou, leL me feel Lhe slLuaLlon ouL.
Survlval ls our LlckeL. loraeL Lhe poor, slllv women...."
"l made Lhem unhappler Lhan Lhev have been ln vears, l Lhlnk," sald MonLaa. "lL shocked me Lo
see Mrs. Þhelps crv. Mavbe Lhev're rlahL, mavbe lL's besL noL Lo face Lhlnas, Lo run, have fun. l don'L
know. l feel aullLv--"
"no, vou musLn'L! lf Lhere were no war, lf Lhere was peace ln Lhe world, l'd sav flne, have fun!
8uL, MonLaa, vou musLn'L ao back Lo belna [usL a flreman. All lsn'L well wlLh Lhe world."
"MonLaa, vou llsLenlna?"
"Mv feeL," sald MonLaa. "l can'L move Lhem. l feel so damn slllv. Mv feeL won'L move!"
"LlsLen. Lasv now," sald Lhe old man aenLlv. "l know, l know. ?ou're afrald of maklna mlsLakes.
uon'L be. MlsLakes can be proflLed bv. Man, when l was vouna l shoved mv lanorance ln people's faces.
1hev beaL me wlLh sLlcks. 8v Lhe Llme l was forLv mv blunL lnsLrumenL had been honed Lo a flne cuLLlna
polnL for me. lf vou hlde vour lanorance, no one wlll hlL vou and vou'll never learn. now, plck up vour
feeL, lnLo Lhe flrehouse wlLh vou! We're Lwlns, we're noL alone anv more, we're noL separaLed ouL ln
dlfferenL parlours, wlLh no conLacL beLween. lf vou need help when 8eaLLv prles aL vou, l'll be slLLlna
rlahL here ln vour eardrum maklna noLes!"
MonLaa felL hls rlahL fooL, Lhen hls lefL fooL, move.
"Cld man," he sald, "sLav wlLh me."
1he Mechanlcal Pound was aone. lLs kennel was empLv and Lhe flrehouse sLood all abouL ln
plasLer sllence and Lhe oranae Salamander slepL wlLh lLs kerosene ln lLs bellv and Lhe flreLhrowers
crossed upon lLs flanks and MonLaa came ln Lhrouah Lhe sllence and Louched Lhe brass pole and slld up
ln Lhe dark alr, looklna back aL Lhe deserLed kennel, hls hearL beaLlna, pauslna, beaLlna. laber was a arev
moLh asleep ln hls ear, for Lhe momenL.
8eaLLv sLood near Lhe drop-hole walLlna, buL wlLh hls back Lurned as lf he were noL walLlna.
"Well," he sald Lo Lhe men plavlna cards, "here comes a verv sLranae beasL whlch ln all Lonaues
ls called a fool."
Pe puL hls hand Lo one slde, palm up, for a alfL. MonLaa puL Lhe book ln lL. WlLhouL even
alanclna aL Lhe LlLle, 8eaLLv Lossed Lhe book lnLo Lhe Lrash-baskeL and llL a claareLLe. "'Who are a llLLle
wlse, Lhe besL fools be.' Welcome back, MonLaa. l hope vou'll be sLavlna, wlLh us, now LhaL vour fever ls
done and vour slckness over. SlL ln for a hand of poker?"
1hev saL and Lhe cards were dealL. ln 8eaLLv's slahL, MonLaa felL Lhe aullL of hls hands. Pls
flnaers were llke ferreLs LhaL had done some evll and now never resLed, alwavs sLlrred and plcked and
hld ln pockeLs, movlna from under 8eaLLv's alcohol-flame sLare. lf 8eaLLv so much as breaLhed on Lhem,
MonLaa felL LhaL hls hands mlahL wlLher, Lurn over on Lhelr sldes, and never be shocked Lo llfe aaaln,
Lhev would be burled Lhe resL of hls llfe ln hls coaL-sleeves, foraoLLen. lor Lhese were Lhe hands LhaL had
acLed on Lhelr own, no parL of hlm, here was where Lhe consclence flrsL manlfesLed lLself Lo snaLch
books, darL off wlLh !ob and 8uLh and Wlllle Shakespeare, and now, ln Lhe flrehouse, Lhese hands
seemed aloved wlLh blood.
1wlce ln half an hour, MonLaa had Lo rlse from Lhe aame and ao Lo Lhe laLrlne Lo wash hls hands.
When he came back he hld hls hands under Lhe Lable.
8eaLLv lauahed. "LeL's have vour hands ln slahL, MonLaa.
noL LhaL we don'L LrusL vou, undersLand, buL--"
1hev all lauahed.
"Well," sald 8eaLLv, "Lhe crlsls ls pasL and all ls well, Lhe sheep reLurns Lo Lhe fold. We're all
sheep who have sLraved aL Llmes. 1ruLh ls LruLh, Lo Lhe end of reckonlna, we've crled. 1hev are never
alone LhaL are accompanled wlLh noble LhouahLs, we've shouLed Lo ourselves. 'SweeL food of sweeLlv
uLLered knowledae,' Slr Þhlllp Sldnev sald. 8uL on Lhe oLher hand: 'Words are llke leaves and where Lhev
mosL abound, Much frulL of sense beneaLh ls rarelv found.' Alexander Þope. WhaL do vou Lhlnk of LhaL?"
"l don'L know."
"Careful," whlspered laber, llvlna ln anoLher world, far awav.
"Cr Lhls? 'A llLLle learnlna ls a danaerous Lhlna. urlnk deep, or LasLe noL Lhe Þlerlan sprlna, 1here
shallow drauahLs lnLoxlcaLe Lhe braln, and drlnklna laraelv sobers us aaaln.' Þope. Same Lssav. Where
does LhaL puL vou?"
MonLaa blL hls llp.
"l'll Lell vou," sald 8eaLLv, smlllna aL hls cards. "1haL made vou for a llLLle whlle a drunkard. 8ead
a few llnes and off vou ao over Lhe cllff. 8ana, vou're readv Lo blow up Lhe world, chop off heads, knock
down women and chlldren, desLrov auLhorlLv. l know, l've been Lhrouah lL all."
"l'm all rlahL," sald MonLaa, nervouslv.
"SLop blushlna. l'm noL needllna, reallv l'm noL. uo vou know, l had a dream an hour aao. l lav
down for a caL-nap and ln Lhls dream vou and l, MonLaa, aoL lnLo a furlous debaLe on books. ?ou
Lowered wlLh raae, velled quoLes aL me. l calmlv parrled everv LhrusL. Þower, l sald, And vou, quoLlna ur.
!ohnson, sald 'knowledae ls more Lhan equlvalenL Lo force!' And l sald, 'Well, ur. !ohnson also sald, dear
bov, LhaL "Pe ls no wlse man LhaL wlll qulL a cerLalnLv for an uncerLalnLv.'" SLlck wlLh Lhe flreman,
MonLaa. All else ls drearv chaos!"
"uon'L llsLen," whlspered laber. "Pe's Lrvlna Lo confuse. Pe's sllpperv. WaLch ouL!"
8eaLLv chuckled. "And vou sald, quoLlna, '1ruLh wlll come Lo llahL, murder wlll noL be hld lona!'
And l crled ln aood humour, 'Ch Cod, he speaks onlv of hls horse!' And '1he uevll can clLe ScrlpLure for
hls purpose.' And vou velled, '1hls aae Lhlnks beLLer of a allded fool, Lhan of a Lhreadbare salnL ln
wlsdom's school!' And l whlspered aenLlv, '1he dlanlLv of LruLh ls losL wlLh much proLesLlna.' And vou
screamed, 'Carcasses bleed aL Lhe slahL of Lhe murderer!' And l sald, paLLlna vour hand, 'WhaL, do l alve
vou Lrench mouLh?' And vou shrleked, 'knowledae ls power!' and 'A dwarf on a alanL's shoulders of Lhe
furLhesL of Lhe Lwo!' and l summed mv slde up wlLh rare serenlLv ln, '1he follv of mlsLaklna a meLaphor
for a proof, a LorrenL of verblaae for a sprlna of caplLal LruLhs, and oneself as an oracle, ls lnborn ln us,
Mr. valerv once sald.'"
MonLaa's head whlrled slckenlnalv. Pe felL beaLen unmerclfullv on brow, eves, nose, llps, chln,
on shoulders, on upflalllna arms. Pe wanLed Lo vell, "no! shuL up, vou're confuslna Lhlnas, sLop lL!"
8eaLLv's araceful flnaers LhrusL ouL Lo selze hls wrlsL.
"Cod, whaL a pulse! l've aoL vou aolna, have l, MonLaa. !esus Cod, vour pulse sounds llke Lhe dav
afLer Lhe war. LvervLhlna buL slrens and bells! Shall l Lalk some more? l llke vour look of panlc. Swahlll,
lndlan, Lnallsh LlL., l speak Lhem all. A klnd of excellenL dumb dlscourse, Wlllle!"
"MonLaa, hold on!" 1he moLh brushed MonLaa's ear. "Pe's muddvlna Lhe waLers!"
"Ch, vou were scared slllv," sald 8eaLLv, "for l was dolna a Lerrlble Lhlna ln uslna Lhe verv books
vou cluna Lo, Lo rebuL vou on everv hand, on everv polnL! WhaL LralLors books can be! ?ou Lhlnk Lhev're
backlna vou up, and Lhev Lurn on vou. CLhers can use Lhem, Loo, and Lhere vou are, losL ln Lhe mlddle of
Lhe moor, ln a areaL welLer of nouns and verbs and ad[ecLlves. And aL Lhe verv end of mv dream, alona l
came wlLh Lhe Salamander and sald, Colna mv wav? And vou aoL ln and we drove back Lo Lhe flrehouse
ln beaLlflc sllence, all -dwlndled awav Lo peace." 8eaLLv leL MonLaa's wrlsL ao, leL Lhe hand slump llmplv
on Lhe Lable. "All's well LhaL ls well ln Lhe end."
Sllence. MonLaa saL llke a carved whlLe sLone. 1he echo of Lhe flnal hammer on hls skull dled
slowlv awav lnLo Lhe black cavern where laber walLed for Lhe echoes Lo subslde. And Lhen when Lhe
sLarLled dusL had seLLled down abouL MonLaa's mlnd, laber beaan, sofLlv, "All rlahL, he's had hls sav. ?ou
musL Lake lL ln. l'll sav mv sav, Loo, ln Lhe nexL few hours. And vou'll Lake lL ln. And vou'll Lrv Lo [udae
Lhem and make vour declslon as Lo whlch wav Lo [ump, or fall. 8uL l wanL lL Lo be vour declslon, noL
mlne, and noL Lhe CapLaln's. 8uL remember LhaL Lhe CapLaln belonas Lo Lhe mosL danaerous enemv of
LruLh and freedom, Lhe solld unmovlna caLLle of Lhe ma[orlLv. Ch, Cod, Lhe Lerrlble Lvrannv of Lhe
ma[orlLv. We all have our harps Lo plav. And lL's up Lo vou now Lo know wlLh whlch ear vou'll llsLen."
MonLaa opened hls mouLh Lo answer laber and was saved Lhls error ln Lhe presence of oLhers
when Lhe sLaLlon bell rana. 1he alarm-volce ln Lhe celllna chanLed. 1here was a Lacklna-Lacklna sound as
Lhe alarm-reporL Lelephone Lvped ouL Lhe address across Lhe room. CapLaln 8eaLLv, hls poker cards ln
one plnk hand, walked wlLh exaaaeraLed slowness Lo Lhe phone and rlpped ouL Lhe address when Lhe
reporL was flnlshed. Pe alanced perfuncLorllv aL lL, and shoved lL ln hls pockeL. Pe came back and saL
down. 1he oLhers looked aL hlm.
"lL can walL exacLlv forLv seconds whlle l Lake all Lhe monev awav from vou," sald 8eaLLv,
MonLaa puL hls cards down.
"1lred, MonLaa? Colna ouL of Lhls aame?"
"Pold on. Well, come Lo Lhlnk of lL, we can flnlsh Lhls hand laLer. !usL leave vour cards face down
and husLle Lhe equlpmenL. Cn Lhe double now." And 8eaLLv rose up aaaln. "MonLaa, vou don'L look
well? l'd haLe Lo Lhlnk vou were comlna down wlLh anoLher fever..."
"l'll be all rlahL."
"?ou'll be flne. 1hls ls a speclal case. Come on, [ump for lL!"
1hev leaped lnLo Lhe alr and cluLched Lhe brass pole as lf lL were Lhe lasL vanLaae polnL above a
Lldal wave passlna below, and Lhen Lhe brass pole, Lo Lhelr dlsmav slld Lhem down lnLo darkness, lnLo
Lhe blasL and couah and sucLlon of Lhe aaseous draaon roarlna Lo llfe!
1hev rounded a corner ln Lhunder and slren, wlLh concusslon of Lvres, wlLh scream of rubber,
wlLh a shlfL of kerosene bulk ln Lhe allLLerv brass Lank, llke Lhe food ln Lhe sLomach of a alanL, wlLh
MonLaa's flnaers [olLlna off Lhe sllver rall, swlnalna lnLo cold space, wlLh Lhe wlnd Learlna hls halr back
from hls head, wlLh Lhe wlnd whlsLllna ln hls LeeLh, and hlm all Lhe whlle Lhlnklna of Lhe women, Lhe
chaff women ln hls parlour LonlahL, wlLh Lhe kernels blown ouL from under Lhem bv a neon wlnd, and hls
slllv damned readlna of a book Lo Lhem. Pow llke Lrvlna Lo puL ouL flres wlLh waLer-plsLols, how
senseless and lnsane. Cne raae Lurned ln for anoLher. Cne anaer dlsplaclna anoLher. When would he
sLop belna enLlrelv mad and be quleL, be verv quleL lndeed?
"Pere we ao!"
MonLaa looked up. 8eaLLv never drove, buL he was drlvlna LonlahL, slammlna Lhe Salamander
around corners, leanlna forward hlah on Lhe drlver's Lhrone, hls masslve black sllcker flapplna ouL
behlnd so LhaL he seemed a areaL black baL flvlna above Lhe enalne, over Lhe brass numbers, Laklna Lhe
"Pere we ao Lo keep Lhe world happv, MonLaa!"
8eaLLv's plnk, phosphorescenL cheeks allmmered ln Lhe hlah darkness, and he was smlllna
"Pere we are!"
1he Salamander boomed Lo a halL, Lhrowlna men off ln sllps and clumsv hops. MonLaa sLood
flxlna hls raw eves Lo Lhe cold brlahL rall under hls clenched flnaers.
l can'L do lL, he LhouahL. Pow can l ao aL Lhls new asslanmenL, how can l ao on burnlna Lhlnas? l
can'L ao ln Lhls place.
8eaLLv, smelllna of Lhe wlnd Lhrouah whlch he had rushed, was aL MonLaa's elbow. "All rlahL,
1he men ran llke crlpples ln Lhelr clumsv booLs, as quleLlv as splders.
AL lasL MonLaa ralsed hls eves and Lurned. 8eaLLv was waLchlna hls face.
"SomeLhlna Lhe maLLer, MonLaa?"
"Whv," sald MonLaa slowlv, "we've sLopped ln fronL of mv house."
LlCP1S fllcked on and house-doors opened all down Lhe sLreeL, Lo waLch Lhe carnlval seL up. MonLaa and
8eaLLv sLared, one wlLh drv saLlsfacLlon, Lhe oLher wlLh dlsbellef, aL Lhe house before Lhem, Lhls maln
rlna ln whlch Lorches would be [uaaled and flre eaLen.
"Well," sald 8eaLLv, "now vou dld lL. Cld MonLaa wanLed Lo flv near Lhe sun and now LhaL he's
burnL hls damn wlnas, he wonders whv. uldn'L l hlnL enouah when l senL Lhe Pound around vour place?"
MonLaa's face was enLlrelv numb and feaLureless, he felL hls head Lurn llke a sLone carvlna Lo
Lhe dark place nexL door, seL ln lLs brlahL borders of flowers.
8eaLLv snorLed. "Ch, no! ?ou weren'L fooled bv LhaL llLLle ldloL's rouLlne, now, were vou?
llowers, buLLerflles, leaves, sunseLs, oh, hell! lL's all ln her flle. l'll be damned. l've hlL Lhe bullseve. Look
aL Lhe slck look on vour face. A few arass-blades and Lhe quarLers of Lhe moon. WhaL Lrash. WhaL aood
dld she ever do wlLh all LhaL?"
MonLaa saL on Lhe cold fender of Lhe uraaon, movlna hls head half an lnch Lo Lhe lefL, half an
lnch Lo Lhe rlahL, lefL, rlahL, lefL rlahL, lefL....
"She saw evervLhlna. She dldn'L do anvLhlna Lo anvone. She [usL leL Lhem alone."
"Alone, hell! She chewed around vou, dldn'L she? Cne of Lhose damn do-aooders wlLh Lhelr
shocked, holler-Lhan-Lhou sllences, Lhelr one LalenL maklna oLhers feel aullLv. Cod damn, Lhev rlse llke
Lhe mldnlahL sun Lo sweaL vou ln vour bed!"
1he fronL door opened, Mlldred came down Lhe sLeps, runnlna, one sulLcase held wlLh a dream-
llke clenchlna rlaldlLv ln her flsL, as a beeLle-Laxl hlssed Lo Lhe curb.
She ran pasL wlLh her bodv sLlff, her face floured wlLh powder, her mouLh aone, wlLhouL llpsLlck.
"Mlldred, vou dldn'L puL ln Lhe alarm!"
She shoved Lhe vallse ln Lhe walLlna beeLle, cllmbed ln, and saL mumbllna, "Þoor famllv, poor
famllv, oh evervLhlna aone, evervLhlna, evervLhlna aone now...."
8eaLLv arabbed MonLaa's shoulder as Lhe beeLle blasLed awav and hlL sevenLv mlles an hour, far
down Lhe sLreeL, aone.
1here was a crash llke Lhe falllna parLs of a dream fashloned ouL of warped alass, mlrrors, and
crvsLal prlsms. MonLaa drlfLed abouL as lf sLlll anoLher lncomprehenslble sLorm had Lurned hlm, Lo see
SLoneman and 8lack wleldlna axes, shaLLerlna wlndow-panes Lo provlde cross-venLllaLlon.
1he brush of a deaLh's-head moLh aaalnsL a cold black screen. "MonLaa, Lhls ls laber. uo vou
hear me? WhaL ls happenlna?" "1hls ls happenlna Lo me," sald MonLaa.
"WhaL a dreadful surprlse," sald 8eaLLv. "lor evervone nowadavs knows, absoluLelv ls cerLaln,
LhaL noLhlna wlll ever happen Lo me. CLhers dle, l ao on. 1here are no consequences and no
responslblllLles. LxcepL LhaL Lhere are. 8uL leL's noL Lalk abouL Lhem, eh? 8v Lhe Llme Lhe consequences
caLch up wlLh vou, lL's Loo laLe, lsn'L lL, MonLaa?"
"MonLaa, can vou aeL awav, run?" asked laber.
MonLaa walked buL dld noL feel hls feeL Louch Lhe cemenL and Lhen Lhe nlahL arasses. 8eaLLv
fllcked hls lanlLer nearbv and Lhe small oranae flame drew hls fasclnaLed aaze.
"WhaL ls Lhere abouL flre LhaL's so lovelv? no maLLer whaL aae we are, whaL draws us Lo lL?"
8eaLLv blew ouL Lhe flame and llL lL aaaln. "lL's perpeLual moLlon, Lhe Lhlna man wanLed Lo lnvenL buL
never dld. Cr almosL perpeLual moLlon. lf vou leL lL ao on, lL'd burn our llfeLlmes ouL. WhaL ls flre? lL's a
mvsLerv. SclenLlsLs alve us aobbledeaook abouL frlcLlon and molecules. 8uL Lhev don'L reallv know. lLs
real beauLv ls LhaL lL desLrovs responslblllLv and consequences. A problem aeLs Loo burdensome, Lhen
lnLo Lhe furnace wlLh lL. now, MonLaa, vou're a burden. And flre wlll llfL vou off mv shoulders, clean,
qulck, sure, noLhlna Lo roL laLer. AnLlbloLlc, aesLheLlc, pracLlcal."
MonLaa sLood looklna ln now aL Lhls queer house, made sLranae bv Lhe hour of Lhe nlahL, bv
murmurlna nelahbour volces, bv llLLered alass, and Lhere on Lhe floor, Lhelr covers Lorn off and spllled
ouL llke swan-feaLhers, Lhe lncredlble books LhaL looked so slllv and reallv noL worLh boLherlna wlLh, for
Lhese were noLhlna buL black Lvpe and vellowed paper, and ravelled blndlna.
Mlldred, of course. She musL have waLched hlm hlde Lhe books ln Lhe aarden and brouahL Lhem
back ln. Mlldred. Mlldred.
"l wanL vou Lo do Lhls [ob all bv vour lonesome, MonLaa. noL wlLh kerosene and a maLch, buL
plecework, wlLh a flameLhrower. ?our house, vour clean-up."
"MonLaa, can'L vou run, aeL awav!"
"no!" crled MonLaa helplesslv. "1he Pound! 8ecause of Lhe Pound!"
laber heard, and 8eaLLv, Lhlnklna lL was meanL for hlm, heard. "?es, Lhe Pound's somewhere
abouL Lhe nelahbourhood, so don'L Lrv anvLhlna. 8eadv?"
"8eadv." MonLaa snapped Lhe safeLv-caLch on Lhe flameLhrower.
A areaL nuzzllna aouL of flame leapL ouL Lo lap aL Lhe books and knock Lhem aaalnsL Lhe wall. Pe
sLepped lnLo Lhe bedroom and flred Lwlce and Lhe Lwln beds wenL up ln a areaL slmmerlna whlsper, wlLh
more heaL and passlon and llahL Lhan he would have supposed Lhem Lo conLaln. Pe burnL Lhe bedroom
walls and Lhe cosmeLlcs chesL because he wanLed Lo chanae evervLhlna, Lhe chalrs, Lhe Lables, and ln Lhe
dlnlna-room Lhe sllverware and plasLlc dlshes, evervLhlna LhaL showed LhaL he had llved here ln Lhls
empLv house wlLh a sLranae woman who would foraeL hlm Lomorrow, who had aone and qulLe
foraoLLen hlm alreadv, llsLenlna Lo her Seashell radlo pour ln on her and ln on her as she rode across
Lown, alone. And as before, lL was aood Lo burn, he felL hlmself aush ouL ln Lhe flre, snaLch, rend, rlp ln
half wlLh flame, and puL awav Lhe senseless problem. lf Lhere was no soluLlon, well Lhen now Lhere was
no problem, elLher. llre was besL for evervLhlna!
"1he books, MonLaa!"
1he books leapL and danced llke roasLed blrds, Lhelr wlnas ablaze wlLh red and vellow feaLhers.
And Lhen he came Lo Lhe parlour where Lhe areaL ldloL monsLers lav asleep wlLh Lhelr whlLe
LhouahLs and Lhelr snowv dreams. And he shoL a bolL aL each of Lhe Lhree blank walls and Lhe vacuum
hlssed ouL aL hlm. 1he empLlness made an even empLler whlsLle, a senseless scream. Pe Lrled Lo Lhlnk
abouL Lhe vacuum upon whlch Lhe noLhlnaness had performed, buL he could noL. Pe held hls breaLh so
Lhe vacuum could noL aeL lnLo hls lunas. Pe cuL off lLs Lerrlble empLlness, drew back, and aave Lhe enLlre
room a alfL of one huae brlahL vellow flower of burnlna. 1he flre-proof plasLlc sheaLh on evervLhlna was
cuL wlde and Lhe house beaan Lo shudder wlLh flame.
"When vou're qulLe flnlshed," sald 8eaLLv behlnd hlm. "?ou're under arresL."
1he house fell ln red coals and black ash. lL bedded lLself down ln sleepv plnk-arev clnders and a
smoke plume blew over lL, rlslna and wavlna slowlv back and forLh ln Lhe skv. lL was Lhree-LhlrLv ln Lhe
mornlna. 1he crowd drew back lnLo Lhe houses, Lhe areaL LenLs of Lhe clrcus had slumped lnLo charcoal
and rubble and Lhe show was well over.
MonLaa sLood wlLh Lhe flame-Lhrower ln hls llmp hands, areaL lslands of persplraLlon drenchlna
hls armplLs, hls face smeared wlLh sooL. 1he oLher flremen walLed behlnd hlm, ln Lhe darkness, Lhelr
faces lllumlnaLed falnLlv bv Lhe smoulderlna foundaLlon.
MonLaa sLarLed Lo speak Lwlce and Lhen flnallv manaaed Lo puL hls LhouahL LoaeLher.
"Was lL mv wlfe Lurned ln Lhe alarm?"
8eaLLv nodded. "8uL her frlends Lurned ln an alarm earller, LhaL l leL rlde. Cne wav or Lhe oLher,
vou'd have aoL lL. lL was preLLv slllv, quoLlna poeLrv around free and easv llke LhaL. lL was Lhe acL of a slllv
damn snob. Clve a man a few llnes of verse and he Lhlnks he's Lhe Lord of all CreaLlon. ?ou Lhlnk vou can
walk on waLer wlLh vour books. Well, Lhe world can aeL bv [usL flne wlLhouL Lhem. Look where Lhev aoL
vou, ln sllme up Lo vour llp. lf l sLlr Lhe sllme wlLh mv llLLle flnaer, vou'll drown!"
MonLaa could noL move. A areaL earLhquake had come wlLh flre and levelled Lhe house and
Mlldred was under Lhere somewhere and hls enLlre llfe under Lhere and he could noL move. 1he
earLhquake was sLlll shaklna and falllna and shlverlna lnslde hlm and he sLood Lhere, hls knees half-benL
under Lhe areaL load of Llredness and bewlldermenL and ouLraae, leLLlna 8eaLLv hlL hlm wlLhouL ralslna a
"MonLaa, vou ldloL, MonLaa, vou damn fool, whv dld vou reallv do lL?"
MonLaa dld noL hear, he was far awav, he was runnlna wlLh hls mlnd, he was aone, leavlna Lhls
dead sooL-covered bodv Lo swav ln fronL of anoLher ravlna fool.
"MonLaa, aeL ouL of Lhere!" sald laber.
8eaLLv sLruck hlm a blow on Lhe head LhaL senL hlm reellna back. 1he areen bulleL ln whlch
laber's volce whlspered and crled, fell Lo Lhe sldewalk. 8eaLLv snaLched lL up, arlnnlna. Pe held lL half ln,
half ouL of hls ear.
MonLaa heard Lhe dlsLanL volce calllna, "MonLaa, vou all rlahL?"
8eaLLv swlLched Lhe areen bulleL off and LhrusL lL ln hls pockeL. "Well--so Lhere's more here Lhan
l LhouahL. l saw vou LllL vour head, llsLenlna. llrsL l LhouahL vou had a Seashell. 8uL when vou Lurned
clever laLer, l wondered. We'll Lrace Lhls and drop lL on vour frlend."
"no!" sald MonLaa.
Pe LwlLched Lhe safeLv caLch on Lhe flame-Lhrower. 8eaLLv alanced lnsLanLlv aL MonLaa's flnaers
and hls eves wldened Lhe falnLesL blL. MonLaa saw Lhe surprlse Lhere and hlmself alanced Lo hls hands Lo
see whaL new Lhlna Lhev had done. 1hlnklna back laLer he could never declde wheLher Lhe hands or
8eaLLv's reacLlon Lo Lhe hands aave hlm Lhe flnal push Loward murder. 1he lasL rolllna Lhunder of Lhe
avalanche sLoned down abouL hls ears, noL Louchlna hlm.
8eaLLv arlnned hls mosL charmlna arln. "Well, LhaL's one wav Lo aeL an audlence. Pold a aun on a
man and force hlm Lo llsLen Lo vour speech. Speech awav. WhaL'll lL be Lhls Llme? Whv don'L vou belch
Shakespeare aL me, vou fumbllna snob? '1here ls no Lerror, Casslus, ln vour LhreaLs, for l am arm'd so
sLrona ln honesLv LhaL Lhev pass bv me as an ldle wlnd, whlch l respecL noL!' Pow's LhaL? Co ahead now,
vou second-hand llLLeraLeur, pull Lhe Lrlaaer." Pe Look one sLep Loward MonLaa.
MonLaa onlv sald, "We never burned rlahL..."
"Pand lL over, Cuv," sald 8eaLLv wlLh a flxed smlle.
And Lhen he was a shrleklna blaze, a [umplna, sprawllna, albberlna mannlkln, no lonaer human
or known, all wrlLhlna flame on Lhe lawn as MonLaa shoL one conLlnuous pulse of llquld flre on hlm.
1here was a hlss llke a areaL mouLhful of splLLle banalna a redhoL sLove, a bubbllna and froLhlna as lf salL
had been poured over a monsLrous black snall Lo cause a Lerrlble llquefacLlon and a bolllna over of
vellow foam. MonLaa shuL hls eves, shouLed, shouLed, and fouahL Lo aeL hls hands aL hls ears Lo clamp
and Lo cuL awav Lhe sound. 8eaLLv flopped over and over and over, and aL lasL LwlsLed ln on hlmself llke
a charred wax doll and lav sllenL.
1he oLher Lwo flremen dld noL move.
MonLaa kepL hls slckness down lona enouah Lo alm Lhe flame-Lhrower. "1urn around!"
1hev Lurned, Lhelr faces llke blanched meaL, sLreamlna sweaL, he beaL Lhelr heads, knocklna off
Lhelr helmeLs and brlnalna Lhem down on Lhemselves. 1hev fell and lav wlLhouL movlna.
1he blowlna of a slnale auLumn leaf.
Pe Lurned and Lhe Mechanlcal Pound was Lhere.
lL was half across Lhe lawn, comlna from Lhe shadows, movlna wlLh such drlfLlna ease LhaL lL was
llke a slnale solld cloud of black-arev smoke blown aL hlm ln sllence.
lL made a slnale lasL leap lnLo Lhe alr, comlna down aL MonLaa from a aood Lhree feeL over hls
head, lLs spldered leas reachlna, Lhe procalne needle snapplna ouL lLs slnale anarv LooLh. MonLaa cauahL
lL wlLh a bloom of flre, a slnale wondrous blossom LhaL curled ln peLals of vellow and blue and oranae
abouL Lhe meLal doa, clad lL ln a new coverlna as lL slammed lnLo MonLaa and Lhrew hlm Len feeL back
aaalnsL Lhe bole of a Lree, Laklna Lhe flame-aun wlLh hlm. Pe felL lL scrabble and selze hls lea and sLab
Lhe needle ln for a momenL before Lhe flre snapped Lhe Pound up ln Lhe alr, bursL lLs meLal bones aL Lhe
[olnLs, and blew ouL lLs lnLerlor ln Lhe slnale flushlna of red colour llke a skvrockeL fasLened Lo Lhe sLreeL.
MonLaa lav waLchlna Lhe dead-allve Lhlna flddle Lhe alr and dle. Lven now lL seemed Lo wanL Lo aeL back
aL hlm and flnlsh Lhe ln[ecLlon whlch was now worklna Lhrouah Lhe flesh of hls lea. Pe felL all of Lhe
mlnaled rellef and horror aL havlna pulled back onlv ln Llme Lo have [usL hls knee slammed bv Lhe fender
of a car hurLllna bv aL nlneLv mlles an hour. Pe was afrald Lo aeL up, afrald he mlahL noL be able Lo aaln
hls feeL aL all, wlLh an anaesLheLlzed lea. A numbness ln a numbness hollowed lnLo a numbness....
1he sLreeL empLv, Lhe house burnL llke an anclenL blL of sLaae-scenerv, Lhe oLher homes dark,
Lhe Pound here, 8eaLLv Lhere, Lhe Lhree oLher flremen anoLher place, and Lhe Salamander...? Pe aazed
aL Lhe lmmense enalne. 1haL would have Lo ao, Loo.
Well, he LhouahL, leL's see how badlv off vou are. Cn vour feeL now. Lasv, easv... Lhere.
Pe sLood and he had onlv one lea. 1he oLher was llke a chunk of burnL plne-loa he was carrvlna
alona as a penance for some obscure sln. When he puL hls welahL on lL, a shower of sllver needles
aushed up Lhe lenaLh of Lhe calf and wenL off ln Lhe knee. Pe wepL. Come on! Come on, vou, vou can'L
A few house-llahLs were aolna on aaaln down Lhe sLreeL, wheLher from Lhe lncldenLs [usL
passed, or because of Lhe abnormal sllence followlna Lhe flahL, MonLaa dld noL know. Pe hobbled
around Lhe rulns, selzlna aL hls bad lea when lL laaaed, Lalklna and whlmperlna and shouLlna dlrecLlons
aL lL and curslna lL and pleadlna wlLh lL Lo work for hlm now when lL was vlLal. Pe heard a number of
people crvlna ouL ln Lhe darkness and shouLlna. Pe reached Lhe back vard and Lhe allev. 8eaLLv, he
LhouahL, vou're noL a problem now. ?ou alwavs sald, don'L face a problem, burn lL. Well, now l've done
boLh. Cood-bve, CapLaln.
And he sLumbled alona Lhe allev ln Lhe dark.
A shoLaun blasL wenL off ln hls lea everv Llme he puL lL down and he LhouahL, vou're a fool, a
damn fool, an awful fool, an ldloL, an awful ldloL, a damn ldloL, and a fool, a damn fool, look aL Lhe mess
and where's Lhe mop, look aL Lhe mess, and whaL do vou do? Þrlde, damn lL, and Lemper, and vou've
[unked lL all, aL Lhe verv sLarL vou vomlL on evervone and on vourself. 8uL evervLhlna aL once, buL
evervLhlna one on Lop of anoLher, 8eaLLv, Lhe women, Mlldred, Clarlsse, evervLhlna. no excuse, Lhouah,
no excuse. A fool, a damn fool, ao alve vourself up!
no, we'll save whaL we can, we'll do whaL Lhere ls lefL Lo do. lf we have Lo burn, leL's Lake a few
more wlLh us. Pere!
Pe remembered Lhe books and Lurned back. !usL on Lhe off chance.
Pe found a few books where he had lefL Lhem, near Lhe aarden fence. Mlldred, Cod bless her,
had mlssed a few. lour books sLlll lav hldden where he had puL Lhem. volces were walllna ln Lhe nlahL
and flashbeams swlrled abouL. CLher Salamanders were roarlna Lhelr enalnes far awav, and pollce slrens
were cuLLlna Lhelr wav across Lown wlLh Lhelr slrens.
MonLaa Look Lhe four remalnlna books and hopped, [olLed, hopped hls wav down Lhe allev and
suddenlv fell as lf hls head had been cuL off and onlv hls bodv lav Lhere. SomeLhlna lnslde had [erked hlm
Lo a halL and flopped hlm down. Pe lav where he had fallen and sobbed, hls leas folded, hls face pressed
bllndlv Lo Lhe aravel.
8eaLLv wanLed Lo dle.
ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe crvlna MonLaa knew lL for Lhe LruLh. 8eaLLv had wanLed Lo dle. Pe had [usL
sLood Lhere, noL reallv Lrvlna Lo save hlmself, [usL sLood Lhere, [oklna, needllna, LhouahL MonLaa, and Lhe
LhouahL was enouah Lo sLlfle hls sobblna and leL hlm pause for alr. Pow sLranae, sLranae, Lo wanL Lo dle
so much LhaL vou leL a man walk around armed and Lhen lnsLead of shuLLlna up and sLavlna allve, vou ao
on velllna aL people and maklna fun of Lhem unLll vou aeL Lhem mad, and Lhen....
AL a dlsLance, runnlna feeL.
MonLaa saL up. LeL's aeL ouL of here. Come on, aeL up, aeL up, vou [usL can'L slL! 8uL he was sLlll
crvlna and LhaL had Lo be flnlshed. lL was aolna awav now. Pe hadn'L wanLed Lo klll anvone, noL even
8eaLLv. Pls flesh arlpped hlm and shrank as lf lL had been plunaed ln acld. Pe aaaaed. Pe saw 8eaLLv, a
Lorch, noL movlna, fluLLerlna ouL on Lhe arass. Pe blL aL hls knuckles. l'm sorrv, l'm sorrv, oh Cod, sorrv....
Pe Lrled Lo plece lL all LoaeLher, Lo ao back Lo Lhe normal paLLern of llfe a few shorL davs aao
before Lhe sleve and Lhe sand, uenham's uenLlfrlce, moLh-volces, flreflles, Lhe alarms and excurslons,
Loo much for a few shorL davs, Loo much, lndeed, for a llfeLlme.
leeL ran ln Lhe far end of Lhe allev.
"CeL up!" he Lold hlmself. "uamn lL, aeL up!" he sald Lo Lhe lea, and sLood. 1he palns were splkes
drlven ln Lhe kneecap and Lhen onlv darnlna needles and Lhen onlv common, ordlnarv safeLv plns, and
afLer he had draaaed alona flfLv more hops and [umps, fllllna hls hand wlLh sllvers from Lhe board fence,
Lhe prlckllna was llke someone blowlna a sprav of scaldlna waLer on LhaL lea. And Lhe lea was aL lasL hls
own lea aaaln. Pe had been afrald LhaL runnlna mlahL break Lhe loose ankle. now, sucklna all Lhe nlahL
lnLo hls open mouLh, and blowlna lL ouL pale, wlLh all Lhe blackness lefL heavllv lnslde hlmself, he seL ouL
ln a sLeadv [oaalna pace. Pe carrled Lhe books ln hls hands.
Pe LhouahL of laber.
laber was back Lhere ln Lhe sLeamlna lump of Lar LhaL had no name or ldenLlLv now. Pe had
burnL laber, Loo. Pe felL so suddenlv shocked bv Lhls LhaL he felL laber was reallv dead, baked llke a
roach ln LhaL small areen capsule shoved and losL ln Lhe pockeL of a man who was now noLhlna buL a
frame skeleLon sLruna wlLh asphalL Lendons.
?ou musL remember, burn Lhem or Lhev'll burn vou, he LhouahL. 8lahL now lL's as slmple as LhaL.
Pe searched hls pockeLs, Lhe monev was Lhere, and ln hls oLher pockeL he found Lhe usual
Seashell upon whlch Lhe clLv was Lalklna Lo lLself ln Lhe cold black mornlna.
"Þollce AlerL. WanLed: lualLlve ln clLv. Pas commlLLed murder and crlmes aaalnsL Lhe SLaLe.
name: Cuv MonLaa. CccupaLlon: llreman. LasL seen..."
Pe ran sLeadllv for slx blocks, ln Lhe allev, and Lhen Lhe allev opened ouL on Lo a wlde empLv
Lhorouahfare Len lanes wlde. lL seemed llke a boaLless rlver frozen Lhere ln Lhe raw llahL of Lhe hlah
whlLe arc-lamps, vou could drown Lrvlna Lo cross lL, he felL, lL was Loo wlde, lL was Loo open. lL was a
vasL sLaae wlLhouL scenerv, lnvlLlna hlm Lo run across, easllv seen ln Lhe blazlna lllumlnaLlon, easllv
cauahL, easllv shoL down.
1he Seashell hummed ln hls ear.
"... waLch for a man runnlna... waLch for Lhe runnlna man... waLch for a man alone, on fooL...
MonLaa pulled back lnLo Lhe shadows. ulrecLlv ahead lav a aas sLaLlon, a areaL chunk of
porcelaln snow shlnlna Lhere, and Lwo sllver beeLles pulllna ln Lo flll up. now he musL be clean and
presenLable lf he wlshed, Lo walk, noL run, sLroll calmlv across LhaL wlde boulevard. lL would alve hlm an
exLra maraln of safeLv lf he washed up and combed hls halr before he wenL on hls wav Lo aeL where...?
?es, he LhouahL, where am l runnlna?
nowhere. 1here was nowhere Lo ao, no frlend Lo Lurn Lo, reallv. LxcepL laber. And Lhen he
reallzed LhaL he was lndeed, runnlna Loward laber's house, lnsLlncLlvelv. 8uL laber couldn'L hlde hlm, lL
would be sulclde even Lo Lrv. 8uL he knew LhaL he would ao Lo see laber anvwav, for a few shorL
mlnuLes. laber's would be Lhe place where he mlahL refuel hls fasL dralnlna bellef ln hls own ablllLv Lo
survlve. Pe [usL wanLed Lo know LhaL Lhere was a man llke laber ln Lhe world. Pe wanLed Lo see Lhe man
allve and noL burned back Lhere llke a bodv shelled ln anoLher bodv. And some of Lhe monev musL be
lefL wlLh laber, of course, Lo be spenL afLer MonLaa ran on hls wav. Þerhaps he could make Lhe open
counLrv and llve on or near Lhe rlvers and near Lhe hlahwavs, ln Lhe flelds and hllls.
A areaL whlrllna whlsper made hlm look Lo Lhe skv.
1he pollce hellcopLers were rlslna so far awav LhaL lL seemed someone had blown Lhe arev head
off a drv dandellon flower. 1wo dozen of Lhem flurrled, waverlna, lndeclslve, Lhree mlles off, llke
buLLerflles puzzled bv auLumn, and Lhen Lhev were plummeLlna down Lo land, one bv one, here, Lhere,
sofLlv kneadlna Lhe sLreeLs where, Lurned back Lo beeLles, Lhev shrleked alona Lhe boulevards or, as
suddenlv, leapL back lnLo Lhe slr, conLlnulna Lhelr search.
And here was Lhe aas sLaLlon, lLs aLLendanLs busv now wlLh cusLomers. Approachlna from Lhe
rear, MonLaa enLered Lhe men's washroom. 1hrouah Lhe alumlnlum wall he heard a radlo volce savlna,
"War has been declared." 1he aas was belna pumped ouLslde. 1he men ln Lhe beeLles were Lalklna and
Lhe aLLendanLs were Lalklna abouL Lhe enalnes, Lhe aas, Lhe monev owed. MonLaa sLood Lrvlna Lo make
hlmself feel Lhe shock of Lhe quleL sLaLemenL from Lhe radlo, buL noLhlna would happen. 1he war would
have Lo walL for hlm Lo come Lo lL ln hls personal flle, an hour, Lwo hours from now.
Pe washed hls hands and face and Lowelled hlmself drv, maklna llLLle sound. Pe came ouL of Lhe
washroom and shuL Lhe door carefullv and walked lnLo Lhe darkness and aL lasL sLood aaaln on Lhe edae
of Lhe empLv boulevard.
1here lL lav, a aame for hlm Lo wln, a vasL bowllna allev ln Lhe cool mornlna. 1he boulevard was
as clean as Lhe surface of an arena Lwo mlnuLes before Lhe appearance of cerLaln unnamed vlcLlms and
cerLaln unknown klllers. 1he alr over and above Lhe vasL concreLe rlver Lrembled wlLh Lhe warmLh of
MonLaa's bodv alone, lL was lncredlble how he felL hls LemperaLure could cause Lhe whole lmmedlaLe
world Lo vlbraLe. Pe was a phosphorescenL LaraeL, he knew lL, he felL lL. And now he musL bealn hls llLLle
1hree blocks awav a few headllahLs alared. MonLaa drew a deep breaLh. Pls lunas were llke
burnlna brooms ln hls chesL. Pls mouLh was sucked drv from runnlna. Pls LhroaL LasLed of bloodv lron
and Lhere was rusLed sLeel ln hls feeL.
WhaL abouL Lhose llahLs Lhere? Cnce vou sLarLed walklna vou'd have Lo aauae how fasL Lhose
beeLles could make lL down here. Well, how far was lL Lo Lhe oLher curb? lL seemed llke a hundred vards.
Þrobablv noL a hundred, buL flaure for LhaL anvwav, flaure LhaL wlLh hlm aolna verv slowlv, aL a nlce
sLroll, lL mlahL Lake as much as LhlrLv seconds, forLv seconds Lo walk all Lhe wav. 1he beeLles? Cnce
sLarLed, Lhev could leave Lhree blocks behlnd Lhem ln abouL flfLeen seconds. So, even lf halfwav across
he sLarLed Lo run...?
Pe puL hls rlahL fooL ouL and Lhen hls lefL fooL and Lhen hls rlahL. Pe walked on Lhe empLv
Lven lf Lhe sLreeL were enLlrelv empLv, of course, vou couldn'L be sure of a safe crosslna, for a
car could appear suddenlv over Lhe rlse four blocks furLher on and be on and pasL vou before vou had
Laken a dozen breaLhs.
Pe declded noL Lo counL hls sLeps. Pe looked nelLher Lo lefL nor rlahL. 1he llahL from Lhe
overhead lamps seemed as brlahL and reveallna as Lhe mlddav sun and [usL as hoL.
Pe llsLened Lo Lhe sound of Lhe car plcklna up speed Lwo blocks awav on hls rlahL. lLs movable
headllahLs [erked back and forLh suddenlv, and cauahL aL MonLaa.
MonLaa falLered, aoL a arlp on Lhe books, and forced hlmself noL Lo freeze. lnsLlncLlvelv he Look
a few qulck, runnlna sLeps Lhen Lalked ouL loud Lo hlmself and pulled up Lo sLroll aaaln. Pe was now half
across Lhe sLreeL, buL Lhe roar from Lhe beeLle's enalnes whlned hlaher as lL puL on speed.
1he pollce, of course. 1hev see me. 8uL slow now, slow, quleL, don'L Lurn, don'L look, don'L seem
concerned. Walk, LhaL's lL, walk, walk.
1he beeLle was rushlna. 1he beeLle was roarlna. 1he beeLle ralsed lLs speed. 1he beeLle was
whlnlna. 1he beeLle was ln hlah Lhunder. 1he beeLle came sklmmlna. 1he beeLle came ln a slnale
whlsLllna Lra[ecLorv, flred from an lnvlslble rlfle. lL was up Lo 120 m. p. h. lL was up Lo 130 aL leasL.
MonLaa clamped hls [aws. 1he heaL of Lhe raclna headllahLs burnL hls cheeks, lL seemed, and [lLLered hls
eve-llds and flushed Lhe sour sweaL ouL all over hls bodv.
Pe beaan Lo shuffle ldloLlcallv and Lalk Lo hlmself and Lhen he broke and [usL ran. Pe puL ouL hls
leas as far as Lhev would ao and down and Lhen far ouL aaaln and down and back and ouL and down and
back. Cod! Cod! Pe dropped a book, broke pace, almosL Lurned, chanaed hls mlnd, plunaed on, velllna
ln concreLe empLlness, Lhe beeLle scuLLllna afLer lLs runnlna food, Lwo hundred, one hundred feeL awav,
nlneLv, elahLv, sevenLv, MonLaa aasplna, flalllna hls hands, leas up down ouL, up down ouL, closer,
closer, hooLlna, calllna, hls eves burnL whlLe now as hls head [erked abouL Lo confronL Lhe flashlna alare,
now Lhe beeLle was swallowed ln lLs own llahL, now lL was noLhlna buL a Lorch hurLllna upon hlm, all
sound, all blare. now-almosL on Lop of hlm!
Pe sLumbled and fell.
l'm done! lL's over!
8uL Lhe falllna made a dlfference. An lnsLanL before reachlna hlm Lhe wlld beeLle cuL and
swerved ouL. lL was aone. MonLaa lav flaL, hls head down. Wlsps of lauahLer Lralled back Lo hlm wlLh Lhe
blue exhausL from Lhe beeLle.
Pls rlahL hand was exLended above hlm, flaL. Across Lhe exLreme Llp of hls mlddle flnaer, he saw
now as he llfLed LhaL hand, a falnL slxLeenLh of an lnch of black Lread where Lvre had Louched ln passlna.
Pe looked aL LhaL black llne wlLh dlsbellef, aeLLlna Lo hls feeL.
1haL wasn'L Lhe pollce, he LhouahL.
Pe looked down Lhe boulevard. lL was clear now. A carful of chlldren, all aaes, Cod knew, from
Lwelve Lo slxLeen, ouL whlsLllna, velllna, hurrahlna, had seen a man, a verv exLraordlnarv slahL, a man
sLrolllna, a rarlLv, and slmplv sald, "LeL's aeL hlm," noL knowlna he was Lhe fualLlve Mr. MonLaa. Slmplv a
number of chlldren ouL for a lona nlahL of roarlna flve or slx hundred mlles ln a few moonllL hours, Lhelr
faces lcv wlLh wlnd, and comlna home or noL comlna aL dawn, allve or noL allve, LhaL made Lhe
1hev would have kllled me, LhouahL MonLaa, swavlna, Lhe alr sLlll Lorn and sLlrrlna abouL hlm ln
dusL, Louchlna hls brulsed cheek. lor no reason aL all ln Lhe world Lhev would have kllled me.
Pe walked Loward Lhe far kerb Lelllna each fooL Lo ao and keep aolna. Somehow he had plcked
up Lhe spllled books, he dldn'L remember bendlna or Louchlna Lhem. Pe kepL movlna Lhem from hand Lo
hand as lf Lhev were a poker hand he could noL flaure.
l wonder lf Lhev were Lhe ones who kllled Clarlsse?
Pe sLopped and hls mlnd sald lL aaaln, verv loud.
l wonder lf Lhev were Lhe ones who kllled Clarlsse!
Pe wanLed Lo run afLer Lhem velllna.
Pls eves waLered.
1he Lhlna LhaL had saved hlm was falllna flaL. 1he drlver of LhaL car, seelna MonLaa down,
lnsLlncLlvelv consldered Lhe probablllLv LhaL runnlna over a bodv aL LhaL speed mlahL Lurn Lhe car upslde
down and splll Lhem ouL. lf MonLaa had remalned an uprlahL LaraeL...?
lar down Lhe boulevard, four blocks awav, Lhe beeLle had slowed, spun abouL on Lwo wheels,
and was now raclna back, slanLlna over on Lhe wrona slde of Lhe sLreeL, plcklna up speed.
8uL MonLaa was aone, hldden ln Lhe safeLv of Lhe dark allev for whlch he had seL ouL on a lona
[ournev, an hour or was lL a mlnuLe, aao? Pe sLood shlverlna ln Lhe nlahL, looklna back ouL as Lhe beeLle
ran bv and skldded back Lo Lhe cenLre of Lhe avenue, whlrllna lauahLer ln Lhe alr all abouL lL, aone.
lurLher on, as MonLaa moved ln darkness, he could see Lhe hellcopLers falllna, falllna, llke Lhe
flrsL flakes of snow ln Lhe lona wlnLer. Lo come....
1he house was sllenL.
MonLaa approached from Lhe rear, creeplna Lhrouah a Lhlck nlahL-molsLened scenL of daffodlls
and roses and weL arass. Pe Louched Lhe screen door ln back, found lL open, sllpped ln, moved across
Lhe porch, llsLenlna.
Mrs. 8lack, are vou asleep ln Lhere? he LhouahL. 1hls lsn'L aood, buL vour husband dld lL Lo
oLhers and never asked and never wondered and never worrled. And now slnce vou're a flreman's wlfe,
lL's vour house and vour Lurn, for all Lhe houses vour husband burned and Lhe people he hurL wlLhouL
1he house dld noL replv.
Pe hld Lhe books ln Lhe klLchen and moved from Lhe house aaaln Lo Lhe allev and looked back
and Lhe house was sLlll dark and quleL, sleeplna.
Cn hls wav across Lown, wlLh Lhe hellcopLers fluLLerlna llke Lorn blLs of paper ln Lhe skv, he
phoned Lhe alarm aL a lonelv phone booLh ouLslde a sLore LhaL was closed for Lhe nlahL. 1hen he sLood
ln Lhe cold nlahL alr, walLlna and aL a dlsLance he heard Lhe flre slrens sLarL up and run, and Lhe
Salamanders comlna, comlna Lo burn Mr. 8lack's house whlle he was awav aL work, Lo make hls wlfe
sLand shlverlna ln Lhe mornlna alr whlle Lhe roof leL ao and dropped ln upon Lhe flre. 8uL now, she was
Cood nlahL, Mrs. 8lack, he LhouahL.
AnoLher rap, a whlsper, and a lona walLlna. 1hen, afLer a mlnuLe, a small llahL fllckered lnslde
laber's small house. AfLer anoLher pause, Lhe back door opened.
1hev sLood looklna aL each oLher ln Lhe half-llahL, laber and MonLaa, as lf each dld noL belleve ln
Lhe oLher's exlsLence. 1hen laber moved and puL ouL hls hand and arabbed MonLaa and moved hlm ln
and saL hlm down and wenL back and sLood ln Lhe door, llsLenlna. 1he slrens were walllna off ln Lhe
mornlna dlsLance. Pe came ln and shuL Lhe door.
MonLaa sald, "l've been a fool all down Lhe llne. l can'L sLav lona. l'm on mv wav Cod knows
"AL leasL vou were a fool abouL Lhe rlahL Lhlnas," sald laber. "l LhouahL vou were dead. 1he
audlo-capsule l aave vou--"
"l heard Lhe capLaln Lalklna Lo vou and suddenlv Lhere was noLhlna. l almosL came ouL looklna
"1he capLaln's dead. Pe found Lhe audlo-capsule, he heard vour volce, he was aolna Lo Lrace lL. l
kllled hlm wlLh Lhe flameLhrower."
laber saL down and dld noL speak for a Llme.
"Mv Cod, how dld Lhls happen?" sald MonLaa. "lL was onlv Lhe oLher nlahL evervLhlna was flne
and Lhe nexL Lhlna l know l'm drownlna. Pow manv Llmes can a man ao down and sLlll be allve? l can'L
breaLhe. 1here's 8eaLLv dead, and he was mv frlend once, and Lhere's Mlllle aone, l LhouahL she was mv
wlfe, buL now l don'L know. And Lhe house all burnL. And mv [ob aone and mvself on Lhe run, and l
planLed a book ln a flreman's house on Lhe wav. Cood ChrlsL, Lhe Lhlnas l've done ln a slnale week!"
"?ou dld whaL vou had Lo do. lL was comlna on for a lona Llme."
"?es, l belleve LhaL, lf Lhere's noLhlna else l belleve. lL saved lLself up Lo happen. l could feel lL for
a lona Llme, l was savlna someLhlna up, l wenL around dolna one Lhlna and feellna anoLher. Cod, lL was
all Lhere. lL's a wonder lL dldn'L show on me, llke faL. And now here l am, messlna up vour llfe. 1hev
mlahL follow me here."
"l feel allve for Lhe flrsL Llme ln vears," sald laber. "l feel l'm dolna whaL l should have done a
llfeLlme aao. lor a llLLle whlle l'm noL afrald. Mavbe lL's because l'm dolna Lhe rlahL Lhlna aL lasL. Mavbe
lL's because l've done a rash Lhlna and don'L wanL Lo look Lhe coward Lo vou. l suppose l'll have Lo do
even more vlolenL Lhlnas, exposlna mvself so l won'L fall down on Lhe [ob and Lurn scared aaaln. WhaL
are vour plans?"
"1o keep runnlna."
"?ou know Lhe war's on?"
"Cod, lsn'L lL funnv?" sald Lhe old man. "lL seems so remoLe because we have our own Lroubles."
"l haven'L had Llme Lo Lhlnk." MonLaa drew ouL a hundred dollars. "l wanL Lhls Lo sLav wlLh vou,
use lL anv wav LhaL'll help when l'm aone."
"l mlahL be dead bv noon, use Lhls."
laber nodded. "?ou'd beLLer head for Lhe rlver lf vou can, follow alona lL, and lf vou can hlL Lhe
old rallroad llnes aolna ouL lnLo Lhe counLrv, follow Lhem. Lven Lhouah pracLlcallv evervLhlna's alrborne
Lhese davs and mosL of Lhe Lracks are abandoned, Lhe ralls are sLlll Lhere, rusLlna. l've heard Lhere are
sLlll hobo camps all across Lhe counLrv, here and Lhere, walklna camps Lhev call Lhem, and lf vou keep
walklna far enouah and keep an eve peeled, Lhev sav Lhere's loLs of old Parvard dearees on Lhe Lracks
beLween here and Los Anaeles. MosL of Lhem are wanLed and hunLed ln Lhe clLles. 1hev survlve, l auess.
1here aren'L manv of Lhem, and l auess Lhe CovernmenL's never consldered Lhem a areaL enouah danaer
Lo ao ln and Lrack Lhem down. ?ou mlahL hole up wlLh Lhem for a Llme and aeL ln Louch wlLh me ln SL.
Louls, l'm leavlna on Lhe flve a. m. bus Lhls mornlna, Lo see a reLlred prlnLer Lhere, l'm aeLLlna ouL lnLo
Lhe open mvself, aL lasL. 1he monev wlll be puL Lo aood use. 1hanks and Cod bless vou. uo vou wanL Lo
sleep a few mlnuLes?"
"l'd beLLer run."
Pe Look MonLaa qulcklv lnLo Lhe bedroom and llfLed a plcLure frame aslde, reveallna a Lelevlslon
screen Lhe slze of a posLal card. "l alwavs wanLed someLhlna verv small, someLhlna l could Lalk Lo,
someLhlna l could bloL ouL wlLh Lhe palm of mv hand, lf necessarv, noLhlna LhaL could shouL me down,
noLhlna monsLrous bla. So, vou see." Pe snapped lL on. "MonLaa," Lhe 1v seL sald, and llL up. "M-C-n-1-
A-C." 1he name was spelled ouL bv Lhe volce. "Cuv MonLaa. SLlll runnlna. Þollce hellcopLers are up. A
new Mechanlcal Pound has been brouahL from anoLher dlsLrlcL..."
MonLaa and laber looked aL each oLher.
"... Mechanlcal Pound never falls. never slnce lLs flrsL use ln Lracklna quarrv has Lhls lncredlble
lnvenLlon made a mlsLake. 1onlahL, Lhls neLwork ls proud Lo have Lhe opporLunlLv Lo follow Lhe Pound
bv camera hellcopLer as lL sLarLs on lLs wav Lo Lhe LaraeL..."
laber poured Lwo alasses of whlskv. "We'll need Lhese."
"... nose so senslLlve Lhe Mechanlcal Pound can remember and ldenLlfv Len Lhousand odour-
lndexes on Len Lhousand men wlLhouL re-seLLlna!"
laber Lrembled Lhe leasL blL and looked abouL aL hls house, aL Lhe walls, Lhe door, Lhe doorknob,
and Lhe chalr where MonLaa now saL. MonLaa saw Lhe look. 1hev boLh looked qulcklv abouL Lhe house
and MonLaa felL hls nosLrlls dllaLe and he knew LhaL he was Lrvlna Lo Lrack hlmself and hls nose was
suddenlv aood enouah Lo sense Lhe paLh he had made ln Lhe alr of Lhe room and Lhe sweaL of hls hand
huna from Lhe doorknob, lnvlslble, buL as numerous as Lhe [ewels of a small chandeller, he was
evervwhere, ln and on and abouL evervLhlna, he was a lumlnous cloud, a ahosL LhaL made breaLhlna
once more lmposslble. Pe saw laber sLop up hls own breaLh for fear of drawlna LhaL ahosL lnLo hls own
bodv, perhaps, belna conLamlnaLed wlLh Lhe phanLom exhalaLlons and odours of a runnlna man.
"1he Mechanlcal Pound ls now landlna bv hellcopLer aL Lhe slLe of Lhe 8urnlna!"
And Lhere on Lhe small screen was Lhe burnL house, and Lhe crowd, and someLhlna wlLh a sheeL
over lL and ouL of Lhe skv, fluLLerlna, came Lhe hellcopLer llke a aroLesque flower.
So Lhev musL have Lhelr aame ouL, LhouahL MonLaa. 1he clrcus musL ao on, even wlLh war
bealnnlna wlLhln Lhe hour....
Pe waLched Lhe scene, fasclnaLed, noL wanLlna Lo move. lL seemed so remoLe and no parL of
hlm, lL was a plav aparL and separaLe, wondrous Lo waLch, noL wlLhouL lLs sLranae pleasure. 1haL's all for
me, vou LhouahL, LhaL's all Laklna place [usL for me, bv Cod.
lf he wlshed, he could llnaer here, ln comforL, and follow Lhe enLlre hunL on Lhrouah lLs swlfL
phases, down allevs across sLreeLs, over empLv runnlna avenues, crosslna loLs and plavarounds, wlLh
pauses here or Lhere for Lhe necessarv commerclals, up oLher allevs Lo Lhe burnlna house of Mr. and
Mrs. 8lack, and so on flnallv Lo Lhls house wlLh laber and hlmself seaLed, drlnklna, whlle Lhe LlecLrlc
Pound snuffed down Lhe lasL Lrall, sllenL as a drlfL of deaLh lLself, skldded Lo a halL ouLslde LhaL wlndow
Lhere. 1hen, lf he wlshed, MonLaa mlahL rlse, walk Lo Lhe wlndow, keep one eve on Lhe 1v screen, open
Lhe wlndow, lean ouL, look back, and see hlmself dramaLlzed, descrlbed, made over, sLandlna Lhere,
llmned ln Lhe brlahL small Lelevlslon screen from ouLslde, a drama Lo be waLched ob[ecLlvelv, knowlna
LhaL ln oLher parlours he was larae as llfe, ln full colour, dlmenslonallv perfecL! And lf he kepL hls eve
peeled qulcklv he would see hlmself, an lnsLanL before obllvlon, belna puncLured for Lhe beneflL of how
manv clvlllan parlour-slLLers who had been wakened from sleep a few mlnuLes aao bv Lhe franLlc
slrenlna of Lhelr llvlna-room walls Lo come waLch Lhe bla aame, Lhe hunL, Lhe one-man carnlval.
Would he have Llme for a speech? As Lhe Pound selzed hlm, ln vlew of Len or LwenLv or LhlrLv
mllllon people, mlahLn'L he sum up hls enLlre llfe ln Lhe lasL week ln one slnale phrase or a word LhaL
would sLav wlLh Lhem lona afLer Lhe Pound had Lurned, clenchlna hlm ln lLs meLal-pller [aws, and LroLLed
off ln darkness, whlle Lhe camera remalned sLaLlonarv, waLchlna Lhe creaLure dwlndle ln Lhe dlsLance--a
splendld fade-ouL! WhaL could he sav ln a slnale word, a few words, LhaL would sear all Lhelr faces and
wake Lhem up?
"1here," whlspered laber.
CuL of a hellcopLer allded someLhlna LhaL was noL machlne, noL anlmal, noL dead, noL allve,
alowlna wlLh a pale areen lumlnoslLv. lL sLood near Lhe smoklna rulns of MonLaa's house and Lhe men
brouahL hls dlscarded flame-Lhrower Lo lL and puL lL down under Lhe muzzle of Lhe Pound. 1here was a
whlrrlna, cllcklna, hummlna.
MonLaa shook hls head and aoL up and drank Lhe resL of hls drlnk. "lL's Llme. l'm sorrv abouL
"AbouL whaL? Me? Mv house? l deserve evervLhlna. 8un, for Cod's sake. Þerhaps l can delav
"WalL. 1here's no use vour belna dlscovered. When l leave, burn Lhe spread of Lhls bed, LhaL l
Louched. 8urn Lhe chalr ln Lhe llvlna room, ln vour wall lnclneraLor. Wlpe down Lhe furnlLure wlLh
alcohol, wlpe Lhe door-knobs. 8urn Lhe Lhrowrua ln Lhe parlour. 1urn Lhe alr-condlLlonlna on full ln all
Lhe rooms and sprav wlLh moLh-sprav lf vou have lL. 1hen, Lurn on vour lawn sprlnklers as hlah as Lhev'll
ao and hose off Lhe sldewalks. WlLh anv luck aL all, we can klll Lhe Lrall ln here, anvwav..'
laber shook hls hand. "l'll Lend Lo lL. Cood luck. lf we're boLh ln aood healLh, nexL week, Lhe
week afLer, aeL ln Louch. Ceneral uellverv, SL. Louls. l'm sorrv Lhere's no wav l can ao wlLh vou Lhls Llme,
bv ear-phone. 1haL was aood for boLh of us. 8uL mv equlpmenL was llmlLed. ?ou see, l never LhouahL l
would use lL. WhaL a slllv old man. no LhouahL Lhere. SLupld, sLupld. So l haven'L anoLher areen bulleL,
Lhe rlahL klnd, Lo puL ln vour head. Co now!"
"Cne lasL Lhlna. Culck. A sulLcase, aeL lL, flll lL wlLh vour dlrLlesL cloLhes, an old sulL, Lhe dlrLler
Lhe beLLer, a shlrL, some old sneakers and socks...."
laber was aone and back ln a mlnuLe. 1hev sealed Lhe cardboard vallse wlLh clear Lape. "1o keep
Lhe anclenL odour of Mr. laber ln, of course," sald laber sweaLlna aL Lhe [ob.
MonLaa doused Lhe exLerlor of Lhe vallse wlLh whlskv. "l don'L wanL LhaL Pound plcklna up Lwo
odours aL once. Mav l Lake Lhls whlskv. l'll need lL laLer. ChrlsL l hope Lhls works!"
1hev shook hands aaaln and, aolna ouL of Lhe door, Lhev alanced aL Lhe 1v. 1he Pound was on
lLs wav, followed bv hoverlna hellcopLer cameras, sllenLlv, sllenLlv, snlfflna Lhe areaL nlahL wlnd. lL was
runnlna down Lhe flrsL allev.
And MonLaa was ouL Lhe back door llahLlv, runnlna wlLh Lhe half-empLv vallse. 8ehlnd hlm he
heard Lhe lawn-sprlnkllna svsLem [ump up, fllllna Lhe dark alr wlLh raln LhaL fell aenLlv and Lhen wlLh a
sLeadv pour all abouL, washlna on Lhe sldewalks, and dralnlna lnLo Lhe allev. Pe carrled a few drops of
Lhls raln wlLh hlm on hls face. Pe LhouahL he heard Lhe old man call aood-bve, buL he-wasn'L cerLaln.
Pe ran verv fasL awav from Lhe house, down Loward Lhe rlver.
Pe could feel Lhe Pound, llke auLumn, come cold and drv and swlfL, llke a wlnd LhaL dldn'L sLlr
arass, LhaL dldn'L [ar wlndows or dlsLurb leaf-shadows on Lhe whlLe sldewalks as lL passed. 1he Pound
dld noL Louch Lhe world. lL carrled lLs sllence wlLh lL, so vou could feel Lhe sllence bulldlna up a pressure
behlnd vou all across Lown. MonLaa felL Lhe pressure rlslna, and ran.
Pe sLopped for breaLh, on hls wav Lo Lhe rlver, Lo peer Lhrouah dlmlv llL wlndows of wakened
houses, and saw Lhe sllhoueLLes of people lnslde waLchlna Lhelr parlour walls and Lhere on Lhe walls Lhe
Mechanlcal Pound, a breaLh of neon vapour, spldered alona, here and aone, here and aone! now aL Llm
1errace, Llncoln, Cak, Þark, and up Lhe allev Loward laber's house.
Co pasL, LhouahL MonLaa, don'L sLop, ao on, don'L Lurn ln!
Cn Lhe parlour wall, laber's house, wlLh lLs sprlnkler svsLem pulslna ln Lhe nlahL alr.
1he Pound paused, qulverlna.
no! MonLaa held Lo Lhe wlndow slll. 1hls wav! Pere!
1he procalne needle fllcked ouL and ln, ouL and ln. A slnale clear drop of Lhe sLuff of dreams fell
from Lhe needle as lL vanlshed ln Lhe Pound's muzzle.
MonLaa held hls breaLh, llke a doubled flsL, ln hls chesL.
1he Mechanlcal Pound Lurned and plunaed awav from laber's house down Lhe allev aaaln.
MonLaa snapped hls aaze Lo Lhe skv. 1he hellcopLers were closer, a areaL blowlna of lnsecLs Lo a
slnale llahL source.
WlLh an efforL, MonLaa remlnded hlmself aaaln LhaL Lhls was no flcLlonal eplsode Lo be waLched
on hls run Lo Lhe rlver, lL was ln acLuallLv hls own chess-aame he was wlLnesslna, move bv move.
Pe shouLed Lo alve hlmself Lhe necessarv push awav from Lhls lasL house wlndow, and Lhe
fasclnaLlna seance aolna on ln Lhere! Pell! and he was awav and aone! 1he allev, a sLreeL, Lhe allev, a
sLreeL, and Lhe smell of Lhe rlver. Lea ouL, lea down, lea ouL and down. 1wenLv mllllon MonLaas runnlna,
soon, lf Lhe cameras cauahL hlm. 1wenLv mllllon MonLaas runnlna, runnlna llke an anclenL fllckerv
kevsLone Comedv, cops, robbers, chasers and Lhe chased, hunLers and hunLed, he had seen lL a
Lhousand Llmes. 8ehlnd hlm now LwenLv mllllon sllenLlv bavlna Pounds rlcocheLed across parlours,
Lhree-cushlon shooLlna from rlahL wall Lo cenLre wall Lo lefL wall, aone, rlahL wall, cenLre wall, lefL wall,
MonLaa [ammed hls Seashell Lo hls ear.
"Þollce suaaesL enLlre populaLlon ln Lhe Llm 1errace area do as follows: Lvervone ln everv house
ln everv sLreeL open a fronL or rear door or look from Lhe wlndows. 1he fualLlve cannoL escape lf
evervone ln Lhe nexL mlnuLe looks from hls house. 8eadv!"
Cf course! Whv hadn'L Lhev done lL before! Whv, ln all Lhe vears, hadn'L Lhls aame been Lrled!
Lvervone up, evervone ouL! Pe couldn'L be mlssed! 1he onlv man runnlna alone ln Lhe nlahL clLv, Lhe
onlv man provlna hls leas!
"AL Lhe counL of Len now! Cne! 1wo!"
Pe felL Lhe clLv rlse. 1hree.
Pe felL Lhe clLv Lurn Lo lLs Lhousands of doors.
lasLer! Lea up, lea down!
1he people sleepwalklna ln Lhelr hallwavs.
Pe felL Lhelr hands on Lhe doorknobs!
1he smell of Lhe rlver was cool and llke a solld raln. Pls LhroaL was burnL rusL and hls eves were
wepL drv wlLh runnlna. Pe velled as lf Lhls vell would [eL hlm on, fllna hlm Lhe lasL hundred vards.
"Slx, seven, elahL!"
1he doorknobs Lurned on flve Lhousand doors. "nlne!"
Pe ran ouL awav from Lhe lasL row of houses, on a slope leadlna down Lo a solld movlna
1he doors opened.
Pe lmaalned Lhousands on Lhousands of faces peerlna lnLo vards, lnLo allevs, and lnLo Lhe skv,
faces hld bv curLalns, pale, nlahL-frlahLened faces, llke arev anlmals peerlna from elecLrlc caves, faces
wlLh arev colourless eves, arev Lonaues and arev LhouahLs looklna ouL Lhrouah Lhe numb flesh of Lhe
8uL he was aL Lhe rlver.
Pe Louched lL, [usL Lo be sure lL was real. Pe waded ln and sLrlpped ln darkness Lo Lhe skln,
splashed hls bodv, arms, leas, and head wlLh raw llquor, drank lL and snuffed some up hls nose. 1hen he
dressed ln laber's old cloLhes and shoes. Pe Lossed hls own cloLhlna lnLo Lhe rlver and waLched lL swepL
awav. 1hen, holdlna Lhe sulLcase, he walked ouL ln Lhe rlver unLll Lhere was no boLLom and he was swepL
awav ln Lhe dark.
Pe was Lhree hundred vards downsLream when Lhe Pound reached Lhe rlver. Cverhead Lhe
areaL rackeLlna fans of Lhe hellcopLers hovered. A sLorm of llahL fell upon Lhe rlver and MonLaa dlved
under Lhe areaL lllumlnaLlon as lf Lhe sun had broken Lhe clouds. Pe felL Lhe rlver pull hlm furLher on lLs
wav, lnLo darkness. 1hen Lhe llahLs swlLched back Lo Lhe land, Lhe hellcopLers swerved over Lhe clLv
aaaln, as lf Lhev had plcked up anoLher Lrall. 1hev were aone. 1he Pound was aone. now Lhere was onlv
Lhe cold rlver and MonLaa floaLlna ln a sudden peacefulness, awav from Lhe clLv and Lhe llahLs and Lhe
chase, awav from evervLhlna.
Pe felL as lf he had lefL a sLaae behlnd and manv acLors. Pe felL as lf he had lefL Lhe areaL seance
and all Lhe murmurlna ahosLs. Pe was movlna from an unreallLv LhaL was frlahLenlna lnLo a reallLv LhaL
was unreal because lL was new.
1he black land slld bv and he was aolna lnLo Lhe counLrv amona Lhe hllls: lor Lhe flrsL Llme ln a
dozen vears Lhe sLars were comlna ouL above hlm, ln areaL processlons of wheellna flre. Pe saw a areaL
[uaaernauL of sLars form ln Lhe skv and LhreaLen Lo roll over and crush hlm.
Pe floaLed on hls back when Lhe vallse fllled and sank, Lhe rlver was mlld and lelsurelv, aolna
awav from Lhe people who aLe shadows for breakfasL and sLeam for lunch and vapours for supper. 1he
rlver was verv real, lL held hlm comforLablv and aave hlm Lhe Llme aL lasL, Lhe lelsure, Lo conslder Lhls
monLh, Lhls vear, and a llfeLlme of vears. Pe llsLened Lo hls hearL slow. Pls LhouahLs sLopped rushlna
wlLh hls blood.
Pe saw Lhe moon low ln Lhe skv now. 1he moon Lhere, and Lhe llahL of Lhe moon caused bv
whaL? 8v Lhe sun, of course. And whaL llahLs Lhe sun? lLs own flre. And Lhe sun aoes on, dav afLer dav,
burnlna and burnlna. 1he sun and Llme. 1he sun and Llme and burnlna. 8urnlna. 1he rlver bobbled hlm
alona aenLlv. 8urnlna. 1he sun and everv clock on Lhe earLh. lL all came LoaeLher and became a slnale
Lhlna ln hls mlnd. AfLer a lona Llme of floaLlna on Lhe land and a shorL Llme of floaLlna ln Lhe rlver he
knew whv he musL never burn aaaln ln hls llfe.
1he sun burned everv dav. lL burned 1lme. 1he world rushed ln a clrcle and Lurned on lLs axls
and Llme was busv burnlna Lhe vears and Lhe people anvwav, wlLhouL anv help from hlm. So lf he burnL
Lhlnas wlLh Lhe flremen, and Lhe sun burnL 1lme, LhaL meanL LhaL evervLhlna burned!
Cne of Lhem had Lo sLop burnlna. 1he sun wouldn'L, cerLalnlv. So lL looked as lf lL had Lo be
MonLaa and Lhe people he had worked wlLh unLll a few shorL hours aao. Somewhere Lhe savlna and
puLLlna awav had Lo bealn aaaln and someone had Lo do Lhe savlna and keeplna, one wav or anoLher, ln
books, ln records, ln people's heads, anv wav aL all so lona as lL was safe, free from moLhs, sllver-flsh,
rusL and drv-roL, and men wlLh maLches. 1he world was full of burnlna of all Lvpes and slzes. now Lhe
aulld of Lhe asbesLos-weaver musL open shop verv soon.
Pe felL hls heel bump land, Louch pebbles and rocks, scrape sand. 1he rlver had moved hlm
Pe looked ln aL Lhe areaL black creaLure wlLhouL eves or llahL, wlLhouL shape, wlLh onlv a slze
LhaL wenL a Lhousand mlles wlLhouL wanLlna Lo sLop, wlLh lLs arass hllls and foresLs LhaL were walLlna for
Pe heslLaLed Lo leave Lhe comforLlna flow of Lhe waLer. Pe expecLed Lhe Pound Lhere. Suddenlv
Lhe Lrees mlahL blow under a areaL wlnd of hellcopLers.
8uL Lhere was onlv Lhe normal auLumn wlnd hlah up, aolna bv llke anoLher rlver. Whv wasn'L Lhe
Pound runnlna? Whv had Lhe search veered lnland? MonLaa llsLened. noLhlna. noLhlna.
Mlllle, he LhouahL. All Lhls counLrv here. LlsLen Lo lL! noLhlna and noLhlna. So much sllence,
Mlllle, l wonder how vou'd Lake lL? Would vou shouL ShuL up, shuL up! Mlllle, Mlllle. And he was sad.
Mlllle was noL here and Lhe Pound was noL here, buL Lhe drv smell of hav blowlna from some
dlsLanL fleld puL MonLaa on Lhe land. Pe remembered a farm he had vlslLed when he was verv vouna,
one of Lhe rare Llmes he had dlscovered LhaL somewhere behlnd Lhe seven vells of unreallLv, bevond Lhe
walls of parlours and bevond Lhe Lln moaL of Lhe clLv, cows chewed arass and plas saL ln warm ponds aL
noon and doas barked afLer whlLe sheep on a hlll.
now, Lhe drv smell of hav, Lhe moLlon of Lhe waLers, made hlm Lhlnk of sleeplna ln fresh hav ln a
lonelv barn awav from Lhe loud hlahwavs, behlnd a quleL farmhouse, and under an anclenL wlndmlll LhaL
whlrred llke Lhe sound of Lhe passlna vears overhead. Pe lav ln Lhe hlah barn lofL all nlahL, llsLenlna Lo
dlsLanL anlmals and lnsecLs and Lrees, Lhe llLLle moLlons and sLlrrlnas.
uurlna Lhe nlahL, he LhouahL, below Lhe lofL, he would hear a sound llke feeL movlna, perhaps.
Pe would Lense and slL up. 1he sound would move awav, Pe would lle back and look ouL of Lhe lofL
wlndow, verv laLe ln Lhe nlahL, and see Lhe llahLs ao ouL ln Lhe farmhouse lLself, unLll a verv vouna and
beauLlful woman would slL ln an unllL wlndow, braldlna her halr. lL would be hard Lo see her, buL her
face would be llke Lhe face of Lhe alrl so lona aao ln hls pasL now, so verv lona aao, Lhe alrl who had
known Lhe weaLher and never been burned bv Lhe flre-flles, Lhe alrl who had known whaL dandellons
meanL rubbed off on vour chln. 1hen, she would be aone from Lhe warm wlndow and appear aaaln
upsLalrs ln her moon-whlLened room. And Lhen, Lo Lhe sound of deaLh, Lhe sound of Lhe [eLs cuLLlna Lhe
skv lnLo Lwo black pleces bevond Lhe horlzon, he would lle ln Lhe lofL, hldden and safe, waLchlna Lhose
sLranae new sLars over Lhe rlm of Lhe earLh, fleelna from Lhe sofL colour of dawn.
ln Lhe mornlna he would noL have needed sleep, for all Lhe warm odours and slahLs of a
compleLe counLrv nlahL would have resLed and slepL hlm whlle hls eves were wlde and hls mouLh, when
he LhouahL Lo LesL lL, was half a smlle.
And Lhere aL Lhe boLLom of Lhe havlofL sLalr, walLlna for hlm, would be Lhe lncredlble Lhlna. Pe
would sLep carefullv down, ln Lhe plnk llahL of earlv mornlna, so fullv aware of Lhe world LhaL he would
be afrald, and sLand over Lhe small mlracle and aL lasL bend Lo Louch lL.
A cool alass of fresh mllk, and a few apples and pears lald aL Lhe fooL of Lhe sLeps.
1hls was all he wanLed now. Some slan LhaL Lhe lmmense world would accepL hlm and alve hlm
Lhe lona Llme needed Lo Lhlnk all Lhe Lhlnas LhaL musL be LhouahL.
A alass of mllk, an apple, a pear.
Pe sLepped from Lhe rlver.
1he land rushed aL hlm, a Lldal wave. Pe was crushed bv darkness and Lhe look of Lhe counLrv
and Lhe mllllon odours on a wlnd LhaL lced hls bodv. Pe fell back under Lhe breaklna curve of darkness
and sound and smell, hls ears roarlna. Pe whlrled. 1he sLars poured over hls slahL llke flamlna meLeors.
Pe wanLed Lo plunae ln Lhe rlver aaaln and leL lL ldle hlm safelv on down somewhere. 1hls dark land
rlslna was llke LhaL dav ln hls chlldhood, swlmmlna, when from nowhere Lhe laraesL wave ln Lhe hlsLorv
of rememberlna slammed hlm down ln salL mud and areen darkness, waLer burnlna mouLh and nose,
reLchlna hls sLomach, screamlna! 1oo much waLer!
1oo much land!
CuL of Lhe black wall before hlm, a whlsper. A shape. ln Lhe shape, Lwo eves. 1he nlahL looklna
aL hlm. 1he foresL, seelna hlm.
AfLer all Lhe runnlna and rushlna and sweaLlna lL ouL and half-drownlna, Lo come Lhls far, work
Lhls hard, and Lhlnk vourself safe and slah wlLh rellef and come ouL on Lhe land aL lasL onlv Lo flnd...
MonLaa aave one lasL aaonlzed shouL as lf Lhls were Loo much for anv man.
1he shape exploded awav. 1he eves vanlshed. 1he leafplles flew up ln a drv shower.
MonLaa was alone ln Lhe wllderness.
A deer. Pe smelled Lhe heavv musk-llke perfume mlnaled wlLh blood and Lhe aummed
exhalaLlon of Lhe anlmal's breaLh, all cardamon and moss and raaweed odour ln Lhls huae nlahL where
Lhe Lrees ran aL hlm, pulled awav, ran, pulled awav, Lo Lhe pulse of Lhe hearL behlnd hls eves.
1here musL have been a bllllon leaves on Lhe land, he waded ln Lhem, a drv rlver smelllna of hoL
cloves and warm dusL. And Lhe oLher smells! 1here was a smell llke a cuL poLaLo from all Lhe land, raw
and cold and whlLe from havlna Lhe moon on lL mosL of Lhe nlahL. 1here was a smell llke plckles from a
boLLle and a smell llke parslev on Lhe Lable aL home. 1here was a falnL vellow odour llke musLard from a
[ar. 1here was a smell llke carnaLlons from Lhe vard nexL door. Pe puL down hls hand and felL a weed rlse
up llke a chlld brushlna hlm. Pls flnaers smelled of llquorlce.
Pe sLood breaLhlna, and Lhe more he breaLhed Lhe land ln, Lhe more he was fllled up wlLh all Lhe
deLalls of Lhe land. Pe was noL empLv. 1here was more Lhan enouah here Lo flll hlm. 1here would alwavs
be more Lhan enouah.
Pe walked ln Lhe shallow Llde of leaves, sLumbllna.
And ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe sLranaeness, a famlllarlLv.
Pls fooL hlL someLhlna LhaL rana dullv.
Pe moved hls hand on Lhe around, a vard Lhls wav, a vard LhaL.
1he rallroad Lrack.
1he Lrack LhaL came ouL of Lhe clLv and rusLed across Lhe land, Lhrouah foresLs and woods,
deserLed now, bv Lhe rlver.
Pere was Lhe paLh Lo wherever he was aolna. Pere was Lhe slnale famlllar Lhlna, Lhe maalc
charm he mlahL need a llLLle whlle, Lo Louch, Lo feel beneaLh hls feeL, as he moved on lnLo Lhe bramble
bushes and Lhe lakes of smelllna and feellna and Louchlna, amona Lhe whlspers and Lhe blowlna down of
Pe walked on Lhe Lrack.
And he was surprlsed Lo learn how cerLaln he suddenlv was of a slnale facL he could noL prove.
Cnce, lona aao, Clarlsse had walked here, where he was walklna now.
Palf an hour laLer, cold, and movlna carefullv on Lhe Lracks, fullv aware of hls enLlre bodv, hls
face, hls mouLh, hls eves sLuffed wlLh blackness, hls ears sLuffed wlLh sound, hls leas prlckled wlLh burrs
and neLLles, he saw Lhe flre ahead.
1he flre was aone, Lhen back aaaln, llke a wlnklna eve. Pe sLopped, afrald he mlahL blow Lhe flre
ouL wlLh a slnale breaLh. 8uL Lhe flre was Lhere and he approached warllv, from a lona wav off. lL Look
Lhe beLLer parL of flfLeen mlnuLes before he drew verv close lndeed Lo lL, and Lhen he sLood looklna aL lL
from cover. 1haL small moLlon, Lhe whlLe and red colour, a sLranae flre because lL meanL a dlfferenL
Lhlna Lo hlm.
lL was noL burnlna, lL was warmlna!
Pe saw manv hands held Lo lLs warmLh, hands wlLhouL arms, hldden ln darkness. Above Lhe
hands, moLlonless faces LhaL were onlv moved and Lossed and fllckered wlLh flrellahL. Pe hadn'L known
flre could look Lhls wav. Pe had never LhouahL ln hls llfe LhaL lL could alve as well as Lake. Lven lLs smell
Pow lona he sLood he dld noL know, buL Lhere was a foollsh and veL dellclous sense of knowlna
hlmself as an anlmal come from Lhe foresL, drawn bv Lhe flre. Pe was a Lhlna of brush and llquld eve, of
fur and muzzle and hoof, he was a Lhlna of horn and blood LhaL would smell llke auLumn lf vou bled lL
ouL on Lhe around. Pe sLood a lona lona Llme, llsLenlna Lo Lhe warm crackle of Lhe flames.
1here was a sllence aaLhered all abouL LhaL flre and Lhe sllence was ln Lhe men's faces, and Llme
was Lhere, Llme enouah Lo slL bv Lhls rusLlna Lrack under Lhe Lrees, and look aL Lhe world and Lurn lL over
wlLh Lhe eves, as lf lL were held Lo Lhe cenLre of Lhe bonflre, a plece of sLeel Lhese men were all shaplna.
lL was noL onlv Lhe flre LhaL was dlfferenL. lL was Lhe sllence. MonLaa moved Loward Lhls speclal sllence
LhaL was concerned wlLh all of Lhe world.
And Lhen Lhe volces beaan and Lhev were Lalklna, and he could hear noLhlna of whaL Lhe volces
sald, buL Lhe sound rose and fell quleLlv and Lhe volces were Lurnlna Lhe world over and looklna aL lL, Lhe
volces knew Lhe land and Lhe Lrees and Lhe clLv whlch lav down Lhe Lrack bv Lhe rlver. 1he volces Lalked
of evervLhlna, Lhere was noLhlna Lhev could noL Lalk abouL, he knew from Lhe verv cadence and moLlon
and conLlnual sLlr of curloslLv and wonder ln Lhem.
And Lhen one of Lhe men looked up and saw hlm, for Lhe flrsL or perhaps Lhe sevenLh Llme, and
a volce called Lo MonLaa: "All rlahL, vou can come ouL now!"
MonLaa sLepped back lnLo Lhe shadows.
"lL's all rlahL," Lhe volce sald. "?ou're welcome here."
MonLaa walked slowlv Loward Lhe flre and Lhe flve old men slLLlna Lhere dressed ln dark blue
denlm panLs and [ackeLs and dark blue sulLs. Pe dld noL know whaL Lo sav Lo Lhem.
"SlL down," sald Lhe man who seemed Lo be Lhe leader of Lhe small aroup. "Pave some coffee?"
Pe waLched Lhe dark sLeamlna mlxLure pour lnLo a collapslble Lln cup, whlch was handed hlm
sLralahL off. Pe slpped lL alnaerlv and felL Lhem looklna aL hlm wlLh curloslLv. Pls llps were scalded, buL
LhaL was aood. 1he faces around hlm were bearded, buL Lhe beards were clean, neaL, and Lhelr hands
were clean. 1hev had sLood up as lf Lo welcome a auesL, and now Lhev saL down aaaln. MonLaa slpped.
"1hanks," he sald. "1hanks verv much."
"?ou're welcome, MonLaa. Mv name's Cranaer." Pe held ouL a small boLLle of colourless fluld.
"urlnk Lhls, Loo. lL'll chanae Lhe chemlcal lndex of vour persplraLlon. Palf an hour from now vou'll smell
llke Lwo oLher people. WlLh Lhe Pound afLer vou, Lhe besL Lhlna ls 8oLLoms up."
MonLaa drank Lhe blLLer fluld.
"?ou'll sLlnk llke a bobcaL, buL LhaL's all rlahL," sald Cranaer.
"?ou know mv name," sald MonLaa.
Cranaer nodded Lo a porLable baLLerv 1v seL bv Lhe flre.
"We've waLched Lhe chase. llaured vou'd wlnd up souLh alona Lhe rlver. When we heard vou
plunalna around ouL ln Lhe foresL llke a drunken elk, we dldn'L hlde as we usuallv do. We flaured vou
were ln Lhe rlver, when Lhe hellcopLer cameras swuna back ln over Lhe clLv. SomeLhlna funnv Lhere. 1he
chase ls sLlll runnlna. 1he oLher wav, Lhouah."
"1he oLher wav?"
"LeL's have a look."
Cranaer snapped Lhe porLable vlewer on. 1he plcLure was a nlahLmare, condensed, easllv
passed from hand Lo hand, ln Lhe foresL, all whlrrlna colour and fllahL. A volce crled: "1he chase
conLlnues norLh ln Lhe clLv! Þollce hellcopLers are converalna on Avenue 87 and Llm Crove Þark!"
Cranaer nodded. "1hev're faklna. ?ou Lhrew Lhem off aL Lhe rlver. 1hev can'L admlL lL. 1hev
know Lhev can hold Lhelr audlence onlv so lona. 1he show's aoL Lo have a snap endlna, qulck! lf Lhev
sLarLed searchlna Lhe whole damn rlver lL mlahL Lake all nlahL. So Lhev're snlfflna for a scape-aoaL Lo end
Lhlnas wlLh a bana. WaLch. 1hev'll caLch MonLaa ln Lhe nexL flve mlnuLes!"
1he camera, hoverlna ln Lhe bellv of a hellcopLer, now swuna down aL an empLv sLreeL.
"See LhaL?" whlspered Cranaer. "lL'll be vou, rlahL up aL Lhe end of LhaL sLreeL ls our vlcLlm. See
how our camera ls comlna ln? 8ulldlna Lhe scene. Suspense. Lona shoL. 8lahL now, some poor fellow ls
ouL for a walk. A rarlLv. An odd one. uon'L Lhlnk Lhe pollce don'L know Lhe hablLs of queer ducks llke
LhaL, men who walk mornlnas for Lhe hell of lL, or for reasons of lnsomnla. Anvwav, Lhe pollce have had
hlm charLed for monLhs, vears. never know when LhaL sorL of lnformaLlon mlahL be handv. And Lodav, lL
Lurns ouL, lL's verv usable lndeed. lL saves face. Ch, Cod, look Lhere!"
1he men aL Lhe flre benL forward.
Cn Lhe screen, a man Lurned a corner. 1he Mechanlcal Pound rushed forward lnLo Lhe vlewer,
suddenlv. 1he hellcopLer llahL shoL down a dozen brllllanL plllars LhaL bullL a caae all abouL Lhe man.
A volce crled, "1here's MonLaa! 1he search ls done!"
1he lnnocenL man sLood bewlldered, a claareLLe burnlna ln hls hand. Pe sLared aL Lhe Pound,
noL knowlna whaL lL was. Pe probablv never knew. Pe alanced up aL Lhe skv and Lhe walllna slrens. 1he
cameras rushed down. 1he Pound leapL up lnLo Lhe alr wlLh a rhvLhm and a sense of Llmlna LhaL was
lncredlblv beauLlful. lLs needle shoL ouL. lL was suspended for a momenL ln Lhelr aaze, as lf Lo alve Lhe
vasL audlence Llme Lo appreclaLe evervLhlna, Lhe raw look of Lhe vlcLlm's face, Lhe empLv sLreeL, Lhe
sLeel anlmal a bulleL noslna Lhe LaraeL.
"MonLaa, don'L move!" sald a volce from Lhe skv.
1he camera fell upon Lhe vlcLlm, even as dld Lhe Pound. 8oLh reached hlm slmulLaneouslv. 1he
vlcLlm was selzed bv Pound and camera ln a areaL splderlna, clenchlna arlp. Pe screamed. Pe screamed.
MonLaa crled ouL ln Lhe sllence and Lurned awav.
And Lhen, afLer a Llme of Lhe men slLLlna around Lhe flre, Lhelr faces expresslonless, an
announcer on Lhe dark screen sald, "1he search ls over, MonLaa ls dead, a crlme aaalnsL socleLv has
"We now Lake vou Lo Lhe Skv 8oom of Lhe PoLel Lux for a half-hour of !usL-8efore-uawn, a
Cranaer Lurned lL off.
"1hev dldn'L show Lhe man's face ln focus. uld vou noLlce?
"Lven vour besL frlends couldn'L Lell lf lL was vou. 1hev scrambled lL [usL enouah Lo leL Lhe
lmaalnaLlon Lake over. Pell," he whlspered. "Pell."
MonLaa sald noLhlna buL now, looklna back, saL wlLh hls eves flxed Lo Lhe blank screen,
Cranaer Louched MonLaa's arm. "Welcome back from Lhe dead." MonLaa nodded. Cranaer wenL
on. "?ou mlahL as well know all of us, now. 1hls ls lred ClemenL, former occupanL of Lhe 1homas Pardv
chalr aL Cambrldae ln Lhe vears before lL became an ALomlc Lnalneerlna School. 1hls oLher ls ur.
Slmmons from u.C.L.A., a speclallsL ln CrLeaa v CasseL, Þrofessor WesL here dld qulLe a blL for eLhlcs, an
anclenL sLudv now, for Columbla unlverslLv qulLe some vears aao. 8everend Þadover here aave a few
lecLures LhlrLv vears aao and losL hls flock beLween one Sundav and Lhe nexL for hls vlews. Pe's been
bummlna wlLh us some Llme now. Mvself: l wroLe a book called 1he llnaers ln Lhe Clove, Lhe Þroper
8elaLlonshlp beLween Lhe lndlvldual and SocleLv, and here l am! Welcome, MonLaa!"
"l don'L belona wlLh vou," sald MonLaa, aL lasL, slowlv. "l've been an ldloL all Lhe wav."
"We're used Lo LhaL. We all made Lhe rlahL klnd of mlsLakes, or we wouldn'L be here. When we
were separaLe lndlvlduals, all we had was raae. l sLruck a flreman when he came Lo burn mv llbrarv vears
aao. l've been runnlna ever slnce. ?ou wanL Lo [oln us, MonLaa?"
"WhaL have vou Lo offer?"
"noLhlna. l LhouahL l had parL of Lhe 8ook of LccleslasLes and mavbe a llLLle of 8evelaLlon, buL l
haven'L even LhaL now."
"1he 8ook of LccleslasLes would be flne. Where was lL?"
"Pere," MonLaa Louched hls head.
"Ah," Cranaer smlled and nodded.
"WhaL's wrona? lsn'L LhaL all rlahL?" sald MonLaa.
"8eLLer Lhan all rlahL, perfecL!" Cranaer Lurned Lo Lhe 8everend. "uo we have a 8ook of
"Cne. A man named Parrls of ?ounasLown."
"MonLaa." Cranaer Look MonLaa's shoulder flrmlv. "Walk carefullv. Cuard vour healLh. lf
anvLhlna should happen Lo Parrls, vou are Lhe 8ook of LccleslasLes. See how lmporLanL vou've become
ln Lhe lasL mlnuLe!"
"8uL l've foraoLLen!"
"no, noLhlna's ever losL. We have wavs Lo shake down vour cllnkers for vou."
"8uL l've Lrled Lo remember!"
"uon'L Lrv. lL'll come when we need lL. All of us have phoLoaraphlc memorles, buL spend a
llfeLlme learnlna how Lo block off Lhe Lhlnas LhaL are reallv ln Lhere. Slmmons here has worked on lL for
LwenLv vears and now we've aoL Lhe meLhod down Lo where we can recall anvLhlna LhaL's been read
once. Would vou llke, some dav, MonLaa, Lo read ÞlaLo's 8epubllc?"
"l am ÞlaLo's 8epubllc. Llke Lo read Marcus Aurellus? Mr. Slmmons ls Marcus."
"Pow do vou do?" sald Mr. Slmmons.
"Pello," sald MonLaa.
"l wanL vou Lo meeL !onaLhan SwlfL, Lhe auLhor of LhaL evll pollLlcal book, Culllver's 1ravels! And
Lhls oLher fellow ls Charles uarwln, and-Lhls one ls Schopenhauer, and Lhls one ls LlnsLeln, and Lhls one
here aL mv elbow ls Mr. AlberL SchwelLzer, a verv klnd phllosopher lndeed. Pere we all are, MonLaa.
ArlsLophanes and MahaLma Candhl and CauLama 8uddha and Confuclus and 1homas Love Þeacock and
1homas !efferson and Mr. Llncoln, lf vou please. We are also MaLLhew, Mark, Luke, and !ohn."
Lvervone lauahed quleLlv.
"lL can'L be," sald MonLaa.
"lL ls," replled Cranaer, smlllna. "We're book-burners, Loo. We read Lhe books and burnL Lhem,
afrald Lhev'd be found. Mlcro-fllmlna dldn'L pav off, we were alwavs Lravelllna, we dldn'L wanL Lo burv
Lhe fllm and come back laLer. Alwavs Lhe chance of dlscoverv. 8eLLer Lo keep lL ln Lhe old heads, where
no one can see lL or suspecL lL. We are all blLs and pleces of hlsLorv and llLeraLure and lnLernaLlonal law,
8vron, 1om Þalne, Machlavelll, or ChrlsL, lL's here. And Lhe hour ls laLe. And Lhe war's beaun. And we are
ouL here, and Lhe clLv ls Lhere, all wrapped up ln lLs own coaL of a Lhousand colours. WhaL do vou Lhlnk,
"l Lhlnk l was bllnd Lrvlna Lo do Lhlnas mv wav, planLlna books ln flremen's houses and sendlna ln
"?ou dld whaL vou had Lo do. Carrled ouL on a naLlonal scale, lL mlahL have worked beauLlfullv.
8uL our wav ls slmpler and, we Lhlnk, beLLer. All we wanL Lo do ls keep Lhe knowledae we Lhlnk we wlll
need, lnLacL and safe. We're noL ouL Lo lnclLe or anaer anvone veL. lor lf we are desLroved, Lhe
knowledae ls dead, perhaps for aood. We are model clLlzens, ln our own speclal wav, we walk Lhe old
Lracks, we lle ln Lhe hllls aL nlahL, and Lhe clLv people leL us be. We're sLopped and searched
occaslonallv, buL Lhere's noLhlna on our persons Lo lncrlmlnaLe us. 1he oraanlzaLlon ls flexlble, verv
loose, and fraamenLarv. Some of us have had plasLlc suraerv on our faces and flnaerprlnLs. 8lahL now we
have a horrlble [ob, we're walLlna for Lhe war Lo bealn and, as qulcklv, end. lL's noL pleasanL, buL Lhen
we're noL ln conLrol, we're Lhe odd mlnorlLv crvlna ln Lhe wllderness. When Lhe war's over, perhaps we
can be of some use ln Lhe world."
"uo vou reallv Lhlnk Lhev'll llsLen Lhen?"
"lf noL, we'll [usL have Lo walL. We'll pass Lhe books on Lo our chlldren, bv word of mouLh, and
leL our chlldren walL, ln Lurn, on Lhe oLher people. A loL wlll be losL LhaL wav, of course.
"8uL vou can'L make people llsLen. 1hev have Lo come round ln Lhelr own Llme, wonderlna whaL
happened and whv Lhe world blew up under Lhem. lL can'L lasL."
"Pow manv of vou are Lhere?"
"1housands on Lhe roads, Lhe abandoned rallLracks, LonlahL, bums on Lhe ouLslde, llbrarles
lnslde. lL wasn'L planned, aL flrsL. Lach man had a book he wanLed Lo remember, and dld. 1hen, over a
perlod of LwenLv vears or so, we meL each oLher, Lravelllna, and aoL Lhe loose neLwork LoaeLher and seL
ouL a plan. 1he mosL lmporLanL slnale Lhlna we had Lo pound lnLo ourselves was LhaL we were noL
lmporLanL, we musLn'L be pedanLs, we were noL Lo feel superlor Lo anvone else ln Lhe world. We're
noLhlna more Lhan dusL-[ackeLs for books, of no slanlflcance oLherwlse. Some of us llve ln small Lowns.
ChapLer Cne of 1horeau's Walden ln Creen 8lver, ChapLer 1wo ln Wlllow larm, Malne. Whv, Lhere's one
Lown ln Marvland, onlv LwenLv-seven people, no bomb'll ever Louch LhaL Lown, ls Lhe compleLe essavs of
a man named 8erLrand 8ussell. Þlck up LhaL Lown, almosL, and fllp Lhe paaes, so manv paaes Lo a person.
And when Lhe war's over, some dav, some vear, Lhe books can be wrlLLen aaaln, Lhe people wlll be
called ln, one bv one, Lo reclLe whaL Lhev know and we'll seL lL up ln Lvpe unLll anoLher uark Aae, when
we mlahL have Lo do Lhe whole damn Lhlna over aaaln. 8uL LhaL's Lhe wonderful Lhlna abouL man, he
never aeLs so dlscouraaed or dlsausLed LhaL he alves up dolna lL all over aaaln, because he knows verv
well lL ls lmporLanL and worLh Lhe dolna."
"WhaL do we do LonlahL?" asked MonLaa.
"WalL," sald Cranaer. "And move downsLream a llLLle wav, [usL ln case."
Pe beaan Lhrowlna dusL and dlrL on Lhe flre.
1he oLher men helped, and MonLaa helped, and Lhere, ln Lhe wllderness, Lhe men all moved
Lhelr hands, puLLlna ouL Lhe flre LoaeLher.
1hev sLood bv Lhe rlver ln Lhe sLarllahL.
MonLaa saw Lhe lumlnous dlal of hls waLerproof. llve. llve o'clock ln Lhe mornlna. AnoLher vear
Llcked bv ln a slnale hour, and dawn walLlna bevond Lhe far bank of Lhe rlver.
"Whv do vou LrusL me?" sald MonLaa.
A man moved ln Lhe darkness.
"1he look of vou's enouah. ?ou haven'L seen vourself ln a mlrror laLelv. 8evond LhaL, Lhe clLv has
never cared so much abouL us Lo boLher wlLh an elaboraLe chase llke Lhls Lo flnd us. A few crackpoLs
wlLh verses ln Lhelr heads can'L Louch Lhem, and Lhev know lL and we know lL, evervone knows lL. So
lona as Lhe vasL populaLlon doesn'L wander abouL quoLlna Lhe Maana CarLa and Lhe ConsLlLuLlon, lL's all
rlahL. 1he flremen were enouah Lo check LhaL, now and Lhen. no, Lhe clLles don'L boLher us. And vou
look llke hell."
1hev moved alona Lhe bank of Lhe rlver, aolna souLh. MonLaa Lrled Lo see Lhe men's faces, Lhe
old faces he remembered from Lhe flrellahL, llned and Llred. Pe was looklna for a brlahLness, a resolve, a
Lrlumph over Lomorrow LhaL hardlv seemed Lo be Lhere. Þerhaps he had expecLed Lhelr faces Lo burn
and allLLer wlLh Lhe knowledae Lhev carrled, Lo alow as lanLerns alow, wlLh Lhe llahL ln Lhem. 8uL all Lhe
llahL had come from Lhe camp flre, and Lhese men had seemed no dlfferenL from anv oLhers who had
run a lona race, searched a lona search, seen aood Lhlnas desLroved, and now, verv laLe, were aaLherlna
Lo walL for Lhe end of Lhe parLv and Lhe blowlna ouL of Lhe lamps. 1hev weren'L aL all cerLaln LhaL Lhe
Lhlnas Lhev carrled ln Lhelr heads mlahL make everv fuLure dawn alow wlLh a purer llahL, Lhev were sure
of noLhlna save LhaL Lhe books were on flle behlnd Lhelr quleL eves, Lhe books were walLlna, wlLh Lhelr
paaes uncuL, for Lhe cusLomers who mlahL come bv ln laLer vears, some wlLh clean and some wlLh dlrLv
MonLaa squlnLed from one face Lo anoLher as Lhev walked.
"uon'L [udae a book bv lLs cover," someone sald.
And Lhev all lauahed quleLlv, movlna downsLream.
1here was a shrlek and Lhe [eLs from Lhe clLv were aone overhead lona before Lhe men looked
up. MonLaa sLared back aL Lhe clLv, far down Lhe rlver, onlv a falnL alow now.
"Mv wlfe's back Lhere."
"l'm sorrv Lo hear LhaL. 1he clLles won'L do well ln Lhe nexL few davs," sald Cranaer.
"lL's sLranae, l don'L mlss her, lL's sLranae l don'L feel much of anvLhlna," sald MonLaa. "Lven lf
she dles, l reallzed a momenL aao, l don'L Lhlnk l'll feel sad. lL lsn'L rlahL. SomeLhlna musL be wrona wlLh
"LlsLen," sald Cranaer, Laklna hls arm, and walklna wlLh hlm, holdlna aslde Lhe bushes Lo leL hlm
pass. "When l was a bov mv arandfaLher dled, and he was a sculpLor. Pe was also a verv klnd man who
had a loL of love Lo alve Lhe world, and he helped clean up Lhe slum ln our Lown, and he made Lovs for
us and he dld a mllllon Lhlnas ln hls llfeLlme, he was alwavs busv wlLh hls hands. And when he dled, l
suddenlv reallzed l wasn'L crvlna for hlm aL all, buL for Lhe Lhlnas he dld. l crled because he would never
do Lhem aaaln, he would never carve anoLher plece of wood or help us ralse doves and plaeons ln Lhe
back vard or plav Lhe vlolln Lhe wav he dld, or Lell us [okes Lhe wav he dld. Pe was parL of us and when
he dled, all Lhe acLlons sLopped dead and Lhere was no one Lo do Lhem [usL Lhe wav he dld. Pe was
lndlvldual. Pe was an lmporLanL man. l've never aoLLen over hls deaLh. CfLen l Lhlnk, whaL wonderful
carvlnas never came Lo blrLh because he dled. Pow manv [okes are mlsslna from Lhe world, and how
manv homlna plaeons unLouched bv hls hands. Pe shaped Lhe world. Pe dld Lhlnas Lo Lhe world. 1he
world was bankrupLed of Len mllllon flne acLlons Lhe nlahL he passed on."
MonLaa walked ln sllence. "Mlllle, Mlllle," he whlspered. "Mlllle."
"Mv wlfe, mv wlfe. Þoor Mlllle, poor Mlllle. l can'L remember anvLhlna. l Lhlnk of her hands buL l
don'L see Lhem dolna anvLhlna aL all. 1hev [usL hana Lhere aL her sldes or Lhev lle Lhere on her lap or
Lhere's a claareLLe ln Lhem, buL LhaL's all."
MonLaa Lurned and alanced back.
WhaL dld vou alve Lo Lhe clLv, MonLaa?
WhaL dld Lhe oLhers alve Lo each oLher?
Cranaer sLood looklna back wlLh MonLaa. "Lvervone musL leave someLhlna behlnd when he
dles, mv arandfaLher sald. A chlld or a book or a palnLlna or a house or a wall bullL or a palr of shoes
made. Cr a aarden planLed. SomeLhlna vour hand Louched some wav so vour soul has somewhere Lo ao
when vou dle, and when people look aL LhaL Lree or LhaL flower vou planLed, vou're Lhere. lL doesn'L
maLLer whaL vou do, he sald, so lona as vou chanae someLhlna from Lhe wav lL was before vou Louched
lL lnLo someLhlna LhaL's llke vou afLer vou Lake vour hands awav. 1he dlfference beLween Lhe man who
[usL cuLs lawns and a real aardener ls ln Lhe Louchlna, he sald. 1he lawn-cuLLer mlahL [usL as well noL
have been Lhere aL all, Lhe aardener wlll be Lhere a llfeLlme."
Cranaer moved hls hand. "Mv arandfaLher showed me some v-2 rockeL fllms once, flfLv vears
aao. Pave vou ever seen Lhe aLom-bomb mushroom from Lwo hundred mlles up? lL's a plnprlck, lL's
noLhlna. WlLh Lhe wllderness all around lL.
"Mv arandfaLher ran off Lhe v-2 rockeL fllm a dozen Llmes and Lhen hoped LhaL some dav our
clLles would open up and leL Lhe areen and Lhe land and Lhe wllderness ln more, Lo remlnd people LhaL
we're alloLLed a llLLle space on earLh and LhaL we survlve ln LhaL wllderness LhaL can Lake back whaL lL
has alven, as easllv as blowlna lLs breaLh on us or sendlna Lhe sea Lo Lell us we are noL so bla. When we
foraeL how close Lhe wllderness ls ln Lhe nlahL, mv arandpa sald, some dav lL wlll come ln and aeL us, for
we wlll have foraoLLen how Lerrlble and real lL can be. ?ou see?" Cranaer Lurned Lo MonLaa.
"CrandfaLher's been dead for all Lhese vears, buL lf vou llfLed mv skull, bv Cod, ln Lhe convoluLlons of mv
braln vou'd flnd Lhe bla rldaes of hls LhumbprlnL. Pe Louched me. As l sald earller, he was a sculpLor. 'l
haLe a 8oman named SLaLus Cuo!' he sald Lo me. 'SLuff vour eves wlLh wonder,' he sald, 'llve as lf vou'd
drop dead ln Len seconds. See Lhe world. lL's more fanLasLlc Lhan anv dream made or pald for ln
facLorles. Ask no auaranLees, ask for no securlLv, Lhere never was such an anlmal. And lf Lhere were, lL
would be relaLed Lo Lhe areaL sloLh whlch hanas upslde down ln a Lree all dav everv dav, sleeplna lLs llfe
awav. 1o hell wlLh LhaL,' he sald, 'shake Lhe Lree and knock Lhe areaL sloLh down on hls ass.'"
"Look!" crled MonLaa.
And Lhe war beaan and ended ln LhaL lnsLanL.
LaLer, Lhe men around MonLaa could noL sav lf Lhev had reallv seen anvLhlna. Þerhaps Lhe
meresL flourlsh of llahL and moLlon ln Lhe skv. Þerhaps Lhe bombs were Lhere, and Lhe [eLs, Len mlles,
flve mlles, one mlle up, for Lhe meresL lnsLanL, llke araln Lhrown over Lhe heavens bv a areaL sowlna
hand, and Lhe bombs drlfLlna wlLh dreadful swlfLness, veL sudden slowness, down upon Lhe mornlna clLv
Lhev had lefL behlnd. 1he bombardmenL was Lo all lnLenLs and purposes flnlshed, once Lhe [eLs had
slahLed Lhelr LaraeL, alerLed Lhelr bombardlers aL flve Lhousand mlles an hour, as qulck as Lhe whlsper of
a scvLhe Lhe war was flnlshed. Cnce Lhe bomb-release was vanked lL was over. now, a full Lhree
seconds, all of Lhe Llme ln hlsLorv, before Lhe bombs sLruck, Lhe enemv shlps Lhemselves were aone half
around Lhe vlslble world, llke bulleLs ln whlch a savaae lslander mlahL noL belleve because Lhev were
lnvlslble, veL Lhe hearL ls suddenlv shaLLered, Lhe bodv falls ln separaLe moLlons and Lhe blood ls
asLonlshed Lo be freed on Lhe alr, Lhe braln squanders lLs few preclous memorles and, puzzled, dles.
1hls was noL Lo be belleved. lL was merelv a aesLure. MonLaa saw Lhe fllrL of a areaL meLal flsL
over Lhe far clLv and he knew Lhe scream of Lhe [eLs LhaL would follow, would sav, afLer Lhe deed,
dlslnLearaLe, leave no sLone on anoLher, perlsh. ule.
MonLaa held Lhe bombs ln Lhe skv for a slnale momenL, wlLh hls mlnd and hls hands reachlna
helplesslv up aL Lhem. "8un!" he crled Lo laber. 1o Clarlsse, "8un!" 1o Mlldred, "CeL ouL, aeL ouL of
Lhere!" 8uL Clarlsse, he remembered, was dead. And laber was ouL, Lhere ln Lhe deep vallevs of Lhe
counLrv somewhere Lhe flve a. m. bus was on lLs wav from one desolaLlon Lo anoLher. 1houah Lhe
desolaLlon had noL veL arrlved, was sLlll ln Lhe alr, lL was cerLaln as man could make lL. 8efore Lhe bus
had run anoLher flfLv vards on Lhe hlahwav, lLs desLlnaLlon would be meanlnaless, and lLs polnL of
deparLure chanaed from meLropolls Lo [unkvard.
CeL ouL, run!
Pe saw her ln her hoLel room somewhere now ln Lhe halfsecond remalnlna wlLh Lhe bombs a
vard, a fooL, an lnch from her bulldlna. Pe saw her leanlna Loward Lhe areaL shlmmerlna walls of colour
and moLlon where Lhe famllv Lalked and Lalked and Lalked Lo her, where Lhe famllv praLLled and chaLLed
and sald her name and smlled aL her and sald noLhlna of Lhe bomb LhaL was an lnch, now a half-lnch,
now a quarLer-lnch from Lhe Lop of Lhe hoLel. Leanlna lnLo Lhe wall as lf all of Lhe hunaer of looklna
would flnd Lhe secreL of her sleepless unease Lhere. Mlldred, leanlna anxlouslv, nervouslv, as lf Lo
plunae, drop, fall lnLo LhaL swarmlna lmmenslLv of colour Lo drown ln lLs brlahL happlness.
1he flrsL bomb sLruck.
Þerhaps, who would ever know? Þerhaps Lhe areaL broadcasLlna sLaLlons wlLh Lhelr beams of
colour and llahL and Lalk and chaLLer wenL flrsL lnLo obllvlon.
MonLaa, falllna flaL, aolna down, saw or felL, or lmaalned he saw or felL Lhe walls ao dark ln
Mlllle's face, heard her screamlna, because ln Lhe mllllonLh parL of Llme lefL, she saw her own face
reflecLed Lhere, ln a mlrror lnsLead of a crvsLal ball, and lL was such a wlldlv empLv face, all bv lLself ln
Lhe room, Louchlna noLhlna, sLarved and eaLlna of lLself, LhaL aL lasL she recoanlzed lL as her own and
looked qulcklv up aL Lhe celllna as lL and Lhe enLlre sLrucLure of Lhe hoLel blasLed down upon her,
carrvlna her wlLh a mllllon pounds of brlck, meLal, plasLer, and wood, Lo meeL oLher people ln Lhe hlves
below, all on Lhelr qulck wav down Lo Lhe cellar where Lhe exploslon rld lLself of Lhem ln lLs own
l remember. MonLaa cluna Lo Lhe earLh. l remember. Chlcaao. Chlcaao, a lona Llme aao. Mlllle
and l. 1haL's where we meL! l remember now. Chlcaao. A lona Llme aao.
1he concusslon knocked Lhe alr across and down Lhe rlver, Lurned Lhe men over llke domlnoes ln
a llne, blew Lhe waLer ln llfLlna spravs, and blew Lhe dusL and made Lhe Lrees above Lhem mourn wlLh a
areaL wlnd passlna awav souLh. MonLaa crushed hlmself down, squeezlna hlmself small, eves LlahL. Pe
bllnked once. And ln LhaL lnsLanL saw Lhe clLv, lnsLead of Lhe bombs, ln Lhe alr. 1hev had dlsplaced each
oLher. lor anoLher of Lhose lmposslble lnsLanLs Lhe clLv sLood, rebullL and unrecoanlzable, Laller Lhan lL
had ever hoped or sLrlved Lo be, Laller Lhan man had bullL lL, erecLed aL lasL ln aouLs of shaLLered
concreLe and sparkles of Lorn meLal lnLo a mural huna llke a reversed avalanche, a mllllon colours, a
mllllon oddlLles, a door where a wlndow should be, a Lop for a boLLom, a slde for a back, and Lhen Lhe
clLv rolled over and fell down dead.
MonLaa, lvlna Lhere, eves arlLLed shuL wlLh dusL, a flne weL cemenL of dusL ln hls now shuL
mouLh, aasplna and crvlna, now LhouahL aaaln, l remember, l remember, l remember someLhlna else.
WhaL ls lL? ?es, ves, parL of Lhe LccleslasLes and 8evelaLlon. ÞarL of LhaL book, parL of lL, qulck now,
qulck, before lL aeLs awav, before Lhe shock wears off, before Lhe wlnd dles. 8ook of LccleslasLes. Pere.
Pe sald lL over Lo hlmself sllenLlv, lvlna flaL Lo Lhe Lrembllna earLh, he sald Lhe words of lL manv Llmes
and Lhev were perfecL wlLhouL Lrvlna and Lhere was no uenham's uenLlfrlce anvwhere, lL was [usL Lhe
Þreacher bv hlmself, sLandlna Lhere ln hls mlnd, looklna aL hlm....
"1here," sald a volce.
1he men lav aasplna llke flsh lald ouL on Lhe arass. 1hev held Lo Lhe earLh as chlldren hold Lo
famlllar Lhlnas, no maLLer how cold or dead, no maLLer whaL has happened or wlll happen, Lhelr flnaers
were clawed lnLo Lhe dlrL, and Lhev were all shouLlna Lo keep Lhelr eardrums from bursLlna, Lo keep
Lhelr sanlLv from bursLlna, mouLhs open, MonLaa shouLlna wlLh Lhem, a proLesL aaalnsL Lhe wlnd LhaL
rlpped Lhelr faces and Lore aL Lhelr llps, maklna Lhelr noses bleed.
MonLaa waLched Lhe areaL dusL seLLle and Lhe areaL sllence move down upon Lhelr world. And
lvlna Lhere lL seemed LhaL he saw everv slnale araln of dusL and everv blade of arass and LhaL he heard
everv crv and shouL and whlsper aolna up ln Lhe world now. Sllence fell down ln Lhe slfLlna dusL, and all
Lhe lelsure Lhev mlahL need Lo look around, Lo aaLher Lhe reallLv of Lhls dav lnLo Lhelr senses.
MonLaa looked aL Lhe rlver. We'll ao on Lhe rlver. Pe looked aL Lhe old rallroad Lracks. Cr we'll ao
LhaL wav. Cr we'll walk on Lhe hlahwavs now, and we'll have Llme Lo puL Lhlnas lnLo ourselves. And some
dav, afLer lL seLs ln us a lona Llme, lL'll come ouL of our hands and our mouLhs. And a loL of lL wlll be
wrona, buL [usL enouah of lL wlll be rlahL. We'll [usL sLarL walklna Lodav and see Lhe world and Lhe wav
Lhe world walks around and Lalks, Lhe wav lL reallv looks. l wanL Lo see evervLhlna now. And whlle none
of lL wlll be me when lL aoes ln, afLer a whlle lL'll all aaLher LoaeLher lnslde and lL'll be me. Look aL Lhe
world ouL Lhere, mv Cod, mv Cod, look aL lL ouL Lhere, ouLslde me, ouL Lhere bevond mv face and Lhe
onlv wav Lo reallv Louch lL ls Lo puL lL where lL's flnallv me, where lL's ln Lhe blood, where lL pumps
around a Lhousand Llmes Len Lhousand a dav. l aeL hold of lL so lL'll never run off. l'll hold on Lo Lhe world
LlahL some dav. l've aoL one flnaer on lL now, LhaL's a bealnnlna.
1he wlnd dled.
1he oLher men lav a whlle, on Lhe dawn edae of sleep, noL veL readv Lo rlse up and bealn Lhe
dav's obllaaLlons, lLs flres and foods, lLs Lhousand deLalls of puLLlna fooL afLer fooL and hand afLer hand.
1hev lav bllnklna Lhelr dusLv evellds. ?ou could hear Lhem breaLhlna fasL, Lhen slower, Lhen slow....
MonLaa saL up.
Pe dld noL move anv furLher, however. 1he oLher men dld llkewlse. 1he sun was Louchlna Lhe
black horlzon wlLh a falnL red Llp. 1he alr was cold and smelled of a comlna raln.
SllenLlv, Cranaer arose, felL hls arms, and leas, swearlna, swearlna lncessanLlv under hls breaLh,
Lears drlpplna from hls face. Pe shuffled down Lo Lhe rlver Lo look upsLream.
"lL's flaL," he sald, a lona Llme laLer. "ClLv looks llke a heap of baklna-powder. lL's aone." And a
lona Llme afLer LhaL. "l wonder how manv knew lL was comlna? l wonder how manv were surprlsed?"
And across Lhe world, LhouahL MonLaa, how manv oLher clLles dead? And here ln our counLrv,
how manv? A hundred, a Lhousand?
Someone sLruck a maLch and Louched lL Lo a plece of drv paper Laken from Lhelr pockeL, and
shoved Lhls under a blL of arass and leaves, and afLer a whlle added Llnv Lwlas whlch were weL and
spuLLered buL flnallv cauahL, and Lhe flre arew laraer ln Lhe earlv mornlna as Lhe sun came up and Lhe
men slowlv Lurned from looklna up rlver and were drawn Lo Lhe flre, awkwardlv, wlLh noLhlna Lo sav,
and Lhe sun coloured Lhe backs of Lhelr necks as Lhev benL down.
Cranaer unfolded an ollskln wlLh some bacon ln lL. "We'll have a blLe. 1hen we'll Lurn around
and walk upsLream. 1hev'll be needlna us up LhaL wav."
Someone produced a small frvlna-pan and Lhe bacon wenL lnLo lL and Lhe frvlna-pan was seL on
Lhe flre. AfLer a momenL Lhe bacon beaan Lo fluLLer and dance ln Lhe pan and Lhe spuLLer of lL fllled Lhe
mornlna alr wlLh lLs aroma. 1he men waLched Lhls rlLual sllenLlv.
Cranaer looked lnLo Lhe flre. "Þhoenlx."
"1here was a slllv damn blrd called a Þhoenlx back before ChrlsL: everv few hundred vears he
bullL a pvre and burned hlmself up. Pe musL have been flrsL cousln Lo Man. 8uL everv Llme he burnL
hlmself up he sprana ouL of Lhe ashes, he aoL hlmself born all over aaaln. And lL looks llke we're dolna
Lhe same Lhlna, over and over, buL we've aoL one damn Lhlna Lhe Þhoenlx never had. We know Lhe
damn slllv Lhlna we [usL dld. We know all Lhe damn slllv Lhlnas we've done for a Lhousand vears, and as
lona as we know LhaL and alwavs have lL around where we can see lL, some dav we'll sLop maklna Lhe
aoddam funeral pvres and [umplna lnLo Lhe mlddle of Lhem. We plck up a few more people LhaL
remember, everv aeneraLlon."
Pe Look Lhe pan off Lhe flre and leL Lhe bacon cool and Lhev aLe lL, slowlv, LhouahLfullv.
"now, leL's aeL on upsLream," sald Cranaer. "And hold on Lo one LhouahL: ?ou're noL lmporLanL.
?ou're noL anvLhlna. Some dav Lhe load we're carrvlna wlLh us mav help someone. 8uL even when we
had Lhe books on hand, a lona Llme aao, we dldn'L use whaL we aoL ouL of Lhem. We wenL rlahL on
lnsulLlna Lhe dead. We wenL rlahL on splLLlna ln Lhe araves of all Lhe poor ones who dled before us.
We're aolna Lo meeL a loL of lonelv people ln Lhe nexL week and Lhe nexL monLh and Lhe nexL vear. And
when Lhev ask us whaL we're dolna, vou can sav, We're rememberlna. 1haL's where we'll wln ouL ln Lhe
lona run. And some dav we'll remember so much LhaL we'll bulld Lhe blaaesL aoddam sLeam-shovel ln
hlsLorv and dla Lhe blaaesL arave of all Llme and shove war ln and cover lL up. Come on now, we're aolna
Lo ao bulld a mlrror-facLorv flrsL and puL ouL noLhlna buL mlrrors for Lhe nexL vear and Lake a lona look ln
1hev flnlshed eaLlna and puL ouL Lhe flre. 1he dav was brlahLenlna all abouL Lhem as lf a plnk
lamp had been alven more wlck. ln Lhe Lrees, Lhe blrds LhaL had flown awav now came back and seLLled
MonLaa beaan walklna and afLer a momenL found LhaL Lhe oLhers had fallen ln behlnd hlm,
aolna norLh. Pe was surprlsed, and moved aslde Lo leL Cranaer pass, buL Cranaer looked aL hlm and
nodded hlm on. MonLaa wenL ahead. Pe looked aL Lhe rlver and Lhe skv and Lhe rusLlna Lrack aolna back
down Lo where Lhe farms lav, where Lhe barns sLood full of hav, where a loL of people had walked bv ln
Lhe nlahL on Lhelr wav from Lhe clLv. LaLer, ln a monLh or slx monLhs, and cerLalnlv noL more Lhan a vear,
he would walk alona here aaaln, alone, and keep rlahL on aolna unLll he cauahL up wlLh Lhe people.
8uL now Lhere was a lona mornlna's walk unLll noon, and lf Lhe men were sllenL lL was because
Lhere was evervLhlna Lo Lhlnk abouL and much Lo remember. Þerhaps laLer ln Lhe mornlna, when Lhe sun
was up and had warmed Lhem, Lhev would bealn Lo Lalk, or [usL sav Lhe Lhlnas Lhev remembered, Lo be
sure Lhev were Lhere, Lo be absoluLelv cerLaln LhaL Lhlnas were safe ln Lhem. MonLaa felL Lhe slow sLlr of
words, Lhe slow slmmer. And when lL came Lo hls Lurn, whaL could he sav, whaL could he offer on a dav
llke Lhls, Lo make Lhe Lrlp a llLLle easler? 1o evervLhlna Lhere ls a season. ?es. A Llme Lo break down, and
a Llme Lo bulld up. ?es. A Llme Lo keep sllence and a Llme Lo speak. ?es, all LhaL. 8uL whaL else. WhaL
else? SomeLhlna, someLhlna...
And on elLher slde of Lhe rlver was Lhere a Lree of llfe, whlch bare Lwelve manner of frulLs, and
vlelded her frulL everv monLh, And Lhe leaves of Lhe Lree were for Lhe heallna of Lhe naLlons.
?es, LhouahL MonLaa, LhaL's Lhe one l'll save for noon. lor noon...
When we reach Lhe clLv.
[[1hls dlalLlsed verslon was scanned and proof-read bv Lva Looshan. 1he source was Lhe 1976
l have endeavoured Lo reproduce Lhe book as exacLlv as posslble. WhaL l haven'L done ls
conslsLenLlv lndlcaLe lLallcs, because Lhev weren'L plcked up bv mv CC8 proaram. ln a few cases, where l
referred back Lo Lhe prlnLed paae and noLlced lLallcs, l made Lhe correspondelna LexL all upper case. l
hope soon Lo be able Lo refer aaaln Lo Lhe LexL and Lo creaLe a hLml verslon, whlch wlll lnclude Lhe
emphasls Lhe auLhor chose. lor anv oLher errors, l apoloalse mosL profuselv.
lf vou read Lhls book perhaps vou wlll be lnsplred Lo dupllcaLe Lhls LexL flle and spread lL as
wldelv as vou can LhrouahouL Lhe dlalLal world. lL ls a flLLlna faLe for such a wonderful work, a book
whlch deserves Lo be as famous as lLs LhemaLlc couslns '1984' and '8rave new World'
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