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by Roald Dahl (1948)

Man From the South



As you read: Annotate the story as you read. Note the use of the literary devices on your Storytelling
Techniques Study Guide especially. It is recommended that you compose a possible theme statement at
the end of the story. You will be taking a test in which you apply the storytelling terms we have been
learning, and you may use your annotated story during the test.

It was getting on toward six o'clock so I thought I'd buy myself a beer and go out and sit in a deck chair by
the swimming pool and have a little evening sun.

I went to the bar and got the beer and carried it outside and wandered down the garden toward the pool.

It was a fine garden with lawns and beds of azaleas and tall coconut palms, and the wind was blowing
strongly through the tops of the palm trees making the leaves hiss and crackle as though they were on fire.
I could see the clusters of big brown nuts handing down underneath the leaves.

There were plenty of deck chairs around the swimming pool and there were white tables and huge brightly
colored umbrellas and sunburned men and women sitting around in bathing suits. In the pool itself there
were three or four girls and about a dozen boys, all splashing about and making a lot of noise and
throwing a large rubber ball at one another.

I stood watching them. The girls were English girls from the hotel. The boys I didn't know about, but they
sounded American and I thought they were probably naval cadets who'd come ashore from the U.S. naval
training vessel which had arrived in the harbor that morning.

I went over and sat down under a yellow umbrella where there were four empty seats, and I poured my
beer and settled back comfortably with a cigarette.

It was very pleasant sitting there in the sunshine with beer and a cigarette. It was pleasant to sit and watch
the bathers splashing about in the green water.

The American sailors were getting on nicely with the English girls. They'd reached the stage where they
were diving under the water and tipping them up by their legs.

Just then I noticed a small, oldish man walking briskly around the edge of the pool. He was immaculately
dressed in a white suit and he walked very quickly with little bouncing strides, pushing himself high up
onto his toes with each step. He had on a large creamy Panama hat, and he came bouncing along the side
of the pool, looking at the people and the chairs.

He stopped beside me and smiled, showing two rows of very small, uneven teeth, slightly tarnished. I
smiled back.

"Excuse pleess, but may I sit here?"

"Certainly," I said. "Go ahead."

He bobbed around to the back of the chair and inspected it for safety, then he sat down and crossed his
legs. His white buckskin shows had little holes punched all over them for ventilation.

"A fine evening," he said. "They are all evenings fine here in Jamaica." I couldn't tell if the accent were
Italian or Spanish, but I felt fairly sure he was some sort of a South American. And old too, when you saw
him close. Probably around sixty-eight or seventy.
"Yes," I said. "It is wonderful here, isn't it."

"And who, might I ask are all dese? Dese is no hotel people." He was pointing at the bathers in the pool.

"I think they're American sailors," I told him. "They're Americans who are learning to be sailors."

"Of course dey are Americans. Who else in de world is going to make as much noise as dat? You are not
American, no?"

"No," I said. "I am not."

Suddenly one of the American cadets was standing in front of us. He was dripping wet from the pool and
one of the English girls was standing there with him.

"Are these chairs taken?" he said.

"No," I answered.

"Mind if I sit down?"

"Go ahead."

"Thanks," he said. He had a towel in his hand and when he sat down he unrolled it and produced a pack of
cigarettes and a lighter. He offered the cigarettes to the girl and she refused; then he offered them to me
and I took one. The little man said, "Tank you, no, but I tink I have a cigar." He pulled out a crocodile case
and got himself a cigar, then he produced a knife which had a small scissors in it and he snipped the end
off the cigar.

"Here, let me give you a light." The American boy held up his lighter.

"Dat will not work in dis wind."

"Sure, it'll work. It always works."

The little man removed his unlighted cigar from his mouth, cocked his head on one side and looked at the
boy.

"All-ways?" he said softly.

"Sure, it never fails. Not with me anyway."

The little man's head was still cocked over on one side and he was still watching the boy. "Well, well. So
you say dis famous lighter it never fails. Iss dat you say?"

"Sure," the boy said. "That's right." He was about nineteen or twenty with a long freckled face and a rather
sharp birdlike nose. His chest was not very sunburned and there were freckles there too, and a few wisps
of pale-reddish hair. He was holding the lighter in his right hand, ready to flip the wheel. "It never fails,"
he said, smiling now because he was purposely exaggerating his little boast. "I promise you it never fails."

"One momint, pleess." The hand that held the cigar came up high, palm outward, as though it were
stopping traffic. "Now juss one momint." He had a curiously soft, toneless voice and he kept looking at the
boy all the time.

"Shall we not perhaps make a little bet on dat?" He smiled at the boy. "Shall we not make a little bet on
whether your lighter lights?"

"Sure, I'll bet," the boy said. "Why not?"


"You like to bet?"

"Sure, I'll always bet."

The man paused and examined his cigar, and I must say I didn't much like the way he was behaving. It
seemed he was already trying to make something out of this, and to embarrass the boy, and at the same
time I had the feeling he was relishing a private little secret all his own.

He looked up again at the boy and said slowly, "I like to bet, too. Why we don't have a good bet on dis
ting? A good big bet?

"Now wait a minute," the boy said. "I can't do that. But I'll bet you a dollar, or whatever it is over
here-some shillings, I guess."

The little man waved his hand again. "Listen to me. Now we have some fun. We make a bet. Den we go up
to my room here in de hotel where iss no wind and I bet you you cannot light dis famous lighter of yours
ten times running without missing once."

"I'll bet I can," the boy said.

"All right. Good. We make a bet, yes?"

"Sure. I'll bet you a buck."

"No, no. I make you very good bet. I am rich man and I am sporting man also. Listen to me. Outside de
hotel iss my car. Iss very fine car. American car from your country. Cadillac-"

"Hey, now. Wait a minute." The boy leaned back in his deck chair and he laughed. "I can't put up that sort
of property. This is crazy."

"Not crazy at all. You strike lighter successfully ten times running and Cadillac is yours. You like to have
dis Cadillac, yes?"

"Sure, I'd like to have a Cadillac." The boy was still grinning.

"All right. Fine. We make a bet and I put up my Cadillac."

"And what do I put up?"

"The little man carefully removed the red band from his still unlighted cigar. "I never ask you, my friend,
to bet something you cannot afford. You understand?"

"Then what do I bet?"

"I make it very easy for you, yes?"

"Okay. You make it easy."

"Some small ting you can afford to give away, and if you did happen to lose it you would not feel too bad.
Right?"

"Such as what?"

"Such as, perhaps, de little finger of your left hand."

"My what! The boy stopped grinning.

"Yes. Why not? You win, you take de car. You looss, I take de finger."
"I don't get it. How d'you mean, you take the finger?"

"I chop it off."

"Jumping jeepers! That's a crazy bet. I think I'll just make it a dollar."

The man leaned back, spread out his hands palms upward and gave a tiny contemptuous shrug of the
shoulders. "Well, well, well," he said. "I do not understand. You say it lights but you will not bet. Den we
forget it, yes?"

The boy sat quite still, staring at the bathers in the pool. Then he remembered suddenly he hadn't lighted
his cigarette. He put it between his lips, cupped his hands around the lighter and flipped the wheel. The
wick lighted and burned with a small, steady, yellow flame and the way he held his hands the wind didn't
get to it at all.

"Could I have a light, too?" I said.

"Gee, I'm sorry. I forgot you didn't have one."

I held out my hand for the lighter, but he stood up and came over to do it for me.

"Thank you," I said, and he returned to his seat.

"You having a good time?" I asked.

"Fine," he answered. "It's pretty nice here."

There was a silence then, and I could see that the little man has succeeded in disturbing the boy with his
absurd proposal. He was sitting there very still, and it was obvious that a small tension was beginning to
build up inside him. Then he started shifting about in his seat, and rubbing his chest, and stroking the
back of his neck, and finally he placed both hands on his knees and began tapping his fingers against his
knee-caps. Soon he was tapping with one of his feet as well.

"Now just let me check up on this bet of yours," he said at last. "You say we go up to your room and if I
make this lighter light ten times running I win a Cadillac. If it misses just once then I forfeit the little
finger of my left hand. Is that right?"

"Certainly. Dat is de bet. But I tink you are afraid."

"What do we do if I lose? Do I have to hold my finger out while you chop it off?"

"Oh, no! Dat would be no good. And you might be tempted to refuse to hold it out. What I should do I
should tie one of your hands to de table before we started and I should stand dere with a knife ready to go
chop de momint your lighter missed."

"What year is the Cadillac?" the boy asked.

"Excuse. I not understand."

"What year-how old is the Cadillac?"

"Ah! How old? Yes. It is last year. Quite now car. But I see you are not betting man. Americans never are."

The boy paused for just a moment and he glanced first at the English girl, then at me. "Yes," he said
sharply. "I'll bet you."
"Good!" The little man clapped his hands together quietly, once. "Fine," he said. "We do it now. And you,
sir," he turned to me, "you would perhaps be good enough to, what you call it, to-to referee." He had pale,
almost colorless eyes with tiny bright black pupils.

"Well," I said. "I think it's a crazy bet. I don't think I like it very much."

"Nor do I," said the English girl. It was the first time she'd spoken. "I think it's a stupid, ridiculous bet."

"Are you serious about cutting off this boy's finger if he loses?" I said.

"Certainly I am. Also about giving him Cadillac if he win. Come now. We go to my room."

He stood up. "You like to put on some clothes first?" he said.

"No," the boy answered. "I'll come like this." Then he turned to me. "I'd consider it a favor if you'd come
along and referee."

"All right," I said. "I'll come along, but I don't like the bet."

"You come too," he said to the girl. "You come and watch.

The little man led the way back through the garden to the hotel. He was animated now, and excited, and
that seemed to make him bounce up higher than ever on his toes as he walked along.

"I live in annex," he said. "You like to see car first? Iss just here."

He took us to where we could see the front driveway of the hotel and he stopped and pointed to a sleek
pale-green Cadillac parked close by.

"Dere she iss. De green one. You like?"

"Say, that's a nice car," the boy said.

"All right. Now we go up and see if you can win her."

We followed him into the annex and up one flight of stairs. He unlocked his door and we all trooped into
what was a large pleasant double bedroom. There was a woman's dressing gown lying across the bottom of
one of the beds.

"First," he said, "we'ave a little Martini."

The drinks were on a small table in the far corner, all ready to be mixed, and there was a shaker and ice
and plenty of glasses. He began to make the Martini, but meanwhile he'd rung the bell and now there was
a knock on the door and a colored maid came in.

"Ah!" he said, putting down the bottle of gin, taking a wallet from his pocket and pulling out a pound note.
"You will do something for me now, pleess." He gave the maid the pound.

"You keep dat," he said. "And now we are going to play a little game in here and I want you to go off and
find for me two-no three tings. I want some nails; I want a hammer, and I want a chopping knife, a
butcher's chipping knife which you can borrow from de kitchen. You can get, yes?"

"A chopping knife!" The maid opened her eyes wide and clasped her hands in front of her. "You mean a
real chopping knife?"

"Yes, yes, of course. Come on now, pleess. You can find dose tings surely for me."
"Yes, sir, I'll try, sir. Surely I'll try to get them." And she went.

The little man handed round the Martinis. We stood there and sipped them, the boy with the long freckled
face and the pointed nose, bare-bodied except for a pair of faded brown bathing shorts; the English girl, a
large-boned, fair-haired girl wearing a pale blue bathing suit, who watched the boy over the top of her
glass all the time; the little man with the colorless eyes standing there in his immaculate white suit
drinking his Martini and looking at the girl in her pale blue bathing dress. I didn't know what to make of it
all. The man seemed serious about the bet and he seemed serious about the business of cutting off the
finger. But hell, what if the boy lost? Then we'd have to rush him to the hospital in the Cadillac that he
hadn't won. That would be a fine thing. Now wouldn't that be a really fine thing? It would be a damn silly
unnecessary thing so far as I could see.

"Don't you think this is rather a silly bet?" I said.

"I think it's a fine bet," the boy answered. He had already downed one large Martini.

"I think it's a stupid, ridiculous bet," the girl said. "What'll happen if you lose?"

"It won't matter. Come to think of it, I can't remember ever in my life having had any use for the little
finger on my left hand. Here he is." The boy took hold of the finger. "Here he is and he hasn't ever done a
thing for me yet. So why shouldn't I bet him. I think it's a fine bet."

The little man smiled and picked up the shaker and refilled our glasses.

"Before we begin," he said, "I will present to de-to de referee de key of de car." He produced a car key from
his pocket and gave it to me. "De papers," he said, "de owning papers and insurance are in de pocket of de
car."

Then the colored maid came in again. In one hand she carried a small chopper, the kind used by butchers
for chopping meat bones, and in the other a hammer and a bag of nails.

"Good! You get dem all. Tank you, tank you. Now you can go." He waited until the maid had closed the
door, then he put the implements on one of the beds and said, "Now we prepare ourselves, yes?" And to
the boy "Help me, pleess, with dis table. We carry it out a little."

It was the usual kind of hotel writing desk, just a plain rectangular table about four feet by three with a
blotting pad, ink, pens and paper. They carried it out into the room away from the wall, and removed the
writing things.

"And now," he said, "a chair." He picked up a chair and placed it beside the table. He was very brisk and
very animated, like a person organizing games at a children's party. "And now de nails. I must put in de
nails." He fetched the nails and he began to hammer them into the top of the table.

We stood there, the boy, the girl, and I, holding Martinis in out hands, watching the little man at work. We
watched him hammer two nails into the table, about six inches apart. He didn't hammer them right home;
he allowed a small part of each one to stick up. Then he tested them for firmness with his fingers.

Anyone would think the son of a bitch had done this before, I told myself. He never hesitates. Table, nails,
hammer, kitchen chopper. He knows exactly what he needs and how to arrange it.

"And now," he said, "all we want is some string." He found some string. "All right, at last we are ready.
Will you pleess to sit here at de table," he said to the boy.
The boy put his glass away and sat down.

"Now place de left hand between dese two nails. De nails are only so I can tie your hand in place. All right,
good. Now I tie your hand secure to de table-so,"

He wound the string around the boy's wrist, then several times around the wide part of the hand, then he
fastened it tight to the nails. He made a good job of it and when he'd finished there wasn't any question
about the boy being able to draw his hand away. But he could move his fingers.

"Now pleess, clench de fist, all except for de little finger. You must leave de little finger sticking out, lying
on de table."

"Ex-cellent! Ex-cellent! Now we are ready. Wid your right hand you manipulate de lighter. But one
momint, pleess."

He skipped over to the bed and picked up the chopper. He came back and stood beside the table with the
chopper in his hand.

"We are all ready?" he said. "Mister referee, you must say to begin."

The English girl was standing there in her pale blue bathing costume right behind the boy's chair. She was
just standing there, not saying anything. The boy was sitting quite still, holding the lighter in his right
hand, looking at the chopper. The little man was looking at me.

"Are you ready?" I asked the boy.

"I'm ready."

"And you?" to the little man.

"Quite ready," he said and he lifted the chopper up in the air and held it there about two feet above the
boy's finger, ready to chop. The boy watched it, but he didn't flinch and his mouth didn't move at all. He
merely raised his eyebrows and frowned.

"All right," I said. "Go ahead."

The boy said, "Will you please count aloud the number of times I light it."

"Yes," I said. "I'll do that."

With his thumb he raised the top of the lighter, and again with the thumb he gave the wheel a sharp flick.
The flint sparked and the wick caught fire and burned with a small yellow flame.

"One!" I called.

He didn't blow the flame out; he closed the top of the lighter on it and he waited for perhaps five seconds
before opening it again.

He flicked the wheel very strongly and once more there was a small flame burning on the wick.

"Two!"

No one else said anything. The boy kept his eyes on the lighter. The little man held the chipper up in the
air and he too was watching the lighter.

"Three!"
"Four!"

"Five!"

"Six!"

"Seven!" Obviously it was one of those lighters that worked. The fling gave a big spark and the wick was
the right length. I watched the thumb snapping the top down onto the flame. Then a pause. Then the
thumb raising the top once more. This was an all-thumb operation. The thumb did everything. I took a
breath, ready to say eight. The thumb flicked the wheel. The flint sparked. The little flame appeared.

"Eight!" I said, and as I said it the door opened. We all turned and we saw a woman standing in the
doorway, a small, black-haired woman, rather old, who stood there for about two seconds then rushed
forward shouting, "Carlos! Carlos!" She grabbed his wrist, took the chopper from him, threw it on the bed,
took hold of the little man by the lapels of his white suit and began shaking him very vigorously, talking to
him fast and loud and fiercely all the time in some Spanish-sounding language. She shook him so fast you
couldn't see him any more. He became a faint, misty, quickly moving outline, like the spokes of a turning
wheel.

Then she slowed down and the little man came into view again and she hauled him across the room and
pushed him backward onto one of the beds. He sat on the edge of it blinking his eyes and testing his head
to see if it would still turn on his neck.

"I am so sorry," the woman said. "I am so terribly sorry that this should happen." She spoke almost perfect
English.

"It is too bad," she went on. "I suppose it is really my fault. For ten minutes I leave him alone to go and
have my hair washed and I come back and he is at it again." She looked sorry and deeply concerned.

The boy was untying his hand from the table. The English girl and I stood there and said nothing.

"He is a menace," the woman said. "Down where we live at home he has taken altogether forty-seven
fingers from different people, and he has lost eleven cars. In the end they threatened to have him put away
somewhere. That's why I brought him up here."

"We were only having a little bet," mumbled the little man from the bed.

"I suppose he bet you a car," the woman said.

"Yes," the boy answered. "A Cadillac."

"He has no car. It's mine. And that makes it worse," she said, "that he should bet you when he has nothing
to bet with. I am ashamed and very sorry about it all." She seemed an awfully nice woman.

"Well," I said, "then here's the key of your car." I put it on the table.

"We were only having a little bet," mumbled the little man.

"He hasn't anything left to bet with," the woman said. "He hasn't a thing in the world. Not a thing. As a
matter of fact I myself won it all from him a long while ago. It took time, a lot of time, and it was hard
work, but I won it all in the end." She looked up at the boy and she smiled, a slow sad smile, and she came
over and put out a hand to take the key from the table.

I can see it now, that hand of hers; it had only one finger on it, and a thumb.
Game by Donald Barthelme (1996)
As you read: Annotate the story as you read. Note the use of the literary devices on your Storytelling
Techniques Study Guide especially. It is recommended that you compose a possible theme statement at
the end of the story. You will be taking a test in which you apply the storytelling terms we have been
learning, and you may use your annotated story during the test.

Shotwell keeps the jacks and the rubber ball in his attach case and will not allow me to play
with them. He plays with them, alone, sitting on the floor near the console hour after hour,
chanting "onesies, twosies, threesies, foursies" in a precise, well-modulated voice, not so loud as
to be annoying, not so soft as to allow me to forget. I point out to Shotwell that two can derive
more enjoyment from playing jacks than one, but he is not interested. I have asked repeatedly to
be allowed to play by myself, but he simply shakes his head. "Why?" I ask. "They're mine," he
says. And when he has finished, when he has sated himself, back they go into the attach case.

It is unfair but there is nothing I can do about it. I am aching to get my hands on them.

Shotwell and I watch the console. Shotwell and I live under the ground and watch the console. If
certain events take place upon the console, we are to insert our keys in the appropriate locks and
turn our keys. Shotwell has a key and I have a key. If we turn our keys simultaneously the bird
flies, certain switches are activated and the bird flies. But the bird never flies. In one hundred
thirty-three days the bird has not flown. Meanwhile Shotwell and I watch each other. We each
wear a .45 and if Shotwell behaves strangely I am supposed to shoot him. If I behave strangely
Shotwell is supposed to shoot me. We watch the console and think about shooting each other
and think about the bird. Shotwell's behavior with the jacks is strange. Is it strange? I do not
know. Perhaps he is merely a selfish bastard, perhaps his character is flawed, perhaps his
childhood was twisted. I do not know.

Each of us wears a .45 and each of us is supposed to shoot the other if the other is behaving
strangely. How strangely is strangely? I do not know. In addition to the .45 I have a .38 which
Shotwell does not know about concealed in my attach case, and Shotwell has a .25 caliber
Beretta which I do not know about strapped to his right calf. Sometimes instead of watching the
console I pointedly watch Shotwell's .45, but this is simply a ruse, simply a maneuver, in reality I
am watching his hand when it dangles in the vicinity of his right calf. If he decides I am behaving
strangely he will shoot me not with the .45 but with the Beretta. Similarly Shotwell pretends to
watch my .45 but he is really watching my hand resting idly atop my attach case, my hand
resting atop my attach case, my hand. My hand resting idly atop my attach case.

In the beginning I took care to behave normally. So did Shotwell. Our behavior was painfully
normal. Norms of politeness, consideration, speech and personal habits were scrupulously
observed. But then it became apparent that an error had been made, that our relief was not
going to arrive. Owing to an oversight. Owing to an oversight we have been here for one hundred
thirty-three days. When it became clear that an error had been made, that we were not to be
relieved, the norms were relaxed. Definitions of normality were redrawn in the agreement of
January 1, called by us, The Agreement. Uniform regulations were relaxed, and mealtimes are no
longer rigorously scheduled. We eat when we are hungry and sleep when we are tired.
Considerations of rank and precedence were temporarily put aside, a handsome concession on
the part of Shotwell, who is a captain, whereas I am only a first lieutenant. One of us watches the
console at all times rather than two of us watching the console at all times, except when we are
both on our feet. One of us watches the console at all times and if the bird flies then that one
wakes the other and we turn our keys in the locks simultaneously and the bird flies. Our system
involves a delay of perhaps twelve seconds but I do not care because I am not well, and Shotwell
does not care because he is not himself. After the agreement was signed Shotwell produced the
jacks and the rubber ball from his attach case, and I began to write a series of descriptions of
forms occurring in nature, such as a shell, a leaf, a stone, an animal. On the walls.

Shotwell plays jacks and I write descriptions of natural forms on the walls. Shotwell is enrolled
in a USAFI course which leads to a master's degree in business administration from the
University of Wisconsin (although we are not in Wisconsin, we are in Utah, Montana or Idaho).
When we went down it was in either Utah, Montana or Idaho, I don't remember. We have been
here for one hundred thirty-three days owing to an oversight. The pale green reinforced concrete
walls sweat and the air conditioning zips on and off erratically and Shotwell reads Introduction
to Marketing by Lassiter and Munk, making notes with a blue ballpoint pen. Shotwell is not
himself but I do not know it, he presents a calm aspect and reads Introduction to Marketing and
makes his exemplary notes with a blue ballpoint pen, meanwhile controlling the .38 in my
attach case with one-third of his attention. I am not well.
We have been here one hundred thirty-three days owing to an oversight. Although now we are
not sure what is oversight, what is plan. Perhaps the plan is for us to stay here permanently, or if
not permanently at least for a year, for three hundred sixty-five days. Or if not for a year for
some number of days known to them and not known to us, such as two hundred days. It may be
that they are pleased with us, with our behavior, not in every detail but in sum. Perhaps the
whole thing is very successful, perhaps the whole thing is a experiment and the experiment is
very successful. I do not know. But I suspect that the only way they can persuade sun-loving
creatures into their pale green sweating reinforced concrete rooms under the ground is to say
that the system is twelve hours on, twelve hours off. And then lock us below for some number of
days known to them and not known to us. We eat well although the frozen enchiladas are damp
when defrosted and the frozen devil's food cake is sour and untasty. We sleep uneasily and
acrimoniously. I hear Shotwell shouting in his sleep, objecting, denouncing, cursing sometimes,
weeping sometimes, in his sleep. When Shotwell sleeps I try to pick the lock on his attach case,
so as to get at the jacks. Thus far I have been unsuccessful. Nor has Shotwell been successful in
picking the locks on my attach case so as to get at the .38. I have seen the marks on the shiny
surface. I laughed, in the latrine, pale green walls sweating and the air conditioning whispering,
in the latrine. I write descriptions of natural forms on the walls, scratching them on the tile
surface with a diamond. The diamond is a two and one-half carat solitaire I had in my attach
case when we went down. It was for Lucy. The south wall of the room containing the console is
already covered. I have described a shell, a leaf, a stone, animals, a baseball bat. I am aware that
the baseball bat is not a natural form. Yet I described it. "The baseball bat," I said, "is typically
made of wood. It is typically one meter in length or a little longer, fat at on end, tapering to
afford a comfortable grip at the other end. The end with the handhold typically offers a slight
rim, or lip, at the nether extremity, to prevent slippage." My description of the baseball bat ran
to 4500 words, all scratched with a diamond on the south wall. Does Shotwell read what I have
written? I do not know. I am aware that Shotwell regards my writing-behaviour as strange. Yet it
is no stranger than his jacks-behaviour, or the day he appeared in black bathing trunks with the
.25 caliber Beretta strapped to his right calf and stood over the console, trying to span with his
two arms outstretched the distance between the two locks. He could not do it, I had already
tried, standing over the console with my two arms outstretched, the distance is too great. I was
moved to comment but did not comment, comment would have provoked counter-comment,
comment would have led God knows where. They had in their infinite patience, in their infinite
foresight, in their infinite wisdom already imagined a man standing over the console with his
two arms outstretched, trying to span with his two arms outstretched the distance between the
locks.

Shotwell is not himself. He has made certain overtures. The burden of his message is not clear. It
has something to do with the keys, with the locks. Shotwell is a strange person. He appears to be
less affected by our situation than I. He goes about his business stolidly, watching the console,
studying Introduction to Marketing, bouncing his rubber ball on the floor in a steady,
rhythmical, conscientious manner. He appears to be less affected by our situation than I am. He
is stolid. He says nothing. But he has made certain overtures, certain overtures have been made.
I am not sure that I understand them. They have something to do with the keys, with the locks.
Shotwell has something in mind. Stolidly he shucks the shiny silver paper from the frozen
enchiladas, stolidly he stuffs them into the electric oven. But he has something in mind. But
there must be a quid pro quo. I insist on a quid pro quo. I have something in mind.

I am not well. I do not know our target. They do not tell us for which city the bird is targeted. I
do not know. That is planning. That is not my responsibility. My responsibility is to watch the
console and when certain events take place upon the console, turn my key in the lock. Shotwell
bounces the rubber ball on the floor in a steady, stolid, rhythmical manner. I am aching to get
my hands on the ball, on the jacks. We have been here one hundred thirty-three days owing to
an oversight. I write on the walls. Shotwell chants "onesies, twosies, threesies, foursies" in a
precise, well-modulated voice. Now he cups the jacks and the rubber ball in his hands and rattles
them suggestively. I do not know for which city the bird is targeted. Shotwell is not himself.

Sometimes I cannot sleep. Sometimes Shotwell cannot sleep. Sometimes when Shotwell cradles
me in his arms and rocks me to sleep, singing Brahms' "Guten abend, gut Nacht," or I cradle
Shotwell in my arms and rock him to sleep, singing, I understand what it is Shotwell wishes me
to do. At such moments we are very close. But only if he will give me the jacks. That is fair. There
is something he wants me to do with my key, while he does something with his key. But only if
he will give me my turn. That is fair. I am not well.
THE TELL-TALE HEART by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)
As you read: Annotate the story as you read. Note the use of the literary devices on your Storytelling
Techniques Study Guide especially. It is recommended that you compose a possible theme statement at
the end of the story. You will be taking a test in which you apply the storytelling terms we have been
learning, and you may use your annotated story during the test.

TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I
am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was
the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things
in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you
the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me
day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had
never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his
eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it
fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take
the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me.
You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with
what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole
week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and
opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in
a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you
would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so
that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within
the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been
so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh,
so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray
fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but
I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man
who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the
chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring
how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to
suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute
hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own
powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I
was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I
fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if
startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the
thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew
that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin
fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the
meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have
done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan
of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul
when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the
world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors
that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I
chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he
had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to
fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind
in the chimney --it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made
a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had
found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black
shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the
unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the
presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open
a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how
stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from
out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.
It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect
distinctness --all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my
bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if
by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense?
--now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when
enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It
increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried
how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart
increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's
terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me
well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the
dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror.
Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I
thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a
neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped
into the room. He shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled
the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes,
the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard
through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined
the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there
many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eve would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took
for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of
all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the
scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye --not even his
--could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind
--no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell
sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light
heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with
perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the
night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office,
and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own
in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the
house. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his
treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the
room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of
my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of
the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat,
and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting
pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat
and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: --It continued and became more distinct: I
talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness --until, at
length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the
sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a
watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I
talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued
about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why
would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by
the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I
foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon
the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder
--louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not?
Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a
mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony!
Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer!
I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It
is the beating of his hideous heart!"
CHARLES by Shirley Jackson (1948)
As you read: Annotate the story as you read. Note the use of the literary devices on your Storytelling
Techniques Study Guide especially. It is recommended that you compose a possible theme statement at
the end of the story. You will be taking a test in which you apply the storytelling terms we have been
learning, and you may use your annotated story during the test.

The day my son Laurie started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing
blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly
that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long- trousered,
swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me.

He came home the same way, the front door slamming open, his cap on the floor, and the voice suddenly
become raucous shouting, Isnt anybody here? At lunch he spoke insolently to
his father, spilled his baby sisters milk, and remarked that his teacher said we were not to take the name
of the Lord in vain.

How was school today? I asked, elaborately casual.

All right, he said.

Did you learn anything? his father asked.

Laurie regarded his father coldly. I didnt learn nothing, he said.

Anything, I said. Didnt learn anything

The teacher spanked a boy, though, Laurie said, addressing his bread and butter. For being fresh, he
added, with his mouth full.

What did he do? I asked. Who was it?

Laurie thought. It was Charles, he said. He was fresh. The teacher spanked him and made him stand in
a corner. He was awfully fresh.

What did he do? I asked again, but Laurie slid off his chair, took a cookie, and left, while his father was
still saying, See here, young man.

The next day Laurie remarked at lunch, as soon as he sat down, Well, Charles was bad again today. He
grinned enormously and said, Today Charles hit the teacher.
Good heavens, I said, mindful of the Lords name, I suppose he got spanked again?

He sure did, Laurie said. Look up, he said to his father. What? his father said, looking up.

Look down, Laurie said. Look at my thumb. Gee, youre dumb. He began to laugh insanely. Why
did Charles hit the teacher? I asked quickly.

Because she tried to make him color with red crayons, Laurie said. Charles wanted to color with green
crayons so he hit the teacher and she spanked him and said nobody play with Charles but everybody did.

The third dayit was Wednesday of the first weekCharles bounced a see-saw on to the head of a little
girl and made her bleed, and the teacher made him stay inside all during recess. Thursday Charles had to
stand in a corner during story- time because he kept pounding his feet on the floor. Friday Charles was
deprived of blackboard privileges because he threw chalk.

On Saturday I remarked to my husband, Do you think kindergarten is too unsettling for Laurie? All this
toughness, and bad grammar, and this Charles boy sounds like such a bad influence.

Itll be all right, my husband said reassuringly. Bound to be people like Charles in the world. Might as
well meet them now as later.

On Monday Laurie came home late, full of news. Charles, he shouted as he came up the hill; I was
waiting anxiously on the front steps. Charles, Laurie yelled all the way up the hill, Charles was bad
again.

Come right in, I said, as soon as he came close enough. Lunch is waiting.

You know what Charles did? he demanded, following me through the door. Charles yelled so in
school they sent a boy in from first grade to tell the teacher she had to make Charles keep quiet, and so
Charles had to stay after school. And so all the children stayed to watch him.

What did he do? I asked.

He just sat there, Laurie said, climbing into his chair at the table. Hi, Pop, yold dust mop.

Charles had to stay after school today, I told my husband. Everyone stayed with him.

What does this Charles look like? my husband asked Laurie. Whats his other name?

Hes bigger than me, Laurie said. And he doesnt have any rubbers and he doesnt ever wear a jacket.
Monday night was the first Parent-Teachers meeting, and only the fact that the baby had a cold kept me
from going; I wanted passionately to meet Charless mother. On Tuesday Laurie remarked suddenly,
Our teacher had a friend come to see her in school today.

Charless mother? my husband and I asked simultaneously.

Naaah, Laurie said scornfully. It was a man who came and made us do exercises, we had to touch our
toes. Look. He climbed down from his chair and squatted down and touched his toes. Like this, he
said. He got solemnly back into his chair and said, picking up his fork, Charles didnt even do
exercises.

Thats fine, I said heartily. Didnt Charles want to do exercises?

Naaah, Laurie said. Charles was so fresh to the teachers friend he wasnt let do exercises.

Fresh again? I said.

He kicked the teachers friend, Laurie said. The teachers friend told Charles to touch his toes like I
just did and Charles kicked him.

What are they going to do about Charles, do you suppose? Lauries father asked him.

Laurie shrugged elaborately. Throw him out of school, I guess, he said.

Wednesday and Thursday were routine; Charles yelled during story hour and hit a boy in the stomach and
made him cry. On Friday Charles stayed after school again and so did all the other children.

With the third week of kindergarten Charles was an institu- tion in our family; the baby was being a
Charles when she cried all afternoon; Laurie did a Charles when he filled his wagon full of mud and
pulled it through the kitchen; even my husband, when he caught his elbow in the telephone cord and
pulled telephone, ashtray, and a bowl of flowers off the table, said, after the first minute, Looks like
Charles.

During the third and fourth weeks it looked like a reforma- tion in Charles; Laurie reported grimly at
lunch on Thursday of the third week, Charles was so good today the teacher gave him an apple.

What? I said, and my husband added warily, You mean Charles?


Charles, Laurie said. He gave the crayons around and he picked up the books afterward and the teacher
said he was her helper.

What happened? I asked incredulously.

He was her helper, thats all, Laurie said, and shrugged. Can this be true, about Charles? I asked my
husband that night. Can something like this happen?

Wait and see, my husband said cynically. When youve got a Charles to deal with, this may mean hes
only plotting. He seemed to be wrong. For over a week Charles was the teachers helper; each day he
handed things out and he picked things up; no one had to stay after school.

The P.T.A. meetings next week again, I told my husband one evening. Im going to find Charless
mother there. Ask her what happened to Charles, my husband said. Id like to know.

Id like to know myself, I said.

On Friday of that week things were back to normal. You know what Charles did today? Laurie
demanded at the lunch table, in a voice slightly awed. He told a little girl to say a word and she said it
and the teacher washed her mouth out with soap and Charles laughed.

What word? his father asked unwisely, and Laurie said, Ill have to whisper it to you, its so bad. He
got down off his chair and went around to his father. His father bent his head down and Laurie whispered
joyfully. His fathers eyes widened.

Did Charles tell the little girl to say that? he asked respectfully.

She said it twice, Laurie said. Charles told her to say it twice.

What happened to Charles? my husband asked. Nothing, Laurie said. He was passing out the
crayons. Monday morning Charles abandoned the little girl and said the evil word himself three or four
times, getting his mouth washed out with soap each time. He also threw chalk.

My husband came to the door with me that evening as I set out for the P.T.A. meeting. Invite her over
for a cup of tea after the meeting, he said. I want to get a look at her.

If only shes there, I said prayerfully.

Shell be there, my husband said. I dont see how they could hold a P.T.A. meeting without Charless
mother.
At the meeting I sat restlessly, scanning each comfortable matronly face, trying to determine which one
hid the secret of Charles. None of them looked to me haggard enough. No one stood up in the meeting
and apologized for the way her son had been acting. No one mentioned Charles.

After the meeting I identified and sought out Lauries kindergarten teacher. She had a plate with a cup of
tea and a piece of chocolate cake; I had a plate with a cup of tea and a piece of marshmallow cake. We
maneuvered up to one another cautiously, and smiled.

Ive been so anxious to meet you, I said. Im Lauries mother.

Were all so interested in Laurie, she said.

Well, he certainly likes kindergarten, I said. He talks about it all the time.

We had a little trouble adjusting, the first week or so, she said primly, but now hes a fine little helper.
With occasional lapses, of course.

Laurie usually adjusts very quickly, I said. I suppose this time its Charless influence.

Charles?

Yes, I said, laughing, you must have your hands full in that kindergarten, with Charles.

Charles? she said. We dont have any Charles in the kindergarten.

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