Age advances, but the heart remains young,
The eccentric who kept his natural hairline from birth.
Women, viewing cherry blossoms, scattered with a broom.
“Hemorrhoid Medicine Sold Here; Cures All Woes.” This handwritten sign hung outside a tiny shop with a sliding paper door and hanging reed blinds. The owner sold calligraphy manuals done in the style of the Ōhashi school, but his was an old-fashioned hand that few admired, so it proved to be an undependable source of income.
The meager dwelling where he had quietly lived for many years was situated before a temple gate in Yanaka. There was a twisted pine under the eaves and trumpet vines bloomed there in lovely profusion. In the yard he grew summer chrysanthemums in pots. The well water was fresh and clear. A crow perched on one end of the dipping stick, a strange sight indeed with its faded tail and wing feathers!
Living there was this masterless samurai who in his youth had lost hope of ever regaining official status in a lord’s service and now lived day to day selling his various personal belongings. His only companion day in and day out was an old man of about the same age, his partner in games of go. A spotted Pekinese was his only other companion. No one ever came by even for brief visits. Continue Reading
Only five men in cellblock F applied for the course in banking. Nobody much took it seriously. They guessed that the Fiduciary University was either newborn or on the skids and had resorted to Falconer for publicity. The bounteous education of unfortunate convicts was always good for some space in the paper. When the time came, Farragut and the others went down to the parole board room to take the intelligence quotient test. Farragut knew that he tested badly. He had never tested over 119 and had once gone as low as 101. In the army this had kept him from any position of command and had saved his life. He took the test with twentyfour other men, counting blocks and racking his memory for the hypotenuse of the isosceles triangle. The scores were supposed to be secret, but for a package of cigarettes Tiny told him he had flunked out with 112. Jody scored at 140 and claimed he had never done so badly.
Jody was Farragut’s best friend. They had met in the shower, where Farragut had noticed a slight young man with black hair smiling at him. He wore around his neck a simple and elegant gold cross. They were not allowed to speak in the shower, but the stranger, soaping his left shoulder, spread out his palm so that Farragut could read there, written in indelible ink: “Meet me later.” When they had dressed they met at the door. “You the professor?” the stranger asked. “I’m 734–508–32,” said Farragut. He was that green. “Well, I’m Jody,” said the stranger brightly, “and I know you’re Farragut but so long as you ain’t homosexual I don’t care what your name is. Come on with me. I’ll show you my hideout.” Farragut followed him across the grounds to an abandoned water tower. They climbed up a rusty ladder to a wooden catwalk where there was a mattress, a butt can and some old magazines. “Everybody’s got to have a hideout,” said Jody. “This is mine. The view is what they call the Millionaire’s View. Next to the death house, this is the best place for seeing it.” Farragut saw, over the roofs of the old cellblocks and the walls, a two-mile stretch of river with cliffs and mountains on the western shore. He had seen or glimpsed the view before at the foot of the prison street, but this was the most commanding sight he had been given of the world beyond the wall and he was deeply moved.
AS THE YEARS PASSED THE GIRLS WHO HAD BEEN such intimates as children still remained true to one another.
Ethel by now had married. Maura had married; the one having removed to Harrisburg, the other to New York City. And both began to bring up families. Ethel especially went in for children. Within a very brief period, comparatively speaking, she had three of them, then four, then five and finally six. And through it all, she kept in constant touch with her girlhood friend, dark-eyed Maura, by writing long intimate letters.
At first these had been newsy chit chat, ending always however in continued protestations of that love which the women had enjoyed during their childhood. Maura showed them to her husband and both enjoyed their full newsy quality dealing as they did with people and scenes with which both were familiar.
UPON THE HALF DECAYED VERANDA OF A SMALL frame house that stood near the edge of a ravine near the town of Winesburg, Ohio, a fat little old man walked nervously up and down. Across a long field that had been seeded for clover but that had produced only a dense crop of yellow mustard weeds, he could see the public highway along which went a wagon filled with berry pickers returning from the fields. The berry pickers, youths and maidens, laughed and shouted boisterously. A boy clad in a blue shirt leaped from the wagon and attempted to drag after him one of the maidens, who screamed and protested shrilly. The feet of the boy in the road kicked up a cloud of dust that floated across the face of the departing sun. Over the long field came a thin girlish voice. “Oh, you Wing Biddlebaum, comb your hair, it’s falling into your eyes,” commanded the voice to the man, who was bald and whose nervous little hands fiddled about the bare white forehead as though arranging a mass of tangled locks.
“ALL RIGHT,” SAID THE MAN. “WHAT ABOUT IT?”
“No,” said the girl, “I can’t.”
“You mean you won’t.”
“I can’t,” said the girl.
“That’s all that I mean.”
“You mean that you won’t.”
“All right,” said the girl. “You have it your own way.”
“I don’t have it my own way. I wish to God I did.”
“You did for a long time,” the girl said.