Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him. He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me." "Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born." Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture." "No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass." Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well." "No," exclaimed the Lamb, "I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink to me." Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, "Well! I won't remain supper-less, even though you refute every one of my imputations." The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.
(Translated by George Fyler Townsend)
AESOP: The Tortoise and the Eagle
A Tortoise, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly. An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. "I will give you," she said, "all the riches of the Red Sea." "I will teach you to fly then," said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds suddenly he let her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain, dashing her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: "I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?'
If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.
(Translated by George Fyler Townsend)
A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf
Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting. From room to room they went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure--a ghostly couple.
"Here we left it," she said. And he added, "Oh, but here tool" "It's upstairs," she murmured. "And in the garden," he whispered. "Quietly," they said, "or we shall wake them."
But it wasn't that you woke us. Oh, no. "They're looking for it; they're drawing the curtain," one might say, and so read on a page or two. "Now they've found it,' one would be certain, stopping the pencil on the margin. And then, tired of reading, one might rise and see for oneself, the house all empty, the doors standing open, only the wood pigeons bubbling with content and the hum of the threshing machine sounding from the farm. "What did I come in here for? What did I want to find?" My hands were empty. "Perhaps its upstairs then?" The apples were in the loft. And so down again, the garden still as ever, only the book had slipped into the grass.
But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The windowpanes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon the walls, pendant from the ceiling--what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest wells of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. "Safe, safe, safe" the pulse of the house beat softly. "The treasure buried; the room . . ." the pulse stopped short. Oh, was that the buried treasure?
A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk beneath the surface the beam I sought always burned behind the glass. Death was the glass; death was between us, coming to the woman first, hundreds of years ago, leaving the house, sealing all the windows; the rooms were darkened. He left it, left her, went North, went East, saw the stars turned in the Southern sky; sought the house, found it dropped beneath the Downs. "Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beat gladly. 'The Treasure yours."
The wind roars up the avenue. Trees stoop and bend this way and that. Moonbeams splash and spill wildly in the rain. But the beam of the lamp falls straight from the window. The candle burns stiff and still. Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake us, the ghostly couple seek their joy.
"Here we slept," she says. And he adds, "Kisses without number." "Waking in the morning--" "Silver between the trees--" "Upstairs--" 'In the garden--" "When summer came--" 'In winter snowtime--" "The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.
Nearer they come, cease at the doorway. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Our eyes darken, we hear no steps beside us; we see no lady spread her ghostly cloak. His hands shield the lantern. "Look," he breathes. "Sound asleep. Love upon their lips."
Stooping, holding their silver lamp above us, long they look and deeply. Long they pause. The wind drives straightly; the flame stoops slightly. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent; the faces pondering; the faces that search the sleepers and seek their hidden joy.
"Safe, safe, safe," the heart of the house beats proudly. "Long years--" he sighs. "Again you found me." "Here," she murmurs, "sleeping; in the garden reading; laughing, rolling apples in the loft. Here we left our treasure--" Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes. "Safe! safe! safe!" the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry "Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart."
Paisley My Sky
Glynn Sharpe Paisley slept most of the way there, her chin spilling over onto her jumper in white waves of flesh. I watched her in the rear view mirror as the trees rolled by, silently and unchanging.
My parents were waiting at the front door for us as we pulled into the driveway. I could see their smiling, bobbing faces through the frost-scraped window. They were excited. It was Paisley's first visit.
I carried her in my arms into the kitchen. She was still asleep. My parents cooed quietly so that they wouldn't wake her. They were both eager to get a turn to hold her. As I gazed down at her, my mother said that I looked just like my father did when he used to hold me.
I didn't take my eyes off Paisley as I lifted her high above my head. I slowly turned with her in my outstretched arms, and I could hear my parents' muffled protests. They sounded as if they were a world away from the two of us. Paisley's eyes burst open and met mine. The blades of the ceiling fan just above her head floated slowly like wooden clouds. It was in that instant that I knew that everything would be different for her. She smiled and her face erupted into creases and pink gums. A thread of spittle slipped from her mouth, held there, and fell toward my face like a liquid diamond. It landed above my lip and I felt it with my tongue. It tasted like trust.
Sudden Morning Muse
He felt the mattress sink as she lifted the blankets and slid into the bed with him. Her body, warm, coiled into his.
"Where have you been?" he moaned.
"I've been with you the whole time," she purred as she pulled his hair away from his ear.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer. He could feel her pulse beating through his fingers. She leaned closer and whispered into his ear. Her moist breath tickled his neck and spilled over his chest. Her voice, soft and lyrical, beat against him like a moth's wing. Images and thoughts flooded his mind as he drifted back into sleep.
The alarm clock, belligerent and unfeeling, jarred him awake. He left the empty bed and turned on his computer before urinating.
I Am Solace
Jeffrey N. Johnson Her wrist gushed red, a selfish fountain. "Look at me," she said.
In return, I applied a tourniquet to my arm and tightened.
"I had to," she said. "You don't understand." She turned away to make her Hindenburg plans.
I touched her shoulder, and she winced in rage and severed a leg.
I cut off mine, from the feeble knee down, and tenderly attached it to her stump. What is my blood type, I wondered. Wouldn't it be nice if we were the same.
"Is that the best you can do?" she said. Then, like a bird shot from flight, she paled, squirmed pitiably and died.
I laid down beside her, bent over her. My arm gangrene, leg stump twitching, spittle of saliva reaching toward her.
I miss her.
My Favorite Shirt
M. Stanley Bubien
"No!" my daughter whined. "I don't want to!"
"C'mon Victoria," I crooned with arms outstretched, "just one hug."
"No!" she said, and shook her head wildly.
I knew it was a phase, but it still hurt. She used to hug me. I guess I took that for granted, never thinking it would stop---my only real intimacy with her.
"Maybe she doesn't feel good," my wife offered.
I shook my head, more irritated than comforted.
The next morning I was awakened with the announcement, "Victoria threw up in her bed." We both knew who was going to stay home---my wife had an early meeting.
Even if she refused to hug me, I still enjoyed being with my daughter. I spent the morning reading her stories, listening to the stereo, and flipping through a picture book while she played with dolls. Around noon, she became antsy.
"Daddy, my stomach hurts," she finally said.
I picked her up. When her head touched my shirt, I heard a horrible retching. Turning to the side, I saw yellow ooze rolling off my shoulder. Hustling into the bathroom, I leaned over the counter as Victoria threw up again. This time, I let it roll down my sleeve and into the sink.
"It's okay, honey. I have you," I whispered, swallowing against tears of my own.
"Oh, it'll wash off," I told her. She barfed again.
But I was wrong. I still wore the shirt for years afterward but the stain never came out.
Denise Howard I held the baby and the baby stopped crying, looking up at me like I was the only person in the world that would make the crying stop.
I watched the baby walk for the first time and reminded myself the baby wasn't walking away from me, it was just doing what it had too.
I watched the baby, little yellow book bag and matching lunch sack in tow, go into the first day of school. Didn't need me to divert the day anymore.
I sat with the baby while reading. Didn't need me to read the hard words anymore.
I watched the baby leave for a first date. Just a school dance I told myself, no big deal.
I watched the baby graduate from high school. Cap and gown. So much learned and I didn't have a thing to do with it.
I took the baby to the first day of college. No longer under my roof.
I wept at the baby's wedding. Beginning of it's own family I told myself. This was how it's supposed to go. It hurt too much though... I cried....
* * *
The tears were real, the pain was real, but the baby wasn't real anymore. I felt the cold examination table under me. The nurse was patting my arm telling me it was all over. "Look on the bright side," she said, "No more sickness in the morning and that belly will go away in a few weeks."
I guess I really didn't want to go through all that pain anyway.
Kissing It Goodbye
Gary E. Holland
I noticed him huddled against the cacophony of combat near the door of our communications bunker wearing army green boxer shorts and boots without socks. The first onslaught had rocked him from peaceful sleep into wide-awake nightmare. He scrambled to grab what he could in the dark.
I took cover next to him as rockets and mortars enlightened the midnight sky, disemboweling the mud filled earth. Our landing zone was being overrun from two sides at once, our bunker line a chaos of gunfire where desperate men fought desperate men to the death.
"Doc," I yelled. "What the hell you doing out here---waiting to get whacked? You better take cover in the trauma bunker."
A large hunk of shrapnel slammed into a sand bag impaling itself just above him. Clods of red mud splattered the side of his face. He recoiled, cringing tighter into a ball. "I'm waiting for a call," he said. "I'm taking the ambulance onto the bunker line."
I glanced at his ambulance---a canvas covered jeep with the red cross of mercy painted bull's eye on its side. His medical aid bag lay humbly on the passenger seat. Stretcher grips protruded out the back. A rocket exploded nearby silhouetting the sitting ambulance like a duck. Doc's head sank still lower between his knees.
"But the enemy is pouring through there like ants," I told him. "It would be suicide!"
He raised his eyes slowly without looking at me. "Yeah," he said, trying to clear his throat---then mumbled hoarsely, "I know."
Ernest Hemingway: A Very Short Story
One hot evening in Padua they carried him up onto the roof and he could look out over the top of the town. There were chimney swifts in the sky. After a while it got dark and the searchlights came out. The others went down and took the bottles with them. He and Luz could hear them below on the balcony. Luz sat on the bed. She was cool and fresh in the hot night.
Luz stayed on night duty for three months. They were glad to let her. When they operated on him she prepared him for the operating table; and they had a joke about friend or enema. He went under the anaesthetic holding tight on to himself so he would not blab about anything during the silly, talky time. After he got on crutches he used to take the temperatures so Luz would not have to get up from the bed. There were only a few patients, and they all knew about it. They all liked Luz. As he walked back along the halls he thought of Luz in his bed.
Before he went back to the front they went into the Duomo and prayed. It was dim and quiet, and there were other people praying. They wanted to get married, but there was not enough time for the banns, and neither of them had birth certificates. They felt as though they were married, but they wanted everyone to know about it, and to make it so they could not lose it.
Luz wrote him many letters that he never got until after the armistice. Fifteen came in a bunch to the front and he sorted them by the dates and read them all straight through. They were all about the hospital, and how much she loved him and how it was impossible to get along without him and how terrible it was missing him at night.
After the armistice they agreed he should go home to get a job so they might be married. Luz would not come home until he had a good job and could come to New York to meet her. It was understood he would not drink, and he did not want to see his friends or anyone in the States. Only to get a job and be married. On the train from Padua to Milan they quarreled about her not being willing to come home at once. When they had to say good-bye, in the station at Milan, they kissed good-bye, but were not finished with the quarrel. He felt sick about saying good-bye like that.
He went to America on a boat from Genoa. Luz went back to Pordonone to open a hospital. It was lonely and rainy there, and there was a battalion of arditi quartered in the town. Living in the muddy, rainy town in the winter, the major of the battalion made love to Luz, and she had never known Italians before, and finally wrote to the States that theirs had only been a boy and girl affair. She was sorry, and she knew he would probably not be able to understand, but might some day forgive her, and be grateful to her, and she expected, absolutely unexpectedly, to be married in the spring. She loved him as always, but she realized now it was only a boy and girl love. She hoped he would have a great career, and believed in him absolutely. She knew it was for the best.
The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time. Luz never got an answer to the letter to Chicago about it. A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.