All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes.
Each failed overture of peace made the next overture less likely to succeed. Before long, what at first glance had seemed to Gary an absurd possiiblity – that the till of their marriage no longer contained sufficient funds of love and goodwill to cover the emotional costs that going to St. Jude entailed for Caroline or that not going to St. Jude entailed for him – assumed the contours of something terribly actual. He began to hate Caroline simply for continuing to fight with him. He hated the newfound reserves of independence she tapped in order to resist him. Especially, devastatingly hateful was her hatred of him. He could have ended the crisis in a minute if all he’d had to do was forgive her; but to see mirrored in her eyes how repellent she found him – it made him crazy; it poisoned his hope.
But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop. There was first a game at blind-man’s buff. Of course there was. And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots. My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge’s nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it. The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature. Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping against the piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went, there went he. He always knew where the plump sister was. He wouldn’t catch anybody else. If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister. She often cried out that it wasn’t fair; and it really was not. But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable. For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous. No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains.
Being in high school, Miles had no idea there were girls in the world who might be nice to some boy who’d suffered the misfortune of falling in love with them, even when they couldn’t return the favor. Charlene Gardiner was such a girl. Instead of seeing Miles’s crush on her as an occasion for ridicule – by far the most effective cure for a crush – she managed to convey that both Miles and his infatuation were sweet. She didn’t encourage him to persist in his folly, but neither could she bring herself to treat his devotion as something shabby or worthless. Mockery and contempt Miles would’ve understood and accepted as his due, but affection and gratitude confused him deeply. Gratitude for her kindness clouded his judgement, and the proximity she allowed him was simply too intoxicating to give up, so he convinced himself that her fondness was merely the beginning, that if given the opportunity it would metamorphose quite naturally into love. He made no connection between Charlene Gardiner’s kindness to him and his own kindness to Cindy Whiting, an analogy that might have proved instructive.
All Hallows Day: grief comes in waves. Now it threatens to capsize him. He doesn’t believe that the dead come back; but that doesn’t stop him from feeling the brush of their fingertips, wingtips, against his shoulder. Since last night they have been less individual forms and faces than a solid aggregated mass, their flesh slapping and jostling together, their texture dense like sea creatures, their faces sick with an undersea sheen.
But Art is a punitive sentence, not a birthright, & there is nothing in my early life that suggests artistick aptitude or even interest, my pastimes & fascinations nearly all being what may – & were – deemed the merely villainous. And though I am, of course, the hero of this, my own tale, if only because I can’t really imagine anyone else wanting to be, my story is no remade myth of Orpheus, but the story of a sewer rat made worse.
Like all men not really up to their job, he was a stickler for externals and petty quotidian things; and in lieu of an intellect he had accumulated an armoury of capitalized key-words like Discipline and Tradition and Responsibility. If I ever dared – I seldom did – to argue with him, he would produce one of these totem words and cosh me with it, as no doubt in similar circumstances he quelled his subalterns. If one still refused to lie down and die, he lost, or loosed, his temper. His temper was like a red dog, and he always had it close to hand.
And how can you bring it home to them? By an inspiration? By a vision? A dream? Brothers! People! Why has life been given you? In the deep, deaf stillness of midnight, the doors of the death cells are being swung open – and great-souled poeple are being dragged out to be shot. On all the railroads of the country this very minute, right now, people who have just been fed salt herring are licking their dry lips with their bitter tongues. They dream of the happiness of stretching out one’s legs and of the relief one feels after going to the toilet. In Orutukan the earth thaws only in summer and only to the depth of three feet – and only then can they bury the bones of those who died during winter. And you have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like without a convoy. So what’s this about unwiped feet? And what’s this about a mother-in-law? What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I’ll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory – property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life – don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart – and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory!
As for the leaflets reporting the creation of the ROA, the “Russian Liberation Army,” not only were they written in bad Russian, but they were imbued with an alien spirit that was clearly German and, moreover, seemed little concerned with their presumed subject; besides, and on the other hand, they contained crude boasting about the plentiful chow available and the cheery mood of the soliders. Somehow one couldn’t believe in that army, and, it if really did exist, what kind of cheery mood could it be in? Only a German could lie like that.
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?