Day 68 – Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury       

The first concussion cut the rocket up the side with a giant can opener. The men were thrown into space like a dozen wriggling silverfish. They were scattered into a dark sea; and the ship, in a million pieces, went on, a meteor swarm seeking a lost sun.
“Barkley, Barkley, where are you?”
The sound of voices calling like lost children on a cold night.
“Woode, Woode!”

“Hollis, Hollis, this is Stone.”
“Stone, this is Hollis. Where are you?”
“I don’t know. How can I? Which way is up? I’m falling. Good God, I’m falling.”
They fell. They fell as pebbles fall down wells. They were scattered as jackstones are scattered from a gigantic throw. And now instead of men there were only voices—all kinds of voices, disembodied and impassioned, in varying degrees of tenor and resignation.
“We’re going away from each other.” Continue reading


Day 47 – The Story of Pygmalion and Galatea

Today, I wanted to read an essay by George Bernard Shaw.  Usually when I look up an author, I’ll learn about his/her background. Then I seek out a list of what was written, and I’ll choose from that list.  I was shocked to see that he wrote “Pygmalion,” which was what inspired Lerner to write “My Fair Lady.”  But what inspired George to write “Pygmalion” in the first place? It turns out it was inspired by a greek myth, “The story of Pygmalion and Galatea.”  Since I read this short story today, I decided to post it.

The Story of Pygmalion and Galatea

 Pygmalion, the mythical king of Cyprus, had many problems when dating women. He always seemed to accept dates from the wrong women. Some were rude, others were selfish; he was revolted by the faults nature had placed in these women. It left him feeling very depressed. He eventually came to despise the female gender so much that he decided he would never marry any maiden.

For comfort and solace, he turned to the arts, finding his talent in sculpture. Using exquisite skills, he carved a statute out of ivory that was so resplendent and delicate no maiden could compare with its beauty. This statute was the perfect resemblance of a living maiden. Pygmalion fell in love with his creation and often laid his had upon the ivory statute as if to reassure himself it was not living. He named the ivory maiden Galatea and adorned her lovely figure with women’s robes and placed rings on her fingers and jewels about her neck.

At the festival of Aphrodite, which was celebrated with great relish throughout all of Cyprus, lonely Pygmalion lamented his situation. When the time came for him to play his part in the processional, Pygmalion stood by the altar and humbly prayed: “If you gods can give all things, may I have as my wife, I pray…” he did not dare say “the ivory maiden” but instead said: “one like the ivory maiden.” Aphrodite, who also attended the festival, heard his plea and she also knew of the thought he had wanted to utter. Showing her favor, she caused the altar’s flame to flare up three times, shooting a long flame of fire into the still air.

After the day’s festivities, Pygmalion returned home and kissed Galatea as was his custom. At the warmth of her kiss, he started as if stung by a hornet. The arms that were ivory now felt soft to his touch and when he softly pressed her neck the veins throbbed with life. Humbly raising her eyes, the maiden saw Pygmalion and the light of day simultaneously.

Aphrodite blessed the happiness and union of this couple with a child. Pygmalion and Galatea named the child Paphos, for which the city is known until this day. Story Location Clue: Pygmalion and Galatea lived out their days in the city of Paphos located west of the Troodos Mountain Range along the western coast of Cyprus. This city is also north and west of Aphrodite’s Rock.


A coworker of mine loaned me a book entitled “Strange Wine” by Harlan Ellison, which is a compilation of short stories.  I am loving it so far, and I was going to include one of the stories I’ve read in that book to this blog, but I left it at my work place.  So, I googled more of his stories, and picked “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman.


There are always those who ask, what is it all about? For those who need to ask, for those who need points sharply made, who need to know “where it’s at,” this: “The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purposes as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.” Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”

That is the heart of it. Now begin in the middle, and later learn the beginning; the end will take care of itself. But because it was the very world it was, the very world they had allowed it to become, for months his activities did not come to the alarmed attention of The Ones Who Kept The Machine Functioning Smoothly, the ones who poured the very best butter over the cams and mainsprings of the culture. Not until it had become obvious that somehow, someway, he had become a notoriety, a celebrity, perhaps even a hero for (what Officialdom inescapably tagged) “an emotionally disturbed segment of the populace,” did they turn it over to the Ticktockman and his legal machinery. But by then, because it was the very world it was, and they had no way to predict he would happen possibly a strain of disease long-defunct, now, suddenly, reborn in a system where immunity had been forgotten, had lapsed he had been allowed to become too real.

Now he had form and substance.

He had become a personality, something they had filtered out of the system many decades ago. But there it was, and there he was, a very definitely imposing personality. In certain circles middle-class circles it was thought disgusting. Vulgar ostentation. Anarchistic. Shameful. In others, there was only sniggering, those strata where thought is subjugated to form and ritual, niceties, proprieties. But down below, ah, down below, where the people always needed their saints and sinners, their bread and circuses, their heroes and villains, he was considered a Bolivar; a Napoleon; a Robin Hood; a Dick Bong (Ace of Aces); a Jesus; a Jomo Kenyatta.

And at the topwhere, like socially-attuned Shipwreck Kellys, even tremor and vibration threatens to dislodge the wealthy, powerful, and titled from their flagpoleshe was considered a menace; a heretic; a rebel; a disgrace; a peril. He was known down the line, to the very heartmeat core, but the important reactions were high above and far below. At the very top, at the very bottom.

So his file was turned over, along with his time-card and his cardioplate, to the office of the Ticktockman.

The Ticktockman: very much over six feet tall, often silent, a soft purring man when things went timewise. The Ticktock-man.

Even in the cubicles of the hierarchy, where fear was generated, seldom suffered, he was called the Ticktockman.

But no one called him that to his mask.

You don’t call a man a hated name, not when that man, behind his mask, is capable of revoking the minutes, the hours, the days and nights, the years of your life. He was called the Master Timekeeper to his mask. It was safer that way.

“This is what he is,” said the Ticktockman with genuine softness, “but not who he is? This time-card I’m holding in my left hand has a name on it, but it is the name of what he is, not who he is. This cardioplate here in my right hand is also named, but not whom named, merely what named. Before I can exercise proper revocation, I have to know who this what is.”

To his staff, all the ferrets, all the loggers, all the finks, all the commex, even the mineez, he said, “Who is this Harlequin?”

He was not purring smoothly. Timewise, it was jangle.

However, it was the longest single speech they had ever heard him utter at one time, the staff, the ferrets, the loggers, the finks, the commex, but not the mineez, who usually weren’t around to know, in any case. But even they scurried to find out.

Who is the Harlequin?

High above the third level of the city, he crouched on the humming aluminum-frame platform of the air-boat (foof! air-boat, indeed! swizzleskid is what it was, with a tow-rack jerry-rigged) and stared down at the neat Mondrian arrangement of the buildings.

Somewhere nearby, he could hear the metronomic left-right-left of the 2:47 P.M. shift, entering the Timkin roller-bearing plant in their sneakers. A minute later, precisely, he heard the softer right-left-right of the 5:00 A.M. formation, going home. An elfish grin spread across his tanned features, and his dimples appeared for a moment. Then, scratching at his thatch of auburn hair, he shrugged within his motley, as though girding himself for what came next, and threw the joystick forward, and bent into the wind as the air-boat dropped. He skimmed over a slide walk, purposely dropping a few feet to crease the tassels of the ladies of fashion, and inserting thumbs in large earshe stuck out his tongue, rolled his eyes, and went wugga-wugga-wugga.

It was a minor diversion.

One pedestrian skittered and tumbled, sending parcels every which way, another wet herself, a third keeled slantwise and the walk was stopped automatically by the servitors till she could be resuscitated. It was a minor diversion.

Then he swirled away on a vagrant breeze, and was gone. Hi-ho. As he rounded the cornice of the Time-Motion Study Building, he saw the shift, just boarding the slidewalk. With practiced motion and an absolute conservation of movement, they sidestepped up onto the slowstrip and (in a chorus line reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley film of the antediluvian 1930’s) advanced across the strips ostrich-walking till they were lined up on the expresstrip.

Once more, in anticipation, the elfin grin spread, and there was a tooth missing back there on the left side. He dipped, skimmed, and swooped over them; and then, scrunching about on the air-boat, he released the holding pins that fastened shut the ends of the home-made pouring troughs that kept his cargo from dumping prematurely. And as he pulled the trough-pins, the air-boat slid over the factory workers and one hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth Of jelly beans cascaded down on the express trip.

Jelly beans! Millions and billions of purples and yellows and greens and licorice and grape and raspberry and mint and round and smooth and crunchy outside and soft-mealy inside and sugary and bouncing jouncing tumbling clittering clattering skittering fell on the heads and shoulders and hardhats and carapaces of the Timkin workers, tinkling on the slide walk and bouncing away and rolling about underfoot and filling the sky on their way down with all the colors of joy and childhood and holidays, coming down in a steady rain, a solid wash, a torrent of color and sweetness out of the sky from above, and entering a universe of sanity and metronomic order with quite-mad coocoo newness. Jelly beans!

The shift workers howled and laughed and were pelted, and broke ranks, and the jelly beans managed to work their way into the mechanism of the slidewalks after which there was a hideous scraping as the sound of a million fingernails rasped down a quarter of a million blackboards, followed by a coughing and a sputtering, and then the slidewalks all stopped and everyone was dumped thisawayandthataway in a jackstraw tumble, and still laughing and popping little jelly bean eggs of childish color into their mouths. It was a holiday, and a jollity, an absolute insanity, a giggle.

But ….

The shift was delayed seven minutes. They did not get home for seven minutes. The master schedule was thrown off by seven minutes. Quotas were delayed by inoperative slidewalks for seven minutes. He had tapped the first domino in the line, and one after another, like chik chik chik, the others had fallen. The System had been seven minutes worth of disrupted.

It was a tiny matter, one hardly worthy of note, but in a society where the single driving force was order and unity and promptness and clock-like precision and attention to the clock, reverence of the gods of the passage of time, it was a disaster of major importance.

So he was ordered to appear before the Ticktockman. It was broadcast across every channel of the communications web. He was ordered to be there at 7:00 dammit on time. And they waited, and they waited, but he didn’t show up till almost ten-thirty, at which time he merely sang a little song about moonlight in a place no one had ever heard of, called Vermont, and vanished again. But they had all been waiting since seven, and it wrecked hell with their schedules. So the question remained: Who is the Harlequin?

But the unasked question (more important of the two) was: how did we get into this position, where a laughing, irresponsible japer of jabberwocky and jive could disrupt our entire economic and cultural life with a hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of jelly beans…

Jelly for God’s sake beans! This is madness! Where did he get the money to buy a hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of jelly beans? (They knew it would have cost that much, because they had a team of Situation Analysts pulled off another assignment, and rushed to the slidewalk scene to sweep up and count the candies, and produce findings, which disrupted their schedules and threw their entire branch at least a day behind.) Jelly beans! Jelly . . . beans?

Now wait a second a second accounted for no one has manufactured jelly beans for over a hundred years. Where did he get jelly beans?

That’s another good question. More than likely it will never be answered to your complete satisfaction. But then, how many questions ever are?

The middle you know. Here is the beginning. How it starts: A desk The middle you know. Here is the beginning. How it starts: A desk pad. Day for day, and turn each day. 9:00 open the mail. 9:45 appointment with planning commission board. 10:30 discuss installation progress charts with J.L. 11:45 pray for rain. 12:00 lunch. And so it goes.

“I’m sorry. Miss Grant, but the time for interviews was set at 2:30, and it’s almost five now. I’m sorry you’re late, but those are the rules. You’ll have to wait till next year to submit application for this college again.” And so it goes.

The 10:10 local stops at Cresthaven, Galesville, Tonawanda Junction, Selby, and Farnhurst, but not at Indiana City, Lucas-vine, and Colton, except on Sunday. The 10:35 express stops at Galesville, Selby, and Indiana City, except on Sunday & Holi-days, at which time it stops at . . . and so it goes.

“I couldn’t wait, Fred. I had to be at Pierre Cartain’s by 3:00, and you said you’d meet me under the clock in the terminal at 2:45, and you weren’t there, so I had to go on. You’re always late, Fred. If you’d been there, we could have sewed it up together, but as it was, well, I took the order alone . . .” And so it goes.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Atterley: in reference to your son Gerold’s constant tardiness, I am afraid we will have to suspend him from school unless some more reliable method can be instituted guaranteeing he will arrive at his classes on time. Granted he is an exemplary student, and his marks are high, his constant flouting of the schedules of this school makes it impractical to maintain him in a system where the other children seem capable of getting where they are supposed to be on time and so it goes. YOU CANNOT VOTE UNLESS YOU APPEAR AT 8:45 A.M. “I don’t care if the script is good, I need it Thursday!” CHECK-OUT TIME IS 2:00 P.M. “You got here late. The job’s taken. Sorry.” YOUR SALARY HAS BEEN DOCKED FOR TWENTY MINUTES’ TIME LOST. “God, what time is it, I’ve gotta run!” And so it goes.

And so it goes. And so it goes. And so it goes goes goes goes goes tick tock tick tock tick tock and one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the sun’s passing, bound into a life predicated on restrictions because the system will not function if we don’t keep the schedule tight.

Until it becomes more than a minor inconvenience to be late. It becomes a sin. Then a crime. Then a crime punishable by this: EFFECTIVE 15 JULY 2389, 12:00:00 midnight, the office of the Master Timekeeper will require all citizens to submit their time-cards and cardio-plates for processing.

In accordance with Statute 555-7-SGH-999 governing the revocation of time per capita, all cardio-plates will be keyed to the individual holder and What they had done, was devise a method of curtailing the amount of life a person could have. If he was ten minutes late, he lost ten minutes of his life. An hour was proportionately worth more revocation. If someone was consistently tardy, he might find himself, on a Sunday night, receiving a communiqué from the Master Timekeeper that his time had run out, and he would be “turned off” at high noon on Monday, please straighten your affairs, sir.

And so, by this simple scientific expedient (utilizing a scientific process held dearly secret by the Ticktockman’s of-fice) the System was maintained. It was the only expedient thing to do. It was, after all, patriotic. The schedules had to be met. After all, there was a war only But, wasn’t there always?

“Now that is really disgusting,” the Harlequin said, when pretty Alice showed him the wanted poster. “Disgusting and highly improbable. After all, this isn’t the days of desperadoes. A wanted poster!” “You know,” Alice noted, “you speak with a great deal of inflection.” “I’m sorry,” said the Harlequin, humbly. “No need to be sorry. You’re always saying I’m sorry.’ You have such massive guilt, Everett, it’s really very sad.” “I’m sorry,” he repeated, then pursed his lips so the dimples appeared momentarily. He hadn’t wanted to say that at all. “I have to go out again. I have to do something.” Alice slammed her coffee-bulb down on the counter. “Oh for God’s sake, Everett, can’t you stay home just one night! Must you always be out in that ghastly clown suit, running around annoying people?” “I’m” he stopped, and clapped the jester’s hat onto his auburn thatch with a tiny tingling of bells. He rose, nnsed out his coffee-bulb at the tap, and put it into the drier for a moment. “I have to go.” She didn’t answer. The faxbox was purring, and she pulled a sheet out, read it, threw it toward him on the counter. “It’s about you. Of course. You’re ridiculous.”

He read it quickly. It said the Ticktockman was trying to locate him. He didn’t care, he was going out to be late again. At the door, dredging for an exit line, he hurled back petulantly, “Well, you speak with inflection, too!” Alice rolled her pretty eyes heavenward. “You’re ridiculous.” The Harlequin stalked out, slamming the door, which sighed shut softly, and locked itself. There was a gentle knock, and Alice got up with an exhalation of exasperated breath, and opened the door. He stood there. “I’ll be back about ten-thirty, okay?” She pulled a rueful face. “Why do you tell me that? Why? You know you’ll be late! You know it! You’re always late, so why do you tell me these dumb things?” She closed the door. On the other side, the Harlequin nodded to himself. She’s right. She’s always right. I’ll be late. I’m always late. Why do /tell her these dumb things? He shrugged again, and went off to be late once more.

He had fired off the firecracker rockets that said: I will attend the 115th annual International Medical Association Invocation at 8:00 P.M. precisely. I do hope you will all be able to join me. The words had burned in the sky, and of course the authorities were there, lying in wait for him. They assumed, naturally, that he would be late. He arrived twenty minutes early, while they were setting up the spiderwebs to trap and hold him, and blowing a large bullhorn, he frightened and unnerved them so, their own moisturized encirclement webs sucked closed, and they were hauled up, kicking and shrieking, high above the amphitheater’s floor. The Harlequin laughed and laughed, and apologized profusely.

The physicians,’ gathered in solemn conclave, roared with laughter, and accepted the Harlequin’s apologies with exaggerated bowing and posturing, and a merry time was had by all, who thought the Harlequin was a regular foofaraw in fancy pants; all, that is, but the authorities, who had been sent out by the office of the Ticktockman, who hung there like so much dockside cargo, hauled up above the floor of the amphitheater in a most unseemly fashion. (In another part of the same city where the Harlequin carried on .his “activities,” totally unrelated in every way to what concerns here, save that k illustrates the Ticktockman’s power and import, a man named Marshall Delahanty received his turn-off notice from the Ticktockman’s office.

His wife received the notification from the gray-suited minee who delivered it, with the traditional “look of sorrow” plastered hideously across his face. She knew what it was, even without unsealing it. It was a billet-doux of immediate recognition to everyone these days. She gasped, and held it as though it were a glass slide tinged with botulism, and prayed it was not for her. Let 8 it be for Marsh, she thought, brutally, realistically, or one of the kids, but not for me, please dear God, not for me. And then she opened it, and it was for Marsh, and she was at one and the same time horrified and relieved. The next trooper in the line had caught the bullet. “Marshall,” she screamed, “Marshall! Termination, Marshall! OhmiGod, Marshall, whattiwe do, whatti we do, Marshall omigodmarshall . . .” and in their home that night was the sound of tearing paper and fear, and the stink of madness went up the flue and there was nothing, absolutely nothing they could do about it. (But Marshall Delahanty tried to run. And early the next day, when turn-off time came, he was deep in the forest two hundred miles away, and the office of the Ticktockman blanked his cardioplate, and Marshall Delahanty keeled over, running, and his heart stopped, and the blood dried up on its way to his brain, and he was dead that’s all.

One light went out on his sector map in the office of the Master Timekeeper, while notification was entered for fax reproduction, and Georgette Delahanty’s name was entered on the dole roles till she could re-marry. Which is the end of the footnote, and all the point that need be made, except don’t laugh, because that is what would happen to the Harlequin if ever the Ticktockman found out his real name. It isn’t funny.)

The shopping level of the city was thronged with the Thursday-colors of the buyers. Women in canary yellow chitons and men in pseudo-Tyrolean outfits that were jade and leather and fit very tightly, save for the balloon pants. When the Harlequin appeared on the still-being-constructed shell of the new Efficiency Shopping Center, his bullhorn to his elfishly-laughing lips, everyone pointed and stared, and he berated them: “Why let them order you about? Why let them tell you to hurry and scurry like ants or maggots? Take your time! Saunter a while! Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the breeze, let life carry you at your own pace! Don’t be slaves of time, it’s a helluva way to die, slowly, by degrees . . . down with the Ticktockman!” Who’s the nut? most of the shoppers wanted to know. Who’s the nut oh wow I’m gonna be late I gotta run. . .

And the construction gang on the Shopping Center received an urgent order from the office of the Master Timekeeper that the dangerous criminal known as the Harlequin was atop their spire, and their aid was urgently needed in apprehending him. The work crew said no, they would lose time on their construction schedule, but the Ticktockman managed to pull the proper threads of governmental webbing, and they were told to cease work and catch that nitwit up there on the spire with the bullhom.

So a dozen and more burly workers began climbing into their construction platforms, releasing the a-grav plates, and rising toward the Harlequin. 9 After the debacle (in which, through the Harlequin’s attention to personal safety, no one was seriously injured), the workers tried to reassemble, and assault him again, but it was too late. He had vanished. It had attracted quite a crowd, however, and the shopping cycle was thrown off by hours, simply hours. The purchasing needs of the system were therefore falling behind, and so measures were taken to accelerate the cycle for the rest of the day, but it got bogged down and speeded up and they sold too many float-valves and not nearly enough wegglers, which meant that the popli ratio was off, which made it necessary to rush cases and cases of spoiling Smash-0 to stores that usually needed a case only every three or four hours. The shipments were bollixed, the trans-shipments were misrouted, and in the end, even the swizzleskid industries felt it.

“Don’t come back till you have him!” the Ticktockman said, very quietly, very sincerely, extremely dangerously. They used dogs. They used probes. They used cardio-plate crossoffs. They used teepers. They used bribery. They used stiktytes. They used intimidation. They used torment. They used torture. They used finks. They used cops. They used search&seizure. They used fallaron. They used betterment incentive. They used fingerprints. They used Bertillon. They used cunning. They used guile. They used treachery. They used Raoul Mitgong, but he didn’t help. much. They used applied physics. They used techniques of criminology. And what the hell: they caught him. After all, his name was Everett C. Marm, and he wasn’t much to begin with, except a man who had no sense of time.

“Repent, Harlequin!” said the Ticktockman.

“Get stuffed!” the Harlequin replied, sneering.

“You’ve been late a total of sixty-three years, five months, three weeks, two days, twelve hours, forty-one minutes, fifty-nine seconds, point oh three six one one one microseconds. You’ve used up everything you can, and more. I’m going to turn you off.”

“Scare someone else. I’d rather be dead than live in a dumb world with a bogeyman like you.”

“It’s my job.”

“You’re full of it. You’re a tyrant. You have no right to order people around and kill them if they show up late.”

“You can’t adjust. You can’t fit in.”

“Unstrap me, and I’ll fit my fist into your mouth.”

“You’re a non-conformist.”

“That didn’t used to be a felony.”

“It is now. Live in the world around you.”

“I hate it. It’s a terrible world.”

“Not everyone thinks so. Most people enjoy order.”

“I don’t, and most of the people I know don’t.”

“That’s not true. How do you think we caught you?”

“I’m not interested.”

“A girl named pretty Alice told us who you were.”

“That’s a lie.”

“It’s true. You unnerve her. She wants to belong, she wants to conform, I’m going to turn you off.”

“Then do it already, and stop arguing with me.”

“I’m not going to turn you off.”

“You’re an idiot!”

“Repent, Harlequin!” said the Ticktockman.

“Get stuffed.”

So they sent him to Coventry. And in Coventry they worked him over.

It was just like what they did to Winston Smith in “1984,” which was a book none of them knew about, but the techniques are really quite ancient, and so they did it to Everett C. Marm, and one day quite a long time later, the Harlequin appeared on the communications web, appearing elfish and dimpled and bright-eyed, and not at all brainwashed, and he said he had been wrong, that it was a good, a very good thing indeed, to belong, and be right on time hip-ho and away we go, and everyone stared up at him on the public screens that covered an entire city block, and they said to themselves, well, you see, he was just a nut after all, and if that’s the way the system is run, then let’s do it that way, because it doesn’t pay to fight city hall, or in this case, the Ticktockman.

So Everett C. Marm was destroyed, which was a loss, because of what Thoreau said earlier, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and in every revolution, a few die who shouldn’t, but 11 they have to, because that’s the way it happens, and if you make only a little change, then it seems to be worthwhile. Or, to make the point lucidly: “Uh, excuse me, sir, I, uh, don’t know how to uh, to uh, tell you this, but you were three minutes late. The schedule is a , little, uh, bit off.” He grinned sheepishly. “That’s ridiculous!” murmured the Ticktockman behind his mask. “Check your watch.” And then he went into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee, mrmee.

Day 38 – The Ambitious Guest

Crawford Notch is the steep and narrow gorge of the Saco River in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, located almost entirely within the town of Hart's Location. Roughly half of that town is contained in Crawford Notch State Park.

Crawford Notch is the steep and narrow gorge of the Saco River in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, located almost entirely within the town of Hart’s Location. Roughly half of that town is contained in Crawford Notch State Park.

The story I picked today came out of a book titled American Authors, which was edited by Lessie Lee Culpepper and Mildred McClary Tymeson.  I decided to start with Nathaniel Hawthorne as I couldn’t recall reading any of his work before.   When you’re finished reading, take a moment to read about the Willey family that may have inspired Nathaniel to write this story. The link is below…

The Ambitious Guest
By Nathaniel Hawthorne

One September night a family had gathered round their hearth and piled it high with the driftwood of mountain streams, the dry cones of the pine, and the splintered ruins of great trees that had come crashing down the precipice.  Up the chimney roared the fire, and brightened the room with its broad blaze.  The faces of the father and mother had a sober gladness; the children laughed; the eldest daughter was the image of Happiness at seventeen; and the aged grandmother, who sat knitting in the warmest place, was the image of Happiness grown old.  They had found the” herb, heart’s-ease,” in the bleakest spot of all New England.  This family were situated in the Notch of the White Hills, where the wind was sharp throughout the year and pitilessly cold in the winter, giving their cottage all its fresh inclemency before it descended on the valley of the Saco.  They dwelt in a cold spot and a dangerous one; for a mountain towered above their heads so steep that the stones would often rumble down its sides and startle them at midnight.

The daughter had just uttered some simple jest that filled them all with mirth, when the wind came through the Notch and seemed to pause before their cottage, rattling the door with a sound of wiling and lamentation before it passed into the valley.  For a moment it saddened them, though there was nothing unusual in the tones.  But the family were glad again when they perceived that the latch was lifted by some traveler, whose footsteps had been unheard amid the dreary blast which heralded his approach, and wailed as he was entering, and moaning away from the door.

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Day 37 – A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I heard it.

It was summer time, and twilight. We were sitting on the porch of the farm-house, on the summit of the hill, and “Aunt Rachel” was sitting respectfully below our level, on the steps, — for she was our servant, and colored. She was of mighty frame and stature; she was sixty years old, but her eye was undimmed and her strength unabated. She was a cheerful, hearty soul, and it was no more trouble for her to laugh than it is for a bird to sing. She was under fire, now, as usual when the day was done. That is to say, she was being chaffed without mercy, and was enjoying it. She would let off peal after peal of laughter, and then sit with her face in her hands and shake with throes of enjoyment which she could no longer get breath enough to express. At such a moment as this a thought occurred to me, and I said: —

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Day 33 – Old Greek Stories: How Fire was given to Men


I’ve decided to stick with the Old Greek Myth stories until I’ve read both volumes.  I believe this is the third chapter in Volume one and we’ll be learning about Prometheus.

In those old, old times, there lived two brothers who were not like other men, nor yet like those Mighty Ones who lived upon the mountain top. They were the sons of one of those Titans who had fought against Jupiter and been sent in chains to the strong prison-house of the Lower World.

The name of the elder of these brothers was Prometheus, or Forethought; for he was always thinking of the future and making things ready for what might happen to-morrow, or next week, or next year, or it may be in a hundred years to come. The younger was called Epimetheus, or Afterthought; for he was always so busy thinking of yesterday, or last year, or a hundred years ago, that he had no care at all for what might come to pass after a while.

For some cause Jupiter had not sent these brothers to prison with the rest of the Titans.

Prometheus did not care to live amid the clouds on the mountain top. He was too busy for that. While the Mighty Folk were spending their time in idleness, drinking nectar and eating ambrosia, he was intent upon plans for making the world wiser and better than it had ever been before.

He went out amongst men to live with them and help them; for his heart was filled with sadness when he found that they were no longer happy as they had been during the golden days when Saturn was king. Ah, how very poor and wretched they were! He found them living in caves and in holes of the earth, shivering with the cold because there was no fire, dying of starvation, hunted by wild beasts and by one another–the most miserable of all living creatures.

“If they only had fire,” said Prometheus to himself, “they could at least warm themselves and cook their food; and after a while they could learn to make tools and build themselves houses. Without fire, they are worse off than the beasts.”

Then he went boldly to Jupiter and begged him to give fire to men, that so they might have a little comfort through the long, dreary months of winter.

“Not a spark will I give,” said Jupiter. “No, indeed! Why, if men had fire they might become strong and wise like ourselves, and after a while they would drive us out of our kingdom. Let them shiver with cold, and let them live like the beasts. It is best for them to be poor and ignorant, that so we Mighty Ones may thrive and be happy.”

Prometheus made no answer; but he had set his heart on helping mankind, and he did not give up. He turned away, and left Jupiter and his mighty company forever.

As he was walking by the shore of the sea he found a reed, or, as some say, a tall stalk of fennel, growing; and when he had broken it off he saw that its hollow center was filled with a dry, soft pith which
would burn slowly and keep on fire a long time. He took the long stalk in his hands, and started with it towards the dwelling of the sun in the far east.

“Mankind shall have fire in spite of the tyrant who sits on the mountain top,” he said.

He reached the place of the sun in the early morning just as the glowing, golden orb was rising from the earth and beginning his daily journey through the sky. He touched the end of the long reed to the flames, and the dry pith caught on fire and burned slowly. Then he turned and hastened back to his own land, carrying with him the precious spark hidden in the hollow center of the plant.

He called some of the shivering men from their caves and built a fire for them, and showed them how to warm themselves by it and how to build other fires from the coals. Soon there was a cheerful blaze in every rude home in the land, and men and women gathered round it and were warm and happy, and thankful to Prometheus for the wonderful gift which he had brought to them from the sun.

It was not long until they learned to cook their food and so to eat like men instead of like beasts. They began at once to leave off their wild and savage habits; and instead of lurking in the dark places of the world, they came out into the open air and the bright sunlight, and were glad because life had been given to them.

After that, Prometheus taught them, little by little, a thousand things. He showed them how to build houses of wood and stone, and how to tame sheep and cattle and make them useful, and how to plow and sow and reap, and how to protect themselves from the storms of winter and the beasts of the woods. Then he showed them how to dig in the earth for copper and iron, and how to melt the ore, and how to hammer it into shape and fashion from it the tools and weapons which they needed in peace and war; and when he saw how happy the world was becoming he cried out:

“A new Golden Age shall come, brighter and better by far than the old!”

Day 32 – Old Greek Stories: The Golden Age

IMG_20140329_160829_936Jupiter and his Mighty Folk had not always dwelt amid the clouds on the mountain top. In times long past, a wonderful family called Titans had lived there and had ruled over all the world. There were twelve of them–six brothers and six sisters–and they said that their father was the Sky and their mother the Earth. They had the form and looks of men and women, but they were much larger and far more beautiful.

The name of the youngest of these Titans was Saturn; and yet he was so very old that men often called him Father Time. He was the king of the Titans, and so, of course, was the king of all the earth besides.

Men were never so happy as they were during Saturn’s reign. It was the true Golden Age then. The springtime lasted all the year. The woods and meadows were always full of blossoms, and the music of singing birds was heard every day and every hour. It was summer and autumn, too, at the same time. Apples and figs and oranges always hung ripe from the trees; and there were purple grapes on the vines, and melons and berries of every kind, which the people had but to pick and eat.

Of course nobody had to do any kind of work in that happy time. There was no such thing as sickness or sorrow or old age. Men and women lived for hundreds and hundreds of years and never became gray or wrinkled or lame, but were always handsome and young. They had no need of houses, for there were no cold days nor storms nor anything to make them afraid.

Nobody was poor, for everybody had the same precious things–the sunlight, the pure air, the wholesome water of the springs, the grass for a carpet, the blue sky for a roof, the fruits and flowers of the woods and meadows. So, of course, no one was richer than another, and there was no money, nor any locks or bolts; for everybody was everybody’s friend, and no man wanted to get more of anything than his neighbors had.

When these happy people had lived long enough they fell asleep, and their bodies were seen no more. They flitted away through the air, and over the mountains, and across the sea, to a flowery land in the distant west. And some men say that, even to this day, they are wandering happily hither and thither about the earth, causing babies to smile in their cradles, easing the burdens of the toilworn and sick, and blessing mankind everywhere.

What a pity it is that this Golden Age should have come to an end! But it was Jupiter and his brothers who brought about the sad change.

It is hard to believe it, but men say that Jupiter was the son of the old Titan king, Saturn, and that he was hardly a year old when he began to plot how he might wage war against his father. As soon as he was grown up, he persuaded his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and his sisters, Juno, Ceres, and Vesta, to join him; and they vowed that they would drive the Titans from the earth.

Then followed a long and terrible war. But Jupiter had many mighty helpers. A company of one-eyed monsters called Cyclopes were kept busy all the time, forging thunderbolts in the fire of burning mountains. Three other monsters, each with a hundred hands, were called in to throw rocks and trees against the stronghold of the Titans; and Jupiter himself hurled his sharp lightning darts so thick and fast that the woods were set on fire and the water in the rivers boiled with the heat.

Of course, good, quiet old Saturn and his brothers and sisters could not hold out always against such foes as these. At the end of ten years they had to give up and beg for peace. They were bound in chains of the hardest rock and thrown into a prison in the Lower Worlds; and the Cyclopes and the hundred-handed monsters were sent there to be their jailers and to keep guard over them forever.

Then men began to grow dissatisfied with their lot. Some wanted to be rich and own all the good things in the world. Some wanted to be kings and rule over the others. Some who were strong wanted to make slaves of those who were weak. Some broke down the fruit trees in the woods, lest others should eat of the fruit. Some, for mere sport, hunted the timid animals which had always been their friends. Some even killed these poor creatures and ate their flesh for food.

At last, instead of everybody being everybody’s friend, everybody was everybody’s foe.

So, in all the world, instead of peace, there was war; instead of plenty, there was starvation; instead of innocence, there was crime; and instead of happiness, there was misery.

And that was the way in which Jupiter made himself so mighty; and that was the way in which the Golden Age came to an end.