Sunday, November 28, 2010

Updated Course Syllabus and Classroom Policies (Semester 2, AY 2010-2011) for LIT205A

LIT205 Course Syllabus and Classroom Policies: World Literature***
Instructor: Timothy Sanchez Official website:

General Course Objectives

The purpose of this course is to promote intellectual growth by strengthening students' abilities to read analytically and creatively, by filing in or reinforcing students' knowledge of the outlines of history, and by making students conversant with many major cultural landmarks and developing their sensitivity to cultural diversity through a critical study of the literatures of the world. This course intends to develop among students the ability to read, understand and appreciate the literatures of the world in order to deepen their knowledge of the complexities of human life and nature, and to inculcate among them the respect for people and cultures, love for nature, desire for peace and passion for truth and justice, which will, eventually, contribute to the enhancement of a compassionate, competent and committed global Thomasian.

Specific Course Objectives

At the end of the course, the students are expected to: (1)Identify, comprehend and value the different types and forms of literature across cultures; (2)Appreciate the significant human experiences exemplified in the different literary works; (3) Gain insights on the complexities of human nature, cultures, and practices through a close reading of world literatures; (4) Write a critique paper on a novel, drama or epic; and (6) Creatively transform literature to other artistic forms.

Learning Outcomes and Competencies
Students who successfully complete this course will be able to demonstrate the following on appropriate testing/evaluation instruments: (1) An ability to analyze a piece of literature and effectively write about it using appropriate critical strategies and other materials that I require. (2) An ability to appreciate literature in its broader social context and thereby garner insights into the human condition through examination of such fundamental relationships as those between man and self, man and society, and man and Nature. (3) An appreciation for the historical context of literature, how it affects and reflects the age in which it was written, and how it is linked to broader historical currents in politics, philosophy, psychology, science and art as well as how it resonates within contemporary culture.

Intellectual Competencies Expected of all Students Enrolled in General Education Courses in English and the Humanities
This course will afford the enrolled students the opportunity to refine their existing skills in the following six areas:
Reading: Reading at the college level means the ability to analyze and interpret a variety of printed materials.
Writing: Competency in writing is the ability to produce clear, correct, and coherent prose adapted to purpose, occasion and audience.
Speaking: Competence in speaking is the ability to communicate orally in clear, coherent, and persuasive language appropriate to purpose, occasion, and audience.
Listening: Listening at the college level means the ability to analyze and interpret various forms of spoken communication
Critical Thinking: Critical thinking embraces methods for applying both qualitative and quantitative skills analytically and creatively to subject matter in order to evaluate arguments and to construct alternative strategies.
Computer Literacy: Computer literacy at the college level means the ability to use computer-based technology in communicating, solving problems, and acquiring information.

Course Methodologies
1. Lectures
2. Report/Discussion
3. Creative/Critical Writing (see Writing Assignment)
4. Drama Presentation/Dramatic Reading (see Final Requirement)
5. Film Viewing and Field Exposure

Assessment Procedures
Students will listen to lectures, participate in class discussions through reporting, and write about the authors and works through activities that include essay exams and critical papers. Successful essays and papers must respond to the requirements established by the assignment prompt.

Traditional academic essays must contain a clearly stated arguable thesis, effective evidence used in support of the thesis, a clear organizational pattern, adequate paragraph development, paragraph unity and coherence, and appropriate and accurate documentation, including paraphrasing, quoting, and a "works cited" list at the end when requested by the prompt.

All essays, quizzes and papers must be written according to conventional standards of English grammar and punctuation and should not contain errors that significantly harm or diminish meaning. The following are considered major grammatical errors: sentence boundaries, subject/verb disagreement, and verb tense and form. All essays, quizzes and papers must be written for the appropriate reader and the subject, occasion, and purpose of writing. They must contain complex sentence structure and effective word choice and include a title.

Consultation Hours
Office: CTHM Faculty Room E-mail:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 2-3 p.m.

Students may earn a maximum of 335 points per grading period (prelim and finals), and grades are based on the percentage of those points a student earns. The percentage is traditional. (Keep track of the points you have earned for the assignments listed above and convert them into a percentage to determine your grade. For more information on calculating your grade in class, see the information on Quizzes and Grade Calculation below.) Grades are broken down as follows:

Writing Assignments, Quizzes 135 pts., or 30% of your grade.
Major Examination 100 pts., or 40% of your grade.
Attendance/Participation 100 pts., or 30% of your grade.


Quizzes and Grade Calculation
Quizzes will usually be worth ten points. I will not announce quizzes in advance; students should expect one at the beginning of every class period. Students will be given ample time to complete quizzes if they arrived to class on time, but if a student is late for class he/she will have less time to complete the quiz. For instance (10minute quiz), if a student arrives 8 minutes late, he/she will only have 2 minutes to complete the quiz. If the student arrives after the quiz is over or if the student is absent, he/she will not be allowed to make up the quiz. I do not give special/make up test. If a student misses a major exam, he or she needs to write a formal letter requesting for one. This should also be accompanied by supporting documents. The student will have to wait until the end of the semester to take the special make-up exam. Students may prepare for quizzes by using the (1) course pack reader, (2) lectures in our official website ( and (3) by reading taken lecture notes. Quizzes and exams may consist of identification, true-false, and short answer and essay sections. Exams may consist of open and closed book portions. Tests are under time pressure. My students will need an envelope to compile all returned quizzes and exams so that they may use these in the event that they would like to request for a re-computation of their grade.

Lecture Notes
Taking notes from lecture is a required part of class and an essential habit of serious students. On any given class period I may ask the student to show me his/her notes for that class period (I have the option to give merit or demerit in class participation.)

Reading Assignment as Homework
Essentially, the homework of students in this course is to read assigned texts. In between each class period, students are expected to review their lecture notes and the material covered in the previous class period, in addition to completing all assignments for the next class period.

Attendance and Class Participation Rules and Point Deductions
Attendance is mandatory; absences should be rare; tardiness and leaving early will be penalized; disrupting class is unacceptable. Each student will begin the term with 100 points for attendance and participation; these are the points to lose for violating class rules:

-15 points (for MWF classes) 20 points (for TTh classes) per absence

Excuse letters with corresponding medical certificate/supporting document must be duly received and noted within a week from date of the absent student’s return to class. Noted excuse letters should be filed to the instructor one day before the prelim/final examinations. No adjustment in class participation grade will be made if excuse letters are not received on said date/s.

Students who are attending co-curricular and/or extra-curricular activities (including tours, ushering assignments, thesis defences, trainings, seminars, contests, etc.) and would like to be excused from class will have to write me a formal letter of request BEFORE actual activity/ies. The excuse letter should be accompanied by duly approved supporting documents. This rule will be strictly implemented.

-10 points for arriving late or leaving early

-10 points for failing to bring your course pack and/or required materials

-10 points for failing to take lecture notes or completing homework

-10 points for disrupting class (examples are cell phones going off in class, having private conversations while class is in session, leaving your seat without permission in the middle of lecture, discussion, or other class activities, etc.) I may also confiscate your IDs and turn these over to the SWDB chair for appropriate action.

-100 points for cheating or plagiarizing, + failure for the assignment (notice that this means that if you cheat, you will most certainly fail the course. I reserve the right to refer a student to the Prefect of Discipline as well.

If a student has accumulated more than -100 points, he/she will earn 0 points for this portion of the grade and the remaining points will be deducted from his/her overall grade. I expect active rather than passive learning. All students must be prepared for class. All students in this course must be prepared to ask and answer questions and participate in class discussion.

Writing Assignment
Students enrolled in this course may write one paper during the term. I will provide separate assignment sheet for the writing assignment. The paper is due at the beginning of the class period on the date listed on the syllabus. Late papers will not be accepted.

Classroom Cleanliness and Order
My college students should not expect me to instruct them to clean/ pick up pieces of dirt from their respective areas as well as direct them to align their desks every single meeting. They must ensure that they are part of making the classroom in order so that it is conducive for learning. The classroom must be in order before I even come in. I may choose not to proceed with the day’s lecture/activity should I reckon that the classroom and the class are not ready in this respect. In which case, the class will be responsible in catching up with the missed session.

Academic Dishonesty
Student Responsibility: Students are expected to be above reproach in all scholastic activities. Students who engage in scholastic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and dismissal from the university. Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts. Since scholastic dishonesty harms the individual, all students, and the integrity of the university, policies on scholastic dishonesty will be strictly enforced. (Refer to the Student Handbook for more information.) Student/s who signed a slip/note or anything of that nature that directly or indirectly concern me or my course (to indicate to the dean’s office that I am absent in class, for instance) MUST inform me of such incident as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary conflicts (especially if I am not absent, but merely late for the class, for instance.) I shall file a charge against a student (or students) who commit/s an act that harms my integrity.

Emergency Academic Continuity Program
If available, academic courses, partially will be available on the ELEAP Blackboard Academic Suite management system. From time to time, I shall conduct graded quizzes using this technology. Students may also join group discussions to earn credit. I will also post official announcements in the system. Each student will also receive these announcements in their respective emails (the ones provided by UST.) Students, therefore, are responsible for the activation of their respective ELEAP accounts. This will allow me and my students to continue my teaching and learning via UST E-Learning Access Program (ELEAP), UST BLACKBOARD Academic Suite management system, in case the university shuts down as a result of a pandemic outbreak, typhoon, or any other natural disaster. If the university is forced to shut down, I shall notify my students using Blackboard on how to proceed with the course. If I chose not to use ELEAP for a particular given semester, my students may resort to the course’s official blog site. To receive credit for a course, it is the student's responsibility to complete all the requirements. Failure to access course materials once reasonably possible can result in a reduction of the student’s overall grade in the class. To facilitate the completion of classes, most or all of the communication between students and the institution, the faculty and fellow classmates will take place using the features in the ELEAP Blackboard and/or though the course’s website. In the event of a disaster, disease outbreak or other disruptions of normal operations that would result to the suspension of classes, all students must make every effort to access an internet-enabled computer as often as possible to continue the learning process.

View/s:between Borders, Beyond Barriers, Understanding People and Cultures through World Literatures. by Ferdinand Lopez, Remedios Biavati and Luciana Urquila. UST Publishing House, Manila. 2009

***subject to changes

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Bird by Tita Lacambra Ayala


Tita Lacambra Ayala


                 It was all of Sisa’s fault anyway. She said that if I sat beside the window facing the sea without moving, for hours on end, a bird would come and sit on my head and nest there. I mused over these for a long time while I watched her comb her hair with a big red comb.

                I really don’t know why she does that, lave her thick head of long hair with coconut oil and comb it, unknotting all the snags from the scalp down over and over again until she looked like a black waterfall a-glisten with brilliant lights with the water falling down in straight lines, falling all over her front so that her body was fenced from sight, the tips of her hair touching her knees as she knelt on the floor.

                Her quiet black-red black-red strokes of comb to head and down lulled me into a hypnotic state and all of a sudden I felt very lonely, like I wanted to go home somewhere but I didn’t know where. I swam in the feeling for awhile, staring at the blue flowers on her brown dress, and at the very pale undersides of her feet contrasted against the very dark sides of the rest of her.

                When she was all oiled up like snake, she coiled her hair into a loose knot behind her head freeing her face to the light again. Her face had the fine brown skin that glistened from her own natural oils and the coconut essence, and I wondered vaguely if other parts of her body were just as oily, knowing that in a day or two she would probably smell rancid and overripe and would have to use steam or bathwater heated to boiling to wash away that oil again. Coconut cakes wrapped in banana leaves occurred to me and I began to feel very hungry.

                She left the room carrying her coconut shell of remaining coconut oil, her red combed hitched to the back of her head. She left behind her a mixed smell in the small bamboo room which we shared, a small bamboo in a not-so-small bamboo house facing the sea, with sawali walls over and under which lizards wove their loveliness and housekeeping without a thought for human beings, leaving their droppings and their eggs everywhere, sometimes inside my baul.

                Sisa’s pillow will have an oily mark when she sleeps tonight, I thought, then turned towards the window.

                The sea was especially calm in the early afternoon sun, brownish at the shoreline and blue farther in, little ripples, just a few waves marking times of turning. If, as Sisa said, a bird would come would it notice my eyes and peck at them, or get curious about my nose? And that pearl earrings—would it think them seeds? The noonday sun cast a shining on everything, the unquiet coconut fronds trembled their own greenish lights and if I were to sit here at all for the bird I would have to lean with one side against the window, and face the bamboo cabinet where all the red pillows were piled atop each other fatly over all the folded blankets, and the amts on top rolled up like giant cigars.

                I adjusted my seating on my baul, leaned my left elbow against the wide bamboo piece that was the window sill, and prepared to wait for the bird. I burped my lunchburp and smelled the gingerfish with pepper leaves all over again and longed mightily for a drink of water. But I would not stir now that I was in the right place and state of mind for waiting. I stared at the stack of red pillows and fell into a trance.

                As it happened, it was not at trance at all- I had fallen asleep and with my left shoulder aching I opened my eyes to see Sisa sitting cross-legged on the floor before a low table covered with blankets, a glowing charcoal iron with a red handle to her left, its numerous scalloped eyes smoldering as it moved back-forth back-forth over a garment in the falling afternoon light. A pile of finished ironing was on a mat on her other side and at her elbow a wooden basin almost empty of dampened rolled laundry. Sisa was flecked with orange dots from the dying sun.

                There was no bird at all, I told Sisa, turning away, looking out into the sea.

                Sometimes when the waiting is strong the bird does not come, she said, her voice coming in waves as she pressed down on her iron.Then one day if you’re patient enough but nearing the end of your patience it will appear.

                I mused over that and slapped at a mosquito that was sucking supper out of my toe.

                Sometimes the bird takes a long time to come because it comes from a long way and the journey is troublesome. So long that even as it flies to you its limbs grow and its feathers lengthen, ageing in its flight. Some of them start as young birds and get to their destinations already adult and mature.

                Don’t they ever turn back from getting tired? Some come over a wide sea, some in a storm, she answered, the waves in her voice growing like the rising tide. The orange in the sky turned lavender as the sun set and soon the sea was part of the sky.



                A year passed since Sisa told me about magical birds and, very often as I was attuned to many other things, I decided that waiting for birds was not the best thing. For Sisa perhaps, yes, and women like her who lived by the sea all their lives, rising with the first shimmering of light by dawn and putting away their boats of charcoal irons when the sun set. But as for me I had breaks in the monotony of my life. Occasionally I went to town to call the Chinaman when it was time to haul away the coconuts, or hunted for the buyer of our vinegar and dried fishes, or helped Mother buy cloth to sell in the adjoining barrios. It was the idle days that left me time to dream about Sisa’s birds, and in that year that passed I must have sat by the window in all the hot searing days of summer.

                Sometimes as I dove into the water then turned to float on my back I imagined the shadow of a wide winged white bird following me, beckoning to me out of the water and on to the house so that I might sit there and wait its imperative arrival. The shadow of the bird would be a cool cloud over my body.

                At times in my sleep I would feel the clasp of its claws on my hip, its weight pressing me closer to the mat, its tail fanning my backside. And I would wake up to find the cat Musang draped asleep over me, her head hanging to my backside, her tail trailing against my thigh.

                Sisa never said that the bird would come in the night but when the sea was still and the moon was up I thought it came in the guise of a bat gliding strongly among the palms. Or it was invisible like a wind and entered dead-blind into the bamboo house slapping against the sawali. Or not wanting that, silently perched on the nipa roof scudding in the nipa, resting its travel-worn head under its wing, hiding its eyes from the moonlight, its fine head feathers trembling in the seawind.

                Sometimes it would be white gray markings –like a dove but larger. Other times it would be a bright blue like that of kingfishers, brilliant and elusive, the lone flash of color in the black of night. It went for short dips into the sea to catch some fish then came back on the rooftop to dry its salty feathers. Sometimes it was a silver with red markings at the tips of wings and tail, with red feet. But half-blind. And it would circle endlessly above the house and higher searching for me, uttering a forlorn cry, and never finding me would leave again, and my heart would yearn for it painfully in my dreams and I would sigh and cry into my red pillow silently. Somehow, waiting for the bird in the dark, in the night, was a more intense waiting than sitting up still by the window in the afternoon hours. The mysteries of the dark made him more changeable and fascinating, the span of wings wider, the song a deeper call. His reality extended from the sounds and shadows of the hours into the immeasurable ravines of sleep.

                The rainy nights were difficult to bear. The bird circled around in the forest of the night, its feathers wet and heavy, its vision blinded by the rain. Sometimes it would find me and under all the wet feathers I would feel its hot skin, its heartbeat fast and strong under my hand.

                One clammy morning, the air heavy with damp from the night's rain, I walked the coconut footpath towards the road inland from the sea. Father had complained that the Chinaman had not comet o haul away the coconuts as he had promised. It was my duty to go into town and remind him of what was to be done. Also, the last batch of fish drying on the fillet trays had not been salted properly and on top of that the rain had started to fall heavily before the fish could be taken away into the shade. Sisa had gone about the house in a distracted way as father scolded and mother proceeded to the granary to bring out some bundles of palay to pound. That morning the sun had risen too early and too hot, as if making up hastily for all the faults attributed to the rain that day before. Even the jeepney driver that brought me and the other barrio folk into town seemed morose and unhappy. My change when he handed it to me lacked a coin. I walked away without asking for it.

                The Chinaman was not at his warehouse when I got there. He had

gone with his truck and driver to the north to bring in some molasses. I waited till almost noon and while the molasses were being unloaded he ate his lunch in between mouthfuls of which he promised to haul the coconuts the same day. I rode with him and his two men in the truck. He rode in front with the driver and another worker. I sat in the back of the truck shieldign my head and face with mother's checkered shawl. When I closed my eyes against the dust I saw red and orange lights, spots of violet and light green and blue dancing around in different sizes, advancing then re-arranging and blending inside my eyes. The truck floor was hard and twice over stones on the road I bumped my head against the wooden sides. The floor smelled of molasses and salted fish.

                After father greeted the men from town I went to the water pump at the back of the house to wash my face and feet to hang out the shawl on a bamboo pole beside the stairs. I was hot and hungry and I called Sisa from the kitchen stairs, the smooth bamboo stairs creaking under my damp bare feet. Sisa did not meet me at the door clutching at her skirt as she usually did when I got back from town, asking questions about how the trip was and what I saw, or if what she had asked me to buy I had bought.

                The kitchen window was shuttered down and I wondered if a strong wind had come to blow away the slender pole that held the shutter up like eyelashes over it.

                 I called to her again, meanwhile getting a wooden plate from the window shelf and lifting a pot lid for some food. Not getting any answer I sat down on the floor to eat, moistening my fingers in the water from a clay basin. The cold spicy sour fish with coconut milk and gabi leaves soothed me and very soon I noticed the sound of grain winnowing in baskets in the rice shed nearby. That means the pounding had been done and I would not be needed to help. My afternoon was free. I would go for a swim in the sea later and watch fishermen prepare their nets and boats. Later on I would go and look at the new litter of Carya's sow. Carya had promised me a female to keep as her sow had benn bred to mother's boar.

                The door to our bedroom was barred when I tried to get in and wondered if Sisa was ill. I peeped through a crack between the fat wooden frame of the door and the door but I could see nothing because the room was dark.

                Sisa, Sisa, open the door, I'm back from town and I need my towel, I called through. What are you doing in there?

                Go away, came her voice. She sounded urgent and threatening. She sounded like she had a sore throat. I'm making a nest.

                A nest? Where?

                Here in the room.

                With what are you building a nest? Straw?

                My dreamworld of birds that Sisa had started in my mind was being quickly spurred on again and what she was doing in there suddenly seemed the most exciting thing. A dreamworld come to earth. A fantasy coming true. I imagined myself likewise making a nest with straw and palm fronds. Mother's shawl, soft and downy things. Anything. Anything.

                People's clothes, she said. And blankets.

                I want to see. I almost shrieked. Let me in.

                She made no sound except shuffling, and I could hear the bamboo slats of the floor moving under her feet as she negotiated distance.

                Let me in!

                I went back to the kitchen for the bolo used for cutting firewood. I inserted the bolo into the door crack and pushed upwards to disloge the strip of wood that was used to bar down the door. The bar fell to the bamboo floor with a clatter and I pushed my way in.

                My eyes widened in the closed room. Sisa was seated on the floor beside my baul. She was completely naked, her hair undone from its neat oily topknot. She was surrounded by a circular pile of clothing which I recognized as the laundry that had been out on the poles the day before. They were the clothing that she should have been ironing at that time of the day. The pillow rack was empty and I recognized the pillows among the surrounding humps of material around her. She was just there sitting in the middle of her nest, staring at me with dark round eyes with something like amusement and smugness in them, just as if she expected me to envy her.

                An invisible breath of wind pushed in through the door and I felt cold. Outside I could hear grain being winnowed in baskets, and a coconut midrib broom scraping the dried cowdung floor to gather up fallen grain. I looked cautiously around  the room as I backed out slowly, half expecting to be confronted by the presence of something that has long been expected and had finally arrived. I could see nothing else, I could see no one. Only Sisa smiling at me with strange sharp eyes. And I knew that even as I did not see the one who had arrived, that it was there in that room and it was eyeing me curiously, questioning my impertinent presence.

                I closed the door as quietly as I could, pulling it into place onto the door frame, picked up the bolo, tiptoed the kitchen and down the stairs towards the rice shed to call mother.

Friday, January 16, 2009

At the Crossroads : Of Tradition and Change

Chi Chun

When Mother was young, she would weave her tresses in to a long thick braid. During the day she wound it in to a shell-like spiral and piled it high on the back of her head. Evenings she undid it and let it hang down her back. When I slept I would snuggle up close to Mother's shoulder and playfully wrap my fingers around the tip of her braid. My nose was continuously assailed by whiffs of "Twin Sister" hair oil mingled with the smell of her hair. Though the odor was rather unpleasant, it was part of the security I felt in lying by Mother's side, and I would fall quickly off to sleep.
Once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, Mother would thoroughly wash her hair. According to rural custom, hair could never be washed on ordinary days as the dirty water would flow down to where the king of the underworld would store it up to make one drink after death. Only if the hair was washed on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month could the dirty water pass harmlessly out to the Eastern Sea.
So on that day, all the women in the village let their hair hang loose to dry over their shoulders. Some of the women with flowering hair were as beautiful as vineyard fairies, others as hideous as monsters. Take my fifth uncle's wife for example-a squat, withered old hag. On her nearly-bald head she used black ash to draw in square hairline, and then painted her scalp pitch black. Thus when shampooing her hair, the charcoal was completely washed away, and out shone the half-bald, shiny crown of her head, fringed with thin wisps of hair fluttering down her back. She would hobble to and fro helping my mother fix dinner. I never dared glance her way.
But Mother's raven hair was like a length of satin falling over her shoulders. When a breeze blew, locks of shorter hair would sometimes sweep against her soft white cheeks. She would squint, gather the hair in her hand, and smooth it back, but soon another puff of wind would pass by. Mother was near-sighted, and when she narrowed her eyes in a squint, she was remarkably beautiful. I thought, if only Father were at home to see Mother's glossy black hair, he certainly would go out and buy a pair of sparkling diamond hair clips for her to wear. Mother probably would have worn them a while, then, embarrassed, have taken them out. That pair of diamond clips would then become part of my headdress when I played bride.
Father returned home soon afterward, bringing not the diamond clips, but a concubine. Her skin was white and delicate, her head of soft cloud-like hair even blacker, shinier than Mother's. The hair on her temples seemed like folded cicada wings half-concealing her ears. Her hair, brushed back and knotted in a horizontal "S" chignon, covered the back of her head like a huge bat. She presented Mother with a pair of emerald earrings, but Mother just let me play with them, though. I thought she was probably saving them because they were too nice.
After the family moved to Hangchow, Mother didn't have to work in the kitchen anymore. Frequently Father would want her to come out and entertain guests. Her sever hairstyle really seemed out of place, so Father insisted that she change. Mother asked her friend Aunt Chang to style an "Abalone Fish" for her. At that time, the "Abalone Fish" was the style old ladies wore. Mother had just turned thirty, yet she wanted to look like an old lady. When the concubine saw it, she would only smirk, while Father would constantly wrinkle his brow. Once when we were alone, I quietly implored, "Mother, why don't you also do your hair into an 'S' twist and wear the emerald earrings that Auntie gave you?" Mother replied solemnly, "Your mother is a country woman, unsuited for that kind of modern fashion. How can I wear such fancy earrings?"
When "Auntie" washed her hair, she would never select the seventh day or the seventh lunar month. Within one month she washed her hair many times. After washing, a maidservant standing to one side would lightly swing a large pink feather fan to and fro. Her soft hair would float out making me feel light and dizzy. Father would sit on a sandalwood lounge chair puffing away on his water pipe. He often turned around to look at her and his eyes sparkled with laughter. "Auntie" dressed her hair with "Three Flowers" oil, and the perfume floated in all directions. Then she sat straight up facing the mirror, and entwined a glossy "S" chignon around her head. I stood to one side, entranced. She handed me a bottle of the "Three Flower" oil and asked me to take it to Mother. But Mother just put it in the back of the closet saying, "The smell of this new hair oil turns my stomach."
Mother couldn't always trouble Aunt Chang, so she styled a taut “Abalone Fish" herself. It turned out about the same as her first twist. Father didn't like it; even I thought it was awful.
At that time, "Auntie" had already hired a Mrs. Liu to dress her hair. Mrs. Liu wore a huge red bamboo pin in her hair and puffed and panted as her large duck feet carried her short plump body along. She came every morning at ten to fashion all different kinds of coiffures for "Auntie"-the "Phoenix," "Feather Fan," "Entwined Heart Twist," "Shallow Tail," etc. She was always changing the style. The coiffures accentuated "Auntie's" delicate skin and willowy waist, which more and more drew delightful smiles from Father. Mrs. Liu advised Mother, "Madam, why don't you dress your hair a little more fashionably?" But Mother, shaking her head, pursed her thick lips, and walked away without saying a word.
Soon afterward Aunt Chang brought a regular hair dresser, a Mrs. Chen, to Mother. She was older than Mrs. Liu, and had a huge flat yellowish face with two protruding shiny gold teeth. At a glance one could tell she was the kind of woman who liked to gossip. She would ramble on about people from old Mr. Chao's elder daughter-in-law down to General Li's third concubine, all while dressing Mother's hair. Mother sat wilted on her chair, not uttering a single word, but I listened with great relish. Sometimes Mrs. Liu and Mrs. Chen came together. Mother and the concubine would sit back to back in front of the breeze way and have their hair dressed. One could hear "Auntie" and Mrs. Liu talking and laughing; on our side. Mother just sat resting with her eyes closed. Mrs. Chen brushed and combed with less and less vigor, and soon quit altogether. I distinctly heard her tell Mrs. Liu, "This antique of a country hick-she still wants her hair combed and dressed." I was so angry that I cried, but didn't dare tell Mother.
From then on, I stood on a low stool and brushed Mother's hair into the simplest "Abalone Fish." I would stand on tiptoe and watch Mother in the mirror. Her face was already not as plump and radiant as when we lived in the country and she hurried about in the kitchen. Her eyes fixed on the mirror, she gazed at herself absent-mindedly, never again squinting and smiling. I gather Mother's hair a lock at a time and brushed, but I already knew that one little yellow willow comb couldn't brush away Mother's heartsickness-because from the other side of the breezeway came floating across the occasional tinkling sound of Father's and "Auntie's" laughter.
After I grew up I left home to pursue my studies. When I returned home for summer and winter vacations, I would sometimes dress Mother's hair. I gathered her hair together in the palm of my hand and felt it becoming sparser and sparser. I remembered back in my childhood when on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month I saw Mother's soft raven tresses flowing over her shoulders, her face filled with joy, and I couldn't help but feel heartbroken. When Mother saw me return home, her distressed look occasionally gave way to smiles. No matter what, the happiest time was when Mother and daughter were together.
When I was studying in Shanghai, Mother wrote to say she had rheumatism and couldn't lift her arms. Even the simplest twist came out all wrong so she just cut her sparse locks off. I clutched her letter in my hands, and as I sat bathed in desolate moonlight beside the dormitory window, I cried in loneliness. The late autumn night breeze blew over me and I felt cold. I draped the soft sweater that Mother had knit for me over my shoulders and warmth crept over me from head to toe. But Mother was old now; I couldn't always be at her side. She has cut off her thinning hair, but how could she trim away a heart full of sorrows?
Soon afterward, "Auntie" came to Shanghai on business and brought me a picture of Mother, I hadn't seen her for three years-her hair had already turned silvery white. Saddened, I stared dumbly at the picture, yet had no way of pouring out my feelings to "Auntie," who stood before me. Almost as if sympathizing with my thoughts of Mother, she rambled on and on about Mother's present condition, saying her heart was weak and she was troubled again with rheumatism, so she was not as strong as before. I bowed my head and listened in silence, thinking that it was she who had made my mother unhappy all her life. But I didn't hate her anymore, not even a little bit, because since Father's death, Mother and "Auntie" had unpredictably become friends in their mutual suffering. Mother had stopped thing her long ago.
I looked at her closely. She wore a gray padded cloth gown, with a white flower tucked in her hair. Her nape no longer was draped with the rich and versatile "Phoenix" or "Entwined Heart" twists of days past, but was covered by a very simple "Banana Roll." She didn't apply makeup, and appeared sad and lonely. I couldn't help feeling unlimited pity for her, because she wasn't a woman like Mother, contenting herself with a tranquil life. Having followed Father close to twenty years, she had enjoyed honor and wealth, but once her support was gone, her feeling of emptiness and loss was even greater than Mother's.
After coming to Taiwan, "Auntie" became my only relative, and we lived together for many years. In the breezeway of our Japanese-style house I watched her sit by the window brushing her hair. She occasionally pounded her shoulder blade with her fist saying, "My hands are really stiff. I'm truly old now." Old-she too was old. Her black hair, like a silken cloud in those days, had now gradually thinned out, only a wisp remained, and that was speckled with gray. I remembered the days of their rivalry in Hang chow, when she and Mother sat back to back in the corridor, having their hair coiffure, not exchanging a word. In a flash all that was past. In the human world, what then is love and hate? Old decrepit "Auntie" had finally started on a vague journey in an unknown direction. Her life at this time was lonelier than anyone else's.
Startled, I stared at her, and remembering her lovely horizontal "S" chignon, said, "Let me brush it into a new style, all right?" But she gave a nervous little laugh saying, "What do I still want to wear fancy styles for? That's for you young people."
Can I stay forever young? What she had said is already more than ten years past. I'm far from being young anymore, already callous and wooden toward love, hate, greed, and foolishness in this world. The days with Mother slip farther and farther behind me. "Auntie's ashes," too, are deposited in a lonely temple somewhere. What, after all, is eternal in this world, and what is worth being serious about?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

War by Luigi Pirandello

The passengers who had left Rome by the night express had had to stop until dawn at the small station of Fabriano in order to continue their journey by the small old fashioned local joining the main line with Sulmona.
At dawn, in a stuffy and smoky second-class carriage in which five people had already spent the night, a bulky woman in deep mourning was hosted in almost like a shapeless bundle. Behind her – puffing and moaning, followed her husband – tiny man; thin and weakly, his face death-white, his eyes small and bright and looking shy and uneasy.
Having a last taken a seat he politely thanked the passengers who had helped his wife and who had made room for her; then he turned round to the woman trying to pull down the collar of her coat and politely inquired:
“Are you all right, dear?”
The wife, instead of answering, pulled up her collar again to her eyes, so as to hide her face.
“Nasty world,” muttered the husband with sad smile.

And he felt it his duty to explain to his traveling companions that the poor woman was to be pitied for the war was taking away from her, her only son, a boy of twenty to whom both had devoted their entire life, even breaking up their home at Sulmona to follow him to Rome, where he had to go as a student, then allowing him to volunteer for war with an assurance, however, that at least sic months he would not be sent to the front and now, all of a sudden, receiving a wire saying that he was due to leave in three days’ time and asking them to go and see them off.
The woman under the big coat was twisting and wriggling, at times growling like a wild animal, feeling certain that all those explanations would not have aroused even a shadow of sympathy from those people who – mostly likely – were in the same plight as herself. One of them, who had been listening with particular attention said:
“You should thank God that your son is only leaving now for the front. Mine has been sent there the first day of the war. He has already come back twice wounded and been sent back again to the front.”
“What about me? I have two sons and three nephews at the front,” said another passenger.
“Maybe, but in our case it is our only son,” ventured the husband.
“What difference can it make? You may spoil your only son by excessive attentions, but you cannot love him more than you would all your other children if you had any. Parental love is not like bread that can be broken to pieces and split amongst the children in equal shares. A father gives all his love to each one of his children without discrimination, whether it be one or ten, and if I am suffering now for my two sons, I am not suffering half for each of them but double…”
“True… true…” sighed the embarrassed husband, “but suppose (of course we all hope it will never be your case) a father has two sons at the front and he loses one of them. There is still one left to console him… while...”
“Yes,” answered the other, getting cross, “a son left to console him but also a son left for whom he must survive, while in the case of the father of an only son if the son dies the father can die too and put an end to his distress. Which of the two positions is worse? Don’t you see how my case would be worse than yours?”
“Nonsense,” interrupted another traveler, a fat red-faced man with bloodshot eyes of the palest grey.
He was panting. From his bulging eyes seemed to spurt inner violence of an uncontrolled vitality which his weakened body could hardly contain.
“Nonsense,” he repeated trying to cover his mouth with his hand so as to hide two missing front teeth. “Non sense. Do we give life to our own children for our own benefit?”
The other travelers stared at him in distress. The one who had his son at the front since the first day of war sighed: “You are right. Our children do not belong to us; they belong to the country…”
“Bosh,” retorted the fat traveler. “Do we think of the country when we give life to our children? Our sons are born because… well, because they must be born and when they come to life they take our own life with them. This is the truth. We belong to them but they never belong to us. And when they reach twenty they are exactly what we were at their age. We too had a father and mother, but there were so many other things as well… girls, cigarettes, illusions, new ties… and the Country, of course, whose call we would have answered – when we were twenty – even if father and mother had said no. now, at our age, the love of our Country is still great, of course, but stronger that it is the love of our children. Is there any one of us here who wouldn’t gladly take his son’s place at the front if he could?”
There was a silence all round, everybody nodding as to approve.
“Why then,” continued the fat man, “should we consider the feelings of our children when they are twenty? Isn’t it natural that at their age they should consider the love for their Country (I am speaking of decent boys, of course) even greater than the love for us? Isn’t it natural necessity like bread of which each of us must eat in order not to die of hunger, somebody must go defend it. And our sons go, when they are twenty, and they don’t want tears, because if they die, they die inflamed and happy (I am speaking of decent boys, of course). Now if one dies young and happy, without having the ugly sides of life, the boredom of it, the pettiness, the bitterness of dissolution… what more can we ask for him? Everyone should stop crying; everyone should laugh, as I do… or at least thank God – as I do – because my son, before dying, sent me a message saying that he was dying, satisfied at having ended his life in the best way he could have ever wished. That is why, as you see, I do not even wear mourning…”
He shook his light fawn coat as to show it; his livid lip over his missing teeth was trembling, his eyes were watery and motionless, and soon after he ended with a shrill laugh which might well have been a sob.
“Quite so… quite so…” agreed the others.
The woman who, bundled in a corner under her coat, had been sitting and listening had – for the last three months – tried to find the words of her husband and her friends something to console her in her deep sorrow, something that might show her how a mother should resign herself to send her son not even to death but to a probably danger of life. Yet not a word had she found amongst the many that had been said… and her grief had been greater in seen that nobody – as she thought – could share her feelings.

But now the words of the traveler amazed and almost stunned her, he suddenly realized that it wasn’t the others who were wrong and could not understand her but herself who could not rise up to the same height of those fathers and mothers wiling to resign themselves, without crying, not only to the departure of their sons but even to their death.
She lifted her head; she bent over from her corner trying to listen with great attention to the details which the fat man was giving to his companions about the way his son had fallen as a hero, for his King and his Country, happy and without regrets. It seemed to her that she had stumbled into a world she had never dreamt of, a world so far unknown to her, and she was so pleased to hear everyone joining the congratulating that brave father who could so stoically speak of his child’s death.
Then suddenly, just as if she had heard nothing of what had been said and almost as if waking up from a dream, she turned to the old man, asking him:
“Then… is your son really dead?” Everyone stared at her. The old man, too, turned to look at her, facing his great bulging, heavily watery light gray eyes, deep in her face. For some time he tried to answer, but words failed him. He looked and looked at her, almost as if only then – at that silly, incongruous question – he had suddenly realized that his son was really dead – gone forever – forever. His face contracted, became horribly distorted, then he snatched in haste a handkerchief from his pocket and, to the amazement of everyone, broke into harrowing, heart breaking, and uncontrollable sobs.

Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Scene: The kitchen in the now abandoned farmhouse of John Wright, a gloomy kitchen, and left without having been put in order--unwashed pans under the sink, a loaf of bread outside the breadbox, a dish towel on the table--other signs of incompleted work. At the rear the outer door opens, and the Sheriff comes in, followed by the county Attorney and Hale. The Sheriff and Hale are men in middle life, the county Attorney is a young man; all are much bundled up and go at once to the stove. They are followed by the two women--the Sheriff's Wife first; she is a slight wiry woman, a thin nervous face. Mrs. Hale is larger and would ordinarily be called more comfortable looking, but she is disturbed now and looks fearfully about as she enters. The women have come in slowly and stand close together near the door.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (rubbing his hands). This feels good. Come up to the fire, ladies.
MRS. PETERS (after taking a step forward). I'm not--cold.
SHERIFF (unbuttoning his overcoat and stepping away from the stove as if to the beginning of official business). Now, Mr. Hale, before we move things about, you explain to Mr. Henderson just what you saw when you came here yesterday morning.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. By the way, has anything been moved? Are things just as you left them yesterday?
SHERIFF (looking about). It's just the same. When it dropped below zer0 last night, I thought I'd better send Frank out this morning to make a fire for us--no use getting pneumonia with a big case on; but I told him not to touch anything except the stove--and you know Frank.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Somebody should have been left here yesterday.
SHERIFF. Oh--yesterday. When I had to send Frank to Morris Center for that man who went crazy--I want you to know I had my hands full yesterday. I knew you could get back from Omaha by today, and as long as I went over everything here myself-
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Well, Mr. Hale, tell just what happened when you came here yesterday morning.
HALE. Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes. We came along the road from my place; and as I got here, I said, "I'm going to see if I can't get John Wright to go in with me on a party telephone." I spoke to Wright about it once before, and he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet--I guess you know about how much he talked himself; but I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn't know as
what his wife wanted made much difference to John--
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Let's talk about that later, Mr. Hale. I do want to talk about that, but tell now just what happened when you got to the house.
HALE. I didn't hear or see anything; I knocked at the door, and still it was all quiet inside. I knew they must be up, it was past eight o'clock. so I knocked again, and I thought I heard somebody say, "Come in." I wasn't sure, I'm not sure yet, but I opened the door--this door (indicating the door by which the two women are still standing), and there in that rocker-- (pointing to it) sat Mrs. Wright. (They all look at the rocker.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY. What--was she doing?
HALE. She was rockin' back and forth. She had her apron in her hand and was kind of--pleating it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. And how did she--look?
HALE. Well, she looked queer.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. How do you mean--queer?
HALE. Well, as if she didn't know what she was going to do next. And kind of done up.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. How did she seem to feel about your coming?
HALE. Why, I don't think she minded--one way or other. She didn't pay much attention. I said, "How do, Mrs. Wright, it's cold, ain't it?" And she said, "Is it?"--and went on kind of pleating at her apron. Well, I was surprised; she didn't ask me to come up to the stove, or to set down, but just sat there, not even looking at me, so I said, "I want to see John." And then she--laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh. I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said a little sharp:"Can't I see John?" "No," she says, kind o' dull like. "Ain't he home?" says I. "Yes," says she, "he's home." "Then why can't I see him?" I asked her, out of patience. "'Cause he's dead," says she. "Dead?" says I. She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin' back and forth. "Why--where is he?" says I, not knowing what to say. She just pointed upstairs--like that (himself pointing to the room above). I got up, with the idea of going up there. I talked from there to here--then I says, "Why, what did he die of?" "He died of a rope around his neck," says she, and just went on pleatin' at her apron. Well, I went out and called Harry. I thought I might--need help. We went upstairs, and there he was lying'--
COUNTY ATTORNEY. I think I'd rather have you go into that upstairs, where you can point in all out. Just go on now with the rest of the story.
HALE. Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. I looked...(Stops, his face twitches.)...but Harry, he went up to him, and he said, "No, he's dead all right, and we'd better not touch anything." So we went back downstairs. She was still sitting that same way. "Has anybody been notified?" I asked." "No," says she, unconcerned. "Who did this, Mrs. Wright?" said Harry. He said it business-like--and she stopped pleatin' of her apron. "I don't know," she says. "You don't know?" says Harry. "No," says she, "Weren't you sleepin' in the bed with him?" says Harry. "Yes," says she, "but I was on the inside." "Somebody slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him, and you didn't wake up?" says Harry. "I didn't wake up," she said after him. We must 'a looked as if we didn't see how that could be, for after a minute she said, "I sleep sound." Harry was going to ask her more questions, but I said maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to the coroner, or the sheriff, so Harry went fast as he could to Rivers' place, where there's a telephone.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. And what did Mrs. Wright do when she knew that you had gone for the coroner.
HALE. she moved from that chair to this over here... (Pointing to a small chair in the corner)...and just sat there with her hand held together and looking down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, so I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a telephone, and at that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and looked at me--scared.
(The County Attorney, who has had his notebook out, makes a note.) I dunno, maybe it wasn't scared. I wouldn't like to say it was. Soon Harry got back, and then Dr. Lloyd came, and you, Mr. Peters, and so I guess that's all I know that you don't.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. (looking around). I guess we'll go upstairs first--and then out to the barn and around there. (To the Sheriff). You're convinced that there was nothing important here--nothing that would point to any motive?
SHERIFF. Nothing here but kitchen things.
(The County Attorney, after again looking around the kitchen, opens the door of a cupboard closet. He gets up on a chair and looks on a shelf. Pulls his hand away, sticky.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Here's a nice mess.
(The women draw nearer.)
MRS. PETERS (to the other woman). Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. (To the Lawyer). She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break.
SHERIFF. Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. I guess before we're through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.
HALE. Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.
(The two women move a little closer together.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (with the gallantry of a young politician). And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? (The women do not unbend. He goes to the sink, takes dipperful of water form the pail and, pouring it into a basin, washes his hands. Starts to wipe them on the roller towel, turns it for a cleaner place.) Dirty towels! (Kicks his foot against the pans under the sink.) Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?
MRS. HALE (stiffly). There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. To be sure. And yet... (With a little bow to her.) ...I know there are some Dickson county farmhouses which do not have such roller towels. (He gives it a pull to expose its full length again.)
MRS. HALE. Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean as they might be.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Ah, loyal to your sex, I see. But you and Mrs. Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were friends, too.
MRS. HALE (shaking her head.) I've not seen much of her of late years. I've not been in this house--it's more than a year.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. And why was that? You didn't like her?
MRS. HALE. I liked her all well enough. Farmers' wives have their hands full, Mr. Henderson. And then--
MRS. HALE (looking about.) It never seemed a very cheerful place.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. No--it's not cheerful. I shouldn't say she had the homemaking instinct.
MRS. HALE. Well, I don't know as Wright had, either.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. You mean that they didn't get on very well?
MRS. HALE. No, I don't mean anything. But I don't think a place'd be any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. I'd like to talk more of that a little later. I want to get the lay of things upstairs now. (He goes to the left, where three steps lead to a stair door.)
SHERIFF. I suppose anything Mrs. Peters does'll be all right. She was to take in some clothes for her, you know, and a few little things. We left in such a hurry yesterday.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Yes, but I would like to see what you take, Mrs. Peters, and keep an eye out for anything that might be of use to us.
MRS. PETERS. Yes, Mr. Henderson.
(The women listen to the men's steps on the stairs, then look about the kitchen.)
MRS. HALE. I'd hate to have men coming into my kitchen, snooping around and criticizing. (She arranges the pans under sink which the Lawyer had shoved out of place.)
MRS. PETERS. Of course it's no more than their duty.
MRS. HALE. Duty's all right, but I guess that deputy sheriff that came out to make the fire might have got a little of this on. (Gives the roller towel a pull.) Wish I'd thought of that sooner. Seems mean to talk about her for not having things slicked up when she had to come away in such a hurry.
MRS. PETERS. (who has gone to a small table in the left rear corner of the room, and lifted on end of a towel that covers a pan). She had bread set. (Stands still.)
MRS. HALE (eyes fixed on a loaf of bread beside the breadbox, which is on a low shelf at the other side of the room. Moves slowly toward it.)she was going to put this in there. (Picks up loaf, then abruptly drops it. In a manner of returning to familiar things.) It's a shame about her fruit. I wonder if it's all gone. (Gets up on the chair and looks.) I think there's some here that's all right, Mrs. Peters. Yes--here; (Holding it toward the window.) This is cherries, too. (Looking again.) I declare I believe that's the only one. (Gets down, bottle in her hand. Goes to the sink and wipes it off on the outside.) She'll feel awful bad after all her hard work in the hot weather. I remember the afternoon I put up my cherries last summer.
(She puts the bottle on the big kitchen table, center of the room, front table. With a sigh, is about to sit down in the rocking chair. Before she is seated realizes what chair it is; with a slow look at it, steps back. The chair, which she has touched, rocks back and forth.)
MRS. PETERS. Well, I must get those things from the front room closet. [She goes to the door at the right, but after looking into the other room, steps back.] You coming with me, Mrs. Hale? You could help me carry them. (They go into the other room; reappear, Mrs. Peters carrying a dress and skirt, Mrs. Hale following with a pair of shoes.)
MRS. PETERS. My, it's cold in there. (She puts the cloth on the big table, and hurries to the stove.)
MRS HALE (examining the skirt). Wright was close. I think maybe that's why she kept so much to herself. She didn't even belong to the Ladies' Aid. I suppose she felt she couldn't do her part, and then you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir. But that--oh, that was thirty years ago. This all you was to take?
MRS. PETERS. She said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want, for there isn't much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to make her feel more natural. She said they was in the top drawer in this cupboard. Yes, here. And then her little shawl that always hung behind the door. (Opens stair door and looks.) Yes, here it is. (Quickly shuts door leading upstairs..)
MRS. HALE (abruptly moving toward her.) Mrs. Peters?
MRS. PETERS. Do you think she did it?
MRS. PETERS (in a frightened voice.) Oh, I don't know.
MRS. HALE. Well, I don't think she did. Asking for an apron and her little shawl. Worrying about her fruit.
MRS. PETERS (starts to speak, glances up, where footsteps are heard in the room above. In a low voice.) Mrs. Peters says it looks bad for her. Mr. Henderson is awful sarcastic in speech, and he'll make fun of her sayin' she didn't wake up.
MRS. HALE. Well, I guess John Wright didn't wake when they was slipping that rope under his neck.
MRS. PETERS. No, it's strange. It must have been done awful crafty and still. They say it was such a --funny way to kill a man, rigging it all up like that.
MRS. HALE. That's just what Mr. Hale said. There was a gun in the house. He says that's what he can't understand.
MRS. PETERS. Mr. Henderson said coming out that what was needed for the case was a motive; something to show anger or--sudden feeling.
MRS. HALE (who is standing by the table). Well, I don't see any signs of anger around here. (she puts her hand on the dish towel which lies on the table, stands looking down at the table, one half of which is clean, the other half messy.) It's wiped here. (Makes a move as if to finish work, then turns and looks at loaf of bread outside the breadbox. Drops towel. In that voice of coming back to familiar things. ) Wonder how they are finding things upstairs? I hope she had it a little more there. You know, it seems kind of sneaking. Locking her up in town and then coming out here and trying to get her own house to turn against her!
MRS. PETERS. But, Mrs. Hale, the law is the law.
MRS. HALE. I s'pose 'tis. (Unbuttoning her coat.) Better loosen up your things, Mrs. Peters. You won't feel them when you go out. (Mrs. Peters takes off her fur tippet, goes to hang it on hook at the back of room, stands looking at the under part of the small corner table.)
MRS. PETERS. She was piecing a quilt. (She brings the large sewing basket, and they look at the bright pieces.)
MRS. HALE. It's log cabin pattern. Pretty, isn't it? I wonder if she was goin' to quilt or just knot it? (Footsteps have been heard coming down the stairs. The Sheriff enters, followed by Hale and the County Attorney.)
SHERIFF. They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it. (The men laugh, the women look abashed.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (rubbing his hands over the stove). Frank's fire didn't do much up there, did it? Well, let's go out to the barn and get that cleared up. (The men go outside.)
MRS. HALE (resentfully). I don't know as there's anything so strange, our takin' up our time with little things while we're waiting for them to get the evidence. (She sits down at the big table, smoothing out a block with decision.) I don't see as it's anything to laugh about.
MRS. PETERS. (apologetically). Of course they've got awful important things on their minds. (Pulls up a chair and joins Mrs. Hale at the table.)
MRS. HALE (examining another block.) Mrs. Peters, look at this one. Here, this is the one she was working on, and look at the sewing! All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It's all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn't know what she was about! (After she has said this, they look at each other, then start to glance back at the door. After an instant Mrs. Hale has pulled at a knot and ripped the sewing.)
MRS. PETERS. Oh, what are you doing, Mrs. Hale?
MRS. HALE (mildly). Just pulling out a stitch or two that's not sewed very good. (Threading a needle). Bad sewing always made me fidgety.
MRS. PETERS. (nervously). I don't think we ought to touch things.
MRS. HALE. I'll just finish up this end. (Suddenly stopping and leaning forward.) Mrs. Peters?
MRS. PETERS. Yes, Mrs. Hale?
MRS. HALE. What do you suppose she was so nervous about?
MRS. PETERS. Oh--I don't know. I don't know as she was nervous. I sometimes sew awful queer when I'm just tired. (Mrs. Hale starts to say something looks at Mrs. Peters, then goes on sewing.) Well, I must get these things wrapped up. They may be through sooner than we think. (Putting apron and other things together.) I wonder where I can find a piece of paper, and string.
MRS. HALE. In that cupboard, maybe.
MRS. PETER. (looking in cupboard). Why, here's a birdcage. (Holds it up.) Did she have a bird, Mrs. Hale?
MRS. HALE. Why, I don't know whether she did or not--I've not been here for so long. There was a man around last year selling canaries cheap, but I don't know as she took one; maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty herself.
MRS. PETERS. (glancing around). Seems funny to think of a bird here. But she must have had one, or why should she have a cage? I wonder what happened to it?
MRS. HALE. I s'pose maybe the cat got it.
MRS. PETERS. No, she didn't have a cat. She's got that feeling some people have about cats--being afraid of them. My cat got in her room, and she was real upset and asked me to take it out.
MRS. HALE. My sister Bessie was like that. Queer, ain't it?
MRS. PETERS. (examining the cage). Why, look at this door. It's broke. One hinge is pulled apart.
MRS. HALE. (looking, too.) Looks as if someone must have been rough with it.
MRS. PETERS. Why, yes. (she brings the cage forward and puts it on the table.)
MRS. HALE. I wish if they're going to find any evidence they'd be about it. I don't like this place.
MRS. PETERS. But I'm awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale. It would be lonesome of me sitting here alone.
MRS. HALE. It would, wouldn't it? (Dropping her sewing). But I tell you what I do wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes she was here. I-- (Looking around the room.)--wish I had.
MRS. PETERS. But of course you were awful busy, Mrs. Hale---your house and your children.
MRS. HALE. I could've come. I stayed away because it weren't cheerful--and that's why I ought to have come. I--I've never liked this place. Maybe because it's down in a hollow, and you don't see the road. I dunno what it is, but it's a lonesome place and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now--(Shakes her head.)
MRS. PETERS. Well, you mustn't reproach yourself, Mrs. Hale. Somehow we just don't see how it is with other folks until--something comes up.
MRS. HALE. Not having children makes less work--but it makes a quiet house, and Wright out to work all day, and no company when he did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs. Peters?
MRS. PETERS. Not to know him; I've seen him in town. They say he was a good man.
MRS. HALE. Yes--good; he didn't drink, and kept his word as well as most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him. (Shivers.) Like a raw wind that gets to the bone. (Pauses, her eye falling on the cage.) I should think she would 'a wanted a bird. But what do you suppose went with it?
MRS. PETERS. I don't know, unless it got sick and died. (She reaches over and swings the broken door, swings it again; both women watch it.)
MRS.> HALE. She--come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself--real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery. How--she--did--change. (Silence; then as if struck by a happy thought and relieved to get back to everyday things.) Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don't you take the quilt in with you? It might take up her mind.
MRS. PETERS. Why, I think that's a real nice idea, Mrs. Hale. There couldn't possible be any objection to it, could there? Now, just what would I take? I wonder if her patches are in here--and her things. (They look in the sewing basket.)
MRS. HALE. Here's some red. I expect this has got sewing things in it (Brings out a fancy box.) What a pretty box. Looks like something somebody would give you. Maybe her scissors are in here. (Opens box. Suddenly puts her hand to her nose.) Why-- (Mrs. Peters bend nearer, then turns her face away.) There's something wrapped up in this piece of silk.
MRS. PETERS. Why, this isn't her scissors.
MRS. HALE (lifting the silk.) Oh, Mrs. Peters--it's-- (Mrs. Peters bend closer.)
MRS. PETERS. It's the bird.
MRS. HALE (jumping up.) But, Mrs. Peters--look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It's all--other side to.
MRS. PETERS. Somebody--wrung--its neck.
(Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension of horror. Steps are heard outside. Mrs. Hale slips box under quilt pieces, and sinks into her chair. Enter Sheriff and County Attorney. Mrs. Peters rises.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (as one turning from serious thing to little pleasantries). Well, ladies, have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?
MRS. PETERS. We think she was going to--knot it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Well, that's interesting, I'm sure. (Seeing the birdcage.) Has the bird flown?
MRS. HALE (putting more quilt pieces over the box.) We think the--cat got it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (preoccupied). Is there a cat?
(Mrs. Hale glances in a quick covert way at Mrs. Peters.)
MRS. PETERS. Well, not now. They're superstitious, you know. They leave.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (to Sheriff Peters, continuing an interrupted conversation.) No sign at all of anyone having come from the outside. Their own rope. Now let's go up again and go over it piece by piece. (They start upstairs.) It would have to have been someone who knew just the—
(Mrs. Peters sits down. The two women sit there not looking at one another, but as if peering into something and at the same time holding back. When they talk now, it is the manner of feeling their way over strange ground, as if afraid of what they are saying, but as if they cannot help saying it.) MRS. HALE. She liked the bird. She was going to bury it in that pretty box.
MRS. PETERS. (in a whisper). When I was a girl--my kitten--there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes--and before I could get there--(Covers her face an instant.) If they hadn't held me back, I would have-- (Catches herself, looks upstairs, where steps are heard, falters weakly.)--hurt him.
MRS. HALE (with a slow look around her.) I wonder how it would seem never to have had any children around. (Pause.) No, Wright wouldn't like the bird--a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too.
MRS. PETERS (moving uneasily). We don't know who killed the bird.
MRS. HALE. I knew John Wright.
MRS. PETERS. It was an awful thing was done in this house that night, Mrs. Hale. Killing a man while he slept, slipping a rope around his neck that choked the life out of him.
MRS. HALE. His neck, Choked the life out of him.
(Her hand goes out and rests on the birdcage.) MRS. PETERS (with a rising voice). We don't know who killed him. We don't know.
MRS. HALE (her own feeling not interrupted.) If there'd been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful--still, after the bird was still.
MRS. PETERS (something within her speaking). I know what stillness is. When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died--after he was two years old, and me with no other then--
MRS. HALE (moving). How soon do you suppose they'll be through, looking for evidence?
MRS. PETERS. I know what stillness is. (Pulling herself back). The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale.
MRS. HALE (not as if answering that). I wish you'd seen MInnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang. (A look around the room). Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while! That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?
MRS. Peters (looking upstairs). We mustn't--take on.
MRS. HALE. I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be--for women. I tell you, it's queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things--it's all just a different kind of the same thing. (Brushes her eyes, noticing the bottle of fruit, reaches out for it.) If I was you, I wouldn't tell her her fruit was gone. Tell her it ain't. Tell her it's all right. Take this in to prove it to her. She--she may never know whether it was broke or not.
MRS. PETERS (takes the bottle, looks about for something to wrap it in; takes petticoat from the clothes brought from the other room, very nervously begins winding this around the bottle. In a false voice). My, it's a good thing the men couldn't hear us. Wouldn't they just laugh! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a--dead canary. As if that could have anything to do with--with--wouldn't they laugh!
(The men are heard coming downstairs.) MRS. HALE (under her breath). Maybe they would--maybe they wouldn't.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. No, Peters, it's all perfectly clear except a reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing. Something to show--something to make a story about--a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it.
(The women's eyes meet for an instant. Enter Hale from outer door.)
HALE. Well, I've got the team around. Pretty cold out there.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. I'm going to stay here awhile by myself (To the Sheriff). You can send Frank out for me, can't you? I want to go over everything. I'm not satisfied that we can't do better.
SHERIFF. Do you want to see what Mrs. Peters is going to take in?
(The Lawyer goes to the table, picks up the apron, laughs.) COUNTY ATTORNEY. Oh I guess they're not very dangerous things the ladies have picked up. (Moves a few things about, disturbing the quilt pieces which cover the box. Steps back.) No, Mrs. Peters doesn't need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff's wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?
MRS. PETERS. Not--just that way.
SHERIFF (chuckling). Married to the law. (Moves toward the other room.) I just want you to come in here a minute, George. We ought to take a look at these windows.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (scoffingly). Oh, windows!
SHERIFF. We'll be right out, Mr. Hale.
(Hale goes outside. The Sheriff follows the County Attorney into the other room. Then Mrs. Hale rises, hands tight together, looking intensely at Mrs. Peters, whose eyes take a slow turn, finally meeting Mrs. Hale's. A moment Mrs. Hale holds her, then her own eyes point the way to where the box is concealed. Suddenly Mrs. Peters throws back quilt pieces and tries to put the box in the bag she is wearing. It is too big. She opens box, starts to take the bird out, cannot touch it, goes to pieces, stands there helpless. Sound of a knob turning in the other room. Mrs. Hale snatches the box and puts it in the pocket of her big coat. Enter County Attorney and Sheriff.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (facetiously). Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to--what is it you call it, ladies! MRS. HALE (her hand against her pocket). We call it--knot it, Mr. Henderson.