Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Quote of the day, 9/26/07

"...Poor old gentleman!" she said to the old man. "Mrs. Archer is certainly not going to let you leave here without a full meal inside of you."

Mrs. Archer looked doubtful. "I have some eggs," she said...

"I would rather not trouble you," the old man said to Mrs. Archer.

"Nonsense," Kathy said. "We've got to see that you get a good hot meal to go on with." She took Mrs. Archer's arm and began to walk her out to the kitchen. "Just some eggs," she said. "Fry four or five...I'll tell you, fry up a few potatoes too. He won't care if they're half-raw. These people eat things like heaps of fried potatoes and eggs and..."

..."Kathy," [Mrs. Archer] said, "I'm just a little worried. If he really is drunk, I mean, and if Jim should hear about it, with the baby here and everything..."

"Why, Jean!" Kathy said. "You should live out in the country for a while, I guess. Women always give out meals to starving men. And you don't need to tell Jim. Blanche and I certainly won't say anything."

"Well" said Mrs. Archer, "you're sure he isn't drunk?"

"I know a starving man when I see one," Kathy said. "When an old man like that can't stand up and his hands shake and he looks so funny, that means he's starving to death. Literally starving."

"Oh my!" said Mrs. Archer. She hurried to the cupboard under the sink and took out two potatoes. Two enough, do you think? I guess we're really doing a good deed."

Kathy giggled. "Just a bunch of Girl Scouts," she said...

...Then Kathy came, leading the old man by the arm. "There," she said. "Now, Mrs. Archer's fixed you a lovely hot meal."

The old man looked at Mrs. Archer. "I'm very grateful," he said.

"Isn't that nice!" Kathy said. She nodded approvingly at Mrs. Archer...

..."What's your name?" Kathy asked.

"O'Flaherty, Madam. John O'Flaherty."

"Well, John," Kathy said, "I am Miss Valentine, and this lady is Mrs. Archer and the other is Mrs. Corn."

"How do you do?" the old man said.

"I gather you're from the old country," Kathy said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Irish, aren't you?" Kathy said.

"I am, Madam." The old man plunged the fork into one of the eggs and watched the yolk run onto the plate. "I knew Yeats," he said suddenly.

"Really?" Kathy said, leaning forward. "Let me see--he was the writer, wasn't he?"

"Come out of charity, come dance with me in Ireland," the old man said. He rose and, holding onto the chair back, bowed solemnly to Mrs. Archer. "Thank you again, Madam, for your generosity." He turned and started for the front door. The three women got up and followed him.

"But you didn't finish," Mrs. Corn said.

"The stomach," the old man said, "as this lady has pointed out, shrinks. Yes indeed," he went on reminiscently, "I knew Yeats..."

...Then he turned and thumbed his nose at Mrs. Corn. "I hate old women," he said.

"Well!" said Mrs. Corn faintly.

"I may have imbibed somewhat freely," the old man said to Mrs. Archer, "but I never served bad sherry to my guests. We are of different worlds, Madam."

"Didn't I tell you?" Mrs. Corn was saying. "Haven't I been telling you all along?"

Mrs. Archer, her eyes on Kathy, made a tentative motion of pushing the old man through the door, but he forestalled her.

"Come dance with me in Ireland," he said. Supporting himself against the wall, he reached the outer door and opened it. "And time runs on," he said.

--Shirley Jackson, The Lottery and Other Stories