I just want simple answers, easy to understand words ,short answers. I will choose the lowes bid
I just want simple answer, easy to understand words ,short answers. I will choose the lowes bid
1. Write a paragraph describing how the best and worst aspects of human behaviour are revealed in the events chronicled in this excerpt.
2. Explain why the Jewish Council would offer to organize the gathering of Jews in the synagogue at the beginning of this excerpt.
4. Describe the mood of this excerpt. Refer to specific words, phrases, and sentences to explain how the mood is created and sustained.
Before you read, Brainstorm what you know about the Holocaust.
Nightis a first-person account of Second World War Nazi concentration camp horrors. This excerpt records the train trip of Jews rounded up in Sighet, Transylvania (now part of Romania) to Auschwitz, Poland.
Saturday, the day of rest, was chosen for our expulsion.
The night before, we had the traditional Friday evening meal. We said the customary grace for the bread and wine and swallowed our food without a word. We were, we felt, gathered for the last time round the family table. I spent the night turning over thoughts and memories in my mind, unable to find sleep.
At dawn, we were in the street, ready to leave. This time there were no Hungarian police. An agreement had been made with the Jewish Council that they should organize it all themselves.
Our convoy went toward the main synagogue. The town seemed deserted. Yet our friends of yesterday were probably waiting behind their shutters for the moment when they could pillage our houses.
The synagogue was like a huge station: luggage and tears. The altar was broken, the hangings torn down, the walls bare. There were so many of us that we could scarcely breathe. We spent a horrible twenty-four hours there. There were men downstairs; women on the first floor. It was Saturday; it was as though we had come to attend the service. Since no one could go out, people were relieving themselves in a corner.
The following morning, we marched to the station, where a convoy of cattle wagons was waiting. The Hungarian police made us get in—eighty people in each car. We were left a few loaves of bread and some buckets of water. The bars at the window were checked, to see that they were not loose. Then the cars were sealed. In each car one person was placed in charge. If anyone escaped, he would be shot.
Two Gestapo officers strolled about on the platform, smiling: all things considered, everything had gone off very well.
A prolonged whistle split the air. The wheels began to grind. We were on our way.
* * *
Lying down was out of the question, and we were only able to sit by deciding to take turns. There was very little air. The lucky ones who happened to be near a window could see the blossoming country-side roll by.
After two days of traveling, we began to be tortured by thirst. Then the heat became unbearable.
Free from all social constraint, young people gave way openly to instinct, taking advantage of the darkness to flirt in our midst, without caring about anyone else, as though they were alone in the world. The rest pretended not to notice anything.
We still had a few provisions left. But we never ate enough to satisfy our hunger. To save was our rule; to save up for tomorrow. Tomorrow might be worse.
The train stopped at Kaschau, a little town on the Czechoslovak frontier. We realized then that we were not going to stay in Hungary. Our eyes were opened, but too late.
The door of the car slid open. A German officer, accompanied by a Hungarian lieutenant-interpreter, came up and introduced himself.
“From this moment, you come under the authority of the German army. Those of you who still have gold, silver, or watches in your possession must give them up now. Anyone who is later found to have kept anything will be shot on the spot. Secondly, anyone who feels ill may go to the hospital car. That’s all.”
The Hungarian lieutenant went among us with a basket and collected the last possessions from those who no longer wished to taste the bitterness of terror.
“There are eighty of you in this wagon,” added the German officer. “If anyone is missing, you’ll all be shot, like dogs ....”
They disappeared. The doors were closed. We were caught in a trap, right up to our necks. The doors were nailed up; the way back was finally cut off. The world was a cattle wagon hermetically sealed.
We had a woman with us named Madame Schächter. She was about fifty; her ten-year-old son was with her, crouched in a corner. Her husband and two eldest sons had been deported with the first transport by mistake. The separation had completely broken her.
I knew her well. A quiet woman with tense, burning eyes, she had often been to our house. Her husband, who was a pious man, spent his days and nights in study, and it was she who worked to support the family.
Madame Schächter had gone out of her mind. On the first day of the journey she had already begun to moan and to keep asking why she had been separated from her family. As time went on, her cries grew hysterical.
On the third night, while we slept, some of us sitting one against the other and some standing, a piercing cry split the silence:
“Fire! I can see a fire! I can see a fire!”
There was a moment’s panic. Who was it who had cried out? It was Madame Schächter. Standing in the middle of the wagon, in the pale light from the windows, she looked like a withered tree in a cornfield. She pointed her arm toward the window, screaming:
“Look! Look at it! Fire! A terrible fire! Mercy! Oh, that fire!”
Some of the men pressed up against the bars. There was nothing there; only the darkness.
The shock of this terrible awakening stayed with us for a long time. We still trembled from it. With every groan of the wheels on the rail, we felt that an abyss was about to open beneath our bodies. Powerless to still our own anguish, we tried to console ourselves:
“She’s mad, poor soul ....”
Someone had put a damp cloth on her brow, to calm her, but still her screams went on:
Her little boy was crying, hanging onto her skirt, trying to take hold of her hands. “It’s all right, Mummy! There’s nothing there .... Sit down ....” This shook me even more than his mother’s screams had done.
Some women tried to calm her. “You’ll find your husband and your sons again ... in a few days ....”
She continued to scream, breathless, her voice broken by sobs. “Jews, listen to me! I can see a fire! There are huge flames! It is a furnace!”
It was as though she were possessed by an evil spirit which spoke from the depths of her being.
We tried to explain it away, more to calm ourselves and to recover our own breath than to comfort her. “She must be very thirsty, poor thing! That’s why she keeps talking about a fire devouring her.”
But it was in vain. Our terror was about to burst the sides of the train. Our nerves were at breaking point. Our flesh was creeping. It was as though madness were taking possession of us all. We could stand it no longer. Some of the young men forced her to sit down, tied her up, and put a gag in her mouth.
Silence again. The little boy sat down by his mother, crying. I had begun to breathe normally again. We could hear the wheels churning out that monotonous rhythm of a train traveling through the night. We could begin to doze, to rest, to dream ....
An hour or two went by like this. Then another scream took our breath away. The woman had broken loose from her bonds and was crying out more loudly than ever:
“Look at the fire! Flames, flames everywhere ....”
Once more the young men tied her up and gagged her. They even struck her. People encouraged them:
“Make her be quiet! She’s mad! Shut her up! She’s not the only one. She can keep her mouth shut ....”
They struck her several times on the head—blows that might have killed her. Her little boy clung to her; he did not cry out; he did not say a word. He was not even weeping now.
An endless night. Toward dawn, Madame Schächter calmed down. Crouched in her corner, her bewildered gaze scouring the emptiness, she could no longer see us.
She stayed like that all through the day, dumb, absent, isolated among us. As soon as night fell, she began to scream: “There’s a fire over there!” She would point at a spot in space, always the same one. They were tired of hitting her. The heat, the thirst, the pestilential stench, the suffocating lack of air—these were as nothing compared with these screams which tore us to shreds. A few days more and we should all have started to scream too.
But we had reached a station. Those who were next to the windows told us its name:
No one had ever heard that name.
The train did not start up again. The afternoon passed slowly. Then the wagon doors slid open. Two men were allowed to get down to fetch water.
When they came back, they told us that, in exchange for a gold watch, they had discovered that this was the last stop. We would be getting out here. There was a labor camp. Conditions were good. Families would not be split up. Only the young people would go to work in the factories. The old men and invalids would be kept occupied in the fields.
The barometer of confidence soared. Here was a sudden release from the terrors of the previous nights. We gave thanks to God.
Madame Schächter stayed in her corner, wilted, dumb, indifferent to the general confidence. Her little boy stroked her hand.
As dusk fell, darkness gathered inside the wagon. We started to eat our last provisions. At ten in the evening, everyone was looking for a convenient position in which to sleep for a while, and soon we were all asleep. Suddenly:
“The fire! The furnace! Look, over there! ...”
Waking with a start, we rushed to the window. Yet again we had believed her, even if only for a moment. But there was nothing outside save the darkness of night. With shame in our souls, we went back to our places, gnawed by fear, in spite of ourselves. As she continued to scream, they began to hit her again, and it was with the greatest difficulty that they silenced her.
The man in charge of our wagon called a German officer who was walking about on the platform, and asked him if Madame Schächter could be taken to the hospital car.
“You must be patient,” the German replied. “She’ll be taken there soon.”
Toward eleven o’clock, the train began to move. We pressed against the windows. The convoy was moving slowly. A quarter of an hour later, it slowed down again. Through the windows we could see barbed wire; we realized that this must be the camp.
We had forgotten the existence of Madame Schächter. Suddenly, we heard terrible screams:
“Jews, look! Look through the window! Flames! Look!”
And as the train stopped, we saw this time that flames were gushing out of a tall chimney into the black sky.
Madame Schächter was silent herself. Once more she had become dumb, indifferent, absent, and had gone back to her corner.
We looked at the flames in the darkness. There was an abominable odor floating in the air. Suddenly, our doors opened. Some odd-looking characters, dressed in striped shirts and black trousers leapt into the wagon. They held electric torches and truncheons. They began to strike out to right and left, shouting:
“Everybody get out! Everyone out of the wagon! Quickly!”
We jumped out. I threw a last glance toward Madame Schächter. Her little boy was holding her hand.
In front of us flames. In the air that smell of burning flesh. It must have been about midnight. We had arrived—at Birkenau, reception center for Auschwitz
1. Reread this story, making note of the details used to describe the Chinese family. Explain whether you think the author has used stereotypes to describe her characters and their lives.
2. The narrator says she has feelings of love for Todd. Select three words or phrases she uses to describe him or his actions that make you wonder if this is true. Explain why each word raises a doubt in your mind about her real feelings.
3. Create a dialogue between the narrator's mother and father after the narrator escapes to her room.
or 4. As one of her best friends, write a letter to the narrator explaining why you do or do not think Todd is a good partner for her.
Before you read, Think of ways in which a teenager's family values can sometimes be in conflict with the values of his or her peers. In your notebook, explain the best way to resolve one of these conflicts.
Lately I have been walking home from school in the sunshine with Todd. It's October and the leaves have turned, though the temperature hasn't changed since the end of August. My father says the reason for this is there were two Junes in the Chinese calendar this year. I wonder if that makes this year thirteen months long or if one month is left out to fit it into the regular calendar. But I don't ask. He would launch into a long, boring explanation of the history of the Chinese calendar and say it was superior to the Western calendar. If it was anyone else, I would probably ask.
Todd is very good looking. All the girls at school think so, and it makes me feel good when they turn to look at us walk down the hall together. Sometimes on our walk home we stop at the park to sit on the swing and talk. Actually Todd talks a lot and I listen. He usually describes his daily visit to the vice principal, the cars he wants, and the bands he likes. There is a Led Zeppelin logo drawn onto the back of his jean jacket in black felt which kind of bothers me.
"Have you ever really listened to their lyrics? They just make so much sense." It's his favourite band.
I try hard to stay interested in what he says and ask him questions, but mostly I end up nodding my head and saying, "Uh huh, uh huh." He doesn't seem to mind my quietness though. His eyes are clear blue, almost like glass, and it's hard to describe the feeling I get when he looks at me. My whole body feels like it's melting to the ground, and I'm always surprised to see that it hasn't.
* * *
Today Todd walks me to the beginning of my block as usual and then crosses the street to go on. My mother would start to ask questions if she saw us together.
As I enter the house I pass my grandmother's room to go upstairs. She is lying in there dying. I throw my bag into my room and head into the kitchen. I take out a bag of chips from the cupboard and pour a glass of orange juice and join my brother in the living room where he is watching a rerun of The Brady Bunch. It's the one where Jan refuses to wear her glasses and smashes into the family portrait with her bike. After a while I forget about the Bradys and start to daydream about Todd.
The next thing I know, my mother is waking me up to feed my grandmother, whose hands shake all the time so she can't do it herself. My brother and I take turns every night.
I stand by the window in the kitchen waiting for my mother to put the food onto the dinner tray. I draw hearts encircling Todd's initials and mine on the steamed glass.
"Hey, what are you doing?" she asks. I quickly wipe away the evidence.
Her dinner is basically the same every night—soup, rice with water, steamed vegetables, salted fish and a thermos of tea. When I go into the room she is sleeping with the quilt drawn up to her chin, which is usually how I find her now. Before, my mother would move her to an armchair by the window where she could watch people walk by or she would watch the new television set my father bought for her. Her favourite shows were The Roadrunner and The Beverly Hillbillies, both of which I couldn't stand. She would point and laugh and mumble something in Chinese. She didn't understand them, but I think she liked their movements. Now she stays in bed, too weak to get up.
She looks really old. I think she's almost eighty-four, but no one knows for sure. They didn't have birth certificates in China then, and she had to lie about her age when she came over to Canada. Her skin is bunched up like fabric and it just kind of hangs from her cheekbones. But it feels thin and soft. I touched it once when she was asleep. Her hair is grey and white and oily. It's combed back making her forehead look like a shiny grapefruit. The lobes of her ears have been stretched by the weight of gold earrings I have never seen her take off. She is hardly moving. She almost looks as if she were dead already.
"Grandmother, it's time to eat rice."
She briefly opens her eyes and then closes them again.
"Grandmother, it's time to eat rice," I repeat a little louder.
She opens her eyes again, and I bring the tray closer for her to see. She starts to sit up, and I put down the tray to help her. After I prop her up onto some pillows, I tuck a paper napkin into the neck of her pajamas and begin to feed her. I really hate doing it and I always want it to be over as soon as possible. Luckily she has been eating less and less. I have been begging my mother to do it instead, but so far she hasn't given in.
"You're not the one who has to bathe her and change the sheets. Don't be so bad. You are the only one she has treated well. She is going to die soon anyway."
My mother can't wait for my grandmother to die. She is always telling my brother and me how she was treated like a slave by grandmother when she first married my father.
"Why didn't you stand up for yourself?" I ask.
"Oh, you don't know what it was like then."
We start with the soup. The spoon makes a clanging noise as it knocks against her teeth, sending a shiver through me. She still has all of them, which is amazing since my mother already has false front teeth. She doesn't chew the food very much though. It stays in her mouth a while, and then she makes a great effort to swallow. I try to show her how to chew by making exaggerated movements with my mouth, but she just ignores me. She finishes the soup, and we start on the rice in water. Some of it dribbles out of her mouth so I have to scrape it off her chin and spoon it back in like I'm feeding a baby. I feel disgusted and guilty and I don't know why. I also feel guilty for not spending more time with her and for not wanting to spend more time with her. Todd would die if he knew I had to do this.
She is a grown-up who has always taken care of me, but now I have to take care of her. It bothers me. She used to be different.
When I was little, she would take me to Chinatown every weekend. We would go to a small pastry shop at the corner of Pender and Gore. I would have a Coke and a coconut bun while she had tea with the owners. I had to call them Uncle and Auntie although they weren't related to us. They spoke to each other about the people they knew: who was dying, who was dead, whose daughter-in-law was lazy. They drew out their words into sighs and shook their heads at the misfortunes of others. Sometime they would comment on me, looking at me as if I couldn't see or hear them.
"Look at that high nose. She doesn't look Chinese."
"She is such a shy, cute girl."
I usually watched the customers, the bell tinkling above the door as they came and went. Most were short, chubby women with unmade faces and hair. They always looked tired and reminded me of my mother. They carried plastic shopping bags with different shop logos on them in Chinese characters, and their children would run around them as they tried to order. They would scream out their orders and at their children at the same time.
There were also old stooping men with brown spots on their faces and the odd gold front tooth, and old women with straight grey hair pinned back over their ears. The old people were always buried under layers of clothing no matter what season it was.
Each time we left, the owners would give me a box of barbecued pork buns to take home.
"Lin, thank Uncle and Auntie."
"Thank you Uncle and Auntie."
"What a cute girl."
My grandmother was very popular in Chinatown. While we shopped we would be stopped every few feet by her acquaintances. Everyone talked loudly and waved their arms. I couldn't understand why they had to be so loud. It seemed uncivilized. She also took me to visit her friends and I would occupy myself with extra game pieces while they played mah jong.
But as I started to grow up, I stopped going to Chinatown with her, where it was too loud, and then I stopped spending time with her altogether. I started to play with friends who weren't loud and who weren't Chinese. This upset my mother. She was suspicious of all other cultures. My best friend for a long time was a German girl who lived up the block. Everything was neat and orderly at her house, and her mother was a quiet, pleasant woman who offered me green apples from their tree. My mother only bought red ones in Chinatown.
Grandmother eats the rest of the rice and some vegetables and then motions me to stop. I wipe her mouth and chin and help her to lie down again. She closes her eyes, and I turn out the light and climb the stairs to my own dinner.
On our walk home from school the next day, Todd asks me to see a movie with him. I lie to my parents and tell them I am going with my girlfriend Sandra. She swears not to say anything to anyone. Todd pays for the movie and the popcorn, and we sit in the back row of the theatre. He puts one arm around me, balances the bucket of popcorn on his knee, holds his drink between his legs, and eats and drinks with his other hand. I am impressed. I usually gorge myself on popcorn, but I feel compelled to eat one kernel at a time.
Halfway through The Great Santini and after we've finished the popcorn, Todd offers me a Certs. Then after a while he turns to me and kisses me on the lips. He opens his mouth on mine and not knowing what to do, I open my mouth. I feel his tongue moving around in my mouth, so I move my tongue around in his. He still tastes faintly of popcorn under the flavour of the Certs. Just as I'm becoming used to the new sensation, he stops and kisses me on the lips and turns back to the movie. I can feel saliva clinging to the edge of my mouth and not wanting to wipe it away with my hand I press my face into his shoulder hoping his shirt will absorb the moisture. It works.
As we leave the theatre, Todd takes hold of my hand. I am quickly beginning to fall in love.
"Now that was a great movie. That Robert Duvall guy is one harsh dude. What'd you think? Did you like it?"
"Yeah, I thought it was quite good."
"Yeah, it was great."
My hand feels good in his, but his strides are twice as long as mine, so our mismatched rhythms make us bounce along instead of walk. By now I am truly in love and I let him take me all the way home. Only the living room light is on so we sit in the darkness of the carport in the back. Todd kisses me again and we move our tongues around. I am lost in the kissing until a car's headlights shine at us as it pulls into the driveway.
"Oh my God! It's my mother!"
I grab Todd's arm, and we run to the front of the house.
"Go! Hurry up!" He quickly kisses me and runs up the block. I stand around debating whether to go inside or escape to Sandra's house. I finally decide to go in. My mother and father are standing in the living room.
"How can you be so fearless! Going out with a white boy!" screams my mother.
My father walks up to me, his eyes wide with anger and slaps me on the face. Automatically I slap him back. He is stunned and I take the opportunity to run into my room. I expect him to come charging after me, but I am left alone for the rest of the night. It is only when the last light is turned out that I start to cry.
When I wake up hours later, my eyelashes are clumped together with dried tears. I didn't draw the curtains, so the moon shines into my room. Everything looks calm and quiet covered in moonlight. It comforts me. Todd, my father—it seemed to happen so long ago.
Only the hum of the fridge can be heard as I creep out into the hallway. I slowly climb down the stairs to my grandmother's bedroom. I imagine the sound of movement as I enter, but I stop and there is nothing. It is dark, so I feel my way over to the window and draw the curtains back a little. She is so still in the moonlight. I go to her and touch her face. It is soft, but cool. The shadows make it look almost ghostly. I take her hand, bony and fragile, and find she has no pulse. I drop it instantly and stand back to stare at her. She is dead, I think. I stare at her face expecting it to move, but somehow it looks peaceful. I take her hand again, kneel beside the bed, and rest my head against her. Soon I am asleep.
1. Make a List What feelings does the main character experience during her bus journey? List her feelings in the order they arise.
2. Write a Character Sketch Analyze the personality of the main character, and write a character sketch using adjectives (words that describe, such as "nervous," "reflective") and examples from the story.
3. Consider Setting This story is set in Manila in the early 1940s during the Second World War. Consider how the historical context affects the story. How would the story be different if it were set in a different place and time -- for example, in a Canadian city today? How might it be the same?
or 4. Give a Personal Response Does Lyda deserve the reader's sympathy? Write a paragraph explaining your opinion, and support it with your reasons.
Ligaya Victorio Fruto
Before you read, discuss what it is like to ride on a crowded public bus. How do people usually behave?
As you read, ask yourself questions about the main character. What is she like? How can you tell?
Ligaya Victorio Fruto was born in Rizal Province in the Philippines. This story is from a collection titled Yesterday and Other Stories (1969).
Lyda is pronounced "Lie duh." The story is set in Manila, a city in the Philippines, during the Second World War.
Lyda watched the blue shining nose of the bus in fascination. Then she poked a finger at the pert tip of her own pretty nose. It isn't powdered, she thought stupidly. Noses shouldn't be shiny. Never allow your nose to get shiny, said a beauty article, if you intend to hold your man. My nose is seldom shiny, she thought in self-pity, and yet here I am losing my man. Hope that girl in his car will sport a shiny nose some time today.
Lyda stamped one foot impatiently. I am beginning to dodder, she thought in a sort of dull rage. Here I am thinking foolish thoughts while a female pirate steals my man away. But perhaps she is just a cousin, or a hitherto undiscovered sister-in-law. Even an aunt. She certainly looked old enough to be his mother.
She saw the bus toot smaller buses out of the way and slide to a stop. She looked at the quivering nose and dusty side. Then quickly, almost without thought, she moved close to the bus, her mind made up. I'll take it, she thought with subdued savagery. I won't wait for his car to pick me up. I'll take this bus and rush home and have a really good mad fit. Let him look for me till the balls of his eyes pop out. I won't give him the satisfaction of lying to me. Not just yet.
She waited with impatience while several passengers fought to get into the bus. Cattle, she thought with disdain. Creatures of instinct. They won't even file in order. How much time they would save if they spent a little more thought on boarding buses.
Once in the bus, she held herself apart from the perspiring crowd. She stood in a small pool of daintiness which the slightly awed passengers conceded her. She looked aloofly toward a desirable seat by a window, and as though her glance had pulled him up, the blue-shirted man with a bundle who occupied it rose and gave it to her. She moved slowly toward the seat and murmured her thanks. She glanced once at the hard seat in doubt, then stepped by the trouser leg withdrawn to let her pass and sank upon the cool wood. Once settled in her seat, she looked out of the window, dismissing the bus crowd.
The city is different, she decided, from a bus seat. Somehow it looks dirtier, more crowded, more impossible to live in. Through a car window, one could regard it with impersonal disdain; one could hold oneself apart from it, secure from its smells and its sounds and its dirty humanity. She was beginning to regret having boarded the bus. Quite an experience, but she could have done without it.
A car -- gleaming, magnificent -- flowed by, and she turned her face sharply away from the street. There he was, alone this time, an anxious look framed by the windshield. He would never think of glancing up at the bus window, but she kept her face averted just the same. The hurt she had suffered moments before intensified in a fresh pain. You have done it. You have done it to me. How many more times will you do it before -- and after -- we get married? She recalled the pleasure on his face as he drove beside the laughing girl. The ghost of a girl's gay laughter was like a clean thrust of sound in the bus's stifling air. She would not stand for it, neither now nor later. And she sat rigidly upon her seat, dumb and proud with pain, doubt like an imp gnawing at her breast. And oddly mixed with her exquisite torture was a streak of annoyance because life could go on about her -- active, noisy life borne upon bus wheels.
Behind her someone coughed. She sat straight up with disgust. What right had a man with a cough like that to ride in a public conveyance? The cough was repeated, more rackingly this time, and Lyda's irritation expressed itself in a glance of censure flung over her shoulder. He was sick, and not even her glance could summon enough blood to his face to proclaim his embarrassment.
"This cough is so bothersome," he was impelled to explain to the man who sat beside him. "The office doctor says ..." Here an interrupting cough. "But I cannot rest now. Wife's having a baby this month."
Lyda was shocked speechless. The things people said in buses. There should be a law.
"Same thing happened to a cousin of mine," another voice took up the subject in heavy sympathy. "My cousin took sick when his seventh child was about to be born. Poor fellow. He died two days before the birth of the child."
"Life is so difficult," the first voice sighed, and there was silence for a while.
Other voices, other sounds drifted to Lyda on the heels of his sigh. It was as though the cough had banished a spell which centred her senses solely on herself. She found her consciousness intruded upon with unwelcome frequency. Across the aisle, a group of labourers discussed the war. Their ignorance was like a needle pricking their earnestness, destroying for Lyda the balloons of thought which they flew with such assurance. Lyda was bored. What did she care about war? Her only resentment was that now her veil must come from New York instead of direct from Paris, as had been originally planned.
Two seats ahead of her, a man was talking to another about unions. What unions, she wondered in irritation. Weddings?
"I told you long ago that you were crazy not to join the union." The voice was raised to defeat the heavy purrings of the motor. "The union is the worker's friend, and a friend in need indeed. In companies like ours," the voice was raised further to drown out the tentative response from another, "the union was your life-saver. You need not worry about another job if you had joined when I told you. Let's take your case now. You were kicked out. There would have been investigations ..."
"There was no good reason." The other voice was sullen. "The cousin of the foreman had gotten married and needed my job."
"That's what I mean ... "
Lyda played deaf with an effort. I won't listen to soap-box orators, she thought firmly. I won't. Why don't people leave their miseries at home? Tie them to a post like dogs. Feed them, fondle them once they are home. Why carry them about in places where they will merely annoy people who have troubles enough of their own?
And at that thought a fresh flood of self-pity swept over her. She had not known real misery until she had glimpsed that laughing face and heard that airy sound as his car swept by. Perhaps they had driven out to the hills where he and she had gone so often. They had loved the clean fingers of wind which parted their hair as they drove past green slopes and quiet, blossom-bordered lanes. They had known what it was to laugh in the glare of the sun. And those pools of shade by the roadside where they had paused for lovely moments of talk and silence. The snowy tops of flowering weeds that they had passed again and again. Perhaps he had shown her those.
Pain sharpened within her and she stirred in her seat. A suffocating smell of gasoline mingled with the human odours which circulated within the hot interior of the bus. Lyda moved closer to the window and exposed her face further to the dust-laden breeze that brushed her cheeks. She looked at the houses which they now passed, filled with wonder that people could live in them. She glimpsed mats and blankets which obviously served as walls, and shuddered at the black dirt which for so many houses was a littered floor. Across the front of one rusty tin hut, faded strips of bunting still clung, a hangover from a forgotten fiesta, like confetti on the face of dilapidation.
The bus gave a sudden jolt, and Lyda heard someone's head bump loudly against the sloping ceiling of the rear end. There was a child's sharp, short scream, and an equally sharp feminine voice which shushed this scream to a whimper. The man who had coughed behind Lyda rose from his seat and proffered his better place to the woman and her child. The woman looked at his pallid face uncertainly, then with a murmur of gratitude transferred herself and her child to the proffered seat.
Lyda looked up the thin length of the man who had offered the seat. He had refused the back seat and stood up to reach for the low beam of the bus ceiling. Lyda thought she saw his slight frame quiver as he sought to steady himself, then he swayed gently to the rhythm of the motor. Oh, well, she dismissed him scornfully, if he must be gallant ....
There was a sudden lurch, and Lyda grasped the wood bars of the window to keep from sliding off her seat. She directed an angry glance toward the driver. The fellow had no sense. Why, oh why did she take the bus? What spirit of folly had prompted her to take the bus when she could have ridden in comfort and safety in a taxi? The long ride home was a monotony of discomfort, thanks to her crazy impulsiveness. She looked about her, thoroughly irritated, and somehow the queer sick look of the man who swayed close to her heightened this irritation. Served him right, she thought unfeelingly, as she took in the intent unseeing look upon the almost bloodless face of the man. What on earth could have made him take this evil bus? She hoped savagely that he would not choose this moment to cough. That would be just a little too much.
She looked out of the window once more, noting without pleasure the crowded look of the road. Soon they would be on the provincial road, and there would be less noise and dust. She was a fool not to have waited for his car. She could have hailed him as he passed. By this time she would have been safely home and in the bath, while he smoked cigarette after cigarette on the porch and wondered about her icy remoteness. What could she gain with such tomfoolery as this bus ride? Funny into what discomfort love for a man could goad a woman. She imagined punishments for him while she was punishing herself.
She saw a small bus struggling through a tight space between their bus and a large truck, watching its imprudence without taking in its significance. Then she felt, rather than heard, the sharp grinding of brakes, and a man's weight flung sharply against her. Weak hands strove vainly to cling to something that would hold him away from the dirty floor of the bus. She moved closer to the corner of her seat, her face pale with nausea and horror, as she gingerly tried to lift the thin body off her knees.
"Somebody," she gasped faintly, "somebody, help."
The world was all movement and sound. There were the loud angry words of the driver, the squeals of the women, the indignant voices of the men who had rushed down to examine the trouble. She did not notice when the quarrelling voices lost their edge and softened to shocked pity. She was too stupidly intent on setting her frock to rights and freeing her frame of disgusted shivers. She looked about, pale and helpless, but even the women were not looking at her. They were too intent on a long burden that lately had sprawled against her knee.
There were sounds -- too many sounds that made no sense to her. This would happen, this would happen to her. So many other women in the bus and this would happen to her. She felt the last vestiges of her control going. She thought of him and of the girl and of the love like a wounded bird within her. She thought of her beautiful home and her cool garden several minutes away from here.
And then she saw her shoes. With a mounting horror she stared at her once immaculate shoes, only just now beginning to feel the sticky warmth which streaked clear across her feet. She thought, I'm going to be sick. I mustn't be. Not here. I can't bear it here. But the muscles of her eyes refused to move, and she could not turn her gaze away from those horribly smeared shoes. She felt a fine dam loosening within her and the tears long pent were running down her cheeks. There is no one, she sobbed bitterly, no one at all, more miserable than I.
|Due By (Pacific Time)||04/21/2014 12:00 am|
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