Doctor C. Hadley Smithers . . .

 . . . had gone about as far as his abilities would take him. Not only was his career foundering in these backwaters of scientific investigation, his social life had never left the beach. He had learned to conduct a lecture well enough, but the rudiments of ordinary conversation escaped him. He was, sad to say, acquiring an inexcusable habit of, at faculty functions when he should have been forging the bonds that would assure the furtherance of his career, taking a book from his pocket and totally immersing himself in its message. He couldn’t help it. He gravitated to the written word as inexorably as mustard and chocolate sauce were drawn to his tie.

Hollis Riddley Biggs

There are some arguments that so overwhelm any possible objections that the futility of further debate is obvious to the participants. That Hollis Riddley Biggs should stumble upon such an argument, however, surprised them both. In moments of desperation, men may tap into resources they did not know they had. Still, his suddenly acquiring the ability to organize his thoughts and present them in an argument, so logical and so compelling that even God was unable to refute it, absolutely astounded him.

Private Billy Bindleshaft . . .

. . . was utterly bewildered. Where in hell was he? Through the broad window at the far end of the room he saw fat feathery snow flakes falling and the grotesquely barren limbs of dormant maple trees. How could this be? Could he have been somehow transported from the Pacific island where he had been only moments before to this beguiling wintry vista? He didn’t know these people. He didn’t know any of these people. How did he get here? And where was his rifle?


At times such as this, Harry could not conceive of any man more content with his life or more comfortable in his trade. As far back as recollection could carry him, he had understood his destiny. And, in spite of the indefinable void, that now and then troubled the quiet hours, he could ask no more than to remain a blue water sailor and to feel the salt spray on his face:

to spread broad wings of silvery sail
and soar on flower fragrant breezes;
to dance on sun splashed waters across an emerald sea;
to join careering porpoises in carefree steeplechase;
and steer a course by starlight
‘til we fetch that farther shore.

Emily . . .

. . . hadn’t cried in years, and she had believed she had used up all her tears. But something dimmed her eyes and ran salty down her cheeks and into the corners of her mouth, and her breath caught in little hiccoughs in her throat. She heard the lazybitchy wives tittering in a corner as she wheeled Harry into the bedroom and closed the door, and the brothers’ vulgar laughter reverberated through the house.

Harry, who had now finished, closed his eyes and sat quietly exhausted while she cleaned him up. He had been a small man even before the accident, but now, slouched in his chair, he looked so thin and frail − a lingering echo of himself.

"Hey Emily, bring him back out here. The old bastard wants to party."

"Damn, I ain’t did that since I was twelve years old."

"Assholes!" Emily allowed herself an unkind word under her breath.

The Boy

Rumination came as naturally to the boy as running and skipping come to most children. He, himself, seldom ran or skipped. It detracted from his concentration. Sometimes, when he had a really big thought to think, he would just stop wherever he was and sit down, the better to focus. But he did his best thinking lying on his back and lost in the depths of a clear blue sky. If there were clouds to distract him he would close his eyes, but the endless blue of the summer sky was conducive to deep thinking.


Finally, Somebody reacted as any normal man, upon learning of his wife's turpitude and guile, might be expected to act. Or perhaps it was the implication of his own gullibility that brought him, at last, to boil. He fumed and fulminated and shook his fist at his sleeping wife, and, as she continued to calmly sleep through his harangue, he rose and stomped around the room, waving his arms and screaming the "d" word. "Darn, darn, gosh-darn! Stinky, darn, darn!"

Ezekiel Qweeze . . .

. . . had been grievously insulted. Indeed, the outrage that erupted in his belly and boiled up in his throat left him mortified and utterly incapable of speaking in his own defense. He blanched and stammered and balled his fists as though to strike, but his body refused his urgent call to arms. Instead of lowering his head and assaulting his adversary with windmilling fists, as he so often had in secret fantasy, he stood rooted to the earth and trembled as though afflicted with palsy.

Major Staggerholm . . .

. . . was not entirely averse to the attention, albeit surreptitious, he received. He had developed a mild addiction to the adoration so abundantly bestowed on soldiers during the war. And it had been some time since he had enjoyed such celebrity. The lingering echoes of his headache evaporated with the realization that he had become, once again, the center of attention. He sat more erect on his bench; he applied great ceremony to the filling, tamping and lighting of his pipe, and he affected the air of a philosopher, gazing over the quiet waters of Lake Liverlorne, absorbed in matters of great moment.