Copyright © the Estate of Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1948 , 1998, 2001, All rights reserved Dream Section--Vol. V--Dream I The Riddle of Raintree County [title, 1946] by Ross F. Lockridge, Jr. (facsimile, p 41 of The Dream)
[The Dream Section was the intended ending of Raintree County. The connection remains clear throughout the final pages of the 1948 edition and the beginnings of The Dream.]
....At the intersection of the two roads, he looked west. West, just touching with clean rim the empurpled earth, a huge halfball of yellow poured down the National Road a river of golden light. Five hours behind her radiant brother, tranquil, with stately descent, the moon had sunk to her setting.
The wall between himself and the world dissolved. He seemed suddenly lost from himself, plucked out of time and space, being both time and space himself, an inclusive being in which all other beings had their being. A vast unrest was in the earth. The Valley of Humanity was turbulent with changing forms. The immense dream trembled on a point of night and nothingness and threatened explosion.
He held tight to the Atlas and walked on. Strong yearning possessed him to build again--and better than before--the valorous dream. If it should all expire, he would be able to rebuild it. He would walk on in his old black schoolmaster's suit, shaking from Family Bibles, McGuffey Readers, Histories of America, Latin and Greek Texts, Free Enquirers, Declarations of Independence and Constitutions, the seeds of words, planting the virgin earth of America with springing forms.
So each man had to build his world again!
So he would plant again and yet again the legend of Raintree County, the story of a man's days on the breast of the land. So he would plant great farms where the angular reapers walk all day, whole prairies of grass and wheat rising in waves on the headlands. So he would plant the blond corn in the valleys of Raintree County. Yes, he would plant once more the little towns, Waycrosses and Danwebsters, and the National Roads to far horizons, passing to blue days and westward adventures, and progress, the cry of a whistle, arcs of the highflung bridges, and rails and the thundering trains. (Hail and farewell at the crossing!) He would plant cities, clusters of blazing jewels on the dark flesh of the night, and faces shining under the glare of the great fires--San Francisco, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Washington, Washington, and parts between, cities and dwellers in cities, a dragon seed, a harvest of fury. (Shall there be one man hungry, and I go fed!) He would plant gilded years and gilded dreams, the young men wandering lost in metropolitan jungles, and the place where the great trains come to rest. He would plant science, explorers of matter, finders of new species, the august ascent of man from form to form, and honest doubts and dark misgivings. (Are you there, old truepenny, reverse of the coin!) He would plant the young messiahs down from the hills, divinely arrogant heroes, makers of bread and beatitudes, the gentle gods dying on angry crosses, and new crusades, and fearless emancipations. He would plant the anniversaries of mankind, celebrations of great beginnings.
He would plant the Republic of Mankind.
Yes, he would plant the great fair dream, again and ever; he would record it on paper so that it might be found from time to time among old manuscripts in a forgotten drawer of the Cosmos.
Did you think that I had lost the way? Did you think that I was drowned in darkness and the swamp? But I was here always, bearing a stem of the summer grass.
Make way, make way for the Hero of Raintree County! His victory is not in consummations but in quests!
Bearing the huge book of Raintree County, he walked along the now entirely deserted street of Waycross, approached his own home, and entered the gate. The town lay somewhere in infinite night, hushed and potential with all mystery and meaning.
Where was the town of Waycross at night when the sleepers all were sleeping?
But where were the trains that only lightly disturbed the ears of dreamers, and where was the whereness of a dreamer, dreaming dreams in an upstairs bedroom of a little town beside a road in America long ago? For in a little time, he knew that he would be that dreamer, lost in darkness, lost and yet not lost, away and yet at home, forever awake and yet forever dreaming. He would be that dreamer, and he would have perhaps again his ancient and eternal dream....
from lostness and from nightness and afar,
of having come a long way through a swamp, of having walked by rivers and been drenched in lakes, he had only a vague memory. He couldn't remember now in what summer he had been at the place. He must have been a child, though he had possessed vigor and desire more than a child's. He remembered only vaguely the temple whose circular roof was open to the summer so that the tree might live. For a long time, he had possessed the golden bough and had meant to keep it for a token, all heavy with seed and fruit. He could not even remember the face of one whom he had known there in that august and tranquil summer. She had been beautiful, and yes, assuredly, his desire had been more than a child's. And were not the morals of that maternal deity delightfully suspect? He had even forgotten all the names--the names equally of the tree, the goddess, and the shrine, the singular names which he knew he must have heard over and over. He had forgotten the name of the curious and curving pathway to the place. And he had even forgotten his own name, the special name that they had given him because he was the only one who had found the way. He had been amazed by the vast extent of the forest around him, the immense and silent grove steeped in twilight, through which weak sunrays filtering fell, and he remembered the distant and soft floor of the forest, and the trunks of trees, all oaks of an extinct species. Through that forest he had walked, and in its shadow he had lived, and there he had discovered the place of sacred waters. But then all this must have been a memory of something he had read or heard. If only once again he might return and stand where the slant rays touched with fire the topmost branches of the tree! Then perhaps a golden warmth would descend his body, and he would discover in the twilight of the trunk a goddess exquisitely formed, whose gold hair lay along the earth and whose precise face would stir him to recognition. Then perhaps, he would recapture the word which had been from the beginning, which had awakened him from sleep and touched his ears with music and ecstasy, a word that quivered through the grove and caused the tree to shiver and send down a rain of yellow and unusual...
Dust and seed were on his clothes. The quivering fabric of the court house square had been pulled like a masque over the naked beauty of some earlier dream. He was still glowing with a virile wish, certain that a delicious fulfillment was waiting for him among these holiday hundreds smeared with greasepaint and wearing ritual costumes for the pageant. He must find the gracious young woman, she, too, wearing a redundant costume and that fictitious name which for the moment he was unable to lay his tongue to. He had to follow a dedalean thread through streets and corridors and rooms and roads and rivers to the inmost shrine. It was all a part of the festive make-believe of
speaking through megaphone,
--A day spent among the americans! Come one. Come all. You can't afford to...
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
emerging from crowd, whitebearded, beneficent, america's foremost poet, reciting in a grave sweet voice,
--Be a hero in the strife!
dantesque gown, head garlanded with laurel,
--Let us then be up and doing, mr. longfellow. Old translator of epics and epic poet yourself, perhaps you would like to hear the beginning of my humble poem, some few thousands of pages in manuscript, and entitled--
pleasant face and spreading beard protruding from the foliage of a chestnut tree,
--I'd be content with a little tale in a wayside inn.
About to reply, he found himself entering a building so badly weathered that the front steps were a pile of shifting sand in which he saw the footprints of his predecessor. He had some memory of an ancient legend in which an elder bard had led the young aspirant into the mystery of a murmurous underworld beneath the vivid day. Inside the main door, he found three smaller doors, glasspaneled, through which he could see the dwindling corridors, the ascending stairs, the crowded exhibit cases of the raintree county historical museum. He pushed the middle door and entered. The metal stairs ascended in spiral from floor to floor. He stood alone in the place where the ancient deposits of life in raintree county were, preserved in the exact, if slightly discolored, state in which they had been plucked from some living past. Relics of fifty years, they filled up rows of cases in gloomy corridors, neglected rooms. Somewhere here, among pistols, mcguffey readers, bundles of beribboned letters, the sacred relic lay, no value having been attached to it by anyone but him. To take it out of its case and feel the ancient skin of it still faintly oily and to smell the scent of it like stuffed birds, this would be a precise and curious pleasure.
emerging from dark hallway, disguised in corncostume, face hidden in brownsilky hair, finger on lips, holding out hand, voice husky and whispering,
--Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h! Come back with me. This way. In here. To show you. A sudden rush from the stairway, a sudden raid from the hall--
Eager to solve the riddle of her identity and to find out the secret name which she could divulge to him, he followed her into the little room where the namestuffed book of the wayside inn was kept.
--They say there's an interesting variant of the name on the oldest deeds.
dimly smiling, winking, finger on lips, cornleaves rusting,
--Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h. It is here. Long years after, in the heart of an oak--
She was holding up a piece of weathered wood in which an arrowhead was imbedded.
--I see. Baldur the beautiful, slain by mistletoe. Oakgod's life pierced through and through by the arrow of fate. A song heard and overheard years later. So life began--
The little room into which he had been shown was a kind of druid shrine, oakpaneled, hung with sheaves of ripe wheat, bows and arrows, the roof being open to the sky. White pillars, rooted like trees in an ancestral soil, walled him circularly in.
holding immense dogeared book, sifting seed, pressed flowers, bits of crackling leaf,
--A book of prophecy and legends old and new. Young mortal, more beloved than a god, you desire to know...
hair tangled, matted with seed, body naked to the waist,
--Where place is? When time is? Your name, mysterious and lovely--
beginning slowly to revolve her belly in ritual dance, slowly to husk the corndress down, showing bare shoulder smoothwoven back, brightnippled breasts pouting over the curled leaves, reading from book,
--There is a prophecy older even than the indians who once lived in that valley to the effect that one day a nameless youth will come and find the river's secret source, and lo! it would be his...
small boy, approaching the semi-naked priestess of prophesy, reaching eager fingertips toward her bare flesh, glowing in a fading light of afternoon and summer,
--Who is god?
seated on steps of log cabin, half in darkness,
--Remember your origin, every time you see uncle tom's cabin, and remember to be good and faithful and christian as...
He was looking down a valley at the far end of which was an immense face of clay. Around it, slowly brightening and rimmed with fire, the western clouds were hovering. They glowed to a shimmering climax, then swiftly clothed in darkness the face, which had vaguely reminded him of a great american, savior and preserver of the republic, whose martyred body had been buried in a secret place known only to...
The school children of raintree county were a great concern to him, swarming in and out of the museum doors, sliding down the spiral banisters, balancing precariously on the window ledges. He had been hunting all up and down the musty corridors, looking for the sainted mummy, hidden in an unsuspected case, dry fragrant, unutterably old. In the glass cases of the museum, he had seen stuffed birds and animals, varnished fish, pioneer cradles, primitive scythes, tallow lamps, candleholders, slates, spinning wheels, arrowheads, tomahawks, moccasins, stone knives, belts of wampum, cultivating sticks, firebows, stone wheels, crude steam engines, firearms, light bulbs, typewriters.
field-explorer's costume, excavator's pick, notebook entitled scholar's delight,
--Impossible to record it all, the endless linkage of our life, the murmurous fabric of the names, leading us back to...
The invisible river made a low sound in rushes as he approached the great mound on the edge of an indian battleground, in company with henry wadsworth longfellow, nathaniel hawthorne, and other miscellaneous bards and bardlings, a motley crew armed with pickaxes, spades, hoes, sickles, hayforks, mattocks. The mound was a gentle, elliptical hump, some fifty feet in diameter, covered with fine grass and little wiry aromatic flowers.
--Gentlemen, we are about to dig our mattocks into the most sacred earth in raintree county. Older than christ, older than caesar, older than the greeks is this venerable hump of earth, holding enwombed for centuries the secret of a lost culture. Who knows what relics we shall find of a prehistoric race, of whom not a single name survives, mounddwellers, the first inhabitants of raintree county!
Digging at the tough earth of the mound, he had turned up a golden railroad spike, three latin textbooks, some landdeeds, a polished skull, a three-legged table, a varnished chart of the human anatomy, a rolltop lawyer's desk, a great many glass-stoppered bottles, and last of all...
The light in the office was dim. It was late afternoon, and w. b. wasn't back yet from his calls. The old ledger in johnny's hands was full of pressed flowers, weightless wisps plucked long ago but still faintly odorous of earth in summers long ago. He was certain that this ledger contained the answer to the riddle--perhaps a map to a hidden place, a delightfully archaic poem, perhaps even the name of that great english poet to whom johnny shawnessy was so closely related. He ran his eyes over records of birth and death, recipes for medicines, testimonials of the cured, homemade hymns. There were pictures of adam and eve beneath a hawthorne tree in a variety of symbolical postures and other pictures of the mother and father of the race riding in a cab with the letters taylor house upon it, and then various views of raintree county including one of the new court house, but lacking the tower. The print diminished in size to files of intense little words in narrow columns. It was a copy of the complete works of william shakespeare, who once long ago had been a boy much like himself familiar with...
The river had a fixed and tranquil beauty as he approached the bank and stood beside an oak (bearded titan of the wold and hoar with age). He looked down a vista of the river flowing up from golden summers, making eternal intersection with the world of space and time. His naked body dripped with a cold green water, in whose vitreous womb odd fish, seeds, bugs, and plants had spawned spontaneous generations. He remembered how in a cold and cloudy pool beneath an oak, a wanderer long ago (young bard of life) had seen the shape of beauty halfrevealed. There had been, he thought, a monument erected on these banks to commemorate this youth, whose pencil, like a prospering wand, had touched into life such beautiful forms inside the river's winding banks. Bard of the river and its life, that fabulously gifted boy must have heard the clamors of
rising from rushes at the river's edge, beating up the river on a shucking rush of wings,
--Awk, awk. Shawk-a-mawk.
shouting from the shallows,
--Shak-a-mak-mak. A-wash-a-wash. Shawk-a-muck. A-muck.
The sharp prow of his rowboat curved, into the semblance of a swan with wings outspread, as of the olden thames. The village where the water bard was born stood just around the stately bend. Dipping a rhythmical oar into the pale green river, he stroked his boat toward a bank where the wild thyme grew, and violets and sweet anemones, the first rare jets of spring. Under the anglosaxon oaks, he could see the town, a few pilgrims loitering in the street. Walking up to the general store, he saw, sitting among several male citizens,
falstaff costume, vast belly, applered cheeks, waving a newspaper,
--boy, read for old jack. Ah, I remember my own schooling, lads! The schoolmarm was a pretty wench, I trow. In school, she taught me to the tune of her hickory stick, and after school she tossed me to the tune of mine. Ho, boy! What say, boy! Go, boy, go!
(Dancing on slippered feet.)
When I was a lad of little years,
The lasses were want to say,
No matter how tight we lace at night,
Young peters will find a way!
reading from newspaper in smallboy 0ratorical style,
--Friends, children, countrymen--
dirty toga, strawhat, elizabethan slippers,
--Say, ain't that thar johnny shawnessy?
stovepipe hat, elezabethan ruff, roman tunic,
--Yep, that thar's him.
--He was a promisin' young carpenter, as ever I seen. I allays expected him to go fer.
--He has. That boy's a riproarin' specialist in ladies' drawers.
PROFESSOR HORACE GLADSTONE
soothsayer's robe, bearing an open phrenological chart in his hand,
--Beware the ideas of marx. Beware, beware the bump of venus.
softly curling beard, buckskin coat, western hat, strumming on elizabethan zither,
I had a dream the other night
when ever'thing was still
I thought I saw susanna dear
A-comin' daown the hill...
screaming from nearby house,
--Oh, dear god! Ah-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e.
fatly complacent, hugely nimble,
--Come, boys, let's have a little sport. Fat jack will lead the dance.
For it's little of joy and much annoy
This side of heaven and hell;
So stick it, son, and have yer fun,
And leave the ladies yell!
rising to a scream,
--Dear jesus! Ahe-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!
A great concourse of covered wagons, pageant floats, expensive carriages, bewildered citizins thundered past.
of carnival barker, speaking through megaphone,
--A bard is born! In the little red schoolhouse, down memory lane...
Still stood the schoolhouse by the road, a humble little edifice of red brick. He was approaching it by a crossfield path from the home place, the same that he had often taken in his boyhood. Memories of the old mcguffey days came back--scrubbed faces of children, dogeared texts, recitations from the initialed benches at the front of the room. It must be almost time for the afternoon classes to begin. If he hurried he could perhaps see the gifted boy himself, learning his little latin and less greek while mooning over the pretty girl in the front...
entering from cloak room, a bundle of switches under his arm, a pair of glasses parched on his red, raw nose, hair goosegreased to his skull, in his left hand a noah webster speller,
--The spelling bee will begin. First word--
His voice began to hiss, he seemed unable to finish the word, his body became thin and elongate. Violently winking his eves, he rose slowly from the floor and began to fly around the room in dizzy spirals.
like a rocket about to explode,
A huge bee was flying around and around a monument erected in the middle of the schoolhouse where the old coal stove was supposed to be.
approaching the monument, improvising pentameters,
--Desire, that golden bee with dusty wings,
Hath lured me through the summer's honey hours,
And we have ravished beauty with our stings
And taken treasure from a thousand flowers.
The schoolhouse resembled very much the interior of the little board church in dan webster where w. b. used to preach.
indicating stone crypt in a dim corner of the church and a recessed monument containing bust of shakespeare,
--And now, folks, we arrive at that famous spot of ground where lie the sacred relics of the greatest poet since the beginning of time. John wesley shawnessy was born in raintree county, april 23, 1839, in a little...
hayseed in his red hair, buck teeth, light blue eyes, mailorder suit too small for him,
--Frends, I have jist come to the toom of the cerebrated shuckspoor. Hit's a success.
with mattock and spade,
--Despite the prohibitive verse on the headstone, an effort was made in the year 18__ to recover the bones of the bard in order to set at rest several baffling questions that have long vexed shawmuckian scholars--namely the question of the authorship of the plays, the myth of resurrection, the sex of queen elizabeth, and the integrity of the royal hymen. To this end, a body of excavators addressed themselves to the delicate task of disinterpreting...
He was surprised at the ease with which he had broken into the old stone crypt beneath the alter at the front of the church where no one else had thought of looking. He was reminded of some room in which he had spent a long time in his infancy, but it had been a long time darkened and closed since that day in the late renaissance when the citizens of stratford had tenderly interred therein the body of their famous townsman and sealed him up at last against the whips and snares of fortune. The enormous mystery of death and fame and time impended in this twilight room of gathering dust. In the dim light he saw two coffins, and, on top of each, recumbent figures, hands folded on chests, sleeping in stone. As he approached, he recalled that it had been only a week since the festive day on which distinguished visitors from the city had called in the little country town and persuaded the bard to have too many drinks. And now the thought that he was about to see the almost mythical being, of whom there had been so many baldheaded busts and apocryphal likenesses, gave him an overmastering sensation of discovery and triumph. He approached the recumbent figure of
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
unfolding hands, sitting up suddenly, swinging legs over edge of tomb, his face and person unrevealed in the darkness of the crypt, speaking with slight hoosier accent.
--God's eyes, how long have I been asleep?
making quick calculation,
--About two-hundred and seventy-six years, bill. How do you feel?
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
--A pope's pox on that whoreson knave johnson, brought a foul pint from the city, guaranteed to cure all ills from bald skulls to scald balls. It did. (Getting out of comfortable featherbed, puttering around with clothes in semidarkened oakpaneled bedroom) Now, let me see, where'd I put my pants?
reporter's notebook and pencil,
--Our readers would be delighted to have your opinion on a few matters that have been troubling us. You could clear the whole thing up in a jiffy. Now about that matter of second-best bed--
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
still in shadow, chuckling jovially,
--After being second-best man in my best bed, I decided to make my successor best man in my second-best bed. Do you follow me, boy?
For here's to the jolly white cock
That crows in the standing corn,
And here's to the faithless smock
And the husband's harvest of horn.
--And about the sonnets, bill. Were they addressed to--
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
walking jauntily down country lane, in city tweeds, straw skimmer, knobtoed oxfords.
--To be perfectly frank, john, you probably remember those poems better than I. Let me see, there was the queen's lady-in-waiting--(but no lady in mating, take my word for it, boy), a wild little bitch, black-haired, and of a most fascinating ugliness.
The real william shakespeare turned so that mr. shawnessy saw his face fullview. He was nothing like the standard busts and portraits, being a young man of about thirty with dark brown hair, a pleasant innocent countenance, dimples, and introspective eyes of an offshade. He seemed quite unaffected by the great fame that had come to him.
--Is it true you cared nothing for your plays? Or should I put you in present tense, bill--you seem egregiously alive to me.
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
--A man will do anything for money. I hope I may not be judged too harshly for those poor things. By the by, what's showing these days in the city?
--I assure you, bill, those poor things are now the world's wonder.
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
--You jest, boy. The only good things I ever wrote were some essays I ghosted for francis bacon. The rest stank.
The real william shakespeare, great wag that he was, chuckled richly.
--Is it true, bill, that you stopped writing plays around the year 1610 when you were only forty-six years old and retired to stratford-on-avon, where you spent your declining years--like prospero breaking your magic wand and releasing the ariel of your fantasy?
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
--What mountebank's drool are you drivelling there, boy?
--Well, all the books about you--
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
--God's eyes, are there books about me?
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
--The world has found wild ways to waste its time since I was a mime in motley.
--About your decision to leave the country and go to london, bill--pray, how did you happen to do it?
THE REAL WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
face boyish, pimpled, hair long, unkempt, rustic straw hat, coarse cotton shirt open at the neck, barefooted, overalled, fishing pole over shoulder,
--I just plain ran my arse off with the sheriff two jumps behind. (Peering intently at mr. shawnessy) By the way, son, haven't we met somewhere before?
--I am one of your forgotten plays, mr. shakespeare, byblow of your teeming pen, lovechild of the universe, heir of your invention. It's a study in fate.
in declamatory voice,
--Fate that makes fools of commoners and kings,
Old puppetmaster jerking little strings,...
Uh--pardon me. I do that kind of thing johnny factotum. A man must have a trade.
They were walking at the river's edge.
--According to an authority, bill, your knowledge of latin and greek left something to be desired. Your schooling, I think, didn't extend beyond--
sharpfaced stripling, with shrewd eyes, peeping between the rushes and looking up and down the river,
--All-lay all-gay is divvied into three ittypray artspay. (Offering cigar) Have a weed?
--Thanks. Don't care if I do.
lighting up, pointing sensitive finger at naked girl with long brown hair standing up in green sedge across the river,
--Ain't god good to indiana--ain't he, fellers, ain't he though?
--I had a similar experience myself, will.
puffing on cigar, lying on belly, chin in hands, not missing anything,
--I tell you, john, I can't think of anything else these hot summer nights. Ain't natur grand?
These pretty maids from night to morn,
They sing with jolly cheer-oh!
Shucking the shirts from shocks of corn
To find the big red ear-oh!
removing shirt for plunge in river, puffing on fragrant cigar, nostalgically watching the girl walk slowly up the opposite bank,
--O, the ole swimmin' hole, the ole swimmin' hole,
A-comin' down in summer with the ole fishin' pole,
A-strippin' and a-rippin' muh duds from off muh skin,
A-lookin' at the water flow and then a-plungin' in,
You kin turn the clocks around and let the seasons backward roll,
Till I lose muhself a-soakin' in the ole swimmin' hol[e].
sitting on the bank naked, hair red and rumpled, chewing goosequill pen, inditing on parchment,
There was a lover and his lass,
With hey, hey, the jack and the jay,
Did lie too long in the jolly june grass,
With a ring-a-jing-jing and a roundalay!
watching willie shakespeare riding on an antlered stag through the royal forest,
--And a ring and a round and a runaway! About the queen, will, was she really virgo intacta to the end?
--Fair gloriana, mistress of our hearts,
Safe guarded by our clubs and thrusty blades,
No king of diamonds trumped our queen of tarts,
But she was bowered by a jack of spades.
gravedigger's costume, lifting a mouldy pelvis on a spade,
--Now here's a cup to good queen bess,
Ho! and a shrouding sheet ....
in distance, calling up and down the river,
--O hymen hymenaee! O, mortal more beloved than....
The form of a certain celebrated bard was now gradually lost to view in the shrouding leaves. He found himself approaching an ivied wall beyond which doric columns were and whiterobed forms walking in pairs as if in lofty converse. He seemed to remember then a brief republic that had thrust itself to flower in the dark chaos of the ages, leaving a white remembrance on the lips of men. At the same time there came to him a noise of waters beating on leaguelong beaches. He knew then that he had passed that way long years before and had seen across the river the naked form of beauty, shorn of name. Later he had woven a web of words to clothe that image, put togas on his phrases, and made majestic periods. He sprang toward the shining forms of that adolescent republic. He ran along the ivied wall hunting for an entrance....
He was walking up to the verandah of the pedee academy two blocks from the square in freehaven. On the steps, the twelve youths and maidens were waiting for him in their academic robes, the girls in white as befitted their virgin state, the boys in bright bowties and skimmers.
on top step, sleekly young, prosperous, blackhaired, smoking a fat cigar, finely ironical,
--The hero arrives in the nick of time--young theseus to lead us through the cretan maze of learning.
of distant maidens, singing, rising, appealing, fading,
--O, hymen hymenaee! O, mortal more beloved than a god. All day, we plunged....
With a copy of ovid's metamorphosis in his hand, he approached the door of the academy building, now changed to the mouth of a grottoed cave. Within, he saw the old hall, much as he remembered it except for lumps of coal in the corners. A girl slipped from a door on the right, dressed in a costume of bark and leaves through which her pale flesh shone. One bare breast stuck ripely from among green leaves. Her little feet were naked, and her face was flushed as if she had been running. She kept lifting a lock of stray hair from her forehead. When she held her face up to him, he saw that it was
--Hello, johnny. How have you been?
He started to answer, but she put her finger to her lips.
--Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h. Not now. I can explain everything.
--But garwood-- The stone beside the river-- The article in the newspaper-- Gaither-jones rites solemnized-- And all these years I have been--
--A fool. But a nice fool. Suppose we slip into the library.
She took his hand, and he followed her down a dark corridor, past walls of books whose gilded bindings glowed in the darkbrown air.
--Lest we get lost again--
in green dress woven into a plastic sheath around her body, presenting him with a piece of string,
--Unwind me, lover, till we reach the shrine.
She walked away from him, the dress unravelling from the hem slowly travelling from her bare feet, up taper ankles, up sleekly muscled calves, up fullfleshed thighs, up queenly weaving buttocks, until it reached the line where waist was narrowest between the bulge of hips and swell of ribs. On the left buttock he saw a faint stain like that left by a pressed flower on a page. She was looking back at him over her shoulder, green wideset eyes full of love's pathos, lips curled in a wistful smile.
furiously unwinding skein of dress, hands and feet tangled in green thread, trying to reach and touch her,
--Always there was desire, and greenness, the color of the river. For young america was always an education in self-denial. We built our little huts on the shore, nell and I, and we covered them with bright-colored shells. We--
in low voice of anguish and desire,
--Unwind the skein, lost boy. Rewrite the greatest of the sentimental novels.
in talismanic chant,
--We wandered by the bright running streams, nell and I, and we gamboled on the wide grassy lawn. We meet again in light, sportive dreams, nell and I, when the weary hours of twilight--
--Unthread the devious skein. Unweave the ancient web of outworn days. Press on, press on!
--And my love was true, but a coldness grew. 'Twas caused by an unrelenting foe!
--Dead! Beside the river. You see, we are both dead these many years.
tangled up in thread, trying to sort out a fistful of letters and newspaper clippings,
--I wasn't dead, nell. It was all a mistake. Here, let me show you. Some newspaper clippings. I mean, a lawyer came and looked me up in indianapolis, I mean, the nation's capitol, and--
He had followed her through many turnings, until they had come into a place where abandoned sceneshifts were leaning against the walls. Nell had begun to climb a stair winding into the loft of the stage, her green dress slowly travelling up her back. He had almost reached her, hoping to achieve the warm caress postponed and pigeonholed so many years in a cubby hole of time.
her face smeared with greasepaint,
--I do hope aunt isn't up.
The door of a costume closet shot abruptly open, and an incredible spinster came out, six feet tall, railthin, with pincenez glasses, withered face, sharp black eyes slightly out of focus, long black dress, crucifix swinging between her withered dugs. She came forward and put conspiratorial arms about the lovers. He realized then that it was
AUNT PINAFORE PEEVEE STILES
--I trust you perceive this object that I hold in my hand.
It was a shotgun, barrel glinting sinisterly.
blinking, blowing a hornlike blast of her nose, weeping loudly-- but without tears,
--Years ago, I was a girl in raintree county. (Removing glasses and wiping the lenses) I might have had a beautiful married life, but my father conceived a violent disrelish for my intended and--
Aunt pinafore swung the shotgun to her shoulder and discharged both barrels in a terrific blast smashing rows of bottles behind a saloon bar and blowing a ragged hole in the back wall of the old opera house through which could be seen distant figures of people running down streets with little arms etched stiffly aloft. Simultaneously, the curtain shot up, the audience began to applaud loudly, and the temperance play had begun.
--O, johnny, come out of that old saloon,
They say you are full of gin....
young man with sad brown eyes, standing before batwing doors of saloon on the court house square, in outfit of the middle fifties, large flowing tie, jaunty hat, hands in pockets, singing in vibrant melodious voice,
--Ah went down dar wif a pocket full of tin!
in gay rig of young gallant, seeing his image reflected in the plateglass window,
--Watch out, girls, Ah's a-comin' on in!
Without bothering to put out his hand, he left the batwing doors slapping violently back and forth as....
He was mounting a rickety stair into the penetralia of an old frame building, whose dingy upper floor was hived with offices of dentists, lawyers, doctors, and other oldtime professional men. He remembered then that he had come to find the body of a beautiful girl floating in a chemical bath. If one poured in the right solution of the botanical medicines, one might rescue her from the twilight of her glassy prison. He took a door on the left and wandered down the dimly lighted hall of a photographer's gallery. It was full of oval portraits of girls, whose faces, tinted and lifesized, were vaguely familiar to him, all half-dissolved in the dark fluid that closed on the pale flesh like iris on a pupil's brilliant image. Their beautiful lost faces seemed alive; indeed he could see the women now full length, hovering in curtained recesses of the wall, clothed in gorgeous, faded gowns, some with hands extended, some with tears in their beautiful sad eyes.
--Come back. Come back. And take another turning. Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h.
--Tell me now in what hidden way is--
He had approached a door in which he saw himself reflected, young with smouldering dark hair, the young adonis of the older county before the war. He touched the knob, turned it, and pushed...
A fierce gush of light drenched him. Someone had shoved him through the door, and he was standing on a little wooden platform surrounded by
hundreds, banked around platform on court house lawn, laughing, applauding,
--Hurrah for johnny! Speech! Speech!
PROFESSOR HORACE GLADSTONE
baldheaded, affable, touching pointer to chart of man's anatomy hanging on tree,
--Observe the unusual development of the lumps of love.
barefooted, in overalls, one suspender of pants broken, straw hat, hands in pockets, grass stem in mouth,
--Shucks, folks, I--
--My boy, I wish I had enjoyed the advantage of a phrenological examination when I was your age. With a happy exercise of your natural faculties, I expect you to become--
in frockcoat, tall black hat, feeling johnny's calf, thigh, back, and biceps muscles,
--Shocko the strong, winner of the grand individual prize for yearling bulls, is the most remarkable specimen of fleetness, strength, and that indefinable something that ladies lack we have seen in many a year.
throwing garland of blue cornflowers around johnny's neck,
--Amorous leander, beautiful and young--
--how about trading with me, sight unseen?
lighting up, blowing rings,
--Thanks, garwood. Don't care if I do.
dancing on fringes of crowd, singing,
--And some it chew and some it smoke,
And some it up their nose do poke.
W. B. SHAWNESSY
skipping nimbly-about, pointing accusing finger over heads of the crowd,
--And jist when you suppose you're flyin'
To beulah 'an the land of zion,
Ole satan kivers you with tar
An' smokes you like a big seegar!
in summer dresses, flinging ecstatic flowers,
--And some it chew and some it smoke
And some it up their nose do poke!
at lemonade stand, holding tall glass,
--I trust you all perceive the object that I hold in my hand. As president of the wummy-crummy-tummy-empty, I have a little confession to make. Until the age of twenty-one, I touched nothing stronger than pure gin. But one day in the company of a slicker from the city, I allowed myself to be persuaded to drink a glass of water. Friends, I'm here to tell you--
striding down street, first of a throng, shaking the brown shag of his hair, white teeth laughing,
--Wall, I'll be the original jumpin' jackass from the banks of the salt! If it ain't jack shawnessy!
reeling under openhanded slap on back,
--Hello, flash! My word, boy, I thought you were--
grabbing aunt pinafore's waist, hopping hugefooted, banging her bony body around, grabbing her by the hair, swinging her in wild gyrations.
--Young folks, old folks, come if you dare.
We're dancin' like the devil on the court house square!
--Pure yaller corn that comes by the cup,
Come on, fellers, drink up--drink up!
--Sorry. No thanks--you see my pa--
Besides they tell me it's against the law.
patentleather hair, cigar, spats, gold watchchain, diamond stickpin,
--It's just colored water. Get up and get!
Come on, now, johnny, and win that bet!
--It tastes just a little like cider, pard.
twirling red parasol,
--Ah take mine straight--an' ah love it hard!
tipsy, trying to explain to crowd,
--Adam, the principal root of it all,
Was a practicing pagan before the fall.
fancy vest, derby, spats, oily, insinuating voice, speaking through horn,
--See the pretty girlies! Step right in!
They twist their shimmies, and they shake like sin.
They quiver like the wind on the wavin' corn,
Or a bowlful of jelly on a frosty morn!
comedian's white duck pants, straw skimmer, striped shirt, bowtie, fancy cane, surrounded by girls in burlesque rigs,
--Pardon me, ladies, excuse me, gosh!
We never did this in old oshkosh--
in line, arms linked, bending over to show plump bottoms in plushy pants,
--Well, we're just the ladies that'll show you how.
Oh, dear! if his mother could see him now!
grabbing johnny by arm, pulling him up to shooting gallery, shoving a horsepistol into his hand,
--All right, johnny, take aim and pull,
And let's have a bullet in the eye of the bull.
Win a little dollie that winds with a key--
LIFE-SIZED ANIMATED DOLL
posed against background of riverscene, palely lovely, dark hair shaken, innocent blue eyes, holding a garland of oakleaves,
--And put it in the oven for baby and me!
sighting pistol, pulled this way and that by giggling girls,
|--This doggone shootin' arn ain't wuth a
Ah cain't seem exactly to git the--
The pistol went off with a terrific explosion, leaving only the handle in his hand. Girls screamed. Nickolodeons cracked and spewed gold coins all over the ground. The courthouse clock broke with a tremendous dong. The fire department ran out in shiny new helmets to put out the blaze in the opera house. A steamboat whistle went off fullblast, and the eight-fifteen came screaming around the bend. The door to the free enquirer office flew open, and a dozen newsboys shot out waving semi-centennial extras.
shoving paper into johnny's hand,
--Read all about it! Git yuh papuh, heah! Biggest dern newstory of the yeah!
stepping into doorway of postoffice, reading half aloud from newspaper headlines printed in jasmine-scented ink,
--LOCAL LADY TAKES FATAL STEP. SNAKE BRUISES HEEL OF DEMI-REP. LAST OF THE PURITANS SUNK IN SHAME. SCARLET LETTER REVEALS HIS NAME. POET INVOLVED IN WHISKEY RING. ONE-SHOT JOHNNY IS GOING TO SWING.
W. B. SHAWNESSY
peering intently at johnny,
--Uh--I reckon you've heard the bad news, john? Oh--it gives me--uh--that is to say--uh--I have always looked upon you, john, as--uh--
accepting telegram from messenger boy and reading,
--THE MORTAL REMNANT TO THE IMMORTAL PART STOP DON'T DESPAIR SAVED IN THE NICK OF TIME WILL SOLVE MURDER AS SOON AS I ARRIVE STOP AM BRINGING NECESSARY ACCESSORIES AND ACCESSIBLE NECESSARIES STOP AM IN MIDDLE OF MONUMENTAL HANGOVER DRANK FAR TOO MUCH PARNASSIAN SPRING IN STRAWLAND STOP IN HASTE HAVE DATE WITH FRAIL FRANCES AND HER FROLICSOME FANNY STOP SWEET EVE THE MOTHER OF MANKIND WAS BLESSED WITH A BEAUTIFUL FULLSTOP AND EVENING STAR AND ONE CLEAR CALL FOR ME AND MAY THERE BE SOME BITTERS ON THE BAR WHEN I TURN UP FOR TEA STOP STAND UP STAND UP FOR JESUS CHRIST WHAT A DAY HOPE I NEVER HAVE ANOTHER SUCH A STOP FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP SPOT TOPS POTS...
He had left the postoffice and was standing on the station platform with hundreds of other people waiting for the arrival of a distinguished visitor. A low hissing noise was rising from the east, growing louder.
bottle of whiskey in one hand, other hand inside bodice of voluptuous matron,
--It's a balloon, that's what it is!
straw hat, vineleaves, and goatsfeet,
--It's a rocket! Comin' this way!
masque of silenus over honest country face, corncob horns,
--Le's git hell out a here.
The sky darkened. A fiery streak shot luridly over the roofs of freehaven, descending in a stately arc--a huge torch or the burning stick of a rocket, descending, descending until it turned out to be a train pulling into the station, covered with bunting, someone riding astride the boiler on a peculiar saddle. The individual in question sprang lightly down, turning a somersault in the air, black coattails stiffly out behind, eyes compounded by brilliant lenses, midnight-black hair slicked flat to reptile skull.
PROFESSOR JERUSALEM WEBSTER STILES
young, dapper, self-possessed, bowing gracefully to crowd, twirling malacca cane,
--Greetings one and all from foreign parts. As I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted by the protestant reformation, I trust you all perceive the object that I hold in my hand. (Laughing galvanically) Ha, ha, ha, ha. That's only a bit of a stick, perfessor, you say. So it is, friends, but this stick is the miracle-maker and wonder-worker of our age. Now, friends--
PRESIDENT OF LADIES' SITTING AND SEWING SOCIETY
buxom young woman, giggling and blushing,
--Your majesty, the ladies of the raintree county sitting and sewing society-hee, hee, wish to see our efforts established on a broad base of substantial solidarity--hee, hee. (Bending over and presenting broad base to perfessor) In commemoration of your ardent efforts in our behalf, we wish to tender you this token of our cordial amity--hee, hee.
with malacca cane expertly flipping the president's petticoats over her head and gravely pinching her bloomered bottom,
--Madame typographical error, I accept this festive offering in the spirit in which it is tendered. Henceforth it shall occupy a prominent place in my home as a reminder to me that your worthy organization has ever been forward in backwarding the cause for which your ancestors fought so nobly. (Rolling eyes upward and twiddling thumbs) Noble washington, how would thy paternal spirit be aroused to see how abundantly the promise of--
presenting bulky baby with soiled diaper,
--Which my fellow members of the solid citizens and merchants organization wish to express--
gingerly transferring baby to secretary,
--And trailing clouds of glory do we come from--
MEMBER OF G.A.R.
--Your honor, as poet-laureate of the local branch of the veterans of the grand army of the republic, I--
brandishing civil war pistol, taking potshots at veteran, shouting at top of lungs,
--Half a league half a league half a league onward christian soldiers marching through georgia hurrah hurrah we bring the jubilee. (Throwing pistol on ground and watching it wriggle into a baseball bat) It's about time you stone-age anthropoids were instructed in an ingenious game.
Seizing the bat, the perfessor laid down a sharp single over second base and began to sprint around the court house square at topspeed, disappearing from view on the south side.
tall black hat, gun in air,
--After several delays, folks, we're ready to start this here race. Mr. john w. shawnessy will be running on the pole.
naked except for tight duck trousers, trying to explain,
--Adam, who set a speedy pace,
Started--and dern near finished--the race....
There had been a terrific explosion. Everyone was running in the court house square. Children and dogs ran under the wheels of carriages. Old men ran, waving crutches and shouting hymen. Grandams ran, holding up petticoats and making bony legs blur with speed. Girls in summer dresses ran, emitting high squeaks of excitement, backs gracefully erect, necks and shoulder held with fashionable stiffness, parasols maintained primly over heads.
running with torch in hand,
--Where's the finish line?
pulling blasts of the whistle, comin' down the river on the robert e. lee,
--Come on, boys, let's rise and shine!
Mr. shawnessy, pour on the pine!
naked, running between statues of winged women, over a course strewn with magnolia blossoms,
--A platform there--at the end of the street--
Victory--be in my bounding feet!
crowding johnny out with fast buggy, laying whip to johnny's horses,
--They knew damn well he would bang her bones,
Cause the man at the throttle was--
in fulldress uniform of civil war colonel, leaping into cab of locomotive to escape crowd flinging rice and shoes short of the speeding train, roaring through a crossing, pulling blasts of the whistle, puffing on huge cigar, hanging out lawyer's shingle, speaking in suavely ironical voice,
--Advice to both sexes--marital joy--
Sleep in your grave--beloved boy!
running a shade ahead of johnny, wild blue eyes fixed on distant string,
--Five times runnin' I won that dash--
Perkins, orville--better known as flash!
on platform surrounded by notables, shaking her shoulders and flinging her hair,
--Come on, honey, the weather's fine
Down below the mixin' and the dazin' line.
in stageset of buggies with background painted with county fair motifs,
--Goddess, give of your gracious bounty
To the fastest runner in raintree county!
He had run head-on into a tangle of girls' dresses and shifts of river scenery, scattering cheesecloth oaks, daubed rushes, and mouldy river vistas all over the stage of the opera house, where the play was apparently still in full cry. He went on rolling right into the wings where he landed in a great mound of clover hay.
barefooted, naked under loose summer dress, hair unbound, hairpin between teeth, reading from a letter in a faroff dreamy voice,
--My darling johnny, I take my pen in hand and seat myself to write you these few lines, hoping that they will find you--
as of waters running through the rushes,
--O hymen hymenaee! Shuck-a-muck. Hush, johnny. Tall. Tall.
He was naked. He lay beside the river in the deep hump of the hay. Greening brightness rained on his eyelids. He was breathless with an old desire, remembering summers of ionian years, how he had lain beside an island sea in the republic of the pillars, had listened to the shouting of the breakers on the sand, had sought to unriddle a beautiful inscription floating up from the antiquity of human days, the legend of a broken oar....
--Beloved, I was born of foam and waited for you here beside the river. Oft was I weary when I toiled with thee.
of rivernymphs appealing,
--Impetuous boy! Shuck me. Husk me, lover. All. All.
pensive, running warm hands up the cool flow of nell's legs beneath the dress,
--To escape some afternoon the terminus of raintree county, to put aside the textbooks and the temperance plays, to find you, unknelled and nameless one. Eternally be coming, bounded by eternal being.
eyes shining through tears, her naked form beginning to arch and flow beneath his hands,
--Did you know that I plunged all day without relief. Come, I will put a garland of soft flowers on your head.
rising, frantic, pealing, appealing,
--Strip me, love. Husk. Shuck-a-muck! Tall. Tall.
Her mouth briefly touched his with wild kisses, but already beneath his eager hands her body was barky and rough, her hair wet, her shoulders greencoated like old bronze. Her cold white belly was scalyrinded, her slippery trunk writhed in his arms. He heard....
of the waterbirds, flapping slowly up the chilly twilight of the river,
of frogs shouting in derision from the shallows,
--Shak-a-mak. Kak-kak-kak. A-wash. A-wash.
Lonesome and threatening was the sound. The shocks of wheat in nearby fields were flooding with the risen waters. He was rowing down the river close to the banks at night. Lanterns flared, sputtered, and swung in the underbrush. He was being pursued for a crime.
He seemed to remember having stolen the original of the venus found in melos, a solid chunk of marble hewn into woman, but lacking arms. He would be known for a thief in the night, his parents and friends would never understand, he would never be forgiven. He might as well leave the county for good and go west. If he could escape his pursuers, pack his things, and run away with...
The statue in his old bedroom at the home place was of a woman naked, seated, head drooped to one side, eyes shut, in the attitude of eve repentant. It had been a great mistake for him to fashion this lovely image of antiquity and keep it in his room, especially now that the wrong people had got wind of it.
a beautiful warmblooded woman with long golden hair, superbly naked, reading,
--The meeting of the strawland literary society was held last tuesday on the spacious and beautifully landscaped grounds of mrs. desmore j. brown's. Proceedings were opened with a selection feelingly rendered from book six of--
--They're up here somewhere.
Heavy boots thundered on the stair, the door burst open, and a horde of men swinging lanterns and holding shotguns poured into the room.
righteously indignant but at a disadvantage,
--Merely arranging the program for next--
THE REVEREND LLOYD JARVEY
in costume of blind milton, squaretoed shoes, puritan tunic and breeches, long lank hair, pale sightless eyes like balls of blue flint,
--Of man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree--
twirling hangman's knot,
--We'll be reading about you in the noosepapers, johnny.
stirring bucket of hot tar,
--A-hangin' on every word.
--Crucify 'im. Lynch 'im. Burn 'im.
--Extra. Extra. Read all about it.
waving for silence,
--Before you act in haste, listen to this telegram from senator garwood b. jones. (Reading) DEAR SKINNY OUR TEARS WILL KEEP YOUR MEMORY EVER BRIGHT--
underchin whiskers, round babyface, pincenez glasses, one palm aloft in benediction,
--Go west young man.
delivering second telegram,
--Read all about it.
--TAKE MY ADVICE GET HELL OUT OF RAINTREE COUNTY BEFORE ITS TOO LATE HERO BOY STOP BETTER BE LIVE JUDAS THEN DEAD JESUS--
THE REVEREND JARVEY
approaching with shiny sickle, swiping blindly here and there,
--Bring them in. Bring them in. Bring them in from the fields of sin. All gaul is divided into three parts--
PROFESSOR JERUSALEM WEBSTER STILES
riding by freehaven train station in buggy, lashing at the horses, a woman on the seat beside him, followed by hundreds of irate citizens ahorse, afoot, in buggies and wagons, on bicycles,
--Woodman, spare that tree!
For my head am bendin' low!
My country, 'tis of thee!
Goddammit, dobbin, go!
--Goodby, perfessor! Goodby!
borne aloft on shoulders of throng, his body tied on crossed rails, dripping hot tar, stuck with feathers to resemble huge river bird,
--To john wesley shawnessy, life's eternal young american, ave atque vale. Awk. Awk.
Green be the grass above thee,
Friend of my better days.
None knew thee but to love thee,
But whiskey never pays!
In the darkness by the river, the train whistle was a mournful voice approaching. He was alone there wandering to the limit of familiar fields. He passed a lonely rock, glowing in the darkness as if it had retained the redness and warmth of the day after the land around had faded into night. It was like a great roc's egg lying there in the fading evening, and as he leaned his head against it, the rind was warm, and he saw that it was covered with wrinkles and little scars. Leaves were falling all abroad upon the land. The withered grass was rustling by the river. He looked back across the land and saw the yellow lights of the home place, but this time he knew that he must go. He must make the mythical separation that he had never quite been able to make before. The train's one eye was winking in the dark; the smokestack was a flare of fire. He was stumbling up the grade to catch the last car by. His voice was a hoarse cry of anguish for the faded years, but it was lost in the wail of the train, whose ironlunged shriek was heard prolonged and dying all abroad upon the fields and distant roads and rivers of the county, the voice of a lost century, a piercing diphthong
sadness and farewell,
of leaving on a train for parts unknown,
he had some memory that was more than a dream's making. ....
To SELECTIONS from: THE DREAM SECTION OUTLINE of "THE DREAM" On THE DREAM SECTION, from: SHADE OF THE RAINTREE, by Larry Lockridge, THE NOVEL: SELECTED WRITINGS FROM RAINTREE COUNTY To Home Contents ~ Site managed by RIII Page last updated: 19 August 2001 http://www.raintreecounty.com