For the first time in Washington College history, we have a real, professional art gallery. Despite being a last minute addition to the Gibson Center’s redesign, the Kohl Gallery has made a fine impression with its first exhibition, “Second Nature: Masterpieces of 19th-Century Landscape Painting.” Let me begin by saying: I approve.
Curated by Dr. Donald McColl (with much help from his students and summer interns), this show was designed for the gallery’s inaugural presentation. Covering a broad range of landscape art, every sub-genre is represented, picturesque and sublime, from Realism to Impressionism.
Most people have only heard of the major artists in this show: Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Church, and a few others. We see their calendars and greeting cards, the same popular images again and again (such paintings are usually referred to as “masterpieces.”) The Kohl Gallery is hosting several paintings by these great artists, but—interestingly—these are not always the works that visitors gravitate toward.
My own mother said amazedly, “There is a Renoir right over there, but I’m drawn to this landscape,” referring to a Sisley piece on the opposite side of the room. It’s been common for visitors to practically ignore even their favorite artists in favor of a new aesthetic experience.
So, in this vein of discovering something new and unusual, let’s focus on some of the show’s excellent, but not as familiar pieces, as well as the big names.
One delightful little picture is Scène de Forêt by Jules-Jacques Veyrassat. This forest scene shows a man sitting under some trees while his horses and cart rest on a path nearby. In this calm moment, the figures sit very still in dappled light from the tree canopy. Despite the sedentary positions, there is much life in the Scène itself because of its colors. While there is a standard forest color scheme of olive, green and brown, there is an additional layer of rosy warm tints that work to highlight the foliage. These dabs of yellow, peach, and red stir the otherwise peaceful shaded forest into a more stimulating environment.
While most of the paintings in the gallery are fairly large, Scène de Forêt is actually quite small, measuring approximately 12” by 14”. At such an intimate size, the painting invites viewers to come closer, overstep the frame, and really enter into the forest. The painting is hung at a low level, only four or five feet off the floor, so most people have to lean down to enter this world. Children, however, are at the perfect height to see the scene without much manipulation. Because they stand at an equal height, they can access the work more easily than taller adults.
On a larger scale, discussion of the Kohl Gallery’s “Second Nature” would not be complete without mentioning Thomas Moran’s Tantallon Castle, North Berwick, Scotland (1910). This painting is—dare I say it?—tantalizing beyond belief. As one of the larger images in the exhibition (30” by 40”), it was very wisely given a wall of its own.
Dedicated to depicting the sublime, Moran shows the extreme power and overbearing beauty of nature. The painting places the viewer at the bottom of imposing cliffs and a wild sea. Across the waves, on a high cliff, is Tantallon Castle, expertly spotlighted by a bolt of sun through the storm-angry clouds. Words alone can hardly describe the jolting rush of power conveyed through this image. The waves churn wickedly, and because the painting is hung at chest-height, the viewer truly feels that he will be swept up and swallowed by the sea. Is it any surprise that this is a crowd favorite?
It’s incredible to look at many of these paintings because they were painted in and around the era of Impressionism. Thus, some features of the landscape are more abstract than others. A painting may appear to just be a great mess of colored blotches, but you come to realize a greater symphony of composition. This is especially evident in my favorite artwork in the show.
La Mare aux Vipères, by Diaz de la Peña, shows a small pond far under a grey sky. The choppiness of the brushstrokes only allows a cursory impression of the land and sky. The terrain seems to be devoid of human life, but closer examination allows a lone figure to appear in the center of the composition. In a few small brushstrokes, she is shown to trudge with the heavy weight of a pack on her shoulder. If she blends so neatly into the landscape that we hardly notice she’s there, what makes the quick brushstrokes of her clothing stand out? Only the genius of the artist.
Each of the artists showcased in this exhibition displays incomparable genius. In this review, there is not enough space to mention all of the other show-stopping pieces. This would include: Moran’s Venice, showing a perfect and clear vision of man’s manipulation of water; Church’s exquisite sunset, proving his mastery of color and light; Heade’s bold capturing of the jewel-toned birds and flowers (such as those that grace the exhibition’s advertising poster).
All I can do is suggest, demand, and insist that students see the Kohl Gallery for themselves. It is a gorgeous space in itself, but the artwork will take your breath away. The gallery is open on Tuesdays 2-8 p.m., Wednesdays-Fridays 2-5 p.m., and Saturdays 11-4 p.m. Students are admitted for free with a valid ID, and all others are asked to give a donation of $5.
“Second Nature” will be on display until November 15, which gives students just enough time to visit and get a new look at the natural world.
For the first time in Washington College history, we have a real, professional art gallery. Despite being a last minute addition to the Gibson Center’s redesign, the Kohl Gallery has made a fine impression with its first exhibition, “Second Nature: Masterpieces of 19th-Century Landscape Painting.” Let me begin by saying: I approve.
I was watching one of those forensic science crime dramas recently. This guy, he kills a college girl and stuffs her in a garbage bag behind a dumpster. The police arrest an art professor, but find out he didn’t do it after they get sperm samples off of the garbage bag. Turns out, it was the janitor. They should have hired me, Hugh Decker. I could have told them that when they found his garbage.
So, they figure out its the janitor with a pair of tweezers, a test tube and some PhDs. I guess they jammed his sperm into their supercomputer, and it spit out his name. They never even saw him before, and they’re sure he did it because the red stuff turned blue in a vial in a lab a hundred miles from where they found that girl’s body.
At the end of the episode, they cut to the janitor strapped to a metal table while they stick a needle in his arm and kill him quietly. I felt sorry for him. He never even saw the lab rats who nabbed him. I think a murderer at least deserves to look the man who caught him in the eye. That’s what I live for, at least; that split second when you know they did it, and they know you know they did it, and it’s over. I don’t understand why else you’d want to be in this business. The pay is rotten.
I don’t get many cases these days because of test tubes and all that. The only reason people hire me anymore is when they want to keep their predicament under the radar. I don’t talk to cops, and they don’t talk to me. It’s a lovely relationship. I occasionally get missing property cases too. I had a lady come in last week who wanted me to find her little boy’s bicycle. It was behind the shed. I take what I can get. Most of the time it’s so quiet around here that I write stories about cases I wish I had. In my stories, I have a secretary named Vivian. In reality, I have a beagle named Wade. He just chews on the furniture.
Wade and I were in the office playing solitaire when I got my last big case. The big metal door opened in the hallway outside my office, and I heard the slow click of high heels on the worn linoleum. I could see her silhouette through the window on the door when she knocked. She came in without my say-so, but I let it slide; she could’ve set the building on fire, and I wouldn’t have minded. That red dress made the whole room go Technicolor, and even Wade was drooling when she sat down in his chewing chair. She looked around the office for a minute and then asked if she could book a flight to Milwaukee. I told her one floor up, two doors over.
About twenty minutes later a young, tall chap comes in without knocking. He goes to the window and pries the blinds open with his fingers. After he’s satisfied, the blinds snap shut with a metallic ruffle, and he sits down in Wade’s chair. This guy says his name is Wysockewicz, but I’m not buying it. It’s just like a Pollack to lie about his name. He’s wearing a Washington Nationals baseball cap in Baltimore during the off-season. He’s not from this neighborhood, or he’d know better. I know toddlers that would knock him out cold with a rattle for that.
He doesn’t waste time.
“What’s that smell?”
“I don’t know. It’s like a musty, smoky, industrial cleaner smell.”
“Bourbon, Lucky Strikes, and Wade.”
“Oh. What’s Wade?”
“He’s under your chair. Don’t wake him up, you’re a bit of a disappointment after our last visitor.”
“Right. So, do you get a lot of business here? You busy?”
“That depends on what?”
“Get to the point, wise-guy.”
“Erm, ok. You’re a private detective, right?”
“That smell doesn’t lie.”
“Yeah. How long have you been around?”
“Been a snoop since ’74. I think that’s long enough.”
“Long enough for what?”
“Don’t get smart with me.”
“Ok. I mean in this building, this location. How long?”
“Since you were playing hopscotch in the schoolyard. Is this going anywhere?”
“What? Look, never mind. I’m leaving.”
“Sure, go to the cops. I’ll bet they’ll help you out fine.”
“Yeah. I bet they might even put down their doughnuts a minute to take your case. But for a little extra you can get the real thing. I’ll even take the case for 10% down, plus expenses. The rest when I say I’m done.”
“I mean, maybe you can’t handle it. It’s a tough one. A real doozie.”
“Don’t talk down to me, smart guy. I’ve been around the block a few times. You ever heard of The Candy Cane Murders?”
“Well it only took me three days to find the public library’s autographed copy.”
“I see. Well, ok then. It’s going to be a long one though. And dangerous. You might be out on the road for a while.”
“Spare me. Just give me the details.”
“Have you ever heard of The Black Noir?”
“Can’t say that I have.”
“They say he’s the one that leaves Cognac and three roses on Edgar Allen Poe’s grave every January 19th. That’s this Friday. He comes to the grave between five and six a.m. I want you to find out who he is.”
“Because I think he may be my father, who I haven’t seen in years”
“So, you want me to find this guy, your Daddy, and?”
“Tell me where he is, how I can get in touch with him. Last I heard he was living at this address downtown.” He pulled a business card out of his wallet and scribbled an address on the back. “He’s not there anymore, but maybe the Super can point you somewhere.”
“Ok Wysockewicz, I’ll take your case. Fifty down now, 450 when you shake your old man’s hand again. I’ll phone you about expenses.”
“My number is on the card. Thank you, Mr. Decker.”
He got up to go but turned around on his way to the door. I was striking a match to light a smoke when he spoke.
“You should really do something about that smell.”
“This ain’t your office, pal.”
“Yeah. Too bad.”
Rather than wait a week and grab this creep at Poe’s grave I decided to dig around a little first. I wanted to get the jump on this Black Noir. I wanted to know what kind of gum he chewed before I dropped on him. I figured I’d find him first, and then use his date with Poe as the time and place for the father-son get together. A little booze, some flowers, and a family reunion. It was going to be real pretty.
The address Wysockewicz gave me was a grimy little apartment in a complex near the river. It was a dump, and the muddy snow piles around the parking lot didn’t do much for the ambiance. I went up four flights of concrete stairs to the top of the building and knocked on the door of the apartment. No answer. I knocked again with my foot, and the door opened. Nobody home, and from the looks of it nobody had been home in a while. It was a messy joint, cardboard boxes everywhere. I opened up one of the boxes and it was full of cups, Starbucks cups. I figured The Black Noir, if he had ever been there in the first place, had skipped town a long time ago. On my way out I checked with the Super, who must have been older than the building.
“Yeah, Starbucks bought this building in, oh, May 2002 or thereabouts, to use as a warehouse. Nobody lives in those rooms anymore. They keep me around to make sure the pigeons don’t get in and eat the biscotti.”
“Can you remember who lived in room 402?”
“I think the last man to live in that room was a Mr. Smail, but I could be wrong. It’s been five years, and when Starbucks came in they took all the records and whatnot.”
“He was an odd one, Smail. Wouldn’t ever look you in the eye. I can’t trust a man who won’t look you in the eye. Why do you want to know, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“You do what?”
“I’ll ask the questions here, old timer.”
The Super got me a phone book from his office. There were no listings for a Smail in the Baltimore area. I took a drive to the library and had one of the girls behind the counter do an international search on a computer.
“It says the nearest Smail lives in Columbia, around Washington. Do you want the address?”
“That’d be great.”
“Good luck with the case, Mr. Decker. If we ever misplace any first editions we’ll be sure to call you again.”
I took the lead in DC and found the address. Smail lived in a town house near a shopping mall. I parked outside and waited for signs of life. It was 8 p.m., Monday the 15th. Nothing happened all that night. At around 9 a.m. a car pulled into his driveway and a man got out wearing all black and a green cap. He walked into the house and kept the lights off. He didn’t make a move again until 7:30, when he left the house dressed the same as he was that morning and got in his car. I tailed him to the airport, where he parked short term.
I followed him to the terminal gate, where he breezed through security. This was the end of the line for me. I had to wait. I got a space near his in the short-term lot and sat in the cold car pouring over the case in my head until he showed up around 8 a.m. and drove home, with me close behind him. I got ahead of him on the beltway and beat him to his place. When he got back, I grabbed him before he got to the door.
To Be Continued
In Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Septimus Hodge, former tutor to Thomasina Coverly, spends the rest of his life after Thomasina’s death living in the hermitage on the property of Sidley Park. Throughout the play, references are made to Septimus’ views on determinism and Thomasina’s discoveries about Newton’s Laws in order to provoke a relationship between Newton’s heat theorem and Thomasina’s rice pudding theory: that eventually everything will be completely mixed, and it shall never be able to be stirred apart.
Thomasina finds it very odd that “you cannot stir things apart,” which she realizes while stirring her jam into her rice pudding (5). When she tells Septimus this, he dismisses it, believing that it is not strange at all. Thomasina sees that there is a discrepancy in Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which she shows in her analysis of the rice pudding. His Third Law of Motion is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction; however, the Third Law is not quite right, because the equal and opposite reaction of the stirring of the pudding should result in the removal of the jam, but it does not. In order for Newton’s Law to be correct, “time must needs run backwards,” like in a rewinding film (5). The problem is that something is lost in the reverse direction: the heat of the action. When Thomasina decides to map out an apple leaf in order to define the irregularity of nature in terms of mathematics, she begins her work on fractals. She believes that, “you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could” (5). As she goes on later to explain using her system of fractals, one should be able to create a formula for the future, and if they could then they could be able to return to the past because everything would be pre-determined. Originally, Septimus believes that Thomasina is questioning free will and its existence, and if Newton’s Laws are correct, “what becomes of free will?” (5).
When Septimus intends on fighting his duel with first Chater and then Brice, he writes Thomasina a letter addressing her theories of rice pudding. Septimus, ever the tutor, does not want to abandon Thomasina, or let her thoughts be forgotten, because they were important. In the event of his death, Thomasina would not return to anything she had learned with him. He does not want her to stop her observations and discoveries with the rice pudding and Newton’s Laws just because he is gone. Septimus believes Thomasina can move on without him there, and that he should be forgotten so she can move on. However, when neither Chater nor Brice show up for their respective duels, Septimus is able to live on, though Lady Croom discovers she is the object of his affections.
Newton’s Laws leave no room for free will, so in essence they prove the world to be pre-determined, so that no matter what people do, everything has already been planned out and nothing can be done to alter fate. However, if Newton’s Laws are flawed, such as the Second Law, which Thomasina points out, then free will does exist. This is the point that Septimus argues, because in 1809, Newton’s Laws were considered infallible. Thomasina’s connection of the Law to the rice pudding shows the inconsistency of Newton’s Law. When she swirls the jam into the pudding, it mixes together until all that is left is the pink pudding; however, she sees that one cannot stir the jam out of the pudding by simply swirling it the other way. If Newton’s Law is correct, stirring the jam backwards through the pudding would result in the removal of the jam: an equal and opposite reaction to the addition of the jam. Her theory is that Newton’s Laws are not infallible, and thus free will – the choice of one’s own fate – exists. Free will makes the choices people make irreversible, and the consequences are irrevocable. This shaping of a person’s future is the opposite of determinism.
When Lady Croom leaves Septimus for Count Zelinsky, she keeps Septimus interested by saying, “don’t despair of my approval,” or, in other words, she is very nearly keeping him as a back up to the Count (83). This occurs right before Thomasina’s eighteenth birthday. She asks Septimus to teach her to waltz, and they seal it with a kiss before and one due at the end of the lessons. Thomasina, who is clearly infatuated with Septimus, kisses him once in the hermitage. In the end of the play, Thomasina comes to Septimus during the night while he is reviewing her math homework. She reminds him of their deal, and he downplays their kiss, saying that it “was not a shilling kiss! I would not give sixpence to have it back” (80). He does this because there are too many taboos for their relationship to work. For example, there is their teacher and student relationship, the fact that she is an aristocrat and he is an entrusted servant, and the fact that he slept with her mother, Lady Croom. Thomasina, however, refuses to downplay the kiss, because it clearly meant a lot to her. It is evident that it meant a lot to her by the way that Augustus, her brother, demanded to talk with Septimus earlier that day. Augustus suggests that Thomasina told him the kiss meant more than what it did – the payment for the waltzing lessons.
That night, she demands that he teach her to waltz, because she feels she ought to know before her birthday the next day. The waltz was considered a very intimate and sexually evocative dance, where two people were pressed closely to one another. Often it was not socially acceptable, and this is illustrated by the fact that Thomasina must learn it in secret as well as the fact that Septimus kisses her twice in earnest while they are waltzing. Even Thomasina realizes that waltzing is taboo when she tells Septimus that if Lady Croom should catch them she “will tell her we only met to kiss, not to waltz” (92). The two kisses Septimus gives to Thomasina show he is interested in a relationship with her no matter how much he has brushed her off or attempted to dissuade her previously. However, when Thomasina asks Septimus, during a pause in their dancing, to come up to her bed, Septimus deliberately refuses her. He refuses her because he does not want to turn her into the picturesque “ruined child” (11). He cares for her and does what he believes is the right thing by refusing her advances, leaving her with the warning, “be careful with the flame” (96).
The sexual desire Thomasina and Septimus feel for one another is clear by the way she invites him back to her room and the way he kisses her earnestly twice while they are dancing. When he refuses her invitation to her room, he believes that he is doing what is right, because Thomasina was never part of Septimus’ plans, and he will not form a sexual relationship with her because he cares for her. This leads back to Chloë’s comment on how “it’s all because of sex” (73). While she and her brother Valentine are talking at the beginning of scene seven, Chloë says, “the universe is deterministic all right, just like Newton said, I mean it’s trying to be, but the only thing going wrong is people fancying people who aren’t supposed to be in that part of the plan” (73). By taking this into account, it is obvious that Septimus and Thomasina were not meant to fall in love with one another, that Thomasina was not meant to die in a fire, and that Septimus was not meant to become an insane hermit for the rest of his days. However, because Thomasina and Septimus fell in love with one another, the universe became self-determined, and they chose their own fates.
During Thomasina’s Latin lesson, she and Septimus get into an argument about the loss of the Great Library of Alexandria. The Library burned down, and Septimus believes that through determinism the destroyed works will appear again rewritten, and Thomasina believes that it is a tragedy because the works will never be written exactly the same again. Septimus points out that although everything was burned in the Library, nothing is ever completely lost. One day, someone will rethink the ideas or plays and write them all again. Nothing is ever completely lost.
Thomasina sees it as a tragedy, and she is right, because although the works may be rewritten they are different from the original, which is evident in the differences between Bernard’s Byron letter and Septimus’ Byron letter. In Bernard’s letter, he believes that Byron wrote a letter telling Septimus how Byron had to flee because he killed Chater; however, in Septimus’ Byron letter, the reader knows – though it is unopened – that it most likely deals with Byron’s dismissal from Sidley Park because of his carnal relations with Charity Chater. There is a parallel between the burning of the library and the hermitage, as well as the fact that Thomasina figured out the fractals in 1809 and in 1970 the rest of the world figured it out. Septimus says, “we shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind” (38). What Septimus means is that everyone tries to convey their thoughts, plays, ideas, and inventions during life, but sometimes things fall apart or something unexpected happens and people lose their work as they go. The work they lose will be picked up and worked on by those that follow.
Thomasina’s belief that something is lost in the process is clear in her Latin lesson where Septimus, ironically, contradicts himself, because there is something lost in the translation of Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” when he translates it into Latin and Thomasina, in turn, translates it back into English. Her translation is not the same as Shakespeare’s original play, thus proving Thomasina’s point that the works will not be the same, even if they are re-written. She believes something will be lost. This ties into the fact that Septimus cannot let go of Thomasina, and no matter what he does, he cannot move past his love for her. Just like the Great Library’s lost works, Thomasina is also lost to the world and forgotten. It is more than just the loss of her discoveries and her mathematics, but it is also the loss of her, personally. The loss of heat in Newton’s thermodynamics laws proves that heat is needed to stir things together, and because of the loss of heat, one cannot stir things apart. The motions of bodies in heat are irregular. The initial heat is gone for good.
Septimus’ choice in the beginning to fight in the duel and have Thomasina forget about him was an act of free will. When the reverse scenario occurs, where Thomasina is burned to death, it is a product of her own free will. She chooses the irregularity over the regularity, but in this situation it is Septimus who must move on. He cannot. His belief that Newton’s Laws are infallible is turned upside-down by Thomasina’s theories, and his belief that the works of the Great Library will be re-written is, in turn, questioned; this leads Septimus to question the existence of pre-determinism. If Septimus can prove, through living out the remainder of his life as a hermit, that one can stir the universe apart by separating each object in space and calculating it as a fractal, then he would be able to figure out the formula for the future and thus for the past. By doing this, he could disprove free will, and thus he could show that he had no choice in his actions: leaving Thomasina and not going to bed with her. Thus, he could say that it was pre-determined. Then he wouldn’t have to take full blame, because he could prove, he could know that it was fate for him to refuse her and she to die in the fire. Thus he could relieve some of the guilt that weighed on his conscience.
Stoppard, Tom. “Arcadia.” London: Faber & Faber, 1993.
My weekends have become a blur. I flee from campus, hiding downtown or traveling to the Western Shore. Now, I’ve started to expand the boundaries of my escape area to include Jersey. I never thought I would ever have a reason to travel across the Delaware Bridge and into that land of concrete, traffic, concrete, and the sudden rush of farmland that makes the place infinitely less terrifying. Traffic circles are so large you can’t even see the actual circle of the traffic. You turn right to turn left. I find something inherently wrong with that.
When I travel away from Chestertown on my weekend excursions, I tend to forget that I’m even still a student. I forget all about Chestertown and the piles of work. I bring my bookbag with my neatly compiled lists of “Things To Do This Weekend” that never get done until my library shift on Sunday night. Everything academic flies out of my head. I turn on the radio so I can’t think, let the sound rush in, the landscape flash by and blur with the daylight.
From Monday to Saturday, I love being in Chestertown. On Saturday, I munch my coveted weekly pumpkin whoopie pie from the Farmer’s Market as I pick up flowers, gather fresh apples, and smell the incoming rain from the west. The day is skewed—an evening rain in the morning, the sun setting and then re-rising for mid-morning. I start driving early to ensure I won’t be late, and so the bouquet of light pink and purple flowers will still retain their color by the time I get there. I want to make a good first impression.
Sometimes, here, I forget that I have to make an impression. I’ve been living in Chestertown so long, summers included, that I occasionally forget that I shouldn’t laugh at everything or dance with my hands at any and all times, or stick my tongue out at my friends and cross my eyes whenever I feel the urge. But, I don’t think I can be stoic. I am too silly.
This Saturday, I am leaving Chestertown for Jersey, to meet my boyfriend’s family for the very first time, to be his date at his cousin’s wedding. I have been warned that silly is not allowed where I am going. Silly is inappropriate. Here, you sit politely and stare. And stare. This is what I try to do for the first half-hour after I arrive, trying very hard not to laugh too much, to start talking too cutely to the dog, or even talk too much. These are things I have difficulty doing. So, I start pretending I am in a Bronte novel, all dressed up, my spine straight and knitting needles in hand, idly yet politely waiting for the next person to speak. If I spoke, I would be out of turn.
Several hours later, at the wedding, I soon discover that laughing, socializing, and dancing with my hands, as well as resting my head, are all signs that I am drunk. Of course I am drunk -– why else would I be laughing? Why would we ever laugh if we weren’t drunk? Sitting around the silent table of siblings, being ridiculous. Dancing. Laughing.
The night in Jersey ends with me and my boyfriend sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, donuts clenched in our fists and my makeup ruined, still in our nice clothes, now covered in powdered sugar. We are mortified, too dumbstruck to discuss anything. We stare silently, just like they wanted us to in the first place. Now, we stare.
Outside of the sphere of campus, I can become embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated. More or less I have developed an outer shell to the criticisms that I have faced here, that I still face today. I know that what I will face soon, in less than a year, will be a new humiliation for me every day. There is a world outside of Chestertown that I have forgotten, and that I will have to relearn starting now. Now is a beginning I must face all over again.
by Alyse Bensel
My mom sent me to the doctor, who gave me medications and consoling and other stuff to try to make the voice in my head go away. There’s a big technical term for what the doctors think I have, but I can remember it for the life of me. My sister, who already didn’t like me very much, soon began to resent my very being. I was a nuisance, a hassle, and the reason my father’s monetary support for our family had been lost.
I finally reached the spot, the sight of it forever etched into my mind. How could I ever forget the place that stole my father away? I quickly found the rock that my father had clung to in his last moments as I tried to save him. I ran a hand over it, feeling its smooth shape.
“Hey Daddy,” I said, my voice quiet and tight with emotion. “Sorry it took me so long to get here. But at least I can finally try to lay you to rest in my heart, right?” I pulled the flowers out of the bag on my back and placed them on the rounded surface of the boulder. “I tried to tell them, Daddy. I tried. They wouldn’t listen. And Mom thinks I’m crazy to listen to the voice you told me to follow. I guess you can’t tell me what is right or wrong, right?”
Grace, I heard the voice say; only, it was different this time. In the past, it sounded like a bunch of people speaking at once, their voices blending, making it impossible to distinguish between any of their genders. This time, a single voice stood out over the other, and it sounded like…
“Daddy?” I asked, looking around as if he would simply walk out of the woods and grin at me like always. He always had the same stupid grin whenever he pulled a trick on me, and every time afterwards I would forgive him and hug him, like I wanted to do now.
Grace, the voice said again. Can you finally hear me? You blocked us out for so long, I was getting worried.
“Who’s we, Daddy? The voice that got you killed?” I asked, a hint of bitterness audible at the thought of my father willingly joining his killer.
Grace, it’s not our fault I died. It was my time, and I wanted you to have the comfort that I had experienced as a child. And I’m glad that it took care of you instead of me. You have so much to live for…
“No I don’t. Amanda hates me, Mom thinks I’m going crazy from listening to this voice as a kid, and people think I’m the reason you died. I have nothing without you, Daddy!” I said, finally voicing my frustration, if only to a figment of my imagination.
Amanda has always been rash, and she doesn’t admit her mistakes. And your mother just worries about you. If she only knew the truth, she wouldn’t think like that.
“Then what’s the truth, Daddy? What is this…thing that pops into my head? That you used to hear, but people think I’m crazy for?” The voice with my father was quiet for a time. This is going to sound weird, Grace. It’s the spirit of the Green Mountains. They find a soul that will protect and cherish them, and in return for the energy given off when the person is near, they offer their comfort and protection.
“Wait a minute, you mean this spirit thingy has been sucking my energy since I was 6 years old? And it did the same with you? Is that why you died? Because it took all your energy?”
No, Grace. I knew it was my time. And if you would let us back in, we can help you. Don’t you remember how you used to want to come to Vermont all the time, and how we gave you peace? We can do that again, if you simply let us. Please Grace, forgive them, and let us back in.
“But, Mom already thinks I’m crazy. If I do this, I’ll lose her again. It’ll be like it was just after you left us. I don’t want to face that again, Daddy. I don’t think I could survive if I did.”
Trust me, she won’t. If you can accept us, I can finally explain everything to your mother and sister. Our link to you will let me make the connection to them. Please Grace, trust me just one more time.
I was quiet for a time. What choice did I honestly have? Allow my life to continue to run the way it had ever since my father’s death, possibly go insane from whatever my father was suggesting, or not go insane and have my mother and sister again. Quietly, I nodded and said, “Okay Daddy. Do whatever you have to do.”
Let us in, stop trying to keep us out. Don’t worry, everything will be well afterwards. We promise, I heard him say, .
Suddenly, warm rush of energy filled me, causing me to gasp. It welled up in my chest, and spread throughout my body. Images flashed before my eyes, and somewhere in the back of my head I knew that they were images from past guardians of the mountains. I saw images of my father as a child, and then I was in them as well.
I think I might have passed out, because suddenly I was in a black space, and my father was standing in front of me, just like he had years ago. I ran to him and embraced him, feeling his arms wrap around me like they used to. “Daddy…”
Shush, it’s alright, sweetie. I’m here, and we’re not going to leave again. We’ll take care of you from now on, I promise.
“And Mom and Amanda?” I asked, wanting to make sure he would keep his promise.
I’ll talk to them in their dreams tonight. Even if they don’t remember it afterwards, it should at least fix things between you three.
“Thank you, Daddy. Will you be able to visit my dreams as well?”
Yes, but only if you truly need me. I’ll always be here to talk. We all will be. You had better start back down the trail, sweetie. Your mom is probably starting to worry.
“Okay, Daddy. But what should I call the rest of you? I mean, it’s not just you anymore, right?”
My dad just smiled at me; it was same look he would get whenever I said something funny that I hadn’t intended to. It had been so long since I had seen that look. I felt a tear well up in my eye. Gently, he wiped it away.
You can just call us the Spirit, he said before I woke up again. With a gentle look on my face, I headed back down the mountain, confident and hopeful that my life was finally turning around. My father promised me, just like Christine’s father in The Phantom of the Opera. Except, my angel wasn’t a lie, nor someone taking advantage of my father’s promise.
My angel truly is my father, and he’ll be with me for a long time. Somehow, I just know he will.
Over the years, everyone has heard the quote, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.”
Steve had to wonder if Ginger had ever broken into a house.
To be fair, she really wasn’t breaking into the house. Well, she was, but it didn’t feel like breaking in. What it felt like was going home.
She hadn’t planned on this when she went out this evening. She was just going out for Halloween – walking around town, stopping to see some friends, the usual. But something was bothering her tonight, something that made her look twice in every shadow. Whatever it was, she wasn’t scared of it. But it had clawed away at her, whispered in her ear while she was drinking Sprite out of a plastic cup at Marissa’s, while she was talking about Poe at Jon’s, and while she was explaining her nickname to a girl who was very confused at Mark’s. Telling the story of how a friend had nicknamed her “Steve” after there were seven Stephanies in their class always reminded her of high school, of days passed and memories gone. As she told it, she felt her composure slipping away as whatever was out there drove her away from the rational, smiling girl who was sitting next to a pumpkin.
After that, she excused herself, and drove. She headed out of town, making two rights and a left. She ended up a few miles outside of town, where the night sky shined through, the moon bright.
And here she was, standing in high heels outside a house that looked worse for wear, and she was ready to semi-break in.
No time better than the present.
She had parked her car next to the house, in the shadows. There was no one here to see, but she took no chances. She slipped into these same shadows and made her way to the back door.
Steve took a deep breath, looking out over the overgrown backyard. Steadying herself, she turned around and reached for the door handle.
It was locked.
This was obviously not a surprise.
She pulled out a hairpin. She didn’t have a clue how to jimmy a door open, but she had seen it in the movies. So, she stuck the pin in the lock and wiggled it around.
Of course, nothing happened.
Steve, in her frustration, kicked the door jam, ramming her stiletto heel into it. A piece of it flaked off, and she looked, surprised and somewhat pleased, at the damage that she had caused. She pushed on the door again, and it clicked open.
She hadn’t thought this far ahead and was now face-to-face with a dark, empty house. But this wasn’t just a house; this was her house – the house where she had spent so many years. This was where she used to live.
And, using that as a justification, she stepped inside.
Steve found herself in the kitchen and made a mental note not to open the cabinets. She wanted no part in rotting food and, as she aptly reminded herself, whatever had moved in to partake of that food. She, without even thinking, reached for the light switch and shouldn’t have been as surprised as she was when it didn’t work.
She blinked a few times, trying to adjust her eyes to the darkness. When they did, she realized that she was suddenly very warm, despite the lack of heat. She took off her jacket and placed it on a lone hook that was next to the door, like she had done so many times before. Leaving the kitchen, she went towards whichever room was the most moonlit. It was the study.
Her first notice was that it was clean, no rotting floorboards and cobwebs. Of course, she then reflected, houses didn’t decay like they did in books and movies. A house that was left just…sat. It didn’t turn into anything but an old house. Potential energy. An object at rest stays at rest.
She opened the closet, and found an Ethernet cord on the floor. It was a sign of the times, she supposed. Steve threw it back down and had a sudden desire to get out of the study.
She bolted across the room, running into the hallway. Her heels left quarter-moon indentations on the wood floor as she made a dash for the stairs. Steve got up to the third stair before slowing down, stopping, taking a breath. Something had spooked her, and she didn’t know what. Ghosts of old memories, perhaps?
She finished climbing the stairs and found herself facing three doors. Unlike game shows and mythology, she knew what was behind all of them. She took the farthest one and grabbing the gold knob, swung it open.
Something had happened to Steve. When you’re confronted with the ghosts of the past on a dark Halloween night, you don’t try to make amends. You try to outrun them, as fast as you can, in hundred-yard dashes and by ducking into dark shadows. The problem, however, is that they’re always there, and everyone has them.
When she swung the door open, Steve found herself in her old room. Out of habit, she closed the door behind her. The room, like the others, was bare. The walls were beat to hell, with tack holes and missing paint and the occasional dent here and there. Signs of a young life of posters and pictures and running into things, which does happen.
There was one particularly big dent on the wall, and that was from the day she found out they were leaving. She had taken the biggest book she could find (the lucky winner happened to be Poe’s complete works) and slammed it into the wall as hard as she could. It didn’t help matters much that downstairs her parents talked in muffled voices, that their lives were falling apart, and their daughter was beating her walls with a copy of Poe, who died in a gutter in Baltimore. She wondered if Poe had ever had his house foreclosed. Well, if he died in a gutter, probably.
Poor Poe, Steve thought. He never did anything wrong, except write the biggest book she owned.
She walked around the room, tracing its outline with her feet. She had left before moving day, already at their new rental. She paid no mind to what day it had been, and in her mind she just blocked everything out. She had moved. Plain and simple. Never to come back. But, she was here. Granted, she had broken into the house, which had been sitting here for the last five years with no one in it to love it like she did. And she still was young and idealistic and still didn’t quite understand the mechanics of all of it, and her friends would never understand. She never even bothered to tell them about it. She wanted no compassion, no pity, and what she was afraid of the most, a lack of understanding that would outrage her.
She stopped in the corner of her room and stared out the window. The moon was high in the sky, and she could tell it was late. The house was quiet, and it hit her, the spooky silence, the lack of any other creature in the house other than herself. This is where I used to live, she thought. But now it was cold and empty, and when she left her room she still closed the door out of habit. She was careful down the stairs, and didn’t visit the other rooms, and left as quickly as she came in.
The late October air hit her, and she went to pull her coat around her and realized she had left it on the hook in the kitchen. The rational side of her told her to go back and get it; tomorrow was November, and she’d need it. But she didn’t, and she kept going. Just another relic, she thought. Maybe in five more years she’d come back and get it. But there was a part of her that knew that that would never happen, and that tomorrow she’d go buy a new one. Some things are better left to the past.
One silent still summer, as I walked around the poorly porcelain pond,
with Selene upon me, I stopped short, for it caught my sight,
such a creation I had never witnessed, such horror I had yet to experience
Darkness crept over me to the very depths of my soul,
for its lips were like a feeding ground for insects
a pointy crooked nose that puts the Wicked Witch of the West to shame,
and skin of little bumpy boils, bruises and bleeding breaks.
As my eyes fell upon this creature I could not help but quiver,
for there it stood with the complexion of evil and a face deformed beyond logic,
red-yellowish eyes, complete with rejection, remorse and regret,
far …and far… beyond.
Not able to restrain myself any longer, I reached into the pond,
to save mankind from this dreadful thing called a creation,
to spare it the misery of living, only to find nothing
but my reflection.
When one considers the various strata of zombie archetypes, the mind must inevitably turn to the question of velocity. Whether one is being hunted by reanimated corpses or by the bloodthirsty victims of an infection, the speed of said pursuers plays a key role in determining one’s method of survival. In dealing with the traditional “slow” zombie, whose strength generally lies in numbers, finding a strategic location is paramount, as one can easily become surrounded and overwhelmed by a sufficiently large number of the living dead. The “fast” zombie, however, relies more heavily on the element of surprise, and consequently must be eliminated with a great deal of resourcefulness. Both of these models have the potential to be equally dangerous, but one essential question remains unanswered…which one is more awesome?
As its title implies, this humble treatise endeavors to prove the essential role of slow zombies in 21st century life, which (because of its fixation on the tweets and text messages) has developed an unhealthy dependence on all things fast (and/or furious). The slow zombie, who represents the values of patience and cooperation, serves as a moaning, drooling beacon of hope in these troubled times. Unlike those of the swifter persuasion, this figure does not feel the need to complete its goals (i.e., feasting on the flesh of the living) in a hurried, classically phallic manner. Instead, it adopts a Wordsworth-esque policy of “wise passiveness,” trusting that its burning, catastrophic surroundings will eventually yield the sweet bounty of people meat. By learning to co-exist with its environment, the slow zombie experiences a heightened spiritual connection with the post-apocalyptic world, which generously provides an unsuspecting human harvest. Additionally, the plodding undead’s tendency to travel in crowds gives birth to a surprisingly successful community model, one which places the survival of the collective above the hunger of the individual. Although this group philosophy often leads to an abundance of headshots and flaming limbs, it provides a healthy basis for a sustainable slow zombie culture.
In conclusion, I would like to remind the reader that some of the best things in life are slow. Turkey dinners. Crock-pots. The third movement of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Turtles. Molasses. Where would we, as human beings, be without such evidence of the need to occasionally decelerate and enjoy the moment? There would be no poetry, no music, no art, and probably no enjoyable sex, for that matter. Sometimes we just have to slow down and believe that life’s tasty brains will come to us. Perhaps this is why the slow zombie, in embodying this humanizing impulse, is so thoroughly awesome.
Stay inside your house. Yesterday my roommate and I were headed to Annapolis for some shopping. So we, not too surprisingly, opened our front door to exit said house. Upon opening the door and stepping outside, a young man approached us. We’ll call him Fernando. Fernando wanted to know if we could help him out with a contest.
We said, “What kind of contest?” thinking we’d have to answer some questions or take a picture with him, harmless things that would not have ruined our planned day of Annapolis shopping.
Fernando from Arkansas seemed to be a very nice young man about our age, very friendly, seemingly harmless. He proceeded to hand us a pamphlet about subscriptions to magazines, listing all kinds of gems, such as Truckin’. Prices for these subscriptions were not listed, but the number of points that the seller would receive was listed beside each excellent magazine choice. He explained that the points he received with our purchase would go towards a trip of some kind. Fernando also alluded to some kind of competition between girls and boys as far as earning points went. There were single, double, and triple point possibilities for the seller, along with extra points if the subscription purchased was a gift. Looking back, with all the clarity of hindsight, this seems very sketchy.
My lovely roommate quickly opted to buy a magazine subscription for her boyfriend. While she filled at the paperwork, darling Fernando began to pressure me into buying something. I was slowly caving in because I have no backbone, when one of Fernando’s fellow salesman showed up, talking about how lucky Fernando must be because he got to talk to such nice, pretty girls. We’ll call salesman number two, Life Ruiner. He was truly the salesman of the two. He talked a lot and had all kinds of ridiculous lines in his repertoire of stupidity.
“Hey, I think you dropped your smile,” Life Ruiner would say. “You can pay in hugs and kisses if you want,” Life Ruiner would add.
I, being a gullible moron who really wanted these fools to get off my porch, decided I’d buy Cookbook Digest. Life Ruiner appeared very thankful. He asked how to spell my name. “E-m-i-l-y”, I said before he interrupted to ask me if my last name was spelled “P-r-e-t-t-y.” I told him it was not. Instead, I should have smacked him across the face.
While the roommate and I itched to actually follow through with the day’s plans, Fernando and Life Ruiner continued to harass us. Life Ruiner may have even asked me to go out on a date with him sometime in the course of our unpleasant interaction. I’m not sure, given how much he spoke and how, eventually, little of what he said registered. However, Fernando and Life Ruiner did manage to get an extremely wasteful $73 out of me, even though I don’t exactly have the means to splurge on this sort of expenditure. Though I do enjoy cooking, Cookbook Digest is not on my list of must-reads. Also, Life Ruiner now knows where I live. Day well spent.
When we finally got in the car, the roommate and I marveled over the sad state of what had just occurred. I studied my receipt, hoping to find some loophole. There is in fact a cancellation form I can send within three business days. You better believe that is happening. In the meantime, I googled Atlantic Circulation, Inc., only to find that Google happily automatically tacks the word “scam” onto the end of that search phrase. My check has yet to be cashed, though I have faith in Life Ruiner’s scam-running ability.
I’m really hoping this cancellation notice works out. When I first noticed it was possible, I felt bad at the notion of hurting poor Life Ruiner’s feelings. That sentiment quickly melted away after the Google experience. Then, after going out to dinner with some on-campus friends, they assured me that this is indeed a scam that the RAs were warned about. I hate Life Ruiner. At least Fernando had nice teeth.
When we finally got to the mall an hour later than planned, the attractively foreign salespeople operating the kiosks were in full force. Feeling sensitive after my Life Ruiner run-in, I carefully avoided them. Forced to stop my smiling instincts, I kept my chin pressed downwards and my eyes on my goals. When nearing the end of our Annapolis mall experience, we passed by some man selling cheese, or something that looked like it. We were veering to avoid his grasp when he suddenly whipped around to assault us properly. The roommate somehow got ahead of me and, left alone, my smiling instinct surfaced, accidentally signaling this man to direct all his cheese-selling attention toward me. “No thank you!” I screamed in my most high-pitched brand of exasperation/fear and broke into a run. So, thank you Fernando and Life Ruiner. I ran away from the cheese man, no doubt truly offending him, when he was most likely just going to give me some delicious cheese.
The moral of the story: don’t buy things from anyone who assaults you on your porch. And maybe live on campus where you are warned about these things and have someone other than your mother to cry to. Mine is not pleased.
There’s been some debate in the past as to how the Washington College mascot, the “Sho’man,” should be represented. There’s the vague silhouette of a man presumably standing on a shore. Then there’s the outline of a goose. These are fine, but they lack any bite, any panache. And, besides that, no one seems to know what exactly a “sho’man”, or more specifically, a “shoreman” is. (A guy who does stuff … on the shore?) So, I propose that it’s about time Washington found itself a new mascot altogether.
The Washington Walkens. As in, the one and only, Christopher Walken.
Yes, on the surface, this seems like a completely nonsensical choice. Why Christopher Walken? A random actor who doesn’t have even a remote association with the school? There must be at least a hundred other potential mascot choices that would make more sense than this—for instance, The Fightin’ Riverbeds or the WC Wooden Teeth. But the fact of the matter is that there is nothing or no one who could better represent us than Christopher Walken.
I humbly submit a list of reasons why Christopher Walken would make a prime
candidate for Washington College’s new mascot:
1. Prestige. Mascots should have an air of regality to them and that is something Walken brings to the table. In 1978, for example, he won an Oscar for his role in The Deer Hunter. Nothing says renown like an Academy Award. Except maybe a Nobel Peace Prize. (If the committee doesn’t have a category for Unsettling Gazes it’s time to hop to it, Norway.)
2. Accessibility. Now this one is tricky. If something is prestigious it’s usually thought of as lofty, making it difficult to relate to on a basic level. But that’s the thing about Christopher Walken. He’s no stranger to the mainstream and the lowbrow. He’ll show up in any old screwball comedy wearing a funny hat. And who doesn’t remember him dancing his way through Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” music video? What could be more charming? It may not be physically possible to sashay down an escalator or fly from one side of a shopping mall to another during every halftime, but sometimes you’ve got to dream big.
3. Marketing. “Washington Walkens.” That has a ring to it that’s difficult to match. Just ask anyone: there’s nothing that adds more zing and zest to a mascot than alliteration. The t-shirts alone would be immensely popular, especially among the ironic hipster set.
4. Distinctive battle cry. It’s no secret that Christopher Walken has a unique speech pattern. It’s a scientific fact that 4 out of 5 people will break out their “Walken” at cocktail parties and small gatherings, if given the right number of dirty martinis. Sidenote: If you’re Kevin Pollack, 5 out of 5 people will ask you to break out your Walken, regardless of situation. There’s a stilted lilt to it that people can’t help but recognize and derive endless joy from. Imagine a stadium or a gym full of people chanting, “Go … Washington Walkens! Go … forthevictory!” It’ll be completely original and double as a surefire source for disorienting the other team. And, lest we forget, Walken was the original deliverer of the line, “I’ve got a fever … And the only prescription is more cowbell!” in the now infamous Saturday Night Live sketch. If Christopher Walken were indeed our mascot, this would give some legitimate claim to whipping out a cowbell and wailing on it while “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays over the stadium loudspeaker.
6. Fear. Typical mascots are Tigers or Vikings. Vicious things that are known for their killing abilities or knack for pillaging and burning villages. (Little known fact: tigers can get pretty crafty given the chance.) The very mention of our mascot should send shivers down our opponents’ spines. Walken is in the unique position of bringing prestige, relatability, and fear into the equation. Lest we forget in an age of roles that include acting as John Travolta’s husband or Leonardo DiCaprio’s doting father, Walken also plays killer bad guys. Whether or not it just comes naturally can’t be verified, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to find out.
7. Trendsetting. By instating Walken as our mascot, we wouldn’t just be ahead of the curve, we’d be establishing it. Just think of it. Within a year every school will want to have a borderline creepy character actor as their mascot. Keep an eye out for the Salisbury Steve Buscemis.
Banana, such a fabulous word
A motley fruit, with a curve
At first glance one may hesitate
Stop, and try hard not to salivate
Puzzled by why they are so delicious
One may think that this fruit is fictitious
But only true banana lovers can see
That this fruit is real, indubitably
I’ve been hearing a lot about this book in the past few years, since its Pulitzer Prize win in 2007, to the news that a movie is in the works (starring Viggo Mortinson!). I actually bought a copy for myself two years ago and set to reading it, but after the first 20 pages I just couldn’t go on. So it sat in my room until my mom found it a few weeks ago, finished it, and encouraged me to finish it as well so discussion could ensue. After the two-year struggle to end this 287-page paperback, I have come to the conclusion that The Road is a new brand of heavy reading.
Based in a post-apocalyptic landscape vaguely reminiscent of the western United States, The Road is the story of a father and son who are on a journey to the elusive ‘South,’ a place that the father hopes has retained some part of civilization. The entire narrative is set in a number of instances, pervaded by a strong sense of grey. Perhaps that is the best word to describe the deep tenor, not wholly of loss, but of hopelessness.
McCarthy’s narrative is woven with Christian allusion, but at first glance the story is focused mainly on human endurance; how much the mind and body can take before resigning. What is intriguing and confusing about the man is his motivation, never wavering for an instant, to keep his son alive in a world almost dead.
To understand this confusion, you must picture a world where the sky is so polluted with fallout that you can never see the sun. Light lasts for perhaps eight hours, maybe less. All plant and animal life is dying, if not already dead, and it is cold. Clothing is scarce, and what is left is worn. You are always on the verge of starvation, and, most often, you live without shelter or heat. Towns are dangerous, yet unavoidable, looted. As empty as they seem, the connecting roads are used as a throughway by a motley conglomeration of survivors—rapists, cannibals, and those driven to madness. Corpses are unavoidable. Every promise is thwarted with some awful realization of sheer desolation. In this world, hope seems completely pointless, for if what we hope for is life—better life for ourselves, for our children, for civilization, even for the natural world without us—what is left to hope for in a world so utterly destroyed?
It seems McCarthy’s novel makes us ask the question: Would we go on? What would make us want to live even in a world so utterly destroyed, vacant, dangerous, and without the beauty of human creation that usually drives so many to continue? As the narrative progresses, the man’s every hope of finding some piece of color in a dead world is dashed. We are continually forced to question why he does not give up and end the misery of both himself and his son. Rationally, we do not know why he continues, but, considering his memories of a world before the desolation, memories of the world we live in—secure, enjoyable—we can sympathize with his desire to hold on to life.
But the boy is an interesting case. He is born on what may be the last day of the world. His mother, a vague and terse figure in the past, has killed herself sometime before the narrative starts. The three—man, woman, and child—prove themselves to represent the three options for us to consider, not as survivors, but as people. The man—who is driven by some deep, untouchable hope for life, even until the end of the story—seems to defy rational thinking in his compulsion. The distances to which he goes for his son are admirable and confounding, when others, most notably the woman, would see the future as over and simply refuse the struggle. The woman herself is another person for readers to consider. Her suicide is something we could see as cowardice, considering she leaves her family to struggle without her, but it would also be irresponsible to say that we would not consider doing the same. She sees the sheer extent of the lifelessness she is faced with and simply chooses to preempt the inevitable course of nature. This is not an unsympathetic action.
But the boy, whose knowledge of life is limited to this desolate world, harbors a terrifying view of life as only fatigue, hunger, and cold. In the end, his life is, and has always been, pain. It is almost shocking for us to consider this kind of worldview, our lives being as relatively comfortable as they are, but it is not unreasonable. This boy is unlike the woman and the man who are able to compare the past and the present; he has been given no basis for comparison. He has no past to either compel him to give up or to continue. His life is hopeless. He does harbor notions of suicide, but still he walks the road.
Why? What is it in us that makes us want to hold on through pain and hopelessness? Beyond hope, beyond any idea of a salvation, what is left? For the boy there is a basic ideal of the ‘fire,’ a virtue instilled in him by his father. The pair carry the ‘fire,’ a symbol that encompasses the physical properties of light and warmth, but also stands for intelligence and, like the tongues of flame that descended on the apostles, enlightenment. The touch of the fire of the Spirit, perhaps. I do not think it is too bold to say McCarthy certainly had this in mind.
I would be loath to divulge the ending of this intriguing exploration of the human will and so I will leave that up to you to discover. It is a heavy novel for one so short—its sense of the indescribable prompts most of the philosophical questions surrounding this story. Perhaps it is appropriate that post-apocalyptic fiction is popular in the falling season that is autumn, but beware—or perhaps be on the lookout—for The Road. It is no Zombie Survival Guide, but it is quite infinitely more terrifying and more satisfying a read than I have encountered in a very long time.