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Av debbyhanxu debbyhanxu - 20 maj 2011 06:24

it happened all right," replied Fern. "Charlotte never fibs. This cousin of hers built a web across a stream. One day she was hanging around on the web and a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the web. The fish was caught by one fin, Mother; its tail was wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. Can't you just see the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of the fish? Charlotte's cousin kept slipping in, dodging out, and she was beaten mercilessly over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throwing..."   "Fern!" snapped her mother. "Stop it! Stop inventing these wild tales!"   "I'm not inventing," said Fern. "I'm just telling you the facts."   "What finally happened?" asked her mother, whose curiosity began to get the better of her.   "Charlotte's cousin won. She wrapped the fish up, then she ate him when she got good and ready. Spiders have to eat, the same as the rest of us."   "Yes, I suppose they do," said Mrs. Arable, vaguely.   "Charlotte has another cousin who is a balloonist. She stands on her head, lets out a lot of line, and is carried aloft on the wind. Mother, wouldn't you simply love to do that?"   "Yes, I would, come to think of it," replied Mrs. Arable. "But Fern, darling, I wish you would play outdoors today instead of going to Uncle Homer's barn. Find some of your playmates and do something nice outdoors. You're spending too much time in that barn--it isn't good for you to be alone so much."   "Alone?" said Fern. "Alone? My best friends are in the barn cellar. It is a very sociable place. Not at all lonely."   Fern disappeared after a while, walking down the road toward Zuckermans'. Her mother dusted the sitting room. as she worked she kept thinking about Fern. It didn't seem natural for a little girl to be so interested in animals. Finally Mrs. Arable made up her mind she would pay a call on old Doctor Dorian and ask his advice. She got in the car and drove to his office in the village.   Dr. Dorian had a thick beard. He was glad to see Mrs. Arable and gave her a comfortable chair. "It's about Fern," she explained. "Fern spends entirely too much time in the Zuckermans' barn. It doesn't seem normal. She sits on a milk stool in a corner of the barn cellar, near the pigpen, and watches animals, hour after hour. She just sits and listens."   Dr. Dorian leaned back and closed his eyes. "How enchanting!" he said. "It must be real nice and quiet down there. Homer has some sheep, hasn't he?"   "Yes," said Mrs. Arable. "but it all started with that pig we let Fern raise on a bottle. She calls him Wilbur. Homer bought the pig, and ever since it left our place Fern has been going to her uncle's to be near it."   "I've been hearing things about that pig," said Dr. Dorian, opening his eyes. "The say he's quite a pig."   "Have you heard about the words that appeared in the spider's web?" asked Mrs. Arable nervously.   "Yes," replied the doctor.   "Well, do you understand it?" asked Mrs. Arable.   "Understand what?"   "do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?"   "Oh, no," said Dr. Dorian. "I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."   "What's miraculous about a spider's web?" said Mrs. Arable. "I don't see why you say a web is a miracle--it's just a web."   "Ever try to spin one?" asked Dr. Dorian.   Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. "No," she replied. "But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock."   "Sure," said the doctor. "But somebody taught you, didn't they?"   "My mother taught me."   "Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don't you regard that as a miracle?"   "I suppose so," said Mrs. Arable. "I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don't understand it, and I don't like what I can't understand."   "None of us do," said Dr. Dorian, sighing. "I'm a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don't understand everything, and I don't intend to let it worry me."   Mrs. Arable fidgeted. "Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?"   "I never heard one say anything," he replied. "But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in Zuckerman's barn talk, I'm quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers--I can give you my word on that."

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Lurvy picked up a pitchfork and walked away to get some clean straw. having such an important pig was going to mean plenty of extra work, he could see that.   Below the apple orchard, at the end of a path, was the dump where Mr. Zuckerman threw all sorts of trash and stuff that nobody wanted any more. here, in a small clearing hidden by young alders and wild raspberry bushes, was an astonishing pile of old bottles and empty tin cans and dirty rags and bits of metal and broken bottles and broken hinges and broken springs and dead batteries and last month's magazines and old discarded dishmops and tattered overalls and rusty spikes and leaky pails and forgotten stoppers and useless junk of all kinds, including a wrong-size crank for a broken ice-cream freezer.   Templeton knew the dump and liked it. There were good hiding places there--excellent cover for a rat. And there was usually a tin can with food still clinging to the inside.   Templeton was down there now, rummaging around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crumpled magazine. "How's this?" he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte. "It says 'Crunchy.' 'Crunchy' would be a good word to write in your web."   "Just the wrong idea," replied Charlotte. "Couldn't be worse. We don't want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur's noble qualities, not his tastiness. Go get another word, please, Templeton!"   The rat looked disgusted. But he sneaked away to the dump and was back in a while with a strip of cotton cloth. "How's this?" he asked. "It's a label off an old shirt." Charlotte examined the label. It said PRE-SHRUNK.   "I'm sorry, Templeton," she said, "but 'Pre-shrunk' is out of the question. We want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is nicely filled out, not all shrunk up. I'll have to ask you to try again."   "What do you think I am, a messenger boy?" grumbled the rat. "I'm not going to spend all my time chasing down to the dump after advertising material."   "Just once more--please!" said Charlotte.   "I'll tell you what I'll do," said Templeton. "I know where there's a package of soap flakes in the woodshed. It has writing on it. I'll bring you a piece of the package."   He climbed the rope that hung on the wall and disappeared through a hole in the ceiling. When he came back he had a strip of blue-and-white cardboard in his teeth.   "There!" he said, triumphantly. "How's that?"   Charlotte read the words: "With New Radiant Action."   "What does it mean?" asked Charlotte, who had never used any soap flakes in her life.   "How should I know?" said Templeton. "You asked for words and I brought them. I suppose the next thing you'll want me to fetch is a dictionary."   Together they studied the soap ad. "'With new radiant action,'" repeated Charlotte, slowly. "Wilbur!" she called.   Wilbur, who was asleep in the straw, jumped up.   "Run around!" commanded Charlotte. "I want to see you in action, to see if you are radiant." Wilbur raced to the end of his yard.   "Now back again, faster!" said Charlotte.   Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had a fine, tight curl in it.   "Jump into the air!" cried Charlotte.   Wilbur jumped as high as he could.   "Keep your knees straight and touch the ground with your ears!" called Charlotte.   Wilbur obeyed.   "Do a back flip with a half twist in it!" cried Charlotte.   Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting as he went.   "O. K., Wilbur," said Charlotte. "You can go back to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. I'm not sure Wilbur's action is exactly radiant, but it's interesting."   "Actually," said Wilbur, "I feel radiant."   "Do you?" said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. "Well, you're a good little pig, and radiant you shall be. I'm in this thing pretty deep now--I might as well go the limit."   Tired from his romp, Wilbur lay down in the clean straw. He closed his eyes. The straw seemed scratchy--not as comfortable as the cow manure, which was always delightfully soft to lie in. So he pushed the straw to one side and stretched out in the manure. Wilbur sighed. It had been a busy day--his first day of being terrific. Dozens of people had visited his yard during the afternoon, and he had had to stand and pose, looking as terrific as he could. Now he was tired. Fern had arrived and seated herself quietly on her stool in the corner.   "Tell me a story, Charlotte!" said Wilbur, as he lay waiting for sleep to come. "Tell me a story!"   So Charlotte, although she, too, was tired, did what Wilbur wanted.   "Once upon a time," she began, "I had a beautiful cousin who managed to build her web across a small stream. One day a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the web. My cousin was very much surprised, of course. The fish was thrashing wildly. My cousin hardly dared tackle it. But she did. She swooped down and threw great masses of wrapping material around the fish and fought bravely to capture it."   "Did she succeed?" asked Wilbur.   "It was a never-to-be-forgotten battle," said Charlotte. "There was the fish, caught only by one fin, and its tail wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. There was the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of the fish."   "How much did the fish weigh?" asked Wilbur eagerly.   "I don't know," said Charlotte. "There was my cousin, slipping in, dodging out, beaten mercilessly over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throwing her threads and fighting hard. First she threw a left around the tail. The fish lashed back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid-back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid-section. The fish lashed back. Then she dodged to one side and threw a right, and another right to the fin. Then a hard left to the head, while the web swayed and stretched." "Then what happened?" asked Wilbur.   "Nothing," said Charlotte. "My cousin kept the fish for a while, and then, when she got good and ready, she ate it."   "Tell me another story!" begged Wilbur.   So Charlotte told him about another cousin of hers who was an aeronaut.   "What is an aeronaut?" asked Wilbur.   "A balloonist," said Charlotte. "My cousin used to stand on her head and let out enough thread to form balloon. then she'd let go and be lifted into the air and carried upward on the warm wind."   "Is that true?" asked Wilbur. "Or are you just making it up?"   "It's true," replied Charlotte. "I have some very remarkable cousins. And now, Wilbur, it's time you went to sleep."   "Sing something!" begged Wilbur, closing his eyes.

Av debbyhanxu debbyhanxu - 20 maj 2011 06:21

Wilbur was pleased to receive so much attention. Lurvy was still standing there, and Mr. And Mrs. Zuckerman, all three, stood for about an hour, reading the words on the web over and over, and watching Wilbur.   Charlotte was delighted with the way her trick was working. She sat without moving a muscle, and listened to the conversation of the people. When a small fly blundered into the web, just beyond the word “pig,” Charlotte dropped quickly down, rolled the fly up, and carried it out of the way.   After a while the fog lifted. The web dried off and the words didn’t show up so plainly. The Zuckermans and Lurvy walked back to the house. Just before they left the pigpen, Mr. Zuckerman took one last look at Wilbur.   “You know,” he said, in an important voice, “I’ve thought all along that that pig of ours was an extra good one. He’s a solid pig. That pig is as solid as they come. You notice how solid he is around the shoulders, Lurvy?”   “Sure, Sure I do,” said Lurvy. “I’ve always noticed that pig. He’s quite a pig.”   “He’s long, and he’s smooth,” said Zuckerman.   “That’s right,” agreed Lurvy. “he’s as smooth as they come. He’s some pig.”   When Mr. Zuckerman got back to the house, he took off his work clothes and put on his best suit. Then he got into his car and drove to the minister’s house. He stayed for an hour and explained to the minister that a miracle had happened on the farm.   “So far,” said Zuckerman, “only four people on earth know about this miracle—myself, my wife Edith, my hired man Lurvy, and you.”   “Don’t tell anybody else,” said the minister. “We don’t know what it means yet, but perhaps if I give thought to it, I can explain it in my sermon next Sunday. There can be no doubt that you have a most unusual pig. I intend to speak about it in my sermon and point out the fact that this community has been visited with a wondrous animal. By the way, does the pig have a name?”   “Why, yes,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “My little niece calls him Wilbur. She’s rather queer child—full of notions. She raised the pig on a bottle and I bought him from her when he was a month old.”   He shook hands with the minister, and left.   Secrets are hard to keep. Long before Sunday came, the news spread all over the county. Everybody knew that a sign had appeared in a spider’s web on the Zuckerman place. Everybody knew that the Zuckermans had a wondrous pig. People came from miles around to look at Wilbur and to read the words on Charlotte’s web. The Zuckermans’ driveway was full of cars and trucks from morning till night—Fords and Chevvies and Buick roadmasters and GMC pickups and Plymouths and Studebakers and Packards and De Sotos with gyromatic transmissions and Oldsmobiles with rocket engines and Jeep station wagons and Pontiacs. The news of the wonderful pig spread clear up into the hills, and farmers came rattling down in buggies and buckboards, to stand hour after hour at Wilbur’s pen admiring the miraculous animal. All said they had never seen such a pig before in their lives. When Fern told her mother that Avery had tried to hit the Zuckermans’ spider with a stick, Mrs. Arable was so shocked that she sent Avery to bed without any supper, as punishment.   In the days that followed, Mr. Zuckerman was so busy entertaining visitors that he neglected his farm work. He wore his good clothes all the time now—got right into them when he got up in the morning. Mrs. Zuckerman prepared special meals for Wilbur. Lurvy shaved and got a haircut; and his principal farm duty was to feed the pig while people looked on.   Mr. Zuckerman ordered Lurvy to increase Wilbur’s feedings from three meals a day to four meals a day. The Zuckermans were so busy with visitors they forgot about other things on the farm. The blackberries got ripe, and Mrs. Zuckerman failed to put up any blackberry jam. The corn needed hoeing, and Lurvy didn’t find time to hoe it.   On Sunday the church was full. The minister explained the miracle. He said that the words on the spider’s web proved that human beings must always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.   All in all, the Zuckermans’ pigpen was the center of attraction. Fern was happy, for she felt that Charlotte’s trick was working and that Wilbur’s life would be saved. But she found that the barn was not nearly as pleasant—too many people. She liked it better when she could be all alone with her friends the animals.

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What does sedentary mean?” asked Wilbur.   “Means I sit still a good part of the time and don’t go wandering all over creation. I know a good thing when I see it, and my web is a good thing. I stay put and wait for what comes. Gives me a chance to think.”   “Well, I’m sort of sedentary myself, I guess,” said the pig. “I have to hang around here whether I want to or not. You know where I'd really like to be this evening?”   “Where?”   “In a forest looking for beechnuts and truffles and delectable roots, pushing leaves aside with my wonderful strong nose, searching and sniffing along the ground, smelling, smelling, smelling…”   “You smell just the way you are,” remarked a lamb who had just walked in. I can smell you from here. You're the smelliest creature in the place.”   Wilbur hung his head. His eyes grew wet with tears. Charlotte noticed his embarrassment and she spoke sharply to the lamb.   “Leave Wilbur alone!” she said. “he has a perfect right to smell, considering his surroundings. You're no bundle of sweet peas yourself. Furthermore, you are interrupting a very pleasant conversation. What were we talking about, Wilbur, when we were so rudely interrupted?”   “Oh, I don't remember,” said Wilbur. “It doesn't make any difference.. Let's not talk any more for a while, Charlotte. I'm getting sleepy. You go ahead and finish fixing your web and I'll just lie here and watch you. It's a lovely evening.” Wilbur stretched out on his side.   Twilight settled over Zuckerman's barn, and a feeling of peace. Fern knew it was almost suppertime but she couldn't bear to leave. Swallows passed on silent wings, in and out of the doorways, bringing food to their young ones. From across the road a bird sang “Whippoorwill, whippoorwill!” Lurvy sat down under and apple tree and lit his pipe; the animals sniffed the familiar smell of strong tobacco. Wilbur heard the trill of the tree toad and the occasional slamming of the kitchen door. All these sounds made him feel comfortable and happy, for he loved life and loved to be a part of the world on a summer evening. But as he lay there he remembered what the old sheep had told him. The thought of death came to him and he began to tremble with fear.   “Charlotte?” he said, softly.   “Yes, Wilbur?”   “I don’t want to die.”   “Of course you don’t,” said Charlotte in a comforting voice.   “I just love it here in the barn,” said Wilbur. “I love everything about this place.”   “Of course you do,” said Charlotte. “We all do.”   The goose appeared, followed by her seven goslings. They thrust their little necks out and kept up a musical whistling, like a tiny troupe of pipers. Wilbur listened to the sound with love in his heart.   “Charlotte?” he said.   “Yes?” said the spider.   “Were you serious when you promised you would keep them from killing me?”   “I was never more serious in my life. I am not going to let you die, Wilbur.”   “How are you going to save me?” asked Wilbur, whose curiosity was very strong on this point.   “Well,” said Charlotte, vaguely, “I don't really know. But I'm working on a plan.”   “ That's wonderful,” said Wilbur. “How is the plan coming, Charlotte? Have you got very far with it? Is it coming along pretty well?” Wilbur was trembling again, but Charlotte was cool and collected.   “Oh, it's coming all right,” she said, lightly. “The plan is still in its early stages had hasn't completely shaped up yet, but I'm working on it.   “When do you work on it?” begged Wilbur.   “When I'm hanging head-down at the top of my web. That’s when I do my thinking, because then all the blood is in my head.”   “I'd be only too glad to help in any way I can.”   “Oh, I'll work it out alone,” said Charlotte. “I can think better if I think alone.”   “All right,” said Wilbur. “But don't fail to let me know if there's anything I can do to help, no matter how slight.   “Well,” replied Charlotte, “you must try to build yourself up. I want you to get plenty of sleep, and stop worrying. Never hurry and never worry! Chew your food thoroughly and eat every bit of it, except you must leave just enough for Templeton. Gain weight and stay well—that’s the way you can help. Keep fit, and don’t lose your nerve. Do you think you understand?   "Yes, I understand,” said Wilbur.   “Go along to bed, then,” said Charlotte. “Sleep is important.” Wilbur trotted over to the darkest corner of his pen and threw himself down. He closed his eyes. In another minute he spoke.   “Charlotte?” he said.   “Yes, Wilbur?”   “May I go out to my trough and see if I left any of my supper? I think I left just a tiny bit of mashed potato.”   “Very well,” said Charlotte. “But I want you in bed again without delay.” Wilbur started to race out to his yard.   “Slowly, slowly!” said Charlotte. “Never hurry and never worry!”   Wilbur checked himself and crept slowly to his trough. He found a bit of potato, chewed it carefully, swallowed it, and walked back to bed. He closed his eyes and was silent for a while.   “Charlotte?” he said, in a whisper.   “Yes?”   “May I get a drink of milk?” I think there are a few drops of milk left in my trough.”   “No, the trough is dry, and I want you to go to sleep. No more talking! Close your eyes and go to sleep!”   Wilbur shut his eyes. Fern got up from her stool and started for home, her mind full of everything she had seen and heard.   “Good night, Charlotte!” said Wilbur.   “Good night, Wilbur!”   There was a pause.   “Good night, Charlotte!”   “Good night, Wilbur!”   “Good night!”   “Good night!”

Av debbyhanxu debbyhanxu - 20 maj 2011 06:16

Maybe you ought to call the police yourself," I said. "Offer them a little of your expert help. Point out the stuff they missed, just like Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote" I swung my legs into bed. She turned off the light. We lay there in darkness. When she spoke again, her tone was gentler. "I don't like him. That's all. I don't, and I never have." "Yeah," I said. I guess that's clear." "And I didn't like the way he looked at Holly." Which meant, as I found out eventually, that she hadn't liked the way Holly looked at him. When she wasn't looking down at her plate, that is. "I'd prefer you didn't ask him back to dinner," she said. I kept quiet. It was late. I was tired. It had been a hard day, a harder evening, and I was tired. The last thing I wanted was to have an argument with my wife when I was tired and she was worried. That's the sort of argument where one of you ends up spending the night on the couch. And the only way to stop an argument like that is to be quiet. In a marriage, words are like rain. And the land of a marriage is filled with dry washes and arroyos that can become raging rivers in almost the wink of an eye. The therapists believe in talk, but most of them are either divorced or queer. It's silence that is a marriage's best friend. Silence. After a while, my best friend rolled over on her side, away from me and into the place where she goes when she finally gives up the day. I lay awake a little while longer, thinking of a dusty little car, perhaps once white, parked nose-down in the ditch beside a ranch road out in the Nevada desert not too far from Caliente. The driver's side door standing open, the rearview mirror torn off its post and lying on the floor, the front seat sodden with blood and tracked over by the animals that had come in to investigate, perhaps to sample. There was a man - they assumed he was a man, it almost always is - who had butchered five women out in that part of the world, five in three years, mostly during the time L.T had been living with Lulubelle. Four of the women were transients. He would get them to stop somehow, then pull them out of their cars, rape them, dismember them with an axe, leave them a rise or two away for the buzzards and crows and weasels. The fifth one was an elderly rancher's wife. The police call this killer the Axe Man. As I write this, the Axe Man has not been captured. Nor has he killed again; if Cynthia Lulubelle Simms DeWitt was the Axe Man's sixth victim, she was also his last, at least so far. There is still some question, however, as to whether or not she was his sixth victim. If not in most minds' that question exists in the part of L.T.'s mind which is still allowed to hope. The blood on the seat wasn't human blood, you see; it didn't take the Nevada State Forensics Unit five hours to determine that. The ranch hand who found Lulubelle's Subaru saw a cloud of circling birds half a mile away, and when he reached them, he found not a dismembered woman but a dismembered dog. Little was left but bones and teeth; the predators and scavengers had had their day, and there's not much meat on a Jack Russell terrier to begin with. The Axe Man most definitely got Frank; Lulubelle's fate is probable, but far from certain. Perhaps, I thought, she is alive. Singing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" at The Jailhouse in Ely or "Take a Message to Michael" at The Rose of Santa Fe in Hawthorne. Backed up by a three-piece combo. Old men trying to look young in red vests and black string ties. Or maybe she's blowing GM cowboys in Austin or Wendover - bending forward until her breasts press flat on her thighs beneath a calendar showing tulips in Holland; gripping set after set of flabby buttocks in her hands and thinking about what to watch on TV that night, when her shift is done. Perhaps she just pulled over to the side of the road and walked away. People do that. I know it, and probably you do, too. Sometimes people just say fuck it and walk away. Maybe she left Frank behind, thinking someone would come along and give him a good home, only it was the Axe Man who came along, and... But no. I met Lulubelle, and for the life of me I can't see her leaving a dog to most likely roast to death or starve to death in the barrens. Especially not a dog she loved the way she loved Frank. No, L.T hadn't been exaggerating about that; I saw them together, and I know. She could still be alive somewhere. Technically speaking, at least, L.T.'s right about that. Just because I can't think of a scenario that would lead from that car with the door hanging open and the rearview mirror lying on the floor and the dog lying dead and crow-picked two rises away, just because I can't think of a scenario that would lead from that place near Caliente to some other place where Lulubelle Simms sings or sews or blows truckers, safe and unknown, well, that doesn't mean that no such scenario exists. As I told L.T., it isn't as if they found her body; they just found her car, and the remains of the dog a little way from the car. Lulubelle herself could be anywhere. You can see that.

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I gave her half an hour or so to cool off, then I went upstairs myself. The bedroom door was still shut, and when I started to open it, I was pushing against Frank. I could move him, but it was slow work with him sliding across the floor, and also noisy work. He was growling. And I mean growling, my friends; that was no fucking purr. If I'd gone in there, I believe he would have tried his solemn best to bite my manhood off. I slept on the couch that night. First time. "A month later, give or take, she was gone." If L.T had timed his story right (most times he did; practice makes perfect), the bell signaling back to work at the W.S Hepperton Processed Meats Plant of Ames, Iowa, would ring just about then, sparing him any questions from the new men (the old hands knew. . . and knew better than to ask) about whether or not L.T and Lulubelle had reconciled, or if he knew where she was today, or - the all-time sixty-four-thousand-dollar question - if she and Frank were still together. There's nothing like the back-to-work bell to close off life's more embarrassing questions. "Well," L.T would say, putting away his thermos and then standing up and giving a stretch, "it has all led me to create what I call L.T DeWitt's Theory of Pets." They'd look at him expectantly, just as I had the first time I heard him use that grand phrase, but they would always end up feeling let down, just as I always had; a story that good deserved a better punchline, but L.T.'s never changed. "If your dog and cat are getting along better than you and your wife," he'd say, "you better expect to come home some night and find a Dear John note on your refrigerator door." He told that story a lot, as I've said, and one night when he came to my house for dinner, he told it for my wife and my wife's sister. My wife had invited Holly, who had been divorced almost two years, so the boys and the girls would balance up. I'm sure that's all it was, because Roslyn never liked L.T DeWitt. Most people do, most people take to him like hands take to warm water, but Roslyn has never been most people. She didn't like the story of the note on the fridge and the pets, either - I could tell she didn't, although she chuckled in the right places. Holly ... shit, I don't know. I've never been able to tell what that girl's thinking. Mostly just sits there with her hands in her lap, smiling like Mona Lisa. It was my fault that time, though, and I admit it. L.T didn't want to tell it, but I kind of egged him on because it was so quiet around the dinner table, just the click of silverware and the clink of glasses, and I could almost feel my wife disliking L.T It seemed to be coming off her in waves. And if L.T had been able to feel that little Jack Russell terrier disliking him, he would probably be able to feel my wife doing the same. That's what I figured, anyhow. So he told it, mostly to please me, I suppose, and he rolled his eyeballs in all the right places, as if saying "Gosh, she fooled me right and proper, didn't she?" and my wife chuckled here and there - they sounded as phony to me as Monopoly money looks - and Holly smiled her little Mona Lisa smile with her eyes downcast. Otherwise the dinner went off all right, and when it was over L.T told Roslyn that he thanked her for "a sportin-fine meal" (whatever that is) and she told him to come any time, she and I liked to see his face in the place. That was a lie on her part, but I doubt there was ever a dinner party in this history of the world where a few lies weren't told. So it went off all right, at least until I was driving him home. L.T started to talk about how it would be a year Lulubelle had been gone in just another week or so, their fourth anniversary, which is flowers if you're old-fashioned and electrical appliances if you're newfangled. Then he said as how Lulubelle's mother - at whose house Lulubelle had never shown up - was going to put up a marker with Lulubelle's name on it at the local cemetery. "Mrs. Simms says we have to consider her as one dead," L.T said, and then he began to bawl. I was so shocked I nearly ran off the goddam road. He cried so hard that when I was done being shocked, I began to be afraid all that pent-up grief might kill him with a stroke or a burst blood vessel or something. He rocked back and forth in the seat and slammed his open hands down on the dashboard. It was like there was a twister loose inside him. Finally I pulled over to the side of the road and began patting his shoulder. I could feel the heat of his skin right through his shirt, so hot it was baking. "Come on, L.T.," I said. "That's enough." "I just miss her," he said in a voice so thick with tears I could barely understand what he was saying. "Just so goddam much. I come home and there's no one but the cat, crying and crying, and pretty soon I'm crying, too, both of us crying while I fill up her dish with that goddam muck she eats." He turned his flushed, streaming face full on me. Looking back into it was almost more than I could take, but I did take it; felt I had to take it. Who had gotten him telling the story about Lucy and Frank and the note on the refrigerator that night, after all? It hadn't been Mike Wallace, or Dan Rather, that was for sure. So I looked back at him. I didn't quite dare hug him, in case that twister should somehow jump from him to me, but I kept patting his arm. "I think she's alive somewhere, that's what I think," he said. His voice was still thick and wavery, but there was a kind of pitiful weak defiance in it as well. He wasn't telling me what he believed, but what he wished he could believe. I'm pretty sure of that. "Well," I said, "you can believe that. No law against it, is there? And it isn't as if they found her body, or anything." "I like to think of her out there in Nevada singing in some little casino hotel," he said. "Not in Vegas or Reno, she couldn't make it in one of the big towns, but in Winnemucca or Ely I'm pretty sure she could get by. Some place like that. She just saw a Singer Wanted sign and give up her idea of going home to her mother. Hell, the two of them never got on worth a shit anyway, that's what Lu used to say. And she could sing, you know. I don't know if you ever heard her, but she could. I don't guess she was great, but she was good. The first time I saw her, she was singing in the lounge of the Marriott Hotel. In Columbus, Ohio, that was. Or, another possibility..." He hesitated, then went on in a lower voice. "Prostitution is legal out there in Nevada, you know. Not in all the counties, but in most of them. She could be working one of them Green Lantern trailers or the Mustang Ranch. Lots of women have got a streak of whore in them. Lu had one. I don't mean she stepped around on me, or slept around on me, so I can't say how I know, but I do. She ... yes, she could be in one of those places." He stopped, eyes distant, maybe imagining Lulubelle on a bed in the back room of a Nevada trailer whorehouse, Lulubelle wearing nothing but stockings, washing off some unknown cowboy's stiff cock while from the other room came the sound of Steve Earle and the Dukes singing "Six Days on the Road" or a TV playing Hollywood Squares. Lulubelle whoring but not dead, the car by the side of the road - the little Subaru she had brought to the marriage - meaning nothing. The way an animal's look, so seemingly attentive, usually means nothing. "I can believe that if I want," he said, swiping his swollen eyes with insides of his wrists. "Sure," I said. "You bet, L.T." Wondering what the grinning men who listened to his story while they ate their lunches would make of this L.T., this shaking man with his pale cheeks and red eyes and hot skin. "Hell," he said, I do believe that." He hesitated, then said it again: "I do believe that." When I got back, Roslyn was in bed with a book in her hand and the covers pulled up to her breasts. Holly had gone home while I was driving L.T back to his house. Roslyn was in a bad mood, and I found out why soon enough. The woman behind the Mona Lisa smile had been quite taken with my friend. Smitten by him, maybe. And my wife most definitely did not approve. "How did he lose his license?" she asked, and before I could answer: "Drinking, wasn't it?" "Drinking, yes. OUM' I sat down on my side of the bed and slipped off my shoes. "But that was nearly six months ago, and if he keeps his nose clean another two months, he gets it back. I think he will. He goes to AA, you know." My wife grunted, clearly not impressed. I took off my shirt, sniffed the armpits, hung it back in the closet. I'd only worn it an hour or two, just for dinner. "You know," my wife said, I think it's a wonder the police didn't look a little more closely at him after his wife disappeared." "They asked him some questions," I said, "but only to get as much information as they could. There was never any question of him doing it, Ros. They were never suspicious of him." "Oh, you're so sure." "As a matter of fact, I am. I know some stuff. Lulubelle called her mother from a hotel in eastern Colorado the day she left, and called her again from Salt Lake City the next day. She was fine then. Those were both weekdays, and L.T was at the plant. He was at the plant the day they found her car parked off that ranch road near Caliente as well. Unless he can magically transport himself from place to place in the blink of an eye, he didn't kill her. Besides, he wouldn't. He loved her." She grunted. It's this hateful sound of skepticism she makes sometimes. After almost thirty years of marriage, that sound still makes me want to turn on her and yell at her to stop it, to shit or get off the pot, either say what she means or keep quiet. This time I thought about telling her how L.T had cried; how it had been like there was a cyclone inside of him, tearing loose everything that wasn't nailed down. I thought about it, but I didn't. Women don't trust tears from men. They may say different, but down deep they don't trust tears from men.

Av debbyhanxu debbyhanxu - 20 maj 2011 06:11

I can't say for sure if all this stuff was really in the note L.T found on his fridge; it doesn't seem entirely likely, I must admit, but the men listening to his story would be rolling in the aisles by this point - or around on the loading dock, at least-and it did sound like Lulubelle, that I can testify to.) " 'Please do not try to follow me, L.T., and although I'll be at MY mother's and I know you have that number, I would appreciate you not calling but waiting for me to call you. In time I will, but in the meanwhile I have a lot of thinking to do, and although I have gotten on a fair way with it, I'm not "out of the fog" yet. I suppose I will be asking you for a divorce eventually, and think it is only fair to tell you SO. I have never been one to hold out false hope, believing it better to tell the truth and smoke out the devil." Please remember that what I do I do in love, not in hatred and resentment. And please remember what was told to me and what I now tell to you: a broken spoon may be a fork in disguise. All my love, Lulubelle Simms.' " L.T would pause there, letting them digest the fact that she had gone back to her maiden name, and giving his eyes a few of those patented L.T DeWitt rolls. Then he'd tell them the P.S she'd tacked on the note. " 'I have taken Frank with me and left Screwlucy for you. I thought this would probably be the way you'd want it. Love, Lulu.' " If the DeWitt family was a fork, Screwlucy and Frank were the other two tines on it. If there wasn't a fork (and speaking for myself, I've always felt marriage was more like a knife - the dangerous kind with two sharp edges), Screwlucy and Frank could still be said to sum up everything that went wrong in the marriage of L.T and Lulubelle. Because, think of it - although Lulubelle bought Frank for L.T (first wedding anniversary) and L.T bought Lucy, soon to be Screwlucy, for Lulubelle (second wedding anniversary), they each wound up with the other. one's pets when Lulu walked out on the marriage. "She got me that dog because I liked the one on Frasier," L.T would say. "That kind of dog's a terrier, but I don't remember now what they call that kind. A Jack something. Jack Sprat? Jack Robinson? Jack Shit? You know how a thing like that gets on the tip of your tongue?" Somebody would tell him that Frasier's dog was a Jack Russell terrier and L.T would nod emphatically. "That's right!" he'd exclaim. "Sure! Exactly! That's what Frank was, all right, a Jack Russell terrier. But you want to know the cold hard truth? An hour from now, that will have slipped away from me again - it'll be there in my brain, but like something behind a rock. An hour from now, I'll be going to myself, 'What did that guy say Frank was? A Jack Handle terrier? A Jack Rabbit terrier? That's close, I know that's close. . .'And so on. Why? I think because I just hated that little fuck so much. That barking rat. That fur-covered shit machine. I hated it from the first time I laid eyes on it. There. It's out and I'm glad. And do you know what? Frank felt the same about me. It was hate at first sight.

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The night seemed long. Wilbur's stomach was empty and his mind was full. And when your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it's always hard to sleep.   A dozen times during the night Wilbur woke and stared into the blackness, listening to the sounds and trying to figure out what time it was. A barn is never perfectly quiet. Even at midnight there is usually something stirring.   The first time he woke, he heard Templeton gnawing a hole in the grain bin. Templeton's teeth scraped loudly against the wood and made quite a racket. "That crazy rat!" thought Wilbur. "Why does he have to stay up all night, grinding his clashers and destroying people's property? Why can't he go to sleep, like any decent animal?"   the second time Wilbur woke, he heard the goose turning on her nest and chuckling to herself.   "What time is it?" whispered Wilbur to the goose.   "Probably-obably-obably about half-past eleven," said the goose, "Why aren't you asleep, Wilbur?"   "Too many things on my mind," said Wilbur.   "Well," said the goose, "that's not my trouble. I have nothing at all on my mind, but I've too many things under my behind. Have you ever tried to sleep while sitting on eight eggs?"   "No," replied Wilbur, "I suppose it is uncomfortable. How long does it take a goose egg to hatch?"   "Approximately-oximately thirty days, all told," answered the goose. "But I cheat a little. On warm afternoons, I just pull a little straw over the eggs and go out for a walk."   Wilbur yawned and went back to sleep. In his dreams he heard again the voice saying, "I'll be a friend to you. Go to sleep--you'll see me in the morning."   About half an hour before dawn, Wilbur woke and listened. The barn was still dark. The sheep lay motionless. Even the goose was quiet. Overhead, on the main floor, nothing stirred: the cows were resting, the horses dozed. Templeton had quit work and gone off somewhere on an errand. The only sound was a slight scraping noise from the rooftop, where the weather-vane swung back and forth. Wilbur loved the barn when it was like this--calm and quiet, waiting for light.   "Day is almost here," he thought.   Through a small window, a faint gleam appeared. One by one the stars went out. Wilbur could see the goose a few feet away. She sat with head tucked under a wing. Then he could see the sheep and the lambs. The sky lightened.   "Oh, beautiful day, it is here at last! Today I shall find my friend."   Wilbur looked everywhere. He searched his pen thoroughly. He examined the window ledge, stared up at the ceiling. But he saw nothing new. Finally he decided he would have to speak up. He hated to break the lovely stillness of dawn by using his voice, but he couldn't think of any other way to locate the mysterious new friend who was nowhere to be seen. So Wilbur cleared his throat.   "Attention, please!" he said in a loud, firm voice. "Will the party who addressed me at bedtime last night kindly make himself or herself known by giving an appropriate sign or signal!"   Wilbur paused and listened. All the other animals lifted their heads and stared at him. Wilbur blushed. But he was determined to get in touch with his unknown friend.   "Attention, please!" he said. "I will repeat the message. Will the party who addressed me at bedtime last night kindly speak up. Please tell me where you are, if you are my friend!"   The sheep looked at each other in disgust.   "Stop your nonsense, Wilbur!" said the oldest sheep. "If you have a new freind here, you are probably disturbing his rest; and the quickest way to spoil a friendship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he is ready. How can you be sure your friend is an early riser?"   "I beg everyone's pardon," whispered Wilbur. "I didn't mean to be objectionable."   He lay down meekly in the in the manure, facing the door. He did not know it, but his friend was very near. and the old sheep was right--the friend was still asleep.   Soon Lurvy appeared with slops for breakfast. Wilbur rushed out, ate everything in a hurry, and licked the trough. The sheep moved off down the lane, the gander waddled along behind them, pulling grass. And then, just as Wilbur was settling down for his morning nap, he heard again the thin voice that had addressed him the night before.   "Salutations!" said the voice.   Wilbur jumped to his feet. "Salu-what?" he cried.   "Salutations!" said the voice.   "What are they, and where are you?" screamed Wilbur. "Please, please, tell me where you are. And what are salutations?"   "Salutations are greetings," said the voice. "When I say 'salutations,' it's just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning. Actually, it's a silly expression, and I am surprised that I used it at all. As for my whereabouts, that's easy. Look up here in the corner of the dooway! Here I am. Look, I'm waving!"   At last Wilbur saw the creature that had spoken to him in such a kindly way. Stretched across the upper part of the doorway was a big spiderweb, and hanging from the top of the web, head down, was a large grey spider. She was about the size of a gumdrop. She had eight legs, and she was waving one of them at Wilbur in friendly greeting. "See me now?" she asked. "Oh, yes indeed," said Wilbur. "Yes indeed! How are you? Good morning! Salutations! Very pleased to meet you. What is your name, please? May I have your name?"   "My name," said the spider," is Charlotte."   "Charlotte what?" asked Wilbur, eagerly.   "Charlotte A. Cavatica. But just call me Charlotte."   "I think you're beautiful," said Wilbur.   "Well, I am pretty," replied Charlotte. "There's no denying that. Almost all spiders are rather nice-looking. I'm not as flashy as some, but I'll do. I wish I could see you, Wilbur, as clearly as you can see me."   "Why can't you?" asked the pig. "I'm right here."   “Yes, but I'm near-sighted," replied Charlotte. "I've always been dreadfully near-sighted. It's good in some ways, not so good in others. Watch me wrap up this fly." A fly that had been crawling along Wilbur's trough had flown up and blundered into the lower part of Charlotte's web and was tangled in the sticky threads. The fly was beating its wings furiously, trying to break loose and free itself.   "First," said Charlotte, " I dive at him." She plunged headfirst toward the fly. As she dropped, a tiny silken thread unwound from her rear end.   "Next, I wrap him up." She grabbed the fly, threw a few jets of silk around it, and rolled it over and over, wrapping it so that it couldn't move. Wilbur watched in horror. He could hardly believe what he was seeing, and although he detested flies, he was sorry for this one.   "There!" said Charlotte. "Now I knock him out, so he'll be more comfortable." She bit the fly. "He can't feel a thing now," she remarked. "He'll make a perfect breakfast for me."   "You mean you eat flies?" gasped Wilbur.   "Certainly. Flies, bugs, grasshoppers, choice beetles, moths, butterflies, tasty cockroaches, gnats, midges, daddy longlegs, centipedes, mosquitoes, crickets--anything that is careless enough to get caught in my web. I have to live, don't I?"   "Why, yes, of course," said Wilbur. "Do they taste good?"   "Delicious. Of course, I don't really eat them. I drink them--drink their blood. I love blood," said Charlotte, and her pleasant, thin voice grew even thinner and more pleasant.   "Don't say that!" groaned Wilbur. "Please don't say things like that!"   "Why not ? It's true, and I have to say what is true. I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs, but it's the way I'm made. A spider has to pick up a living somehow or other, and I happen to be a trapper. I just naturally build a web and trap flies and other insects. My mother was a trapper before me. Her mother was a trapper before her. All our family have been trappers. Way back for thousands and thousands of years we spiders have been laying for flies and bugs."   "It's a miserable inheritance," said Wilbur, gloomily. He was sad because his new friend was so bloodthirsty.   "Yes, it is," agreed charlotte. "But I can't help it. I don't know how the first spider in the early days of the world happened to think up this fancy idea of spinning a web, but she did, and it was clever of her, too. And since then, all of us spiders have had to work the same trick. It's not a bad pitch, on the whole."   "It's cruel," replied Wilbur, who did not intend to be argued out of his position.   "Well, you can't talk," said Charlotte. "You have your meals brought to you in a pail. Nobody feeds me. I have to get my own living. I live by my wits. I have to be sharp and clever, lest I go hungry. I have to think things out, catch what I can, take what comes. Ant it just so happens, my friend, that what comes is flies and insects and bugs. And furthermore," said Charlotte, shaking one of her legs, "do you realize that if I didn't catch bugs and eat them, bugs would increase and multiply and get so numerous that they'd destroy the earth, wipe out everything?"   "Really?" said Wilbur. "I wouldn't want that to happen. Perhaps your web is a good thing after all."   The goose had been listening to this conversation and chuckling to herself. "There are a lot of things Wilbur doesn't know about life," she thought. "He's really a very innocent little pig. He doesn't even know what's going to happen to him around Christmastime; he has no idea that Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy are plotting to kill him." And the goose raised herself a bit and poked her eggs a little further under her so that they would receive the full heat from her warm body and soft feathers.   Charlotte stood quietly over the fly, preparing to eat it. Wilbur lay down and closed his eyes. He was tired from his wakeful night and from the excitement of meeting someone for the first time. A breeze brought him the smell of clover--the sweet-smelling world beyond his fence. "Well," he thought," I've got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty--everything I don't like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?   Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend. In good time he was to discover that he was mistaken about Charlotte. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end.

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