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Read "Miss Lonelyhearts" by Nathanael West available from Rakuten Kobo. Day after day, 'Miss Lonelyhearts' sits in his office responding to letters from. Editorial Reviews. Review. In dark times, Miss Lonelyhearts shines the brightest light in the Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like Quicksand: A Library of America eBook Classic. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Nathanael West ― novelist, screenwriter, playwright Lonelyhearts eBook: Nathanael West: Kindle Store. Download.
Not in Greece? Choose your country's store to see books available for purchase. Day after day, 'Miss Lonelyhearts' sits in his office responding to letters from 'Broken-hearted, Sick-of-it-all, and Desperate', dispensing words of hope, inspiration, and other platitudes to get his readers through their tormented days. But it's all getting to be too much for Miss Lonelyhearts. Under the weight of his colleagues' mockery and the endless gloom of his correspondence, Miss Lonelyhearts finds himself crippled with cynicism and dysfunction. Set in New York City at the height of the Great Depression, Miss Lonelyhearts stands as one of the most intelligent and hilarious works of the 20th century.
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Moya killed Joseph Zemp, an aged recluse, in an argument over a small amount of money. Miss Farkis laughed and Shrike raised his fist as though to strike her. His actions shocked the bartender, who hurriedly asked them to go into the back room. Miss Lonelyhearts did not want to go along, but Shrike insisted and he was too tired to argue. They seated themselves at a table inside one of the booths. Shrike again raised his fist, but when Miss Farkis drew back, he changed the gesture to a caress.
The trick worked. She gave in to his hand until he became too daring, then pushed him away. Shrike again began to shout and this time Miss Lonelyhearts understood that he was making a seduction speech. Then I compared the wounds in Christ's body to the mouths of a miraculous purse in which we deposit the small change of our sins. It is indeed an excellent conceit. But now let us consider the holes in our own bodies and into what these congenital wounds open.
Under the skin of man is a wondrous jungle where veins like lush tropical growths hang along overripe organs and weed-like entrails writhe in squirming tangles of red and yellow. In this jungle, flitting from rock-gray lungs to golden intestines, from liver to lights and back to liver again, lives a bird called the soul. The Catholic hunts this bird with bread and wine, the Hebrew with a golden ruler, the Protestant on leaden feet with leaden words, the Buddhist with gestures, the Negro with blood.
I spit on them all. Phoohl And I call upon you to spit. Phoohl Do you stuff birds? No, my dears, taxidermy is not religion. A thousand times no.
Better, I say unto you, better a live bird in the jungle of the body than two stuffed birds on the library table.
His caresses kept pace with the sermon. When he had reached the end, he buried his triangular face like the blade of a hatchet in her neck. He got undressed immediately and took a cigarette and a copy of The Brothers Kalamazov to bed. The marker was in a chapter devoted to Father Zossima. Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.
Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. It was excellent advice. If he followed it, he would be a big success. His column would be syndicated and the whole world would learn to love. The Kingdom of Heaven would arrive.
He would sit on the right hand of the Lamb. But seriously, he realized, even if Shrike had not made a sane view of this Christ business impossible, there would be little use in his fooling himself.
His vocation was of a different sort. As a boy in his father's church, he had discovered that something stirred in him when he shouted the name of Christ, something secret and enormously powerful. He had played with this thing, but had never allowed it to come alive. He knew now what this thing was--hysteria, a snake whose scales are tiny mirrors in which the dead world takes on a semblance of life.
And how dead the world is He wondered if hysteria were really too steep a price to pay for bringing it to life. For him, Christ was the most natural of excitements. Fixing his eyes on the image that hung on the wall, he began to chant: Christ, Christ, Jesus Christ.
With sleep, a dream came in which he found himself on the stage of a crowded theater. He was a magician who did tricks with doorknobs. At his command, they bled, flowered, spoke. After his act was finished, he tried to lead his audience in prayer. But no matter how hard he struggled, his prayer was one Shrike had taught him and his voice was that of a conductor calling stations.
Oh, Lord, we are of those who wash solely in the Blood of the Lamb. The scene of the dream changed. He found himself in his college dormitory. With him were Steve Garvey and Jud Hume. They had been arguing the existence of God from midnight until dawn, and now, having run out of whisky, they decided to go to the market for some applejack. Their way led through the streets of the sleeping town into the open fields beyond. It was spring. The sun and the smell of vegetable birth renewed their drunkenness and they reeled between the loaded carts.
The farmers took their horseplay good-naturedly. Boys from the college on a spree. They found the bootlegger and bought a gallon jug of applejack, then wandered to the section where livestock was sold. They stopped to fool with some lambs. Jud suggested buying one to roast over a fire in the woods. Miss Lonelyhearts agreed, but on the condition that they sacrifice it to God before barbecuing it. Steve was sent to the cutlery stand for a butcher knife, while the other two remained to bargain for a lamb.
After a long, Armenian-like argument, during which Jud exhibited his farm training, the youngest was selected, a little, stiff-legged thing, all head. They paraded the lamb through the market. Miss Lonelyhearts went first, carrying the knife, the others followed, Steve with the jug and Jud with the animal.
As they marched, they sang an obscene version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb. Between the market and the bill on which they intended to perform the sacrifice was a meadow. While going through it, they, picked daisies and buttercups. Halfway up the hill, they found a rock and covered it with the flowers. They laid the lamb among the flowers. Miss Lonely-hearts was elected priest, with Steve and Jud as his attendants. While they held the lamb, Miss Lonelyhearts crouched over it and began to chant.
When they had worked themselves into a frenzy, he brought the knife down hard. The blow was inaccurate and made a flesh wound. He raised the knife again and this time the lamb's violent struggles made him miss altogether. The knife broke on the altar. Steve and Jud pulled the animal's head back for him to saw at its throat, but only a small piece of blade remained in the handle and he was unable to cut through the matted wool.
Their hands were covered with slimy blood and the lamb slipped free. It crawled off into the underbrush. As the bright sun outlined the altar rock with narrow shadows, the scene appeared to gather itself for some new violence. They bolted. Down the hill they fled until they reached the meadow, where they fell exhausted in the tall grass. After some time had passed, Miss Lonelyhearts begged them to go back and put the lamb out of its misery. They refused to go. He went back alone and found it under a bush.
He crushed its head with a stone and left the carcass to the flies that swarmed around the bloody altar flowers. Miss Lonelyhearts found himself developing an almost insane sensitiveness to order. Everything had to form a pattern: When he looked out of a window, he composed the skyline by balancing one building against another. If a bird flew across this arrangement, he closed his eyes angrily until it was gone.
For a little while, he seemed to hold his own but one day he found himself with his back to the wall. On that day all the inanimate things over which he had tried to obtain control took the field against him.
When he touched something, it spilled or rolled to the floor. The collar buttons disappeared under the bed, the point of the pencil broke, the handle of the razor fell off, the window shade refused to stay down.
He fought back, but with too much violence, and was decisively defeated by the spring of the alarm clock. He fled to the street, but there chaos was multiple.
Broken groups of people hurried past, forming neither stars nor squares. The lamp-posts were badly spaced and the flagging was of different sizes. Nor could he do anything with the harsh clanging sound of street cars and the raw shouts of hucksters. No repeated group of words would fit their rhythm and no scale could give them meaning. He stood quietly against a wall, trying not to see or hear. Then he remembered Betty.
She had often made him feel that when she straightened his tie, she straightened much more. And he had once thought that if her world were larger, were the world, she might order it as finally as the objects on her dressing table. He gave Betty's address to a cab driver and told him to hurry. But she lived on the other side of the city and by the time he got there, his panic had turned to irritation. She came to the door of her apartment in a crisp, white linen dressing-robe that yellowed into brown at the edges.
She held out both her hands to him and her arms showed round and smooth like wood that has been turned by the sea. With the return of self-consciousness, he knew that only violence could make him supple. It was Betty, however, that he criticized. Her world was not the world and could never include the readers of his column. Her sureness was based on the power to limit experience arbitrarily.
Moreover, his confusion was significant, while her order was not. He tried to reply to her greeting and discovered that his tongue had become a fat thumb. To avoid talking, he awkwardly forced a kiss, then found it necessary to apologize. But the trick failed and she waited for him to continue:. She was laughing at him. On the defense, he examined her laugh for "bitterness," "sour-grapes," "a-broken-heart," "the devil-may-care.
Her smile had opened naturally, not like an umbrella, and while he watched her laugh folded and became a smile again, a smile that was neither "wry," "ironical" nor "mysterious.
As they moved into the living-room, his irritation increased. She sat down on a studio couch with her bare legs under and her back straight. Behind her a silver tree flowered in the lemon wall-paper.
He remained standing. You have the smug smile; all you need is the pot belly. His voice was so full of hatred that he himself was surprised. He fidgeted for a while in silence and finally sat down beside her on the couch to take her hand. More than two months had passed since he had sat with her on this same couch and had asked her to marry him. Then she had accepted him and they had planned their life after marriage, his job and her gingham apron, his slippers beside the fireplace and her ability to cook.
He had avoided her since. He did not feel guilty; he was merely annoyed at having been fooled into thinking that such a solution was possible. He soon grew tired of holding hands and began to fidget again. He remembered that towards the end of his last visit he had put his hand inside her clothes. Unable to think of anything else to do, he now repeated the gesture. She was naked under her robe and he found her breast.
She made no sign to show that she was aware of his hand. He would have welcomed a slap, but even when he caught at her nipple, she remained silent. He began to shout at her, accompanying his shouts with gestures that were too appropriate, like those of an old-fashioned actor. As soon as any one acts viciously, you say he's sick. Wife-torturers, rapers of small children, according to you they're all sick.
No morality, only medicine. Well, I'm not sick. I don't need any of your damned aspirin. I've got a Christ complex. I'm a humanity lover. All the broken bastards She had left the couch for a red chair that was swollen with padding and tense with live springs.
In the lap of this leather monster, all trace of the serene Buddha disappeared. But his anger was not appeased. Instead of answering, she raised her arm as though to ward off a blow. She was like a kitten whose soft helplessness makes one ache to hurt it. Her face took on the expression of an inexperienced gambler about to venture all on a last throw. He was turning for his hat, when she spoke. Go away. Please go away. In the street again, Miss Lonelyhearts wondered what to do next.
He was too excited to eat and afraid to go home. He felt as though his heart were a bomb, a complicated bomb that would result in a simple explosion, wrecking the world without rocking it. He decided to go to Delehanty's for a drink. In the speakeasy, he discovered a group of his friends at the bar. They greeted him and went on talking. One of them was complaining about the number of female writers. Then some one started a train of stories by suggesting that what they all needed was a good rape.
She began writing for the little magazines about how much Beauty hurt her and ditched the boy friend who set up pins in a bowling alley. The guys on the block got sore and took her into the lots one night.
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About eight of them. They ganged her proper When this hard-boiled stuff first came in, she dropped the trick English accent and went in for scram and lam. She got to hanging around with a lot of mugs in a speak, gathering material for a novel.
Well, the mugs didn't know they were picturesque and thought she was regular until the barkeep put them wise. They got her into the back room to teach her a new word and put the boots to her. They didn't let her out for three days. On the last day they sold tickets to niggers Miss Lonelyhearts stopped listening. His friends would go on telling these stories until they were too drunk to talk. They were aware of their childishness, but did not know how else to revenge themselves. At college, and perhaps for a year afterwards, they had believed in literature, had believed in Beauty and in personal expression as an absolute end.
When they lost this belief, they lost everything. Money and fame meant nothing to them. They were not worldly men. Miss Lonelyhearts drank steadily.
He was smiling an innocent, amused smile, the smile of an anarchist sitting in the movies with a bomb in his pocket. If the people around him only knew what was in his pocket. In a little while he would leave to kill the President. It's too damn literary--plain song, Latin poetry, medieval painting, Huysmans, stained-glass windows and crap like that. He wants to cultivate his interior garden. But you can't escape, and where is he going to find a market for the fruits of his personality?
The Farm Board is a failure. We can't all believe in Christ, and what does the farmer care about art? He takes his shoes off to get the warm feel of the rich earth between his toes. You can't take your shoes off in church. Miss Lonelyhearts had again begun to smile. Like Shrike, the man they imitated, they were machines for making jokes. A button machine makes buttons, no matter what the power used, foot, steam or electricity.
They, no matter what the motivating force, death, love or God, made jokes. The whisky was good and he felt warm and sure. Through the light-blue tobacco smoke, the mahogany bar shone like wet gold.
The glasses and bottles, their high lights exploding, rang like a battery of little bells when the bartender touched them together. He forgot that his heart was a bomb to remember an incident of his childhood. One winter evening, he had been waiting with his little sister for their father to come home from church. She was eight years old then, and he was twelve.
Made sad by the pause between playing and eating, he had gone to the piano and had begun a piece by Mozart. It was the first time he had ever voluntarily gone to the piano. His sister left her picture book to dance to his music. She had never danced before. She danced gravely and carefully, a simple dance yet formal As Miss Lonelyhearts stood at the bar, swaying slightly to the remembered music, he thought of children dancing.
Square replacing oblong and being replaced by circle. Every child, everywhere; in the whole world there was not one child who was not gravely, sweetly dancing.
He stepped away from the bar and accidentally collided with a man holding a glass of beer. When he turned to beg the man's pardon, he received a punch in the mouth. Later he found himself at a table in the back room, playing with a loose tooth. He wondered why his hat did not fit and discovered a lump on the back of his head. He must have fallen. The hurdle was higher than he had thought. His anger swung in large drunken circles.
What in Christ's name was this Christ business? And children gravely dancing? He would ask Shrike to be transferred to the sports department. Ned Gates came in to see how he was getting along and suggested the fresh air: Gates was also very drunk. When they left the speakeasy together, they found that it was snowing. Miss Lonelyhearts' anger grew cold and sodden like the snow. He and his companion staggered along with their heads down, turning corners at random, until they found themselves in front of the little park.
A light was burning in the comfort station and they went in to warm up. An old man was sitting on one of the toilets. The door of his booth was propped open and he was sitting on the turned-down toilet cover. The old man jumped with fright, but finally managed to speak. Please let me alone.
The old man looked as if he were going to cry, but suddenly laughed instead. A terrible cough started under his laugh, and catching at the bottom of his lungs, it ripped into his throat.
He turned away to wipe his mouth. Miss Lonelyhearts tried to get Gates to leave, but he refused to go without the old man. They both grabbed him and pulled him out of the stall and through the door of the comfort station. He went soft in their arms and started to giggle. Miss Lonelyhearts fought off a desire to hit him. The snow had stopped falling and it had grown very cold. The old man did not have an overcoat, but said that he found the cold exhilarating.
He carried a cane and wore gloves because, as he said, he detested red hands. Instead of going back to Delehanty's they went to an Italian cellar close by the park. The old man tried to get them to drink coffee, but they told him to mind his own business and drank rye. The whisky burned Miss Lonely-hearts' cut lip. Gates was annoyed by the old man's elaborate manners. When did you first discover homosexualistic tendencies in yourself?
Scientists have terribly bad manners But you are a pervert, aren't you? The old man raised his cane to strike him. Gates grabbed it from behind and wrenched it out of his hand.
He began to cough violently and held his black satin tie to his mouth. Still coughing he dragged himself to a chair in the back of the room. Miss Lonelyhearts felt as he had felt years before, when he had accidentally stepped on a small frog. Its spilled guts had filled him with pity, but when its suffering had become real to his senses, his pity had turned to rage and he had beaten it frantically until it was dead.
Gates followed laughing. At their approach, the old man jumped to his feet. Miss Lonelyhearts caught him and forced him back into his chair. Miss Lonelyhearts put his arm around the old man. When the old man still remained silent, he took his arm and twisted it.
Gates tried to tear him away, but he refused to let go. He was twisting the arm of all the sick and miserable, broken and betrayed, inarticulate and impotent. He was twisting the arm of Desperate, Brokenhearted, Sick-of-it-all, Disillusioned-with-tubercular-husband. Miss Lonelyhearts lay on his bed fully dressed, just as he had been dumped the night before.
His head ached and his thoughts revolved inside the pain like a wheel within a wheel. When he opened his eyes, the room, like a third wheel, revolved around the pain in his head. From where he lay he could see the alarm clock. It was half past three. When the telephone rang, he crawled out of the sour pile of bed clothes.
Shrike wanted to know if he intended to show up at the office. He answered that he was drunk but would try to get there. He undressed slowly and took a bath. The hot water made his body feel good, but his heart remained a congealed lump of icy fat. After drying himself, he found a little whisky in the medicine chest and drank it. The alcohol warmed only the lining of his stomach. He shaved, put on a clean shirt and a freshly pressed suit and went out to get something to eat.
When he had finished his second cup of scalding coffee, it was too late for him to go to work. But he had nothing to worry about, for Shrike would never fire him.
He made too perfect a butt for Shrike's jokes. Once he had tried to get fired by recommending suicide in his column. All that Shrike had said was: Suicide, it is only reasonable to think, must defeat this purpose. He paid for his breakfast and left the cafeteria. Some exercise might warm him. He decided to take a brisk walk, but he soon grew tired and when he reached the little park, he slumped down on a bench opposite the Mexican War obelisk.
The stone shaft cast a long, rigid shadow on the walk in front of him. He sat staring at it without knowing why until he noticed that it was lengthening in rapid jerks, not as shadows usually lengthen. He grew frightened and looked up quickly at the monument. It seemed red and swollen in the dying sun, as though it were about to spout a load of granite seed. He hurried away. When he had regained the street, he started to laugh. Although he had tried hot water, whisky, coffee, exercise, he had completely forgotten sex.
What he really needed was a woman. He laughed again, remembering that at college all his friends had believed intercourse capable of steadying the nerves, relaxing the muscles and clearing the blood. But he knew only two women who would tolerate him.
He had spoiled his chances with Betty, so it would have to be Mary Shrike. When he kissed Shrike's wife, he felt less like a joke. She returned his kisses because she hated Shrike. But even there Shrike had beaten him. No matter how hard he begged her to give Shrike horns, she refused to sleep with him. Although Mary always grunted and upset her eyes, she would not associate what she felt with the sexual act. When he forced this association, she became very angry.
He had been convinced that her grunts were genuine by the change that took place in her when he kissed her heavily. Then her body gave off an odour that enriched the synthetic flower scent she used behind her ears and in the hollows of her neck.
No similar change ever took place in his own body, however. Like a dead man, only friction could make him warm or violence make him mobile. He decided to get a few drinks and then call Mary from Delehanty's. It was quite early and the speakeasy was empty. The bartender served him and went back to his newspaper. On the mirror, behind the bar hung a poster advertising a mineral water. It showed a naked girl made modest by the mist that rose from the spring at her feet.
The artist had taken a great deal of care in drawing her breasts and their nipples stuck out like tiny red hats. He tried to excite himself into eagerness by thinking of the play Mary made with her breasts. She used them as the coquettes of long ago had used their fans.
One of her tricks was to wear a medal low down on her chest. Whenever he asked to see it, instead of drawing it out she leaned over for him to look. Although he had often asked to see the medal, he had not yet found out what it represented. But the excitement refused to come. If anything, he felt colder than before he had started to think of women.
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It was not his line. Nevertheless, he persisted in it, out of desperation, and went to the telephone to call Mary. I've quarreled with him.
This time I'm through. She always talked in headlines and her excitement forced him to be casual.
She had quarreled with Shrike before and he knew that in return for an ordinary number of kisses, he would have to listen to an extraordinary amount of complaining.
When he arrived at her place, he would probably find Shrike there with her on his lap. They would both be glad to see him and all three of them would go to the movies where Mary would hold his hand under the seat. He went back to the bar for another drink, then bought a quart of Scotch and took a cab. Shrike opened the door. Although he had expected to see him, he was embarrassed and tried to cover his confusion by making believe that he was extremely drunk.
She's in the tub. Shrike took the bottle he was carrying and pulled its cork. Then he got some charged water and made two highballs.
Whisky and the boss's wife. Miss Lonelyhearts always found it impossible to reply to him. The answers he wanted to make were too general and began too far back in the history of their relationship.
However, we like to see a young man with his heart in his work. You've been going around with yours in your mouth. Miss Lonelyhearts made a desperate attempt to kid back. Shrike laughed, but too long and too loudly, then broke off with an elaborate sigh. It's Mary who does the beating.
He took a long pull at his highball and sighed again, still more elaborately.
I adore heart-to-heart talks and nowadays there are so few people with whom one can really talk. Everybody is so hard-boiled. I want to make a clean breast of matters, a nice clean breast.
It's better to make a clean breast of matters than to let them fester in the depths of one's soul. While talking, he kept his face alive with little nods and winks that were evidently supposed to inspire confidence and to prove him a very simple fellow. You spiritual lovers think that you alone suffer. But you are mistaken. Although my love is of the flesh flashy, I too suffer. It's suffering that drives me into the arms of the Miss Farkises of this world. Yes, I suffer. Here the dead pan broke and pain actually crept into his voice.
She's a damned selfish bitch. She was a virgin when I married her and has been fighting ever since to remain one. Sleeping with her is like sleeping with a knife in one's groin. It was Miss Lonelyhearts' turn to laugh. He put his face close to Shrike's and laughed as hard as he could. Can you imagine Willie Shrike, wee Willie Shrike, raping any one?
I'm like you, one of those grateful lovers. Mary came into the room in her bathrobe. She leaned over Miss Lonelyhearts and said: Come with me and bring the whisky. As he followed her into the bedroom, he heard Shrike slam the front door. She went into a large closet to dress. He sat on the bed.
Do you know why he lets me go out with other men? To save money. He knows that I let them neck me and when I get home all hot and bothered, why he climbs into my bed and begs for it. The cheap bastard! She came out of the closet wearing a black lace slip and began to fix her hair in front of the dressing table. Miss Lonelyhearts bent down to kiss the back of her neck. He took a drink from the whisky bottle, then made her a highball.
When he brought it to her, she gave him a kiss, a little peck of reward. They took a cab to a place called El Gaucho. When they entered, the orchestra was playing a Cuban rhumba.
A waiter dressed as a South-American cowboy led them to a table. Mary immediately went Spanish and her movements became languorous and full of abandon. But the romantic atmosphere only heightened his feeling of icy fatness. He tried to fight it by telling himself that it was childish. What had happened to his great understanding heart? Guitars, bright shawls, exotic foods, outlandish costumes--all these things were part of the business of dreams. He had learned not to laugh at the advertisements offering to teach writing, cartooning, engineering, to add inches to the biceps and to develop the bust.
He should therefore realize that the people who came to El Gaucho were the same as those who wanted to write and live the life of an artist, wanted to be an engineer and wear leather puttees, wanted to develop a grip that would impress the boss, wanted to cushion Raoul's head on their swollen breasts.
They were the same people as those who wrote to Miss Lonelyhearts for help. But his irritation was too profound for him to soothe it in this way.
For the time being, dreams left him cold, no matter how humble they were. She thanked him by offering herself in a series of formal, impersonal gestures. She was wearing a tight, shiny dress that was like glass-covered steel and there was something cleanly mechanical in her pantomime.
Was he sick? In a great cold wave, the readers of his column crashed over the music, over the bright shawls and picturesque waiters, over her shining body. To save himself, he asked to see the medal.
Like a little girl helping an old man to cross the street, she leaned over for him to look into the neck of her dress. But before he had a chance to see anything, a waiter came up to the table. The defeat in his voice made it easy for her to ignore his request and her mind sagged with his. When I was a child, I saw my mother die. She had cancer of the breast and the pain was terrible.
She died leaning over a table. Mary leaned over to show how her mother had died and he made another attempt to see the medal. He saw that there was a runner on it, but was unable to read the inscription.
He stopped listening and tried to bring his great understanding heart into action again. Parents are also part of the business of dreams. People like Mary were unable to do without such tales. They told them because they wanted to talk about something besides clothing or business or the movies, because they wanted to talk about something poetic. When she had finished her story, he said, "You poor kid," and leaned over for another look at the medal.
She bent to help him and pulled out the neck of her dress with her fingers. This time he was able to read the inscription: It was a small victory, yet it greatly increased his fatigue and he was glad when she suggested leaving.
In the cab, he again begged her to sleep with him. She refused. He kneaded her body like a sculptor grown angry with his clay, but there was too much method in his caresses and they both remained cold. At the door of her apartment, she turned for a kiss and pressed against him.
A spark flared up in his groin. He refused to let go and tried to work this spark into a flame. She pushed his mouth away from a long wet kiss. We must talk. Willie probably heard the elevator and is listening behind the door.
You don't know him. If he doesn't hear us talk, he'll know you're kissing me and open the door. It's an old trick of his. He kissed her throat, then opened her dress and kissed her breasts. She was afraid to resist or to stop talking.
My father was a portrait painter. He led a very gay life. He mistreated my mother. She had cancer of the breast. Her dress fell to her feet and he tore away her underwear until she was naked under her fur coat.
He tried to drag her to the floor. He released her. She opened the door and tiptoed in, carrying her rolled up clothes under her coat. He heard her switch on the light in the foyer and knew that Shrike had not been behind the door.
Then he heard footsteps and limped behind a projection of the elevator shaft. The door opened and Shrike looked into the corridor.
He had on only the top of his pajamas. It was cold and damp in the city room the next day, and Miss Lonelyhearts sat at his desk with his hands in his pockets and his legs pressed together. A desert, he was thinking, not of sand, but of rust and body dirt, surrounded by a back-yard fence on which are posters describing the events of the day. Mother slays five with ax, slays seven, slays nine Babe slams two, slams three He failed to notice Goldsmith's waddling approach until a heavy arm dropped on his neck like the arm of a deadfall.
He freed himself with a grunt. His anger amused Goldsmith, who smiled, bunching his fat cheeks like twin rolls of smooth pink toilet paper. Miss Lonelyhearts knew that Goldsmith had written the column for him yesterday, so he hid his annoyance to be grateful. I am not very good at writing so I wonder if I could have a talk with you. I am only 32 years old but have had a lot of trouble in my life and am unhappily married to a cripple. I need some good advice bad but cant state my case in a letter as I am not good at letters and it would take an expert to state my case.
I know your a man and am glad as I dont trust women. You were pointed out to me in Delehantys as a man who does the advice in the paper and the minute I saw you I said you can help me. You had on a blue suit and a gray hat when I came in with my husband who is a cripple. I don't feel so bad about asking to see you personal because I feel almost like I knew you.
So please call me up at Bugess which is my number as I need your advice bad about my married life. Goldsmith laughed at him. Instead of pulling the Russian by recommending suicide, you ought to get the lady with child and increase the potential circulation of the paper.
To drive him away, Miss Lonelyhearts made believe that he was busy. He went over to his typewriter and started pounding out his column. Oh, my dear readers, it only seems so. Every man, no matter how poor or humble, can teach himself to use his senses.
See the cloud-flecked sky, the foam-decked sea Smell the sweet pine and heady privet Feel of velvet and of satin As the popular song goes, 'The best things in life are free. He could not go on with it and turned again to the imagined desert where Desperate, Broken-hearted and the others were still building his name. They had run out of sea shells and were using faded photographs, soiled fans, time-tables, playing cards, broken toys, imitation jewelry--junk that memory had made precious, far more precious than anything the sea might yield.
He killed his great understanding heart by laughing, then reached into the waste-paper basket for Mrs. Doyle's letter. Like a pink tent, he set it over the desert. Against the dark mahogany desk top, the cheap paper took on rich flesh tones.
He thought of Mrs. Doyle as a tent, hair-covered and veined, and of himself as the skeleton in a water closet, the skull and cross-bones on a scholar's bookplate. When he made the skeleton enter the flesh tent, it flowered at every joint. But despite these thoughts, he remained as dry and cold as a polished bone and sat trying to discover a moral reason for not calling Mrs.
If he could only believe in Christ, then adultery would be a sin, then everything would be simple and the letters extremely easy to answer. The completeness of his failure drove him to the telephone. He left the city room and went into the hall to use the pay station from which all private calls had to be made.
The walls of the booth were covered with obscene drawings. He fastened his eyes on two disembodied genitals and gave the operator Burgess He went back to his desk and finished his column, then started for the park. He sat down on a bench near the obelisk to wait for Mrs. Still thinking of tents, he examined the sky and saw that it was canvas-colored and ill-stretched. He examined it like a stupid detective who is searching for a clue to his own exhaustion.
When he found nothing, he turned his trained eye on the skyscrapers that menaced the little park from all sides. In their tons of forced rock and tortured steel, he discovered what he thought was a clue. Americans have dissipated their radical energy in an orgy of stone breaking. In their few years they have broken more stones than did centuries of Egyptians. And they have done their work hysterically, desperately, almost as if they knew that the stones would some day break them.
The detective saw a big woman enter the park and start in his direction. He made a quick catalogue: Despite her short plaid skirt, red sweater, rabbit-skin jacket and knitted tam-o'-shanter, she looked like a police captain. He did not have to answer, for she was already on her way. As he followed her up the stairs to his apartment, he watched the action of her massive hams; they were like two enormous grindstones.
He had always been the pursuer, but now found a strange pleasure in having the roles reversed. He drew back when she reached for a kiss. She caught his head and kissed him on his mouth. At first it ticked like a watch, then the tick softened and thickened into a heart throb.
It beat louder and more rapidly each second, until he thought that it was going to explode and pulled away with a rude jerk. He smoked a cigarette, standing in the dark and listening to her undress.
She made sea sounds; something flapped like a sail; there was the creak of ropes; then he heard the wave-against-a-wharf smack of rubber on flesh. I Her call for him to hurry was a sea-moan, and when he lay beside her, she heaved, tidal, moon-driven. Some fifteen minutes later, he crawled out of bed like an exhausted swimmer leaving the surf, and dropped down into a large armchair near the window.
She went into the bathroom, then came back and sat in his lap. He's a cripple like I wrote you, and much older than me.
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