Snow White by Donald Barthelme a b. e-book 0 / Notes at eof back Cover

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. . . WALLS. . . WHEN HE DOESN'T. . .

. . . A WALL. . . INTELLIGENCE. . . TO
RETURN. . . HE'S COLD. . . MIRROR. . .
"YOU have to learn to spell everything right," Paul told Emily. "That is the first thing I found intolerable, in other countries. Who can spell Jeg føler mig daarligt tilpas? And all it means is I feel bad, and I already know that. That I feel bad. If it had meant, for example, The jug is folded under the darling tulips. . ." "I understand," Emily said, but she didn't, because she was an animal. Not human. Her problems are not our problems. Forget her. "I try to be reasonable," Paul said, "civil with the telephone company, brusque with the bank. That is what they have earned, that bank, brusqueness, and they can send me all the zinnia seeds in the world and I won't change my opinion. But now that I am a part of the Abbey of Theleme, under the thumb of our fat abbot, I do what I will. That jolly rogue and thin pedant is drunk again, and does not know that I am here, at the catseller's war, earning a penny as a correspondent for Cat World. Too bad Snow White is not here with me. It would be good for her, and good for me, and we could crawl behind that pile of used arquebus wads over there and tell each other what we are really like. I already know what I am really like, but I don't know what she is really like. She is probably really like no other girl I have ever known -- unlike Joan, unlike Letitia, unlike Mary, unlike Amelia. Unlike those old girls, with whom I spent parts of my youth, the parts that I left with all those priests, in all those dark boxes, with little curtains and sliding doors, before I threw in with the Thelemites, and began to do what I would. In all sincerity, I am not sure that I am better now than I was then, in those old days. At least then I did not know what I was doing. Now, I know."
"PAUL is frog. He is frog through and through. I thought he would, at some point, cast off his mottled wettish green-and-brown integument to reappear washed in the hundred glistering hues of princeliness. But he is pure frog. So. I am disappointed. Either I have overestimated Paul, or I have overestimated history. In either case I have made a serious error. So. There it is. I have been disappointed, and am, doubtless, to be disappointed further. Total disappointment. That's it. The red meat on the rug. The frog's legs on the floor."
"I LOVE YOU, Snow White." "I know, Hogo. I know because you have told me a thousand times. I do not doubt you. I am convinced of your sincerity and warmth. And I must admit that your tall brutality has made its impression on me, too. I am not unaffected by your Prussian presence, or by the chromed chains you wear looped around your motorcycle doublet, or by your tasteful scars on the left and right cheeks. But this 'love' must not be, because of your blood. You don't have the blood for this 'love,' Hogo. Your blood is not fine enough. Oh I know that in this democratic era questions of blood are a little de trop, a little frowned-upon. People don't like to hear people talking about their blood, or about other people's blood. But I am not 'people,' Hogo. I am me. I must hold myself in reserve for a prince or prince-figure, someone like Paul. I know that Paul has not looked terribly good up to now and in fact I despise him utterly. Yet he has the blood of kings and queens and cardinals in his veins, Hogo. He has the purple blood of exalted station. Whereas you have only plain blood in your veins, Hogo, blood that anybody might have, the delivery boy from the towel service for example. You must admit that they are not the same thing, these two kinds of blood." "But what about love? What about love which, as Stendhal tells us, seizes the senses and overthrows all other considerations in a giddy of irresponsibility?" "You may well say 'a giddy of irresponsibility,' Hogo. That is precisely the state I am not in. I am calm. As calm as a lamp, as calm as the Secretary of State. As calm as you are giddy." "Well Snow White your blood arguments are pretty potent, and I recognize that there is a gap there, between my blood and the blood royal. Yet in my blood there is a fever. I offer you this fever. It is as if my blood were full of St. Elmo's fire, so hot and electrical does it feel, inside me. If this fever, this rude but grand passion, in any measure ennobles me in your eyes, or in any other part of you, then perhaps all is not yet lost. For even a bad man can set his eyes on the stars, sometimes. Even a bad man can breathe and hope. And it is my hope that, as soon as you fully comprehend the strength of this fever in me, you will find it ennobling and me ennobled, and a fit consort suddenly, though I was not before. I know that this is a slim hope." "No Hogo. It does not ennoble you, the fever. I wish it did, but it does not. It is simply a fever, in my view. Two aspirin and a glass of water. I know that this is commonplace, even cruel, advice, but I have no other advice. I myself am so buffeted about by recent events, and non-events, that if events give me even one more buffet, I will simply explode. Goodnight, Hogo. Take your dark appeal away. Your cunningly-wrought dark appeal."
WE were sitting at a sidewalk cafe talking about the old days. The days before. Then the proprietor came. He had a policeman with him. A policeman wearing a black leather blackjack and a book by Rafael Sabatini. "You are too far out on the sidewalk," the policeman said. "You must stay behind the potted plants. You must not be more than ten feet from the building line." We moved back behind the building line then. We could talk about the old days on either side of the potted plants, we decided. We were friendly and accommodating, as is our wont. But in moving the table we spilled the drinks. "There will be an additional charge for the stained tablecloth," the proprietor said. Then we poured the rest of the drinks over the rest of the tablecloth, until it was all the same color, rose-red. "Show us the stain," we said. "Where is the stain? Show us the stain and we will pay. And while you are looking for it, more drinks." We looked fondly back over the inches to where we had been. The policeman looked back over the inches with us. "I realize it was better there," the policeman said. "But the law is the law. That is what is wrong with it, that it is the law. You don't mind if I have just a taste of your stain?" The policeman wrung out our table-cover and tossed it off with a flourish of brass. "That's good stain. And now, if you will excuse me, I intuit a felony, over on Pleat Street." The policeman flew away to attend to his felony, the proprietor returned with more stain. "Who has wrinkled my tablecover?" We regarded the tablecover, a distressed area it was true. "Someone will pay for the ironing of that." Then we rose up and wrinkled the entire sidewalk cafe, with our bare hands. It was impossible to tell who was wrong, when we had finished.
JANE gave Snow White a vodka Gibson on the rocks. "Drink this," she said. "It will make you feel better." "I don't feel bad physically," Snow White said. "Emotionally is another story of course." "Go on," Jane said. "Go on drink it." "No I won't drink it now," Snow White said. "Perhaps later. Although something warns me not to drink it at all. Something suggests to me that it is a bad scene, this drink you proffer. Something whispers to me that there is something wrong with it." "Well that's possible," Jane replied. "I didn't make the vodka myself you know. I didn't grow the grain myself, and reap it myself, and make the mash myself. I am not a member of the Cinzano Vermouth Company. They don't tell me everything. I didn't harvest the onions. I didn't purify the water that went into these rocks. I'm not responsible for everything. All I can say is that to the best of my knowledge, this is an ordinary vodka Gibson on the rocks. Just like any other. Further than that I will not go." "Oh well then," Snow White said. "It must be all right in that case. It must be all right if it is ordinary. If it is as ordinary as you say. In that case, I shall drink it." "This drink is vaguely exciting, like a film by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson," Paul said. "It is a good thing I have taken it away from you, Snow White. It is too exciting for you. If you had drunk it, something bad would probably have happened to your stomach. But because I am a man, and because men have strong stomachs for the business of life, and the pleasure of life too, nothing will happen to me. Lucky that I sensed you about to drink it, and sensed that it was too exciting for you, on my sensing machine in my underground installation, and was able to arrive in time to wrest it from your grasp, just as it was about to touch your lips. Those lips that I have deeply admired, first through the window, and then from my underground installation. Those lips that --" "Look how he has fallen to the ground Jane!" Snow White observed. "And look at all that green foam coming out of his face! And look at those convulsions he is having! Why it resembles nothing else but a death agony, the whole scene! I wonder if there was something wrong with that drink after all? Jane? Jane?"
"ONE thing you can say about him," Fred said, "is that Paul was straight. A straight arrow. And just by looking at him, on those occasions when our paths crossed, at the bus station for instance, or at the discount store, I could tell that Paul had a lot of ginger. He must have had a lot of ginger, to have dug that great hole, outside the house, and to have put all those wires in it, and connected all those dogs to the wires, and all that. That took a lot of mechanical ingenuity, to my way of thinking, and a lot of technical knowledge too, that shouldn't be understated, when we are making our final assessment of Paul. I might mention the trust that Hogo placed in him, as evidenced by the large sum of money found on him, wrapped in one of Hogo's bank statements, when they changed his clothes, at the funeral parlor. Of course some people say that this was get-out-of-town money Hogo had given him, but I don't believe that. I choose to believe that Hogo placed a great deal of trust in Paul, more trust perhaps than the best judgment would suggest, strictly speaking. But I'm talking like a banker now, in a shrill and judicious way, and I don't want to talk like that. Consider Amelia, who is sitting here in the front row with a black cloth over her face, waiting to see her late lover tucked away under the earth, in the box that has been prepared for him. Imagine one's feelings at such a moment. No, it is too difficult. I shall not ask you to imagine them. I only ask that you empathize with this poor woman, who has been deprived, at a stroke of the Lord's pen as it were, of a source of income and warmth and human intercourse, which we all regard so highly, and need so much. I leave that thought to stick in your minds. As for myself, I am only Fred, a former bandleader spitted on a passion for Snow White, that girl in the third row there, seated next to Jane. She will not even speak to me, even though I am in her power. It seems that being in someone's power implies no obligation on the part of the one in whose power one is, not even the obligation of sparing one a word now and then, or a yellow half-smile. But that is my business, and not the business we are gathered together here in the sight of God to execute, which is the burning of Paul, and the putting of him into a vase, and the sinking of the vase into the ground, in the box that has been prepared for it. Some people like to be scattered on top, but Paul wanted to be put under the ground. That accords with what else we knew about him."
TRYING to break out of this bag that we are in. What gave us the idea that there was something better? How does the concept, "something better," arise? What does it look like, this something better? Don't tell me that it is an infant's idea because I refuse to believe that. I know some sentient infants but they are not that sentient. And then the great horde of persons sub-sentient who nevertheless can conceive of something better. I am thinking of a happy island. Intestate Bill moved toward his lack of reward. We have raised him to the sky. Bill will become doubtless one of those skyheroes, like Theodicy and Rime, who govern the orderly rush of virgins and widows through the world. We lifted him toward the sky. Bill will become doubtless one of those sub-deities who govern the calm passage of cemeteries through the sky. If the graves fall open in mid-passage and swathed forms fall out, it will be his fault, probably.
BILL has been hanged. We regret that. He is the first of us ever to be hanged. We regret it. But that was the verdict. We had a hard time hanging him. We had never hanged anyone before. But fortunately we had Hogo to help us. Bill was hanged because he was guilty, and if you are guilty, then you must be hanged. He was guilty of vatricide and failure. He leaped about on the platform quite a bit. It was evident that he didn't wish to be hanged. It was a fearsome amount of trouble, the whole thing. But luckily Hogo was there with his quirt. That expedited things. Now there is a certain degree of equanimity. We prize equanimity. It means things are going well. Bill's friend Dan is the new leader. We have decided to let Hogo live in the house. He is a brute perhaps but an efficient brute. He is good at tending the vats. Dan has taken charge with a fine aggressiveness. He has added three new varieties to the line: Baby Water Chestnuts, Baby Kimchi, Baby Bean Thread. They are moving well, these new varieties. Snow White continues to cast chrysanthemums on Paul's grave, although there is nothing in it for her, that grave. I think she realizes that. But she was fond of his blood, while he was alive. She was fond not of him but of the abstract notion that, to her, meant "him." I am not sure that that is the best idea.
Scan Notes, v3.0: Proofed carefully against DT, italics intact. The five-linefeeds indicate forced new pages in the DT. Several paragraphs intentionally have multiple spaces between words or phrases. New paragraphs are very rare within each section, and again, this is faithful to the Dead Tree.
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