At Chao-cheng there lived an old woman more than seventy years of age, who had an only son. One day he went up to the hills and was eaten by a tiger, at which his mother was so overwhelmed with grief that she hardly wished to live. With tears and lamentations she ran and told her story to the magistrate of the place, who laughed and asked her how she thought the law could be brought to bear on a tiger. But the old woman would not be comforted, and at length the magistrate lost his temper and bade her begone. Of this, however, she took no notice; and then the magistrate, in compassion for her great age and unwilling to resort to extremities, promised her that he would have the tiger arrested. Even then she would not go until the warrant had been actually issued; so the magistrate, at a loss what to do, asked his attendants which of them would undertake the job. Upon this one of them, Li Neng, who happened to be gloriously drunk, stepped forward and said that he would; where- upon the warrant was immediately issued and the old woman went away. When our friend, Li Neng, got sober, he was sorry for what he had done; but reflecting that the whole thing was a mere trick of his master’s to get rid of the old woman’s importunities, did not trouble himself much about it, handing in the warrant as if the arrest had been made. “Not so,” cried the magistrate, “you said you could do this, and now I shall not let you off.” Li Neng was at his wits’ end, and begged that he might be allowed to impress the hunters of the district. This was conceded; so collecting together these men, he proceeded to spend day and night among the hills in the hope of catching a tiger, and thus making a show of having fulfilled his duty. A month passed away, during which he received several hundred blows with the bamboo, and at length, in despair, he betook himself to the Cheng-huang temple in the eastern suburb, where, falling on his knees, he prayed and wept by turns. By-and-by a tiger walked in, and Li Neng, in a great fright, thought he was going to be eaten alive. But the tiger took no notice of anything, remaining seated in the doorway. Li Neng then addressed the animal as follows: “O tiger, if thou didst slay that old woman’s son, suffer me to bind thee with this cord;” and, drawing a rope from his pocket, threw it over the animal’s neck. The tiger drooped its ears, and, allowing itself to be bound, followed Li Neng to the magistrate’s office. The latter than asked it, “Did you eat the old woman’s son?” to which the tiger replied by nodding his head; whereupon the magistrate rejoined, “That murderers should suffer death has ever been the law. Besides, this old woman had but one son, and by killing him you took from her the sole support of her declining years. But if now you will be as a son to her, your crime shall be pardoned.” The tiger again nodded assent, and accordingly the magistrate gave orders that he should be released, at which the old woman was highly incensed, thinking that the tiger ought to have paid with its life for the destruction of her son. Next morning, however, when she opened the door of her cottage, there lay a dead deer before it; and the old woman, by selling the flesh and skin, was able to purchase food. From that day this became a common event, and sometimes the tiger would even bring her money and valuables, so that she became quite rich, and was much better cared for than she had been even by her own son. Consequently, she became very well-disposed to the tiger, which often came and slept in the verandah, remaining for a whole day at a time, and giving no cause of fear either to man or beast. In a few years the old woman died, upon which the tiger walked in and roared its lamentations in the hall. However, with all the money she had saved, she was able to have a splendid funeral; and while her relatives were standing round the grave, out rushed a tiger, and sent them all running away in fear. But the tiger merely went up to the mound, and, after roaring like a thunder-peal, disappeared again. Then the people of that place built a shrine in honor of the Faithful Tiger, and it remains there to this day. (ack:englishdaily626.com)
Posts Tagged ‘short story’
Posted in 19th Century literature, French literature, stories, tagged Alphonse Daudet, Benny Thomas, Charlie Hebdo, cultural Huns, Jihadisme, La Derniere Classe, short story, the Last Lesson on January 29, 2015| Leave a Comment »
That morning, Franz was taking his way very slowly to school. He had a great dread of being scolded, particularly as the school-master had said that the lesson for the day would be on participles about which Franz did not know a word. Suddenly an idea came to him. He would go through the fields.
It was so warm, so clear. He heard the blackbirds whistling on the borders of the wood, and in the meadow, behind the saw-mill, the Prussians were drilling. Then, as he passed on by the residence of the mayor, Franz saw them putting a notice on the gate. There, for two years, had been given out all the bad news; lost battles for Alsace, calls to arms, the orders of the command. The blacksmith and his apprentice were putting up the notice, and Franz called,
“What has happened, that they are posting a bulletin again?” But the blacksmith spoke gruffly,
“Why do you loiter, little one? It is not safe. Run along quickly to school.”
So Franz made haste at last, although he was sure that the blacksmith was not in earnest, and he arrived all breathless, at his class.
School seemed, somehow, very different to Franz that morning. There was ordinarily a good deal of noise as the children came in from the street, desks were opened, and lessons were repeated out loud and all in unison, and the school-master pounded with his ruler on his table.
Now, however, there was silence.
Although Franz was late, the school-master looked at him without the least anger, and spoke softly as he said, “Go quickly to your place, my little Franz. We have already begun without you.”
Franz seated himself at his desk. Only then, his fear gone, he noticed that the master had on his best green frock coat, his finely plaited shirt and the black silk cap that he never wore except on a day when there were prizes given out in school. All the children were extraordinarily quiet. But what surprised Franz the most was to see at the back of the room, seated on the benches which were ordinarily empty, the people of the village. There was an old soldier with his tri-colored flag, the old mayor of the town, the postman, and many others. Everyone seemed sad. And the old soldier had a spelling book, ragged on the edges, that he held open on his knees, as he followed the pages through his great spectacles.
As little Franz watched all this, astonished, the school-master rose from his chair, and in the same grave, soft voice in which he had spoken to the boy, he said,
“My children, this is the last time that I shall teach your class. The order has come from Berlin that no language but German shall be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. Your new master arrives to-morrow. To-day, you will have your last lesson in French. I pray that you will be very attentive.”
Franz’s last lesson in French! And he could not write it without mistakes! He remembered all the time that he had wasted, the lessons he had missed in hunting for birds’ nests, or skating on the river. He thought of his books that would remind him always now, of his laziness–his grammar, his history, a present from his friend, the school-master, from whom he must part now with so much pain. In the midst of these thoughts, Franz heard his name called. It was his turn to recite.
He would have given a great deal to be able to recite the famous order of the participles, without a mistake, to give them clearly, and without a fault. But he confused them at the first word, and remained standing beside his desk, his heart trembling, not daring to raise his head. He heard the school-master speaking to him,
“I am not going to rebuke you, little Franz. You are already punished. Every day you have said to yourself, ‘Bah, I have plenty of time; to-morrow I will study.'”
“Ah, that has been the great fault in our Alsace, that of always putting off learning until another day. In the meantime, all the world has been quite right in saying of us, ‘How is it that you pretend to be French, and yet are not able to read and write your own language!’ Of all who are here, my poor little Franz, you are not the only one at fault. We all must reproach ourselves.”
Then the school-master told them of his longing to still teach the children the French language. He said that it would always be the most beautiful language of the world. He said that he wanted it treasured in Alsace and never forgotten, because, when a people fall into slavery it is almost like holding the key to their prison if they can speak to each other in the same tongue. Afterward he took a grammar and went over the lesson with the children. All that he read seemed suddenly quite easy to Franz; he had never attended so well, and never before had he understood how patient the school-master was in his explanations.
When the lesson was finished, writing was begun. For this last day, the master had prepared fresh copies.
_France, Alsace. France, Alsace_.
The copies were like little flags, floating all over the schoolroom from the tops of the desks. Nothing broke the great silence but the scratching of the pens upon the paper. Suddenly some May bugs flew in through the window, but no one noticed them. On the roof of the school some pigeons began to coo, and Franz thought to himself, “Will it be commanded that the birds, too, speak to us in a foreign language?”
From time to time, as Franz lifted his eyes from his paper, he saw the school-master sitting quietly in his chair, and looking all about him, as if he wanted to remember always every child and every bit of furniture in his little schoolroom. Only think, for forty years, he had been there in his place, with the playground facing him, and his class always as full! Only the benches and the desks which had once been polished were worn from usage now; the walnut trees in the yard had grown very large, and the hop vine that he, himself, had planted twined now above the window and as far as the roof. It was breaking the heart of the school-master to leave all these things.
But he had the courage to carry on the class to the very end. After the writing lesson, he began the lesson in history. Afterward, the little ones sang their A. B. C.’s all together and at the end of the room the old soldier took off his spectacles and, holding his spelling book in his two hands, he read off the letters with them.
Suddenly the clock in the tower of the village church sounded the hour of noon. Instantly, the trumpet call of the Prussians, returning from their drilling, burst through the windows. The school-master rose, quite pale, in his place. Never had he seemed so great to the children.
“My friends,” he said, “my little friends, I–”
But he could say no more; he was not able to speak the words. He turned to the blackboard and, taking a piece of chalk, he wrote upon it,
“_Vive la France!_”
Afterward, he remained there, his head resting against the wall, and, without speaking, he made a sign with his hand.
“It is finished. You are dismissed.”
Alphonse Daudet’s short story: The Last Class
There is also a YouTube version put up by Mr. Robert Steiner.
In the backdrop of the recent outrage in the Charlie Hebdo office,Paris on Jan 8. 2015 by cultural bankrupts this story should be read as closely as a wake-up call. Any dent on the French Spirit sooner or later shall affect the rest of Europe. So Resist!
You see me here, grown old and feeble. I have been squeezed dry as many who sit staring vacantly and my past keeps coming, recurring nightmare of the waking time.
In my time I was nurse and my oath ringing before me every time I took rounds. But routine takes away something from each and what have I in return? Nothing!
I was a nurse sent to care the old senile hags in institutions where I worked. I worked to go higher and raise a family that shall be proud of me.
I was also young. I worked while my skin glowed and full twenty years made me curse my work every minute of it. None found me cross or less than my professional image I set for myself. My smile and my teeth all well cared for made even a smile passed for truth. My body hygiene and appearance impressed my superiors.
Every day I signed the register and took my wards through their paces. Did I enjoy it? To tell the truth, no Oh no.
I cursed the hags in their diapers. I ladled porridge spoonsful into their dead flaccid mouth wishing they would choke. But for the money that I made I would have thrown the whole filth I daily cleaned on the matron’s head. A battle-axe who never smiled at us nurses nor at the imbeciles whom we cared for. Oh when the director and trustees of the Bethesda Old Home came trooping in she smiled. As on cue we four nurses smiled and trooped the well fed starched straight-laced bible carrying Samaritans to their car. They earned the places in heaven and we kept our jobs.
It was not that we hated the old. Caring them was not of the same league as caring our mother or children. But tell me how long one can bring out her best under all provocations? The old who left under our care just didn’t care for our lot. For them time just stood still. Whereas we walked our line whether we fell short paying mortgage or could not afford an affordable education plan for our young. Our wards just sat in their wheelchair to be moved about and expected clean up the mess they left. OhI hated it. I do not regret it even for a moment. I stoically converted our frustration into work that was all.
As I am in this Home for the Aged do I care? Oh no. Now the nurse, a poison pill has her lipstick all wrong and hair tucked in her cap,- she tells se is a Goth!, and she finds me as her millstone. I sit all day staring into TV and the nurse need not even see me twitch and squirm in pool of my own filth. She knows it by closed circuit beeps that warn her. Only she switches it off so she can rifle through her fashion catalogues or text message her boyfriend. My calls to ease my distress she treats as mere nuisance and she has learned to swat away as I did in my time. That is routine for you. I know she finds work just as I found: a A filthy business.
This evening the night nurses are planning a pillow fight for the entertainment of us, inmates. And we are all watching the nurses fight it out. It is playful and it goes spirited and when all the feathers fly helter-skelter, it is our secret night of horrors. All the feather fluff smelling of urine and shit would need mop after and some hard work. But we are the thing, morons laughing at our own cruel world we only let get this far. This night as hours tick by we only feel our private horror.
We see nurses have just shed their clothes, appearances of civility are gone. They have taken us back when we were as full as they.
Work was filthy for the peaches, the juicy young twenty something and they are us all in their ugly shapes, jeering at us.
Ah now they lug us into the heap of filth and dress us with cunning care, as chickens! It was a costume I never dreamed up! Hideous Jezebels are not done with us yet. As we scramble from mass of bodies, and pulled by hands to teeter and fall back with thud, there are screeches of merriment. There is a professional photographer who is creating a video diary. I know this age even our shame titillates some creep. We shall be in YouTube. It may be a viral hit among the viewers.
I wept at the injustice of it. One of my tormenters leaned over and pulled out a feather from my toothless mouth to say,’ Nothing personal Martha, Work these days is still a four letter word.’
Now we are a spectacle and our carers have no excuse that they are kept short on money. They make money on us.
Work is still the same soulless aspect,- the world taken through a shredder of hell just gives some compensation for it. Money they call it.
The Hangman’s Knot ©
Harlequin is a border town in New Mexico and the only saloon is Crumbles where the saloon keeper Dusty Nolan keeps his eye on his goods. Consider the harsh sun, it makes one think of desperate things. The locals are too poor to dip their hands into their wallets. Searching an empty wallet is a bother. All that shaking and searching a wallet inside out for some small changes makes one all the more thirsty. It makes them want to make a grab for the booze. Only that Dusty Nolan stands like the three- headed dog in the Hades.
Dusty Nolan always keeps count of the glasses he doles out customers, and of the barrels he has in the back room.
There they hang about him for some excitement.
There is always excitement. Take the border crossing.
The saloon keeper doesn’t like the trash who keep coming in the middle of the night from Mexico and the locals also share his opinion. So he has his fun organizing lynch parties for the poor immigrants. He has his goon Beanpole Mack and he sees to that vigilantes pay for the freedom of their ways by hanging all whom they catch. He also thinks they are coming just to get a load of his whiskey. He hates free loaders. As I said the harsh sun does make men do strange things.
Since Dusty Nolan took up business in that part of town excitement is a-plenty. Lynch parties go on without let up week days under his very nose and while he takes time out at the week- ends. Beanpole Mack is there to carry on with their clean up.
One day a stranger dropped in and said he was a hangman paid to do his job. He was an Englishman by name Jigsaw Jamie. He told many stories and Dusty Nolan liked what he heard. He said he had hanged a dook in his time,-and it is a fact he told him ‘You don’t hang nobs with hemp. It must be silk.’
The saloon keeper brightened up and served him a shot of whiskey saying, ‘this is on the house.’ How the locals quivered like a heap of jelly in the wind. ‘This ain’t like Dusty Nolan!’ they whispered to one another.
Meanwhile Dusty Nolan palavered with the stranger. Jigsaw Jamie whispered to him he had made a special knot that was his signature.’ Once the rope bites the victim, it is clean break,’ said he warming up to the niceties of his art. He showed him how to make it. He said, ‘With such a knot the dead will always keep his left eye open.’
Dusty Nolan was thrilled to learn the technique. Pointing to his wooden stump he gave a toothless laugh, ‘Shiver my timbers.’
Next day he went to the woods where he always shot bears. He was more for excitement than for heaving the hulk of a bear home. Now he had found another. Stringing a bear would be exciting he thought.
He made a noose with the special hangman’s knot. Unfortunately no animal took the bait.
He had to get back for a lynch party and it was such a stinker the sheriff who in the past had looked the other way, could not but take action. He arranged a posse to arrest Dusty Nolan.
Dusty Nolan escaped to the woods.
No one heard from him for weeks. Later a hunting party passing the woods came across a body and Beanpole Mack swore it was indeed the body of his boss. He pointed the wooden stump and told the sheriff it was the body of Dusty Nolan. The sheriff was mystified by the left eye of the dead man, and it was open.
The sheriff asked if his expression was natural. The dead seemed keeping still an eye.
Beanpole Mack drawled, ‘Well Dusty Nolan may be a goner. But sure he has his eye on his goods.’
Posted in short story, tagged battle of the sexes, Benny Thomas, flash fiction, hands, mature reading, miracle, modern love story, short story, story teller, woman's story, writer on April 18, 2010| Leave a Comment »
The Man Who Made Women As Good As New ©
by Benny Thomas
camp: Svandalen, Norway
19 April 2010
The man had no special gifts except his hands. And he had made the city his home.
The city was called Sin City. The particular adjective gave no air of anything even remotely hinting of moral or ethical lapse. In fact the city touted quality of life as its promise. Quality of civic life nevertheless made the name stick. The city fathers had given their solemn promise and through thick and thin of economic meltdown the city did not let go its virtue: quality of life for all. Yet the civic fathers failed them not for wanting to try but for something none could put his finger on.
Men made the city work for them but women found something go out of their lives.
They could not exactly say what. They made their homes and kept their budgets tight and in all that computing and meeting their civic obligations they ceased to feel quality of life, assured by statutory laws and it did not make them feel precisely as a woman should feel. Nothing between their legs or their biology suffered but a general malaise of being alive. At the same time of being made less than before. They shielded their own brood from the brunt of life they carried on daily basis. In making the nest they merely stressed their own strengths and these didn’t account for the empty nests the chicks would leave behind. Somewhat similar to this, women felt city had carried them high only to deny them something they could not find words for. Quality of life in their pursuit of happiness was not equal to what their femininity expected them as due. That gap merely became ever perceptible as time went by.
Somewhere in a woman’s life what she is born to and what she ends up with is a fault line and it creates symptoms. Some tried alcohol and another coke; some tried acupuncture and another yoga. There were many stimulants and sessions and every thing worked up to a point.
One woman tried massage and discovered him. How the man worked on her pressure points made her feel as good as new. He worked well and what he charged was worth every cent. She passed on his name to another. This made the out-of-towner to stay on. He was a masseur more of a complete woman than a body. He solicited custom on that point and women accepted it as the truth.
Each woman,young,fading,floundering or dithering felt as new.
Twenty years he worked with his hands and he could not yet say what made them exceptional. His hands were well padded but not fleshy; it was neither hands well shaped or that of a brute. His hands were such ordinary as hands that stuck out of cuffs neither calling attention to them nor to the cut. He was ordinary and the spanking whiteness of his shirt or his pants added little to to his evanescent personality. When he worked with his clients he was almost not there. His work-out made each woman count the professional hour as homage paid to her and he spoke not a word that was out of place. He was loathe to draw attention to himself. His hands worked silently. Even where what some positions of his workout could have compromised him he was cool detachment all through.
He lived and made the quality of the city pay him dividends. His office gave him panoramic view of the city and he desired nothing except what his hands could earn.
He put every client at ease and never he rose to a higher or lower pitch to give himself away. Part of the hour he let her sat on his lap or he bent over her while his discreet stance gave nothing that she could have benefited. Her private thoughts were all hers and if these put out tendrils of hope or nostalgia, and she seemed to float back in womb of time it was all hers. He merely let his hands touch pressure points and if his clients took off from there he chose to remain an outsider. His service was faultless as his distance from his clients was thoroughly cultivated by sheer will power.
He performed with clinical efficiency that his secretary kept strict watch over. Daisy from her cubicle saw the naked bodies of clients contort or go limp and if she grimaced or nod in approval it was over the client and not over the man. His hands were miracle workers and nothing more. She noted in satisfaction no woman remembered afterward the face except her. She took down appointments and arranged his daily schedule knew his worth.Her position was secure and won over as with the man by her professionalism. She greyed and somewhat frayed around her supple body in service. She didn’t mind, Her quality of life she wrested from the city by her iron will.
Each day she checked with her boss before the day. He worked by appointment. His office on the 10th floor was as unobtrusive as those who came in or went out.
Under the watchful eye of his secretary he learned to work as though he were a free agent. He never felt imposed upon by certain rules of office practice each expected from the other. His ten minute recess at the end of one hour session was strictly enforced and he appreciated she saw to that he had sufficiently recovered from the previous before he began the next. He was a miracle that paid for her bed and board and a place in the community. She was not going to lose all that by neglect. Her selfishness he saw as altruism. If he were not placed by society women in their social engagements or made calls it was not her problem. He had to have work. That was all he insisted upon. There was no let up from day one.
His anonymity gave his hands their mystery and women found it an exhilarating. Consider he had moved into the City with one valise and the clothes that he had on his back and in a matter of some 20 years every woman who made the city her home swore by them. His hands made them feel as good as new.
That day the women waited for their turn. She saw him take on the first patient. She saw the blond and saw her hair roots were dark. He jawbones relaxed she was not what she considered as a threat. She had a body that was far below the expectations her dress called out to all. She saw him in his kimono and he divested of his clothes and go through his routine. Five minutes later she heard the body of the blond turning over. He was still a machine that performed and only then she relaxed. She went through the papers and made notes. First two hours made her keep her mind alert that the day’s routine went on without a hitch. She was somewhat over alert and she noted with a frown. On that day sky was grey and the weather made its chill in her bones speak up. She was cautious as never before. It was on that day as though her mind sensed lurking dangers and every sound made her jump and noise broke the thread of her routine. She heard one speak with some elation,’Ah that feels good, I can cry!’ Her forehead furrowed, hardly letting go her own defenses. Perhaps age was catching up before she headed into the dangerous Forties.
Each day she had to keep watch and yet seem not inquisitorial. Each client took something of him and he was indestructible,- not a moment letting his guard down.
She remembered it was she who insisted he take a recess after an hour long session.Only that day made she was none special. She was on the wrong side of thirty!
She carefully scanned his face and gestures. She casually let her eyes rest around his boxer. He was relaxed and concentrated on his work. His movements didn’t hit any hitch but he was as cool and controlled as before. Again her mind took a defensive stance with the last patient and she could mentally describe every spot he covered or every sigh that escaped women feeling the waves of unease escape their psyche.
Daisy didn’t ask what made her feel uneasy that particular day. Fifteen years she had spent manning her station while the man prodigiously worked with his hands.Was it her hormones her age or what?
As the last patient made ready to leave she sent him sms to ask for an extra session.
‘Under exceptional circumstances, she pleaded.
He texted back:OK
When she went from her desk the man awaited his patient from the door. He was not a whit puzzled or complaining to see her. Before she removed her dress she asked,’ Do you feel embarrassed?’
He raised his eyebrows.
‘All those women who come to you see you as a machine.’
“I come to you differently.’ she stammered and feeling red. It was painful to express what was so long churning up inside.
She removed her clothes coming closer and closer. Her eyes teased him now. ‘They want to be put at ease.’
He stared at her puzzled.’I want to be excited. Feel my heart!’ She took his hands and put them against her heart.’You surely must feel something.’
‘No I feel nothing.’
Her face went pale. She had removed her panties and she let it drop.
‘I am lying down. Make me feel like a client’.
He just sat on his stool shadow of dejection expanding from his forehead to his chin.
‘Oh I had a hard day, and my hands are like wet rags.’
Daisy whimpered. ‘Twenty years I slaved for you. Do I mean nothing to you?’
He turned his head away. He heard her hands bunch up the hem of her dress. She let it fall on the floor in helplessness. He could not bear her accusatory eyes. ‘ I ask to be treated like any other woman’ Her voice trailed off in a moan. He sat there. ‘You have hurt me!’
Her voice faltered and she did not cry but shook in convulsions of despair and loneliness.
‘You are my wife, and not my custom.’
‘I put 200 dollars before I came,it is there in the day-book. Consider it as my fee.’
He rose mechanically and walked towards the curtain wall of glass that looked towards the sea. He stood there lost in thought as though he wanted to watch the rising mist from the sea. He could not bear meeting her eyes that were misted in tears.
He said,’Let us go home. After dinner we shall make love as we used to.’ He walked over to her and silently held his hand out. He felt her hand and he closed over it. He sighed. It was a relief. He felt the day was much more difficult than he ever thought it was.
They took the elevator down two figures numbed already by the awful silence of the tower that was easing itself for the night.