Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Oh, Henry!

Say what you will, I like O. Henry. I just finished a book of some of his short stories. I marked one page that hit my funny bone:

"Look at you, all decent and unrioutous, and only fit to sit on juries and mend the wood-house door. You was a man once. I have hostility for all such acts. Why don't you go in the house and count the tidies or set the clock, and not stand out here in the atmosphere? A jack-rabbit might come along and bite you."

That's from "The Lonesome Road." The next story is from the perspective of a young man wooing a young lady. But there's competition from a millionaire. The young man has pretty much given up on trying to impress the girl, so he ends up telling her what he'd really like to do in life:

"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to the south shore of Long Island and buy a small cottage I know there on the edge of the bay. And I'll buy a catboat and a rowboat and a shotgun and a yellow dog. I've got money enough to do it. And l'll smell the salt wind all day when it blows from the sea and the pine odor when it blows from the land, And of course, I'll write plays until I have trunk full of 'em on hand.

"And the next thing and the biggest thing I'll do will be to buy that duck-farm next door. Few people understand ducks. I can watch 'em for hours. They can march better than any company in the National Guard, and they can play 'follow my leader' better than the entire Democrate party. Their voices don't amount to much, but I like to hear 'em. They wake you up a dozen times a night, but there's a homely sound about the quacking that is more musical to me than the cry of 'Fresh straw ber-rees!' under your window in the morning when you want to sleep."

Do you think he gets the girl? Read "Rus in Urbe." I especially like the next-to-last sentence.

(All quotes are from Henry, O. "The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories." Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Assoc., 1987. The first quote is from p. 116; the second quote is from pp. 197-198.)

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