there are Christians here." So Darl set still and we went on, with Jewel
squatting on the tail-gate, watching the back of Darl's head. He looked like one
of these bull dogs, one of these dogs that dont bark none, squatting against the
rope, watching the thing he was waiting to jump at.
He set that way all the time we was in front of Mrs Bundren's house,
hearing the music, watching the back of Darl's head with them hard white eyes of
The music was playing in the house. It was one of them graphophones. It
was natural as a music-band.
"Do you want to go to Peabody's?" Darl said. "They can wait here and tell
pa, and I’11 drive you to Peabody's and come back for them."
"No," I said. It was better to get her underground, now we was this close,
just waiting until pa borrowed the shovel. He drove along the street until we
could hear the music.
"Maybe they got one here," he said. He pulled up at Mrs Bundren's. It was
like he knowed. Sometimes I think that if a working man could see work as far
ahead as a lazy man can see laziness. So he stopped there like he knowed, before
that little new house, where the music was. We waited there, hearing it. I
believe I could have dickered Suratt down to five dollars on that one of his.
It's a comfortable thing, music is. "Maybe they got one here," pa says.
"You want Jewel to go," Darl says, "or do you reckon I better?"
"I reckon I better," pa says. He got down and went up the path and around
the house to the back. The music stopped, then it started again.
"He'll get it, too," Darl said.
"Ay," I said. It was just like he knowed, like he could see through the
walls and into the next ten minutes.
Only it was more than ten minutes. The music stopped and never commenced
again for a good spell, where her and pa was talking at the back. We waited in
"You let me take you back to Peabody's," Darl said.
"No," I said. "We'll get her underground."
"If he ever gets back," Jewel said. He begun to cuss. He started to get
down from the wagon. ³I'm going," he said.
Then we saw pa coming back. He had two spades, coming around the house. He
laid them in the wagon and got in and we went on. The music never started again.
Pa was looking back at the house. He kind of lifted his hand a little and I saw
the shade pulled back a little at the window and her face in it.
But the curiousest thing was Dewey Dell. It surprised me. I see all the
while how folks could say he was queer, but that was the very reason couldn't
nobody hold it personal. It was like he was outside of it too, same as you, and
getting mad at it would be kind of like getting mad at a mud-puddle that
splashed you when you stepped in it. And then I always kind of had a idea that
him and Dewey Dell kind of knowed things betwixt them. If I'd a said it was ere
a one of us she liked better than ere a other, I'd a said it was Darl. But when
we got it filled and covered and drove out the gate and turned into the lane
where them fellows was waiting, when they come out and come on him and he jerked
back, it was Dewey Dell that was on him before even Jewel could get at him. And
then I believed I knowed how Gillespie knowed about how his barn taken fire.
She hadn't said a word, hadn't even looked at him, but when them fellows
told him what they wanted and that they had come to get him and he throwed back,
she jumped on him like a wild cat so that one of the fellows had to quit and
hold her and her scratching and clawing at him Like a wild cat, while the other
one and pa and Jewel throwed Darl down and held him lying on his back, looking
up at me.
"I thought you would have told me," he said. "I never thought you wouldn't
"Darl," I said. But he fought again, him and Jewel and the fellow, and the
other one holding Dewey Dell and Vardaman yelling and Jewel saying,
"Kill him. Kill the son of a bitch."
It was bad so. It was bad. A fellow cant get away from a shoddy job. He
cant do it. I tried to tell him, but he just said, "I thought you'd a told me.
It's not that I," he said, then he begun to laugh. The other fellow pulled Jewel
off of him and he sat there on the ground, laughing.
I tried to tell him. If I could have just moved, even set up. But I tried
to tell him, and he quit laughing, looking up at me.
"Do you want me to go?" he said.
"It'll be better for you," I said. "Down there it'll be quiet, with none
of the bothering and such. It'll be better for you, Darl," I said.
"Better," he said. He begun to laugh again. "Better," he said. He couldn't
hardly say it for laughing. He sat on the ground and us watching him, laughing
and laughing. It was bad. It was bad so. I be durn if I could see anything to
laugh at. Because there just aint nothing justifies the deliberate destruction
of what a man has built with his own sweat and stored the fruit of his sweat
But I aint so sho that ere a man has the right to say what is crazy and
what aint. It's like there was a fellow in every man that's done a-past the
sanity or the insanity, that watches the sane and the insane doings of that man
with the same horror and the same astonishment.
I said, "I reckon a man in a tight might let Bill Varner patch him up like a
damn mule, but I be damned if the man that'd let Anse Bundren treat him with raw
cement aint got more spare legs than I have."
"They just aimed to ease hit some," he said.
"Aimed, hell," I said. "What in hell did Armstid mean by even letting them
put you on that wagon again?"
"Hit was gittin right noticeable," he said. "We never had time to wait." I
just looked at him. "Hit never bothered me none," he said.
"Dont you lie there and try to tell me you rode six days on a wagon
without springs, with a broken leg and it never bothered you."
"It never bothered me much," he said.
"You mean, it never bothered Anse much," I said. "No more than it bothered
him to throw that poor devil down in the public street and handcuff him like a
damn murderer. Dont tell me. And dont tell me it aint going to bother you to
lose sixty-odd square inches of skin to get that concrete off. And dont tell me
it aint going to bother you to have to limp around on one short leg for the
balance of your life--if you walk at all again. Concrete," I said. "God Amighty,
why didn't Anse carry you to the nearest sawmill and stick your leg in the saw?
That would have cured it. Then you all could have stuck his head into the saw
and cured a whole family . . . Where is Anse, anyway? What's lie up to now?"
"He's takin back them spades he borrowed," he said.
"That's right," I said. "Of course he'd have to borrow a spade to bury his
wife with. Unless he could borrow a hole in the ground. Too bad you all didn't
put him in it too . . . Does that hurt?"
"Not to speak of," he said, and the sweat big as marbles running down his
face and his face about the color of blotting paper.
"Course not," I said. "About next summer you can hobble around fine on
this leg. Then it wont bother you, not to speak of ... If you had anything you
could call luck, you might say it was lucky this is the same leg you broke
before," I said.
"Hit's what paw says," he said.
It happened I am back of the prescription case, pouring up some chocolate sauce,
when Jody comes back and says, "Say, Skeet, there's a woman up front that wants
to see the doctor and when I said What doctor you want to see, she said she
wants to see the doctor that works here and when I said There aint any doctor
works here, she just stood there, looking back this way."
"What kind of a woman is it?" I says. "Tell her to go upstairs to Alford's
"Country woman," he says.
"Send her to the courthouse," I says. "Tell her all the doctors have gone
to Memphis to a Barbers' Convention."
"All right," he says, going away. "She looks pretty good for a country
girl," he says.
"Wait," I says. He waited and I went and peeped through the crack. But I
couldn't tell nothing except she had a good leg against the light. "Is she
young, you say?" I says.
"She looks like a pretty hot mamma, for a country girl," he says.
"Take this," I says, giving him the chocolate. I took off my apron and
went up there. She looked pretty good. One of them black eyed ones that look
like she'd as soon put a knife in you as not if you two-timed her. She looked
pretty good. There wasn't nobody else in the store; it was dinner time.
"What can I do for you?" I says.
"Are you the doctor?" she says.
"Sure," I says. She quit looking at me and was kind of looking around.
"Can we go back yonder?" she says.
It was just a quarter past twelve, but I went and told Jody to kind of watch out
and whistle if the old man come in sight, because he never got back before one.
"You better lay off of that," Jody says. "He’ll fire your stern o
here so quick you cant wink."
"He dont never get back before one," I says. "You can see him go into the
postoffice. You keep your eye peeled, now, and give me a whistle."
"What you going to do?" he says.
"You keep your eye out. I'll tell you later."
"Aint you going to give me no seconds on it?" he says.
"What the hell do you think this is?" I says; "a studfarm? You watch out
for him. I'm going into conference."
So I go on to the back. I stopped at the glass and smoothed my hair, then
I went behind the prescription case, where she was waiting. She is looking at
the medicine cabinet, then she looks at me.
"Now, madam," I says; "what is your trouble?"
"It's the female trouble," she says, watching me. "I got the money," she
"Ah," I says. "Have you got female troubles or do you want female
troubles? If so, you come to the right doctor." Them country people. Half the
time they dont know what they want, and the balance of the time they cant tell
it to you. The clock said twenty past twelve.
"No," she says.
"No which?" I says.
"I aint had it," she says. "That's it." She looked at me. "I got the
money," she says.
So I knew what she was talking about.
"Oh," I says. "You got something in your belly you wish you didn't have."
She looks at me. "You wish you had a little more or a little less, huh?"
"I got the money," she says. "He said I could git something at the
drugstore for hit,"
"Who said so?" I says.
"He did," she says, looking at me.
"You dont want to call no names," I says. "The one that put the acorn in
your belly? He the one that told you?" She dont say nothing. "You aint married,
are you?" I says. I never saw no ring. But Like as not, they aint heard yet out
there that they use rings.
"I got the money," she says. She showed it to me, tied up in her
handkerchief: a ten spot.
"I'll swear you have," I says. "He give it to you?"
"Yes," she says.
"Which one?" I says. She looks at me. "Which one of them give it to you?"
"It aint but one," she says. She looks at me.
"Go on," I says. She dont say nothing. The trouble about the cellar is, it
aint but one way out and that's back up the inside stairs. The clock says
twenty-five to one. "A pretty girl like you," I says.
She looks at me. She begins to tie the money back up in the handkerchief.
"Excuse me a minute," I says. I go around the prescription case. "Did you hear
about that fellow sprained his ear?" I says. "After that he couldn't even hear a
"You better get her out from back there before the old man comes," Jody
"If you'll stay up there in front where he pays you to stay, he wont catch
nobody but me," I says.
He goes on, slow, toward the front "What you doing to her, Skeet?" he
"I cant tell you," I says. 'It wouldn't be ethical. You go on up there and
"Say, Skeet," he says.
go on," I says. ³I aint doing nothing but filling a prescription."
"He may not do nothing about that woman back there, but if he finds you
monkeying with that prescription case, he'll kick your stern clean down them
"My stern has been kicked by bigger bastards than him," I says. "Go back
and watch out for him, now."
So I come back. The clock said fifteen to one. She is tying the money in
the handkerchief. "You aint the doctor," she says.
"Sure I am," I says. She watches me. "Is it because I look too young, or
am I too handsome?" I says. "We used to have a bunch of old water-jointed
doctors here," I says; "Jefferson used to be a kind of Old Doctors' Home for
them. But business started falling off and folks stayed so well until one day
they found out that the women wouldn't never get sick at all. So they run all
the old doctors out and got us young good-looking ones that the women would like
and then the women begun to get sick again and so business picked up. They're
doing that all over the country. Hadn't you heard about it? Maybe it's because
you aint never needed a doctor."
"I need one now," she says.
"And you come to the right one," I says. "I already told you that."
"Have you got something for it?" she says. "I got the money."
"Well," I says, "of course a doctor has to learn all sorts of things while
he's learning to roll calomel; he cant help himself. But I dont know about your
"He told me I could get something. He told me I could get it at the
"Did he tell you the name of it?" I says. "You better go back and ask
She quit looking at me, kind of turning the handkerchief in her hands. "I
got to do something," she says.
"How bad do you want to do something?" I says. She looks at me. "Of
course, a doctor learns all sorts of things folks dont think he knows. But he
aint supposed to tell all he knows. It's against the law."
Up front Jody says, "Skeet."
"Excuse me a minute," I says. I went up front. "Do you see him?" I says.
"Aint you done yet?" he says. "Maybe you better come up here and watch and let
me do that consulting."
"Maybe you'll lay a egg," I says. I come back. She is looking at me. "Of
course you realise that I could be put in the penitentiary for doing what you
want," I says. "I would lose my license and then I'd have to go to work. You
"I aint got but ten dollars," she says. "I could bring the rest next
"Pooh," I says, "ten dollars? You see, I cant put no price on my knowledge
and skill. Certainly not for no little paltry sawbuck."
She looks at me. She dont even blink. "What you want, then?"
The clock said four to one. So I decided I better get her out. "You guess
three times and then I’ll show you," I says.
She dont even blink her eyes. 'I got to do something," she says. She looks
behind her and around, then she looks toward the front. "Gimme the medicine
first," she says.
"You mean, you're ready to right now?" I says. "Here?"
"Gimme the medicine first," she says.
So I took a graduated glass and kind of turned my back to her and picked out a
bottle that looked all right, because a man that would keep poison setting
around in a unlabelled bottle ought to be in jail, anyway. It smelled like
turpentine. I poured some into the glass and give it to her. She smelled it,
looking at me across the glass.
"Hit smells like turpentine," she says.
"Sure," I says. "That's just the beginning of the treatment. You come back
at ten oclock tonight and I'll give you the rest of it and perform the
"Operation?" she says.
³It wont hurt you.
You've had the same operation before. Ever hear about
the hair of the dog?"
She looks at me. "Will it work?" she says.
"Sure it'll work. If you come back and get it."
So she drunk whatever it was without batting a eye, and went out. I went
"Didn't you get it?" Jody says.
"Get what?" I says.
"Ah, come on," he says. "I aint going to try to beat your time."
"Oh, her," I says. "She just wanted a little medicine. She's got a bad
case of dysentery and she's a little ashamed about mentioning it with a stranger
It was my night, anyway, so I helped the old bastard check up and I got
his hat on him and got him out of the store by eight-thirty. I went as far as
the corner with him and watched him until he passed under two street lamps and
went on out of sight. Then I come back to the store and waited until nine-thirty
and turned out the front lights and locked the door and left just one light
burning at the back, and I went back and put some talcum powder into six
capsules and land of cleared up the cellar and then I was all ready.
She come in just at ten, before the clock had done striking. I let her in
and she come in, walking fast. I looked out the door, but there wasn't nobody
but a boy in overalls sitting on the curb. "You want something?" I says. He
never said nothing, just looking at me. I locked the door and turned off the
light and went on back. She was waiting. She didn't look at me now.
"Where is it?" she said.
I gave her the box of capsules. She held the box in her hand, looking at
"Are you sure it'll work?" she says.
"Sure," I says. "When you take the rest of the treatment."
"Where do I take it?" she says.
"Down in the cellar," I says.
Now it is wider and lighter, but the stores are dark because they have all gone
home. The stores are dark, but the lights pass on the windows when we pass. The
lights are in the trees around the courthouse. They roost in the trees, but the
courthouse is dark. The clock on it looks four ways, because it is not dark. The
moon is not dark too. Not very dark. Darl he went to Jackson is my brother Darl
is my brother Only it was over that way, shining on the track.
"Let's go that way, Dewey Dell," I say.
"What for?" Dewey Dell says. The track went shining around the window, it
red on the track. But she said he would not sell it to the town boys. "But it
will be there Christmas," Dewey Dell says. "You'll have to wait till then, when
he brings it back."
Darl went to Jackson. Lots of people didn't go to Jackson. Darl is my
brother. My brother is going to Jackson
While we walk the lights go around, roosting in the trees. On all sides it
is the same. They go around the courthouse and then you cannot see them. But you
can see them in the black windows beyond. They have all gone home to bed except
me and Dewey Dell.
Going on the train to Jackson. My brother
There is a light in the store, far back. In the window are two big glasses
of soda water, red and green. Two men could not drink them. Two mules could not.
Two cows could not. Darl
A man comes to the door. He looks at Dewey Dell.
"You wait out here," Dewey Dell says.
"Why cant I come in?" I say. "I want to come in, too."
"You wait out here," she says.
"All right," I say.
Dewey Dell goes in.
Darl is my brother. Darl went crazy
The walk is harder than sitting on the ground. He is in the open door. He
looks at me. "You want something?" he says. His head is slick. Jewel's head is
slick sometimes. Cash's head is not slick. Darl he went to Jackson my brother
Darl In the street he ate a banana. Wouldn't you rather have bananas? Dewey
Dell said. You wait till Christmas. It'll be there then. Then you can see it.
So we are going to have some bananas. We are going to have a bag full, me and
Dewey Dell. He locks the door. Dewey Dell is inside. Then the light winks out.
He went to Jackson. He went crazy and went to Jackson both. Lots of
people didn't go crazy. Pa and Cash and Jewel and Dewey Dell and me didn't go
crazy. We never did go crazy. We didn't go to Jackson either. Darl
I hear the cow a long time, clopping on the street. Then she comes
into the square. She goes across the square, her head down clopping . She
lows. There was nothing in the square before she lowed, but it wasn't empty. Now
it is empty after she lowed. She goes on, clopping . She lows. My brother
is Darl. He went to Jackson on the train. He didn't go on the train to go
crazy. He went crazy in our wagon. Darl She has been in there a long time. And
the cow is gone too. A long time. She has been in there longer than the cow was.
But not as long as empty. Darl is my brother. My brother Darl
Dewey Dell comes out. She looks at me.
"Let's go around that way now," I say.
She looks at me. "It aint going to work," she says. "That son of a bitch."
"What aint going to work, Dewey Dell?"
"I just know it wont," she says. She is not looking at anything. "I just
"Let's go that way," I say.
"We got to go back to the hotel. It's late. We got to slip back in."
"Cant we go by and see, anyway?"
"Hadn't you rather have bananas? Hadn't you rather?"
"All right." My brother he went crazy and he went to Jackson too. Jackson
is further away than crazy
"It wont work," Dewey Dell says. "I just know it wont."
"What wont work?" I say. He had to get on the train to go to Jackson. I
have not been on the train, but Darl has been on the train. Darl. Darl is my
brother. Darl. Darl
Darl has gone to Jackson. They put him on the train, laughing, down the long car
laughing, the heads turning like the heads of owls when he passed. "What are you
laughing at?" I said.
"Yes yes yes yes yes."
Two men put him on the train. They wore mismatched coats, bulging behind
over their right hip pockets. Their necks were shaved to a hairline, as though
the recent and simultaneous barbers had had a chalk-line like Cash's. "Is it the
pistols you're laughing at?" I said. "Why do you laugh?" I said. "Is it because
you hate the sound of laughing?"
They pulled two seats together so Darl could sit by the window to laugh.
One of them sat beside him, the other sat on the seat facing him, riding
backward. One of them had to ride backward because the state's money has a face
to each backside and a backside to each face, and they are riding on the state's
money which is incest. A nickel has a woman on one side and a buffalo on the
other; two faces and no back. I dont know what that is. Darl had a little spyglass
he got in France at the war. In it it had a woman and a pig with two backs
and no face. I know what that is. "Is that why you are laughing, Darl?"
"Yes yes yes yes yes yes."
The wagon stands on the square, hitched, the mules motionless, the reins wrapped
about the seat-spring, the back of the wagon toward the courthouse. It looks no
different from a hundred other wagons there; Jewel standing beside it and
looking up the street like any other man in town that day, yet there is
something different, distinctive. There is about it that un-mistakable air of
definite and imminent departure that trains have, perhaps due to the fact that
Dewey Dell and Vardaman on the seat and Cash on a pallet in the wagon bed are
eating bananas from a paper bag. "Is that why you are laughing, Darl?"
Darl is our brother, our brother Darl. Our brother Darl in a cage in
Jackson where, his grimed hands lying light in the quiet interstices, looking
out he foams.
"Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes."
When he saw the money I said, "It's not my money, it doesn't belong to me."
"Whose is it, then?"
³It's Cora Tull's money. It's Mrs Tull's. I sold the cakes for it."
³Ten dollars for two cakes?"
³Dont you touch it.
It's not mine."
"You never had them cakes. It's a lie. It was them Sunday clothes you had
in that package."
"Dont you touch it! If you take it you are a thief."
"My own daughter accuses me of being a thief. My own daughter."
"I have fed you and sheltered you. I give you love and care, yet my own
daughter, the daughter of nay dead wife, calls me a thief over her mother's
"It's not mine, I tell you. If it was, God knows you could have it."
"Where did you get ten dollars?"
"You wont tell me. Did you come by it so shameful you dare not?"
³It's not mine, I tell you. Cant you understand it's not mine?"
"It's not like I wouldn't pay it back. But she calls her own father a
"I cant, I tell you. I tell you it's not my money. God knows you could
"I wouldn't take it. My own born daughter that has et my food for
seventeen years, begrudges me the loan of ten dollars."
"It's not mine. I cant."
"Whose is it, then?"
"It was give to me. To buy something with."
"To buy what with?"
"It's just a loan. God knows, I hate for my blooden children to reproach
me. But I give them what was mine without stint. Cheerful I give them, without
stint. And now they deny me. Addie. It was lucky for you you died, Addie."
"God knows it is."
He took the money and went out.
So when we stopped there to borrow the shovels we heard the graphophone playing
in the house, and so when we got done with the shovels pa says, "I reckon I
better take them back."
So we went back to the house. "We better take Cash on to Peabody's," Jewel
"It wont take but a minute," pa said. He got down from the wagon. The
music was not playing now.
"Let Vardaman do it," Jewel said. "He can do it in half the time you can.
Or here, you let me--"
"I reckon I better do it," pa says. "Long as it was me that borrowed
So we set in the wagon, but the music wasn't playing now. I reckon it's a
good thing we aint got ere a one of them. I reckon I wouldn't never get no work
done a-tall for listening to it. I dont know if a little music aint about the
nicest thing a fellow can have. Seems like when he comes in tired of a night, it
aint nothing could rest him like having a little music played and him resting. I
have see them that shuts up like a hand-grip, with a handle and all, so a fellow
can carry it with him wherever he wants.
"What you reckon he's doing?" Jewel says. "I could a toted them shovels
back and forth ten times by now."
"Let him take his time," I said. "He aint as spry as you, remember."
"Why didn't he let me take them back, then? We got to get your leg fixed
up so we can start home tomorrow."
"We got plenty of time," I said. "I wonder what them machines costs on the
"Installment of what?" Jewel said. "What you got to buy it with?"
"A fellow cant tell," I said. "I could a bought that one from Suratt for
five dollars, I believe."
And so pa come back and we went to Peabody's. While we was there pa said
he was going to the barbershop and get a shave. And so that night he said he had
some business to tend to, kind of looking away from us while he said it, with
his hair combed wet and slick and smelling sweet with perfume, but I said leave
him be; I wouldn't mind hearing a little more of that music myself.
And so next morning he was gone again, then he come back and told us to
get hitched up and ready to take out and he would meet us and when they was gone
"I dont reckon you got no more money."
"Peabody just give me enough to pay the hotel with," I said. "We dont need
nothing else, do we?"
"No," pa said; "no. We dont need nothing." He stood there, not looking at
"If it is something we got to have, I reckon maybe Peabody," I said.
"No," he said; "it aint nothing else. You all wait for me at the corner."
So Jewel got the team and come for me and they fixed me a pallet in the
wagon and we drove across the square to the corner where pa said, and we was
waiting there in the wagon, with Dewey Dell and Vardaman eating bananas, when we
see them coming up the street. Pa was coming along with that kind of daresome
and hangdog look all at once like when he has been up to something he knows ma
aint going to like, carrying a grip in his hand, and Jewel says,
Then we see it wasn't the grip that made him look different; it was his face,
and Jewel says, "He got them teeth."
It was a fact. It made him look a foot taller, kind of holding his head
up, hangdog and proud too, and then we see her behind him, carrying the other
grip--a kind of duck-shaped woman all dressed up, with them kind of hard-looking
pop eyes like she was daring ere a man to say nothing. And there we set watching
them, with Dewey Dell's and Vardaman's mouth half open and half-et bananas in
their hands and her coming around from behind pa, looking at us like she dared
ere a man. And then I see that the grip she was carrying was one of them little
graphophones. It was for a fact, all shut up as pretty as a picture, and everytime
a new record would come from the mail order and us setting in the house in
the winter, listening to it, I would think what a shame Darl couldn't be to
enjoy it too. But it is better so for him. This world is not his world; this
life his life.
"It's Cash and Jewel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell," pa says, kind of
hangdog and proud too, with his teeth and all, even if he wouldn't look at us.
"Meet Mrs Bundren," he says.
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