A Medicine For Melancholy, 1959
1. In a Season of Calm Weather, 1957
George and Alice Smith detrained at Biarritz one summer noon and in an hour had run through their hotel on to the beach into the ocean and back out to bake upon the sand.
To see George Smith sprawled burning there, you'd think him only a tourist flown fresh as iced lettuce to Europe and soon to be transhipped home. But here was a man who loved art more than life itself.
"There..." George Smith sighed. Another ounce of perspiration trickled down his chest. Boil out the Ohio tap-water, he thought, then drink down the best Bordeaux. Silt your blood with rich French sediment so you'll see with native eyes!
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4. The Dragon, 1955
The night blew in the short grass on the moor; there was no other motion. It had been years since a single bird had flown by in the great blind shell of sky. Long ago a few small stones had simulated life when they crumbled and fell into dust. Now only the night moved in the souls of the two men bent by their lonely fire in the wilderness; darkness pumped quietly in their veins and ticked silently in their temples and their wrists.
Firelight fled up and down their wild faces and welled in their eyes in orange tatters. They listened to each other's faint, cool breathing and the lizard blink of their eyelids. At last, one man poked the fire with his sword.
3. A Medicine for Melancholy, 1959
4. The End of the Beginning, 1956
He stopped the lawn mower in the middle of the yard, because he felt that the sun at just that moment had gone down and the stars had come out. The fresh-cut grass that had showered his face and body died softly away. Yes, the stars were there, faint at first, but brightening in the clear desert sky. He heard the porch screen door tap shut and felt his wife watching him as he watched the night.
'Almost time,' she said.
He nodded; he did not have to check his watch. In the passing moments he felt very old, then very young, very cold, then very warm, now this, now that. Suddenly he was miles away. He imagined he was his own son talking steadily, moving briskly to cover his pounding heart and the resurgent panics as he felt himself slip into fresh uniform, check food supplies, oxygen flasks, pressure helmet, space-suiting, and turn as every man on Earth tonight turned, to gaze at the swiftly filling sky.
4. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, 1958
It was summer twilight in the city and out front of the quiet-clicking pool-hall three young Mexican-American men breathed the warm air and looked around at the world. Sometimes they talked and sometimes they said nothing at all, but watched the cars glide by like black panthers on the hot asphalt or saw trolleys loom up like thunderstorms, scatter lightning, and rumble away into silence.
"Hey," sighed Martinez, at last. He was the youngest, the most sweetly sad of the three. "It's a swell night, huh? Swell."
3. Fever Dream, 1948
They put him between fresh, clean, laundered sheets and there was always a newly squeezed glass of thick orange juice on the table under the dim pink lamp. All Charles had to do was call and Mom or Dad would stick their heads into his room to see how sick he was.
He was fifteen, Charles was. It was mid September, with the land beginning to burn with autumn. He lay in the bed for three days before the terror overcame him.
His hand began to change. His right hand. He looked at it and it was hot and sweating there on the counterpane, alone. It fluttered, it moved a bit. Then it lay there, changing colour.
4. The Marriage Mender, 1954
5. The Town Where No One Got Off, 1958
Crossing the continental United States by night, by day, on the train, you flash past town after wilderness town where nobody ever gets off. Or rather, no person who doesn't belong, no person who hasn't roots in these country graveyards ever bothers to visit their lonely stations or attend their lonely views.
I spoke of this to a fellow-passenger, another salesman like myself, on the Chicago-Los Angeles train as we crossed Iowa.
"True," he said. "People get off in Chicago, everyone gets off there. People get off in New York, get off in Boston, get off in L.A. People who don't live there go there to see and come back to tell. But what tourist ever just got off at Fox Hill, Nebraska, to look at it? You? Me? No! I don't know anyone, got no business there, it's no health resort, so why bother?"
4. A Scent of Sarsaparilla, 1958
Mr. William Finch stood quietly in the dark and blowing attic all morning and afternoon for three days. For three days in late November, he stood alone, feeling the soft white flakes of Time falling out of the infinite cold steel sky, silently, softly, feathering the roof and powdering the eaves. He stood, eyes shut. The attic, wallowed in seas of wind in the long sunless days, creaked every bone and shook down ancient dusts from its beams and warped timbers and lathings. It was a mass of sighs and torments that ached all about him where he stood sniffing its elegant dry perfumes and feeling of its ancient heritages. Ah. Ah.
2. Icarus Montgolfier Wright, 1956
3. The Headpiece, 1958
4. Dark They were, And Golden Eyed (The Naming of Names), 1949
The rocket's metal cooled in the meadow winds. Its lid gave a bulging pop. From its clock interior stepped a man, a woman, and three children. The other passengers whispered away across the Martian meadow, leaving the man alone among his family.
The man felt his hair flutter and the tissues of his body draw tight as if he were standing at the centre of a vacuum. His wife, before him, trembled. The children, small seeds, might at any instant be sown to all the Martian climes. The children looked up at him. His face was cold. "What's wrong?" asked his wife. "Let's get back on the rocket." "Go back to Earth?" "Yes! Listen!"
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3. The Smile, 1952
In the town square the queue had formed at five in the morning, while cocks were crowing far out in the rimed country and there were no fires. All about, among the ruined buildings, bits of mist had clung at first, but now with the new light of seven o’clock it was beginning to disperse. Down the road, in twos and threes, more people were gathering in for the day of marketing the day of festival.
The small bay stood immediately behind two men who had been talking loudly in the clear air, and all of the sounds they made seemed twice as loud because of the cold. The small boy stamped his feet and blew on his red, chapped hands, and looked up at the soiled gunny-sack clothing of the men, and down the long line of men and women ahead.
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3. The First Night of Lent, 1956
4. The Time of Going Away, 1956
5. All Summer in a Day, 1959
"Do the scientists really know? Will it happen today, will it ?"
"Look, look; see for yourself !"
The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun.
It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again. And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the school room of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.
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10. The Gift, 1959
11. The Great Collision of Monday Last (из "Зелёные тени, белый кит"), ?
12. The Little Mice, 1955
They're very odd," I said. "The little Mexican couple."
"How do you mean?" asked my wife.
"Never a sound," I said. "Listen."
Ours was a house deep back in among tenements, to which another half-house had been added. When my wife and I purchased the house, we rented the additional quarter which lay walled up against one side of our parlour. Now, listening at this particular wall, we heard our hearts beat.
"I know they're home," I whispered. "But in the three years they've lived here I've never heard a dropped pan, a spoken word, or the sound of a light switch. Good God, what are they doing in there?"
6. The Shoreline at Sunset, 1959
7. The Strawberry Window, 1954
8. The Day it Rained Forever, 1959
The hotel stood like a hollowed dry bone under the very centre of the desert sky where the sun burned the roof all day. All night, the memory of the sun stirred in every room like the ghost of an old forest fire. Long after dusk, since light meant heat, the hotel lights stayed off. The inhabitants of the hotel preferred to feel their way blind through the halls in their never-ending search for cool air.
This one particular evening Mr. Terle, the proprietor, and his only boarders, Mr. Smith and Mr. Fremley, who looked and smelled like two ancient rags of cured tobacco, stayed late on the long veranda. In their creaking glockenspiel rockers, they gasped back and forth in the dark, trying to rock up a wind.