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- Triumph of the Egg and Other Stories - 1/32 -


The Triumph Of The Egg

A Book Of Impressions From American Life In Tales And Poems

By Sherwood Anderson

In Clay By Tennessee Mitchell

In the fields Seeds on the air floating. In the towns Black smoke for a shroud. In my breast Understanding awake. _Mid American Chants_.

To Robert And John Anderson

Tales are people who sit on the doorstep of the house of my mind. It is cold outside and they sit waiting. I look out at a window.

The tales have cold hands, Their hands are freezing.

A short thickly-built tale arises and threshes his arms about. His nose is red and he has two gold teeth.

There is an old female tale sitting hunched up in a cloak.

Many tales come to sit for a few moments on the doorstep and then go away. It is too cold for them outside. The street before the door of the house of my mind is filled with tales. They murmur and cry out, they are dying of cold and hunger.

I am a helpless man--my hands tremble. I should be sitting on a bench like a tailor. I should be weaving warm cloth out of the threads of thought. The tales should be clothed. They are freezing on the doorstep of the house of my mind.

I am a helpless man--my hands tremble. I feel in the darkness but cannot find the doorknob. I look out at a window. Many tales are dying in the street before the house of my mind.

CONTENTS

THE DUMB MAN I WANT TO KNOW WHY SEEDS THE OTHER WOMAN THE EGG UNLIGHTED LAMPS SENILITY THE MAN IN THE BROWN COAT BROTHERS THE DOOR OF THE TRAP THE NEW ENGLANDER WAR MOTHERHOOD OUT OF NOWHERE INTO NOTHING THE MAN WITH THE TRUMPET

THE DUMB MAN

There is a story.--I cannot tell it.--I have no words. The story is almost forgotten but sometimes I remember.

The story concerns three men in a house in a street. If I could say the words I would sing the story. I would whisper it into the ears of women, of mothers. I would run through the streets saying it over and over. My tongue would be torn loose--it would rattle against my teeth.

The three men are in a room in the house. One is young and dandified. He continually laughs.

There is a second man who has a long white beard. He is consumed with doubt but occasionally his doubt leaves him and he sleeps.

A third man there is who has wicked eyes and who moves nervously about the room rubbing his hands together. The three men are waiting-- waiting.

Upstairs in the house there is a woman standing with her back to a wall, in half darkness by a window.

That is the foundation of my story and everything I will ever know is distilled in it.

I remember that a fourth man came to the house, a white silent man. Everything was as silent as the sea at night. His feet on the stone floor of the room where the three men were made no sound.

The man with the wicked eyes became like a boiling liquid--he ran back and forth like a caged animal. The old grey man was infected by his nervousness--he kept pulling at his beard.

The fourth man, the white one, went upstairs to the woman.

There she was--waiting.

How silent the house was--how loudly all the clocks in the neighborhood ticked. The woman upstairs craved love. That must have been the story. She hungered for love with her whole being. She wanted to create in love. When the white silent man came into her presence she sprang forward. Her lips were parted. There was a smile on her lips.

The white one said nothing. In his eyes there was no rebuke, no question. His eyes were as impersonal as stars.

Down stairs the wicked one whined and ran back and forth like a little lost hungry dog. The grey one tried to follow him about but presently grew tired and lay down on the floor to sleep. He never awoke again.

The dandified fellow lay on the floor too. He laughed and played with his tiny black mustache.

I have no words to tell what happened in my story. I cannot tell the story.

The white silent one may have been Death.

The waiting eager woman may have been Life.

Both the old grey bearded man and the wicked one puzzle me. I think and think but cannot understand them. Most of the time however I do not think of them at all. I keep thinking about the dandified man who laughed all through my story.

If I could understand him I could understand everything. I could run through the world telling a wonderful story. I would no longer be dumb.

Why was I not given words? Why am I dumb?

I have a wonderful story to tell but know no way to tell it.

I WANT TO KNOW WHY

We got up at four in the morning, that first day in the east. On the evening before we had climbed off a freight train at the edge of town, and with the true instinct of Kentucky boys had found our way across town and to the race track and the stables at once. Then we knew we were all right. Hanley Turner right away found a nigger we knew. It was Bildad Johnson who in the winter works at Ed Becker's livery barn in our home town, Beckersville. Bildad is a good cook as almost all our niggers are and of course he, like everyone in our part of Kentucky who is anyone at all, likes the horses. In the spring Bildad begins to scratch around. A nigger from our country can flatter and wheedle anyone into letting him do most anything he wants. Bildad wheedles the stable men and the trainers from the horse farms in our country around Lexington. The trainers come into town in the evening to stand around and talk and maybe get into a poker game. Bildad gets in with them. He is always doing little favors and telling about things to eat, chicken browned in a pan, and how is the best way to cook sweet potatoes and corn bread. It makes your mouth water to hear him.

When the racing season comes on and the horses go to the races and there is all the talk on the streets in the evenings about the new colts, and everyone says when they are going over to Lexington or to the spring meeting at Churchhill Downs or to Latonia, and the horsemen that have been down to New Orleans or maybe at the winter meeting at Havana in Cuba come home to spend a week before they start out again, at such a time when everything talked about in Beckersville is just horses and nothing else and the outfits start out and horse racing is in every breath of air you breathe, Bildad shows up with a job as cook for some outfit. Often when I think about it, his always going all season to the races and working in the livery barn in the winter where horses are and where men like to come and talk about horses, I wish I was a nigger. It's a foolish thing to say, but that's the way I am about being around horses, just crazy. I can't help it.

Well, I must tell you about what we did and let you in on what I'm talking about. Four of us boys from Beckersville, all whites and sons of men who live in Beckersville regular, made up our minds we were going to the races, not just to Lexington or Louisville, I don't mean,


Triumph of the Egg and Other Stories - 1/32

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