Paralyses (Seven Dubliners Extraction Mixes)
Words by James Joyce
Remixed by Darby McDevitt
from An Encounter
It was wild. He had pluck! We met in his back garden and tried the grass. His parents—young and timid—beat everyone under its influence. Ya, everyone was a priest, it was true. We were afraid to lack adventure, remote from opened doors; escape I liked... fierce and beautiful, though nothing literary.
At school one day ‘History’ was discovered. Marvel! The day dawned. Everyone's heart palpitated. Everyone assumed an innocent frown. What is this ‘History’? Let me find more of this stuff! The man who wrote it, I suppose, writes things for sober glory and the confused conscience. But the influence was wild! Sensations! Escape! Disorder! O, the warfare of wearisome routine; I wanted adventure! Real adventure abroad.
Out of school, O boy! Saved! We met on a Bridge. I was sick in the road. We came to a house afraid we might meet some man. A Father? Butler? A peon? We were assured a plot by six or so. My! We were vaguely excited. We shook, laughing badly, alive.
I hid in the long grass near the garden; nobody cared—a first. I sat up admiring docile hills. Tall trees were green. Water was warm. I began to pant. Air was very fine. He clambered up beside me. A cat bulged from his inner pocket. Movement. He made some gas freely and waited….
—Fat funk, I said.
We walked to Vitriol Road. Soon we sighted a girl brandishing a ragged shiv at us. He proposed a charge. I objected: boys were too kind. We were complex. Then she came to smother us. We revenged ourselves by saying, What fun! She ran.
We came then near a high stone wall. Immobile drivers of groaning cars seemed to be eating two big brown fish on the opposite side. Right on. I imagined the grass's influence upon us was a little serious to the point of laughter. We observed some bystanders: Norwegians. We tried to decipher their confused notions while a tall man amused them. All were tired of this sight.
We had grown sultry and musty, aching as we wandered through squalid families of fishermen. A huckster shot a cat in a wide field. We felt rather odd and were tired of visiting peons. Our adventure should be looked at as a cheerful provision.
Without speaking I approached a lazy girl by the bank. She was hip in her sticky, shabby dress of greenish-black; what we used to call a ‘Crow's Moustache.’ She passed a glance at us and then continued her yawn. She turned about and began to step very slowly, always tapping the ground. She was looking for some grass. We had good weed on us, so with great care I said:
—Hey! The happiest time is undoubtedly to be young.
These sentiments bored her. We read poetry to soothe and preen her.
—Men, she said. I see you’re a worm like me.
We added points to her game. She had work at home and ran there. Women! Why couldn't boys read them? It pained me because I was afraid I was as stupid as my smile. I saw the great gap between us which most hearts mention lightly. He had hotties; I was sure I must have one.
—Tell us I'm a perv....
—You! he raged. His attitude struck me as strangely libelous; reasonable but disliked. The words in his mouth shivered. I feared something sudden as he proceeded to speak about girls, saying soft hair and soft hands were how girls got me to be foolish.
—Look, a young girl is beautiful, so…
He gave me the impression that he was magnetized by his own mind slowly circling round and round a simple fact. That was mysterious. Secrets others repeated over and over again varied with him. I gazed a long while. I remained silent when he exclaimed:
—…so ask for nothing further!
I was still considering whether I would escape him or throw stones. He began to wander about the field after an interval. He said that my very rough wit was indignant, not ‘nationally hip’, as he called it. I remained silent. He began to speak on the subject of a boy's mind. His speech circled ’round its new centre: He said that a rough and unruly slap on the hand or a nice warm whipping was his sentiment. Involuntarily, I twitched. I turned away. He continued his onanism: He said that if ever he found a girl having a girl for a sweetheart he would give such a whipping; there was nothing in this world he would like so well as that. He described how he would unfold some elaborate mystery. He would love that better than anything in this world. His voice led me through his agitation.
Pretending to mope, he bade good-day. I went calmly but my heart was beating quickly. I feared looking across the field for I was ashamed of answering him: a spent heart I had always despised.
Darby McDevitt was born in Spokane, educated in Dublin, and sharpened in Seattle. He is an occasional filmmaker, decent musician, former game-designer, and present author of the rather fine book, Volume Void: A Perpetual Novelty.
[Note: The Extraction Mixes were torn from Joyce's original Dubliners stories under the following conditions: 1) Text subtraction was the only viable tool; no text (apart from punctuation) was added to any piece; 2) Text could not be moved from its original location in any piece; i.e. "it lies where it falls." 3) The general "theme" or "essence" of Joyce's original stories had to remain intact; characters, plot, and setting could not.]