Paralyses (Seven Dubliners Extraction Mixes)
Words by James Joyce
Remixed by Darby McDevitt
Dividing the Estate
“Being blind is Christian. Set thy habit of detachment, conscious of decent lives, within an imperturbable face.”
The form hung in the room, wasting. I found a paper page, curled and damp. A devout Communist bet a yellow wild apple and a few rusty bicycle-pumps that I meant to steal before we had well grown sombre.
The ever-violent wards of the estate played till our bodies lost sense through daring anger. The cottage, the dark dripping garden (dour pit!), the odorous stables where music from buckled harnesses filled the shadows, safely housed our tea. We watched up and down the street. We waited to see whether he would regain life, figuring not. (He always teased before he obeyed….)
The body and the rope tossed from side to side. I lay on the floor watching so that I could test my heart—it seized. I kept my eye near the point at which death happened. I spoke a few casual words, and yet all my foolish blood accompanied me in a most hostile evening: my aunt went mad, cursing the chanting of singers who sang about our lad. Noises converged in a single sensation of imagined malice.
Though a name sprang to my lips, a strange prayer which I myself did not understand seemed to pour itself out of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak or not to the dry body… words and gestures were like fine wires.
In the drawing-room in which he had died we heard a pin upon the earth. Fine needles of light gleamed lowly. Senses seemed to veil feelings until they trembled, murmuring words I confused for answers.
—To a bar? I asked, while I braced….
None could go; it would be a retreat. They were fighting for their lone things. One of the wards—the light, white one—rested upon the railing. It fell over just as she stood at ease.
—Swell, she said. What innumerable follies aid my evening.
I wished to annihilate this intervening; I chafed against the wards between me and the age I strove to be… the war… the luxuries I asked for.
—To the bar? On Saturday night? my aunt was surprised. It’s not some freemason affair?
I answered few questions so amiably! She hoped I was not beginning to do the hard patient serious work of life which stood between desire and play. I fussed, looking for a brush.
—Answer me, boy.
She was hateful and in bad humour and walked slowly towards the corpse. My heart misgave me. My uncle had not yet been hostile. I sat staring at the clock I wanted (and the house). Cold empty gloomy singing from my companions below in the street weakened me. Again I looked over at the dead, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure. My imagination curved and bowed.
When I came down again, an old garrulous pawnbroker collected for some pious purpose a tea-table; still my uncle did not cry (he couldn't after eight o'clock) and did not lie:
—This night Our Lord is king. I received a sign midway through dinner; I asked Him to give me money and sleep! he said.
I did not smile. My aunt gave him money:
—You've enough as it is.
My uncle said he was very sorry; he believed in the old saying: Work and play makes a boy dead. I seconded it, about to recite the opening lines of the note: ‘Down! Buck the sight of the streets thronged with buyers and rings! The purpose of my journey is third-class… deserted… intolerable!’
Rain moved slowly; it crept onward over the twinkling river. At last a dead man was special. I remained alone in the bare area beside an improvised wooden platform. I passed by the clock at ten minutes to ten. In front of me was a magical urn tiled in shillings, girded at half its height, nearly all in darkness. A silence—like that which pervades the timid—gathered about all who coveted coloured lamps, the coins, meth, dildos, land, porcelain vases, flowered tea-sets….
At the door a young lady, laughing, remarked that vague conversation never did buy anything. The tone of her voice seemed to poke me….
Out of a sense of duty, I looted the dark hall and murdered ‘em. I lingered before all, though I knew my stay was to make my interest in war seem more real. Then I turned and walked to the bar, a will in my pocket, with my creative and derided vanity and my urn in hand.
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.]