Montag moved back to his own house, left the window wide, checked Mildred, tucked the covers about her carefully, and then lay down with the moonlight on his cheek-bones and on the frowning ridges in his brow, with the moonlight distilled in each eye to form a silver cataract there.

One drop of rain. Clarisse. Another drop. Mildred. A third. The uncle. A fourth. The fire tonight. One, Clarisse. Two, Mildred. Three, uncle. Four, fire, One, Mildred, two, Clarisse. One, two, three, four, five, Clarisse, Mildred, uncle, fire, sleeping-tablets, men, disposable tissue, coat-tails, blow, wad, flush, Clarisse, Mildred, uncle, fire,

tablets, tissues, blow, wad, flush. One, two, three, one, two, three! Rain. The storm.

The uncle laughing. Thunder falling downstairs. The whole world pouring down. The fire gushing up in a volcano. All rushing on down around in a spouting roar and rivering stream toward morning.

“I don’t know anything any more,” he said, and let a sleep-lozenge dissolve on his tongue.

At nine in the morning, Mildred’s bed was empty.

Montag got up quickly, his heart pumping, and ran down the hall and stopped at the kitchen door.

Toast popped out of the silver toaster, was seized by a spidery metal hand that drenched it with melted butter.

Mildred watched the toast delivered to her plate. She had both ears plugged with electronic bees that were humming the hour away. She looked up suddenly, saw him, and nodded.

“You all right?” he asked.

She was an expert at lip-reading from ten years of apprenticeship at Seashell ear-thimbles. She nodded again. She set the toaster clicking away at another piece of bread.

Montag sat down.

His wife said, “I don’t know why I should be so hungry.”



“Last night,” he began.

“Didn’t sleep well. Feel terrible,” she said. “God, I’m hungry. I can’t figure it.”

“Last night-” he said again.

She watched his lips casually. “What about last night?”

“Don’t you remember?”

“What? Did we have a wild party or something? Feel like I’ve a hangover. God, I’m hungry. Who was here?”

“A few people,” he said.

“That’s what I thought.” She chewed her toast. “Sore stomach, but I’m hungry as all-get-out. Hope I didn’t do anything foolish at the party.”

“No,” he said, quietly.

The toaster spidered out a piece of buttered bread for him. He held it in his hand, feeling grateful.

“You don’t look so hot yourself,” said his wife.

In the late afternoon it rained and the entire world was dark grey. He stood in the hall of his house, putting on his badge with the orange salamander burning across it. He stood looking up at the air-conditioning vent in the hall for a long time. His wife in the TV parlour paused long enough from reading her script to glance up. “Hey,” she said.

“The man’s THINKING!”

“Yes,” he said. “I wanted to talk to you.” He paused. “You took all the pills in your bottle last night.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” she said, surprised.

“The bottle was empty.”

“I wouldn’t do a thing like that. Why would I do a thing like that?” she asked.

“Maybe you took two pills and forgot and took two more, and forgot again and took two more, and were so dopy you kept right on until you had thirty or forty of them in you.”

“Heck,” she said, “what would I want to go and do a silly thing like that for?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

She was quite obviously waiting for him to go. “I didn’t do that,” she said. “Never in a billion years.”

“All right if you say so,” he said.

“That’s what the lady said.” She turned back to her script.

“What’s on this afternoon?” he asked tiredly.

She didn’t look up from her script again. “Well, this is a play comes on the wall-to-wall circuit in ten minutes. They mailed me my part this morning. I sent in some box-tops. They write the script with one part missing. It’s a new idea. The home-maker, that’s me, is the missing part. When it comes time for the missing lines, they all look at me out of the three walls and I say the lines: Here, for instance, the man says,

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray