Something Wicked This Way Comes. RAY BRADBURY

“It’s a way of speaking. Easy, boys, I’m after the facts. Will, do you really know your Dad? Shouldn’t you know me, and me you, if it’s going to be us”ns against them”ns?”

“Hey, yeah,” breathed Jim. “Who are you?”

“We know who he is, darn it!” Will protested.

“Do we?” said Will’s father. “Let’s see. Charles William Halloway. Nothing extraordinary about me except I’m fifty-four, which is always extraordinary to the man inside it. Born in Sweet Water, lived in Chicago, survived in New York, brooded in Detroit, floundered in lots of places, arrived here late, after living in libraries around the country all those years because I liked being alone, liked matching up in books what I”d seen on the roads. Then in the middle of all the running away, which I called travel, in my thirty-ninth year, your mother fixed me with one glance, been here ever since. Still most comfortable in the library nights, in out of the rain of people. Is this my last stop? Chances are. Why am I here at all? Right now, it seems, to help you.”

He paused and looked at the two boys and their fine young faces.

“Yes,” he said. “Very late in the game. To help you.”


Every night-blind library window clattered with cold.

The man, the two boys, waited for the wind to pass away.

Then Will said: “Dad. You’ve always helped.”

“Thanks, but it’s not true.” Charles Halloway examined one very empty hand. “I’m a fool. Always looking over your shoulder to see what’s coming instead of right at you to see what’s here. But then, for what salve it gives me, every man’s a fool. Which means you got to pitch in all your life, bail out, board over, tie rope, patch plaster, pat cheeks, kiss brows, laugh, cry, make do, against the day you’re the worst fool of all and shout “Help!” Then all you need is one person’s answer. I see it so clear, across the country tonight lie cities, towns and mere jerkwater stops of fools. So the carnival steams by, shakes any tree: it rains jackasses. Separate jackasses, I should say, individuals with no one, they think, or no one actual, to answer their “Help!” Unconnected fools, that’s the harvest the carnival comes smiling after with its threshing machine.”

“Oh gosh,” said Will. “It’s hopeless!”

“No. The very fact we’re here worrying about the difference between summer and autumn, makes me sure there’s a way out. You don’t have to stay foolish and you don’t have to be wrong, evil, sinful, whatever you want to call it. There’s more than three or four choices. They, that Dark fellow and his friends, don’t hold all the cards, I could tell that today, at the cigar store. I’m afraid of him but, I could see, he as was afraid of me. So there’s fear on both sides. Now how can we use it to advantage?”


“First things first. Let’s bone up on history. If men had wanted to stay bad forever, they could have, agreed? Agreed. Did we stay out in the fields with the beasts? No. In the water with the barracuda? No. Somewhere we let go of the hot gorilla’s paw. Somewhere we turned in our carnivore’s teeth and started chewing blades of grass. We been working mulch as much as blood, into our philosophy, for quite a few life-times. Since then we measure ourselves up the scale from apes, but not half so high as angels. It was a nice new idea and we were afraid we”d lose it, so we put it on paper and built buildings like this one around it. And we been going in and out of these buildings chewing it over, that one new sweet blade of grass, trying to figure how it all started, when we made the move, when we decided to be different. I suppose one night hundreds of thousands of years ago in a cave by a night, fire when one of those shaggy men wakened to gaze over the banked coals at his woman, his children, and thought of their being cold, dead, gone forever. Then he must have wept. And he put out his hand in the night to the woman who must die some day and to the children who must follow her. And for a little bit next morning, he treated them somewhat better, for he saw that they, like himself, had the seed of night in them. He felt that seed like slime in his pulse, splitting, making more against the day they would multiply his body into darkness. So that man, the first one, knew what we know now: our hour is short, eternity is long. With this knowledge came pity and mercy, so we spared others for the later, more intricate, more mysterious benefits of love.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray