Monday, November 17, 2008

The Big Read IV: "Dorothy and My Grandmother..." + "Colloquy"

The Lottery: And Other Stories Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors

The narrator and her friend Dot have always been told to stay away from the sailors when they went to San Francisco.

My mother told us about the kind of girls who followed sailors, and my grandmother told us about the kind of sailors who followed girls.
They made a yearly outing to San Fran to buy winter coats for the girls. They would always visit the ships, as many tourists did. What a combination... constant indoctrination of fear and propriety, mixed with acceptable voyeurism of the warship. When the narrator gets herself lost and finds a man she thinks to be the captain to help her back to her grandmother, well, there's no more visiting the ships. How do they reconcile these fearful beliefs with their own escort, Uncle Ollie, once a sailor in WWI?

Then, when going to a sold-out movie and having to take what seats they could, the girls end up next to two sailors. The sailors don't even have to do as much as shift in their seats and Dot is terrified and out the door. The group went next door to a tea room.
Dot had even started to cheer up a little when the door of the tea room opened and two ailors walked in. With one wild bound Dot was in back of my grandmother's chair, cowering and clutching my grandmother's arm. "Don't let them get me," she wailed.
"They followed us," my mother said tautly.
My grandmother put her arms around Dot. "Poor child," she said, "you're safe with us."
This is the kind of fearmongering that gets us this.


So short. I looked up colloquy. The story is a colloquy, and is about colloquy. Why do people not make sense anymore? The woman visits the doctor to find out if she's the only sane one, or the crazy one.
"No," Mrs. Arnold said, slowly and distinctly, "I guess I'd better start over. When I was a little girl--" she said. Then she stopped. "Look," she said, "did there use to be words like psychosomatic medicine? Or international cartels? Or bureaucratic centralization?"
You know she has no recourse when the doctor's part of the colloquy is to speak in just this way. She gets closest to completing this thought. Her husband feels entitled to a paper. He thinks the newsboy was supposed to save him one.
"and he started talking about social planning on the local level and surtax net income and geopolitical concepts and deflationary inflation." Mrs. Arnold's voice rose to a wail. "He really said deflationary inflation."
While all around her people speak with these new words, she cannot finish a thought. They've beaten her down with their words. She has lost the fight.

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