A poem and some correspondence
You are absolutely right about the problem with rape/trade. It isn’t good. I struggled long to find better but failed and posted the poem anyway. Actually, I wrote the original version of it some ten years ago and rewrote it from memory for GW. I don’t keep copies of my writings, they are not good enough to preserve them for posterity and in any case, as Hemingway famously said of Ezra Pound when the latter was sanctioned after the war, “Sure he is crazy. All poets are crazy,” and I must have had one of my crazy moments to recreate the poem. Here is the poem again:
TIME WILL BE ...
Time will be there will be no time
No hugs, no kisses, no books, no rhyme
No breasts to fondle, no fibs to tell
No lips to kiss or flowers to smell
No wars to fight, no women to rape
No oil to barter, no gold to trade
No Muslims to kill, no Jews to bait
No blacks to lynch or priests to hate
And the naughts that we were
before we were born
We shall become once again
When we are unborn
The Surrogate Mother / Samantha's Baby
It is the last day of the year, 31st of December - Samantha's birthday. Having finished their dinner Samantha and Ben (her husband) are still seated at their dining table. Vine glasses on the table. The ambers of a the still-flickering fire in the fireplace gives Sam's face a warm glow. Ben hands Sam a small, gift-wrapped present. They are both in their twenties.
Ben: "Happy birthday, darling."
Sam unwraps the present. Inside the gift box she finds a gold necklace with a small, gold locket. Inside the locket there is a photo of their wedding.
Sam: "Oh darling! This is a beautiful! birthday present. I love it."
Sam puts on the necklace, goes over to Ben, sits in his lap and kisses him on the lip.
Ben: "What is your wish for the new year?"
Sam: "You know what it is."
Ben: "Yes darling, I guess I know. And I will make sure it will happen even if kills me."
Sam puts her hand on Ben's mouth.
Sam: "Honey, don't say that. That's a price I'm not willing to pay."
They hear the grandfather clock in the hall striking midnight.
Ben: "Happy New Year, Mrs Middleton.”
Sam: "Happy New Year, Mr Middleton.”
They clink glasses, drink and kiss again.
Sam: "May I have two extra wishes?”
Ben: "Sure, any number you like."
Sam, "Full recovery and an end to those stupid tears of mine."
Ben: "Let's drink to that too. "
Thy clink glasses again and finish their drinks. Then they rise from their chairs. Ben places a brass fire guard in front of the fireplace and they go upstairs to their bedroom.
* * *
Bedroom scene: Sam and Ben are lying side by side in a double bed. Ben on his back and Sam on her side, facing Ben. Sam has Ben's arm under the back of her neck, her head is in the hollow of Ben's shoulder.
Sam: "Do you think mum will change her mind?"
Ben: "I'll talk to her again."
Sam: "I think she is a mean, heartless bitch."
Ben: "Honey, don't say that. She is your mother."
Sam: "If dad were still alive, he would have helped."
Ben: "Go to sleep, Honey."
* * *
Psycho-analyst's office. The furniture consists of a desk, two chairs, a bookcase and a couch. Dr Anton is sitting behind the desk. Sam enters the room.
Dr Anton: "Hello Mrs Middleton, please take a seat."
Sam: "Thank you, Doctor Anton."
Sam sits down in the chair in front of the desk.
Dr Anton: "You look younger than I imagined you from your letter."
Sam: "Well, I lost a lot of weight during the past two years."
Dr Anton: "During your chemotherapy?"
Sam: "Yes, and also during the radiation treatment towards the end."
Dr Anton picks up Sam's letter from his desk and looks at it briefly.
Dr Anton: "You didn't mention anything in your letter about radiation treatment."
Sam: "It was only a couple of sessions after the chemo."
Dr Anton: "Mrs Middleton, what is the reason for your coming to see me?"
Sam: "Well, a friend mentioned your name and she thought you might be able to help me."
Dr Anton: "Help you with what?"
Sam: "Well, I frequently keep bursting into tears. Most of the time for no reason at all."
Dr Anton: "Did you discuss this with your doctor?"
Sam: "Yes. But she said it is nothing to worry about. And that it will pass. But I am worried about it and it upsets me very much."
Dr Anton: "Are you on any medication?"
Sam: "Yes, a lot of it. Some eleven different pills in varying combinations some of it three times a day."
Dr Anton: "Can you tell me what they are?"
Sam: "Not off the top of my head. Sorry. I should have made a note but forgot."
Dr Anton: "You said a minute ago your tears come most of the time for no apparent reason. Tell me about the times when they come for a reason."
Sam: "Well, it is a long story."
Dr Anton: "Give me the gist of it."
Sam: "Well, the cancer started a couple of years ago at the top of my cervical canal but later it spread into my uterus and it had to be removed. Unfortunately, the radiation therapy damaged my ovaries. My husband and I are childless. We both want children, especially me. We are trying to find a surrogate for IVF. We also need a donor, an egg donor. It is a very complicated, expensive and time consuming process. We don't really have the money for it. My mother has but she won't help. I find this very distressing."
Dr Anton: "Mrs Middleton, I don't know whether I can help you or not but I am willing to have a few forty-minute sessions with you to try to relieve you of post traumatic emotional stress disorder. The sessions will consist mostly of you talking and me listening. Would you be happy with that?"
Sam: "Anything you suggest, Doctor."
Dr Anton: "Good. Please see my secretary. She will arrange a few mutually convenient appointments."
Sam: "Thank you, Doctor Anton. Thank you very much."
* * *
Pamela Ponsonby's House in a leafy city suburb. She is Sam's mother, age 49. The living room is elegantly furnished. There is a large sofa by the window, a comfortable armchair near the sofa, both upholstered in matching brocade. A small, round table with bottles of drinks within reach. Bookcases by the wall, paintings on the walls. Outside a storm is raging. Thunder and lightning heard and seen intermittently. Pam is sitting on the sofa and is holding a glass of gin. Ben is sitting in the armchair, also holding a drink in his hand. Their talk is interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Pam rises from the sofa and picks up the receiver.
Pam: "Hello. ... O hello darling. Yes he is here. Want to talk to him? ... (she turns to face Ben) Ben, it's Sam. She wants to have a word with you."
Ben goes over to the phone.
Ben: "Hello darling, ... No, no problems at all. Just got here. Lots of thunder and lighting but the roads are clear. ... Fallen trees? Where? ... Impassable? ... Are you sure? ... OK, I will ask her. You all-right? ... I love you too, darling."
Ben resumes his seat in the armchair.
Pam: "What was that about?
Ben: "Apparently there are some fallen trees blocking the road to the village. Sam is wondering if I should stay here for the night."
Pam: "You are welcome to use the guest room."
Ben: "Thank you, Pam. That's very kind of you."
Pam: "What is it you came to talk about?"
Ben: Well, it is Pam. She is very unhappy.
Pam refills her glass with gin.
Ben: This whole business of finding an egg donor, finding a surrogate, finding the money to pay for it ... it all just gets Sam down. I know we've discussed this before but Sam begged me to have another word with you. You know how much I love her. I just had to come and talk to you again."
Pam: "How much money are we talking about?"
Ben: "Well, there are lots of other complications too. Finding a potential donor involves lots of tests and meetings. The same goes for finding a surrogate. And even when we will get as far as reaching the stage of IVF, we would be expected to support the surrogate."
Pam: "Ben, how much money are we talking about?"
Ben: "Hard to say. But upward of thirty thousand. Could well be more."
Pam fills her glass again.
Pam: "Have you finished, Ben?"
Ben feeling dejected.
Ben: "I guess there is nothing else I can add."
Pam: "Ben, listen very carefully. I have been turning this over and over in my head for the past few days. In fact, if you hadn't asked to see me, I would have asked you to come and listen to what I've decided on. ... I'm going to solve your financial problems. ... Why do you look so surprised?"
Ben: "Pam, I wasn't expecting this. Still can't believe you are saying it."
Pam: "You wanted to talk business and we are going to talk business. I am only forty-nine years old and in perfect physical condition. My ovaries function like clockwork. My periods are regular. ... I will be the donor. I will provide the egg. And I will be the surrogate too."
Ben is surprised. Can't believe what he is hearing.
Ben: "I can't believe what I am hearing."
Pam: "Why can't you believe it, Ben?"
Ben; "So unexpected."
Pam: "I haven't finished yet. There is more. I hate the idea of the artificial insemination process. Doctors and lab technicians fertilizing my egg with your sperm and then fiddling through my vagina to insert it into my uterus fills me with ... Sorry Ben, I can't find the right words to describe it. It's not fear, more like revulsion. That apart, it is not how a new life should start."
Ben: "I hear what you are saying, Pam, but I'm lost for words. And have no idea what you mean. Absolutely no idea what to say."
Pam: "It is very simple. I want the whole process to be as natural as possible. I want you to do the insemination."
Ben: "Do you mean what I think you mean?"
Pam: "Yes Ben."
Ben: "But Pam, I love Sam!"
Pam: "Sam wants your child. You want a child. I want a grandchild. So what exactly is your problem, Ben?"
Ben: "I must discuss this with Sam."
Pam: "Don't! Don't destroy her happiness before it even started. Think of Sam. You said you love her."
Ben: "Forgive me Pam. My mind can't take this in. I need time to think. I am mentally exhausted. Do you mind if I go to bed now?"
Pam: "OK Ben, we will talk about it tomorrow.
* * *
Middle of night Guest room in Pamela Ponsonby's house. Raging storm outside. Door to room opens slowly. Pam in nightdress enters room and slips into Ben's bed. Ben wakes up.
Ben: "Pam! What are you doing?"
Pam: "I'm so lonely Ben. So utterly, utterly lonely. I need a hug. Need a hug badly."
The storm outside intensifies, It reaches it's climax. Loud thunder. Lightening illuminates the guest room. Then slowly the storm subsides and fades.
* * *
Two month later
Sam and Ben's house. Ben enters house after day's work at the office.
Sam: "High darling! I have some wonderful news for you."
Ben: " Oh yeah? (He kisses her.) What news?"
Sam: "Mum is pregnant. She phoned after lunch to tell me. Isn't it wonderful?"
Ben: (Without much enthusiasm) "Yea, wonderful news."
Sam: What's the matter darling? You don't seem very enthusiastic."
Ben: "Of course I am enthusiastic. It's just that I am so surprised ... and happy for you, happy for both of us."
Sam: "She invited us to a celebratory dinner."
Sam: "Thursday night. She said hasn't seen you in ages and was wondering how you are."
Ben: "Isn't that kind of her."
Sam: "Ben darling, what's the matter? You sounded sarcastic."
Ben: Sorry darling. Didn't mean to. Just a bit tired, I suppose.”
* * *
Dr Anton is sitting behind the desk.
Sam enters the room.
Sam: "Hello Dr Anton"
Dr Anton: “Nice to see you Mrs Middleton. Please be seated. How are you?”
Sam: "I am fine. No more tears, ha ha.”
Dr Anton: "That's very good news. So what happened?”
Sam: "My mother made a wonderful U-turn. And I am very happy. She offered to be surrogate as well as egg donor. And she is pregnant, carrying our child. Isn't this wonderful?”
Dr Anton: “Well, this is very, very good news indeed. Do you realize you will be mother and sister to the child?”
Sam: "Good God! I didn't think of that.”
Dr Anton: "Well, if you are happy, as obviously you are, there is no need to continue with therapy."
Sam: "Well, there is actually a thing which worries me a little."
Dr Anton: "Tell me."
Sam: "It is my husband. He seems to have turned a little remote. I can't put my finger on it but I feel ... sense ... that there is some change in him.”
Dr Anton: “Maybe he is adjusting to the prospect of imminent fatherhood. By the way, when is the baby due?”
Sam: "In about seven months."
Dr Anton: "I am very happy for you, Mrs Middleton. Do come and see me again if you feel the need for it."
* * *
One year later.
Dr Anton is sitting behind the desk.
Sam enters the room with baby.
Dr Anton: “Hello Mrs Middleton. Nice to see you again. How are you? And how is your baby? Is it a boy or a girl?”
Sam: “Thank you, Dr Anton. It's a girl. We named her Pamela Victoria. people say she looks very much like me.”
Dr Anton: “And how is your husband dealing with fatherhood?”
Sam: “Well, I'm afraid not very well. In fact, I think he doesn't seem to like the baby at all. I really cant understand him. He changed so much. ... We are drifting apart.”
Dr Anton: “That is very sad news. I am sorry to hear it.”
Sam: “Yes. It started about the time the the baby was born. I really don't understand it at all.”
Dr Anton: “Perhaps he needs more time to adjust. Now that you have the child he might feel relegated to second place in your affection.”
Sam: “I love them both equally.”
Dr Anton: “And how is your mother?”
Sam: “I am afraid she passed away last month.”
Dr Anton: “I am very sorry to hear this. What did she die of?”
Sam: Well, it's a total mystery. She was in perfect health. No sign of any illness. She just suddenly died.
Dr Anton: Was there an autopsy?
Sam: “Yes, there was. And they couldn't find anything wrong with her. There was an inquest and the coroner wasn't satisfied with the medical explanation for the death. He returned an open verdict.”
Dr Anton: “What was the medical explanation?”
Sam: “Broken heart.”
Anyone can live but dying is an art form
The two plain wooden coffins were brought out and placed side by side in the mortuary chapel. Each had a paper label on its lid with the name written by hand. Arthur was one of the deceased; the other was his wife Cynthia.
The undertaker read a few pages from one of Arthur’s books and when he finished he placed the book on Arthur’s casket and the two coffins were rearranged to slide through the curtain one by one.
After the ceremony the small congregation of close friends dispersed, each mourner engrossed in his or her thoughts. I walked home alone. I remembered Arthur saying to me on one occasion that a book may be considered good if ten years after the death of its author there were still at least ten readers for it and very good if a hundred years on, it still had one reader - or something to that effect. “Will he,” I wondered, “still have a reader in 2083”
I first met Arthur after reading his autobiography in which he describes his eighty days and nights under sentence of death in Franco’s prison in Seville, and waiting for the executioner’s knock on his door each midnight, which was the usual time for the executions. “It must have been like dying eighty times over,” I said to him.
“No,” he said, “you only die once, at the beginning, the rest of the time you only imagine it. And that is much worse.”
On another occasion he said to me, “Life is like a game of chess; ebbing and flowing. But in the end it is the endgame that matters.”
And then, later, much later, it seemed to me he may have forgotten all about the ‘endgame’. His Parkinson’s was squeezing the life out of him slowly and relentlessly the way a python squeezes the life out of its prey before it devours it. And later still, when he was diagnosed with terminal leukaemia as well, I began to wonder if he’d left it too late. Long before the end, he was almost totally dependent on nursing care and on the physical support of his wife. His mind wandered, his hands and head trembled uncontrollably, and it was painful to see him in such misery. But he carried on working. Unable to use his hands he dictated what he had to say.
But in the end, when a glandular swelling appeared on his groin and the doctor recommended a biopsy, Arthur managed to find the inner resources he needed to take matters into his own hands. “Dear John,” he wrote to his doctor, “Disappointing news. I have decided not go ahead with the biopsy, because whatever it reveals would be malignant and require treatment which would make work impossible. At that price I don’t want to live.”
The surprise was not so much that he had managed to kill himself and thus checkmate the old adversary, but that Cynthia chose to accompany him into the unknown.
When the police found the bodies, Arthur was sitting in an armchair, dignified, fully dressed and still holding an empty whisky glass in his hand. His face was grey and expressionless. The barbiturates contained Tuinal. A half-empty bottle of whisky stood on a coffee table beside the chair. Cynthia was less fortunate; she fell forward onto the floor and her face was suffused with blood the colour of liver.
Arthur’s carefully drafted suicide note was found in his study. It made it clear that the decision to kill himself was his own, that he legally collected and stored the necessary drugs over a period of time. The concluding paragraph read: “If my attempt to exit this world on my own terms does fail I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means nor removed to a hospital. I wish my friends to know that I am leaving their company in a peaceful frame of mind with some timid hopes for a depersonalized after-life beyond the limits of our comprehension.”
Cynthia was only 55-years old and in good health. Speculation was ripe that she may have been coerced into the double suicide.
When I got home I reached for a book, any book, written by Arthur. His books were sitting next to each other on my bookshelves. The one I happened to pick was 'The Gladiators' I opened the book at random and my eyes fell on the following line:
“Anyone can live – but dying is an art and takes some learning.”
I was holding the open book in my hand and wondering whether the line would read better the other way around.
The wady is dry, its torrent gone
a bed full of boulders, grey and forlorn
once silent witness to glory and gore
slumbering in stillness, dreaming of yore.
Of Crusaders, and Mussulmans led by Saladin
besieging the castle with all within
men children and woman of fair skin
slaughtered or worse - it was no sin.
The ruin of the castle, once mighty Montfort
casts its dark shadow on the timeless mont
shifting with the clock, impotent to distort
eternal laws of celestial import.
Shadows are black when the sun is bright
but fade into shades of grey during the night
when all around is silent except for the blight
of the packs of jackals roaming the site.
Their howls and cries - what do they lament?
Times already past or some coming event
hidden in the future - a thing to prevent?
The moon shines bright, the howls torment.
WARNING! Clicking on a link below will take you out from WdC. Read the story first, then click on link(s).
There was a very popular song when I was growing up. It started life in a 1946 French film, which I never saw except for a clip The clip The singer's name was Yves Montand, who in later life became an international film star and popular singer. The film's title was Les Portes de la nuit. The song was, believe it or not, about some dead leaves. Subsequently, Nat King Cole adapted the tune so as to better suited to his own singing style and the tune became an international hit. Nat King Cole's chart topper.
Years later Cole's own daughter, Natalie Cole, also an acclaimed singer, recorded her version of the song. Natalie Cole Natalie Maria Cole (February 6, 1950 – December 31, 2015) became an acclaimed singer, songwriter, and actress. She rose to success in the mid-1970s as an R&B singer with the hits "This Will Be", "Inseparable" (1975), and "Our Love" (1977). She returned as a pop singer on the 1987 album Everlasting and her cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac". In the 1990s, she sang traditional pop by her father, resulting in her biggest success, Unforgettable... with Love, which sold over seven million copies and won her seven Grammy Awards. She sold over 30 million records worldwide. On December 31, 2015, Cole died at the age of 65 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, due to congestive heart failure.
But the tune attracted other, non-vocal interpretations also. Here is Yenne Lee playing it on a guitar Yenne Lee
Evidently, Montand liked the tune and returned to it in middle age in a different, more nostalgic mood, from that of 1946
Yves Montand in middle age
Frank Sinatra also recorded the song. His version is here Frank Sinatra
So did Matt Monro. Who was Matt Monroe? Matt Monro (born Terence Edward Parsons, 1 December 1930 – 7 February 1985) was an English singer who became one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and 1970s. Known as The Man with the Golden Voice, he filled cabarets, nightclubs, music halls, and stadiums across the world in his 30-year career. AllMusic has described Monro as "one of the most underrated pop vocalists of the '60s", who "possessed the easiest, most perfect baritone in the business". His recordings include the UK Top 10 hits: "Portrait of My Love", "My Kind of Girl", "Softly As I Leave You", "Walk Away" and "Yesterday" (originally by The Beatles). He also recorded several film themes such as "From Russia with Love" for the James Bond film of the same name, "Born Free" for the film of the same name and "On Days Like These" for The Italian Job. Matt Monro
Here is Eric Clapton's rendering of the song Eric Clapton
Paula Cole, unrelated to Nat King Cole, also recorded it Paula Cole
Paula (born April 5, 1968) is an American singer-songwriter. Her single "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997, and the following year she won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her song "I Don't Want to Wait" was used as the theme song of the television show Dawson's Creek.
And for good measure Doris Day also recorded it. Doris Day So did many others.
I will conclude with Montand, who many, many years after the 1946 original, gave a very different but remarkable rendering, with new and unrelated lyrics, with just a hint at dead leaves, instead ... well, find out for yourself. Yves Montand
It was a friendly game of Hold'em, more for entertainment than for profit. The stakes could not have been lower - 2p / 1p blinds and pot limit.
There were six of us at the table. Usually all six of us were tight players but as the game was a low stakes friendly most of us would call to see the Flop.
I was on the button and was dealt two Hearts - an Ace and a Ten. There were nine chips in the pot and I called, making it eleven. To my surprise, Alex, on my left, the Big Blind, who was known to be a very tight player, raised the pot by tossing four more chips into the middle of the table and everyone on my right folded.
It was my turn to speak. There were 15 chips in the pot and I had to call Alex's bet or fold. I put Alex on a pair of Aces. I didn't think he would have raised with two Kings. "No," I said to myself, "he is probably holding a pair of Aces."
With me holding the Ace of Hearts the chance of Alex catching the remaining Ace in the deck were miniscule. I on the other hand, with a favourable Flop, could go into the Turn with a Flush or Straight draw. But the pot odds were very unattractive, 15 to 4. and Alex's Aces were winning without need for further improvement. I should have folded. But I was feeling lucky and called the bet.
The flop came:
Ace of clubs; 8 of hearts; 3 of hearts
The hand was getting interesting. If I was right Alex was still way ahead of me by a mile but I now had a flush draw which would slaughter his Ace trips and he would need a pair on the board to make a House against a possible flush. I reckoned he had six outs to make a pair on the Turn and 9 outs to do so on the River if he missed on the Turn. This made his chance for a pair about 13% on the Turn card and 20% on the River card if he missed on the Turn. On the other hand I had nine hearts in the deck of 47 unseen cards which is a 19% chance and if a Heart missed me on the Turn I still had the same chance on the river.
I knew that Alex was just as much aware of these numbers as I was. The only way to keep me out of the pot was for him to raise the pot and make pot odds unattractive for me. And this is exactly what he did, he bet the maximum he could - 19 chips, making the pot size 38 chips.
Now it was up to me; 19 chips to stay in the hand, and if I were to miss a Heart on the Turn I reckoned Alex will bet 57 chips before the River card.
"No," I said to myself. "Pot odds are lousy." and folded my hand.
It was Alex's turn to shuffle the cards and deal. While he was doing so I asked him, "What did you have?"
"Rubbish," he said. "a seven and a three, off suit."