1976 - Jeffty is Five

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Steve Evil
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Death and the Toddler. ..

Postby Steve Evil » Sun Jul 03, 2005 8:30 am

Unca Harlan, if it had been otherwise, it just wouldn't be the same.

If it's any consolation, I never did subscribe to either the murder OR suicide theory.

(how's that for fanboy cowtowing?)

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Yelena Virago
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Postby Yelena Virago » Sun Jul 03, 2005 4:29 pm

So here's the point where *I* risk self-electrocution.

Let me say at the outset that I really didn't find your howls of anguish at the idiocy prevalent in the cosmos to be out-of-place or necessarily hurtful, spiteful, etcetera, Mister Ellison. As I've said elsewhere on this board, I've seen you rip apart regulars around here with far more (well-deserved) panache than that. :D After all, you're the ONLY expert on the writing we're discussing here, since you're the one who wrote the stuff. Tearing your hair out over the soft-skulled morons who just don't "get it" only harms you, not us. (We are, after all, a thick-skulled group around here, in case you hadn't noticed.) So please don't. Definitely not on the account of the regulars around here. (Myself included.)

Now. My question. (Oh, by the way, I've located the guillotiine. Rick had it in mothballs. You'll notice I've conveniently lined up several of my extremities for you to choose from, should you so desire, after I ask my dumb-ass, know-nothing question. :D)

Your introduction to "Jeffty is Five" in Troublemakers, mentions that no one ever seems to get the ending, and explains (for the benefit of the younger audience who grew up in houses and apartment buildings with circuit breakers), that when a short occurred, all the lights in the house would flicker and dim, citing the example of the con in the electric chair, that when they fried the poor sucker, all the lights in the joint would flicker. You also state that the palest creatures in the story, Jeffty's mother and father, should be paid close attention to. And that they are decent people.

I must confess, I never did comprehend the ending of "Jeffty is Five", and while I thought I finally understood it, after reading your introduction to the story in "Troublemakers", this discussion proves I haven't. (I always thought, based on the explanation offered in the intro, that Leona either drowned or electrocuted Jeffty.)

Or was it simply that whatever "it" was, that kept Jeffty in the past, was finally relinquished, not by the wall of television sets showing the present world, but the fact that his parents simply "wanted to live in the present world again"?

So, the parents were the ones who let go of Jeffty's innocence, and by that, destroyed him, or his essence, whatever it was that made him what he was, and kept all three of them trapped in the past?

The sentence: "So she did love him, still, a little bit, even after all those years." Does that imply that the mother's love for Jeffty at five is what kept him in that perpetual state? Not for the love of the child, but for love of the child at five? And when she let go of that, out of a sense of duty, at last, the child that she loved, the one she had held onto for far too long already, went with it?

Owwwwwww. My brain hurts!! :shock:



Postby rich » Wed Jul 06, 2005 8:08 pm

Yelena Virago wrote:Or was it simply that whatever "it" was, that kept Jeffty in the past, was finally relinquished, not by the wall of television sets showing the present world, but the fact that his parents simply "wanted to live in the present world again"?

I was kinda thinking along those lines myself upon rereading this thread after HE chided us. Actually, go back and read this thing from the beginning non-stop. It's tough and it's not too hard to see why HE got a little annoyed. Having said that and having taken the jeweler's loop to the text and run it through the Bat-Text Analyzer (the text, not the loop), I have come to the following conclusion: The ending is not well written in a way that says THIS is what happens and NOT THAT.

Now hold on, hold on, before the rope gets put over my head and tightened around my neck.

Here's some quotes from the story:

"Jeftty's parents were a sad pair."

"[Five] is a time of delight, of wonder, of innocence...But for his parents it was an ongoing nightmare..."

"[Jeffty] lived in that atmosphere of gentle dread and dulled loathing..."

"'Sometimes I wish he had been born stillborn.'"

So given that, I think it's quite reasonable for someone to suggest that perhaps Leona may have killed her child in order to get some peace and to move on in the world.

And, having said that, I don't think that's what happened. I think it's just as HE says: the future lives to eat the past. Jeffty was consumed by the future once he saw what it was on those television screens, once those kids beat him up for dwelling in the past, so to speak, via the radio. Jeffty WAS the past and the Present finally got to him. As Donny says, it's his fault: "I...left him to fight off the present without sufficient weaponry."

So it was the Present that killed Jeffty.

However, (again) having said that, the ending...the ending tries to make it both ways. Yes, it did say that the Present killed Jeffty, but it also said that the parents were complicit in that "killing". So, yes, there is some weight to the argument that Leona murdered her boy. "I can't hate them: they only wanted to live in the present world again."

The radio playing rock music indicated that Jeffty was dying. Did Leona change the station so the radio played rock music? Or was the music just a result of Jeffty's dying? Either way, there's enough in the ending to justify some of the interpretations we've seen here in this thread.

By the way, I think this is a GREAT story, but I've spent so much time reading and rereading it for the SOLE purpose of contributing to this thread that I think I've leached out any enjoyment from it. I find a couple of paragraphs that don't fit in with the story and it's jarring, precisely because I never noticed them before, yanking me out of the story. I also think I've "killed" the story for me precisely because I did go through it with the sole intention of figuring out the ending. I came at it like a problem to be solved as opposed to reading it for the pleasure it gave me the first time I read it. And that's just not the way to do this thing. Or, rather, it shouldn't.

It has become just words on paper for me at the moment and I'm left to wondering how much I should contribute to these threads other than a "great story, thanks" comment. I like a little bit of mystery in what I read and some of the mystery has gone out.

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Jon Stover
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Postby Jon Stover » Wed Jul 06, 2005 9:54 pm

What's odd is that the alternate readings of the ending have problematized an ending I've always read the same way -- she drowns him. Come to think of it, I still read the ending that way. That doesn't mean I want to chew anyone out for alternate readings -- just that when I first read the story when I was 13, I thought 'She drowned him!' The present does exist to eat the past -- Jeffty was put in the position by being beaten up because he did something to the radio.

I've always taken the 'so she did still love him, a little' to indicate a saving grace for the mother -- namely, that Jeffty's exposure to the present was already killing him, and she just did the job quickly, as the beating and that exposure had started to unravel him and he wasn't going to come back from it. I'm not sure what was going to happen otherwise, but the magic was going away anyway, and Jeffty with it, slowly and painfully.

Cheers, Jon

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random thoughts

Postby KristinRuhle » Thu Jul 07, 2005 1:58 am

Hmm, if the radio shorted out how could it start playing rock music again? I'll have to re-read the story...probably have the sequence of events mixed up.

Maybe Jeffty dissolved in the tub, as if he *had* been a ghost. (What's Leona gonna say to the cops?) I was listening to the tape for the severalth time and suddenly sat up with a shock "She threw her baby out with the bathwater!"

Past versus future...nostalgic memory is very selective. I mean, nobody wants bubonic plague and cholera back, do they? Or brutal tyrants who stomp on the peasants. Or even polio epidemics.

Some places in the world are still backward and have a lot of war, famine and pestilence. Are they nostalgic?

Everybody loves old time radio. Does that include the racial stereotypes? (I have heard George Lucas accused of being nostalgic for racial stereotypes!)

One can't blame an old person for living in the past, but exalting the past while denouncing the future strikes me as an awful thing to say to a young person. In real life time does only go in one direction.

Don't get me wrong...it's still a great, powerful story that moves you to tears. It's about the loss of childhood innocence and how you can never get it back once you lose it. Like a faint radio signal picked up from the far distance (freaky sunspots?) move the antenna, and you lose the signal and break the spell. Forever.

Forgive me for rambling, it's almost 1am.


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Jon Stover
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Postby Jon Stover » Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:15 am

The thing is (to go back to rich's point about mystery), I think we all have a tendency to over-literalize at points as we try to figure out some stories. Over-literalize? Over-analyze? "Jeffty is Five" is one of those Ellison stories that moves closer to the Borgesian and the magic realism than many previous works, though not as far as some later work. It's almost a transitional piece in terms of how Harlan writes fantasy.

There's no more a rational-though-fantastic explanation for what Jeffty is within the bounds of the story (and by that I mean 'ghost? frozen in time by his mother's love?') than there is an explanation for why people start turning into rhinocerauses or axolotls in other non-Ellison works. Jeffty's existence is simply a given and a mystery outside of the fact that the story engages a concept (the present exists to devour the past) through the use of characters and plot and rather than exposition. Trying to figure out how Jeffty became as he is is a little like trying to figure out what sort of biological mechanism could turn Gregor Samsa into a giant cockroach.

Cheers, Jon

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Postby Harlan Ellison » Sat Jul 09, 2005 7:07 pm

This story is specific in what it says. I desperately GIVE YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED to come to the conclusions I want you to reach.

Here they are. Remember them when you re-read, and you'll see EVERY SINGLE signpost clearly marked.

1) There is only one (1) fantasy element in this story. Jeffty is always five. However unexplained, or Borgesian, or magical, take it as a given. The same way you take Rudy Pairis's ESP in "Mefisto in Onyx." Nothing else science fictional, or phantasmagorical, or symbolic transpires in this story. It is all told in real time, though the years of that "real time" are purposely ambiguous. Everything else is mimetic, objective, as real as boards and nails.

2) Donny loves the kid. He is to him as a protective big brother, but he is also his playmate. They come from the same roots. There is, in Jeffty, that which we all hunger to retain, as we grow older: the places we went, the restaurants we dined in, the kinds of reading we loved, the relationships with parents and friends. We know we must grow up, because that's OUR JOB, but we cry every time we realize that they've closed down Nibbler's Restaurant and we'll probably never again taste chicken croquettes, a favorite from our childhood...because no fast food joint makes them, and most people no longer even know they existed. So Donny is a willing participant in Jeffty's life, because he can do HIS JOB of growing up, and yet continue to have the dear things from his past to enrich him. With love and camaraderie, he uses Jeffty, even as Jeffty uses and depends on him. He can eat his cake...and have it, too.

3) Leona and her husband are perfectly decent people. They are purposely sketched with the kind of "family values" that obtained in this country once upon a time. But they are the equivalent of parents who have birthed a retarded child, or a crippled child, or what used to be called a "Mongolian Idiot." If these children are somehow cute and deserving of compassion and affection when they are young, helpless as kittens, think of them as adults, how tragic their lives must be. If you have no idea of the heartbreaking consequences, rent or somehow arrange to see a film titled A CHILD IS WAITING with Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland. If you are like me, you will leave the theater in ruins, weeping piteously, and you'll never forget.

I've used this trope in other stories, such as "Scartaris..." -- the incident on the airplane where the protagonist, the last god of Atlantis, kills the retarded girl through the wall of the inflight toilet.

The compassion I ask you to feel, is for the parents. They LOVE this child. But pragmatically--as it was for me, when my mother finally died, and it was I who "pulled the plug" and who felt the guilt of having had the feeling of freedom-at-last when it happened, for just a moment, just a split-second, before the guilt and shame poured in on me--pragmatically, they are in prison. They are trapped in their own unlived lives, giving all to Jeffty, watching and protecting him. They do not hate or fear him, they LOVE him, but dear god when do WE get to live just one simple day without worrying what will happen to this marvel of miracles???

Can you translate your own feelings, if you ever had to bed-tend a long-suffering, or long-dying parent or child or relative? Can you comprehend the ambivalence? The guilt at even THINKING negative thoughts about this innocent creature you've been chosen to protect?

4) They have come to trust Donny to "take Jeffty off their hands" for brief respites. Donny seems to be as determinedly devoted to Jeffty's safety as they are.

5) But Donny is also DOING HIS JOB, the job Jeffty never has to do, the lonely and endless and terrible job of GROWING UP.

6) And since nothing like this situation has ever happened to ANYone, even Donny doesn't realize what a monster THE PRESENT is, how it has to cannibalize the past, to close down Nibbler's Restaurant and stop making Hydrox Cookies and kill off your favorite aunt or uncle, your beloved grandparents. Donny is culpable, but at the same time innocent of putting Jeffty in harm's way TWICE on the same Saturday, as Donny DOES HIS JOB OF GROWING UP! He, too, on the horns of a dilemma is trapped in his own life, living both past as past/past as present.

7) When he gets to Jeffty after he's been beaten up, he knows he has failed the kid; but he doesn't know what to do about it; nor what changes will have to be made; nor how Jeffty's parents will react to this "betrayal" (for want of a better word) by the only other person who understands and protects Jeffty.

9) He brings Jeffty home, bearing him in as would a cat with a dead bird in its mouth, offering the treasure to its owners.

10) Leona takes Jeffty up to bathe off the blood.

11) Donny sits in the deepening dusk with the father. Silent. Trapped.

12) Leona comes downstairs wiping her hands on her apron. This tells us she has put Jeffty in the tub. She turns on a lamp because it's getting dark. She offers a piece of pie, because that's how mannerly people do it in those days, but also to tell Donny "it's all right...we understand...we know you love him...and so do we..." All that, in the offer of pie.

13) Donny hears rock music froim upstairs. At first it doesn't register.

14) Then there is a crackle, and the lights dim. I've explained to you who don't remember this kind of thing happening, why it used to happen. One of you made reference to it as being in my introduction to this story in TROUBLEMAKERS. The music has stopped up there.

15) Now--an instant too late--Donny realizes what has happened. The parents sit. The husband knows what Leona has done, and there is nothing to say. Donny falls twice scrambling up the stairs.

Now, here is what Jeffty's mother did, and why she did it, and why it is tragic and worthy of your understanding and compassion.

16) She did not kill the child.

17) She did not NOT kill the child.

18 ) Jeffty has been electrocuted in the bathtub.

19) Leona put the radio there, and she turned it to rock music. And MAYBE Jeffty would reach to change it, and MAYBE it would fall in, and MAYBE it would electrocute him...and MAYBE none of that would happen. It IS and it ISN'T a mercy killing.

20) It is NO WAY murder or suicide or going into another continuum or becoming a ghost or any other Lit 101 "solution." It is also NOT Rube Goldberg-ish, because if it doesn't happen...it doesn't happen. BUT SOMETHING ELSE W I L L happen sometime in the future because...

21) The mother realizes they've held onto this miracle, protected this dear thing, as long as they can. They are growing old, and they have discussed what will become of Jeffty when they die (did you, readers? did YOU ever think what's to become of this fragile treasure?) and they had thought Donny was the answer.

22) But now they realize they were fooling themselves. Leona has lived with it all these years, and she understands that the Present is a shark, a constantly moving, never sleeping predator, a Great White that must keep killing the Past to sustain itself. And that as good and true and loyal and loving as Donny is, unlike they--who are trapped forever in Jeffty's strange microcosm--with no parole, no reprieve, no let and no ease, EVER--he is going to cointinue doing His Job, growing up, becoming aan adult like all of us, who make mistakes and make excuses, and their dear Jeffty will one day be as naked and alone and as frail as he was in that movie line.

23) And Leona's love--also shadowed by her need just to have a few years to live her own life, which she will never admit, or even think about without feeling horrible guilt--now overcomes her, and she seeks to spare Jeffty that future. So she places the radio, turns it to rock music, and walks away.

And maybe it'll happen. And maybe it won't.

24) But if not today, then tomorrow. And if not electrocution, then some other perfectly tiny and inevitable accident.

But this is not murder, it is not suicide, it is not Jeffty realizing what's happening and letting himself be electrocuted to free the parents he loves. No, he is an innocent; and he innocently reaches to hear The Shadow or Hop Harrigan; anything but what one would hear on a tv set or on a radio today.

The ending is seemingly ambiguous to draw your thoughts not to just the death of Jeffty, which is the death of memory and nostalgia and the Past and innocence, but also to draw your compassion to those who guard those fragile treasures, and the responsibilities that are often too great for them to bear.

I hope this helps you.

Yr. pal, Harlan

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Postby P.A. Berman » Sun Jul 10, 2005 3:53 pm

I'm going to ask the unpopular question now: is it wrong to come up with a reading of this story where Leona kills Jeffty/ purposely contributes to his death? I know Harlan says that's not what happened, in no uncertain terms, but before I knew that, I thought she had. Here's why:

1. Donny says, "So I gave him to her. God help me, I gave him over to her." This sounds to me like giving Jeffty to his mother was a huge, terrible mistake, and he should have known better. If it were an accident, why would he express this sentiment?

2. "And she took him upstairs to bathe away his blood and pain." This line always seemed to have a double meaning to me. Death does take away our pain, permanently, the way no bath ever could. The only way Leona could take away Jeffty's continued suffering in the Present was to let him recede into the past via death.

3. Who puts a 5 year old into the tub and leaves him there, goes downstairs and serves cake? That's at best irresponsible and at worst, criminally negligent homicide (I'm not exaggerating here-- I know someone who was prosecuted for this very crime for this exact reason). Leona's attitude when she comes downstairs struck me as rather odd. She wipes her hands on her apron and offers pound cake. The deed, it seemed to me, had been done.

4. The rock music was already playing for a little while when Donny noticed it. Jeffty was already doomed. Who turned it to that station? Leona. Was that not a de facto attack on Jeffty? I say it was. Combine that with leaving a little kid alone in a tub, and Leona killed Jeffty. Whether or not it was a mercy killing, I'm not sure. There is a definitely element of selfishness in it, so the mercy is for herself and her husband as much as Jeffty, isn't it?

5. I had no idea that the light had flickered because the radio fell in the tub. I'm not sure how the reader was supposed to know that. Jeffty was an anomaly, a phenomenon. After all, he was getting radio broadcasts from the past; it is so wrong to think that his passing would cause static and electrical interruptions?

The bottom line for me is, the text does support a reading that Leona killed Jeffty, or set him up to die. If Harlan didn't intend that reading, then the ending should have been written a little more clearly. There's really no way to discredit a reading that sees Leona as precipitating Jeffty's death, except to cite the author's words. I've said it before and I'll say it again-- any viable, textually supported reading of a text is valid. The author's reading is just one of those readings. Part of the beauty of the ending is its ambiguity, for me. I really didn't want to know the cut-and-dried definitive answer. It ruins some of the mystique for me, some of the investment I make in figuring it out.

I'm really just offering my reading and trying to defend it with the text. I'm not trying to attack Harlan or contradict him, just saying that this story supports more than one reading of the ending. I hope I don't get flamed into oblivion for offering a different POV.

I don't know. I don't care. And it doesn't matter anyway. ~Jack Kerouac

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Postby Jan » Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:07 pm

Thanks for the generous "help" (solution), Harlan. Makes sense, I wish we had come closer.

I thought Harlan was way off track being aggravated about our interpretations of the ending, a few of which I think are *legitimate*. We were all in agreement about what the story was about, we just disagreed on the particulars of the ending i.e. what happened offstage. After reading Harlan's own thoughts, I must say that his "interpretation" is superior - it makes more sense as the ending of that particular story.

My suicide theory had the weakness that, as some of you pointed out, that Jeffty would not do such a thing because he's "innocent" - he wouldn't think of it. (My opinion was that he would, because he listens to radio shows that teach him about all kinds of things.) The other thing was that I thought the rock music was on the radio because it represented a world that got more and more out of tune with what Jeffty needed and wanted. It seemed to me the television scene had foreshadowed that. The world was changing and becoming harder to bear. I still think it's legitimate to make such an assumption instead of saying that the mother did it on purpose. That's how I arrived at suicide.

It should also be noted that an author may intend to say one thing and simply not be aware of unintentionally leading a few people on the wrong track with a word here and a sentence there. That happens, and the readers shouldn't be chastised for it. I don't think we're particularly bad at understanding stories, although I wish the argumentation in this thread had been better. Maybe we would have gotten closer to the truth.Unfortunately a few people don't think it's necessary to provide a logical basis along with their opinions.

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Postby KristinRuhle » Sun Jul 10, 2005 11:47 pm

Thanks Harlan...(gulp) Was I the straw that broke the camel's back there? I didn't mean those last theories I tossed out seriously, really. I like mystery and I like it when some things are left mysteriuos, but....

Suicide? Never bought that.

Homicide? Well ...on the fictional level it was an accident. (Only in real life today, people would holler "felony child endangerment" and demand the mother's blood. It is often human nature to want to blame someone, even when they are a victim too.) I sometimes wonder if a story like this would get published if it were something new. There's just so much made of stories like these in the nightly news.

It could be seen as a mercy killing not on Leona's part but on the author's part. (killing off a character as a kind of mercy - letting the child die out of compassion for his parents?)

This leads in disturbing directions though....if Jeffty is analogous to a retarded child, does that mean it was all right for the Nazis to put deformed and retarded children to death??? Horrible things have been done in the name of "euthanasia."

But pro-euthanasia or not, the story is intended as compassionate. It shows Harlan's caring nature.

Somehow all of this - and recent posts on the Pavilion as well - have left me with a bone-deep horror of growing old. Harlan wrote "Jeffty" when only a few years older than I am now (but having recently lost his mother). My own parents, while reasonably healthy for people their age, are growing older and know it. What happens when you get old? Death visits your life more, and what does the future hold besides your own death? Nostalgia beckons; the past was a golden age....

before you ask, I do not belong to any so called "Advocacy Groups" and speak only for my sometimes confused self.

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Postby Jan » Mon Jul 11, 2005 8:43 am

Euthanasia and a mercy killing are two different things. The story doesn't touch upon the subject of euthanasia, so it's neither pro nor anti. I don't remember any indication that Jeffty wanted to die, and certainly no dialogue to that effect between him and his mother.

I also don't think you can speak of a mercy killing on the side of the author based on his compassion with the parents. The parents are, after all, fictional, and I would doubt that he would feel more compassion for them than for Jeffty and Donny. Writers often kill the characters they care most for because honesty demands it.

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Postby Yelena Virago » Mon Jul 11, 2005 5:19 pm

Harlan Ellison wrote:I hope this helps you.

It floors me, actually. Thank you for giving us your time and your words, which you certainly didn't have to, given the turn your own life has taken lately. It is much appreciated, and I hope it has helped to divert you, if only for a moment, from the contemplation of darkness. (Although the contemplation of our collective idiocy might not be such a wonderful alternative, either, I fear. :)) I think it does come down to what every reader brings to the story, from his or her own life, and experience gleaned from same.

Given my life, and the childhood I lived, I find it exceedingly difficult to wrap my brain around the concept that Jeffty's parents could harbour such resentments, or inability to bear the burden of living their lives "trapped" as it were, and still be regarded as "decent" people. Then, too, maybe my standards of decency are unrealistic. I can personally assure the world at large that there are parents who harbour exactly the same kind of feelings espoused by Harlan to Jeffty's parents in the story, only those parents handle it on several orders of magnitude worse than Leona and her husband did. Take my parents, for instance. [RODNEY DANGERFIELD]Please![/RODNEY DANGERFIELD]

Yes, it is the bald, harsh, even uncomfortable truth, that not all parents of disabled children are longsuffering saints or indefatigable martyrs to the love of their child, and yes, it does reflect reality (moreso in these times, with growing numbers of parents slaughtering their disabled children under the guise of "mercy killing", than perhaps when the story was first published), moreso than I care to admit.

It saddens me to think that Jeffty's parents couldn't get past it, though. That they did feel so burdened, and resentful, and desiring of their own life, that they felt they were "put on hold", as it were. That they did not let their love for the child remove, or at the very least, diminish any of the hardships they had to encounter in living with him. No more, nor less than, it saddens me that my parents couldn't overcome such things themselves. But perhaps that's asking just a little too much from the narrow confines of the human soul. Sadly, sadly.

One more question, if you would be ever-so-generous, and then I will never ask you another question again, I promise!! ;)

The sentence:

So she did love him, still, a little bit, even after all those years.

Is that statement just-a-little-bit from the author, or is it a statement strictly from the narrator's POV (Donnny)? And is it true?

I do understand the story fully and completely now, and it is likely only my own shortsightedness which prevented me from "getting it" in the first place. Thank you, again, Mister Ellison, for your time and your insight.

At the risk of perhaps not shutting my big fat yap when the shutting is good, may I just say, that it was determined when I was but a few days old, that I would be little more than a vegetable, and my parents went through a significant period in all three of our lives, where they believed I would be a burden on them forever. Hell, for a while there, I even believed it myself.

My life now, however transitory and untenable it at times might be, is far from "tragic", however. Neither is my uncle's adult life a tragic one, and he was born (I think) about forty years ago, with Down Syndrome.

Don't get me wrong, please: I would sooner put out my eyes with a red-hot poker, than engage in any of that bleeding-heart, codependent social worker's lamenting rhetoric. (I'm all for paraphrasing Shakespeare: The first thing we do, we kill all the social workers.) I'm just a little disappointed that you hold the views you do, Mister Ellison, perhaps because I never really considered that you might.

Which, as I said, is purely short-sightedness on my part, and has nothing whatsoever to do with you, personally.

Okay. I really will shut my pie-hole now.

Thank you very much for your time, and your kind consideration.


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Postby KristinRuhle » Tue Jul 12, 2005 12:34 am

Oh, Velvet. You should be a carpenter. You are so good at hitting nails on the head! :)

And finding the kindest thing to say to Harlan at the moment too. I hope it does make him feel better to write a little, for us and for himself.(Harlan, I never know when you are reading this.) Hey, net postings aren't even pay copy. That was both honest and a gift to us. More than we deserve maybe amid all our bumbling attempts at kindness...it's just so easy to f** up, and hard to effectively convey that you feel another's pain.

Writing, and reading, even the darkest stories can be life-affirming when there is so much anguish in the real world.

Do you think we should close this discussion before it veers too far off topic and just becomes the Harlan Sympathy Thread? (Or God/Whatever help me, the Euthanasia vs Mercy Killing Thread....there are OTHER forums for issues like that...)

BTW you should be proud of your "Mefisto in Onyx" post...I don't think many readers, however well intentioned, manage to earn that kind of praise from The Man himself!


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Yelena Virago
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Postby Yelena Virago » Tue Jul 12, 2005 3:11 am

Excellent suggestions, all, Kristin (although I did freak out a bit, that I might possibly have overstepped my bounds with the last couple paragraphs of my last post in this thread). So, let's call it a day, and move along home (or in my case, to work), hmmmm?

Move along, folks, nothing to see here. Well, not anymore, at least. :)


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Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2005 10:05 am

A Quick Recommendation

Postby Adam-Troy » Tue Jul 12, 2005 6:46 am

Harlan cited A CHILD IS WAITING as a powerful film about the kind of always-dependent child he's talking about.

I'd like to cite another, even more pressing.

The Oscar-winning BEST BOY, directed by Ira Wohl in (I think) 1978, a wonderful, not-depressing documentary about his severely retarded cousin Phillie. (I think that's the name, I haven't seen the movie in a couple of years). Phillie is in his fifties and lives with a couple of parents in his eighties, who still have to do everything for him. He's a loveable man, nothing but sweet, who will never be able to do anything on his own. The film is about the steps finally taken to train Phillie for some small degree of (supervised) independence while his parents are still alive. You get to see, in this film, just what fifty-plus years of patiently taking care of such a person entails, and what it does to parents when their lives are never permitted to be about anything else. The ultimate effect of the film is joyous, but seeing it might help you understand a little bit more about the plight of Jeffty's kin.

(It is, by the way, the film that first led me to realize William Shatner's less sterling qualities, when he made an oafish joke about it on national television.)

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