Thursday, August 10, 2006

Excerpt from East of Eden

Cal crept quietly down the dark hall and edged into the room where he and his brother slept. He saw the outline of his brother's head against the pillow in the double bed, but he could not see whether Aron slept. Very gently he eased himself in on his side and turned slowly and laced his fingers behind his head and stared at the myriads of tiny colored dots that make up darkness. The window shade bellied slowly in and then the night wind fell and the worn shade flapped quietly against the window.
A gray, quilted melancholy descended on him. He wished with all his heart that Aron had not walked away from him out of the wagon shed. He wished with all his heart that he had not crouched listening at the hall door. He moved his lips in the darkness and made the words silently in his head and yet he could hear them.
"Dear Lord," he said, "let me be like Aron. Don't make me mean. I don't want to be. If you will let everybody like me, why, I'll give you anything in the world, and if I haven't got it, why, I'll go for to get it. I don't want to be mean. I don't want to be lonely. For Jesus' sake, Amen." Slow warm tears were running down his cheeks. His muscles were tight and he fought against making any crying sound or sniffle.
Aron whispered from his pillow in the dark, "You're cold. You've got a chill." He stretched out his hand to Cal's arm and felt the goose bumps there. He asked softly, "Did Uncle Charles have any money?"
"No," said Cal.
"Well, you were out there long enough. What did Father want to talk about?"
Cal lay still, trying to control his breathing.
"Don't you want to tell me?" Aron asked. "I don't care if you don't tell me."
"I'll tell," Cal whispered. He turned on his side so that his back was toward his brother. "Father is going to send a wreath to our mother. A big goddamn wreath of carnations."
Aron half sat up in bed and asked excitedly, "He is? How's he going to get it clear there?"
"On the train. Don't talk so loud."
Aron dropped back to a whisper. "But how's it going to keep fresh?"
"With ice," said Cal. "They're going to pack ice all around it."
Aron asked, "Won't it take a lot of ice?"
"A whole hell of a lot of ice," said Cal. "Go to sleep now."
Aron was silent, and then he said, "I hope it gets there fresh and nice."
"It will," said Cal. And in his mind he cried, "Don't let me be mean."


Now for some back story to help you understand. Cal and Aron are twin 11 year old boys. Aron is blond and beautiful and loved by everyone. Cal is dark and quiet and unrecognized. He lashes out against this rejection by hurting people, making them feel ignorant and distrusting themselves. Aron believes their mother is dead and buried across the country. Cal has just learned by eavesdropping that their mother is the owner of a whorehouse in town.

This was the passage that made me realize this book is everyone's life, wrapped up in fiction. I've personally had those nights where I've cried for acceptance, begged some unknown force to make me let go of my rejection and the cruel thoughts that follow. I can't imagine many who haven't. To not be afraid of those dark thoughts simply isn't human.

Anyway, anyone out there who can appreciate a good book, pick up East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. I cry every time I read it, so you should at least feel some slight twinge of emotion.

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