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Thread: FINAL WEEK! Post entries here.

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  1. #3
    And Death Shall Have No Dominion

    by

    William Haskins


    The drought lasted 99 days. On the hundredth day, the sky opened and rain poured down in thick, hateful sheets, intermingling the Texas dust with clouds of steam rising from hot pavement. I watched it from my window, ignoring the half-written poem and the stack of unpaid bills that mocked me from my desk.

    It made me thirsty.

    By the time I arrived at the bar, darkness had enveloped the city, sending the shimmer of neon across the wet concrete. I stepped out of the rain into the sick glow of the dive to find an empty room and a bored bartender.

    “Scotch,” I said.

    He poured it without speaking. I took a table near the front door and went back to watching the rain as it streamed down the window in tiny, aimless rivulets. I poured half the scotch down my throat and closed my eyes as the heat rose from my stomach and spread over my skin like poison sunshine.

    When I opened them, a man stood beside the table, dry as a bone. He had a weak chin and sad eyes set in a pasty face, framed by a mop of curls.

    “The record for scotch is eighteen straight, you know,” he said in a British accent, tinged with the music of Welsh.

    I drained the rest of the glass and winced as it burned its way down my throat. “That’s a Dylan Thomas quote,” I said.

    He sat down opposite me. “Of course it is.”

    I looked at him closely in the dim light, and my mind flashed back to scratchy black and white photos from moldy old books. A shot of adrenaline shot up my spine, but I stayed calm. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

    “Really?” he asked, smiling. “Well, you’re missing out on half the universe.”

    “Why are you here?” I asked him.

    He laughed. “I’d like to buy you a drink, but since I’m tapped out, what say you buy me one?”

    I held up two fingers and the bartender brought us each a glass. We toasted the rain and he looked at me seriously. “Do people still read my work?” he asked.

    “Are you kidding me?” I said. “You’re one of the giants of the twentieth century.”

    He looked sad for a moment, and then shook his head helplessly. “I can’t even remember what I wrote.”

    I ordered another round, and we toasted poor memory.

    “Come on,” I said, standing up and throwing a twenty on the table.

    We stumbled out into the rain and I waved down a cab. The car skidded to a stop, splashing us.

    “Where are we going?” he asked.

    I pulled him into the backseat of the taxi and leaned over the seat. “We need to get to the UT campus,” I told the driver.

    Dylan sunk into the seat and watched the Austin skyline as we headed downtown.

    *****

    The campus was as quiet as a graveyard, and as we walked through the driving rain, Dylan began to howl a Welsh hymn:

    “O! Iesu mawr, rho d'anian bur
    I eiddil gwan mewn, anial dir,
    I'w nerthu drwy'r holl rwystrau sy
    Ar ddyrys i'r Ganaan fry”


    “Come on, you wanker,” he chided me. “Sing!”

    “I don’t know what the hell you’re saying,” I replied.

    This aggravated him. “All right, ya dumb Yank,” he said. “Try this one, then.”

    He sang in a loud, boisterous voice:

    “Where have you been wand'ring,
    Kind old man?
    Kind old man, man, man
    man, man, man, man.
    The kindest man alive.
    I went out a-fishin', boys.

    Fal dee ree dee ri doh,
    Fal dee ree dee riddle o,
    fal dee ree dee ri doh!”


    He looked at me impatiently, and we sang together: “Fal dee ree dee ri doh!”

    *****

    The doors to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center were unlocked, but as we walked through the lobby, our wet shoes squeaking on the tile, a security guard rushed toward us, arms flailing.

    I looked at Dylan. “You wanna do this or shall I?”

    “How long’s it been for you?” he asked.

    “To tell you the truth… not all that long. How about you?”

    He smiled. “It’s been ages.”

    “He’s all yours, then,” I said.

    With that, he crouched down a bit and brought his tiny fist, full-force, to the guard’s chin.

    “Fal dee ree dee ri doh!”


    The guard went down hard, and we stepped over his unconscious body and slipped quietly into the reading room.

    Over the next two hours, we read through dozens of his manuscripts and letters, many to and from his wife, Caitlin. I watched his eyes as they scanned the pages: sad, nostalgic, disappointed.

    “I could have done so much more,” he said, softly. “You know how old I was when I died?”

    “Yep,” I answered. “Thirty-nine…”

    I turned away from him and peered out a narrow window into the rainy night.

    “…Same as me.”

    *****

    They found me the next morning, passed out in the reading room, splayed out among the precious collection of a world-renowned poet.

    They dropped the trespassing charge, but the guard demanded that I be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
    Last edited by William Haskins; 07-13-2005 at 08:20 AM.
    _____________________________

    Thorn Forest: A Gift for AW

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