A Good Man Is Hard To Find

By Flannery O’Conner
The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. “Now look here, Bailey,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.”

Bailey didn’t look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children’s mother, a young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit’s ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his apricots out of a jar. “The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to east Tennessee.”

The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her but the eight-year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with glasses, said, “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?” He and the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the floor.

“She wouldn’t stay at home to be queen for a day, June Star said without raising her yellow head.

“Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?” the grandmother asked.

“I’d smack his face,” John Wesley said.

“She wouldn’t stay at home for a million bucks,” June Star said. “Afraid she’d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go.”

“All right, Miss,” the grandmother said. “Just remember that the next time you want me to curl your hair.”

June Star said her hair was naturally curly.

The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn’t intend for the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of her gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, Bailey, didn’t like to arrive at a motel with a cat.

She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children’s mother and the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five with the mileage on the car at 55890. The grandmother wrote this down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty minutes to reach the outskirts of the city.

The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and their mother had gone back to sleep.
“Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much,” John Wesley said.

“If I were a little boy,” said the grandmother, “I wouldn’t talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains and Georgia has the hills.”

“Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground,” John Wesley said, “and Georgia is a lousy state too.”

“You said it,” June Star said.

“In my time,” said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?” she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He waved.

“He didn’t have any britches on,” June Star said.

“He probably didn’t have any,” the grandmother explained. “Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, I’d paint that picture,” she said. The children exchanged comic books.

The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children’s mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her knee and bounced him and told him about the things they were passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five or fix graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. “Look at the graveyard!” the grandmother said, pointing it out. “That was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation.”

“Where’s the plantation?” John Wesley asked.

“Gone With the Wind,” said the grandmother. “Ha. Ha.”

When the children finished all the comic books they had brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother ate a peanut butter sandwich and an olive and would not let the children throw the box and the paper napkins out the window. When there was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn’t play fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother.

The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and waved her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she was a maiden lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking man and a gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon every Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T. Well, one Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon and there was nobody at home and he left it on the front porch and returned in his buggy to Jasper, but she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T. ! This story tickled John Wesley’s funny bone and he giggled and giggled but June Star didn’t think it was any good. She said she wouldn’t marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentle man and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few years ago, a very wealthy man.

They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches. The Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling station and dance hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on the building and for miles up and down the highway saying, TRY RED SAMMY’S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE FAMOUS RED SAMMY’S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH THE HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY’S YOUR MAN!
Red Sammy was lying on the bare ground outside The Tower with his head under a truck while a gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a small chinaberry tree, chattered nearby. The monkey sprang back into the tree and got on the highest limb as soon as he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward him.

Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a counter at one end and tables at the other and dancing space in the middle. They all sat down at a board table next to the nickelodeon and Red Sam’s wife, a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter than her skin, came and took their order. The children’s mother put a dime in the machine and played “The Tennessee Waltz,” and the grandmother said that tune always made her want to dance. She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but he only glared at her. He didn’t have a naturally sunny disposition like she did and trips made him nervous. The grandmother’s brown eyes were very bright. She swayed her head from side to side and pretended she was dancing in her chair. June Star said play something she could tap to so the children’s mother put in another dime and played a fast number and June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and did her tap routine.

“Ain’t she cute?” Red Sam’s wife said, leaning over the counter. “Would you like to come be my little girl?”

“No I certainly wouldn’t,” June Star said. “I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!” and she ran back to the table.

“Ain’t she cute?” the woman repeated, stretching her mouth politely.

“Arn’t you ashamed?” hissed the grandmother.

Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging on the counter and hurry up with these people’s order. His khaki trousers reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt. He came over and sat down at a table nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. “You can’t win,” he said. “You can’t win,” and he wiped his sweating red face off with a gray handkerchief. “These days you don’t know who to trust,” he said. “Ain’t that the truth?”

“People are certainly not nice like they used to be,” said the grandmother.

“Two fellers come in here last week,” Red Sammy said, “driving a Chrysler. It was a old beat-up car but it was a good one and these boys looked all right to me. Said they worked at the mill and you know I let them fellers charge the gas they bought? Now why did I do that?”

“Because you’re a good man!” the grandmother said at once.

“Yes’m, I suppose so,” Red Sam said as if he were struck with this answer.

His wife brought the orders, carrying the five plates all at once without a tray, two in each hand and one balanced on her arm. “It isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that you can trust,” she said. “And I don’t count nobody out of that, not nobody,” she repeated, looking at Red Sammy.

“Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that’s escaped?” asked the grandmother.
“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he didn’t attack this place right here,” said the woman. “If he hears about it being here, I wouldn’t be none surprised to see him. If he hears it’s two cent in the cash register, I wouldn’t be a tall surprised if he . . .”

“That’ll do,” Red Sam said. “Go bring these people their Co’-Colas,” and the woman went off to get the rest of the order.

“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy said. “Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.”

He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking about it, she was exactly right. The children ran outside into the white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy.

They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. “There was a secret:-panel in this house,” she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, “and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . .”

“Hey!” John Wesley said. “Let’s go see it! We’ll find it! We’ll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you turn off at? Hey Pop, can’t we turn off there?”

“We never have seen a house with a secret panel!” June Star shrieked. “Let’s go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, can’t we go see the house with the secret panel!”

“It’s not far from here, I know,” the grandmother said. “It wouldn’t take over twenty minutes.”

Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe. “No,” he said.

The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother’s shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.

“All right!” he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. “Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.”

“It would be very educational for them,” the grandmother murmured.

“All right,” Bailey said, “but get this: this is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time.”

“The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile back,” the grandmother directed. “I marked it when we passed.”

“A dirt road,” Bailey groaned.

After they had turned around and were headed toward the dirt road, the grandmother recalled other points about the house, the beautiful glass over the front doorway and the candle-lamp in the hall. John Wesley said that the secret panel was probably in the fireplace.

“You can’t go inside this house,” Bailey said. “You don’t know who lives there.”

“While you all talk to the people in front, I’ll run around behind and get in a window,” John Wesley suggested.

“We’ll all stay in the car,” his mother said.

They turned onto the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a swirl of pink dust. The grandmother recalled the times when there were no paved roads and thirty miles was a day’s journey. The dirt road was hilly and there were sudden washes in it and sharp curves on dangerous embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the blue tops of trees for miles around, then the next minute, they would be in a red depression with the dust-coated trees looking down on them.

“This place had better turn up in a minute,” Bailey said, “or I’m going to turn around.”

The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months.

“It’s not much farther,” the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey’s shoulder.

The children were thrown to the floor and their mother, clutching the baby, was thrown out the door onto the ground; the old lady was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once and landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road. Bailey remained in the driver’s seat with the cat gray-striped with a broad white face and an orange nose clinging to his neck like a caterpillar.

As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and legs, they scrambled out of the car, shouting, “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” The grandmother was curled up under the dashboard, hoping she was injured so that Bailey’s wrath would not come down on her all at once. The horrible thought she had had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.

Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and flung it out the window against the side of a pine tree. Then he got out of the car and started looking for the children’s mother. She was sitting against the side of the red gutted ditch, holding the screaming baby, but she only had a cut down her face and a broken shoulder. “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed in a frenzy of delight.

“But nobody’s killed,” June Star said with disappointment as the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to her head but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle and the violet spray hanging off the side. They all sat down in the ditch, except the children, to recover from the shock. They were all shaking.

“Maybe a car will come along,” said the children’s mother hoarsely.

“I believe I have injured an organ,” said the grandmother, pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey’s teeth were clattering. He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots designed in it and his face was as yellow as the shirt. The grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house was in Tennessee.

The road was about ten feet above and they could see only the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile. There were three men in it.

It came to a stop just over them and for some minutes, the driver looked down with a steady expressionless gaze to where they were sitting, and didn’t speak. Then he turned his head and muttered something to the other two and they got out. One was a fat boy in black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion embossed on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of them and stood staring, his mouth partly open in a kind of loose grin. The other had on khaki pants and a blue striped coat and a gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most of his face. He came around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke.

The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it, looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two. His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver-rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased face and didn’t have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun. The two boys also had guns.

“We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed.

The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the bespectacled man was someone she knew. His face was as familiar to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not recall who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come down the embankment, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn’t slip. He had on tan and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles were red and thin. “Good afternoon,” he said. “I see you all had you a little spill.”

“We turned over twice!” said the grandmother.

“Once”, he corrected. “We seen it happen. Try their car and see will it run, Hiram,” he said quietly to the boy with the gray hat.

“What you got that gun for?” John Wesley asked. “Whatcha gonna do with that gun?”

“Lady,” the man said to the children’s mother, “would you mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there where you’re at.”

“What are you telling US what to do for?” June Star asked.

Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth. “Come here,” said their mother.

“Look here now,” Bailey began suddenly, “we’re in a predicament! We’re in . . .”

The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. “You’re The Misfit!” she said. “I recognized you at once!”

“Yes’m,” the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known, “but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn’t of reckernized me.”

Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his mother that shocked even the children. The old lady began to cry and The Misfit reddened.

“Lady,” he said, “don’t you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he don’t mean. I don’t reckon he meant to talk to you thataway.”

“You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” the grandmother said and removed a clean handkerchief from her cuff and began to slap at her eyes with it.

The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and made a little hole and then covered it up again. “I would hate to have to,” he said.

“Listen,” the grandmother almost screamed, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”

“Yes mam,” he said, “finest people in the world.” When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. “God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was pure gold,” he said. The boy with the red sweat shirt had come around behind them and was standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted down on the ground. “Watch them children, Bobby Lee,” he said. “You know they make me nervous.” He looked at the six of them huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed as if he couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Ain’t a cloud in the sky,” he remarked, looking up at it. “Don’t see no sun but don’t see no cloud neither.”

“Yes, it’s a beautiful day,” said the grandmother. “Listen,” she said, “you shouldn’t call yourself The Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell.”

“Hush!” Bailey yelled. “Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!” He was squatting in the position of a runner about to sprint forward but he didn’t move.

“I pre-chate that, lady,” The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the butt of his gun.

“It’ll take a half a hour to fix this here car,” Hiram called, looking over the raised hood of it.

“Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to step over yonder with you,” The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey and John Wesley. “The boys want to ast you something,” he said to Bailey. “Would you mind stepping back in them woods there with them?”

“Listen,” Bailey began, “we’re in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is,” and his voice cracked. His eyes were as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained perfectly still.

The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand. She stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground. Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old man. John Wesley caught hold of his father’s hand and Bobby Lee followed. They went off toward the woods and just as they reached the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a gray naked pine trunk, he shouted, “I’ll be back in a minute, Mamma, wait on me!”

“Come back this instant!” his mother shrilled but they all disappeared into the woods.

“Bailey Boy!” the grandmother called in a tragic voice but she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground in front of her. “I just know you’re a good man,” she said desperately. “You’re not a bit common!”

“Nome, I ain’t a good man,” The Misfit said after a second as if he had considered her statement carefully, “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither. My daddy said I was a different breed of dog from my brothers and sisters. ‘You know,’ Daddy said, ‘it’s some that can live their whole life out without asking about it and it’s others has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters. He’s going to be into everything!”’ He put on his black hat and looked up suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he were embarrassed again. “I’m sorry I don’t have on a shirt before you ladies,” he said, hunching his shoulders slightly. “We buried our clothes that we had on when we escaped and we’re just making do until we can get better. We borrowed these from some folks we met,” he explained.

“That’s perfectly all right,” the grandmother said. “Maybe Bailey has an extra shirt in his suitcase.”

“I’ll look and see terrectly,” The Misfit said.

“Where are they taking him?” the children’s mother screamed.

“Daddy was a card himself,” The Misfit said. “You couldn’t put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the Authorities though. Just had the knack of handling them.”

“You could be honest too if you’d only try,” said the grandmother. “Think how wonderful it would be to settle down and live a comfortable life and not have to think about somebody chasing you all the time.”

The Misfit kept scratching in the ground with the butt of his gun as if he were thinking about it. “Yes’m, somebody is always after you,” he murmured.

The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were just behind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him. “Do you ever pray?” she asked.

He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle between his shoulder blades. “Nome,” he said.

There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by another. Then silence. The old lady’s head jerked around. She could hear the wind move through the tree tops like a long satisfied in-suck of breath. “Bailey Boy!” she called.

“I was a gospel singer for a while,” The Misfit said. “I been most everything. Been in the arm service both land and sea, at home and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen a man burnt alive oncet,” and he looked up at the children’s mother and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white and their eyes glassy; “I even seen a woman flogged,” he said.

“Pray, pray,” the grandmother began, “pray, pray . . .”

“I never was a bad boy that I remember of,” The Misfit said in an almost dreamy voice, “but somewheres along the line I done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive,” and he looked up and held her attention to him by a steady stare.

“That’s when you should have started to pray,” she said. “What did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time?”

“Turn to the right, it was a wall,” The Misfit said, looking up again at the cloudless sky. “Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I done, lady. I set there and set there, trying to remember what it was I done and I ain’t recalled it to this day. Oncet in a while, I would think it was coming to me, but it never come.”

“Maybe they put you in by mistake,” the old lady said vaguely.

“Nome,” he said. “It wasn’t no mistake. They had the papers on me.”

“You must have stolen something,” she said.

The Misfit sneered slightly. “Nobody had nothing I wanted,” he said. “It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had done was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a thing to do with it. He was buried in the Mount Hopewell Baptist churchyard and you can go there and see for yourself.”

“If you would pray,” the old lady said, “Jesus would help you.”

“That’s right,” The Misfit said.

“Well then, why don’t you pray?” she asked trembling with delight suddenly.

“I don’t want no hep,” he said. “I’m doing all right by myself.”

Bobby Lee and Hiram came ambling back from the woods. Bobby Lee was dragging a yellow shirt with bright blue parrots in it.

“Throw me that shirt, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. The shirt came flying at him and landed on his shoulder and he put it on. The grandmother couldn’t name what the shirt reminded her of. “No, lady,” The Misfit said while he was buttoning it up, “I found out the crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it.”

The children’s mother had begun to make heaving noises as if she couldn’t get her breath. “Lady,” he asked, “would you and that little girl like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram and join your husband?”

“Yes, thank you,” the mother said faintly. Her left arm dangled helplessly and she was holding the baby, who had gone to sleep, in the other. “Hep that lady up, Hiram,” The Misfit said as she struggled to climb out of the ditch, “and Bobby Lee, you hold onto that little girl’s hand.”

“I don’t want to hold hands with him,” June Star said. “He reminds me of a pig.”

The fat boy blushed and laughed and caught her by the arm and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and her mother.

Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There was nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, “Jesus. Jesus,” meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing.

“Yes’m, The Misfit said as if he agreed. “Jesus shown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course,” he said, “they never shown me my papers. That’s why I sign myself now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything you do and keep a copy of it. Then you’ll know what you done and you can hold up the crime to the punishment and see do they match and in the end you’ll have something to prove you ain’t been treated right. I call myself The Misfit,” he said, “because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.”

There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely by a pistol report.

“Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another ain’t punished at all?”

“Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”

“Lady,” The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the woods, “there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip.”

There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, “Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!” as if her heart would break.

“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

“Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,” the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her.

“I wasn’t there so I can’t say He didn’t,” The Misfit said. “I wisht I had of been there,” he said, hitting the ground with his fist. “It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady,” he said in a high voice, “if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.”

His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for an instant. She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children !” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them.

Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood over the ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child’s and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.

Without his glasses, The Misfit’s eyes were red-rimmed and pale and defenseless-looking. “Take her off and throw her where you thrown the others,” he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing itself against his leg.

“She was a talker, wasn’t she?” Bobby Lee said, sliding down the ditch with a yodel.

“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

“Some fun!” Bobby Lee said.

“Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. “It’s no real pleasure in life.”

An Old Manuscript

It looks as if much has been neglected in our country’s system of defense.
We have not concerned ourselves with it until now and have gone about our daily work; but things that have been happening recently begin to trouble us.
I have a cobbler’s workshop in the square that lies before the Emperor’s palace.
Scarcely have I taken my shutters down, at the first glimpse of dawn, when I see armed soldiers already posted in the mouth of every street opening on the square.
But these soldiers are not ours; they are obviously nomads from the North.
In some way that is incomprehensible to me they have pushed right into the capital, although it is a long way from the frontier. At any rate, here they are; it seems that every morning there are more of them.
As is their nature, they camp under the open sky, for they abominate dwelling houses. They busy themselves sharpening swords, whittling arrows and practicing horsemanship.
This peaceful square, which was always kept scrupulously clean, they have made literally into a stable.
We do try every now and then to run out of our shops and clear away at least the worst of the filth, but this happens less and less often, for the labor is in vain and brings us besides into danger of falling under the hoofs of the wild horses or of being crippled with lashes from the whips.
Speech with the nomads is impossible. They do not know our language; indeed they hardly have a language of their own.
They communicate with each other much as jackdaws do. A screeching of jackdaws is always in our ears. Our way of living and our institutions they neither understand nor care to understand. And so they are unwilling to make sense even out of our sign language. You can gesture at them till you dislocate your jaws and your wrists and still they will not have understood you and will never understand.
They often make grimaces; then the whites of their eyes turn up and foam gathers on their lips, but they do not mean anything by that, not even a threat; they do it because it is their nature to do it. Whatever they need, they take. You cannot call it taking by force. They grab at something and you simply stand aside and leave them to it.
From my stock, too, they have taken many good articles.
But I cannot complain when I see how the butcher, for instance, suffers across the street.
As soon as he brings in any meat the nomads snatch it all from him and gobble it up.
Even their horses devour flesh; often enough a horseman and his horse are lying side by side, both of them gnawing at the same joint, one at either end.
The butcher is nervous and does not dare to stop his deliveries of meat. We understand that, however, and subscribe money to keep him going.
If the nomads got no meat, who knows what they might think of doing; who knows anyhow what they may think of, even though they get meat every day.
Not long ago the butcher thought he might at least spare himself the trouble of slaughtering, and so one morning he brought along a live ox. But he will never date to do that again. I lay for a whole hour flat on the floor at the back of my workshop with my head muffled in all the clothes and rugs and pillows I had, simply to keep from hearing the bellowing of that ox, which the nomads were leaping on from all sides, tearing morsels out of its living flesh with their teeth. It had been quiet for a long time before I risked coming out; they were lying overcome round the remains of the carcass like drunkards round a wine cask.
This was the occasion when I fancied I actually saw the Emperor himself at the window of the palace; usually he never enters these outer rooms but spends all of his time in the innermost garden; yet on this occasion he was standing, or so at least it seemed to me, at one of the windows, watching with bent head the on goings before his residence.
“What is going to happen?” we all ask ourselves. “How long can we endure this burden and torment?
The Emperor’s palace has drawn the nomads here but does not know how to drive them away again.
The gate stays shut; the guards, who used to be always marching out and in with ceremony, keep close behind barred windows.
It is left to us artisans and tradesmen to save our country; but we are not equal to such a task; nor have we ever claimed to be capable of it.
This is a misunderstanding of some kind; and it will be the ruin of us.”

The Appointment

By Mark Gutglueck
He had gone into a caravanserai in Damascus and as he is about to take a draught he looks up and sees Death sitting at a table across the room, regarding him. He cries out, ‘No. It is not my time. It cannot be.’ He sets his glass down and flees from the tavern at once.
He mounts his steed and rides, rides like the devil himself, out into the desert in the direction of Samara.
The sun and the sand are unrelenting. He presses on. The desert is endless, as if he has inserted himself and the beast he is upon into an eternal channel of desolation.
Still, he does not slow at all until he is at the outskirts of Samara. Only then does he break his horse from a full gallop to a canter and continues on and after a time slows to a trot and, following an interim, to a jog.
Presently, he comes to the first oasis at Samara and he realizes he is gripped with a thirst more parching than one he has ever felt before. He dismounts, stroking with gratitude the neck of his swift and foamed-up equine.
When he approaches the well, standing before him is Death. He cries out, “I’m seeing you for the second time. This cannot be, for I escaped you in Damascus.”
Death lays his hand upon his shoulder and says, “I was more surprised than you when I saw you in Damascus, as I was there to meet another. You see, my appointment with you was always to be here, in Samara.”

The Killers

by Ernest Hemingway
The door of Henry’s lunchroom opened and two men came in. They sat down at the counter.
“What’s yours?” George asked them.
“I don’t know,” one of the men said. “What do you want to eat, Al?”
“I don’t know,” said Al. “I don’t know what I want to eat.”
Outside it was getting dark. The streetlight came on outside the window. The two men at the
counter read the menu. From the other end of the counter Nick Adams watched them. He had been
talking to George when they came in.
“I’ll have a roast pork tenderloin with apple sauce and mashed potatoes,” the first man said.
“It isn’t ready yet.”
“What the hell do you put it on the card for?”
“That’s the dinner,” George explained. “You can get that at six o’clock.”
George looked at the clock on the wall behind the counter.
“It’s five o’clock.”
“The clock says twenty minutes past five,” the second man said.
“It’s twenty minutes fast.”
“Oh, to hell with the clock,” the first man said. “What have you got to eat?”
“I can give you any kind of sandwiches,” George said. “You can have ham and eggs, bacon and eggs,
liver and bacon, or a steak.”
“Give me chicken croquettes with green peas and cream sauce and mashed potatoes.”
“That’s the dinner.”
“Everything we want’s the dinner, eh? That’s the way you work it.”
“I can give you ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver—”
“I’ll take ham and eggs,” the man called Al said. He wore a derby hat and a black overcoat buttoned
across the chest. His face was small and white and he had tight lips. He wore a silk muffler and gloves.
“Give me bacon and eggs,” said the other man. He was about the same size as Al. Their faces were different, but they were dressed like twins. Both wore overcoats too tight for them. They sat leaning
forward, their elbows on the counter.
“Got anything to drink?” Al asked.
“Silver beer, bevo, ginger-ale,” George said.
“I mean you got anything to drink?”
“Just those I said.”
“This is a hot town,” said the other. “What do they call it?”
“Ever hear of it?” Al asked his friend.
“No,” said the friend.
“What do they do here nights?” Al asked.
“They eat the dinner,” his friend said. “They all come here and eat the big dinner.”
“That’s right,” George said.
“So you think that’s right?” Al asked George.
“You’re a pretty bright boy, aren’t you?”
“Sure,” said George.
“Well, you’re not,” said the other little man. “Is he, Al?”
“He’s dumb,” said Al. He turned to Nick. “What’s your name?”
“Another bright boy,” Al said. “Ain’t he a bright boy, Max?”
“The town’s full of bright boys,” Max said.
George put the two platters, one of ham and eggs, the other of bacon and eggs, on the counter. He set down two side dishes of fried potatoes and closed the wicket into the kitchen.
“Which is yours?” he asked Al.
“Don’t you remember?”
“Ham and eggs.”
“Just a bright boy,” Max said. He leaned forward and took the ham and eggs. Both men ate with
their gloves on. George watched them eat.
“What are you looking at?” Max looked at George.
“The hell you were. You were looking at me.”
“Maybe the boy meant it for a joke, Max,” Al said.
George laughed.
“You don’t have to laugh,” Max said to him. “You don’t have to laugh at all, see?’
“All right,” said George.
“So he thinks it’s all right.” Max turned to Al. “He thinks it’s all right. That’s a good one.”
“Oh, he’s a thinker,” Al said. They went on eating.
“What’s the bright boy’s name down the counter?” Al asked Max.
“Hey, bright boy,” Max said to Nick. “You go around on the other side of the counter with your boy
“What’s the idea?” Nick asked.
“There isn’t any idea.”
“You better go around, bright boy,” Al said. Nick went around behind the counter.
“What’s the idea?” George asked.
“None of your damned business,” Al said. “Who’s out in the kitchen?”
“The nigger.”
“What do you mean the nigger?”
“The nigger that cooks.”
“Tell him to come in.”
“What’s the idea?”
“Tell him to come in.”
“Where do you think you are?”
“We know damn well where we are,” the man called Max said. “Do we look silly?”
“You talk silly,” A1 said to him. “What the hell do you argue with this kid for? Listen,” he said to
George, “tell the nigger to come out here.”
“What are you going to do to him?”
“Nothing. Use your head, bright boy. What would we do to a nigger?”
George opened the slit that Opened back into the kitchen. “Sam,” he called. “Come in here a
The door to the kitchen opened and the nigger came in. “What was it?” he asked. The two men at
the counter took a look at him.
“All right, nigger. You stand right there,” Al said.
Sam, the nigger, standing in his apron, looked at the two men sitting at the counter. “Yes, sir,” he
said. Al got down from his stool.
“I’m going back to the kitchen with the nigger and bright boy,” he said. “Go on back to the kitchen, nigger. You go with him, bright boy.” The little man walked after Nick and Sam, the cook, back into the kitchen. The door shut after them. The man called Max sat at the counter opposite George. He didn’t look at George but looked in the mirror that ran along back of the counter. Henry’s had been made over from a saloon into a lunch counter.
“Well, bright boy,” Max said, looking into the mirror, “why don’t you say something?”
“What’s it all about?”
“Hey, Al,” Max called, “bright boy wants to know what it’s all about.”
“Why don’t you tell him?” Al’s voice came from the kitchen.
“What do you think it’s all about?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you think?”
Max looked into the mirror all the time he was talking.
“I wouldn’t say.”
“Hey, Al, bright boy says he wouldn’t say what he thinks it’s all about.”
“I can hear you, all right,” Al said from the kitchen. He had propped open the slit that dishes passed
through into the kitchen with a catsup bottle. “Listen, bright boy,” he said from the kitchen to George. “Stand a little further along the bar. You move a little to the left, Max.” He was like a photographer arranging for a group picture.
“Talk to me, bright boy,” Max said. “What do you think’s going to happen?”
George did not say anything.
“I’ll tell you,” Max said. “We’re going to kill a Swede. Do you know a big Swede named Ole Anderson?”
“He comes here to eat every night, don’t he?”
“Sometimes he comes here.”
“He comes here at six o’clock, don’t he?”
“If he comes.”
“We know all that, bright boy,” Max said. “Talk about something else. Ever go to the movies?”
“Once in a while.”
“You ought to go to the movies more. The movies are fine for a bright boy like you.”
“What are you going to kill Ole Anderson for? What did he ever do to you?”
“He never had a chance to do anything to us. He never even seen us.”
And he’s only going to see us once,” Al said from the kitchen:
“What are you going to kill him for, then?” George asked.
“We’re killing him for a friend. Just to oblige a friend, bright boy.”
“Shut up,” said Al from the kitchen. “You talk too goddamn much.”
“Well, I got to keep bright boy amused. Don’t I, bright boy?”
“You talk too damn much,” Al said. “The nigger and my bright boy are amused by themselves. I got
them tied up like a couple of girl friends in the convent.”
“I suppose you were in a convent.”
“You never know.”
“You were in a kosher convent. That’s where you were.”
George looked up at the clock.
“If anybody comes in you tell them the cook is off, and if they keep after it, you tell them you’ll go
back and cook yourself. Do you get that, bright boy?”
“All right,” George said. “What you going to do with us afterward?”
“That’ll depend,” Max said. “That’s one of those things you never know at the time.”
George looked up at the dock. It was a quarter past six. The door from the street opened. A streetcar
motorman came in.
“Hello, George,” he said. “Can I get supper?”
“Sam’s gone out,” George said. “He’ll be back in about half an hour.”
“I’d better go up the street,” the motorman said. George looked at the clock. It was twenty minutes,
past six.
“That was nice, bright boy,” Max said. “You’re a regular little gentleman.”
“He knew I’d blow his head off,” Al said from the kitchen.
“No,” said Max. “It ain’t that. Bright boy is nice. He’s a nice boy. I like him.”
At six-fifty-five George said: “He’s not coming.”
Two other people had been in the lunchroom. Once George had gone out to the kitchen and made a ham-and-egg sandwich “to go” that a man wanted to take with him. Inside the kitchen he saw Al, his derby hat tipped back, sitting on a stool beside the wicket with the muzzle of a sawed-off shotgun resting on the ledge. Nick and the cook were back to back in the corner, a towel tied in each of their mouths. George had cooked the sandwich, wrapped it up in oiled paper, put it in a bag, brought it in, and the man had paid for it and gone out.
“Bright boy can do everything,” Max said. “He can cook and everything. You’d make some girl a nice
wife, bright boy.”
“Yes?” George said, “Your friend, Ole Anderson, isn’t going to come.”
“We’ll give him ten minutes,” Max said.
Max watched the mirror and the clock. The hands of the clock marked seven o’clock, and then five minutes past seven.
“Come on, Al,” said Max. “We better go. He’s not coming.”
“Better give him five minutes,” Al said from the kitchen.
In the five minutes a man came in, and George explained that the cook was sick.
“Why the hell don’t you get another cook?” the man asked. “Aren’t you running a lunch-counter?”
He went out.
“Come on, Al,” Max said.
“What about the two bright boys and the nigger?”
“They’re all right.”
“You think so?”
“Sure. We’re through with it.”
“I don’t like it,” said Al. “It’s sloppy. You talk too much.”
“Oh, what the hell,” said Max. “We got to keep amused, haven’t we?”
“You talk too much, all the same,” Al said. He came out from the kitchen. The cut-off barrels of the
shotgun made a slight bulge under the waist of his too tight-fitting overcoat. He straightened his
coat with his gloved hands.
“So long, bright boy,” he said to George. “You got a lot of luck.”
“That’s the truth,” Max said. “You ought to play the races, bright boy.”
The two of them went out the door. George watched them, through the window, pass under the arclight and across the street. In their tight overcoats and derby hats they looked like a vaudeville team.
George went back through the swinging door into the kitchen and untied Nick and the cook.
“I don’t want any more of that,” said Sam, the cook. “I don’t want any more of that.”
Nick stood up. He had never had a towel in his mouth before.
“Say,” he said. “What the hell?” He was trying to swagger it off.
“They were going to kill Ole Anderson,” George said. “They were going to shoot him when he came
in to eat.”
“Ole Anderson?”
The cook felt the corners of his mouth with his thumbs.
“They all gone?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said George. “They’re gone now.”
“I don’t like it,” said the cook. “I don’t like any of it at all”
“Listen,” George said to Nick. “You better go see Ole Anderson.”
“All right.”
“You better not have anything to do with it at all,” Sam, the cook, said. “You better stay way out of
“Don’t go if you don’t want to,” George said.
“Mixing up in this ain’t going to get you anywhere,” the cook said. “You stay out of it.”
“I’ll go see him,” Nick said to George. “Where does he live?”
The cook turned away.
“Little boys always know what they want to do,” he said.
“He lives up at Hirsch’s rooming-house,” George said to Nick.
“I’ll go up there.”
Outside the arc-light shone through the bare branches of a tree. Nick walked up the street beside the car-tracks and turned at the next arc-light down a side-street. Three houses up the street was Hirsch’s rooming-house. Nick walked up the two steps and pushed the bell. A woman came to the door.
“Is Ole Anderson here?”
“Do you want to see him?”
“Yes, if he’s in.”
Nick followed the woman up a flight of stairs and back to the end of a corridor. She knocked on the
“Who is it?”
“It’s somebody to see you, Mr. Anderson,” the woman said.
“It’s Nick Adams.”
“Come in.”
Nick opened the door and went into the room. Ole Anderson was lying on the bed with all his clothes on. He had been a heavyweight prizefighter and he was too long for the bed. He lay with his head on two pillows. He did not look at Nick.
“What was it?” he asked.
“I was up at Henry’s,” Nick said, “and two fellows came in and tied up me and the cook, and they said they were going to kill you.”
It sounded silly when he said it. Ole Anderson said nothing.
“They put us out in the kitchen,” Nick went on. “They were going to shoot you when you came in to supper.”
Ole Anderson looked at the wall and did not say anything.
“George thought I better come and tell you about it.”
“There isn’t anything I can do about it,” Ole Anderson said.
“I’ll tell you what they were like.”
“I don’t want to know what they were like,” Ole Anderson said. He looked at the wall. “Thanks for
coming to tell me about it.”
“That’s all right.”
Nick looked at the big man lying on the bed.
“Don’t you want me to go and see the police?”
“No,” Ole Anderson said. “That wouldn’t do any good.”
“Isn’t there something I could do?”
“No. There ain’t anything to do.”
“Maybe it was just a bluff.”
“No. It ain’t just a bluff.”
Ole Anderson rolled over toward the wall.
“The only thing is,” he said, talking toward the wall, “I just can’t make up my mind to go out. I been
here all day.”
“Couldn’t you get out of town?”
“No,” Ole Anderson said. “I’m through with all that running around.”
He looked at the wall.
“There ain’t anything to do now.”
“Couldn’t you fix it up some way?”
“No. I got in wrong.” He talked in the same flat voice. “There ain’t anything to do. After a while I’ll
make up my mind to go out.”
“I better go back and see George,” Nick said.
“So long,” said Ole Anderson. He did not look toward Nick. “Thanks for coming around.”
Nick went out. As he shut the door he saw Ole Anderson with all his clothes on, lying on the bed looking at the wall.
“He’s been in his room all day,” the landlady said downstairs. “I guess he don’t feel well. I said to him: ‘Mr. Anderson, you ought to go out and take a walk on a nice fall day like this,’ but he didn’t feel like it.”
“He doesn’t want to go out.”
“I’m sorry he don’t feel well,” the woman said. “He’s an awfully nice man. He was in the ring, you know.”
“I know it.”
“You’d never know it except from the way his face is,” the woman said.
They stood talking just inside the street door. “He’s just as gentle.”
“Well, good night, Mrs. Hirsch,’ Nick said.
“I’m not Mrs. Hirsch,” the woman said. “She owns the place. I just look after it for her. I’m Mrs. Bell.”
“Well, good night, Mrs. Bell,” Nick said.
“Good night,” the woman said.
Nick walked up the dark street to the corner under the arc-light, and then along the car-tracks to
Henry’s eating-house. George was inside, back of the counter.
“Did you see Ole?”
“Yes,” said Nick. “He’s in his room and he won’t go out.”
The cook opened the door from the kitchen when he heard Nick’s voice.
“I don’t even listen to it,” he said and shut the door.
“Did you tell him about it?” George asked.
“Sure. I told him but he knows what it’s all about.”
“What’s he going to do?”
“They’ll kill him.”
“I guess they will.”
“He must have got mixed up in something in Chicago.”
“I guess so,” said Nick.
“It’s a hell of a thing!”
“It’s an awful thing,” Nick said.
They did not say anything. George reached down for a towel and wiped the counter.
“I wonder what he did?” Nick said.
“Double-crossed somebody. That’s what they kill them for.”
“I’m going to get out of this town,” Nick said.
“Yes,” said George. “That’s a good thing to do.”
“I can’t stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he’s going to get it. It’s too
damned awful.”
“Well,” said George, “you better not think about it.


By James Joyce
The bell rang furiously and, when Miss Parker went to the tube, a furious voice called out in a piercing North of Ireland accent:
“Send Farrington here!”
Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was writing at a desk:
“Mr. Alleyne wants you upstairs.”
The man muttered “Blast him!” under his breath and pushed back his chair to stand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them were dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by the clients, went out of the office with a heavy step.
He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where a door bore a brass plate with the inscription Mr. Alleyne. Here he halted, puffing with labour and vexation, and knocked. The shrill voice cried:
“Come in!”
The man entered Mr. Alleyne’s room. Simultaneously Mr. Alleyne, a little man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a cleanshaven face, shot his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink and hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers. Mr. Alleyne did not lose a moment:
“Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain of you? May I ask you why you haven’t made a copy of that contract between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be ready by four o’clock.”
“But Mr. Shelley said, sir——”
“Mr. Shelley said, sir…. Kindly attend to what I say and not to what Mr. Shelley says, sir. You have always some excuse or another for shirking work. Let me tell you that if the contract is not copied before this evening I’ll lay the matter before Mr. Crosbie…. Do you hear me now?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Do you hear me now?… Ay and another little matter! I might as well be talking to the wall as talking to you. Understand once for all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a half. How many courses do you want, I’d like to know…. Do you mind me now?”
“Yes, sir.”
Mr. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man stared fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt that he must have a good night’s drinking. The middle of the month was passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazing fixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began to upset all the papers, searching for something. Then, as if he had been unaware of the man’s presence till that moment, he shot up his head again, saying:
“Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Farrington, you take things easy!”
“I was waiting to see…”
“Very good, you needn’t wait to see. Go downstairs and do your work.”
The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter.
He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets which remained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in the ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had written: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be… The evening was falling and in a few minutes they would be lighting the gas: then he could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat. He stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter as before, passed out of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk looked at him inquiringly.
“It’s all right, Mr. Shelley,” said the man, pointing with his finger to indicate the objective of his journey.
The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row complete, offered no remark. As soon as he was on the landing the man pulled a shepherd’s plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his head and ran quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out:
“Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.”
The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it.
Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk of February and the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man went up by the houses until he reached the door of the office, wondering whether he could finish his copy in time. On the stairs a moist pungent odour of perfumes saluted his nose: evidently Miss Delacour had come while he was out in O’Neill’s. He crammed his cap back again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assuming an air of absentmindedness.
“Mr. Alleyne has been calling for you,” said the chief clerk severely. “Where were you?”
The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the counter as if to intimate that their presence prevented him from answering. As the clients were both male the chief clerk allowed himself a laugh.
“I know that game,” he said. “Five times in one day is a little bit… Well, you better look sharp and get a copy of our correspondence in the Delacour case for Mr. Alleyne.”
This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the porter he had gulped down so hastily confused the man and, as he sat down at his desk to get what was required, he realised how hopeless was the task of finishing his copy of the contract before half past five. The dark damp night was coming and he longed to spend it in the bars, drinking with his friends amid the glare of gas and the clatter of glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence and passed out of the office. He hoped Mr. Alleyne would not discover that the last two letters were missing.
The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr. Alleyne’s room. Miss Delacour was a middle-aged woman of Jewish appearance. Mr. Alleyne was said to be sweet on her or on her money. She came to the office often and stayed a long time when she came. She was sitting beside his desk now in an aroma of perfumes, smoothing the handle of her umbrella and nodding the great black feather in her hat. Mr. Alleyne had swivelled his chair round to face her and thrown his right foot jauntily upon his left knee. The man put the correspondence on the desk and bowed respectfully but neither Mr. Alleyne nor Miss Delacour took any notice of his bow. Mr. Alleyne tapped a finger on the correspondence and then flicked it towards him as if to say: “That’s all right: you can go.”
The man returned to the lower office and sat down again at his desk. He stared intently at the incomplete phrase: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be… and thought how strange it was that the last three words began with the same letter. The chief clerk began to hurry Miss Parker, saying she would never have the letters typed in time for post. The man listened to the clicking of the machine for a few minutes and then set to work to finish his copy. But his head was not clear and his mind wandered away to the glare and rattle of the public-house. It was a night for hot punches. He struggled on with his copy, but when the clock struck five he had still fourteen pages to write. Blast it! He couldn’t finish it in time. He longed to execrate aloud, to bring his fist down on something violently. He was so enraged that he wrote Bernard Bernard instead of Bernard Bodley and had to begin again on a clean sheet.
He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office singlehanded. His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. All the indignities of his life enraged him…. Could he ask the cashier privately for an advance? No, the cashier was no good, no damn good: he wouldn’t give an advance…. He knew where he would meet the boys: Leonard and O’Halloran and Nosey Flynn. The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.
His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called twice before he answered. Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour were standing outside the counter and all the clerks had turn round in anticipation of something. The man got up from his desk. Mr. Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letters were missing. The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that he had made a faithful copy. The tirade continued: it was so bitter and violent that the man could hardly restrain his fist from descending upon the head of the manikin before him.
“I know nothing about any other two letters,” he said stupidly.
“You—know—nothing. Of course you know nothing,” said Mr. Alleyne. “Tell me,” he added, glancing first for approval to the lady beside him, “do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an utter fool?”
The man glanced from the lady’s face to the little egg-shaped head and back again; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue had found a felicitous moment:
“I don’t think, sir,” he said, “that that’s a fair question to put to me.”
There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone was astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his neighbours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person, began to smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild rose and his mouth twitched with a dwarf’s passion. He shook his fist in the man’s face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of some electric machine:
“You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I’ll make short work of you! Wait till you see! You’ll apologise to me for your impertinence or you’ll quit the office instanter! You’ll quit this, I’m telling you, or you’ll apologise to me!”
He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the cashier would come out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally the cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to say a word to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt that his position was bad enough. He had been obliged to offer an abject apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew what a hornet’s nest the office would be for him. He could remember the way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake out of the office in order to make room for his own nephew. He felt savage and thirsty and revengeful, annoyed with himself and with everyone else. Mr. Alleyne would never give him an hour’s rest; his life would be a hell to him. He had made a proper fool of himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in his cheek? But they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne, ever since the day Mr. Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his North of Ireland accent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker: that had been the beginning of it. He might have tried Higgins for the money, but sure Higgins never had anything for himself. A man with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn’t….
He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the public-house. The fog had begun to chill him and he wondered could he touch Pat in O’Neill’s. He could not touch him for more than a bob—and a bob was no use. Yet he must get money somewhere or other: he had spent his last penny for the g.p. and soon it would be too late for getting money anywhere. Suddenly, as he was fingering his watch-chain, he thought of Terry Kelly’s pawn-office in Fleet Street. That was the dart! Why didn’t he think of it sooner?
He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, muttering to himself that they could all go to hell because he was going to have a good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly’s said A crown! but the consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end the six shillings was allowed him literally. He came out of the pawn-office joyfully, making a little cylinder, of the coins between his thumb and fingers. In Westmoreland Street the footpaths were crowded with young men and women returning from business and ragged urchins ran here and there yelling out the names of the evening editions. The man passed through the crowd, looking on the spectacle generally with proud satisfaction and staring masterfully at the office-girls. His head was full of the noises of tram-gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already sniffed the curling fumes of punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms in which he would narrate the incident to the boys:
“So, I just looked at him—coolly, you know, and looked at her. Then I looked back at him again—taking my time, you know. ‘I don’t think that that’s a fair question to put to me,’ says I.”
Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne’s and, when he heard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one, saying it was as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a drink in his turn. After a while O’Halloran and Paddy Leonard came in and the story was repeated to them. O’Halloran stood tailors of malt, hot, all round and told the story of the retort he had made to the chief clerk when he was in Callan’s of Fownes’s Street; but, as the retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds in the eclogues, he had to admit that it was not as clever as Farrington’s retort. At this Farrington told the boys to polish off that and have another.
Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins! Of course he had to join in with the others. The men asked him to give his version of it, and he did so with great vivacity for the sight of five small hot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showed the way in which Mr. Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington’s face. Then he imitated Farrington, saying, “And here was my nabs, as cool as you please,” while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy dirty eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache with the aid of his lower lip.
When that round was over there was a pause. O’Halloran had money but neither of the other two seemed to have any; so the whole party left the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of Duke Street Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while the other three turned back towards the city. Rain was drizzling down on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast Office, Farrington suggested the Scotch House. The bar was full of men and loud with the noise of tongues and glasses. The three men pushed past the whining match-sellers at the door and formed a little party at the corner of the counter. They began to exchange stories. Leonard introduced them to a young fellow named Weathers who was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat and knockabout artiste. Farrington stood a drink all round. Weathers said he would take a small Irish and Apollinaris. Farrington, who had definite notions of what was what, asked the boys would they have an Apollinaris too; but the boys told Tim to make theirs hot. The talk became theatrical. O’Halloran stood a round and then Farrington stood another round, Weathers protesting that the hospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind the scenes and introduce them to some nice girls. O’Halloran said that he and Leonard would go, but that Farrington wouldn’t go because he was a married man; and Farrington’s heavy dirty eyes leered at the company in token that he understood he was being chaffed. Weathers made them all have just one little tincture at his expense and promised to meet them later on at Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street.
When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan’s. They went into the parlour at the back and O’Halloran ordered small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel mellow. Farrington was just standing another round when Weathers came back. Much to Farrington’s relief he drank a glass of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to keep them going. Presently two young women with big hats and a young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close by. Weathers saluted them and told the company that they were out of the Tivoli. Farrington’s eyes wandered at every moment in the direction of one of the young women. There was something striking in her appearance. An immense scarf of peacock-blue muslin was wound round her hat and knotted in a great bow under her chin; and she wore bright yellow gloves, reaching to the elbow. Farrington gazed admiringly at the plump arm which she moved very often and with much grace; and when, after a little time, she answered his gaze he admired still more her large dark brown eyes. The oblique staring expression in them fascinated him. She glanced at him once or twice and, when the party was leaving the room, she brushed against his chair and said “O, pardon!” in a London accent. He watched her leave the room in the hope that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed his want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularly all the whiskies and Apolinaris which he had stood to Weathers. If there was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry that he lost count of the conversation of his friends.
When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking about feats of strength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle to the company and boasting so much that the other two had called on Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up his sleeve accordingly and showed his biceps muscle to the company. The two arms were examined and compared and finally it was agreed to have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and the two men rested their elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy Leonard said
“Go!” each was to try to bring down the other’s hand on to the table. Farrington looked very serious and determined.
The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his opponent’s hand slowly down on to the table. Farrington’s dark wine-coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation at having been defeated by such a stripling.
“You’re not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair,” he said.
“Who’s not playing fair?” said the other.
“Come on again. The two best out of three.”
The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington’s forehead, and the pallor of Weathers’ complexion changed to peony. Their hands and arms trembled under the stress. After a long struggle Weathers again brought his opponent’s hand slowly on to the table. There was a murmur of applause from the spectators. The curate, who was standing beside the table, nodded his red head towards the victor and said with stupid familiarity:
“Ah! that’s the knack!”
“What the hell do you know about it?” said Farrington fiercely, turning on the man. “What do you put in your gab for?”
“Sh, sh!” said O’Halloran, observing the violent expression of Farrington’s face. “Pony up, boys. We’ll have just one little smahan more and then we’ll be off.”
A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O’Connell Bridge waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back again in the hot reeking public-house. He had lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled with fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said Pardon! his fury nearly choked him.
His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed returning to his home. When he went in by the side-door he found the kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled upstairs:
“Ada! Ada!”
His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk. They had five children. A little boy came running down the stairs.
“Who is that?” said the man, peering through the darkness.
“Me, pa.”
“Who are you? Charlie?”
“No, pa. Tom.”
“Where’s your mother?”
“She’s out at the chapel.”
“That’s right…. Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?”
“Yes, pa. I—”
“Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in darkness? Are the other children in bed?”
The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy lit the lamp. He began to mimic his son’s flat accent, saying half to himself: “At the chapel. At the chapel, if you please!” When the lamp was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted:
“What’s for my dinner?”
“I’m going… to cook it, pa,” said the little boy.
The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire.
“On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I’ll teach you to do that again!”
He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was standing behind it.
“I’ll teach you to let the fire out!” he said, rolling up his sleeve in order to give his arm free play.
The little boy cried “O, pa!” and ran whimpering round the table, but the man followed him and caught him by the coat. The little boy looked about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell upon his knees.
“Now, you’ll let the fire out the next time!” said the man striking at him vigorously with the stick. “Take that, you little whelp!”
The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He clasped his hands together in the air and his voice shook with fright.
“O, pa!” he cried. “Don’t beat me, pa! And I’ll… I’ll say a Hail Mary for you…. I’ll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don’t beat me…. I’ll say a Hail Mary….”

Ramona Expressway

By Mark Gutglueck
I WAS HITCHHIKING OUT THE RAMONA EXPRESSWAY, standing to the side of some eucalyptus trees. The sun was slight summer south, so I was full under it. I stood there near an hour after I was left off by this guy pulling a set of hay barges. Alfalfa he was carrying, the sweet-smelling kind they grow in those drained marshes out near the lake.
It was past noon and pushing one o’clock, with the sun getting hotter and hotter, beating down on my head. I told myself, if none of the coming line of cars stopped, I was going over to the shade on the other side of those trees to lie down and take a nap until it got cooler. The first one of the bunch pulled right over when he saw me though, off onto the shoulder, blowing dust and all, a blond guy in a pickup truck. I climbed in. He looked to be about my age, with the sun glaring in his face through the windshield. He wore glasses. He waited for the last of the cars that had been behind him to pass, and he pulled out onto the roadway. “I’m Larry,” he said.
He continued out Ramona west, the wind tearing in through the side windows, wrapping my hair all around my head, slapping my ears and eyes and neck. Larry passed all the cars that had gotten ahead of him when he stopped for me. When we passed the first one in line, he gave it a long lookover in his rearview mirror. We traveled on another eight or nine miles, the dairies and pastures streaming by with the mountains and the lake in the distance. In all that time we didn’t talk. He had given me his name and that was it. At first, I tried to think of something to say, something that would sound natural. I couldn’t, so I just watched the scenery. I’ve been out the Ramona Expressway a hundred times, more than that probably, but I never paid attention to everything out that way like I did then. I noticed lots of things I had never seen before, like moss backing on old fence posts and water flowers in the watering holes and troughs near the mangers. I felt that comfortable in that truck.
We’d gone through Seedwood, and just past the hills where the Indians had their watering holes long before white men were sinking wells in California. Larry broke our silence to ask me where I was headed. I came away from trying the quickness of my vision on the gold and blue butterflies the truck missed to tell him the other side of Dry Dollar Lake. He said he had to stop and pick something up about a mile ahead, but that he was continuing out to Watershed Falls. I said sure, anything that would get me that close.
A ways further he slowed down and turned off onto a dirt road. It was fairly smooth as dirt roads go, and the few bottom-threatening dips there were Larry handled with a familiar ease. When I looked behind, I could see his wheels churned up only a little dust. The dirt road continued for a parched distance, inclining to pass over a low bluff with green but still sparse chaparral along the ridge. Then we were heading down into a narrow arroyo, and the truck bounced and swayed side to side. At the bottom a slight streambed began alongside the road and continued beside for the length we went. There was only the hint of a stream in it though, nothing more than a trickle.
Visible in the distance was a wooden house, a cabin, around which were set other slight structures, shadow grey against the bright goldscape. In closer I could see they were wooden shacks higher or near as high as they were long, a few smaller sheds, and chicken coops. A station wagon was parked in front of the cabin. There were trees further off, healthy ones, close together, but not quite a grove.  The few trees near the house were stark, mostly leafless. The cages close enough for me to see were empty, though here and there a hen scurried, scratched and pecked at the dry earth.
Larry pulled in close to the house, to the side of the station wagon. He said he just had to pick something up, but I could come in for a drink of water. As we were stepping up onto the wood porch side by side with a few of the hens clucking behind us a young woman with a baby in her arms opened the cabin door. She was half turned, saying goodbye to someone inside. We waited for her to come out, and she stepped straightaway for the station wagon, sending Larry a nod. We went into the cabin.
Across the room was a woman in a wheelchair. My being there didn’t take her aback any. She addressed herself straight off to Larry. “I told her to go and get that money out of the bank right now,” she said. Larry offered no reply.  Outside the engine started and then I could hear the tires turning out on the earthen driveway. “I told her to go and get that money out of the bank afore he dies.”
Larry seemed to not be listening to her, and he pointed across the room to the faucet. “Over there. There’s some glasses in the cupboard,” he said.
“It’s not his money,” the woman continued. “She should get it before the State does.”
“I know all that, Mother,” Larry said. There was a tinge of anger in his voice. He started into the adjoining room.
“She should get that money out of the bank right now,” the woman repeated.
I went to where Larry had directed me, at the far side of the room. The faucet was built over a wooden sink. I had to pump a side crank to prime up the pressure in the line. The woman rewheeled and was regarding me in shifty looks up and down. I didn’t look her way back, just got a tall glass and filled it. I came away a few feet from the sink and still didn’t look right at her, but out the window beside the door we had come in. The station wagon climbed the last of the slope to the narrow gorge at the crest and then disappeared over the other side. The water, so deep cold it like froze my throat, tasted clean as from a mountain spring in June.
Larry came out from the other room with a toolbox. He set it down heavily onto the counter and went straight to looking in one of the drawers beneath the counter for something more. He popped up the toolbox lid and set something in it, a screwdriver or something, and shuffled some more in the drawer and then in another. “Where’s that flashlight?” he asked.
The old woman wheeled herself back and then around the table, then reached behind the sofa. I had a real clear look at her then, when she was looking to the side and when she was handing the flashlight to Larry. You could see she was his mother alright. Their hair was the same flaxen, except hers had grey in it, and their eyes were keen blue, like Texas Germans. She told him not to lose it, the electricity was always going out.
He set the flashlight under the top tray and closed the toolbox back up. I set the empty glass on the wooden drainboard and followed him out. We got in the truck and drove back out to the expressway with the toolbox rattling and sliding on the seat between us at the sharper bends in the road. We never passed the station wagon in all the six or seven miles he took me out further west like I thought we might. We didn’t say anything either, just drove. He let me off just above the flood control dam at the turnoff to the hatchery. A little more than an hour later I got another ride to where I only needed to walk about a mile to the trailhead for the cabins. I was back before four.

Judge Okays $2,000+ Per Acre-Foot H2O Replenishment Fees In West Mojave

Orange County Superior Court Judge William Claster on June 14 upheld the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority on its imposition of water drafting assessments in excess of $2,000 per acre-foot against one of the major agricultural entities in the West Mojave Desert.
For nearly a decade, there has been an intensifying dispute over the use of water in Indian Wells Valley, which lies at the extreme northwestern end of the Mojave Desert and the confluence of the northwestern corner of San Bernardino County, the eastern end of Kern County and the southwestern extension of Inyo County. The effort by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, a joint powers entity formed to end the overdrafting of water from the region’s water table, resulted in the derivation of a strategy to simultaneously limit water use while building an 80-mile pipeline to convey water from the California Aqueduct to the valley and then convey billions of gallons of water from the northern part of the state into the local aquifer. That undertaking promises to be so expensive, however, that the water users subject to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority plan, which maintain their previously established water rights and usage patterns under long-existent California water law render them exempt from any newly-created water use restrictions, have balked at paying the fees imposed on their water use to pay for the construction of the pipeline and to purchase the water from the California Aqueduct.
Litigation over the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s imposition of water use fees has ensued between the largest private entities subject to those fees, those being Searles Valley Minerals in San Bernardino County and Mojave Pistachios and Sierra Shadows Ranch, along with John Thomas Conaway and the Nugent Family Trust, located in Kern County. That litigation has been removed to Orange County Superior Court to prevent any of the entities from having an undue influence over the adjudicative process, as might be the case in Kern County or San Bernardino County superior courts, where the governmental entities that are the constituent members of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority or Searles Valley Minerals are dominant players in their respective communities.
Last week, Judge Claster dealt what many believe is a death blow to Mojave Pistachios, which will prevent it from drafting any further water and end its effective protest against the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority and its plan by putting the company out of business or drive it into bankruptcy following the investment of $35,316,400 in the farm since its 2011 inception.
In 2014, then-California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, mandating water-saving measures throughout the state and requiring local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge through the adoption of a groundwater sustainability plan.
In 2015, in the aftermath of a four-year running drought, a determination by the California Department of Water Resources that Indian Wells Valley overlies one of the 21 water basins throughout the State of California in critical overdraft and the pending implementation of the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority was formed, pursuant to a joint exercise of powers agreement involving Kern County, San Bernardino County, Inyo County, the City of Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley Water District as general members and the United States Navy and the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management as associate members. Given that it is the entity most heavily steeped in water-related issues and employed a staff highly knowledgeable with regard to water operations, not to mention its control over the lion’s share of facilities pertaining to local water storage, conveyance and management, the Indian Wells Valley Water District from the outset essentially served as the staff for the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority.
Based upon a survey of water usage patterns undertaken by an engineering consultant, Carlsbad-based Stetson Engineers, the authority and the Indian Wells Valley Water District sought to derive a strategy for both reducing water use in the valley and increasing groundwater recharge to reach a balance of both that will end the overdraft.
Achieving that balance has taken on an urgency based upon a California State mandate, growing out of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, that depletions of the valley’s groundwater cease by 2042.
According to the surveys completed to provide the data needed to formulate the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the average natural annual recharge in the basin is 7,650 acre-feet while the annual drafting of groundwater in the region by all entities is three to four times that amount.
An acre-foot is the amount of water that would cover an acre to a depth of one-foot, or 43,560 cubic feet, equal to 325,851.427 gallons
Any realistic assessment of the existing population, industrial, agricultural and commercial operations in the area and the decreases in the drafting of water from the regional aquifer that could be achieved through efficientization, conservation, increased recycling of water and perhaps the minimization of evaporation demonstrated that it would not be possible to achieve use/recharge balance by 2042.
Accordingly, staff and the board of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority long ago concluded that the sought-after goal of bringing the region’s water table out of a state of overdraft can only be achieved by the importation of water from outside the valley and then injecting it deep into the ground to avoid evaporation and replenish water lost from excessive production.
The groundwater sustainability plan for Indian Wells Valley that was formulated by Stetson Engineers and staff with the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority that was on track toward eventual implementation as recently as a month ago called for obtaining water from the California State Water Project on an annual or continuous basis to make up the difference between the amount of water being used in the valley and the amount of annual rainfall that recharges the valley’s aquifer.
In order to tap into the state’s aqueduct, officials said, the authority will need to construct 50.8 miles of pipe from California City to Ridgecrest, consisting of 40.6 miles of 24-inch pipe and 10.2 miles of 18-inch pipe, of which 22.8 miles will consist of steel pipe, 27.5 miles of PVC [poly-vinyl chloride] pipe and a half-mile of HDPE [high density poly-ethylene] pipe for trenchless drainage crossings; three pump stations; one 240,000-gallon regulating tank at peak elevation in the El Paso Mountains along Highway 395; and a million-gallon terminus tank at the Indian Wells Valley Water District Ridgecrest Heights Tank Facility.
In order to execute on the project, the governing board and staff of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority this summer began an effort toward determining how much of a financial burden the landowners and water users within its jurisdiction will need to assume in covering the cost of completing a water pipeline project to replenish the region’s dwindling water supply.
The preliminary project cost estimate for completing the groundwater sustainability plan as projected in January 2020 was $177,975,000, including a 20 percent contingency add-on. The original cost estimate was adjusted downward to $165,740,000, including a 30 percent contingency add-on, when an alignment study for the project was completed in April of this year. Just four months later, however, in August, the cost estimate had jumped to $200,536,000, including a 20 percent contingency add-on.
Those estimates, however, did not include land acquisition, permanent easements, temporary construction easements, and fee property, construction administration, permitting fees or credits on existing conservation easements for sensitive species mitigation.
Of tremendous moment for the authority is the means availability to pay for the project. Under the Groundwater Sustainability Act and related federal laws and regulations, the authority can qualify for five potential options for federal funding of construction activities associated with the interconnection pipeline project, which are administered through four separate agencies.
Under the Water Resources Development Act, the project qualifies for two programs, one being as a water resources project and the other an environmental infrastructure project, both administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s share of the cost of project completion if it were to be done as a water resources project would be $15 million. If it were to be done as an environmental infrastructure project, the authority’s share of the project completion cost would be $53 million.
Under the National Defense Authorization Act, the project could qualify for federal funding in an arrangement by which the administrative agency would be the Department of Defense, and ownership, operations and maintenance of the project would reside with the United States Navy.
Under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, the project could conceivably qualify for federal funding to be administered by the Department of the Interior.
Under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s loan program, the project could qualify for federal funding assistance which would ultimately be administered through a private finance institution on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency.
It is unclear what percentage of the project cost could be defrayed under the National Defense Authorization or the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation acts. It does not appear that the funding amounts from either would approach that provided by the Water Resources Development Act, however. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s loan program could conceivably cover up to 80 percent of the currently estimated $200,536,000 cost, such that the authority would need to defray roughly $40 million. That program is subject to a number of unknowns, however, including how much of the loans might ultimately be forgiven and how many might need to be paid back in full.
Consequently, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of Directors is most heavily focused on the two programs available under the Water Resources Development Act. The program to be completed as a water resources project, ultimately at a cost of $15 million to the Indian Wells Valley Water District, would take as long as 11 years to complete. The program undertaken as an environmental infrastructure project, costing the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority $53 million, would be completed within a much shorter timeframe, one of roughly five years.
Board members are naturally sensitive to the $38 million difference in cost to be borne by the authority. As it stands, the authority is gravitating toward some order of taxing regime to finance the pipeline construction.
Relevant is whether the authority will opt for a tax-as-it-goes approach, whereby tax revenue brought in each year, presumably as an additional assessment on property owners’ property tax bills or water rate increases, would go directly toward paying for ongoing work on the project. Conceivably, given an 11-year timetable for the program to be completed as a water resources project, taxpayers or ratepayers within the jurisdiction of the authority could provide the roughly $1,363,636 annual local share of cost for building the pipeline. If, however, the authority seeks to have the project completed as an environmental infrastructure project, the authority’s annual share of cost over the five years it would take to complete the project would run to $10.6 million per year. That would create a taxing regime likely to be too onerous for the Indian Wells Valley’s taxpayers to bear, such that the authority would need to go to a bond-issuing arrangement, one which would spread the payments out over as many as 40 years, but which would involve having taxpayers for as many as four decades take on the added burden of paying back not just the principal of the loan but interest.
Unclear is whether the financing would involve property taxation or an increase, probably a very steep one, on water rates for the more than 11,000 Indian Wells Valley Water District customers, the roughly 1,000 ratepayers in San Bernardino County and some 300 to 400 water users in Inyo County.
There has already been resistance to fees that the authority sought to impose on major water users in the Valley.
An early strategy which the authority and Stetson Engineers, as the designated the water resources manager for Indian Wells Valley, sought to impose to both reduce water use in the valley and increase groundwater recharge involved carrying out a survey of water usage patterns in the region and then assigning water use allowances to the region’s well owners. Excess use fees, referred to as augmentation fees, were formulated for application to those well owners who were pumping above their allowances as well as on any farmer whose use exceeded his respective share of the water supply set aside for agricultural usage. The excess use fee on any water beyond what was allocated to each user was set at $2,130-per-acre-foot. That fee was worked into the region’s groundwater sustainability plan and was submitted by the groundwater authority to the state, which approved it in 2022.
The concept was that money to be generated in that way is to be used to purchase imported water and pay for the eventual provision of infrastructure needed to bring in the imported water. This was accompanied by a farmland fallowing proposal, where selected farms were to have their active operations reduced.
Even before the California Department of Water Resources had fully examined the proposed groundwater sustainability plan for the Indian Wells Valley, a number of farms and operations in the region raised protests over the limitations being imposed on them. Among those were Searles Valley Minerals, Meadowbrook Dairy, Mojave Pistachios and Sierra Shadows Ranch, along with John Thomas Conaway and the Nugent Family Trust and Mead. Ultimately, Searles Valley Minerals, Mojave Pistachios and Sierra Shadows Ranch, along with John Thomas Conaway and the Nugent Family Trust sued the groundwater authority and the Indian Wells Valley Water District as the lead agency in that joint authority, claiming the conservation efforts being undertaken imposed not only an unacceptable financial burden on them but were abrogating their long-established water use rights altogether.
Some entities tried to come to terms with the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority. Others did not, sticking to their guns, while claiming they had established a water use pattern that was inviolate. One of those was Mojave Pistachios, which did not pay the excess use fee.
On June 14, Judge Claster granted the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s request for an injunction against Mojave Pistachios LLC and require that the company pay $30 million in back fees on all of the water it had pumped in the Indian Wells Valley without allocation.
Pistachio farming is a water intensive use. It appears that in the two years since the state ratified the $2,130-per-acre-foot fee for any non-allocated pumping, Mojave Pistachios was utilizing about 4.40141 acre-feet of water per acre per year on its 1,600-acre farm and 215,000 pistachio trees or roughly 7,042.25 acre-feet per year.
Mojave Pistachio’s legal team had proceeded under the theory that the company could withhold payment on the non-allocated pumping fees while the matter was being litigated. The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, conversely, held that all of the users of non-allocated water within its jurisdiction had to front the fee even if it was taking legal action as per California’s “pay now, sue later” policy with regard to water regulations. If the groundwater plan it was seeking to impose proved unconstitutional or in any way unlawful, the fee would be refunded, the groundwater authority maintained. Mojave Pistachio’s persisted with its legal theory, even after it was rebuked by an appellate court with regard to an earlier Orange County Superior Court ruling. The California Supreme Court rejected Mojave Pistachios’ request that it review that ruling. With his June 14 ruling, Judge Claster has unequivocally settled the matter in favor of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority.
Judge Claster’s ruling extends only to Mojave Pistachios, as it is the primary and major dissenter with regard to the imposition of the non-allocated water use/excessive water fee. Searles Valley Minerals in San Bernardino County, which engages in solution mining, involving soaking portions of the company’s dry Searles Lake in Trona with water to precipitate brine which is then extracted and processed to produce boric acid, sodium carbonate, sodium sulfate, several specialty forms of borax, and salt. In addition, Searles Valley Minerals wells are the source of water used for domestic purposes among Trona’s 1,400 residents. Searles Valley Mineral’s corporate predecessors stretch back to the late 1890s and its water rights are senior to any in the region, having been established more than 90 years ago. This gives Searles Valley Minerals precedence over any other entities claiming water rights in the area, including the Indian Wells Valley Water District, which began its pumping no earlier than 1955, and the China Lake Naval Air Station, which is not subject to the restrictions in the groundwater management plan nor subject to water use fees of any type imposed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority. Because of Searles Valley Minerals’ long extant water use patterns and its water rights, which were claimed, granted and verified and reverified at multiple junctures in the past, the San Bernardino County company, which is owned by the Indian company Nirma, was not subject to as steep of non-allocated pumping/excess use fees as was Mojave Pistachios, which did not begin its water use until 2011 and the water rights for which have never been adjudicated.
It was Mojave Pistachio’s lack of historic water rights which led to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to claim and the Orange County Superior Court to determine in January 2023 that Mojave Pistachios should be allocated no Indian Wells Valley Valley Groundwater Basin water, such that Mojave Pistachios had to pay $2,130 per acre-foot for all water it used.
Judge Claster’s ruling came despite amicus curiae briefs in support of Mojave Pistachios field by the California Building Industry Association, Searles Valley Minerals Inc., the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Western Growers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation,. American Pistachio Growers, the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the Agricultural Council of California, the California Fresh Fruit Association and California Citrus Mutual.
Efforts by the Sentinel to reach Rod Stiefvater, the owner of Mojave Pistachios, were unsuccessful.
On June 12, in a public statement, Mojave Pistachios said that if the injunction were granted, what would ensue would be “the death of 1,600 acres of trees” and that the need to “shutter a locally owned, private farming operation.”

Senator Portantino’s Bill Would Provide Striking Workers With Unemployment Benefits

The California legislature is contemplating passage of a bill similar in virtually all respects to one vetoed last year by Governor Gavin Newsom which would allow striking workers to claim unemployment benefits.
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1116 by Democrat State Senator Henry Portantino, would give striking workers the ability to claim unemployment after two weeks of striking. Under the bill, striking claimants would be paid, like any temporarily unemployed worker in the state, from their particular former employer’s reserve account in the unemployment insurance fund.
In describing Senate Bill 1116, Portantino, whose 25th Senate District includes Upland in San Bernardino County, said, “Senate Bill 1116Will allow striking or locked out workers to be eligible to receive UI benefits for the duration of the dispute after the dispute has lasted more than two weeks.”
Senate Bill 1116 is a slight redraft of Senate Bill 799, introduced by Portantino last year and which was passed by the legislature. Senate Bill 799 was to restore unemployment insurance eligibility for striking workers who left work because of a trade dispute after those workers were voluntarily off their job for two weeks. The bill codified specified case law that held employees who left work due to a lockout by the employer, even if it was in anticipation of a trade dispute, were eligible for benefits. The bill made clear that the bill’s provisions did not diminish eligibility for benefits of individuals deprived of work due to an employer lockout or similar action. Governor Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 799.
Senate Bill 1116 which would allow workers who have left work as part of a strike action to apply for and to receive, after two weeks without a paycheck, unemployment benefits.
The bill is being opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Bankers Association, the California Building Industry Association, the California Farm Bureau California, the California Grocers Association, the California Hospital Association, the California Hotel & Lodging Association, the California League of Food Producers, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, the California Restaurant Association, the California Retailers Association, the California Taxpayers Association, the California Travel Association, the California Trucking Association, the Western Electrical Contractors Association and the Western Growers Association.
A letter from the California Chamber of Commerce to Senator Portantino states, “SB 1116 fundamentally alters the nature of unemployment insurance by providing unemployment to workers who still have a job and have voluntarily chosen to temporarily refuse to work as a negotiating tactic. Striking is obviously a federally protected right and has historically been a key strategy in labor disputes. But being on strike is not the same as being terminated. Striking workers generally have the right to return to their position at the conclusion of the labor dispute, under both federal law and union contracts. In contrast, an employee who has been terminated has no similar job waiting for [him or her] and is truly facing an uncertain future—which unemployment insurance helps by providing some support while [that person] looks for new work. Striking workers have a job—they are just choosing not to work in order to create economic pressure and negotiate. That is not the same as having no idea where your next paycheck comes from. SB 1116 is a profound departure from unemployment insurance’s history, and a significant tax increase on California’s employers, including those who have no involvement in any labor disputes. Moreover, with a recession potentially in our future, SB 1116 risks compounding unemployment insurance’s insolvency—which will weigh heavily on the State, California’s employers, and California’s truly unemployed.”
At present, California does not have sufficient money to pay for unemployment benefits now being doled out to the state’s unemployed workers. To maintain its unemployment insurance system and continue to provide checks to the unemployed, the state has taken out nearly $20 billion in federal loans, which need to be paid back with interest.
California’s unemployment insurance fund is provided entirely by employers. In this way, the debt the system is taking on will ultimately be borne by California employers. In essence, Senate Bill 1116 would require that employers subsidize the strikes their own workers are engaged in, an activity diametrically against their own interest. Moreover, SB 1116 will effectively put employers with businesses against which no labor action is taking place to subsidize strikes against other companies, some of which may be their competitors, because the unemployment insurance fund’s debt adds taxes for all employers uniformly.

Unemployment insurance payments are intended to assist employees who through circumsances beyond their control have become separated from employment. Federal law sets out the basic requirements for individuals to qualify, including being “ready and willing to immediately accept work” and “totally or partially unemployed,” and “actively looking for work.”
The California Unemployment Insurance Fund is already enmeshed in historic debt, which at present runs to roughly $20 billion, a circumstance that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown mandates. Consequently, California employers already are paying increased unemployment insurance taxes based upon both state and federal pursuant requirements. Projections are those increases will continue under the current conditions and actuarials at least until 2032.
California is already plagued by a growing interest payment to simply remain in a static position with regard to its unemployment insurance fund within the State of California’s general fund. In 2023–2024, that interest payment has reached $300 and that payment will continue to escalate until the unemployment insurance fund returns to solvency. In the proposed 2024–2025 budget, the interest payment will rise to a projected $331 million. SB 1116 risks compounding the unemployment insurance fund’s insolvency.
Upon the fund becoming insolvent, employers have faced these escalating unemployment insurance taxes to the point of their current exorbitance, ones which in anything approaching a full-blown recession would force the majority of companies out of business.

Republicans Excluded From Governor’s And Legislators’ State Budget Negotiations

A group of Democrats from the Assembly, State Senate and Governor Gavin Newsom’s office are negotiating and engaging in horsetrading with regard to our next budget in private. There are no Republicans nor media allowed in the room where all of this is taking place.
In years where a budget has been formulated well before the start of the government’s July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, representatives from the state legislature, including lawmakers from both major parties, hash out the state’s annual spending plan during committee meetings and in private conferences in what logically fits the definition of a bipartisan give and take, though the party in the minority has historically given more and the party in the majority has taken more.
In those years when the July 1 deadline is approaching or has elapsed and a budget agreement has not been closed, the legislature passes what is referred to as a placeholder state budget, which is usually a clone of the previous year’s budget that allows the government continue to run. A placeholder budget is also a means of getting around the requirement in California that lawmakers not be paid if they fail to pass a budget by the annual deadline.
Given the Democrats’ supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, now that Sacramento has entered into the province of final budget negotiations, all political nicities have been dispensed with. Using bare-knuckle tactics, senior Democrats have employed the State Capitol’s police to bar the door to the negotiating room and only Democrats have been allowed in.
Inside are Governor Newsom’s representatives and foremost, representatives for Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, as well as, on occasion Newsom, Rivas and McGuire themselves, along with Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and California Senate Budget Committee Chairman Scott Wiener and their staff members.
Efforts by a group of reporters, including Sentinel correspondent Steven Frank, to wheedle from the participants where those negotiations are leading produced no meaningful response.
The best information was a terse statement from Gabriel.
“There’s a shared set of priorities here,” Gabriel said. “It’s more about what are the most effective solutions, what are the programs and services that we think are the best way to go forward versus others.”
Newsom’s office and his Department of Finance declined to answer questions about the remaining differences with the legislature that still need to be worked out.
How close those parties are to a final deal is anybody’s guess. The discussions are taking place entirely out of public view and when the participants emerge, they rarely respond to questions from the public or the press and will only convey what they know privately to other members of the legislature.