The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

“Here’s one I ought to read again,” the man said. “Mark Twain. I read a couple of his books when I was a kid. But I guess I have enough to start on.” He stood up.

  The boy rose too, smiling. “You’re going to have to do a lot of reading.”

  “I like to read,” the man said. “I really like to read.”

  He started back down the aisles, going straight for Mr. Harris’ desk. The boy turned off the lamps and followed, stopping to get his hat and gloves. When the big man reached Mr. Harris’ desk he said to his wife, “That’s sure a smart kid. He knows those books right and left.”

  “Did you pick out what you want?” his wife asked.

  “The kid has a fine list for me.” He turned to Mr. Harris and went on, “It’s quite an experience seeing a kid like that liking books the way he does. When I was his age I was working for four or five years.”

  The boy came up with the slip of paper in his hand. “These ought to hold him for a while,” he said to Mr. Harris.

  Mr. Harris glanced at the list and nodded. “That Thackeray’s a nice set of books,” he said.

  The boy had put his hat on and was standing at the foot of the stairs. “Hope you enjoy them,” he said. “I’ll be back for another look at that Empson, Mr. Harris.”

  “I’ll try to keep it around for you,” Mr. Harris said. “I can’t promise to hold it, you know.”

  “I’ll just count on it’s being here,” the boy said.

  “Thanks, son,” the big man called out as the boy started up the stairs. “Appreciate your helping me.”

  “That’s all right,” the boy said.

  “He’s sure a smart kid,” the man said to Mr. Harris. “He’s got a great chance, with an education like that.”

  “He’s a nice young fellow,” Mr. Harris said, “and he sure wants that book.”

  “You think he’ll ever buy it?” the big man asked.

  “I doubt it,” Mr. Harris said. “If you’ll just write down your name and address, I’ll add these prices.”

  Mr. Harris began to note down the prices of the books, copying from the boy’s neat list. After the big man had written his name and address, he stood for a minute drumming his fingers on the desk, and then he said, “Can I have another look at that book?”

  “The Empson?” Mr. Harris said, looking up.

  “The one the boy was so interested in.” Mr. Harris reached around to the bookcase in back of him and took out the book. The big man held it delicately, as he had held the others, and he frowned as he turned the pages. Then he put the book down on Mr. Harris’ desk.

  “If he isn’t going to buy it, will it be all right if I put this in with the rest?” he asked.

  Mr. Harris looked up from his figures for a minute, and then he made the entry on his list. He added quickly, wrote down the total, and then pushed the paper across the desk to the big man. While the man checked over the figures Mr. Harris turned to the woman and said, “Your husband has bought a lot of very pleasant reading.”

  “I’m glad to hear it,” she said. “We’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”

  The big man counted out the money carefully, handing the bills to Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris put the money in the top drawer of his desk and said, “We can have these delivered to you by the end of the week, if that will be all right.”

  “Fine,” the big man said. “Ready, Mother?”

  The woman rose, and the big man stood back to let her go ahead of him. Mr. Harris followed, stopping near the stairs to say to the woman, “Watch the bottom step.”

  They started up the stairs and Mr. Harris stood watching them until they got to the turn. Then he switched off the dirty overhead lamp and went back to his desk.

  Come Dance With Me In Ireland

  YOUNG MRS. ARCHER was sitting on the bed with Kathy Valentine and Mrs. Corn, playing with the baby and gossiping, when the doorbell rang. Mrs. Archer, saying, “Oh, dear!,” went to push the buzzer that released the outside door of the apartment building. “We had to live on the ground floor,” she called to Kathy and Mrs. Corn. “Everybody rings our bell for everything.”

  When the inner doorbell rang she opened the door of the apartment and saw an old man standing in the outer hall. He was wearing a long, shabby black overcoat and had a square white beard. He held out a handful of shoelaces.

  “Oh,” Mrs. Archer said. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, but—”

  “Madam,” the old man said, “if you would be so kind. A nickel apiece.”

  Mrs. Archer shook her head and backed away. “I’m afraid not,” she said.

  “Thank you anyway, Madam,” he said, “for speaking courteously. The first person on this block who has been decently polite to a poor old man.”

  Mrs. Archer turned the doorknob back and forth nervously. “I’m awfully sorry,” she said. Then, as he turned to go, she said, “Wait a minute,” and hurried into the bedroom. “Old man selling shoelaces,” she whispered. She pulled open the top dresser drawer, took out her pocketbook, and fumbled in the change purse. “Quarter,” she said. “Think it’s all right?”

  “Sure,” Kathy said. “Probably more than he’s gotten all day.” She was Mrs. Archer’s age, and unmarried. Mrs. Corn was a stout woman in her middle fifties. They both lived in the building and spent a good deal of time at Mrs. Archer’s, on account of the baby.

  Mrs. Archer returned to the front door. “Here,” she said, holding out the quarter. “I think it’s a shame everyone was so rude.”

  The old man started to offer her some shoelaces, but his hand shook and the shoelaces dropped to the floor. He leaned heavily against the wall. Mrs. Archer watched, horrified. “Good Lord,” she said, and put out her hand. As her fingers touched the dirty old overcoat she hesitated and then, tightening her lips, she put her arm firmly through his and tried to help him through the doorway. “Girls,” she called, “come help me, quick!”

  Kathy came running out of the bedroom, saying, “Did you call, Jean?” and then stopped dead, staring.

  “What’ll I do?” Mrs. Archer said, standing with her arm through the old man’s. His eyes were closed and he seemed barely able, with her help, to stand on his feet. “For heaven’s sake, grab him on the other side.”

  “Get him to a chair or something,” Kathy said. The hall was too narrow for all three of them to go down side by side, so Kathy took the old man’s other arm and half-led Mrs. Archer and him into the living-room. “Not in the good chair,” Mrs. Archer exclaimed. “In the old leather one.” They dropped the old man into the leather chair and stood back. “What on earth do we do now?” Mrs. Archer said.

  “Do you have any whiskey?” Kathy asked.

  Mrs. Archer shook her head. “A little wine,” she said doubtfully.

  Mrs. Corn came into the living-room, holding the baby. “Gracious!” she said. “He’s drunk!”

  “Nonsense,” Kathy said. “I wouldn’t have let Jean bring him in if he were.”

  “Watch out for the baby, Blanche,” Mrs. Archer said.

  “Naturally,” Mrs. Corn said. “We’re going back into the bedroom, honey,” she said to the baby, “and then we’re going to get into our lovely crib and go beddy-bye.”

  The old man stirred and opened his eyes. He tried to get up.

  “Now you stay right where you are,” Kathy ordered, “and Mrs. Archer here is going to bring you a little bit of wine. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

  The old man raised his eyes to Kathy. “Thank you,” he said.

  Mrs. Archer went into the kitchen. After a moment’s thought she took the glass from over the sink, rinsed it out, and poured some sherry into it. She took the glass of sherry back into the living-room and handed it to Kathy.

  “Shall I hold it for you or can you drink by yourself?” Kathy asked the old man.

  “You are much too kind,” he said, and reached for the glass. Kathy steadied it for him as he sipped from it, and then he pushed it away.

  “That’s enough, thank you,”
he said. “Enough to revive me.” He tried to rise. “Thank you,” he said to Mrs. Archer, “and thank you,” to Kathy. “I had better be going along.”

  “Not until you’re quite firm on your feet,” Kathy said. “Can’t afford to take chances, you know.”

  The old man smiled. “I can afford to take chances,” he said.

  Mrs. Corn came back into the living-room. “Baby’s in his crib,” she said, “and just about asleep already. Does he feel better now? I’ll bet he was just drunk or hungry or something.”

  “Of course he was,” Kathy said, fired by the idea. “He was hungry. That’s what was wrong all the time, Jean. How silly we were. Poor old gentleman!” she said to the old man. “Mrs. Archer is certainly not going to let you leave here without a full meal inside of you.”

  Mrs. Archer looked doubtful. “I have some eggs,” she said.

  “Fine!” Kathy said. “Just the thing. They’re easily digested,” she said to the old man, “and especially good if you haven’t eaten for”—she hesitated—“for a while.”

  “Black coffee,” Mrs. Corn said, “if you ask me. Look at his hands shake.”

  “Nervous exhaustion,” Kathy said firmly. “A nice hot cup of bouillon is all he needs to be good as ever, and he has to drink it very slowly until his stomach gets used to food again. The stomach,” she told Mrs. Archer and Mrs. Corn, “shrinks when it remains empty for any great period of time.”

  “I would rather not trouble you,” the old man said to Mrs. Archer.

  “Nonsense,” Kathy said. “We’ve got to see that you get a good hot meal to go on with.” She took Mrs. Archer’s arm and began to walk her out to the kitchen. “Just some eggs,” she said. “Fry four or five. I’ll get you half a dozen later. I don’t suppose you have any bacon. I’ll tell you, fry up a few potatoes too. He won’t care if they’re half-raw. These people eat things like heaps of fried potatoes and eggs and—”

  “There’s some canned figs left over from lunch,” Mrs. Archer said. “I was wondering what to do with them.”

  “I’ve got to run back and keep an eye on him,” Kathy said. “He might faint again or something. You just fry up those eggs and potatoes. I’ll send Blanche out if she’ll come.”

  Mrs. Archer measured out enough coffee for two cups and set the pot on the stove. Then she took out her frying pan. “Kathy,” she said, “I’m just a little worried. If he really is drunk, I mean, and if Jim should hear about it, with the baby here and everything….”

  “Why, Jean!” Kathy said. “You should live in the country for a while, I guess. Women always give out meals to starving men. And you don’t need to tell Jim. Blanche and I certainly won’t say anything.”

  “Well,” said Mrs. Archer, “you’re sure he isn’t drunk?”

  “I know a starving man when I see one,” Kathy said. “When an old man like that can’t stand up and his hands shake and he looks so funny, that means he’s starving to death. Literally starving.”

  “Oh, my!” said Mrs. Archer. She hurried to the cupboard under the sink and took out two potatoes. “Two enough, do you think? I guess we’re really doing a good deed.”

  Kathy giggled. “Just a bunch of Girl Scouts,” she said. She started out of the kitchen, and then she stopped and turned around. “You have any pie? They always eat pie.”

  “It was for dinner, though,” Mrs. Archer said.

  “Oh, give it to him,” Kathy said. “We can run out and get some more after he goes.”

  While the potatoes were frying, Mrs. Archer put a plate, a cup and saucer, and a knife and fork and spoon on the dinette table. Then, as an afterthought, she picked up the dishes and, taking a paper bag out of a cupboard, tore it in half and spread it smoothly on the table and put the dishes back. She got a glass and filled it with water from the bottle in the refrigerator, cut three slices of bread and put them on a plate, and then cut a small square of butter and put it on the plate with the bread. Then she got a paper napkin from the box in the cupboard and put it beside the plate, took it up after a minute to fold it into a triangular shape, and put it back. Finally she put the pepper and salt shakers on the table and got out a box of eggs. She went to the door and called, “Kathy! Ask him how does he want his eggs fried?”

  There was a murmur of conversation in the living-room and Kathy called back, “Sunny side up!”

  Mrs. Archer took out four eggs and then another and broke them one by one into the frying-pan. When they were done she called out, “All right, girls! Bring him in!”

  Mrs. Corn came into the kitchen, inspected the plate of potatoes and eggs, and looked at Mrs. Archer without speaking. Then Kathy came, leading the old man by the arm. She escorted him to the table and sat him down in a chair. “There,” she said. “Now, Mrs. Archer’s fixed you a lovely hot meal.”

  The old man looked at Mrs. Archer. “I’m very grateful,” he said.

  “Isn’t that nice!” Kathy said. She nodded approvingly at Mrs. Archer. The old man regarded the plate of eggs and potatoes. “Now pitch right in,” Kathy said. “Sit down, girls. I’ll get a chair from the bedroom.”

  The old man picked up the salt and shook it gently over the eggs. “This looks delicious,” he said finally.

  “You just go right ahead and eat,” Kathy said, reappearing with a chair. “We want to see you get filled up. Pour him some coffee, Jean.”

  Mrs. Archer went to the stove and took up the coffeepot.

  “Please don’t bother,” he said.

  “That’s all right,” Mrs. Archer said, filling the old man’s cup. She sat down at the table. The old man picked up the fork and then put it down again to take up the paper napkin and spread it carefully over his knees.

  “What’s your name?” Kathy asked.

  “O’Flaherty, Madam. John O’Flaherty.”

  “Well, John,” Kathy said, “I am Miss Valentine and this lady is Mrs. Archer and the other one is Mrs. Corn.”

  “How do you do?” the old man said.

  “I gather you’re from the old country,” Kathy said.

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “Irish, aren’t you?” Kathy said.

  “I am, Madam.” The old man plunged the fork into one of the eggs and watched the yoke run out onto the plate. “I knew Yeats,” he said suddenly.

  “Really?” Kathy said, leaning forward. “Let me see—he was the writer, wasn’t he?”

  “‘Come out of charity, come dance with me in Ireland,’” the old man said. He rose and, holding on to the chair back, bowed solemnly to Mrs. Archer, “Thank you again, Madam, for your generosity.” He turned and started for the front door. The three women got up and followed him.

  “But you didn’t finish,” Mrs. Corn said.

  “The stomach,” the old man said, “as this lady has pointed out, shrinks. Yes, indeed,” he went on reminiscently, “I knew Yeats.”

  At the front door he turned and said to Mrs. Archer, “Your kindness should not go unrewarded.” He gestured to the shoelaces lying on the floor. “These,” he said, “are for you. For your kindness. Divide them with the other ladies.”

  “But I wouldn’t dream—” Mrs. Archer began.

  “I insist,” the old man said, opening the door. “A small return, but all that I have to offer. Pick them up yourself,” he added abruptly. Then he turned and thumbed his nose at Mrs. Corn. “I hate old women,” he said.

  “Well!” said Mrs. Corn faintly.

  “I may have imbibed somewhat freely,” the old man said to Mrs. Archer, “but I never served bad sherry to my guests We are of two different worlds, Madam.”

  “Didn’t I tell you?” Mrs. Corn was saying. “Haven’t I kept telling you all along?”

  Mrs. Archer, her eyes on Kathy, made a tentative motion of pushing the old man through the door, but he forestalled her.

  “‘Come dance with me in Ireland,’” he said. Supporting himself against the wall, he reached the outer door and opened it. “And time runs on,” he said.

sp; IV

  We are never liable to be so betray’d and abused, till, by our vile Dispositions and Tendencies, we have forfeited the tutelary Care, and Oversight of the better Spirits; who, tho’ generally they are our Guard and Defence against the Malice and Violence of evil Angels, yet it may well enough be thought, that some Time they may take their Leave of such as are swallow’d up by Malice, Envy, and Desire of Revenge, Qualities most contrary to their Life and Nature; and leave them exposed to the Invasion and Solicitations of those wicked Spirits, to whom such hateful Attributes make them very suitable.

  Joseph Glanvil: Sadducismus Triumphatus

  Of Course

  MRS. TYLOR, in the middle of a busy morning, was far too polite to go out on the front porch and stare, but she saw no reason for avoiding the windows; when her vacuuming or her dishwashing, or even the upstairs bedmaking, took her near a window on the south side of the house she would lift the curtain slightly, or edge to one side and stir the shade. All she could see, actually, was the moving van in front of the house, and various small activities going on between the movers; the furniture, what she could see of it, looked fine.

  Mrs. Tylor finished the beds and came downstairs to start lunch, and in the short space of time it took her to get from the front bedroom window to the kitchen window a taxi had stopped in front of the house next door and a small boy was dancing up and down on the sidewalk. Mrs. Taylor estimated him; about four, probably, unless he was small for his age; about right for her youngest girl. She turned her attention to the woman who was getting out of the taxi, and was further reassured. A nice-looking tan suit, a little worn and perhaps a little too light in color for moving day, but nicely cut, and Mrs. Tylor nodded appreciatively over the carrots she was scraping. Nice people, obviously.

  Carol, Mrs. Tylor’s youngest, was leaning on the fence in front of the Tylor house, watching the little boy next door. When the little boy stopped dancing up and down Carol said, “Hi.” The little boy looked up, took a step backward, and said, “Hi.” His mother looked at Carol, at the Tylor house, and down at her son. Then she said, “Hello there” to Carol. Mrs. Tylor smiled in the kitchen. Then, on a sudden impulse she dried her hands on a paper towel, took off her apron, and went to the front door. “Carol,” she called lightly, “Carol, dear.” Carol turned around, still leaning on the fence. “What?” she said uncoöperatively.

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