The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber

Postby admin » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:25 am

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
by James Thurber
March 18, 1939

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


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CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY REBEKKA DUNLAP

“We’re going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. “We can’t make it, sir. It’s spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me.” “I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander. “Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8,500! We’re going through!” The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” he shouted. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” repeated Lieutenant Berg. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” shouted the Commander. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. “The Old Man’ll get us through,” they said to one another. “The Old Man ain’t afraid of Hell!” . . .

“Not so fast! You’re driving too fast!” said Mrs. Mitty. “What are you driving so fast for?”

“Hmm?” said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd. “You were up to fifty-five,” she said. “You know I don’t like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five.” Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind. “You’re tensed up again,” said Mrs. Mitty. “It’s one of your days. I wish you’d let Dr. Renshaw look you over.”

Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the building where his wife went to have her hair done. “Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,” she said. “I don’t need overshoes,” said Mitty. She put her mirror back into her bag. “We’ve been all through that,” she said, getting out of the car. “You’re not a young man any longer.” He raced the engine a little. “Why don’t you wear your gloves? Have you lost your gloves?” Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again. “Pick it up, brother!” snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead. He drove around the streets aimlessly for a time, and then he drove past the hospital on his way to the parking lot.

. . . “It’s the millionaire banker, Wellington McMillan,” said the pretty nurse. “Yes?” said Walter Mitty, removing his gloves slowly. “Who has the case?” “Dr. Renshaw and Dr. Benbow, but there are two specialists here, Dr. Remington from New York and Dr. Pritchard-Mitford from London. He flew over.” A door opened down a long, cool corridor and Dr. Renshaw came out. He looked distraught and haggard. “Hello, Mitty,” he said. “We’re having the devil’s own time with McMillan, the millionaire banker and close personal friend of Roosevelt. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish you’d take a look at him.” “Glad to,” said Mitty.

In the operating room there were whispered introductions: “Dr. Remington, Dr. Mitty. Dr. Pritchard-Mitford, Dr. Mitty.” “I’ve read your book on streptothricosis,” said Pritchard-Mitford, shaking hands. “A brilliant performance, sir.” “Thank you,” said Walter Mitty. “Didn’t know you were in the States, Mitty,” grumbled Remington. “Coals to Newcastle, bringing Mitford and me up here for a tertiary.” “You are very kind,” said Mitty. A huge, complicated machine, connected to the operating table, with many tubes and wires, began at this moment to go pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. “The new anaesthetizer is giving way!” shouted an interne. “There is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!” “Quiet, man!” said Mitty, in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine, which was now going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep. He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials. “Give me a fountain pen!” he snapped. Someone handed him a fountain pen. He pulled a faulty piston out of the machine and inserted the pen in its place. “That will hold for ten minutes,” he said. “Get on with the operation.” A nurse hurried over and whispered to Renshaw, and Mitty saw the man turn pale. “Coreopsis has set in,” said Renshaw nervously. “If you would take over, Mitty?” Mitty looked at him and at the craven figure of Benbow, who drank, and at the grave, uncertain faces of the two great specialists. “If you wish,” he said. They slipped a white gown on him; he adjusted a mask and drew on thin gloves; nurses handed him shining . . .

“Back it up, Mac! Look out for that Buick!” Walter Mitty jammed on the brakes. “Wrong lane, Mac,” said the parking-lot attendant, looking at Mitty closely. “Gee. Yeh,” muttered Mitty. He began cautiously to back out of the lane marked “Exit Only.” “Leave her sit there,” said the attendant. “I’ll put her away.” Mitty got out of the car. “Hey, better leave the key.” “Oh,” said Mitty, handing the man the ignition key. The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.

They’re so damn cocky, thought Walter Mitty, walking along Main Street; they think they know everything. Once he had tried to take his chains off, outside New Milford, and he had got them wound around the axles. A man had had to come out in a wrecking car and unwind them, a young, grinning garageman. Since then Mrs. Mitty always made him drive to a garage to have the chains taken off. The next time, he thought, I’ll wear my right arm in a sling; they won’t grin at me then. I’ll have my right arm in a sling and they’ll see I couldn’t possibly take the chains off myself. He kicked at the slush on the sidewalk. “Overshoes,” he said to himself, and he began looking for a shoe store.

When he came out into the street again, with the overshoes in a box under his arm, Walter Mitty began to wonder what the other thing was his wife had told him to get. She had told him, twice, before they set out from their house for Waterbury. In a way he hated these weekly trips to town—he was always getting something wrong. Kleenex, he thought, Squibb’s, razor blades? No. Toothpaste, toothbrush, bicarbonate, carborundum, initiative and referendum? He gave it up. But she would remember it. “Where’s the what’s-its-name?” she would ask. “Don’t tell me you forgot the what’s-its-name.” A newsboy went by shouting something about the Waterbury trial.

. . . “Perhaps this will refresh your memory.” The District Attorney suddenly thrust a heavy automatic at the quiet figure on the witness stand. “Have you ever seen this before?” Walter Mitty took the gun and examined it expertly. “This is my Webley-Vickers 50.80,” he said calmly. An excited buzz ran around the courtroom. The Judge rapped for order. “You are a crack shot with any sort of firearms, I believe?” said the District Attorney, insinuatingly. “Objection!” shouted Mitty’s attorney. “We have shown that the defendant could not have fired the shot. We have shown that he wore his right arm in a sling on the night of the fourteenth of July.” Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the bickering attorneys were stilled. “With any known make of gun,” he said evenly, “I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left hand.” Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom. A woman’s scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty’s arms. The District Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin. “You miserable cur!” . . .

“Puppy biscuit,” said Walter Mitty. He stopped walking and the buildings of Waterbury rose up out of the misty courtroom and surrounded him again. A woman who was passing laughed. “He said ‘Puppy biscuit,’ ” she said to her companion. “That man said ‘Puppy biscuit’ to himself.” Walter Mitty hurried on. He went into an A. & P., not the first one he came to but a smaller one farther up the street. “I want some biscuit for small, young dogs,” he said to the clerk. “Any special brand, sir?” The greatest pistol shot in the world thought a moment. “It says ‘Puppies Bark for It’ on the box,” said Walter Mitty.

His wife would be through at the hairdresser’s in fifteen minutes, Mitty saw in looking at his watch, unless they had trouble drying it; sometimes they had trouble drying it. She didn’t like to get to the hotel first; she would want him to be there waiting for her as usual. He found a big leather chair in the lobby, facing a window, and he put the overshoes and the puppy biscuit on the floor beside it. He picked up an old copy of Liberty and sank down into the chair. “Can Germany Conquer the World Through the Air?” Walter Mitty looked at the pictures of bombing planes and of ruined streets.

. . . “The cannonading has got the wind up in young Raleigh, sir,” said the sergeant. Captain Mitty looked up at him through touselled hair. “Get him to bed,” he said wearily. “With the others. I’ll fly alone.” “But you can’t, sir,” said the sergeant anxiously. “It takes two men to handle that bomber and the Archies are pounding hell out of the air. Von Richtman’s circus is between here and Saulier.” “Somebody’s got to get that ammunition dump,” said Mitty. “I’m going over. Spot of brandy?” He poured a drink for the sergeant and one for himself. War thundered and whined around the dugout and battered at the door. There was a rending of wood and splinters flew through the room. “A bit of a near thing,” said Captain Mitty carelessly. “The box barrage is closing in,” said the sergeant. “We only live once, Sergeant,” said Mitty, with his faint, fleeting smile. “Or do we?” He poured another brandy and tossed it off. “I never see a man could hold his brandy like you, sir,” said the sergeant. “Begging your pardon, sir.” Captain Mitty stood up and strapped on his huge Webley-Vickers automatic. “It’s forty kilometres through hell, sir,” said the sergeant. Mitty finished one last brandy. “After all,” he said softly, “what isn’t?” The pounding of the cannon increased; there was the rat-tat-tatting of machine guns, and from somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the new flame-throwers. Walter Mitty walked to the door of the dugout humming “Auprès de Ma Blonde.” He turned and waved to the sergeant. “Cheerio!” he said. . . .

Something struck his shoulder. “I’ve been looking all over this hotel for you,” said Mrs. Mitty. “Why do you have to hide in this old chair? How did you expect me to find you?” “Things close in,” said Walter Mitty vaguely. “What?” Mrs. Mitty said. “Did you get the what’s-its-name? The puppy biscuit? What’s in that box?” “Overshoes,” said Mitty. “Couldn’t you have put them on in the store?” “I was thinking,” said Walter Mitty. “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?” She looked at him. “I’m going to take your temperature when I get you home,” she said.

They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them. It was two blocks to the parking lot. At the drugstore on the corner she said, “Wait here for me. I forgot something. I won’t be a minute.” She was more than a minute. Walter Mitty lighted a cigarette. It began to rain, rain with sleet in it. He stood up against the wall of the drugstore, smoking. . . . He put his shoulders back and his heels together. “To hell with the handkerchief,” said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.
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Re: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber

Postby admin » Thu Nov 10, 2016 2:29 am

The Secret Life of Hillary Clinton (With Apologies to Walter Mitty.)
by John V. Walsh
January 26, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


“We’re going in!” The Envoy’s voice had the sting of a cold wind cutting across the taiga. Ratta. Tatta Tat. The plane out of Ramstein was pelted with a bararage of fire as it descended into Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia. Ratta Tatta Tat. One piece of shrapnel pierced the window next to the Envoy’s seat. She was calm. “We can’t make it ma’am. There’s even heavier fire below.” “That was an order, Major Fenton.” She was even cooler than her voice in the midst of the panic around her. “I’m going up front.” Bursting into the cockpit she took the controls and put the plane into a steep dive, getting it below the barrage of bullets. The plane hit the ground with a fearful bounce, avoiding a crash only because she had become one with the monster jet. On the tarmac, the plane took gunfire again. She cried, “We came here on a mission. We’re going in! Put down the chutes!” The slides deployed. Grabbing a rifle from her bodyguard she was the first one down. Running now, head down, holding rifle aloft with one arm to let the others know the path and with her daughter sheltered under the other, she outpaced them. And then she and the rest were safe in the hanger.

“I felt the snipers’ bullets whizzing overhead,” she declared to the assembled crowd, now safe. The hanger burst into applause. And then she was startled, as from a dream. The applause erupted in the press conference, as she finished her account. The worshipping press was mesmerized by her story. Among those who applauded loudest were those who were with her in Tuzla. They knew it was all a lie. Their careers were flourishing, their salaries soaring. She thanked them all. Before she knew it, she was whisked off the stage.

“Hill, what were you talking about?” Her bewildered husband looked at her in the holding room. You were never fired on, and you don’t even know how to fly a kite let alone a jet. “Oh, shut up, Bill. You underestimate me every time. Your memory fails you. I was there. You forget those long hours of learning to do stunt flying when I was president of the Winged Wellesley Women. For God’s sake don’t quibble about details. I had to push you to expand NATO when your buddies kept harping on Versailles.” Bill looked like a puppy that had just been whacked with a rolled up newspaper. He knew that there had not been so much as a paper plane flown at Wellesley. He bit his lower lip and fell silent.

The limousine picked them up and whisked them away to her all-important speech, her first State of the Union. Bill watched her take the podium before the joint session of Congress.

“The Commander in Chief,” the Speaker announced. She looked out over the assemblage. The day was an inferno under an intense sun in Rome, not a cloud in the sky. The Coliseum crowd was going wild, oblivious to the oppressive heat. “Caesar, Caesar, Caesar” the sweltering mass chanted in unison. She was now back from the successful North African campaign to a tumultuous celebration, the likes of which Rome had not seen since the days of the first emperor.

The Speaker came forward and placed a laurel crown on her head. She smiled without showing her teeth and pointed to the ground. The Speaker knelt and she pointed to her feet. He kissed her feet, rose and backed away, bowing as he receded. She slowly turned 360 degrees looking at each section of the crowd. Then she deliberately raised her hands high. Within a few moments the entire crowd fell silent. Slowly she looked around, very slowly in the deadly silence, paused for what seemed like an eternity, then deliberately, loudly declaimed, “We came….. We saw…. He died.” The assemblage jumped to its feet applauding wildly, insanely. She had echoed the first Caesar, and she had no doubt that her exploits would far outstrip his. She was sure that the Libyan spoils would fill the general coffers. The captured arms were already on the way to Syria for her next campaign. But again the speech was over before she knew it. And again she was in the limousine with Bill. He was distraught. “Hill, you know Gaddafi was killed in a brutal way when you were head at State. It was your idea to do that, and it does not look good when you gloat.” She stared at him scornfully. “Hill,” he said, “I think you are having one of your days again. Maybe Dr. Kleinkopf should adjust your meds again.” “Ridiculous,” she clipped, not even looking his way.

They went back to the White House. It was late. Bill went to bed and she went to the White House gym. She got into her white exercise outfit and was ready to do some yoga. And then there he was right there in the gym, also dressed in white with a black belt and lying in the corner doing some stretches. It was Vlad! How did he get in? She had long suspected that there were breaches of security, and she had grown ever more apprehensive since she had entered the Oval Office. And sure enough there, he was. Before he could make a move, she moved around him, thinking methodically, “Encircle, encircle.” Then she flew at him feet first, striking her soles deeply into his chest and shouting, “Encircle and break.” The blow appeared to knock Vlad unconscious; he was motionless. She touched the inert heap. It was lifeless, cold and wet, the sweat still on the corpse.

But she knew his presence meant that the country was under attack. Grabbing the red wall phone, she called for Bradford. In an instant he was there carrying the black briefcases with the presidential seal on the leather. How she loved those seals and the leather. “Look at that miserable dictator over there,” she yelled at Bradford, her words echoing in the gym. He was befuddled. “That is just a pile of wet towels, Ma’am.” She did not hear him. “We have been attacked,” she cried. “Open the briefcase.” Bradford looked like a truck had run over him – but he was trained for this and did as told. She looked in, her retina was quickly scanned and she turned the two keys. “Done,” she exclaimed triumphantly. “Nobody messes with the Indispensible Nation.” The bays to rocket silos all over the planet were rolling back minutes after she spoke. Bradford was sobbing now.

Sirens were wailing in the White House and throughout the Capital; panic was everywhere. Rockets from across the seas had now been launched and spotted. Bill appeared at the door of the gym. He saw the hysterical Bradford, collapsed on his knees, with the President standing over him, beaming triumphantly but silent. Bill pulled her to the emergency elevator and they plunged into the shelter deep, deep underground. Bill was also sobbing now. But not Hillary; she stood there, erect, adjusting her exercise outfit, with her back against the elevator wall, looking contentedly into the distance, a faint smile on her lips. Again she had prevailed. Hillary Clinton, unbending, defiant to the end.

John Walsh [send him mail] is a frequent contributor to CounterPunch.com, Antiwar.com, LewRockwell.com and DissidentVoice.org. He is a founding member of “Come Home America.” Until recently he was Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Copyright © 2016 John V. Walsh
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