of Willie Pond:
Willie Pond was walking around the grounds of the
hospital. The snow was crisp as salt under his feet and the sun warm
on his face.
He was making a last final effort to untangle this
puzzle; he’d even gone to the City Welfare Office to ask a few
questions. Miss Southard wasn’t there, but Mrs. Duncan had been nice
to him. She’d congratulated him on how fine he looked; she hardly
knew him, at first.
He’d tried it out; he said, "I’m going to get
discharged soon, Mrs. Duncan. Then I guess my family won’t get that
pension any more."
And she had said, "That’s right; it’s just wonderful
the way you regained your health."
…He walked around the grounds, knowing what he had
to do, and loath to do it. He tried hard, as he walked, to tell
himself he was a yellow cur, that he was running out on Sarah and
his kids, that they’d all rather he kept on living, even if they
went on relief again.
But that was no good. He was thinking that way
because he wanted to live. He thought, "I want to live, I like
living." But if he went back, everything would be just the same,
only worse. He’d asked the men hanging around the city hall about
work; they’d cussed about it, WPA’s were getting cut right and left;
they were making work for them on the streets to keep them on, but
they couldn’t keep them all going, even then.
…"Why, they can’t go back on that relief," he
thought. "I can’t let my family go back. Now Sarah’s getting another
one; I can’t let her go back. A man’s got to do the best he can for
…Pride flooded him and he became serene; he felt
peace all over him like a coat. Anyway, if he couldn’t go one, there
was George; George had guts. He’d get ahead. That boy had guts. No
one ever downed that George.
…Willie Pond, serene and peaceful, thought, "I don’t
really want to go and do this, but I don’t see no other way out. I’d
like to live real good, but I can’t take any chance for Sarah and
The snow crunched under his feet. He thought, trying
to be honest about it all, "And not only on account of them, maybe.
It’s I can’t go back myself to that rotten, stinking way to live,
either, I wouldn’t want to go back. Now it would be worse than it
ever was, after we’ve all lived so good."
…He sat down under a pine, watching the sunset.
""And of course," he thought, "I’m lucky I got a
choice. It would be awful if my family just had to go back, half
starving. This way, I got a good choice.
He stood up and brushed the snow from his pants.
Better get it over. Thinking didn’t do any good; trying to think why
a sick man was worth nearly two thousand dollars a year and a well
man not hardly anything at all, didn’t change it any. That’s the way
it was. Just the way it was. Got to take it like you find it.
He smiled in the growing darkness. "It feels like
that old nightmare: kind of half awake and half asleep. I can’t make
it seem honest-to-God true."
He went back to the building and walked in, and
along those incredibly clean and shining corridors. He passed
smiling nurses, and thought, "They’ve been swell. I was lucky to be
here so long. I enjoyed it a lot."
Back in his little room, he went to work as
methodically as though he had planned this ending from the very
start. He put his few possessions in order, took off his good suit,
and hung it up on a hanger. Then he wrote a short note to Dr. Ashley:
"She has to be a widow. Now I’m getting well, she’ll have to be one
to get her checks. She’s having another, so please look out for her;
at first, she’ll go all to pieces, then she’ll be better. Thank you.
I do not understand it, but I was careful to ask everyone, so I am
Yours, Willie Pond."
He took his razor from its case.
"Well," he thought, opening it, "I never did expect to have to
use it for this."