Shirley Jackson · 146 pages
Rating: (63.2K votes)
“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.”
“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.”
“On the moon we wore feathers in our hair, and rubies on our hands. On the moon we had gold spoons.”
“I can't help it when people are frightened," says Merricat. "I always want to frighten them more.”
“I was pretending that I did not speak their language; on the moon we spoke a soft, liquid tongue, and sang in the starlight, looking down on the dead dried world.”
“I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.”
“We eat the year away. We eat the spring and the summer and the fall. We wait for something to grow and then we eat it.”
“All cat stories start with this statement: "My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”
“Fate intervened. Some of us, that day, she led inexorably through the gates of death. Some of us, innocent and unsuspecting, took, unwillingly, that one last step to oblivion. Some of us took very little sugar.”
“All our land was enriched with my treasures buried in it, thickly inhabited just below the surface with my marbles and my teeth and my colored stones, all perhaps turned to jewels by now, held together under the ground in a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us.”
“I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.”
“Poor strangers, they have so much to be afraid of.”
“You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine, is it still in use? You are wondering, has it been cleaned? You may very well ask, was it thoroughly washed?”
“There had not been this many words sounded in our house for a long time, and it was going to take a while to clean them out.”
“I shall weave a suit of leaves. At once. With acorns for buttons.”
“I wonder if I could eat a child if I had the chance.'
'I doubt if I could cook one,' said Constance.”
“Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!”
“On the moon we have everything. Lettuce, and pumpkin pie and Amanita phalloides. We have cat-furred plants and horses dancing with their wings. All the locks are solid and tight, and there are no ghosts.”
“Oh Constance, we are so happy.”
“We were going to the long field which today looked like an ocean, although I had never seen an ocean; the grass was moving in the breeze and the cloud shadows passed back and forth and the trees in the distance moved.”
“I really think I shall commence chapter forty-four," he said, patting his hands together. "I shall commence, I think, with a slight exaggeration and go on from there into an outright lie. Constance, my dear?"
"Yes, Uncle Julian?"
"I am going to say that my wife was a beautiful woman.”
“Today my winged horse is coming and I am carrying you off to the moon and on the moon we will eat rose petals.”
“I was wondering about my eyes; one of my eyes–-the left–-saw everything golden and yellow and orange, and the other eye saw shades of blue and grey and green; perhaps one eye was for daylight and the other was for night. If everyone in the world saw different colors from different eyes there might be a great many new colors still to be invented.”
“I would have to find something else to bury here and I wished it could be Charles.”
“We moved together very slowly toward the house, trying to understand its ugliness and ruin and shame.”
“The trees around and overhead were so thick that it was always dry inside and on Sunday morning I lay there with Jonas, listening to his stories. All cat stories start with the statement: "My mother, who was the first cat, told me this," and I lay with my head close to Jonas and listened. There was no change coming, I thought here, only spring; I was wrong to be so frightened. The days would get warmer, and Uncle Julian would sit in the sun, and Constance would laugh when she worked in the garden, and it would always be the same. Jonas went on and on ("And then we sang! And then we sang!") and the leaves moved overhead and it would always be the same.”
“Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep? Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!”
“When Jim Donell thought of something to say he said it as often and in as many ways as possible, perhaps because he had very few ideas and had to wring each one dry.”
“Wear your boots if you wander today”
“I had been born and mostly raised in the South, so I ought to have been able to find a way to reach him. Southern girls are trained from birth up that the way to a man's heart is never through the front door. They may leave a basket of cookies there, and while he's busy picking them up, they're squirming in through a back window.”
“My mind became a sanctuary for secret thoughts of escaping from this household.”
“Love like that? Hell, it seems so pure, it's damn near criminal.”
“You died here," I said quietly.
"I wasn't here, and the girl I'm supposed to be finding was, and you died ." I looked up at him, glaring through the tears in my eyes. I left my fingers balanced on the floor, letting his blood sing its song of pain and longing. Longing to live; refusal to let go of the world. Maybe that's what differentiates the Kings and Queens of Cats from the rest of Faerie. They have a cat's stubbornness and the power to back it up. So when death says, "Go," they just refuse.
My heart hurt. My heart hurt so badly, and I was still trying to recover from Connor, and oh, Titania, I couldn't do this again. The thought startled me. I froze where I was, still glaring.
Tybalt sighed. "I know." he hesitated before adding, "This is not the time, and this is not the place, and my nephew needs us. But I ask you to consider this. I got better. I will always get better." He hesitated again - possibly the first time I'd ever seen him pause more than once after he'd decided he was going to say something.
Finally, he said, "Some of us, October, will not leave you.”
“What the artist is
always looking for is the mode of existence in which soul and body are
one and indivisible: in which the outward is expressive of the inward: in
which form reveals.”
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