Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Dead

Back in the 80s, when I first discovered Ray Bradbury, I purchased THE OCTOBER COUNTRY for the Halloween-sounding title and was surprised to learn it was a collection of short stories. The notion of a novel having that title was thrilling, so I didn't know what to make of a bunch of unrelated short stories. I remember opening the book to the first short story and sitting on the floor in the dining room in my parents' home. It was a hot day in the summer and they had one of those giant old wall-unit air conditioners running. This one hummed like a massive generator about to spit out its last icy wind (which it eventually did on the day of my sister's high school graduation party - a particularly hot and violently humid day - proving that karma can affect machinery). I sat next to the air conditioner and read every story. It was the perfect way to start my love affair with Ray Bradbury. Every story was brilliant. Each one was so different than anything I had ever read before.

The story The Next In Line was about the Mexican catacombs and unfortunate mummified corpses that ended up lining the walls of the catacombs as a result of their poor families ceasing monthly grave "rental" payments. It was also the first time I had ever heard of the Mexican Day(s) of the Dead. I started collecting tiny skulls and skeletons immediately. And I started buying everything by Ray Bradbury that I could get my hands on.

"Here was a man, his stomach open, like a tree hollow where you dropped your child love letters when you were eleven! Her eyes entered the hole in the space under his ribs. She peeked in. He looked like an Erector set inside. The spine, the pelvic plates. The rest was tendon, parchment, bone, eye, beardy jaw, ear, stupefied nostril. And this ragged eaten cincture in his navel into which a pudding might be spooned."

You can read "The Next In Line" here.

Image source.


Shellhawk said...

I think my favorite is still "The Halloween Tree."
Nice post.