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Friday, December 20, 2013

Doubting #Thomas. By John von Daler

                 I remember hearing a professor at Princeton tell of his drinking sprees with #Dylan Thomas in New York in the 1950's when Thomas was recording, among other things, his beautiful prose poem, "A Child's Christmas in #Wales". (Still available, the poet reading, on CD's.)
                They drank and drank and the professor lived to tell the tale and Thomas died some days later.
                Since then we have seen the poet's life tilled and fertilized and cultivated and harvested. Ferreting scholars have unearthed deceit and denial and debauchery. We know more about Thomas than Thomas knew about Thomas.
                In the spirit of Christmas let me add to the copious research my own intuitive opinion, that a man who can write like a saint cannot be all bad. Inside he must have safeguarded that all-important little pilotlight meant to ignite the goodness and beauty in all of us. Forget for a moment whatever you know of him personally and read and enjoy, nay, luxuriate in this passage about Mrs. Prospero and a foolhardy little fire:
We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder. 
"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

 And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

 Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper. 

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong. 
"There won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas." 
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting. 
"Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of the house to the telephone box. 
"Let's call the police as well," Jim said. "And the ambulance." "And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires." 

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?" 



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