All That Fall by Samuel Beckett

All That Fall

by Samuel Beckett

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This is worse than the Matterhorn, were you ever on the Matterhorn, Miss Fitt, great honeymoon resort. “The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down” (they join in wild laughter). All day the same old record. All alone in that great empty house. She must be a very old woman now. It’s like the sparrows, than many of which we are of more value, they weren’t sparrows at all. You exaggerate. They weren’t sparrows at all! Does that put our price up? Rotting leaves in June. From last year, and from the year before last, and from the year before that again. I have forgotten what way I am facing. You have turned aside and are bowed down over the ditch. You lie awake at night, tossing to and fro and brooding on it (and other wretchedness). The only thing wrong with her as far as he could see was that she was dying. It is a help sometimes to get up and pace to and fro between the seats, like a caged beast. I did not care. I just sat on, saying, If this train were never to move again, I should not greatly mind. Things are very dull today, I said, nobody going down, nobody getting on. Then as time flew by and nothing happened, I realized my error. We had not entered a station. Where was I in my composition? At a standstill. Oh, the pretty little woolly lamb, crying to suck its mother! One would think you were struggling with a dead language. [I know full well what you mean], I often have that feeling, it is unspeakable excruciating. I confess I have it myself sometimes, when I happen to overhear what I am saying. On the other hand, I said, these are the horrors of home life, the dusting, sweeping, airing, scrubbing, waxing, waning, washing, mangling, drying, mowing, clipping, raking, rolling, scuffling, shoveling, grinding, tearing, pounding, banging and slamming. And the brats, the happy hearty little howling neighbour’s brats. Of all this and much more the weekend, the Saturday intermission and then the day of rest, have given you some idea. But what must it be like on a working day? A Wednesday? A Friday! And I fell to thinking of my silent, back-street, basement office, with its obliterated plate, rest couch and velvet hangings, and what it means to be buried there alive, if only from ten to five, with convenient to the one hand a bottle of light pale ale and to the other a long ice-cold fillet of hake. Nothing, I said, not even fully certified death, can ever take the place of that. It was then I noticed we were at a standstill. I dream of other roads, in other lands. Of another  home. We drew out in the tick of time, I can vouch for that. If I could go deaf and dumb I think I might pant on to be a hundred. Just concentrate on putting one foot before the next or whatever that expression is. Sit at home on the remnants of my bottom counting the hours - till the next meal. The very thought puts life in me! Just cling to me and all will be well. I have been up and down these steps five thousand times and still I do not know how many there are. I think Effie is going to commit adultery with the Major. We shall fall into the ditch. Oh! It will be like old times! My birthday? Don’t you remember? I wished you your happy returns in the bathroom. Kiss you? In public? On the platform? Before the boy? Have you taken leave of your senses? I do think we are owed some explanation, if only to set our minds at rest. I quite agree, we are better here, in the shadow of the waiting room. A collision! Oh that would be wonderful! What terrible thing has happened? The cruel fact remains that the twelve thirty has not yet arrived (Oh darling mother!) Do not flatter yourselves for one moment, because I hold aloof, that my sufferings have ceased. Do not imagine, because I am silent, that I am not present, and alive, to all that is going on. I am sorry for all this randam. That will do, just prop me up against the wall like a roll of tarpaulin and that will be all for the moment. That is a nice way to treat your defenceless subordinates, hitting them without warning in the pitt of the stomach. It is the Protestant thing to do (give me your arm). Pismires do it for one another. I have seen slugs do it. [Miss Fitt proffers her arm]. Maddy Rooney, née Dunne, the big pale blur. You have piercing sight, Miss Fitt, if only you knew it, literally piercing. I start eating my doily instead of thin bread and butter. I stumble in a daze as you might say, oblivious to my coreligionists. Mr Barrell (testily). What is it, Mrs. Rooney, I have my work to do. There was a moment there, I remember now, I was so plunged in sorrow I wouldn’t have heard a steam roller go over me. No coughing or spitting or bleeding or vomiting, just drifting gently down into the higher life. Would I were lying stretched out in my comfortable bed, just wasting painlessly away, keeping up my strength with arrowroot and calves-foot jelly, till in the end you wouldn’t see me under the blankets any more than a board. Crouch down! At my time of life! This is lunacy! Don’t mind me. Don’t take any notice of me. I do not exist. The fact is well known. One minute picking happy at the dung, on the road, in the sun, with now and then a dust bath, and then -- bang! - all her troubles over. Oh, mother, you’ve squashed her, drive on, drive on! My nice frock! Look what you’ve done to my frock! Suppose I do get up? Will I ever get down? Come back and unlace me behind the hedge! What kind of a country is this where a woman can’t weep her heart out on the highways and byways without being tormented by retired bill-brokers! In her forties now she’d be, I don’t know, fifty, girding up her lovely little loins, getting ready for the change... Speak for yourself. I am not alive nor anything approaching it. In spite of all it is a blessed thing to be alive in such weather, and out of hospital. Let us wait for a minute and this vile dust fall back upon viler worms. I saved his life once. I have not forgotten it. Are we very late? I have not the courage to look at my watch. The back! The chain! The oil! The grease! The hub! The brakes! The gear! No! It is too much! It is suicide to be abroad. But what is it to be at home? A lingering dissolution. Love, that is all I asked, a little love, daily, twice daily, fifty years of twice daily love like a Paris horse-butcher’s regular. What normal woman wants affection? Oh I am just a hysterical old hag I know, destroyed with sorrow and pining and gentility and church-going and fat and rheumatism and childlessness. Oh let me just flop down flat on the road like a big flat jelly out of a bowl and never move again! A great big slop thick with grit and dust and flies, they would have to scoop me up with a shovel. Why do you not climb up on the crest of your manure and let yourself be carried along? Poor woman. All alone in that ruinous old house.
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