Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


   Search Site


in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

 • Home •  • Preface • • Introduction •  • Chronology •  • Index •  • About the Author •


Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


Printable Page


Caroline Slade, The Triumph of Willie Pond, 1940


Death of Willie Pond

Death of Willie Pond:

Chapter 27

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 his family."

…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 kids."

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 sure.

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."



Adrienne Nater, 2008

©© 2008 Adrienne Nater. All rights reserved.