Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Rocking Horse Winner

From the web:
I have always been a reader. Bits of stories and plays stick with me. I was watching a House rerun the other day and the character used one of the phrases that had stuck in my mind from my readings as a teenager: bumping uglies. This was from an Albee play (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). At the time, I tried to drop it in any conversation I could.

Call me Ishmael... (Moby Dick)

He could always hear the cry of the pilgrims (Lord Jim)

"Mistah Kurtz! He dead!" (A Heart of Darkness)

There was a constant whisper in the house "There must be more money!" (The Rocking Horse Winner)

I could relate to that. Only the constant whisperings were literally screams and loudly vocallized anxieties on 'who's going to pay for that!" in my house. In the short story, a young boy tries to buy his mother's love by providing money for her. He has the ability to predict race horse winners by rocking hard on his hobby horse. The bigger the stakes; the harder he has to rock. Although his mother is thrilled with this influx of money, it is never, never enough and he has to rock harder and harder. It ends badly.

Years later when living in the same house as an English major, I had told her that I had read that story in eighth grade in my 'special' English class (I had been identified as a high ability reader, not much an honor given the number of low performing greaser queens in our school). She was amazed, not that it was a difficult read, but because to her the story was full of sexual overtones. It was written by D. H. Lawrence after all.
You know there was no actual rocking horse.
She was apparently taught that the race horse winners came to the boy in his masturbation bouts. I don't know what young boys think of during this activity but I suspect it is not racing odds.At any rate, my earnest young teacher had been trying to stay away from anything controversial. He had made the mistake of requesting parental permission so that we could read Flowers for Algernon, which involved some extramarital sex. A mom wrote back that she would not expose her daughter to 'such filth'. I knew which mom had written that. A mom who couldn't afford to send her daughter to Catholic schools. I am not sure if the teacher shared the specific name but I knew it somehow. We read instead, without permission in advance, 1984, which to me, had just as much sex in it ( I of course got a copy of the first book).

Another image that stuck with me was on the last page of The Grapes of Wrath. The Joads' teenage daughter had just delivered a stillborn baby that had died of starvation in utero. They encounter a boy and his starving grandfather. The boy says If only he could have some milk....
The last scene: the teenage girl/young woman is nursing (literally!!!!) the old man back to  health with a smile on her face.
Teenage Sue's reaction: Ewwwww!
Old Sue's reaction: Um..first of all, death in utero of starvation is real rare. Second of all, the amount of milk coming in the day of a birth even in a well nourished mother, would not amount to more than a few teaspoons of sugar water and a few immunoproteins. Third of all: Ewwwww!

Shanna et al are safely back in MA. We have a 'winter advisary' and a 'flood advisary' on the table now. Yuck! Non-stop rain, strong winds, dropping temperatures. When to run? I wore a hat, which kept my head warm but I was sopping wet otherwise. A few more degrees lower and it will be snow. I do hate winter. I wasn't out there very long.

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