Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, June 17, 2013

Spoon River Middle School: 16

Craig Burns

Free Writing
Transcript of Recording

I listened to a story last night.  Reading hurts my eyes now.  So I listen.  A famous writer wrote this story.  His name is Stephen Crane.  He also wrote The Red Badge of Courage.  Most people have heard of that one.  It is a Civil War story.
But this is not a war story.  It’s just a sad story.  A very, very sad story.
It was about a black man named Henry.  He was a very handsome man who worked for a doctor.  Henry took care of the doctor’s horses.  Henry was friends with the doctor’s little boy, Jimmie.  Jimmie liked to come visit Henry down in the stables.
There is a fire at the doctor’s house one Saturday night.  Henry runs to the house.  In all the smoke and confusion, no one can find Jimmie, the little boy.  Henry runs upstairs.  He thinks he knows where Jimmie is.  He calls out the little boy’s name, over and over.
He runs into Jimmie’s room and finds him there, sitting in bed, terrified.  Henry grabs him, wraps him in a blanket, runs back to the stairs.
But the stairs are gone.  The fire has eaten them.
But Henry remembers a back staircase.  He runs for it.  Down the stairs he goes, into the doctor’s laboratory.  There Henry sees an amazing sight.  “The room was like a garden,” that’s what the story says.  Little flames of all different colors were blooming everywhere.  Colorful little flames were rising from all the little containers that held the doctor’s chemicals.
I guess it might have been beautiful, all those little flowers of flame.     
But Henry cannot stop to look.  Tongues of flame are licking his ankles.  Hurting him.  Oh, they hurt him so much.
He struggles over to a window, shoves the little boy Jimmie out onto the lawn.
But Henry is overcome with smoke and passes out right under one of the doctor’s laboratory tables.  Right below a glass beaker of boiling chemicals.
Here’s what happens next.  The glass explodes with heat.  A thick red snake of liquid slides across the top of the desk, pauses a moment, then glides over the edge and pours onto Johnson’s face.
In a few minutes a young man grabs Henry and brings him outside, puts him down on the grass.
No one thinks he will live.  Everyone gives up on Henry Johnson—Johnson, that is his last name.  But not the doctor.  The doctor does everything he can to save Henry because, you see, Henry saved Jimmie, saved the little boy’s life.
And Henry does not die.  The doctor saves him.
But for what?  What kind of life does Henry have now?
His face is horribly burned.  Children hide from him.  Adults look away.  Friends quit coming to visit the doctor.  Soon his patients stop coming, too.  They just can’t stand the thought that Henry Johnson will be there.  People say he looks like the devil.  People say the doctor should have let him die.  In this case, they say, death would be better than life.  Much better.
And do you know what was the worst of all?  Jimmie was afraid of Henry, too.  Afraid of the man who saved his life.     
Pretty soon some of the most important citizens in the town come to see the doctor.  They tell him he should send Henry away, away from where people have to look at him.  Otherwise, the doctor will have no friends and no patients at all.
The doctor refuses.  He will not betray Henry.
And so the town betrays the doctor and his family.  He will probably have to move away, that’s what I thought as I listened to the end of it.
It was really a sad story.
I cried as I listened to it.  I’m crying as I say these words into my recorder.
I didn’t tell you the worst thing about the story.  But I guess I will.  The title.  The title is “The Monster.”
Of course, you’ll think that the monster is Henry Johnson, the man with the horrible face.
But I think the monster is the whole town.  The whole stupid blind town.

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