There’s no dew sprinkled meadow or snowy mountain stream outside my back door. Nope, there’s a dusty barbecue with a propane tank squatting on the patio, a contorted chicken-wire fence that keeps the dogs close, and several newly planted fruit trees surrounded by desert soil I pray won’t stifle them. In short, track housing at its finest. Hence the need for literary escape.
With ample creamer in my coffee, I sit under my heated throw and open Bradbury Stories, 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales. My small dogs, Latte and Brûlée, snooze beside me as I find today’s selection, “Banshee”.
“Banshee” is a supernatural tale where screenwriter, John Hampton, meets a friend, director Douglas Rogers, at his house on a blustery night in Dublin, Ireland. Rogers enjoys playing pranks, telling ghost stories, and bragging about scores of women he’s cast aside over the years. After reading Hampton’s newest script, Doug claims it is John’s best work, but rather than basting on the praise, Doug decides to spank his friend’s ego. He shares an unfavorable review of John’s stories in the Times. Through the charade, the men note the unnerving weather. Doug taunts that the country-side is visited by banshees, “ghosts of old women who haunt the roads an hour before someone dies” (P. 138). Tired of his friend’s joke, John confronts the storm alone, meets an apparition seeking revenge against a cruel lover who abandoned her, but is unable to convince her that the philandering Doug is not the man who used her. John returns to the house, describes the beautiful woman waiting outside, and Doug’s mini director calls for action. The banshee wins.
It’s clever, entertaining, and spooky. A perfect story to get you ready for October.
Figurative language is Bradbury’s forte. So many of his phrases burst across the mind, a full color spectrum of imagery conveyed through his artistically crafted words. Because I appreciate genius, I’ve noted several descriptions from “Banshee” below:
- 136: “It was a night for strange encounters at empty crossroads with great filaments of ghost spiderweb and no spider in a hundred miles.” Metaphor.
- 138: “This time, outside the great old house, there was the merest thread of sound, like someone running a fingernail over the paint, or someone sliding down out of the dry reach of a tree.” Sound, simile.
- 142: “Clouds sailed over an almost full moon, and ran islands of dark to cover me.” Metaphor.
- 143: “Not the same man, no, but all dark twins, and this lost girl on the road, with snow in her arms for love, and frost in her heart for comfort, and nothing to do but whisper and croon and mourn and sob until the sound of her weeping stilled at sunrise but to start again with the rising of the moon.” A cumulative sentence where beauty infuses each phrase.
- 145: I rammed the door, slammed into the house, fell across the hall, my heart a bombardment, my image in the great hall mirror a shock of colorless lightning.” Movement and metaphor.
- 145: “The croon was outside the house again, the merest fingernail of mourn, as the moon scraped down the roof.” Personification. Note the repetition of “merest”, “croon”, and “fingernail” as seen in the other quotes.
- 146: “The wind moved around the house. The windows stirred and whispered.” Personification.
As any writer will tell you, the craft of writing takes practice. Write daily, write consistently, and with a bit of shaping, perhaps phrases like those above will flow from your fingers too. We can all hope!
If you don’t own a copy of Bradbury’s short stories, I encourage you to add this book to your library. As always, I enjoy hearing from you and would love to know what you found inspiring about Bradbury’s work. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
As we head into the fall months, I leave you with one more Bradburyism: “And the summer walks away in her flesh, never to return” (p. 142).
For more information, including how this story grew from Bradbury’s collaboration with John Hudson on their film Moby Dick, check out this wiki link.