Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The End Is Near ...

Charlie Finlay had a post on story titles. What stuck in my mind was a statistic about story endings he didn't think much of. I don't disagree that breaking a story down by percentages is foolish. But still it stuck in my head and popped back out when I read a story to my daughter recently. Having nothing much else to gab about, I'll relate it here as best I can, with the ending quoted, and apologies to the author.

The story was part of A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain, titled "Jim Baker's Bluejay Yarn." There was this miner out in California who claimed to understand the languages of animals. He stayed after the gold rush went bust, living alone in his cabin, studying the animals' speech. It was his opinion that blue jays were the most well spoken, as well as the most profane.

One day a blue jay was flying by with an acorn in its mouth. It dropped the acorn on the roof of a neighbor's cabin which had been long abandoned by the owner. The cabin was distinguished by its lack of a ceiling, nothing between the floor and the rafters. The miner watched as the acorn rolled down the roof and into a knothole. The jay declared its surprise and studied on the hole for some time. The jay decided to put another acorn in and, again to its surprise, didn't hear the acorn hit bottom.

This vexed the jay some as he knew that all holes have bottoms. The jay spent the better part of the day fetching and dropping acorns into the hole. The jay got mad, then madder, cursing at the hole that refused to fill up.

When the jay sat exhausted on the roof another jay happened by, then another and more, and hundreds, each taking a turn studying on the knothole. Finally one blue jay hopped down to the open door and saw all the acorns on the floor. The jay laughed and called to the first one who, seeing the acorns and understanding his foolishness at trying to fill up a house, laughed as well. One by one the jays took a look and laughed.

This brings us to the story's end:

"Well, sir, they roosted around here on the housetop and the trees for an hour and guffawed over that thing like human beings. It ain't any use to tell me a bluejay hasn't got a sense of humor, because I know better. And memory, too. They brought jays here from all over the United States to look down that hole, every summer for three years. Other birds, too. And they could all see the point, except an owl that come from Nova Scotia to visit the Yosemite, and he took this thing in on his way back. He said he couldn't see anything funny in it. But then he was a good deal disappointed about Yosemite, too."

I don't think I'll remember the title of the story, but I'm pretty sure I'll remember the end.


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