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Unit III language focus sailing down the chesapeake1

(by William Saroyan*)

This type of story-telling is characteristic of many modern writers of short stories today. Such stories are a description of true to life episodes with no traditional plot. So, sometimes, the reader himself has to guess the beginning or the end. They are often written in the form of a dialogue, the style is vivid and colloquial.

"Come on, Nancy2, put your best dress on!" the man on the radio sang. He had a plain nasal voice that was very appropriate for the song. He sounded silly, but the song itself had a strange enormous sadness.

"Dear Nancy," the boy in the hospital said. "Sweet Nancy."

It was Sunday now and it was still raining. It had been raining since Thursday night when he had come to the hospital. Now, in the East3, where the man was singing, it was probably snowing. It was winter now, and all over the country, the streets were wet and cold, but on the radio, in a warm room somewhere in the East, the man was singing to Nancy. He was telling her to put on her best dress. That would be in a small town4 on the East coast, somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay5.

The young man looked up at the nurse, who wasn't like the girl of the song at all. She was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. "My luck"6, he said. "My miserable luck."

The nurse was reading a big book. She'd been reading it since eight in the morning, and now it was late in the afternoon.

"What's it about?" he asked her.

"Fellow named Rhett Butler"7, the nurse said.

"What about him?"

"It's about people down South"8.

"Tell me about them," he said.

"It's an awful long book"9.

"Well," he said, "I guess I'll never know then."

"You'll be all right."

"I'm all right now."

"Aren't you sorry?"

"I am. I am truly sorry."

"Your poor mother," the nurse said.

"My poor mother," he said. "My poor, poor mother."

The nurse saw tears in his eyes. They were the tears of a small boy who was truly sorry about what he'd done, and even though the nurse hadn't liked him from the beginning because of what he had done and the way he had talked before they had operated on him, she felt forgiving10.

"I am not crying about my mother," he said with anger. "I am crying about my miserable luck."

The nurse got to her feet, trembling with rage.

"Sit down," he said. "Sit down and wait for me to die. That's what you're here for." .Two policemen came to ask if he had anything to give anybody. "Nothing," he said.

"What's your real name?" the one who hated him most said. He was big, Irish, and rough, but probably underneath it all, kindly. "Joe Renna." "You're not Italian."

"You've got all my papers," he said. "My name's Joe Renna." "You're no more Italian than I am," the cop said. "You're an American."

"Sure, I'm American," he said. "I was born on Columbus Avenue." "What number?" "I don't remember."

"Your mother or somebody will want to know about this," the cop said. Tears came to his eyes again.

"They're all dead," he said.

"You've got somebody, haven't you?" the cop said.

"I've got three hundred dollars in the bank," he said. "That ought to be enough for a funeral. You've got the book11. If there's anything left over, give it to some boy in the street."

"How about your clothes?"

"I'll want to wear what's left of them. A good tailor can fix them up." "How about the stuff where you live?" "All I've got is what I had on me."

The cops went out, and once again he wanted to cry. It was no good to be going. The nurse herself, after the cops had gone, turned on the radio.

The singer came to the last chorus. The boy closed his eyes and began in a fury of trembling to sleep.

When his trembling stopped and his mouth fell open, the nurse hurried into the hall to fetch a doctor.


1. Chesapeake – Чезапік, глибоководний канал, що поєднує ріку Делавар із затокою Чезапік на Східному узбережжі Америки неподалік від Вашингтона.

2. Come on, Nancy... – Нумо (Давай), Ненсі... .

3. in the East – у східних штатах США.

4. That would be in a small town. – Це, напевно, відбулося у невеликому містечку.

5. Chesapeake Bay – затока Чезапік.

6. My luck – Ну і везіння в мене!

7. Rhett Butler – Рет Батлер, герой популярного роману американської письменниці Маргарет Мітчел «Віднесені вітром» (про війну Півночі та Півдня).

8. down South – у південних штатах США.

9. It's an awful long book (coll.) – замість it's an awfully long book – жахливо довгий роман.

10. she felt forgiving – вона відчула, що може його вибачити.

11. the book – ощадна книжка.

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