Echoes on Bourbon Street : (In the form of a film scenario)
A loose version, adaptation, of William Faulkner’s short story:
“Mirrors of Charters Street”
Dennis L. Siluk
Morning. (Fall of 1925)
New Orleans. Bourbon Street. An old man, with a harsh face, his breath reeking with alcohol, somewhat with crippled walk (a portion of one leg missing), an ape like walk, and ape like agility, he stops by a young man walking the opposite way. He moves up closer to the young man’s face. The old man’s eyes are wild looking, but not threatening. He has a crutch, and he seems to be more athletic than he really is. He is still to the youth, a mystery.
A closer look at the young man, we see he is in his twenties. It is fall, and he has a long cloak on, tightly around him. The old man now exercises his crutch taking it from under his armpit, he which now seemingly he is using it as a kind of a prophet’s staff, moving it about, and keeping his balance quite well. He has kind of a coffin-shaped forehead. He looks down to think, to put his words he is going to use, together; he’s got the young man’s attention.
Old Man. “Say, you’re a young fella now, and you got both legs. But someday you’re going to need a bite of bread and a cup of coffee perhaps, just a cup of coffee, to keep the wet out of your bones; and you may stop a fella like I’m stopping you, and he may remind you of your son, like you do for me, -I was a good father once, back in my youth, so fella can you spare a quarter?”
The old man raises his hand, staring just over the young man’s shoulder as if staring out of a window, or over the roof of the café down the street. He acts almost as though to himself alone. The young man gives him a quarter, and moves on.
Fifteen minutes have passed between the last meeting of the old man and the youth. The young man sees the old man in high spirits, going into a movie theater, one of those with double features of naked girls and all that pervasive stuff. Now slow and graceful the old man moves. It is as if the young man is trying to readjust his vision to make sure it is really the old man, and heads to the front of the theater, but sees only the back of the old man, finding his way into where the show house is.
The Youth. “Well, don’t that beat it all… ?”
Evening, on Bourbon Street.
The youth is standing on a balcony, leaning over an iron rail looking down upon the Bourbon Street-and sees the old man for the last time. The moon is a gibbous moon this evening, and a tinge shadowy. And the people down below look more like spectral creatures than people, but the old man, he stands out like the Temple of Ramses…
He notices the old man walks to the side of the street. He’s making gestures of dismissal to the bystanders. It would seem the old man is a little tipsy, and spins around on his Moses like stick. He dances around a streetlight, in one full movement.
Old Man. “This is my city,” he proclaims hoarsely, noticing a police officer walking by, “You can’t arrest me, huh! Where’s your warrant for charging into my space, copper!”
Police Man to his Police friend. “I got a drunk on me,” and his friend responds, “I can see that!”
Young Man. “Yew, now where is he?” he has lost sight of the old man for the moment.
Old Man. “Alright,” says the old man, “where’s your warrant?”
The police man now leans towards him, looking at his sorry clothing, rips and tares and patches, everywhere: shirt pants, warn trench coat: his shoe got a hole in the right toe area, and the sole is open to the air, unattached to the shoe. He has no socks on.
Old Man. “Take your hands off me,” the old man yelps. The police officer hadn’t touched him yet, although it looked as if he was about to.
We hear, from the street, the noise of the crowds, some singing, and music in the background coming from a few nightclubs; the people that walk by are colorfully dressed. The old man is standing on one leg, with his staff he spins about his head to ward off the policeman, leaning against a light post, the officer ducks.
Old Man. “You want to arrest me in bourbon my own city, my own street! Arrest meeee… ! Where’s law and justice? I’m a member of the greatest nation on earth! Had a government job, once!”
Police Man. “You think you can do whatever you want, haw?”
The old man now puts the old crutch back under his armpit. But keeps the same attitude on his face, that of defiance, disobedience. A few bystanders look his way, none stop.
Old Man. “I was born in America, and I paid my taxes willingly and I’m as good a citizen as anyone on this street. When America needed me-before you were born-I was there for her. I’m first to say ‘America, take me’? But you see, the railroad cut off my leg, sure as the day is long, sheered it up-per near up-to my kneecap. I didn’t complain. All my life I worked hard. And now you want to arrest me because I’m a little drunk, gentlemen, you’re nothing but cowards, go find some gangsters!”
Both the police and the old man, and the young man on the terrace, notice the paddy wagon, approaching.
Old Man. “Okay, I’ll go, I’ll get into that wagon coming without trouble,” croaked the old man, looking at the police truck approaching, “I’m an American citizen, I never refuse a friend in my life, even if he’s the police, I respect the law.”
Half-way in, the old man turns for recapitulation, sees the youth looking down from the terrace at him, the old man tries to put on a smile of triumph, then turning to the police pushing him inward, gives a defiant smirk.
Old Man: “I got rich friends,” he tells the police as he craws hands and knees, halfway into the back of the truck, “most are dead though!” He adjusts his trench coat sleeves, passes his crutch to one of the policemen of which he was trying to pull alongside of him into the wagon.
Police Driver. “Come on, come on,” says the driver, “I aint can’t got all night long to fool around with jus’ one old man!”
Young Man. “So long old fella,” yells the young lad from the terrace railing.
Now the old man is pushed abruptly and completely into the wagon, as it clangs away, out of sight from the young man, and policemen.
Young Man. “So long old fella” says the young man again, with a wave of his right hand, and a half smile.
bourbon, The policeman, looks up to see the young fellow who’s doing the yelling, comfortably leaning over the railing, he is not more than a shadow, shakes his head and walks away.
Notes: William Faulkner spent six months in bourbon New Orleans in 1925, this short story “Echo’s on Bourbon Street” comes from that period of his writings. It was a time when he was in essence, forming his style. In truth, this was his period of armature writing. He himself was only twenty-seven, and perhaps he was writing more on his reflections, and this story of which comes with the title: “Mirrors of Charters Street” are his reflections. This is supercilious viewing of New Orleans street life. The author has been to New Orleans, and uses characteristic phrasings to accompany this new piece of work, based lightly on the story-line of Faulkner’s short story “Mirrors of Charters Street” of which was published in a local newspaper at that time, loosely in the form of a film scenario. But the author brings out some exciting new reading, in his own magical way, with vividness, evident in the dialogue and mounting dismay of both the old man and the encounter with the young lad, and the police. One also can see, with Faulkner and the author, an element of vorticism: that is to say, a form of art in literature that arose around 1914, a movement that draws the reader deeper and deeper into the spin of the story; at which time the artist was using cubism.