Where the Dreams Cross

Where the Dreams Cross

ELLEN DOUGLAS
Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hxt1
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Where the Dreams Cross
    Book Description:

    Nat Stonebridge is a thirtyish divorcee who, because of her sexy good looks and incorruptible disregard for convention, has stayed in trouble most of her life. Stranded at home in Philippi, a small town in the Mississippi Delta, after a divorce from her well-to-do husband, she is broke, bored, and unconcerned for anyone except herself. Looking for excitement, she becomes involved with Floyd Shotwell, the strange, solitary son of a rich and ruthless businessman.

    By turns ironic and funny and threatening as the raw land in which it takes place, the couple's story moves toward a violent climax in which not only Nat's physical safety, but the financial security of her family, are at stake. Douglas explores the theme of moral commitment as Nat is confronted with a decision, a sacrifice, which she knows will earn her only contempt. In turn, her friend, the gentle and reflective Wilburn Griffith, is forced to face the obsessive Shotwell with a weapon he abhors.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-047-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[x])
  2. 1
    (pp. 1-9)

    Occasionally — sometimes twice in a year, sometimes not for two or three years — Nat Stonebridge (Nat Hunter, she was before she married.) comes home to Philippi for a visit. No one ever knows how long she will stay. She may be in town overnight or for a week or a month. Once she rented an apartment, entered her son, Hunter, in school, and stayed all winter. As it turned out, she was establishing residence for a divorce. But she changed her mind before the year was out and went back to her husband, at least for a time. Eventually she...

  3. 2
    (pp. 10-21)

    Miss Louise was in the kitchen baking her cake the afternoon of Nat’s expected arrival one September day in the middle 1950’s.

    “Well, Clakey, she ought to be here any minute now,” she said.

    “It’s past two o’clock, and she said on the phone last night . . .

    It was after nine when she called, and it put me in a pinch for supper tonight. If Aubrey hadn’t happened to stop by the Shotwells’ — you know, this year Morris has a garden, so he gave Aubrey the most beautiful tomatoes, the last ones of the season, I reckon (I...

  4. 3
    (pp. 22-34)

    The “HOME” toward which Nat set out, when she got out of jail that September evening, after a pleasant game of blackjack and an excellent supper of greens, sweet potatoes, and fatback, was a modestly-scrolled, late-Victorian cottage shaded by two ancient water oaks — the house which Aubrey Hunter had bought for his bride, Louise, more than forty years earlier, and to which Nat and Anne Parish had come as little girls when their father had been killed. Set back on a deep narrow lot in a row of half a dozen similar houses on one of the side streets of...

  5. 4
    (pp. 35-56)

    “He’s acting like a bastard,” Nat said. “Just his usual hateful peck self. Did you know he broke my jaw before I finally left him?”

    “Nat, you know I don’t hear anything about you except from Cousin Louise, and she’s not going to tell me Jeff broke your jaw.” Wilburn Griffith looked skeptically at Nat and began doodling on the pad on his desk. They were in the small back office of the Hunters’ Refuge commissary, Wilburn at a battered rolltop desk piled with dusty letters, old seed tickets, and account books; Nat opposite him in a straight-backed oak office...

  6. 5
    (pp. 57-69)

    The Gin and commissary on Hunters’ Refuge are only a mile from the comfortable, two-story, clapboard farmhouse, built in the late twenties on the site of the old Hunter mansion, where Wilburn Griffith and his family live. Quite often, in all kinds of weather, Wilburn leaves his car at the commissary when the day is over and walks home. He is a man who takes pleasure in the weather — bad or good — and in the smell and sound of the fields spread out around him under the huge Delta sky. Even in February, at the nadir of the year, he...

  7. 6
    (pp. 70-86)

    “We usually sit on the gallery this time of the year,” Miss Louise said to Wilburn as she led him into her parlor, “or the back sitting room, if the weather is cool. But I’m painting.” She smiled dimly and apologetically at him. “This is the only dry room in the house. You see,” — she gestured at walls which were papered with bright bouquets of red roses and wandering tendrils of vine — “I put wallpaper in here (and in my own room) in spite of the bayou. I know it won’t last more than two years before it begins splitting,...

  8. 7
    (pp. 87-108)

    In a nightclub the first thing Wilburn usually paid attention to was the music. He had his generation’s nostalgia for the style of bands like Glenn Millers or Hal Kemp’s; he enjoyed dancing, and he always hoped to hear a good dance band. Tonight, however, the blare (clearly audible in the parking lot outside Sarelli’s) of a rock and roll combo — electric guitars, drums, and bass fiddle backing a singer who was shouting out the lyrics to “All Shook Up” in the style of Elvis Presley — told him that he was not going to do much dancing. Inside, he looked...

  9. 8
    (pp. 109-122)

    The conversation between Floyd Shotwell and The General which produced this curious proxy courtship had taken place the preceding week and was the result, not simply of Floyd’s having gotten drunk, although that was a contributory factor, but of a tangle of apparently irrelevant circumstances that gave Pruitt what he called a “piece” of Floyd, as well as a hint of the means by which he might make a profit on his investment.

    The two men had known each other slightly — as people who move in the limited world of a small town know each other — since childhood. But it...

  10. 9
    (pp. 123-140)

    The Monday following Nat’s party at Sarelli’s, Aubrey Hunter came home to lunch in a mood even more abstracted than his usual one. He walked briskly, hurrying along the sidewalk with quick birdlike steps and nodding his head as if he might be looking for a worm. He was still erect and wiry and spry, looking, in his middle seventies, not much older than he had looked twenty years earlier. His face had none of the marks one sees in the faces of old men one loves, marks made by sorrow or laughter or pain or exhaustion, but was uniformly...

  11. 10
    (pp. 141-155)

    Driving to Jackson for the football game the following weekend, Floyd and Nat traveled east and then south through farm and pasture and forest lands, the blue Cadillac racing at seventy and eighty miles an hour through the dead November Delta. Fall — frost — had come early that year. The cane was yellow and the locust thickets along the drainage ditches bare. Stretches of frost-bronzed woodland were misted over with dust, for it had been a dry fall. The road ran straight as a ruler-drawn diameter bisecting the vast flat circle of fields. Sometimes for miles no house or town would...

  12. 11
    (pp. 156-165)

    And they went that day from party to game to party, Nat coaxing and cozening him along with her. The houses they wandered through were set among rolling pine hills; pine straw was fragrant underfoot. The gardens, cultivated as religiously as if each one harbored the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, were bare and trim and weedless, banked at their borders with mounds of evergreen azaleas that in the spring would burn with cerise and fuchsia and scarlet and lavender flames. Now, in November, the worn, wooded hills were brown and green,...

  13. 12
    (pp. 166-183)

    “The Star-Spangled banner” boomed out across the stadium; hundreds of Confederate flags flickering in the hands of the crowd were still for a moment; hats came off, hands went to hearts, and thirty thousand voices burst into song. Afterwards, the loudspeakers crackled with a broken roaring thunder and a voice was lifted in prayer.

    “Forty-seven years, oh, Lord, I’ve watched these fine young Christians on the playing fields of Mississippi, and once again I call down Thy blessing on them. Let them give their best out here on the field this afternoon in this glorious game of football. Keep them...

  14. 13
    (pp. 184-193)

    At the hospital they lifted Sunny out of the car and onto a rolling stretcher. She was moaning continuously now, and shivering, and she lay on the stretcher with her legs drawn up against her belly, a lump of pain, her black cocktail dress hiked up so that a broad expanse of soft white thigh was visible. She still had on a hat, a wisp of veil and black velvet. It had been knocked askew and was hanging by combs, half on and half off her head. She began to retch, and someone took the hat and laid it on...

  15. 14
    (pp. 194-205)

    Afterwards the three of them left the hospital, down the humming elevator shaft in the chrome-trimmed cage, along the throbbing bright corridors and out into the hospital parking lot.

    In the middle of the expanse of grayish slag that stretched out a block or more from the side of the hospital, a half-dead sycamore tree marked the place where their cars were parked. Its slanting trunk and heaviest limbs were cut brutally back so that it was a twenty-foot stump with three or four small crooked branches. The white trunk glimmered in the changing brilliance of flashing neon signboards along...

  16. 15
    (pp. 206-213)

    The Fluorescent tube over the mirror in the motel bathroom pulsed, flickered, dimmed, and swelled to brilliance. In the next room Nat lay in darkness, the pillow pressing like earth on her eyelids. She breathed carefully into the pocket between pillow and mattress. The weight of Floyd’s body pressed down on her like a stone, her breasts shriveled and she felt the dry tearing pain of violation. Below the control that held her as still as a corpse, that made her try and yet fail to imagine herself insensate, dead, the terror of suffocation, of being shut into the earth,...

  17. 16
    (pp. 214-229)

    On Friday afternoon of the weekend that Nat and Floyd spent in Jackson, General Pershing Pruitt went downtown to the Mid-South Hardware Store to call on Aubrey. He had dressed carefully for the occasion in a new shiny blue shantung suit, shot with iridescent greenish threads, and a wide-brimmed, western-style hat of a slightly darker shade of blue. He had a green handkerchief in his pocket and his shoes shone like patent leather. His 1957 Oldsmobile had just been washed and waxed. The paint gleamed and the upholstery was spotless under its transparent vinyl seat covers. Altogether The General looked...

  18. 17
    (pp. 230-253)

    Sunday night when he had called home, Wilburn had told his mother that Nat was staying over to help him with Sunny — that nurses were hard to find and Sunny needed someone with her constantly. Mrs. Griffith had relayed the message to Miss Louise Hunter. Tuesday, Nat went home on the bus.

    In Philippi she found Miss Louise and Aubrey in a chaotic situation. Aubrey had stayed away overnight on Friday instead of coming home as he had expected to do. He had rushed off to Memphis to see the patent lawyer without bothering to make an appointment; and he...

  19. 18
    (pp. 254-275)

    In spite of the confusion and misery in her household during the weeks that followed Aubrey’s attack, Miss Louise continued to follow her ordinary routine. She went to market on Monday and Friday, attended the meetings of the Blue Stockings and of her Episcopal Guild, paid her regular Tuesday afternoon visit to the King’s Daughters’ Old Peoples’ Home, and on Thurdsay went to church to polish the chancel brass.

    “We have to hold our heads up and go on as if everything were all right,” she said to Clakey. She was dressing for her Thursday morning at the church, and...

  20. 19
    (pp. 276-290)

    When Wilburn stopped outside his kitchen door at noon the next day to scrape the mud from his boots before coming in for lunch, Sarah Henry was striding about the kitchen, clashing pots together and singing in a strong contralto:

    Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed.

    Oh, I—I—I been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

    As soon as she saw Wilburn, she broke off to say that she needed to talk with him.

    “Me and Clakey,” she said, “(That’s Miss Louise Hunter’s cook.) got a kind of complicated story to tell you. Clakey don’t really want to. She’s afraid it...

  21. 20
    (pp. 291-303)

    The next morning, when Nat arrived at Hunters’ Refuge, there was a festive air about the house. It was the end of the third week in November now, and the following Thursday would be Thanksgiving. The children, to celebrate their mother’s return from the hospital in Jackson, had gathered armfuls of autumn leaves — gum and red oak and the last of the yellow sassafras — and stuffed them into vases in the living room and study. A fire of cedar kindling and pecan logs was burning on the living room hearth, and Sunny, in a quilted blue robe, was lying propped...