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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Smash-Up

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His work began to show slipshod in spots. They talked to him about it and he laughed at them. Then, one day, he left them in the ditch on the big story of the McManus indictment, and the whole town scooped him, and the managing editor told him that he must go. His lapses had become too frequent. They would have to replace him with a man not so brilliant, perhaps, but more reliable.

I daren't think of his face as it looked when he came home to the little apartment and told me. The smoldering eyes were flaming now. His lips were flecked with a sort of foam. I stared at him in horror. He strode over to me, clasped his fingers about my throat and shook me as a dog shakes a mouse.

"Why don't you cry, eh?" he snarled. Why don't you cry!"

And then I did cry out at what I saw in his eyes. I wrenched myself free, fled to my room, and locked the door and stood against it with my hand pressed over my heart until I heard the outer door slam and the echo of his footsteps die away.

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Divorce! That was my only salvation. No, that would be cowardly now. I would wait until he was on his feet again, and then I would demand my old free life back once more. This existence that was dragging me into the gutter--this was not life! Life was a glorious, beautiful thing, and I would have it yet. I laid my plans, feverishly, and waited. He did not come back that night, or the next, or the next, or the next. In desperation I went to see the men at the office. No, they had not seen him. Was there anything that they could do? they asked. I smiled, and thanked them, and said, oh, Peter was so absent-minded! No doubt he had misdirected his letters, or something of the sort. And then I went back to the flat to resume the horrible waiting.

One week later he turned up at the old office which had cast him off. He sat down at his former desk and began to write, breathlessly, as he used to in the days when all the big stories fell to him. One of the men reporters strolled up to him and touched him on the shoulder, man-fashion. Peter Orme raised his head and stared at him, and the man sprang back in terror. The smoldering eyes had burned down to an ash. Peter Orme was quite bereft of all reason. They took him away that night, and I kept telling myself that it wasn't true; that it was all a nasty dream, and I would wake up pretty soon, and laugh about it, and tell it at the breakfast table.

Well, one does not seek a divorce from a husband who is insane. The busy men on the great paper were very kind. They would take me back on the staff. Did I think that I still could write those amusing little human interest stories? Funny ones, you know, with a punch in 'em.

Oh, plenty of good stories left in me yet, I assured them. They must remember that I was only twenty-one, after all, and at twenty-one one does not lose the sense of humor.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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