Bradbury Stories: 100 of his Most Celebrated Tales
Bradbury Stories: 100 of his Most Celebrated Tales, a landmark collection, presents a beautifully crooked world to get lost in. For romantics, idealists, risk-takers, and complete maniacs, Bradbury’s stories look deep into the nature of a certain insane species (humans).
My Top Five from the Collection:
1. The Beggar on O’Connell Bridge
2. The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair
3. The Smiling People
4. The Handler
5. The Swan
A tribute to lovesick fools, there is The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair bringing readers through the delirious season of being hopelessly and blissfully in love. Follow a young couple dubbed ‘Stan’ and ‘Ollie’ as they “ricochet through a forest of people…lock paths in the exact center of the fruitless mob…and fall off the edge of the earth” (Bradbury 159). They spend their days in a wonderful mess until they are involuntarily parted by an advertising agency and a travel agency. Fifteen years later, the two again meet coincidentally along the Champs Élysées with their families and exchange a last happy smile in reminiscence of their days as Stan and Ollie.
From the same Bradbury that penned rose colored love stories also comes a plethora of Edgar Allen Poe-like horrors. Personally, I enjoy his gnarled tales very much; they are often rather sickly amusing.
The Handler: Mr. Benedict handles dead people. He prepares them for burial and does his job very efficiently. However, he suffers from an inferiority complex and dreads leaving his little house by the graveyard, for even the smallest children seem to judge his unattractive appearance. After his daily errands, he is always relieved to go to work among the dead. It gives him great satisfaction that in the end, all the haughty people in town will be at his mercy. While they’re living, townspeople scoff at him and call him names, but once they’re dead, Mr. Benedict gets revenge. In this way, Mr. Benedict always feels very tall and important in his little room with the rows of white sheets. He reads the names one by one and starts his work with the late Mrs. Shellmund. When alive, Mrs. Shellmund was a very rich, oily lady who prided herself on her brain. She lived a life surrounded by pies, pastries, soda pop, and absolutely despised Mr. Benedict. With that in mind, Mr. Benedict makes appropriate preparations for her burial but removing her brain and piping her head full of whipped cream in pink, white, and green-printing “SWEET DREAMS” on top in a scroll as a final touch. In that sense, Mr. Benedict works through his charges, each receiving their own special treatment, and finally reaches Mr. Meriwell Blythe. Unfortunately for Mr. Benedict, Mr. Blythe had merely suffered a slight coma, and had heard all of Mr. Benedict’s gleeful experiments while under the sheet. Shrieking wildly from the hypodermic needle Mr. Benedict stabs into him, Mr. Blythe calls upon the dead to avenge him. The next morning, the mortuary is found covered in an explosion of blood. Running from tombstone to tombstone, the townspeople read the hastily engraved inscriptions- “MR. BENEDICT”.