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Authors: Eudora Welty

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Losing Battles

BOOK: Losing Battles
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Copyright © 1970 by Eudora Welty

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published by Random House, Inc., in April 1970.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Welty, Eudora, 1909-
    Losing battles.
    I. Title
PZ3. W4696Lo 1978 [PS3545.E6] 813’.5’2 89-40629
eISBN: 978-0-307-78798-9


o the memory of my brothers,
        Edward Jefferson Welty
         Walter Andrews Welty



Other Books by This Author

Title Page




Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

About the Author

Characters in the Novel


Elvira Jordan Vaughn, “Granny”
Her grandchildren:
Nathan Beecham
Curtis Beecham, m. Beck
Dolphus Beecham, m. Birdie
Percy Beecham, m. Nanny
Noah Webster Beecham, m. Cleo
Sam Dale Beecham (deceased)
Beulah Beecham, m. Ralph Renfro
Beulah and Ralph Renfro’s children:
Jack, m. Gloria
Ella Fay
Lady May Renfro, child of Jack and Gloria
Miss Lexie Renfro, sister of Mr. Renfro
Auntie Fay, sister of Mr. Renfro, m. Homer Champion
Various descendants and cousins and married kin of the Beechams


Brother Bethune, a Baptist preacher
Curly Stovall, Banner storekeeper
Miss Ora Stovall, his sister
Aycock Comfort, a friend of Jack’s
Mr. Comfort and little Mis’ Comfort, Aycock’s father and mother
Earl Comfort, Aycock’s uncle, a gravedigger
Willy Trimble, a jack-of-all-trades
Various others—Broadwees, Captain Billy Bangs, etc.


Judge Oscar Moody, of Ludlow
Mrs. Maud Eva Moody, his wife
Miss Pet Hanks, telephone operator, of Medley
Miss Julia Mortimer, once the teacher of Banner School, now of Alliance


A summer in the 1930’s


The hill country of northeast Mississippi

Part 1

hen the rooster crowed, the moon had still not left the world but was going down on flushed cheek, one day short of the full. A long thin cloud crossed it slowly, drawing itself out like a name being called. The air changed, as if a mile or so away a wooden door had swung open, and a smell, more of warmth than wet, from a river at low stage, moved upward into the clay hills that stood in darkness.

Then a house appeared on its ridge, like an old man’s silver watch pulled once more out of its pocket. A dog leaped up from where he’d lain like a stone and began barking for today as if he meant never to stop.

Then a baby bolted naked out of the house. She monkey-climbed down the steps and ran open-armed into the yard, knocking at the walls of flowers still colorless as faces, tagging in turn the four big trees that marked off the corners of the yard, tagging the gatepost, the well-piece, the birdhouse, the bell post, a log seat, a rope swing, and then, rounding the house, she used all her strength to push over a crate that let a stream of white Plymouth Rocks loose on the world. The chickens rushed ahead of the baby, running frantic, and behind the baby came a girl in a petticoat. A wide circle of curl-papers, paler than the streak of dawn, bounced around her head, but she ran on confident tiptoe as though she believed no eye could see her. She caught the baby and carried her back inside, the baby with her little legs still running like a windmill.

The distant point of the ridge, like the tongue of a calf, put
its red lick on the sky. Mists, voids, patches of woods and naked clay, flickered like live ashes, pink and blue. A mirror that hung within the porch on the house wall began to flicker as at the striking of kitchen matches. Suddenly two chinaberry trees at the foot of the yard lit up, like roosters astrut with golden tails. Caterpillar nets shone in the pecan tree. A swollen shadow bulked underneath it, familiar in shape as Noah’s Ark—a school bus.

Then as if something came sliding out of the sky, the whole tin roof of the house ran with new blue. The posts along the porch softly bloomed downward, as if chalk marks were being drawn, one more time, down a still misty slate. The house was revealed as if standing there from pure memory against a now moonless sky. For the length of a breath, everything stayed shadowless, as under a lifting hand, and then a passage showed, running through the house, right through the middle of it, and at the head of the passage, in the center of the front gallery, a figure was revealed, a very old lady seated in a rocking chair with head cocked, as though wild to be seen.

Then Sunday light raced over the farm as fast as the chickens were flying. Immediately the first straight shaft of heat, solid as a hickory stick, was laid on the ridge.

Miss Beulah Renfro came out of the passage at a trot and cried in the voice of alarm which was her voice of praise, “Granny! Up, dressed, and waiting for ’em! All by yourself! Why didn’t you holler?”

BOOK: Losing Battles
6.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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