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Fearing, Kenneth (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XXIII, Number III (December 1923)

Masslich, Beverly Treen
Vivisection,   p. 8


Page 8


WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Vivisection
By Beverly Treen Masslich.
Only last Christmas it was that I burst into
the smoky little room where Roger entombs him-
self with his heavy thoughts, and scratches them
out on paper. Again I see his image, short,
weasened, ugly-smoking a cigarette as though it
intoxicated him, and he desired to burn it all in a
moment. Roger was all alone-he always was, it
seemed, and even my coming there did not arouse
him. That night I kicked the door shut, walked
up to his table, and beamed exultantly at him.
' Roger!" I cried. Roger was an excellent
listener. He rested his head on the wall behind
him, and went on with his own thoughts. "Roger,
I've found her! An excellent woman, a fascinat-
ing woman to study. Roger, picture her-blond
hair, unlovely features, tortured with loneliness,
and lost, utterly lost to the world in her emotion.
Saints in Heaven, what a find, Roger! I'm writ-
ing stories about her; I'm going to have her for
the subject of my psychological novel! The
whole human story of tragedy and fire and love
are breathed in the words she speaks."
For the first time in my memory, Roger was
really paying attention. "That's good-Baxter
-that's good. But, ah, Baxter, don't fall in love
with her!"
II
But of course I did-how could I help it?
But then I know you have never met her. She
was a quiet sort of woman with chi'd-like blue
eyes. Love of being alive was for her a very pas-
sion that forever battled with black despair. She
would go away with me to some deserted beach
and sit and comb her yellow hair in front of the
flickering ripples of the lake. And then I watched
her, and prided myself on the ease with which I
did it. At first my stories were brilliant. They
were pictures painted with word colors, deep,
searching, intimate. I painted a landscape half
hidden in the mist. That was her emotion, the
soul of the woman. For a whole month I wrote
about her, and Roger hailed me as a new voice.
He printed my stuff in the "Scrawl" and urged me
to write more.
At last, though, I appeared in his door
empty-handed.
"Roger," I said, "I'm in love with that
woman. She is in love with me. Roger, it's a
sacrilege; I can't do it any more." Unsystematic,
he only shrugged his shoulders. So after that I
tried sea poems and ship poems, but Roger was
never impressed with them.
III
Toward the middle of November I visited
him again. Roger was reading copy and running
his thick blue pencil over the pages. The Janu-
ary number of the "Scrawl" was coming to a
troubled birth under his critical pencil. Beneath
the heavy smoke, he looked like a sort of demon,
by some fate in command on Judgment Day.
While he held a piece of copy up, h's eyes would
stare away hard and dead until he had passed
judgment-glory or the waste-basket. I was not
uneasy. I had now ceased all my literary at-
tempts, and my work, at least, was not being
weighed. From time to time Roger read a'oud as
he happened to strike gold and I could tell by the
light in his face when something was coming.
"Here, Baxter listen to this" he announced
suddenly. "This is a remarkable piece of work.
It's about a man with a desperate passion, a high
temperament. The author dissects the man for
psychological study. She has done it with singu-
lar thoroughness. Seems to be a cold-blooded
woman-pokes around the man's soul and
watches it burning. You'll like it, I think, Bax-
ter, you're pretty good yourself at dissecting hu-
man beings."
I saw him smiling wickedly, but I guessed no
reason for it. He read the story over to me and
my throat grew dry as he read. After each para-
graph he grinned at me again. When the end was
reached he remarked, 'Baxter, do you know who
the man in that story is ?" Then he leaned back
in his chair and laughed.
December, 1923


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