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  • Paul A Maher Jr

"Glee" - Jack Kerouac



What is it there in that dark corner, that bends mischievously over our sleep, that seizes its own arms and snickers gasping in the shadows, that goes there creeping on hands and feet, that stalks beneath our

windows while we snore? What is this cadenced storm that holds sway in the breasts of children and Americans?---that brews its infinite and inscrutable delights in the blackest pot of night?


Here now comes glee striding across all rooftops, everywhere in America, towards the town, the city, swinging its cane jauntily, gliding in the shadows, muttering through the streets, grinning in the dark, spitting soundlessly, gasping with painful laughter, almost falling down with delight, approaching with a vague and irrepressible and enigmatical grin---here cometh the doctor of all our souls here in America, glee, glee that was born in a storm which beat around the old creaking house of American life, born in the eaves that screeched, while children tittered on hands and knees on the old floors of the house, and cast sheets about them for shrouds, and screamed with panicky delight, glee that was weaned on the fascination of little children reading books at night, that came in the night leering with evil joy, rubbing its nose briefly and turning to spot silently, and turning again with gleaming eyes, and striding on, huge and overwhelmed glee, striding across all rooftops, and we all know it, we all know it well. It is hidden within the land, hidden within the land and going to and fro in it with twinkling feet.


It is turned aside in the church, but sneaks back in through the windows as titters pass around the pews and the kingly laymen scowl. It suddenly appears at all grave occasions and howls with elemental mirth---and the men, they spit over the side, and grab their cars, and they say, “Dammit let’s go!” At all three-day stag

parties, glee cavorts with the bottle and swings from the chandelier and chases blondes on a bicycle, and falls dead drunk at the bottom of the stairs. At political conventions it lurks behind “the man who!” and echoes in the chambers, and passes along the benches, and slaps its knees, and broods in the smoke-filled room and smokes cigars, tells jokes, guffaws and exults, is sometimes innocently corrupt. It rides on every train, especially at dusk when they lay out the linen and silverware in the dining car, and Indiana’s outside, and George Bailey of Cedar Rapids eyes the snappy-looking brunette. It runs the rounds over every cot in the morning when the bugler blows, and the boys growl, in the night when taps is over and Slim pulls out the dice. It’s there in every nook and cranny, night and day, of every four million five hundred thousand square American miles, lurking and grinning when the farmer comes out of the barn with the milk at dusk, when Ted Williams throws his glove away and stomps around sore at the yelling crowd, when big sister tells spooky stories in the bed at night and the kids say “Oooh!” and the old man yells “What’s all the damn noise up there?!!” and everybody titters in the pillows, when Mr. President turns and says something in a low voice to Mr. Secretary of State and the boys laugh around the desk, when Professor Gribble crossing the campus (a dour critic of our society so sick) slips and falls on the ice and looks around sheepishly with a chickenshit grin, when little Moishe comes running down the stairs at dusk to leap out screaming in the fire-flaring Delancey street October night, when Mrs. Rumplestack comes in the newspaper office at noon bringing in the latest on the Women’s Auxiliary Civic Committee and the boys at the city desk look at one another wryly, when there’s life around and something funny and good in it, “good as a show,” man-you-could-have-knocked-me-over-with-a-feather, gossip by the icebox at midnight, chuckling, and everything that dying men remember and living men always forget.


He who has awakened in the morning and stared gloomily at his dumpy sheets, and scratched his head, and limped off on a gouty foot to the bathroom, and stared at himself dismally in the mirror--- he has known glee. He who has stepped on a banana peel, fallen to the pavement, muttered curses and maledictions, walked off nursing knobby bruises, and grinned at the heavens---he has known glee. He who has rummaged in old chests in the closet at night and found old letters, old clothes, knick-knacks, and odds-and-ends and old snapshots, and giggled in the closet there---he has known glee. He who has sat alone by himself in a lonely room and talked a blue streak, wondered, grew anguished, cursed, knew terror, stomped around, sat down again to sing a little song, looked at the clock, yawned, felt hungry, felt lonesome, picked up his hat and hurried out eagerly---he has known glee too.


All things are funny and good, finally---and glee has always been there at the side of suffering men, it has always waited and pondered and prayed there, and cursed fate, and smiled wanly, and groaned, and pouted, and waited, waited for the pain to cease---till the morning when oh there’s a memory of gladness in suffering, a remembrance somehow of glee way back in the darkness, glee beside the very sickbed, something that was waiting by you and with you at night through all the darkness and terror and pain of mind and flesh---and now the sufferer will race off with glee forever. For all men who have died, have come back and roared with anger and laughter: and all men who have been sick have come up laughing in gladness.



Glee comes striding on in the brooding shadows, it prowls, it prowls, it prowls our life, and we prowl about it---and we never touch it, we never see it with our eyes.-----


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