Digressions is the current incarnation of St. Anne's-Belfield School's long-standing Upper School literary club. Members share a love of reading and writing, so we spend many meetings sharing our original stories and poems. In past years, we have collected original poems, stories, plays, essays, sermons, and photographs from Upper School students and published them in a magazine format. This webpage is our latest effort to celebrate the writings of St. Anne's-Belfield students.
Please browse through our posts by selecting a post category from the drop-down to the right.
Allvernit sat hunched over the desk staring at the shattered flask in front of him, and then at the ring of six piles of dust, next to large, pointed hats, each a different color. He shakily licked the remaining potion drops off the broken pieces of glass. His body suddenly became young again, after the few minutes of terror when his body had started to become old. His grey hair became brown and his withered face became smooth and no longer looked like a gaunt skull.
Their potion, which had kept them alive for around 579 years, was now mostly all over the floor. If only Morius had not tripped over Somoran’s legs and dropped the flask, then time would not have caught up with them and turned them to dust. Allvernit had just managed to lap up some of it off the floor before he himself turned into a pile of dust. However, it had not been very much, and he would only last for about four more hours. His orange hat started to slip off his brown hair, jolting him out of his dream of terror, into his fearful reality as he snatched it and put it back into place. He must hurry and make some more of the life-giving potion before it was too late. Rushing to the store-room, he grabbed all the ingredients needed to make it. Even though he was 668 years old, he could still move quite nimbly. He then opened the bulky, moth-eaten, and time-worn potion book and started following the instructions. The water inside the cauldron began to bubble and he added the first of many ingredients.
The potion took one and a half hours to make, and needed exactly two hours and twenty-nine minutes to brew. Time would be very short indeed. He hurried on, stopping for a break occasionally, and each time noticing how much weaker he was becoming.
Sweating profusely, he waited the last two minutes before the potion had finished brewing, his now thin chest heaving with each breath. He looked at the large, ebony grandfather clock, its face surrounded by seven other smaller clocks, and pulled a large silver spoon out of his pocket. The tick-tick-ticking was the only sound in his hears, the sound of time stepping closer. The clocks seemed to be saying “I’m coming, I’m coming. Get ready, I’m coming. I’m coming for you, for you. To take you away, to take your heart, your mind, your soul. Get ready. I’m coming.” The sound made the terror rise up within him. He didn’t want to die yet. “Go away! Leave me alone! You can’t hurt me, your just a clock!” Panic had now seized control of him. He grabbed the silver spoon lying on the table top and was just about to ladle a spoonful of the life-giving elixir into his mouth when he looked at the potion book and saw with a horrible jolt, written at the bottom of the page, “Do not forget to speak the incantation or the potion will be useless.” He had forgotten the incantation!
Four hours had by now passed and Allvernit could feel himself dying. His arms became weaker, his eye sockets became deeper, his ribs showed through his shirt, his face became wrinkled and the fooled seemed to be drooping with the heavy weight of time. His skin was as fragile as old parchment, ready to be borne away by the forceful wave of time. He knew he was soon going to turn into one of those piles of dust lying on the floor. The ticking of the clocks seemed louder and closer than ever. Time was coming; it seemed to be knocking on the door, coming to take him away. It must not happen! By now he was much too feeble to speak, but maybe, just maybe, if he thought hard enough, the incantation might still work. He read in his mind as strongly as he could:
“Time is long and life is short,
But we have created an elixir or sort.
And if you drink it death is never,
So long as you take it forever and ever.”
The potion started bubbling over the edge of the cauldron, and the grandfather clock, along with all the other little clocks struck 9:00 p.m. exactly. The silver spoon clattered to the floor, splashing its contents on the cold tiles, landing next to a pile of dust, topped by an orange hat.
In the eyes of Holden Caulfield, children are the most perfect beings on Earth, and childhood is a representation of innocence. Holden has great difficulty dealing with adults, for he finds them too complex and false, or in his words, “phony.” The adult world is a horrible place to him, full of lies, egotism, and materialism, and it is so very far from the beauty of childhood. He values everything about childhood: the truthfulness, blissful ignorance, beauty in every little detail, and, of course, innocence. On the inside, Holden is very much a child—he even admits that he often acts like a “twelve year old”, or that he is being childish—which is why he greatly prefers the company of children over adults. Through all these values, Holden comes to appreciate how important childhood is, and how the innocence of children should be preserved forever.
As he slithers rather unwillingly through adolescence and towards adulthood, Holden realizes more and more how precious childhood is. Childhood—which is synonymous with truthfulness, where everything is black and white, and there are no complexities beyond whose hand you hold in line—is the most precious stage of life, but only appreciated when it has passed by in a matter of years. Holden, already nearing adulthood, is desperately clinging to youthfulness, but he realizes that it is like grasping at straws. Even as he attempts to remain a child himself, the adult world pushes it away with increasing force, beckoning him with a witch-like finger. This is why Phoebe is like a golden ball of light in an ever darkening universe for Holden. She herself, though, is nearing the stage when innocence is lost forever. “I thought how she’d see the same stuff I used to see, and how she’d be different every time she saw it. It didn’t exactly depress me to think about it, but it didn’t make me feel gay as hell, either. Certain things they should stay the way they are.” (p. 158) The realization that not even his perfect, precious, kid sister would remain a child forever is horribly daunting to Holden, which leads him to the fantasy of wanting to “be able to stick [children] in one of those big glass cases [at the museum] and just leave them alone.” (p. 158) The desire to uphold the innocence of children is overwhelming to Holden, and it drives his every motive, his every thought, even if it is subconscious.
Due to the fact that children are much more appealing company to him, Holden rarely enjoys being amongst adults. Even adolescents are undesirable to him, because they too seem far from innocence. It seems universal to Holden that adults are unbearable, and yet every child is companionable. “God, I love it when a kid’s nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are.” (p. 155) Conversations with children are the only ones were he isn’t secretly thinking of reasons why he hates the person. Adults, on the other hand, are rather trying to him. Throughout the course of the book, there are only two adults whose company he actually enjoys: two nuns he meets after he leaves Pencey Prep high school. With most adults he meets, he is able to give a running commentary on every single one of their flaws, and all the reasons why they irritate him. With the nuns, however, he sincerely likes them, and seems unable to find something unfavorable about them, and he also manages to hold civilized conversations with them. As they leave, he says “[he] enjoyed talking to them a lot, too. [He] meant it, too.” (p. 146) Holden feels he can connect with these two women for there is nothing “phony” about them, and they are very genuine people. Being part of the Church, the nuns seek to safeguard children, and they share this sentiment with Holden, which is perhaps why he likes them so much. He spends his life looking for innocence in the world, thus he rejects everyone who does not do the same.
Gradually, as he matures throughout the novel, he comes to terms with the fact that he cannot continue to act like a “twelve year old”, but that he must join the adult world, like every other person. However, he still values childhood and believes that it should be retained for as long as possible. When he goes to visit Phoebe, she begins to interrogate him on what he will do when he finally decides to grow up. Suddenly, while they are talking, he has a notion of what he’d like to do, even though he admits that it is “something crazy.” He says to Phoebe “I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.” (p. 225) This reveals Holden’s compulsive desire to protect the purity in the world. He longs to be able to shield every child on Earth from falling over that cliff, falling like Adam and Eve, into corruption and pain. The more the children run blindly towards this danger point, the more he would try in vain to protect them by pushing them back into the field of innocence. It isn’t just the children he wants to protect from harm, however. He wants to put a barrier along the cliff, to put the apple back on the tree, all in order to save innocence.
Children are an ever-present force in the world, and yet so many adults choose to ignore them, even scolding them for acting childishly. When someone is a child, everyone seems bent on pushing away their innocence, forcing them to grow up before they are ready. Then, when a person reaches adulthood, they become keenly aware of how the beauty of childhood is lost to them forever. Holden realizes how important it is to protect a child’s innocence for as long as possible, and that children should be allowed to enjoy being children while they can. It is the shortest stage of a person’s life, and yet it is perhaps more vital than any other. Through this understanding, he dreams about one day taking it upon himself to be the guardian angel of all children, and protect them from the corrupting influences that come with adulthood.