The Winter Of Our Discontent – John Steinbeck
Only one person in early Elm Street, Mr. Baker’s red setter, the banker’s dog, Red Baker, who moved with slow dignity, pausing occasionally to sniff the passenger list on the elm trunks.
“Good morning, sir. My name is Ethan Allen Hawley. I’ve met you in pissing.”
Ethan said, “I was just looking at my house. They knew how to build in those days.”
Red cocked his head and reached with a hind foot to kick casually at his ribs.
“And why not? They had the money. Whale oil from the seven seas, and spermaceti. Do you know what spermaceti is?”
Red gave a whining sigh.
“I see you don’t. A light, lovely rose-smelling oil from the head cavity of the sperm whale. Read ‘Moby Dick,’ dog. That’s my advice to you.”
The setter lifted his leg on the cast-iron hitching post at the gutter.
Turning to walk away, Ethan said over his shoulder, “And make a book report. You might teach my son. He can’t even spell spermaceti, or—or anything.”
Elm Street runs at an angle into High Street two blocks from the old Ethan Allen Hawley house. Halfway down the first block a delinquent gang of English sparrows were fighting on the new-coming lawn of the Elgar house, not playing but rolling and picking and eye-gouging with such ferocity and so noisily that they didn’t see Ethan approach. He stopped to watch the battle.
“Birds in their little nests agree,” he said. “So why can’t we? Now there’s a bunch of horse crap for you. You kids can’t get along even on a pretty morning. And you’re the bastards Saint Francis was nice to. Screw!” He ran at them, kicking, and the sparrows rose with a whispered roar of wings, complaining bitterly in door-squeak voices. “Let me tell you this,” Ethan said after them. “At noon the sun will darken and a blackness will fall on the earth and you will be afraid.”