Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
Chapter 29
Summary

Seven o’clock one night, Douglas says hello to Lavinia Nebbs: Lavinia is also greeted by Francine, as the two are going to the theater that evening. Miss Fern and Miss Roberta see them and opine that they wouldn’t go out on a night like this, not with the Lonely One strangling women. Francine is herself worried: Hattie McDollis and Roberta Ferry were dead, and Elizabeth Ramsell has disappeared. The young ladies find Elizabeth’s body on their walk trough the ravine, however, dead and her tongue sticking from her mouth.

They call the police and make sure the body is taken care of, but Lavinia insists on continuing with their plans for the evening. Francine spots Douglas watching the scene and orders him to go home. Lavinia and Francine arrive at their friend Helen Greer’s home and explain what delayed them - but not that they were the ones who had discovered Elizabeth’s body, as Lavinia doesn’t want to upset Helen. The three women move down the empty streets to the theater but are surprised by Frank Dillon, who jokes about being the Lonely One.

At the drugstore, Lavinia finds out while purchasing some candy that the druggist had given her address to a mysterious man, earlier this afternoon. This further upsets the women, but Lavinia continues to insist they attend the theater. In the theater, the women detect a mysterious stranger sitting behind them and Helen panics; it turns out to be the theater manager’s brother, and the girls laugh about it afterwards over ice cream sodas at the drug store.

The drug store finally closes and the town grows still darker: the girls walk Francine home first, then Helen. Lavinia’s friends are upset at the prospect of her dying, but she remains stoic and assured. As she approaches the ravine, she hears someone approaching - Office Kennedy, who offers to walk her across. She refuses and crosses the ravine on her own, counting her steps along the way. She then thinks someone is following her, matching her footsteps,and she panics. She runs the rest of the way down the steps, across the bridge, and finally home. She locks the door behind herself, feels relieved, safe, sound... then hears someone behind her, clearing his throat.

Analysis

This traditional horror story is the most different in mood and tone from the rest of the book. The notion of a death wish is left ambiguous in the story: is it a refusal to surrender to fear, or an actual welcoming of death? That said, the perspective one has on this story changes, depending on the ending: the original short story ends as this chapter, while the next chapter provides a different take on events.

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