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A STRANGE DREAM AND A STRANGER DEMISE
By Madhu Nambiar
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
About Herald Robbins
A STRANGE DREAM AND
A STRANGER DEMISE
“May I come in, Sir?” I knocked the door slowly and asked.
There was no immediate response. While I was waiting for a “come in” voice, I felt a
letter hung unfolded on the wall of my mind, like a chart of National Anthem in a
classroom wall. The letter read:
I am writing a letter I hope you will never get. It is strange to write something you
know may never be delivered but it is stranger still to imagine it will be. If you get
this letter I will be dead. It isn’t because I have any premonition of death that I take
my pen in hand but it is just because, after all, there is the possibility that I may die
I looked at the door again. I again knocked on it. Waiting impatiently, my inner eyes
struck on another part of that lengthy letter.
“I am a fairly wealthy man. He will never lack for money. But what he will lack are
things that money can’t secure. These are the things that you can give him.
Don’t let him grow as I did. Sheltered and clothed and fed and cared for, and yet
poorer in human qualities than the poorest of men. A man needs more than food and
clothes and money to make him human. He needs love and kindness and affection.
He needs people, a family, to give him an anchor, to give him roots in the earth, in
society, to teach him the true values in the world.”
I once again knocked the door. Little strongly. The force of my finger knots and a
passing breeze helped the incompletely settled door shutter pushed open.
I saw an old man resting on a revolving cushion chair. ‘He may be napping”, I
I went to him and stood beside him. He was in full suit with a necktie. Wrinkles
from his forehead were on their way to attack his baldhead. The white reddish face
was bright and innocent looking.
His table was clean and tidy except some properly stacked books and two correctly
placed trays. Few papers in the outward tray, which were seemed, placed after
emptying the inward tray. Few pens were on the pen tray. He was resting after
completing his work, it appeared.
I looked at the bookshelf. Among a number of books stacked, I could read the titles
of few: The Dream Merchants, The Pirates, The Carpetbaggers, Where Love has
gone, The Adventurers, The Inheritors, Stiletto, The Betsy, Never Leave me, A Stone
for Danny Fisher, 79 Park Avenue, Never Love A Stranger..
I looked at the walls. Pictures of California’s famous Yosemite National Park,
Hollywood and San Diego etc. were hung on them.
“Why he chose to settle down in California in the Pacific West region than in New
York City in Mid Atlantic states region in the opposite direction where he was born in
1916?” I asked myself.
“It may be because of his association as a film producer with the Hollywood which is
situated in California”, my mind was in a question-answer session.
“Is Francis Kane, the main character of his first novel and first film, his mere
imaginative creation?” “Experiences of his own life and imagination might have
helped him for the creation of Francis Kane.”
“What else he himself didn’t experience in his own life? Leaving school at 16, didn’t
he do a number of jobs for few years? Wasn’t he an errand boy, a sod jerk, a runner
in a bookie joint and an ice-cream vendor until he became a clerk in the shipping
department of Universal Pictures where he rose to be Director of Budget and Planning
before leaving it in 1956 and devoting his full time to writing?”
When I was going to awake the old man up, my Californian friend came in search of
me from his Palmdale residence.
“Didn’t you meet your one of the most liked novelists?” he asked.
“I saw him. Here he is! He is the man who was described by a Malayalam (regional
language of Kerala state in India) literary critic as “Muttathu Varky” of English
literature. I had read his “Never Love A Stranger” a number of times. As was the
case of Malayalam Novelist S.K. Pottakkadu’s “Oru Dheshathinte Katha” (Story of a
I often felt that I had met Robbins Frank –Francis Kane-- and Pottakkadu’s
Sreedharan, in part or in full, in or around my sorroundings.
“Mr. Robbins, Mr. Robbins”.. I called him touching on his shoulder. He did not
answer. Nor did he open his eyes. I took his hand. It was cold.
“Herald Robbins, Herald Robbins.. Oh my God! .. When you made Frank to write
letter to Janet, you said that you had no premonition of death. But ….” I cried out.
“Trrrrrrrrr ………” I heard the alarm from my timepiece. It was 3.30 p.m. I looked
around. There was no Herald Robbins. It was not California. No friend was with
me. I was sitting in my sofa.
The newspaper fell down to the floor from my lap along with the letter that I received
from my Californian friend. I fell asleep reading the death report of Herald Robbins
and I saw a daydream, I realized. It was all a dream. A strange dream about a
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|Reviewed by M.R Rambler
|You write nicely.Read two of your short stories.|