December 25, 2009
In James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” friends and relatives gather at a Dublin townhouse for a yearly Christmas dance at the home of the elderly Morkan sisters, Julia and Kate. The guests dance to piano waltzes played by the Morkans’ niece Mary Jane, who like her aunts is a music teacher. Freddy Malins shows up not as drunk as expected. The conversation includes opera and a local monastery where the monks sleep in coffins. The guests are served goose and ham, punch and steamed pudding while the elderly spinsters fret over their welfare. Every year, Gabriel Conroy, nephew of the Morkan sisters, gives a toast at the close of the meal.
Gabriel leaned his ten trembling fingers on the tablecloth and smiled nervously at the company. Meeting a row of upturned faces he raised his eyes to the chandelier.