One-Liners by Darby Characters

In Howard Elman's Farewell the reader learns that the protagonist Howard Elman is often guided in his actions and in his personal philosophy by what Howard's calls "sayings," that is, one-line ideas expressed by his friends–Ollie Jordan and Cooty Patterson–and sometimes ideas he comes up with himself. Howard is also influenced in his actions by Dorothy McCurtin, Darby's high-tech gossip.


• The Devil enjoys his torments, which most naturally pisses off his creator, which is why the Devil enjoys his torments.

• That fella who dropped over the cliff when you cut the rope was your better half.

• If books could kill.

• A man doesn't hunt the deer and the partridge; he hunts the awe.

• The right thing for thee is the wrong thing for me.

• Ones you love most hurt you hardest.

• No doubt God, if there is one, did not mean for elm wood to be split. (This line actually comes from Heman Chase of East Alstead, New Hampshire, who was one of my mentors back in the 1970s when I was coming of age.)

• Family is all about same old same old.

• Howie, you sound like a firecracker going off in a toilet.

• How come they crucify the men and burn the women?

HOWARD ELMAN and the VOICE in his head:

• Once a child learns to pump on a swing, the child no longer needs the male parent.

• Maybe there is no sin, maybe sin, like time, is just another word to give meaning to change. Maybe the sin doesn't matter after all these years? No, Howie, the stain of sin lingers on after the passing of the sinner.

• Howie, after the loved one expires any sensible widow or widower will move south.

• Howard figured the Voice [in his head] that questioned so much of his judgment and behavior had birthed from his pains.

• He liked to think that its discovery [of his pistol in a drawer] after he had sold the place would leave some fear of him in the hearts of the new owners.

• Suppose all a man has left is his imagination, then what? Then, die, fool!

• The universe is no more no less than your own expelled breath. Who had said that? Was it Ollie Jordan? No, Howie, it was Professor Hadly Blue.

• [Sentient] It means you know smaht from faht.

• Howard put on his boots and left the mobile home and tried to hut-horp soldier-walk to his car. Leg said, no, I want to limp.

• The trouble with getting old is you know too many things that don't mean anything anymore. It's like your mind is an overfilled dumpster and the trash collector is on strike.

• One of the benefits of old age was that you didn't have to put in a day's work to feel as if you'd put in a day's work.

• Howard Elman, you are your hands. Who had said that? Was it Ollie Jordan? No, it was Elenore when she was young and beautiful and full of passion for you.

• A coward knows himself before everybody else by the way he over plans.

• Old age softens the intestines among other body parts.

• If you can't trust your gut, try your brain. Oh-oh. Now we're in for trouble.

• If the gut instinct proves unreliable then a strong will is a liability.

• On the drive from Keene all the way back to Darby he ran the blue light and siren. It was exhilarating, which was why they called the gas pedal the exhilarator.

• Partial truths make St. Peter scratch his head at the pearly gates, wondering: If "x" has sinned but believes he has not sinned has he sinned?

• First day on the road is an up day. You are excited and optimistic. Day two is a down day. You question yourself. All the worries of the regular life hang over you. On day three the old life fades into memory. All you know is the road. The trip begins.

• I'm slipping. You slipped a long time ago. You're in free fall.

• Loved ones accumulated over the years until there were too many of them. About when you really really needed them, in your old age, they went away or died off or grew feeble and stupid and useless. If you lived long enough the loved ones, the ones that really mattered, remained only in memory. In the end loved ones by the fact of their remove reminded you that you were alone. Eventually, even memory leaves, if you're lucky.

• Howard was surprised to find himself sort of loving Port Mansfield, Texas, a small fishing village cut off from other towns by range land. What do you mean by "sort of love"? A person can't "sort of love." Either you love or you don't love. There are no meaningful "sorts of love". I don't know, I don't care, leave me alone.

• I won't report your information unless it's absolutely mandatory." Mandatory? Why did you say that? Cow patties enrich the soil.

• Why did women own so many pairs of shoes?

• Why is most thinking mostly useless?

• After removing more blankets Howard uncovered the [frozen solid] body of Billy Jordan. The face and hands were white. Howard thought: so this is what a real white person looks like.

• Trip, fall, break a hip, the old man's death warrant. No, that's just inconvenient. The death warrant is when they take away your driver's license.

• Endless stew nourishes endlessly. Who said that, Ollie Jordan? No, it was you, Howie.

• You could make songs from the names of trees. Who had said that? It was Heather.

• Everything is a thrill for you, don't lose that part of yourself. Those were the first words Corey Patterson–while he was still whole–had uttered to Howard.


• My father used to tell me that a bowl of Cooty's stew could change your luck, but only if your heart, like Cooty's, was empty of desire.

• As a boy, Birch often received information from his grandfather that he'd heard before, and Birch would reply, "I already know that."

• A line I cut: Birch had remodeled the mansion in a style he called "totally American postmodern ironic Bauhaus eclectic."

• When Howard asked Birch what it was about the Trust lands that perked him up, Birch said, "I melt the snow. It's my energy drink."

• What was it Elenore had said? A man grows old he gets more like a woman.

• If you belonged to the Jordan Kinship you were a member of an a cappella choir crying in the wilderness. Who had said that? Was it Ollie? No, it was your son, Latour.


• Cooty installed a crooked window in his cabin "to remind me I see better when I cock my head."

• Finding out is never as good as wondering.

• "You need a bigger place," Howard said. Cooty pointed to the great beyond behind the glass, and said, "Not really, my cabin goes on into the forever."

• Deep end, end deep. How deep is deep, how far the end, and where do we go from there?

• Cooty on advising Howard ruminating over building one's own casket. "You could nap in it, die in your sleep, and save everybody the trouble."

• "Because Birch figured you'd figure and he told me and I told Luci and she told the writers and and pretty soon everybody will know and when everybody knows, why then …” Cooty abruptly stopped speaking. He'd lost his thought. Maybe one of the bots in his head had collided with a misplaced punctuation mark. "Why then, what?” Howard asked. "Why then we go on to the next figure."


• Local know is the best know.

• A touch of amnesia stolen from memory is good for the soul. Call it harmony.

• Mrs. McCurtin's theory of watering plants is "wait for the wilt."