Mark Twain: A Curious Dream

Ad Hoc Short Story Week featuring Mark Twain: Day 3

Mark Twain’ short story “A Curious Dream” comes with the subtitle “Containing A Moral”. I liked how Twain warns the reader that one of those pesky morals is coming so as not to be completely surprised at the end.  I found it to be a rather odd moral, but a great short story.

Mark Twain

If you are looking for scary stories, you might enjoy this one; however, the humor that one expects from Twain may keep it from being truly scary.  It reminded me of his story “A Ghost Story” .  Both stories could prove that Twain may have been skilled at writing horror, but since I’ve laughed frequently during these stories, I really don’t mind that he chose the funny over the scary.

Once again, Twain’s fictionalized version of himself tells the story.  During a dream, he is walking down a street when he encounters skeletons leaving a grave yard.  He sits down to have a friendly conversation with one of them.  The skeleton is carrying his gravestone with him and complains to “Twain” about the way his descendents now treat the dead in the graveyard.  It wasn’t always this way as the skeleton explains:

“Yes, sir, thirty years ago I laid me down there, and was happy.  For it was out in the country then – out in the breezy, flowery, grand old woods, and the lazy winds gossiped with the leaves, and the squirrels capered over us and around us, and the creeping things visited us, and the birds filled the tranquil solitude with music.  Ah, it was worth ten years of a man’s life to be dead then!”

The skeleton continues to discuss the various families that are represented in the graveyard and how the dead have become fed up with the way the living have neglected them recently.  One description of the dead Anna Matilda Hotchkiss exhibits evidence of the previously mentioned ability of Twain to write horror.  His description of her was quite scary.

This story reminded my of Neil Gaiman’s A Graveyard Story although I enjoyed it a little more because, in spite of the humor, the story refrained from being sentimental.  Twain seemed to turn another old adage on it’s ear: “You can’t take it with you”.

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