Deal Me In – Week 39 Wrap Up


We’re at the three quarter post of the Deal Me In 2014 track and thus now in the home stretch. Below are links to new posts this week.

Dale read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”

Randall read Ray Bradbury’s “Junior”

Katherine read Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Hand Puppet”

I read Leo Tolstoy’s “God See’s the Truth But Waits” but may not post about it. I did post about a remarkable non-DMI story, “Axolotl” by Julio Cortazar if you want to read something 🙂

Candiss checked in with an update ( ) and I for one am glad to hear she is still reading her short stories, even if there haven’t been any posts lately. 🙂

This is a non-DMI post of James’ but it does deal with short stories if you’d like to read

I missed Bellezza’s post last week about the Edgar Allen Poe classic, “The Black Cat”


“Axolotl” a remarkable short story by Julio Cortazar


“I (visited) the aquarium, looked askance at banal fish until, unexpectedly, I came face to face with the Axolotl. I gazed at them for an hour and left, unable to think of anything else…”

This story reminded me of that famous quotation that I’ve heard attributed to Confucius: “I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?”

What’s the longest period of time you’ve ever spent looking at an animal? Even if you’ve been to a zoo, you probably don’t always spend THAT long looking at one particular animal do you? As a birdwatching enthusiast, I’ve spent a lot of time walking through the woods with binoculars, and I’ve often observed individual birds for several minutes, but they have almost never “held still” for me, and rarely were they looking back at me. I guess the closest I’ve come to this story is looking into the eyes of a pet dog or something along those lines. Then, in literature, I can only remember a passage from Samuel Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh” where going to the zoo and watching the elephants is prescribed as a restorative therapy for young Ernest Pontifex. In none of these instances did any kind of transmigration or “communication” take place like it does in this surreal story by Julio Cortazar.

The protagonist of this story – I don’t believe he’s ever named, which is somewhat fitting – becomes obsessed with observing the Axolotls (also known as Mexican Salamanders or Mexican Walking Fish) at the aquarium in a Paris zoo. He is fascinated with them and begins to think quite deeply about their existence. As is often the case, thinking too long about something can lead to “trouble.”

The narrator writes “I think it was the Axolotl’s head, that triangular pink shape with the tiny eyes of gold. That gazed and knew. That claimed. They were no animals.” And later “I imagined them aware, slaves to their bodies, forever condemned to an abyssal silence, to a hopeless meditation.”

He also says “…in some obscure way I understood their secret will, to abolish space and time with their indifferent immobility.”

’This guy is losing it!’ I remember thinking as I read the story. His grip on his own identity loosens and becomes almost indistinguishable from the identity of the creatures he observes. What will happen here? The reader can likely guess… I found the the final lines of the story quite haunting, and I have to admit that when I looked up Axolotls online and saw what they look like, I found that that knowledge added to my appreciation of the story. This story was also one of my thirteen stories that I’m reading for the R.I.P. Challenge.


(Below Robert Duvall became obsessed in a vaguely similar way by gazing into an exhibit in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Miniature.”)


Want to learn a little about this remarkable creature? Check out but, please, don’t become obsessed with them… 🙂

I found an online translated copy of this story at but it is a different translation from the one in The Weird compendium. A brief look makes me think it is an inferior translation but maybe it is still worth reading.

(Below: the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where the aquarium in this story may be found)