Archive for June, 2017

DeWitt Henry was the founding editor of Ploughshares.  He’s published a novel, two memoirs, a story collection, and several anthologies.  He is a Professor Emeritus at Emerson College and serves as a contributing editor to both Woven Tale Press and Solstice magazines.  For details see www.dewitthenry.com .

ZUZU’S PETALS by DeWitt Henry

IT’S A WONDERFUL SCENE: You know the one. Six-year-old Zuzu is upstairs in bed with a fever. It’s Christmas Eve. The doctor has come and gone. Downstairs her mother is cooking, her eight-year-old sister Janey is practicing on the piano, her three-year-old brother Tommy making vacuum noises, and her nine-year-old brother Pete decorating the tree: everyone waiting for the arrival of her beloved father, George Bailey. Zuzu is sick because she won a flower at school and left her coat unbuttoned on the way home, fearing to crush the prize. She holds the flower now in bed, as Daddy comes upstairs and tip-toes in. She tries to get up, to give her flower a drink, but he tells her to stay. He sits beside her (in the background is Tommy’s crib, with a big flower painted on its railing), and asks for the flower, so he can give it water, but Zuzu shakes her head, pressing it close and causing petals to fall off.   She picks them up and asks George to “paste it.” The script reads: “She hands him the fallen petals and the flower. He turns his back on Zuzu, pretending to be tinkering with the flower. He sticks the fallen petals in his watch pocket, re-arranges the flower, and then turns back to Zuzu.” He tells her it’s good as new and she believes him. He puts it in a glass of water beside her bed and assures her: “just go to sleep, and then you can dream about it, and it’ll be a whole garden.” Of course, he then goes back downstairs, where his despair over losing the Savings and Loan breaks out as rage. He shouts at his loved ones, wrecks his corner workshop and slams his way out, heading for his suicide attempt off a bridge. Clifford Odets had a hand in writing this scene, surely the movie’s best. George can’t sustain magic tricks and protect the innocent from despair. Life’s petals have fallen. It will take an angel to convince George otherwise and Frank Capra to convince us. Zuzu would have been forty-six by the time a literary magazine called itself “Zuzu’s Petals Quarterly,” but “Zuzu’s Petals” could also have served as a fit title for the film.


It’s a Wonderful Life–George visits Zuzu

FOOTNOTE from BOOKSLUT: ”The list of literary journals reviewed in Library Journal that are no longer in publication could fill a full magazine itself. Included in the list are … Zuzus Petals Quarterly (1992-1994), only to reappear later as online-only publications by decades end.”

photos: GoogleImages, YouTube

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