devious, subconscious means
could settle down safe
Adapted from the passage:
Macon leaned back in his chair with his coffee mug cupped in both hands.
The sun was warming the breakfast table, and the kitchen smelled of toast.
He almost wondered whether, by some devious, subconscious means, he had engineered this injury — every elaborate step leading up to it—just so he could settle down safe among the people he’d started out with.
As Mr. Thurber wrote, Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.
The Grizzly and the Gadgets
A grizzly bear who had been on a bender for several weeks following a Christmas party in his home at which his brother-in-law had set the Christmas tree on fire, his children had driven the family car through the front door and out the back, and all the attractive female bears had gone into hibernation before sunset returned home prepared to forgive, and live and let live. He found, to his mild annoyance, that the doorbell had been replaced by an ornamental knocker. When he lifted the knocker, he was startled to hear it play two bars of “Silent Night.”
When nobody answered his knock, he turned the doorknob, which said “Happy New Year” in a metallic voice, and a two-tone gong rang “Hello” somewhere deep within the house.
He called to his mate, who was always the first to lay the old aside, as well as the first by whom the new was tried, and got no answer. This was because the walls of his house had been soundproofed by a sound proofer who had soundproofed them so well nobody could hear anybody say anything six feet away. Inside the living room the grizzly bear turned on the light switch, and the lights went on all right, but the turning of the switch had also released an odor of pine cones, which this particular bear had always found offensive. The head of the house, now becoming almost as angry as he had been on Christmas Day, sank into an easy chair and began bouncing up and down and up and down, for it was a brand-new contraption called “Sitpretty” which made you bounce up and down and up and down when you sat on it. Now thoroughly exasperated, the bear jumped up from the chair and began searching for a cigarette. He found a cigarette box, a new-fangled cigarette box he had never seen before, which was made of metal and plastic in the shape of a castle, complete with portal and drawbridge and tower. The trouble was that the bear couldn’t get the thing open. Then he made out, in tiny raised letters on the portal, a legend in rhyme: “You can have a cigarette on me If you can find the castle key.” The bear could not find the castle key, and he threw the trick cigarette box through a windowpane out into the front yard, letting in a blast of cold air, and he howled when it hit the back of his neck. He was a little mollified when he found that he had a cigar in his pocket, but no matches, and so he began looking around the living room for a matchbox. At last he saw one on a shelf. There were matches in it, all right, but no scratching surface on which to scratch them. On the bottom of the box, however, there was a neat legend explaining this lack. The message on the box read: “Safety safety matches are doubly safe because there is no dangerous dangerous sandpaper surface to scratch them on. Strike them on a windowpane or on the seat of your pants.”
Enraged, infuriated, beside himself, seeing red and thinking black, the grizzly bear began taking the living room apart. He pounded the matchbox into splinters, knocked over lamps, pulled pictures off the wall, threw rugs out of the broken window, swept vases and a clock off the mantelpiece, and overturned chairs and tables, growling and howling and roaring, shouting and bawling and cursing, until his wife was aroused from a deep dream of marrying a panda, neighbors appeared from blocks around, and the attractive female bears who had gone into hibernation began coming out of it to see what was going on.
The bear, deaf to the pleas of his mate, heedless of his neighbors’ advice, and unafraid of the police, kicked over whatever was still standing in the house, and went roaring away for good, taking the most attractive of the attractive female bears, one named Honey, with him.
MORAL: Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.