Bradbury has yet another lesson to share about growing up and growing old.
It’s Oct. 1, and the boys of summer are fighting one final battle. Brothers Doug and Tom Spaulding are squeezing the last bit of their freedom out of every day, but school is upon them. Apart from time and the change of season, their primary enemy is Calvin Quartermain, gray-haired member of the school board. And then, with one burst of gunfire from a cap pistol, Doug finds himself the leader of a revolution. For the boys and their sidekicks, it’s a revolution against growing up. For the opposition, it’s a war against growing old. Skirmishes begin, with both sides suffering casualties in one form or another. Doug and curmudgeonly Quartermain are decades apart in age, but they have a common heritage. The small-town setting is really just window-dressing for the two main characters. The Civil War looms large in this story, framing each section, with Doug carrying the bulk of the narrative. Like Peter Pan, he is the boy who doesn’t want to grow old. He’s haunted by strange dreams, feelings he does not understand. In his mind, all he can do is lash out at the world. For Quartermain, the battle of wits is a challenge to his manhood. He has the most to lose. In an afterword, Bradbury reveals that this novel was originally part of Dandelion Wine (1957). There’s a young boy inside every old man, and Bradbury is no exception.
A thin work, heavily reliant on dialogue, but one that serves as an intriguing coda to one of Bradbury’s classics.