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From the chapter New life

To  celebrate my  wins, Stoner treated me to lunch at Pop's Café with Jug, Two-Bit and Harley, then headed back to Central Street where we stopped in front of the Baughman Insurance office at the corner of Second and lingered to look at the latest News Photos of the World laid flat along the waist-level base of the plate-glass windows. One photograph showed a smiling man in India standing at the edge of a grave beside an opened coffin. The caption said his coffin had been packed six feet underground and protected around the clock by armed guards of the maharaja who had challenged him to prove he could live without air, food or water for sixty days. The caption said that when the coffin was dug up and opened, the Moslem fakir looked asleep and pale until he came back to life.

“That’s a long time to go without a toilet,” Jug observed.

“Gollee, buddy,” Two-Bit exclaimed. He was short enough that I could see the top of his head and how he parted his hair crooked. “Shoot, man, ain’t nobody going to git me in one of them caskets, not even above ground. Remember that guy who cooked up this plan with his wife to let her play dead and get buried in order to get insurance money, and then the husband would dig her up  that night, and they buried this woman, but the husband died of a heart attack at the graveside service—’member that?—leaving his wife in the ground there where nobody could hear her?”

Harley corrected, “That was in a Tales of the Crypt comic, Two-Bit.”

“It could have been true.”

“But that was a comic book story.”

“It could have been true, like that guy in the picture there. Hey, remember that grave we tried to dig up behind Ivy Hill?”

I asked, “What do you mean, ‘we tried to dig up’? Jug hit a rock and y’all ran off, leaving Horse and me to put the dirt back in, just like you ran off and left me when I set that fire in my back yard.”

“You don’t know that that was a rock,” Two-Bit protested.

Harley added, “That could have been that woman’s casket.”

Two-Bit went on, “Back then, we was little. It was scary being around dead people. Lookit what that guy in India did—he was alive all the time he was down there. What if that woman buried on Ivy Hill—”

“Jerusha Tess,” I said.

“—What if she was alive, like that—whatchamacallit—FAY-keer?”

I said, “That Indian man knew what he was doing. He didn’t get himself embalmed, you can be sure of that.”

“How do you know that Tess woman was embalmed? They didn’t always embalm people back then. Sometimes they didn’t even know for sure if they was really dead. They put mirrors up to their noses.”

Stoner spoke up, “Is everybody here crazy?”

I answered that one, “Pretty much.”

Unable to sustain interest in this conversation any longer, Stoner moved along the window to see another News Photo of the World. I gestured Jug, Harley and Two-Bit closer to me in a semi-circle. “Guess what.”

“What?”

 “Jerusha Tess could be alive.”  

Harley said, “We ain’t in fifth grade no more, JJ.”

 
 From the chapter Interesting time

“I wonder if Pine Mountain got shoved up by a lot of little earthquakes or a few big ones.”

“I think it would have to have been a bunch of movements with some big shifts mixed in, wouldn’t you?” Jenny replied. “If geologists haven’t figured that out yet, they will. Science is good about that. That’s what’s so fun about science.”

“It would be quicker if we could travel back in time and check that out. Did you ever read H.G. Wells’ book, The Time Machine?”

“No.”

“In the book this guy went way, way out to the future. It wasn’t good. The working class was underground and the leisure class was on top of the ground. The working class folks came aboveground at night to kill the leisure people.”

“Why?”

“For food. They ate them. Like cattle.”

“Ugh.”

“The movie was better. It had a more romantic ending. At the end, the movie made it clearer that the guy went to the future to get back with this leisure-class girl who liked him.”

“I hope they didn’t get eaten.”

“We’ll never know. Wells never wrote the sequel.”

“You should write the sequel.”

“I should. I should write what the guy did when he found the girl again. He could bring her here to 1956. Settle on Ivy Hill. Check out the Cold War.”

“Would you want to go to the future?”

“No, I’d rather see the past.”

“Why?”

“Because that could explain some things to me—what people knew in the old days, those prophet folks and mystics. I would like to go back and find out. I don’t care as much to see the future, because in the future, I will be dead.”

“You wouldn’t be dead just by seeing the future, would you?” she asked, holding a slightly crooked grin above the dimple in the center of her chin as she looked at me sideways.

“I wouldn’t be dead, but I would be seeing a time my body would be dead.”

 “If you were seeing the future, you wouldn’t need to have your body there, would you?”

“I would have to get used to the idea that I was alive seeing a time when my body was dead. Wouldn’t you feel a little strange seeing the future where you might read your death notice?”

“Maybe,” she admitted. “If that happened, I would know I didn’t need my old body. I think I would wonder mostly about time—about what time is.”

 “How old are you, Jenny?”

“Twelve. How old are you?”


From the chapter Brahms' way

Out of the second curve we straighten out:

1—Oneida Baptist
2—Red Bird
3—Dodd
4—Clay County
5—Somerset
6—Me

I’m on the back of Somerset who is going to overtake Clay County and I have to go with him. As we drive between the spectators bulging on both sides of the starting post, Somerset passes Clay County; I pass Clay County.

Somerset moves on up the line and overtakes Dodd as I follow, running fierce and feeling it at the halfway mark.
What have I gotten myself into?

Near the third curve Somerset sails around Red Bird, not my style of race but I follow along, churning blood and breath through me in high dudgeon—cells yelling in the lungs and arteries, “What’s going on here?”—but they can’t stop long enough to hear anything over the muscles firing work their way.

Out of the third curve:

1—Oneida Baptist
2—Somerset
3—Me

Just behind: Red Bird, Clay County, Dodd, in that order last I saw them.

Dodd’s not going to stay back there, and I don’t know how Oneida Baptist is hanging onto the lead because this bunch is not letting up.

On my right a pair of legs chunk up to me with shorter steps than mine, like a toy gone mad—Red Bird? Yes, Red Bird spins a half step ahead of me, so I push up to keep him from getting a full step out. I don’t see how anyone can whirl legs like that past a quarter-mile. Dodd’s the one to worry about because that boy can last and surely he is going to get up here close before this straightaway ends. Red Bird can’t switch to the inside lane in front of me because I am tailing Somerset close, with just enough space to keep safe from the slash of spikes. Here comes Dodd, what did I tell ya, wide on the third lane around Red Bird and me, angling in next to Somerset, leaving me behind Oneida Baptist and a two-man wall of Somerset and Dodd, with Red Bird at my side. I‘m trapped in here. When is Oneida going to overheat the way he did in the mile?

Maybe this is Oneida Baptist’s kind of race. You wanted a surprise.

I wanted to make the surprise. This is chaos.

You love it.