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.He left no footprints in the frozen mud.Most days he would have gone east, along the dirt road, toward the Walker place.Cecil Walker lived there with his wife and his fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, Cindy, whom Larry hoped to glimpse.In summer he’d sneak around the house, through the woods, and watch as she’d stretch a towel out across the boards of their deck and take the sun wearing a bikini, flat on her back in a pair of huge dark glasses, one brown leg cocked up, then turning onto her belly, slipping a finger beneath the shoulder straps, one, the other, to lie on her breasts, Larry’s heart a bullfrog trying to spring out of his chest.On colder days she came outside to smoke, stretching the long cord of their telephone out the door, not talking loud enough for Larry to hear.She’d only said a handful of words to him, and some days, the days when Cecil would come outside and mess with her, telling her get off the phone, put out that cigarette, Larry imagined her coming to him for help, and some days, as she lay in the sun or smoked another Camel, he wished she’d see him where he hid, at the edge of the woods, watching.But not today.Today he went west, through the wire of a fence into the woods.At night sometimes in these cold stretches you’d hear noises like gunshots.It wasn’t until he’d come, once, to a tree snapped cleanly in half, that he realized the cold would break them.The young ones, the old.A tree enduring another freezing night suddenly explodes at its heart, its top half toppling and swinging down, scratching the land with a horrible creak, broken in half and turning like a hanged man.Walking, he wondered if they still lived out there, Silas and his mother.He worked his way south, making little noise, and carefully descended the rocky berm and picked through a tangle of briars at the bottom and into deeper woods.Having a black friend was an interesting idea, something he’d never considered.Since the redistricting he was around them constantly.The churches were still segregated if the schools weren’t, and sometimes Larry wondered why grown-ups made the kids mingle when they themselves didn’t.He remembered two years before, how, in the hall on his first day at the Chabot Middle School, a white boy had come up behind him and said, “Welcome to the jungle.”Other white boys would speak to him on occasion, usually if they were alone with him, or passed him on the playground away from their friends.Larry hurried through the halls, not making eye contact because it was safer, his nose in his handkerchief or a book, the new kid who was never quite accepted.In groups, the white boys laughed at him though they’d sometimes let him tag along, the butt of jokes but grateful to be included.The black boys were aggressive to him, bumping him as he passed, knocking his books off his desk as if it were an accident, tripping him on his way to the bathroom.In the seventh grade, near the end of the school year, he found himself swinging with a white boy named Ken on one side of him and another, David, on the other.Both their fathers worked in the mill and both were poorer than Larry—he knew this because they got free lunches.Swinging, Larry kicked his legs as he flew forward, going higher, higher, the classroom building up the hill from the playground, a gray two-story structure with second-story fire escapes where teachers, all black, stood smoking and laughing, out of earshot.Below them to the right a clump of skinny black girls with Afros and short shorts were standing and sipping short Cokes from the machine in the gym and sharing a bag of Lays, not really watching the boys, just talking about whatever black girls talked about, once in a while breaking out in high, cackling laughter and cries of “You crazy!” that Ken would imitate so they couldn’t hear.David said, “Them nigger girls sound like a bunch of monkeys,” in a low voice.“You a nigger,” Ken snapped back, and Larry laughed.“Yo momma is,” David said, the standard retort of the year.“Yo daddy,” Ken said.“Yo sister.”“Yo brother,” and on until you got to the distant relatives, step-siblings, and great-aunts.Ken grew bored with naming relatives and, swinging forward, pointed with his sneaker toward the black girls.“Look at Monkey Lips,” he said.This was their nickname for Jackie Simmons, a small dark-skinned girl with big teeth and lips.“She’s so dark you can’t see her at night less she smiles at you.”Larry laughed and said, “Jackie Simian.”“What?” Ken said.“You see them big teefs in the dark,” David said in dialect, “you’ll thank it’s a drive-in movie you be watching.”Going back and forth, whizzing past one another, the boys began to discuss the drive-in movie theater on Highway 21, Ken saying he’d seen a show called Phantasm there.Larry knew the movie from his magazines.It was about two brothers who broke into a funeral home [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]