A bulky figure with a bushel cornsack rolled up on his shoulder appeared out of the blue dark. Another body came behind, scrawny and black like one of the scrub trees in the flat country to the west. Grey said the boys were still waiting. Eccleston talked through his smoke and asked if Grey was coming out with them tonight and Grey shook his head.
Came into some money.
You saw the fight? You feel all right? The old black man trailing Eccleston was Possum Gallanani.
He taught Eccleston how to break horses and how to track brumbies by the marks they made with their teeth in trees, and he and the boy worked for three months taking colts and fillies out of the Carnarvon Gorge and turning them into saddle horses — stealing cattle that had escaped into the national park meanwhile. And it was true. He did not have the know-how to apply for a social security check.
He did not have a bank account. He could neither read nor write. He lived off money from a scant few jobs for August Tanner and from his illegal whisky run. The old man whimpered and clutched his behind.
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Possum grunted with disgust. Eccleston spoke for him. Many old men of the country made their own drink, but a black man carrying homemade liquor along the highway at night was a needless temptation to offer already bored police. So the clandestine route. He mashes it up and eats it himself. I said to im, I never seen er walkin it! Before me eyes went bad, I could. Eccleston smiled. He shrugged and Grey nodded.
It was a hopeless hope — that he might have been able to leave Irene at home after all. They left Eccleston and Possum on their way to the lake. The lights of cars leaving town banded the western dark. The sky was blown clean of cloud now and the firmament hung over them in full gleaming array. Irene lay back on the windscreen. She took the names from a survey of astronomy that her mother had used at school. She knew to the night and to the hour what would rise.
She quizzed Grey on which luminaries were which — which were stars and which were planets — but his eyes were not strong enough to see the absence of flicker in the planets and it was a game she always won. Inside the house their father was asleep. Grey wrote a note and put it under the bedside lamp. He changed his shirt and wet his face and hair and came back outside. Irene told him there was going to be a meteor shower tonight, the Alpha Centaurids. Sister Charbel had said so at school.
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But so far she had seen nothing. Irene jumped off the bonnet and landed awkwardly on her feet. In fact I hated his guts. Jeske even had a special name for Hank. You really nailed it on the head, pal! Just take a look at that, would you! Columbia University, winter quarter, Twelve weeks of a three-hour-long night class in a hot big bright amphitheater room. Jeske down in front of us, trim, natty, silver hair, in some kind of military hat.
Skin that was flushed from too many cigarettes.
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Something classy about him, one of those New England guys who just stepped off his sailboat. Our eyes on him. Our eyes never left him. You never knew what he was going to do next. Every class he bragged how he went three hours without pissing. Wednesdays six to nine. Thirty-six fucking hours and Jeske never called on me.
Not one time. Forty people in that class and everybody got at least one chance, but not me. A couple others in class Jeske liked besides Hank, but to my ears it was all Maroni!plusrearonec.tk
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Then came that class. The last class of the semester. The last part of the last hour. The last reader. Finally Thomas Jeske, Commodore Fiction himself, called on me. Speak with a burnt tongue. Take the approach that rebukes your own nature. Never explain. Never complain. Latinate Latinate Latinate. I took the knife, put it to my chest, punched hard in, cut down and around, pulled my throbbing heart out and laid it down on the page. The words sounded stupid. My voice in the fluorescent amphitheater did not project, was too high, cracking like an adolescent whose balls had just dropped.
There was no getting away from it. I sounded the way I always sounded: a Catholic boy with a big apology. Then the long pause. The long piece of silence after where all there was, was my breath. A drop of sweat rolled down the inside of my arm. Everything gets bright and hot and full. The eleventh hour! Jeske cries out, Way to go, pal! Looking back on that day now, I wonder. Maybe that was the first time for Hank. That he really looked at me. By then I knew who Hank was, of course. How could you not know The Maroni? After the crash, Jeske quit talking and we in the class all looked around at each other.
There was a way you could tell Jeske wanted to go to the open door and check out the situation, but he hesitated. I saw him do it. His thin body did a quick lean toward the door for a second, then stopped because he thought better. Hank saw it too. Hank saw the Commodore of the mighty ship stall. He was up and out of his seat just like that.