From the chapter  Union
(Part way into the race scene)

…The tempo is not blistering but quick and steady on the backstretch. ‘We’re movin, yes, we’re moving,’ I agree with myself as I trail at the rear down the corridor. Everyone else must agree because nobody changes positions, nobody feels the need to bolt to the head of the line because our spread isn’t long and the Cumberland leader is doing our work for us, taking us along on the old burst of adrenaline that soon will be burned off and replaced by will and endurance and then the blood of the hunt…We run as if in a choreographed ride to the battlefield, and those that get there in front get to fight—that’s what it feels like. So far everyone is on the way together…

 Heading into the third lap I expect to hurt, expect the frontrunners to pick up some, but I am not taking on pain as grippingly as I anticipated… I wonder if they are saving up for a hard close, but I don’t wonder too hard or too long; I feel the tug against the reins of my caution, nudging for freedom, not needing the flick of the rider’s whip, just permission to be let loose, and for the moment I am a jockey on this playful force that wants to be in front, so I let up on the reins; I let the force loose and feel it shoving me forward…

 The track seems mine the way Ivy Hill is mine on a good day. Breathing deep, holding pain at the mind-edge of machine work and enjoyment, I fade out awareness of the other runners and reach inside the movement for the pulse of a music I cannot hear, subtle and harmonizing, a song from the soul of motion, now in me.

From the chapter  Interesting time
(On his way down from a run on Ivy Hill, JJ finds Jenny sitting atop a small rock cliff by the road and climbs up to chat with her. The conversation leads to this:)


“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 nineteen-fifty-six. 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 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.”