Wednesday, June 5, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt one)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

After ascending to the second floor of the house, which was an exertion for one of his girth, Grover Cleveland idled at the rear of the excited little group making their way through the rooms, hoping to catch his breath; while others were elsewhere, marveling at one or another charming feature of the house, Cleveland wandered into an empty room, as it happened, a children’s nursery; he chanced to pass one of the tall windows in this room, that was part-shuttered, and overlooked a steep corner of the roof; there, he saw, or seemed to see, a terrifying sight, there at the very edge of the roof; imagining it at first to be a large, ungainly bird, a great blue heron perhaps, for such prehistoric-looking waterbirds were not uncommon in rural Princeton, the affrighted man literally rubbed his eyes to see a child, a young girl, perched at the edge of the roof; playfully, or prankishly?—the girl was tearing into pieces a handful of calla lilies, letting their torn petals fall to the ground below; her wavy dark hair tumbled loose down her back; her gown long, and white, and curiously soiled; her bare feet ghastly pale—all of her skin ghastly pale, with the unmistakable pallor of the grave. Oblivious to the astonished observer, the child managed to get to her feet, at the edge of the roof, laughing, and tossing the remainder of the calla lilies into the air, as if she were about to step off into space; and how should Cleveland save her?

He shouted—“No! No! Stop! You must not!”

Cleveland was at the window, grunting to raise it, and to push open the shutters, shouting wildly—with the result that, to his further astonishment, and horror, he saw the girl turn to him to reveal herself as his own beloved daughter Ruth—who had died but the previous year, of diphtheria, at the Clevelands’ summer home at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

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