Friday, June 14, 2013

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

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Exiled to the dank cellar, which was a vast cavernous space like a cave, amid garbage, raw sewage, rats and other vermin, I found myself a comrade of similar laborers; one of our tasks was to bail excessive sewage out of the cesspool, and carry it to a woodland ravine a quarter mile from the house; our task was the continuous filling of buckets, and the continuous emptying-out of buckets, hour after hour, day following day, amid the most nauseating of odors and sights; with provision for no more than a few minutes’ respite for a frantic feeding, of poorly baked dough, and leftovers from the kitchen; and brief periods of scanty sleep, amid the very stench of the cellar in which we toiled. Sixteen hours of stoop labor daily—then eighteen—twenty!—as autumn rains fell thunderously, and increased the water-level of the cesspool, and the Palace was threatened with flooding; entire days were spent in such labor, under threat of death from Axson Mayte, who could not abide “mutiny.” Our miserable cellar-crew of which I was surely the weakest member were obliged to crawl where we could not walk upright, and where the jagged stone ceiling was low we had to squirm like snakes, on our bellies . . . At which times the thought came to me stern and judicious This is your Hole of Hell, to which you have brought yourself.

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