Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the last book I ever read (Richard Ford's The Sportswriter, excerpt five)

from The Sportswriter by Richard Ford:

“Do you want to hear the dream I have over and over?” Herb rolls the paper between his fingers, then pushes himself out toward the end of the dock. I sit on the pipe bannister, looking at his back. Herb’s bony shoulders are like wings, his neck thin and rucked, his head yellowish and balding. I do not know if he knows where I am or not, or even where he is.

“I’d be glad to hear a dream,” I say.

Herb stares off toward the lake as if it contained all his hopes gone cold. “I have a dream about these three old women in a stalled car on a dark road. Two of them are taking their grandmother, who’s old, really old, back to a nursing home. Just someplace. Say New York state, or Pennsylvania. I come along in my Jeep—I had a Jeep once—and I stop and ask if I can help them. And they say yes. No one’s come by in a long time. And I can tell they’re worried about me. One woman has her money out to pay me before I ever start. And they’ve got this flat tire. I shine my Jeep lights on their car and I can see this worried old grandmother, her face low in the front seat. A chicken-wattle neck. The two other women stand with me while I change the tire. And as I’m doing it I think about killing all three of them. Just strangling them with my hands, then driving off because no one would ever know who did it, since I wasn’t a killer or even known to be there. But I look around then, and I see these deer staring at me out of the trees. These yellow eyes. And that’s it. I wake up.” Herb twists his wheelchair and faces me. “How’s that for a dream? Whaddaya think, Frank? You’ve got a halo again, by the way. It just came back. You look idiotic.” Herb suddenly breaks out in laughter, his whole body rumbling and his mouth wide as a canyon. Herb, I see, is as crazy as a Betsey bug, and I want nothing in the world more than to get as far away from him as I can. Interview or no interview. Inspiration or no inspiration. Interviewing a crazy man is a waste of anybody’s time who’s not crazy himself. And I’m glad, in fact, that Herb is in his chair at the moment since it’s possible he would strangle me if he could.

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