Sunday, August 18, 2019

the last book I ever read (Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys, excerpt four)

from The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

Once in a while on hot afternoons girls from FAMU stopped in the store for a soda, someone from the Florida demonstration. Elwood asked for news on the protests, and they’d brighten at the connection and pretend to recognize him. More than one told him that they assumed he was in college. He took their observations as compliments, ornaments on his daydreams about leaving home. Optimism made Elwood as malleable as the cheap taffy below the register. He was primed when Mr. Hill appeared in the store that July and made his suggestion.

Elwood didn’t recognize him at first. No colorful bow tie, an orange plaid shirt open to show his undershirt, hip sunglasses—Mr. Hill looked like someone who hadn’t thought about work for months, not weeks. He greeted his former student with the lazy ease of someone who had the whole summer off. For the first summer in a while he wasn’t traveling, he told Elwood. “There’s plenty here to keep me occupied,” he said, nodding toward the sidewalk. A young woman in a floppy straw hat waited for him, her thin hand shading her eyes from the sunlight.

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