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My Favorite Quotes and Scenes
"Why don't you settle this like gentlemen? First one to get his head blown off has to buy the other one a beer."
"The Transcendental Quality of Love, a lecture by the noted philosopher and Ethiopian jug-rammer Henry Olson," McVries said. "Author of A Peach Is Not a Peach without a Pit and other works of-"
"Sinless in thought, word, and deed," McVries said sententiously.
"Virgin, aren't you? Maybe a little bit queer in the bargain? Touch of the lavender? Don't be afraid. You can talk to Papa Stebbins."
McVries said easily: "Go on back and dance on him a little, Barkovitch. Go entertain us. Boogie on him a little bit, Barkovitch."
"Hello, Barkovitch," Garraty said.
Barkovitch twitched, stumbled, and was warned his third warning. "There!" Barkovitch screamed shrewishly. "There, see what you did? Are you and your hotshit friends satisfied?"
"Olson!" McVries yelled over cheerily. "Just think of all the cash riding on you, boy! Think of the people with a bundle resting right on your skinny ass!"
Olson told him in a tired, washed-out voice that the people with a bundle wagered on his skinny ass could perform two obscene acts upon themselves, the second proceeding directly from the first. McVries, Baker, and Garraty laughed.
McVries Baiting Abraham
"Let this ground be seeded with salt," McVries said suddenly, very rapidly. "So that no stalk of corn or stalk of wheat shall ever grow. Cursed be the children of this ground and cursed be their loins. Also cursed be their hams and hocks. Hail Mary full of grace, let us blow this goddam place."
McVries began to laugh.
"Shut up," Abraham said hoarsely. "Stop talking like that."
"All the world is God," McVries said, and giggled hysterically. "We're walking on the Lord, and back there the flies are crawling on the Lord, in fact the flies are also the Lord, so blessed be the fruit of thy womb Percy. Amen, hallelujah, chunky peanut butter. Our father, which art in tinfoil, hallow'd be thy name."
"I'll hit you!" Abraham warned. His face was very pale. "I will, Pete!"
"A praaayin' man!" McVries gibed, and he giggled again. "Oh my suds and body! Oh my sainted hat!"
"I'll hit you if you don't shut up!" Abraham bellowed.
McVries Baiting Olson
"I hate beer," Garraty said automatically.
Parker cackled. "You fucking bumpkin," he said, and walked away.
"He's buggy," McVries said. "Everybody's buggy this morning. Even me. And it's a beautiful day. Don't you agree, Olson?"
Olson said nothing.
"Olson's got bugs, too," McVries confided to Garraty. "Olson! Hey, Hank!"
"Why don't you leave him alone?" Baker asked.
"Hey Hank!" McVries shouted, ignoring Baker. "Wanna go for a walk?"
"Go to hell," Olson muttered.
"What?" McVries cried merrily, cupping a hand to his ear. "Wha choo say, bo?"
"Hell! Hell!" Olson screamed. "Go to hell!"
"Is that what you said." McVries nodded wisely.
Olson went back to looking at his feet, and McVries tired of baiting him ... if that was what he was doing.
We could have joined him
"He snuck up on'em," McVries said. "That's what happened. He must have known he couldn't make it. He snuck right up behind'em and caught'em sleep at the switch." McVries's voice hoars ened. "He wanted us all up there with him, Garraty. And I think we could have done it."
"What are you talking about?" Garraty asked, suddenly terrified.
"You don't know?" McVries asked. "You don't know?"
"Up there with him? ... What? ..."
"Forget it. Just forget it."
"Has a Long Walk ever been stopped for anything?" Harkness asked.
"I don't think so," Garraty said. "More material for the book?"
"No," Harkness said. He sounded tired. "Just personal information."
"It stops every year," Stebbins said from behind them. "Once."
There was no reply to that.
You made him cry, Abe, you bad boy
Then Barkovitch was laughing. Barkovitch was cackling, higher and madder and even more audible than the madness of the crowd. "Garraty! Gaaarrratee! I'll dance on your grave, Garraty! I'll daaaance-"
"Shut up!" Abraham yelled. "Shut up, you little prick!"
Barkovitch stopped, then began to sob.
"Go to hell," Abraham muttered.
"Now you did it," Collie Parker said reproachfully. "You made him cry, Abe, you bad boy. He's gonna go home and tell his mommy."
Barkovitch continued to sob. It was an empty, ashy sound that made Garraty's skin crawl. There was no hope in it.
"Is little uggy-wuggy gonna tell Mommy?" Quince called back. "Ahhhh, Barkovitch, ain't that too bad?"
Oh, pickles, what's wrong with graveyards?
"You talk too goddam much," Olson said suddenly.
"What's wrong with graveyards, Henry, old buddy? A fine and private place, as the poet said. A nice watertight casket-"
"Just shut up!"
"Oh, pickles," McVries said. His scar flashed very white in the dying daylight. "You don't really mind the thought of dying, do you, Olson? Like the poet also said, it ain't the dying, it's laying in the grave so long. Is that what's bugging you, booby?" McVries began to trumpet. "Well, cheer up, Charlie! There's a brighter day com-"
I'll show you what's funny!
"You think that's funny?" he yelled suddenly. The sound of his shout cut cleanly through the laughter and silenced it. McVries's face was dark with suffused blood. The scar stood out in dead white contrast, like a slashed exclamation mark, and for one fear-filled moment Garraty thought he was having a stroke.
"Major buggers himself, that's what I think!" McVries cried hoarsely. "You guys, you probably bugger each other. Pretty funny, huh? Pretty funny, you bunch of motherfuckers, right? Pretty goddam FUNNY, am I right?"
Other Walkers stared uneasily at McVries and then eased away.
McVries suddenly ran at the halftrack. Two of the three soldiers raised their guns to high port, ready, but McVries halted, halted dead, and raised his fists at them, shaking them above his head like a mad conductor.
"Come on down here! Put down those rifles and come on down here! I'll show you what's funny!"
"Warning," one of them said in a perfectly neutral voice. "Warning 61. Second warning."
Oh my God, Garraty thought numbly. He's going to get it and he's so close ... so close to them ... he'll fly through the air just like Freaky D'Allessio.
McVries broke into a run, caught up with the halftrack, stopped, and spat on the side of it. The spittle cut a clean streak through the dust on the side of the halftrack.
"Come on!" McVries screamed. "Come on down here! One at a time or all at once, I don't give a shit!"
"Warning! Third Warning, 61, final warning."
"Fuck your warnings!"
Suddenly, unaware he was going to do it, Garraty turned and ran back, drawing his own warning. He only heard it with some back part of his mind. The soldiers were drawing down on McVries now. Garraty grabbed McVries's arm. "Come on."
"Get out of here, Ray, I'm gonna fight them!"
Garraty put out his hands and gave McVries a hard, flat shove. "You're going to get shot, you asshole."
Stebbins passed them by.
Baker bowing out
"Walk a little bit longer," Garraty said through his tears. "Walk a little longer, Art."
"Maybe I'll see you, man," Baker said, and wiped slick blood from his face absently.
Garraty lowered his head and wept.
"Don't watch'em do it," Baker said. "Promise me that, too."
Garraty nodded, beyond speech.
"Thanks. You've been my friend, Garraty." Baker tried to smile. He stuck his hand blindly out, and Garraty shook it with both of his.
"Another time, another place," Baker said.
Garraty put his hands over his face and had to bend over to keep walking. The sobs ripped out of him and made him ache with a pain that was far beyond anything the Walk had been able to inflict.
He hoped he wouldn't hear the shots. But he did.
Roll over and die now to save some energy
"I am getting a cold," he announced disgustedly.
"That'll take the starch right out of you," Pearson said. "That's a bitch."
"I'll just have to work harder," Scramm said.
"You must be made of steel," Pearson said. "If I had a cold I think I'd roll right over and die. That's how little energy I've got left."
"Roll over and die now!" Barkovitch yelled back. "Save some energy!"
"Shut up and keep walking, killer," McVries said immediately.
Barkovitch looked around at him. "Why don't you get off my back, McVries? Go walk somewhere else."
"It's a free road. I'll walk where I damn well please."
Barkovitch hawked, spat, and dismissed him.
Would you let me jerk you off?
"He thinks we're queer for each other," McVries said, amused.
"He what?" Garraty's head snapped up.
"He's not such a bad guy," McVries said thoughtfully. He cocked a humorous eye at Garraty. "Maybe he's even half-right. Maybe that's why I saved your ass. Maybe I'm queer for you."
"With a face like mine? I thought you perverts liked the willowy type." Still, he was suddenly uneasy.
Suddenly, shockingly, McVries said: "Would you let me jerk you off?"
Garraty hissed in breath. "What the hell-"
"Oh, shut up," McVries said crossly. "Where do you get off with all this self-righteous shit? I'm not even going to make it any easier by letting you know if I'm joking. What say?"
Garraty felt a sticky dryness in his throat. The thing was, he wanted to be touched. Queer, not queer, that didn't seem to matter now that they were all busy dying. All that mattered was McVries. He didn't want McVries to touch him, not that way.
"Well, I suppose you did save my life-" Garraty let it hang.
McVries laughed. "I'm supposed to feel like a heel because you owe me something and I'm taking advantage? Is that it?"
"Do what you want," Garraty said shortly. "But quit playing games."
"Does that mean yes?"
"Whatever you want!" Garraty yelled. Pearson, who had been staring, nearly hypnotized, at his feet, looked up, startled. "Whatever you goddam want!" Garraty yelled.
McVries laughed again. "You're all right, Ray. Never doubt it." He clapped Garraty's shoulder and dropped back.
Garraty stared after him, mystified.
They can't run over a guy, that's not in the rules
A moment later the redheaded boy's face was blown away.
"I'm gonna see my girl in Freeport," Garraty said rapidly. "And I'm not gonna have any warnings and I'm gonna kiss her, God I miss her, God, Jesus, did you see his legs? They were still warning him, Pete, like they thought he was gonna get up and walk-"
"Another boy has gone ober to dat Silver City, lawd, lawd," Barkovitch intoned.
"Shut up, killer," McVries said absently. "She pretty, Ray? Your girl?"
"She's beautiful. I love her."
McVries smiled. "Gonna marry her?"
"Yeah," Garraty babbled. "We're gonna be Mr. and Mrs. Norman Normal, four kids and a collie dog, his legs, he didn't have any legs, they ran over him, they can't run over a guy, that isn't in the rules, somebody ought to report that, somebody-"
"Two boys and two girls, that what you're gonna have?"
"Yeah, yeah, she's beautiful, I just wish I hadn't-"
"And the first kid will be Ray Junior and the dog'll have a dish with its name on it, right?"
Garraty raised his head slowly, like a punch-drunk fighter. "Are you making fun of me? Or what?"
"No!" Barkovitch exclaimed. "He's shitting on you, boy! And don't you forget it. But I'll dance on his grave for you, don't worry." He cackled briefly.
"Shut up, killer," McVries said. "I'm not dumping on you, Ray. Come on, let's get away from the killer, here."
"Shove it up your ass!" Barkovitch screamed after them.
"She love you? Your girl? Jan?"
"Yeah, I think so," Garraty said.
McVries asking "Who buried him?"
"You know what my uncle did?" Baker said suddenly. They were passing through a shady tunnel of overleafing trees, and Garraty was trying to forget about Harkness and Gribble and think only of the coolness.
"What?" Abraham asked.
"He was an undertaker," Baker said.
"Good deal," Abraham said disinterestedly.
"When I was a kid, I always used to wonder," Baker said vaguely. He seemed to lose track of his thought, then glanced at Garraty and smiled. It was a peculiar smile. "Who'd embalm him, I mean. Like you wonder who cuts the barber's hair or who operates on the doctor for gallstones. See?"
"It takes a lot of gall to be a doctor," McVries said solemnly.
"You know what I mean."
"So who got the call when the time came?" Abraham asked.
"Yeah," Scramm added. "Who did?"
Baker looked up at the twining, heavy branches under which they were passing, and Garraty noticed again that Baker now looked exhausted. Not that we don't all look that way, he added to himself.
"Come on," McVries said. "Don't keep us hanging. Who buried him?"
"This is the oldest joke in the world," Abraham said. "Baker says, whatever made you think he was dead?"
"He is, though," Baker said. "Lung cancer. Six years ago."
"Did he smoke?" Abraham asked, waving at a family of four and their cat. The cat was on a leash. It was a Persian cat. It looked mean and pissed off.
"No, not even a pipe," Baker said. "He was afraid it would give him cancer."
"Oh, for Christ's sake," McVries said, "who buried him? Tell us so we can discuss world problems, or baseball, or birth control or something."
"I think birth control is a world problem," Garraty said seriously. "My girlfriend is a Catholic and-"
"Come on!" McVries bellowed. "Who the fuck buried your grandfather, Baker?"
"My uncle. He was my uncle. My grandfather was a lawyer in Shreveport. He-"
"I don't give a shit," McVries said. "I don't give a shit if the old gentleman had three cocks, I just want to know who buried him so we can get on."
"Actually, nobody buried him. He wanted to be cremated."
"Oh my aching balls," Abraham said, and then laughed a little.
"My aunt's got his ashes in a ceramic vase. At her house in Baton Rouge. She tried to keep the business going-the undertaking business-but nobody much seemed to cotton to a lady undertaker."
"I doubt if that was it," McVries said.
"No. I think your uncle jinxed her."
"Jinx? How do you mean?" Baker was interested.
"Well, you have to admit it wasn't a very good advertisement for the business."
"No," McVries said. "Getting cremated."
Scramm chuckled stuffily through his plugged nose. "He's got you there, old buddy."
"I expect he might," Baker said. He and McVries beamed at each other.
"Your uncle," Abraham said heavily, "bores the tits off me. And might I also add that he-"