Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Snip from White Camellia

Excerpt, A Death from the White Camellia Orphanage:

From a ways off, the train idling by the tank did not look so big.  And he had practiced for this, grabbing a vine and swinging his legs up and onto the fork of a tree, over and over, until the jump to his “boxcar” was easy.  Grey smoke vented from the stack at intervals, barely staining the air.  But when the train began to move, it accelerated rapidly, the whistle crying two notes about a tug-of-war meant to budge tons of metal, to hurl wheels along the rails.  Smoke geysered from the stack in jet thunderheads.  As the engine loomed up, Pip began to lope, his gait crooked, his bindle swinging from one hand.  Stumbling, he almost tripped and dropped beneath the iron wheels, and with a lurch of fear he leaped at and seized a handle.
            The powerful sweep of the train jerked him from his feet, banging him against the side of the car.  Cinders and stones pelted his bare soles.  Up—out—legs away from the wheels!  The thudding and pounding brought on an ache and then an eclipse, the landscape darkening steadily as he was flung against metal and across the open doorway.  He reached for another grip with the hand that held his bindle and failed to find it.  The pain in his head blotted out everything except his need to find safety in his grasp.  The locomotive rocketed on; hot air gusting from the wheels spewed against his ankles.  Jabs of anguish in his head wanted him to go sailing into the puff briars and berry bushes beside the train.  He could not.  Could not hold.  Could not keep battering the flank of the boxcar and swinging his legs toward a security he could not find, the handle digging into his fingers.  Hollering against the vibrating metal and a skull-caged star that sprouted new spikes of pain, Pip let go.
            But something had seized his wrist, held him a moment like a flag, flapping outward and threatening to fly, and then hauled him inward and flung him onto the floor of the car where Pip lay panting, saved, alive, his head speared by migraine, his ears deafened by the galloping noise of the wheels, and his whole frame shaken and racked by the clamorous train.

2 comments:

  1. It was wonderful to sit and read this and remember the novel so clearly in my mind as I did. It all flooded back.
    Thank you for the experience of that this afternoon, Marly!

    ReplyDelete
  2. And thanks for sharing with your facebookites, Paul!

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.