East is East

East is East by T. C. Boyle Read Free Book Online

Book: East is East by T. C. Boyle Read Free Book Online
Authors: T. C. Boyle
House—and now
this!”
She held a good long hiss on the final syllable and then laughed.
    Owen reddened. He was forty, looked like Samuel Beckett, right down to the combative nose and stiff brush cut, and he was as meticulous as a drill sergeant—a gay drill sergeant, if such a combination exists. “I delivered it,” he insisted. “I distinctly remember it.
Distinctly.”
    It was no big deal. But she ordered her day around that lunch—and it was a good lunch too, pâté, crab salad, sandwiches of smoked turkey or provolone with roasted peppers, homegrown tomatoes, fruit, a Thermos of iced tea, real silver and a linen napkin. Before it was the Calvary of the morning; after, the naked cross of the afternoon, winding down to the resurrection and ascension of cocktail hour. Now she wondered, with a sharp pang, if the storm would keep him away, if there was some arcane and venerable rule that forbade cottage lunches during electrical storms, and she had a vision of her fellow artists gathered over a sumptuous spread in the big house and lifting their glasses to the storm that crashed romantically at the windows.
    It was at that moment, the moment in which she saw the lifted glasses and glowing faces, that the storm broke. Lightning lit the room; the ground shifted beneath her feet. And then the rain came, combing through the treetops with a whoosh, a sharp smell of the earth and wet rank vegetation running before it, the roof and eaves and screens suddenly alive with it. A second concussion shook the cottage, then a third, and her papers were tumbled to the floor. She rushed for the windows, first the one before the desk, then the one in the corner by the fireplace, and then—she stopped dead.
    There was someone on the porch.
    A shadow flew across the screen door, there was the dull glint of a lunch bucket, and she cried out. He stopped then and she saw him as he was that night on Peagler Sound, his face splotched with welts and scratches, the red clay of his wet hair, his eyes startled and rinsed out. He saw her. Their eyes met. And then he started back, the lunch bucket cradled in his arms, as slick and wet and glistening as a newborn baby.

Hog Hammock
    On day after he’d jumped ship and contemplated the small matter of his own extinction on the breast of the black heaving Atlantic, Hiro Tanaka awoke in a matted tangle of marsh grass. The sun was high, and while he’d slept, exhausted, it had burned his face and hands and the soles of his feet. He was lying on his back in several inches of salt water, suspended above the muck by a pale white tapestry of roots. These were the roots of the marsh grass,
Spartina alterniflora.
If he had cut through them with the penknife he’d thought to shove back in his pocket prior to taking the plunge from the wingdeck of the
Tokachi-maru,
he would have found himself up to his neck in the ooze. But he wasn’t thinking about the roots or the ooze or the penknife or the myriad thin seamless cuts the razor-edged blades of the grass had inflicted on him as he staggered ashore in the night. His thoughts, after the initial surprise of waking to birdsong and mudstink instead of rolling decks and Bunker C fumes, focused solely on his alimentary needs.
    First off, he was thirsty. Or not merely thirsty, but maddened with the kind of implacable thirst that shrivels Joshua trees and lays waste to whole villages in Africa. He hadn’t had so much as a sip of sweet water since old Kuroda had brought him the tin cup and his balls of rice two days earlier. Salt clung to the hairs of hisnostrils and eyelashes, encrusted his tonsils and adenoids, choked off his throat like a pair of strangling hands. He felt as if he were gagging, choking to death, and a wave of panic broke over him. Suddenly he was on his hands and knees, the water cool on his wrists, the sun burning, and he was bringing up stomach acid and bile. The taste of it, astringent and sour, set

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