Shadowland by Peter Straub Read Free Book Online

Book: Shadowland by Peter Straub Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter Straub
held a baseball in his hand. But another thing you thought you saw when you looked at Tom Flanagan was an essential steadiness: you thought you saw that he was incapable of affectation, because he would never see the need for it.
         I think Del Nightingale looked at him bringing the school beanie down to the level of two fingers balanced on his nose, and adopted him on the spot.
      'That trick you were showing me isn't in my book,' Tom said. 'Sometime I'd like to see how it goes.'
         'I brought a lot of card books with me,' Del said. He dared not say anymore.
         'Let's go have a look at them. I can call my mother from your place. She was going to pick me up after registration, but we didn't know when it would be over. How do we get to your house? Do you have a ride?'
         'It's close enough to walk,' Del said. 'It's not really my house. My godparents are just renting it.'
         Tom shrugged, and they went down the front steps, crossed Santa Rosa Boulevard, and began to walk up sunlit Peace Lane. Carson was in a suburb old enough to have imposing elms and oaks lining the sidewalks. The houses they passed were the sort of houses Tom had seen all his life, most of them long and of two stories, either of white stone or white board. One or two houses on every block were bordered by screened-in porches. Concrete slabs gray with age and' crossed by a jigsaw puzzle of cracks made up the slightly irregular sidewalk. Tough, coarse grass thrust up between the slabs of pavement. ForDel, who had been raised in cities and in boarding schools thousands of miles away, all of this was so unreal as to be dreamlike. For a moment he was not certain where he was or where he was going.
         'Don't worry about Ridpath,' Tom said beside him. 'He's always hollering. He's a pretty good coach. But I'll tell you who's in trouble already.'
         'Who?' Del asked, beginning to quake already. He knew that Tom meant him.
         'That Brick. He'll never last. I bet he doesn't get through this year.'
         'Why do you say that?'
         'I don't know exactly. He looks kind of hopeless, doesn't he? Kind of dumb. And Ridpath is already shitting hot nickels over his hair. If his father was on the board, or something like that — or if his family had always gone here . . . you know.' Flanagan was walking with what Del would later see as the characteristic Carson gait, which slightly rolled the shoulders from side to side and wagged neckties like metronomes. This was, as Del immediately recognized, finally 'preppy.' Amidst all the Western strangeness, the strolling, necktie-swinging gait was familiar enough to be comfortable.
         'I guess I do know,' he said.
         'Oh, sure. Wait till you see Harrison — he's a junior. Harrison has hair just like Brick's, but his father is a big shot. Last year his father donated fifteen thousand dollars to the school for new lab equipment. Where is this house, anyhow?'
         Del had been dreaming along under the ninety-degree sun, self-consciousness about the beanie melting together with his sense of unreality and his pleasure in Tom's company to make him forget that they had a destination. 'Oh. Next street.'
         They reached the corner and turned into the street. It seemed impossible to Del that he actually lived there. He would not have been wholly surprised to see Ricky and David Nelson playing catch on one of the lawns. 'Mr. Broome wanted to talk to you,' Tom said. 'Um-hum.'
         'I suppose your father is an ambassador or something like that.'
         'My father is dead. So is my mother.'
         Tom quickly said, 'Geez, I'm sorry,' and changed the subject. His own father had recently begun a mysterious siege of X rays and over-night stays in St. Mary's Hospital. Hartley Flanagan was a corporation lawyer who could chin himself a dozen times and had been a varsity

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