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can affect all of us. You can never
know what's going to happen."
George agreed wholeheartedly, as
Jimmy knew he would. The old man
regained some of the enthusiasm he
had displayed when he first entered the
house. He began to talk about what
kinds of things he and Alice wanted
to put in the shelter and how they
wanted it well-concealed, so no one
would know it was there.
Jimmy nodded and "hmmmed"
as he half-listened to George's verbal
meander ings. He heard the back
ground noise of a distant airplane's
"... and I think I know just the
spot in the backyard where I'd like
the shelter to be dug." George stood
up and motioned for Jimmy to follow
Alice grunted unhappily as she
struggled to resurface from the depths
of the sofa. "Right when I was all
comfortable," she muttered just loud
enough for Jimmy to hear her, and
she winked at him.
She and Jimmy followed George
to the broad bay window at the rear
of the living room. The three shuffled
for position as George's speech hast
ened. Jimmy ended up standing be
tween George and Alice. Each peered
out a separate pane of glass at the
small backyard. The grass was turn
ing brown and shrinking at the insis
tence of winter's icy approach. The
few trees stood naked, austere. In the
center of the square lot an oddly con
spicuous shovel, its spade almost in
visible, jutted out of the earth.
George's arms were in the air, his
fingers pointing out various features
of the fortress he hoped to construct.
"As you see, I've put a shovel where
I think the shelter should be dug. I
want easy access and ..."
He stopped suddenly, creased his
forehead and raised his eyebrows.
Jimmy looked at him and then at
Alice, who wore the same expression
of bewilderment upon her face. A
whirring of sorts a slowly crescen
doing sound unlike any Jimmy had
ever heard captured their atten
tion and silenced all speech.
its cradle. The bundle dropped
closer, had four extensions, had a
small bulb atop it which was not
garbed in white. The extensions were
limbs, the bulb was flesh, the bundle
tumbled nearer, seemed to hang inert
in the air outside the window for sev
eral seconds, then hit the ground
with a soft thud. It lay sprawled next
to the shovel. It was still
Where had Alice gone?
She was outside, kneeling over the
George agreed wholeheartedly, as Jimmy knew
he would. The old man regained some of the en
thusiasm he had displayed when Jimmy had first
entered the house. He began to talk about what
kinds of things he and Alice wanted to put in the
shelter and how they wanted it well-concealed, so
no one would know it was there.
Jimmy sensed that something was
out of place. Something was wrong.
In a matter of seconds, he realized
that the sound came from the sky.
He pressed his face against the win
dow and looked up.
High above, a white kite flapped
in the wind. No, it wasn't a kite; it
was a small white bundle, tumbling
rapidly as it grew larger, as the sound
of air displaced by its swift dive
assumed a hideous, shrill, deafening
pitch. It was nearer now, the earth
relentlessly pulling it downward,
snatching it from the sky like an
angry mother yanking her baby from
fallen angel, poking at the knapsack
attached to it and jerking up and
down and up and ... Her hands ran
rapidly through her hair and ; her
mouth opened wide and wider, but
Jimmy did not hear any sound es
cape it. .
George backed away from the win
dow in half-steps, his face still, his
eyes transfixed by the scene beyond
the window. Jimmy wanted to say
something reassuring, to discover
some source of consolation in the
tragedy, but he found himself speech
less, impotent. He felt his arm at
tempting to lift itself, to reach out,
but he would not let it. He could not
He looked back outside. Alice was
standing over the body, her back to
the house, her head upright, her eyes
looking . . . where? The horizon?
All that lay beyond the boundaries of
her small, safe world? All that
George had collapsed on the couch.
His breathing was loud, rapid, ir
regular. His knees were drawnup to
his chest, and his face was buried
beneath his arms. ,
Jimmy ran. He ran through the
Springers' living room and out the
front door. He ran across their shiny
flagstone path and into his car. He
started the engine and his heart raced
He crumpled the sheet of directions
which still lay on the seat beside him.
As he drove away from the Springers'
home, he turned on the car's radio,
and when the faint sound of sirens in
the distance became audible, he in
creased the music's volume.
He came to a red stoplight at an in
tersection in Greensdale and took the
opportunity to comb his hair and
straighten his sport jacket. His face
was beginning to cool. The road
around him was crowded. A small
white poodle stared at him from the
Cadillac to the right; four children
romped in the backseat of a station
wagon on his left. Three cars ahead
sat a flashy red Mercedes, its immac
ulately polished metal shimmering in
the fading sunlight. For a moment,
Jimmy was envious, but he knew he
shouldn't be. He would own one just
like it someday.
8 Literary Supplement Thursday, November 10, 1983