Excerpt from “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie

Five

The Crime

He found it difficult to go to sleep again at once. For one thing, he missed the motion of the train. If it was a station outside it was curiously quiet. By contrast, the noises on the train seemed unusually loud. He could hear Ratchett moving about next door – a click as he pulled down the washbasin, the sound of the tap running, a splashing noise, then another click as the basin shut to again.1footsteps passed up the corridor outside, the shuffling footsteps of someone in bedroom slippers.

Hercule Poirot lay awake staring at the ceiling. Why was the station outside so silent? His throat felt dry. He had forgotten to ask for his usual bottle of mineral water. He looked at his watch again. Just after a quarter past one.2He would ring for the conductor and ask him for some mineral water. His finger went out to the bell, but he paused as in the stillness he heard a ting. The man couldn’t answer every bell at once.

Ting…Ting…Ting…

It sounded again and again. Where was the man? Somebody was getting impatient.

Ting…3

Whoever it was was keeping their finger solidly on the push.

Suddenly with a rush, his footsteps echoing up the aisle,4  the man came. He knocked at a door not far from Poirot’s own.

Then came voices – the conductor’s, deferential, apologetic, and a woman’s – insistent and voluble.5

Mrs. Hubbard.

Poirot smiled to himself.

The altercation – if it was one- went on for some time. It’s proportions were ninety per cent of Mrs. Hubbard’s to a soothing ten per cent of the conductor’s. Finally the matter seemed to be adjusted. Poirot heard distinctly:

“bonne Nuit, Madame,” and a closing door.

He pressed his own finger on the bell.

The conductor arrived promptly. He looked hot and worried.

“De l’eau minerale, s’il vous plait.”

Bien, Monsieur.” Perhaps a twinkle in Poirot’s eye led him to unburden himself.

“La Dame Americaine – ”

“Yes?”

He wiped his forehead.

“Imagine to yourself the time I have had with her! She insits – but insists – 6 that there is a man in her compartment! figure to yourself, Monsieur. In a space of this size.” He swept a hand round. “Where would he conceal himself? I argue with her I point out that it is impossible. She insists. She woke up and there was a man there. And how, I ask, did he get out and leave the door bolted behind him? But she will not listen to reason. As though, there were not enough to worry us already. This snow -”

“Snow?”

Excerpt from “The Souls of Black Folk” – W.E.B. Du Bois

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, 7 the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, 2 — a world which yields him no true self-consciousness but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; 3 two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body 4, whose dogged strength alone being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging 5 he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, 6 for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.

The Real Life – Abraham Lincoln by George Alfred Townsend

SPRINGFIELD, III., Jan. 25, 1867.

When history makes up its mind to commemorate a place, no special correspondence can keep pace with it7. After Mr. Lincoln’s nomination to the Presidency—the most Republican of all coups d’etat—2the little city of Springfield ascended at a bound from the commonplace to the memorable. Caravans of patriots from all the other States wended across the prairies to visit it. From a market town,3 where eggs were duly exchanged for calico, and the father of the family reported himself twice a year to get stone-drunk, it rose to be the home of a President, and sent him across the continent to usefulness and martyrdom. His body lies near by it—shrine which any city might covet—and his prim frame residence,4 practical and mud-colored,5 I have walked around these two nights, to find my curiosity shared by a half-dozen couples, looking upon it as if the tall ghost of its former owner might possibly appear.

I came here to lecture;6 of two days leisure spared me I have passed one-half of each in conversation with a man who knew the great citizen of Springfield for twenty years anterior to his Chief Magistracy better and closer than any human being. Until very lately you might have read upon a bare stairway, opposite the State House Square, the sign of LINCOLN & HERNDON. A year ago it gave place to the name of HERNDON & ZANE.7 Ascending the stairs one flight,8 you see two doors opening to your right hand. That in the rear leads to what was for one generation the law office of the President.9 Within, it is a dismantled room, strewn with faded briefs and leaves of law books; no desks nor chairs remaining; its single bracket of gas darkened in the center, by whose flame he whom our children’s children shall reverently name, prepared, perhaps, his gentle, sturdy utterances; and out of its window you get a sweep of stable-roofs and dingy back yards, where he must have looked a thousand times, pondering Freedom and Empire, with his eye upon ash-heaps and crowing cocks and young Americans sledging or ball-playing.10. As simple an office,11 even for a country lawyer, as ever I saw in my life, it is now in the transition condition of being prepared for another tenant. In the middle of the room the future President sat at a table side, and in the adjoining front room this table and all the furniture of the place is still retained, while in its back corner, looking meditatively at the cylinder stove, you see Mr. Herndon, the partner and authority I have referred to.

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Excerpt from James McBride’s The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother

When I was fourteen my mother took up two new hobbies:12 riding a bicycle and playing piano. The piano I didn’t mind, but the bicycle drove me crazy. It was a huge old clunker2, blue with white trim, with big fat tires, huge fenders, and a battery-powered horn built into the middle of the frame with a button you pushed to make it blow3. The contraption would be a collector’s item now, probably worth about five thousand dollars, but back then it was something my stepfather found on the street in Brooklyn and hauled home a few months before he died.

I don’t know whether it was his decision to pull out or not, but I think not. He was seventy-two when he died, trim, strong, easygoing, seemingly infallible, and though he was my stepfather, I always thought of him as Daddy. He was a quiet, soft-spoken4man who wore old-timey clothes, fedoras, button-down wool coats, suspenders, and dressed neatly at all times, regardless of how dirty his work made him. He did everything slowly and carefully, but beneath his tractor-like slowness and outward gentleness was a crossbreed of quiet Indian and country black man, surefooted, hard, bold, and quick. He took no guff and gave none. He married my mother, a white Jewish woman, when she had eight mixed-race black children, me being the youngest at less than a year old. They added four more children to make it an even twelve and he cared for all of us as if we were his own. “I got enough for a baseball team,” he joked.5 One day he was there, the next—6stroke, and he was gone.

I virtually dropped out of high school after he died, failing every class. I spent the year going to movies on Forty-second Street in Times Square with my friends. “James is going through his revolution,” my siblings snickered. Still, my sisters were concerned,7 older brothers angry. I ignored them. Me and my hanging-out boys were into the movies. Superfly, Shaft, and reefer, which we smoked in as much quantity as possible.8 I snatched purses. I shoplifted.9I even robbed a petty drug dealer once. And then in the afternoons, coming home after a day of cutting school, smoking reefer, waving razors, and riding the subway,10 I would see my mother pedaling her blue bicycle.

Excerpt from “Hole in My Life” by Jack Gantos

July 15: Today I took a photograph of Hamilton sitting at the wheel with the sun setting11 behind him. He frowned. “Now take a picture of me,” I said, and handed him the camera.

He flipped the camera over, unsnapped the back, pulled out the film, and tossed it over his shoulder into the ocean. “If I find any more film on board it will join that roll,” he said.

“It’s just a photo,” I replied.

“It’s evidence,” he snapped back. This is the first evidence I have had that he even thinks we could be caught.

“Let me see your wallet,” he said.

I gave it to him.

He threw away all my identification except for my fake Florida license. “Might come in handy,” he said.

 

July 16: Dead clam today. Hot.2  The sails hanging limply3  from the gaffs like sleeping bats. At one point I dove overboard and swam around the boat as if it were at anchor. Hamilton threw an empty bottle overboard and we bobbed along next to it for hours. By the end of the day we may have covered a mile. No more. Feel like a sitting duck. Said so to Hamilton. He drifted into a story about his biggest concern on the ocean being pirates, not police. Told me about friends in the business4 who were boarded by pirates who tied them to the masts, and then took their stash. Somehow I find this absurd and can’t stop thinking of Captain Hook and his crew of pirates in Peter Pan. Wish Hamilton would swallow a clock so5  I could hear him creeping.6  He stalks me like a mumbling crocodile.

Excerpt: “The Twelve Double-Hours of Night: Insomnia and Transformation in Gilgamesh” by Andrea Deagon

My ordeal, like most variations of personal hell, felt isolating, immense and unshareable. Some years later, when I reread the Gilgamesh epic7, it dawned on me that what I’d experienced was written there. In this ancient Mesopotamian poem, Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk2, expends vast energies in his city and in heroic ventures with his alterego Enkidu. When Enkidu dies3, the bereft hero, overwhelmed by the realization of his own mortality4, goes on an soul-purging, exhausting journey to the ends of the earth in a vain quest for eternal life.

What resonated with me was not the loss of a friend as close as a second self– though something like that had happened years before5; nor the terror of death, though I’m sure that such terror could take much the same form as what I experienced6. But the self-consuming energy, the vast exhausting world, the body as an engine driving toward final irremediable loss7 – that I understood. The epic of Gilgamesh came to represent whatever was wise and heroic in what I experienced at this great transition in my own life, as it speaks to many people about their own losses and transitions8.

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excerpt from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love9, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others2, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love; and such a man is Claudio. I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and fife, and now he had rather hear the tabor and pipe3. I have known when he would have walked ten mile afoot to see a good armor, and now will he lie ten nights awake, carving the fashion of a new doublet4. He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier; and now is he turned orthography. His words are a very fantastical banquet: just so many strange dishes5. May I be so converted and see with these eyes6? I cannot tell; I think not7. I will not be sworn but love may transform me into an oyster; but I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me8, he shall never make me such a fool. One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well9. But 10 till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace11. Rich she shall be, that’s certain; wise, or I’ll none; virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or I’ll never look on her; mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall be of what color it please God12. Ha13! The Prince and Monsieur14 Love! I will hide me 15 in the harbor.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The three boys moved hesitantly down the wide center aisle, their steps ringing out on the flagstone floor.16 The golden domes that arched above their heads kept their splendor hidden in the gloom, and in between the tall marble pillars that supported them the boys felt as small as insects. Instinctively, they moved closer together.

“Where are the confessionals?” Mosca whispered, looking uneasily around him. “I haven’t been in here very often. I don’t like churches. They’re creepy.”

“I know they are,” Scipio replied. He pushed the mask back onto his face and led the way as purposefully as one of the Basilica’s tourist guides. The confessionals were tucked away in one of the side aisles. The first one on the left looked no different from the others. It was a tall box made from black wood, draped with dark red curtains and with a door in the middle2, which the priest used for slipping into the tiny space behind. Inside, he would sit down on a narrow bench, put his ear to a small window, and listen to all who wanted to tell him their sins and clear their conscience.3

Of course there was also a curtain on the side of the confessional to protect the sinners from curious eyes. Scipio now pushed this curtain aside, adjusting his mask one last time and clearing his throat nervously. The Thief Lord tried very hard to pretend that he was coolness itself,4 but Prosper and Mosca, as they followed him behind the curtain,5 sensed that his heart was beating just as fast as theirs.

Scipio hesitated as his eye fell on the low bench half hidden in the darkness, but then he kneeled down on it. The small window was now level with his eyes and he could be seen by whoever sat on the other side. Prosper and Mosca stood behind him like bodyguards. Scipio just knelt there, waiting.6

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Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

But 7 at that moment I glanced around at the crowd that had followed me. It 2 was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; 3 I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, 4 the white man 5 with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd — 6 seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him. 7 He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. 8 I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

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book excerpt — ‘What Made Maddy Run’ by Kate Fagan

The best four years of her life. That’s what Madison expected. Four years just like high school, except better — because now she’d be living on her own. 9

Actually, not quite on her own, living with a roommate. 2 At first, the room she shared with Emily in Hill — the Penn dormitory — seemed just fine, cozy even. For the first few days, they both kept the room meticulous, desperately preserving the image of college life they’d carried around for years: pictures of high school friends above desks, shampoo and conditioner tucked neatly into a plastic carrying case, roommates moving easily around the shared space with laughter and smiles, music blaring, preparing for a big party. 3

This image soon dissolved. In its place appeared something more real: 4the messiness and claustrophobia of two people who don’t really know each other sharing two hundred square feet, of wet towels left on beds, of books and clothes covering every surface, of neither roommate living up to the expectations of the other, because, well, how could they? This disappointment mattered, of course, but then again so many spaces existed outside that little room in Hill: classrooms, coffee shops, the city, frat parties, restaurants, the track.

… The track.5

In high school, track was fun. That was essentially its point: it was a form of cross-training that kept Maddy from burning out on soccer. Track came after school, and she spent much of the time running with Emma, her high school best friend, who competed for Boston College. Pressure eventually arose, once she became one of the best in the state, but she started without any kind of wild expectations. She just enjoyed running. She loved waking up on the weekend and going to the Celery Farm nature preserve, where she could churn through however many miles and whatever thoughts were on her mind.

But track in college was a different beast. For one, it was not just track; it was also cross-country. For another, it was not just one practice after school; it was also scheduled in the morning before classes. 6 It was, like most Division I sports, a job — with time commitments, with demands, with expectations of performance. 7 And nothing turns enjoyment into dread faster than obligation.

For all of Madison’s life, late summer and fall had meant soccer. It meant walking onto a grass field, cleats in hand, laughing with friends she’d known her entire life. 8The work was hard, but it was collective work, with friends to connect with between sprints with a nod (“We got this”), or a laugh (“Coach is crazy”), or an exhausted grimace (“How many more?”) –each person pulling weight toward a larger goal. 9 Now, late summer and fall meant waking up at dawn in a cramped dormitory room, in a new city, to trudge to practice and run long distances, the person next to you living inside her own head, considering her own times, responsible only for her own motivation. Maddy didn’t have anyone she wanted to show up for.

Maddy just wasn’t enjoying it. The training was so different. In high school, she had been a middle distance runner. She had wanted to stretch to the mile at Penn, but cross-country included races four times that length. Also, when she ran races in high school, she usually won. There were only eight lanes, just seven opponents, but still, Madison routinely finished first. 10 On the other hand, a college cross-country meet included hundreds of runners, all literally corralled at the starting line, released onto the course in a wave of humanity — dense lines of people jostling for running room, fighting to prove themselves with each stride.11 And each of these runners was just like Maddy: used to winning.12

http://www.espn.com/espnw/culture/article/20175159/exclusive-book-excerpt-made-maddy-run-kate-fagan