Excerpt from The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien

On The Rainy River

And what was so sad, I realized, was that Canada had become a pitiful fantasy…

Bobbing there on the Rainy River, looking back at the Minnesota shore, I felt a sudden swell of helplessness come over me, a drowning sensation, as if I had toppled overboard and was being swept away by the silver waves. Chunks of my own history flashed by. I saw a seven-year-old boy in a white cowboy hat and a Lone Ranger mask and a pair of bolstered six-shooters; I saw a twelve-year-old Little League shortstop pivoting to turn a double play; I saw a sixteen-year-old kid decked out for his first prom, looking spiffy in a white tux, and a black bow tie, his hair cut short and flat, his shoes freshly polished. My whole life seemed to spill out into the river, swirling away from me, everything I had ever been or ever wanted to be. I couldn’t get my breath; I couldn’t stay afloat; I couldn’t tell which way to swim. A hallucination, I suppose, but it was as real as anything I would ever feel. I saw my parents calling to me from the far shoreline. I saw my brother and sister, all the townsfolk, the mayor and the entire Chamber of Commerce and all my old teachers and girlfriends and high school buddies.

Like some outlandish sporting event: everybody screaming from the sidelines, rooting me on—a loud stadium roar.

Hotdogs and popcorn—stadium smells, stadium heat. A squad of cheerleaders did cartwheels along the banks of the Rainy River; they had megaphones and pompoms and smooth brown thighs. The crowd swayed left and right. A marching band played fight songs. All my aunts and uncles were there, and Abraham Lincoln, and Saint George, and a nine-yea-old girl named Linda who had died of a brain tumor back in fifth grade, and several members of the United States Senate, and a blind poet scribbling notes, and LBJ, and Huck Finn, and Abbie Hoffman, and all the dead soldiers back from the grave, and the many thousands who were later to die—villagers with terrible burns, little kids without arms or legs—yes, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were there, and a couple of popes, and a first lieutenant named Jimmy Cross, and the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War, and Jane Fonda dressed up as Barbarella, and an old man sprawled beside a pigpen, and my grandfather, and Gary Cooper, and a kind-faced woman carrying an umbrella and a copy of Plato’s Republic, and a million ferocious citizens waving flags of all shapes and colors—people in hard hats, people in headbands—they were all whooping and chanting and urging me toward one shore or the other.

I saw faces from my distant past and distant future. My wife was there.

My unborn daughter waved at me, and my two sons hopped up and down, and a drill sergeant named Blyton sneered and shot up a finger and shook his head. There was a choir in bright purple robes. There was a cabbie from the Bronx. There was a slim young man I would one day kill with a hand grenade along a red clay trail outside the village of My Khe.

Excerpt from The Cat’s Pajamas – Ray Bradbury

The Island, 1952:: Ray Bradbury

The winter night drifted by lamplit windows in white bits and pieces. Now the procession marched evenly, now fluttered and spun. But there was a continual sifting and settling, which never stopped filling a deep abyss with silence. 

The house was locked and bolted at every seam, window, door, and hatch. Lamps bloomed softly in each room. The house held its breath, drowsed and warm. Radiators sighed. A refrigerator hummed quietly. In the library, under the lime green hurricane lamp, a white hand moved, a pen scratched, a face bent to the ink, which dried in the false summer air. 

Upstairs in bed, an old woman lay reading. Across the upper hall, her daughter sorted linen in a cupboard room. On the attic floor above, a son, half through thirty years, tapped delicately at a typewriter, added yet another paper ball to the growing heap on the rug. 

Downstairs, the kitchen maid finished the supper wine-glasses, placed them with clear bell sounds onto shelves, wiped her hands, arranged her hair, and reached for the light switch. 

It was then that all five inhabitants of the snowing winter night house heard the unusual sound.

The sound of a window breaking.

It was like the cracking of moon-colored ice on a midnight pond.