The Lightest Object in the Universe: A Novel by Eisele Kimi

The Lightest Object in the Universe: A Novel by Eisele Kimi

Author:Eisele, Kimi [Eisele, Kimi]
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3, mobi
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: 2019-07-09T06:00:00+00:00


CHAPTER 10

The landscape was a book, and every visual interruption—a cluster of poplar trees, incompetent power lines, dead cars—seemed a silent character. The pages kept coming, and Carson read and walked, read and walked, as Nebraska stretched flat and green all the way to the horizon.

His arm had healed, thanks to the soap and bandages, and the new-to-him boots were working fine. But his feet had swollen in the heat, and his toes burned and itched. He wished for icy drinks and mountains. Springs and water tanks were blessings—signaled by graffiti symbols scratched on surfaces or by moisture in the air and green-leafed trees.

He’d finished the food from the sick woman’s pantry—even the cornmeal, which he’d mixed with water and eaten as a sweet and chalky gruel. Now it was back to wild greens and crab apples. He was on the lookout for something elastic so he could make a slingshot. If a dog could catch a bird, why couldn’t he?

More and more, he met “Pilgrims” traveling toward the Center. One family reminded him of the group he’d met just outside the tunnel, a lifetime ago it seemed. The men all wore beards, and the women, long skirts, like they’d stepped out of another century. He half expected to find the cherubic little girl who’d given him that cabbage sandwich. But he also came upon modern travelers, in jeans and T-shirts and sneakers—determined and hopeful despite their losses. Within a day, entire tributaries of people were coming from all directions, coursing toward the Center.

“Where we’ll finally eat,” said a man, maybe late forties, with a grizzled beard, in a Red Sox T-shirt and scuffed hiking boots.

“I’m Randy,” he said. His kind, crinkly eyes also reminded Carson of those first Pilgrims: the gaze cast slightly upward, as if following a distant bird or airplane that Carson couldn’t see no matter how hard he looked.

“How far have you come?” Carson asked.

“Nearly two hundred miles, I’d say. Kansas City,” Randy said. “It was a nightmare there. Nowhere for the shit to go, so it kept piling up. An epidemic just waiting to happen. And we were hungry and out of options.” He hooked his thumbs together and held his hands, palms open, in front of his chest.

Carson thought of his students, all their hand signs and signals, and felt like the ignorant administrator he’d once been. For good measure, he put his thumbs together and made the gesture, too. A young woman with stringy hair saw it and gestured back, then scampered off with startling energy, skipping along the track, her well-worn jeans hanging off her thin body. Every few paces, she bent down and gripped the rail lines, lowering her ear to them, as if retrieving some silent message. Then she’d get up again and wave her arms to the sky, relaying whatever she’d heard.

One man, his pink face riddled with acne scars, spoke in staccato sentences strung together into never-ending paragraphs. “I’m alone. I used to sell insurance. I bought stock. I sold stock.



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