“I'm about to fuck up, he thought clearly, and his next thought was, but I don't have to. This was followed closely by a third thought, the last of this familiar sequence, which was, but I'm going to anyway.”
“For fairness and loyalty, however important to the head, were issues that could seldom be squared in the human heart, at the deepest depths of which lay the mystery of affection, of love, which you either felt or you didn't, pure as instinct, which seized you, not the other way around, making a mockery of words like "should" and "ought". The human heart, where compromise could not be struck, not ever. Where transgressions exacted a terrible price. Where tangled black limbs fell. Where the boom got lowered.”
“It was a scary thought. A man could be surrounded by poetry reading and not know it.”
“An imperfect human heart, perfectly shattered, was her conclusion. A condition so common as to be virtually universal, rendering issues of right and wrong almost incidental.”
“I must be losing patience with my fellow humans," Miss Beryl went on. "Anymore I'm all for executing people who are mean to children. I used to favor just cutting off their feet. Now I want to rid the world of them completely. If this keeps up I'll be voting Republican soon.”
“Everybody looked at Sully suspiciously. A rumor that he had burned up in the blaze had been circulating, and people had quickly adjusted to the idea of profound human tragedy. They were reluctant to give it up, Sully could tell. He smiled apologetically at the crowd.”
“We wear the chains we forge in life,”
“Miss Beryl: Doesn't it bother you that you haven't done more with the life God gave you?
Sully: Not often. Now and then.”
“Throughout his life a case study underachiever, Sully—people still remarked—was nobody’s fool, a phrase that Sully no doubt appreciated without ever sensing its literal application—that at sixty, he was divorced from his own wife, carrying on halfheartedly with another man’s, estranged from his son, devoid of self-knowledge, badly crippled and virtually unemployable—all of which he stubbornly confused with independence.”
“No, Sully'd decided long ago to abstain from all but the most general forms of regret. He allowed himself the vague wish that things had turned out differently, without blaming himself that they hadn't, any more than he'd blamed himself when his 1-2-3 triple never ran like it should at least once. It didn't pay to second-guess every one of life's decisions, to pretend to wisdom about the past from the safety of the present, the way so many people did when they got older.”
“Since her retirement from teaching Miss Beryl's health had in many respects greatly improved, despite her advancing years. An eighth-grade classroom was an excellent place to snag whatever was in the air in the way of illness. Also depression, which, Miss Beryl believed, in conjunction with guilt, opened the door to illness. Miss Beryl didn't know any teachers who weren't habitually guilty and depressed--guilty they hadn't accomplished more with their students, depressed that very little more was possible.”
“Perfect silence. This in response to Sully's key being turned in the ignition of the pickup.”
“Hell, at twenty, he’d been ready to junk everything and start over too. But now, at sixty, he was less willing to throw things away that could be patched together and kept running for a few more months. He wanted to keep going forward, not stop and turn around and analyze the validity of decisions made and courses charted long ago.”
“probably horse doo had a name in french also, but that didn't mean god intended for you to eat it.”
“One of the unfortunate side effects of teaching for forty years was that the task was so monumental, even in recollection, that it sometimes seemed you’d tried to teach everyone on the planet. What Miss Beryl looked for in each adult face was the evidence of some failed lesson in some distant yesterday that might predict incompetence today.”
“The nurse who came in to take her blood was the same one who’d taken her blood pressure earlier, and she slapped the flesh on Miss Beryl’s arm with some annoyance, as if she’d have preferred it to assume some other shape. Miss Beryl knew just how the woman felt.”
“Also her perfume, which mingled with the crisp air off the lake below, creating an intoxicating mixture of damp earth and leaves and water and girl. Not woman, in Sully’s opinion. Girl.”
“Maybe sheetrocking wasn't one of Sully's favorite jobs, but like most physical labor, there was a rhythm to it that you could find if you cared to look, and once you found this rhythm it'd get you through a morning. Rhythm was what Sully had counted on over the long years - that and the wisdom to understand that no job, no matter how thankless or stupid or backbreaking, could not be gotten through. The clock moved if you let it.”
“No, Sully'd decided long ago to abstain from all but the most general forms of regret. He allowed himself the vague wish that things had turned out differently, without blaming himself that they hadn't, any more than he'd blamed himself when his 1-2-3 triple never ran like it should at least once. It didn't pay to second-guess every one of life's decisions, to pretend to wisdom about the past from the safety of the present, the way so many people did when they got older. As if, given a second chance to live their lives, they'd be smarter. Sully didn't know too many people who got noticeably smarter over the course of a lifetime. Some made fewer mistakes, but in Sully's opinion that was because they couldn't go quite so fast. They had less energy, no more virtue; fewer opportunities to screw up, not more wisdom. It was Sully's policy to stick by his mistakes....”
“You want a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?” Sully offered. “You don’t have a stick,” Will pointed out.”
“The best she was able to do was to reflect that people invariably exhibited the very worst side of their flawed natures when invited to put their thoughts into writing, especially when the invitation was sanctioned hit-and-run posing as democracy in action. Here”
“I know,” Peter said, zipping Will’s jacket. The little boy, who had apparently had his throat zipped into his zipper at some point, always put his mittened hand beneath his chin to prevent it from happening again. Sully”
“Like many men addicted to sports, Clive Sr. was also a religious man and one who’d been raised to accept life’s mysteries—the Blessed Trinity, for one instance, a woman’s reasoning, for another.”
“They turned down the narrow alley that led to the Woohvorth’s”
“Right,” he said mildly. “I suppose you got rained on.”
“War is not a natural state. It is an imposition, and a damned unhealthy one. With its rules, we willingly yield our humanity.”
“One touches and, in the act of touching, one's touched.”
“Now and again, one could detect in a childless woman of a certain age the various characteristics of all the children she had never issued. Her body was haunted by the ghost of souls who hadn't lived yet. Premature ghosts. Half-ghosts. X's without Y's. Y's without X's. They applied at her womb and were denied, but, meant for her and no one else, they wouldn't go away. Like tiny ectoplasmic gophers, they hunkered in her tear ducts. They shone through her sighs. Often to her chagrin, they would soften the voice she used in the marketplace. When she spilled wine, it was their playful antics that jostled the glass. They called out her name in the bath or when she passed real children in the street. The spirit babies were everywhere her companions, and everywhere they left her lonesome - yet they no more bore her resentment than a seed resents uneaten fruit. Like pet gnats, like phosphorescence, like sighs on a string, they would follow her into eternity.”
“The simple truth hit Shiva: if the entire society was conscious of its duties, nobody would need to fight for their individual rights. Since everybody’s rights would be automatically taken care of through someone else’s duties. Lord Ram was a genius!”
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