92. Mister Stagger Lee

Chapter 91

Mister Stagger Lee

Cana marel o manus chivios ande puv, Ta rovel pa leste o chavo ta romi.

Hate, and nothing else.

When a man dies, he is cast into the earth, and his wife and child sorrow over him. If he has neither wife nor child, then his father and mother, I suppose; and if he is quite alone in the world, why, then, he is cast into the earth, and there is an end of the matter.

He pushed through the closed door, motionless. He was inside. The chair, the chair, the chair. On the chair was the murderer unmoving. The chair, the chair.

‘And do you think that is the end of a man?’

There’s an end of him, brother, more’s the pity.’

Why do you say so?’

Life is sweet, brother.’

Do you think so?’

Think so!—There’s night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there’s likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?’

Jim Parsons was still. His brains blown back across the chair. The chair, the chair, the chair. He took the murderer’s body in his hands and began to rip and kneed and squeeze until the blood vessels burst and pieces of him fell down like sand. He was sobbing, sobbing, at the departure of his prize. He threw parts away. He bit and tore at him.

‘I would wish to die—’

You talk like a gorgio—which is the same as talking like a fool—were you a Rommany Chal you would talk wiser. Wish to die, indeed!—A Rommany Chal would wish to live for ever!’

The smile on Jim’s face wouldn’t go away from him. His blood was warm under his fingernails as he scratched away at the rest of the murderer. But his smile remained, untouchable. Even as he took his face away. Even as he broke him into bloody chunks of wet thread no bigger than fingers, the smile on Jim’s face wouldn’t go away.

There was a note on the ground, written with both hands the way a child would have done. Or a feeble and dying old man. It was almost illegible. It said:

“Everything goes to Izzy. Everything I have, including what you want. You know where she is, so go and get her if you can. The hotel will kill you if you go inside, but you will anyway. You’ll never get it if you don’t. I win. Got you, Stag.”

In sickness, Jasper?’

There’s the sun and stars, brother.’

He stood up. He set the house on fire and let it burn down. He let the fire lick at him. Hate and hate and hate.

In blindness, Jasper?’

He opened the door to the hotel and stepped through. He knew where he was going, and that he wouldn’t survive the trip. Everything was empty, and there was very little in him left. This would kill him. He didn’t hesitate. He would take what was his. He felt the hallway burn his insides out, and he staggered down through a million doors, looking for the little girl.

There’s the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that, I would gladly live for ever. Dosta, we’ll now go to the tents and put on the gloves; and I’ll try to make you feel what a sweet thing it is to be alive, brother!’

Close the door and we’ll disappear

Close the book and we’ll disappear

Chapter 93

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