Excerpt of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
(Page 4 of 5)
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"Look at him," someone behind me said. "He's completely convinced he's going
to be first pick. Just look at him!"
There was something comical about Tommy at that moment, something that made
you think, well, yes, if he's going to be that daft, he deserves what's coming.
The other boys were all pre- tending to ignore the picking process, pretending
they didn't care where they came in the order. Some were talking quietly to each
other, some re-tying their laces, others just staring down at their feet as they
trammelled the mud. But Tommy was looking eagerly at the Senior 3 boy, as though
his name had already been called.
Laura kept up her performance all through the team-picking, doing all the
different expressions that went across Tommy's face: the bright eager one at the
start; the puzzled concern when four picks had gone by and he still hadn't been
chosen; the hurt and panic as it began to dawn on him what was really going on.
I didn't keep glancing round at Laura, though, because I was watching Tommy; I
only knew what she was doing because the others kept laughing and egging her on.
Then when Tommy was left standing alone, and the boys all began sniggering, I
heard Ruth say:
"It's coming. Hold it. Seven seconds. Seven, six, five . . ."
She never got there. Tommy burst into thunderous bellowing, and the boys, now
laughing openly, started to run off towards the South Playing Field. Tommy took
a few strides after themit was hard to say whether his instinct was to give
angry chase or if he was panicked at being left behind. In any case he soon
stopped and stood there, glaring after them, his face scarlet. Then he began to
scream and shout, a nonsensical jumble of swear words and insults.
We'd all seen plenty of Tommy's tantrums by then, so we came down off our
stools and spread ourselves around the room. We tried to start up a conversation
about something else, but there was Tommy going on and on in the background, and
although at first we just rolled our eyes and tried to ignore it, in the
endprobably a full ten minutes after we'd first moved awaywe were back up at
the windows again.
The other boys were now completely out of view, and Tommy was no longer
trying to direct his comments in any particular direction. He was just raving,
flinging his limbs about, at the sky, at the wind, at the nearest fence post.
Laura said he was maybe "rehearsing his Shakespeare." Someone else pointed out
how each time he screamed something he'd raise one foot off the ground, pointing
it outwards, "like a dog doing a pee." Actually, I'd noticed the same foot
movement myself, but what had struck me was that each time he stamped the foot
back down again, flecks of mud flew up around his shins. I thought again about
his precious shirt, but he was too far away for me to see if he'd got much mud
"I suppose it is a bit cruel," Ruth said, "the way they always work him up
like that. But it's his own fault. If he learnt to keep his cool, they'd leave
"They'd still keep on at him," Hannah said. "Graham K.'s temper's just as
bad, but that only makes them all the more care- ful with him. The reason they
go for Tommy's because he's a layabout."
Then everyone was talking at once, about how Tommy never even tried to be
creative, about how he hadn't even put anything in for the Spring Exchange. I
suppose the truth was, by that stage, each of us was secretly wishing a guardian
would come from the house and take him away. And although we hadn't had any part
in this latest plan to rile Tommy, we had taken out ringside seats, and we were
starting to feel guilty. But there was no sign of a guardian, so we just kept
swapping reasons why Tommy deserved everything he got. Then when Ruth looked at
her watch and said even though we still had time, we should get back to the main
house, nobody argued.
Excerpted from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro Copyright © 2005 by Kazuo
Ishiguro. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All
rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.