Excerpt of A Slight Trick of The Mind by Mitch Cullin
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"Yes?" she replied, about-facing in the corridor and coming back with haste.
"What is it?"
"Where is Roger?" he asked, returning the vial to his pocket.
She entered the library, covering the seven steps that had marked her
departure. "Beg your pardon?"
"Your boyRogerwhere is he? I haven't seen him about yet."
"But, sir, he carried your bags inside for you, don't you remember? Then
you told him to go wait for you at them hives. You said you wanted him there for
A confused look spread across his pale, bearded face, and that puzzlement
that occupied the moments when he sensed the failing of his own memory also
threw its shadow over him (what else was forgotten, what else filtered away like
sand seeping between clenched fists, and what exactly was known for sure
anymore?), yet he attempted to push his worries aside by inducing a reasonable
explanation for what confounded him from time to time.
"Of course, that is right. It was a tiring trip, you see. I haven't
slept much. Has he waited long?"
"A good whiledidn't take his teacan't imagine he minds a bit, though.
Since you went, he's cared more for them bees than his own mother, I can tell
"Is that so?"
"Yes, sadly it is."
"Well, then," he said, situating the canes, "I suppose I won't keep the
boy waiting any longer."
Easing from the armchair, the canes bringing him to his feet, he proceeded
for the doorway, wordlessly counting each stepone, two, threewhile ignoring
Mrs. Munro uttering behind him, "Want meat your side, sir? You got it all right,
do you?" Four, five, six. He wouldn't conceive of her frowning as he trudged
forward, or foresee her spotting his Jamaican seconds after he exited the room
(her bending before the armchair, pinching the foul-smelling cigar from the seat
cushion, and depositing it in the fireplace). Seven, eight, nine, teneleven
steps brought him into the corridor: four steps more than it took Mrs. Munro,
and two steps more than his average.
Naturally, he concluded when catching his breath at the front door, a degree
of sluggishness on his part wasn't unexpected; he had ventured halfway around
the world and back, forgoing his usual morning meal of royal jelly spread upon
fried breadthe royal jelly, rich in vitamins of the B-complex and containing
substantial amounts of sugars, proteins, and certain organic acids, was
essential to maintaining his well-being and stamina; without its nourishment, he
felt positive, his body had suffered somewhat, as had his retention.
But once outside, his mind was invigorated by the land awash in
late-afternoon light. The flora posed no quandary, nor did the shadows hint at
the voids where fragments of his memory should reside. Everything there was as
it had been for decadesand so, too, was he: strolling effortlessly down the
garden pathway, past the wild daffodils and the herb beds, past the deep purple
buddleias and the giant thistles curling upward, inhaling all the while; a light
breeze rustled the surrounding pines, and he savored the crunching sounds
produced on the gravel from his shoes and canes. If he glanced back over his
shoulder just now, he knew the farmhouse would be obscured behind four large
pinesthe front doorway and casements bedecked with climbing roses, the molded
hoods above the windows, the exposed brick mullions of the outer walls; most of
it barely visible among that dense crisscrossing of branches and pine needles.
Ahead, where the path ended, stretched an undivided pasture enriched with a
profusion of azaleas, laurel, and rhododendrons, beyond which loomed a cluster
of freestanding oaks. And beneath the oaksarranged on a straight-row plan, two
hives to a groupexisted his apiary.
Excerpted from A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin Copyright © 2005 by
Mitch Cullin. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, 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.