Excerpt of A Slight Trick of The Mind by Mitch Cullin
(Page 6 of 7)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
This, too, proved elusive: No sooner had he begun reading than his eyelids
closed and his chin gradually sagged toward his chest. Then sleeping, he
wouldn't feel the letter slide through his fingers, or hear the faint choking
emanating from his throat. And upon waking, he wouldn't recall the field of
marigolds where he had stood, nor would he remember the dream which had placed
him there again. Instead, startled to find Roger suddenly leaning over him, he
would clear his throat and stare at the boy's vexed face and rasp with
uncertainty, "Was I asleep?"
The boy nodded.
"I seeI see"
"Your supper will be served soon."
"Yes, my supper will be served soon," he muttered, readying his canes.
As before, Roger gingerly assisted Holmes, helping him from the chair,
sticking close to him when they exited the study; the boy traveled with him
along the corridor, then down the stairs, then into the dining room, where, at
last slipping past Roger's light grasp, he went forward on his own, moving
toward the large Victorian golden oak table and the single place setting that
Mrs. Munro had laid for him.
"After I'm finished here," Holmes said, addressing the boy without turning,
"I would very much like to discuss the business of the apiary with you. I wish
for you to relate all which has transpired there in my absence. I trust you can
offer a detailed and accurate report."
"I believe so," the boy responded, watching from the doorway as Holmes
propped his canes against the table before seating himself.
"Very well, then," Holmes finally said, staring across the room to where
Roger stood. "Let us reconvene at the library in an hour's time, shall we?
Providing, of course, that your mother's shepherd's pie doesn't finish me off."
Holmes reached for the folded napkin, shaking it open and tucking a corner
underneath his collar. Sitting upright in the chair, he took a moment to align
the flatware, arranging it neatly. Then he sighed through his nostrils, resting
his hands evenly on either side of the empty plate: "Where is that woman?"
"I'm coming," Mrs. Munro suddenly called. She promptly appeared behind Roger,
holding a dinner tray that steamed with her cooking. "Move aside, son," she told
the boy. "You're not helping nobody like that."
"Sorry," Roger said, shifting his slender body so that she could gain
entrance. And once his mother had rushed by, hurrying to the table, he slowly
took a step backwardand another, and anotheruntil he had removed himself from
the dining room. However, there would be no more loitering about on his part;
otherwise, he knew, his mother might send him home or, at the very least, order
him into the kitchen for cleanup duty. Avoiding that eventuality, he made his
escape quietly enough, doing so while she served Holmes, stealing away before
she could leave the dining room and summon him by name.
But the boy didn't head outside, fleeing toward the beeyard like his mother
might expectnor did he go inside the library and prepare for Holmes's questions
concerning the apiary. Instead, he crept back upstairs, entering that one room
in which only Holmes was allowed to sequester himself: the attic study. In
truth, during the weeks that Holmes was traveling abroad, Roger had spent long
hours exploring the studyinitially taking various old books, dusty monographs,
and scientific journals off the shelves, perusing them as he sat at the desk.
When his curiosity had been satisfied, he had carefully placed them again on the
shelves, making sure they looked untouched. On occasion, he had even pretended
that he was Holmes, reclining in the desk chair with his fingertips pressed
together, gazing at the window, and inhaling imaginary smoke.
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.