Excerpt of City of the Sun by David Levien
(Page 2 of 11)
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"You're just lucky it doesn't stick to you," Tad repeated,
chewing on his own French toast.
"Yeah, I'm lucky," Rooster said, turned, and looked down the
street, still dark beneath all the goddamn trees. "Should've gone to
Jamie Gabriel, rider, pedals. He flows by silent houses,
houses dark on the inside. He tosses papers into yards and onto porches. He
works on his arc and velocity with each throw. An automatic sprinkler quietly
sweeps one lawn, still blue in the bruised morning light. Jamie slings for the
front door of that house so the paper stays dry. He works his pedals. A line of
streetlight goes dark with a hiss as morning comes. Dad thinks it's great that
they moved to a neighborhood that supports tradition: newspaper routes. Mom's
not so sureher boy needs his rest. Few people know the streets like Jamie does.
Dark and empty, they're his streets. Jamie wasn't so sure either, at first, when
he was still getting used to the work and slogging through the route on his old
Huffy. But then he earned the new bike. He read an old story of a mailman who
became an Olympic biker. Why not him, too?
He has a picture. The black man's thighs bulge and ripple. He looks like he's
set to tear his bike apart more than ride it. Jamie checks his watch. His time
is looking good.
Rooster glanced at the clock inside the Lincoln. Goddamn
Lincoln now smelled of an old fuel leak and Tad's farts over the sickly sweet of
the aftershave. But the car was clean. Riggi bought it in a cash deal and
dropped it off with fixed-up tags. Rooster hated these goddamned pickups. He
flexed his forearm, felt the corded muscle move underneath his wounded and
roughly healed skin and light red arm hair. His forearm was thick for his
stature. He was ripped. He was disciplined with working out, but he was a lazy
bastard, he suspected, when it came to certain parts of the job. Yeah, he hated
the fucking snatches. Anybody could do 'em. It wasn't like the house work.
That was rarefied air, sir.
"Start the car," Rooster said low, glancing sideways at the
clock again. He scanned out the windshield of the Lincoln. The goddamn thing was
like the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
"Oh, shit," Tad said, his last bite of hash-brown cake
sticking in his gullet. The car turned over, coarse and throaty.
They saw movement at the corner.
Jamie puts his head down and digs his pedals. He's got a shot
at his record. He's got a shot at the world
record. He throws and then dips his right shoulder as he makes the corner of
Tibbs. The canvas sack on his left has begun to lighten and unbalance him.
He straightens the Mongoose and glances up. Car. Dang. Jamie
wheels around the corner right into the rusty grill and locks them up.
Tires bite asphalt and squeal. Smoke and rubber-stink roil.
Brakes strain hard and hold. The vehicles come to a stop. Inches separate them.
With a blown-out breath of relief, Jamie shakes his head and
starts pushing toward the curb, bending down to pick up a few papers that have
Car doors open. Feet hit the pavement. Jamie looks up at the
sound. Two men rise out of the car. They move toward him. He squeezes the hand
brake hard as they approach.
CAROL GABRIEL PUSHES a strand of dirty blond
hair back behind her ear and sips her coffee, Folgers beans, freshly ground, a
mellow roast. Her friends like Starbucks, but she finds it bitter and knows they
drink it for the name.
She stands in the kitchen and looks out over the sink through
the small square window. She's found herself smiling here most days since the
move. Especially since fall hit three weeks back with a burst of color on the
trees. There's no smile today, even though the day's a bright, shiny thing. Her
second cup of coffee has begun to curdle in her belly, as Jamie usually wheels
into the driveway before she's done with her first.
Published by Doubleday. Copyright © 2008 by Levien Works, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.