Excerpt of Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
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Wait! he exclaims, jumping up and waving his hands at
Zhang. Wait! Zhang Xielin looks at him, panting, Skippy lolling
over his forearms like a sack of wheat. He hasnt eaten anything,
Ruprecht says. He isnt choking. A rustle of intrigue
passes through the body of spectators. Zhang Xielin glowers
mistrustfully, but allows Ruprecht to extricate Skippy, who is surprisingly heavy, from his arms and lay him back down on the
This entire sequence of events, from Skippys initial fall to the
present moment, has taken perhaps three minutes, during which
time his purple colour has faded to an eerily delicate eggshell
blue, and his wheezing breath receded to a whisper; his contortions
too have ebbed towards stillness, and his eyes, though open,
have taken on an oddly vacant air, so that even looking right at
him Ruprechts not a hundred per cent sure hes even actually
conscious, and it seems all of a sudden as if around his own lungs
Ruprecht can feel a pair of cold hands clutching as he realizes
whats about to happen, though at the same time he cant quite
believe it could something like that really happen? Could it really happen here, in Eds Doughnut House? Eds, with its authentic jukebox and its fake leather and its black-and-white photographs of America; Eds, with its fluorescent lights and its tiny plastic forks and its weird sterile air that should smell of doughnuts but doesnt; Eds, where they come every day, where nothing ever
happens, where nothing is supposed to happen, thats the whole point of it
One of the girls in crinkly pants lets out a shriek. Look! Jigging
up and down on her tiptoes, she stabs at the air with her
finger, and Ruprecht snaps out of the stupor hes fallen into and
follows the line downwards to see that Skippy has raised his left
hand. Relief courses through his body.
Thats it! he cries.
The hand flexes, as if it has just woken from a deep sleep, and
Skippy simultaneously expresses a long, rasping sigh.
Thats it! Ruprecht says again, without knowing quite what
he means. You can do it!
Skippy makes a gurgling noise and blinks deliberately up at
The ambulance is going to be here in a second, Ruprecht tells
him. Everythings going to be fine.
Gurgle, gurgle, goes Skippy.
Just relax, Ruprecht says.
But Skippy doesnt. Instead he keeps gurgling, like hes trying
to tell Ruprecht something. He rolls his eyes feverishly, he stares
up at the ceiling; then, as if inspired, his hand shoots out to search
the tiled floor. It pads blindly amid the spilled Coke and melting
ice cubes until it finds one of the fallen doughnuts; this it seizes
on, like a clumsy spider grappling with its prey, crushing it between
its fingers tighter and tighter.
Just take it easy, Ruprecht repeats, glancing over his shoulder
at the window for a sign of the ambulance.
But Skippy keeps squeezing the doughnut till it has oozed
raspberry syrup all over his hand; then, lowering a glistening red
fingertip to the floor, he makes a line, and then another, perpendicular
to the first.
Hes writing, someone whispers.
Hes writing. Painfully slowly sweat dripping down his forehead,
breath rattling like a trapped marble in his chest Skippy
traces out syrupy lines one by one onto the chequered floor.
E, L the lips of the onlookers move soundlessly as each character
is completed; and while the traffic continues to roar by outside,
a strange kind of silence, almost a serenity, falls over the
Doughnut House, as if in here time had temporarily, so to speak,
stopped moving forward; the moment, rather than ceding to the
next, becoming elastic, attenuated, expanding to contain them, to
give them a chance to prepare for whats coming
Excerpted from Skipp Dies: A Novel by Paul Murray, published August 2010 by Faber and Faber, Inc., and affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by
Paul Murray. All rights reserved.