The overweight St Brigids girl in the booth turns pale and
whispers something in the ear of her companion. Skippy blinks
up at Ruprecht imploringly. Clearing his throat, adjusting his
glasses, Ruprecht examines the message crystallizing on the tiles.
Tell Lori? he says.
Skippy rolls his eyes and croaks.
Tell her what?
I dont know! Ruprecht gabbles, I dont know, Im sorry! He
bends down to squint again at the mysterious pink letters.
Tell her he loves her! the overweight or possibly even pregnant
girl in the St Brigids uniform exclaims. Tell Lori he loves her! Oh
Tell Lori you love her? Ruprecht repeats dubiously. Is that it?
Skippy exhales he smiles. Then he lies back on the tiles; and
Ruprecht sees quite clearly the rise and fall of his breast gently
come to a stop.
Hey! Ruprecht grabs him and shakes him by the shoulders.
Hey, what are you doing?
Skippy does not reply.
For a moment there is a cold, stark silence; then, almost as if
from a united desire to fill it, the diner explodes in a clamour. Air!
is the consensus. Give him air! The door is thrown open and the
cold November night rushes greedily in. Ruprecht finds himself
standing, looking down at his friend. Breathe! he shouts at him,
gesticulating meaninglessly like an angry teacher. Why wont
you breathe? But Skippy just lies there with a reposeful look on
his face, placid as can be.
Around them the air jostles with shouts and suggestions, things
people remember from hospital shows on TV. Ruprecht cant take
this. He pushes through the bodies and out the door down to the
roadside. Biting his thumb, he watches the traffic fleet by in dark,
impersonal blurs, refusing to disclose an ambulance.
When he goes back inside, Zhang Xielin is kneeling, cradling
Skippys head on his lap. Doughnuts scatter the ground like little
candied wreaths. In the silence, people peek at Ruprecht with
moist, pitying eyes. Ruprecht glares back at them murderously. He
is fizzing, he is quaking, he is incandescent with rage. He feels like
stomping back to his room and leaving Skippy where he is. He
feels like screaming out, What? What? What? What? He goes
back outside to look into the traffic, he is crying, and in that
moment he feels all the hundreds and thousands of facts in his
head turn to sludge.
Through the laurel trees, in an upper corner of Seabrook
Tower, you can just make out the window of their dorm, where
not half an hour ago Skippy challenged Ruprecht to the race.
Above the lot, the great pink hoop of the Eds Doughnut House
sign broadcasts its frigid synthetic light into the night, a neon zero
that outshines the moon and all the constellations of infinite
space beyond it. Ruprecht is not looking in that direction. The
universe at this moment appears to him as something horrific,
thin and threadbare and empty; it seems to know this, and in
shame to turn away.
Oldest romance writer in the world dies aged 105. Books #124 and #125 to be published next year(Dec 10 2013) Ida Pollock, author of more than 120 books, and believed to be the world's oldest romantic novelist, has died at the age of 105.