The widow roused herself, tucked a strand of hair under her shawl, and went up to the tiny booth with its window. Inside, the ticketman's racoon face floated in the dim, close air.
"I haven't . . . she began.
He said nothing, simply waited. His hand lay on the counter before him, knuckles heavy and cracked.
The widow gazed in disgust at his fingernails, pale and sunk into the flesh, with a rim of dirt about each one. A cluster of slumbering things, and above them, darkness and the man's watching eyes.
"I haven't any money," she managed.
"Can't get over if ye can't pay."
Her mouth fell open. Part desperation, part surprise at hearing an actual human voice. "Please, I need to get to the other side. I'm . . . late getting home."
"Out late, eh?"
The feral face came a little farther out of the gloom, fixing her with eyes that were clouded and small. He seemed to be considering an alternative meaning to her statement. She held her collar tight and waited as he gathered the unknown thoughts together.
"Been visiting?" His face took on the shadow of a smile. It was not an unkind face, exactly. The widow nodded, her heart beating hugely.
"Your mother will miss ye, won't she, if ye don't get home?"
The widow had never known a mother, and yet she nodded vigorously.
The ticketman's smile became a leer. "Can't have that."
The foregoing is excerpted from The Outlander by Gil Adamson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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