Israel attempted to tot up his blessings in his mind, while Ted pulled onto the main coast road back into central Tumdrum.
So, how many dye get? said Ted.
Two, said Israel. He was alive, after all. And he wasnt starving.
Yes, said Israel.
That it? said Ted. Two?
Yes, said Israel. Alas.
Well, thats better than one, said Ted, isnt it. Sure, some people
have no hands.
What? said Israel, watching the grim outer-lying estates flashing by.
No hands, repeated Ted, sticking his own arm out the window as they approached the first of Tumdrums many mini-roundabouts. Must get that indicator fixed.
Some people have no hands? said Israel.
Thats right. I saw a program on the television the other week, about a fella with no legs.
Aye. Makes ye think, doesnt it? Come back to me when youre in that sort of a position and start complainin and I might start listening to ye.
Right, OK. When Ive lost my legs in some horrific
Or yer arms.
Or my arms.
Aye. Get back to me then with yer troubles.
I will, Ted, most certainly get back to you when I have lost either my arms or my legs--
And ye might get some sympathy then. In the meantime, continued Ted, turn the peat.
Its a saying.
And get a haircut and a shave as well while yere at itthatll cheer you up.
I dont need cheering up, Ted.
You need a haircut and a shave, but.
All right, thank you. Lets drop this whole conversation now, can we?
Well, I promised yer mother Id look out for ye, and I dont intend lettin her down.
I dont need you keeping an eye on me, Ted, thank you.
Well, believe me, its the last thing I want to do either, but I told your mother I would, and I will. Shes a good woman, yer mother.
She doesnt need to worry about me.
Of course she needs to worry about ye, said Ted. Thats what mothers are supposed to do.
You know what they say.
You always meet your mother when youre young.
Right, said Israel. Well, thank you, Martin Buber. Illuminating as ever.
They were approaching the square, the downtown of Tumdrum.
Ye probably just need a new challenge, continued Ted.
Probably, agreed Israel.
A hobby, said Ted, is what you need.
Aye. A choir or something.
Or line dancing.
Aye, or a jigsaw even.
Or walk a good brisk mile every morning. Thatd cure you.
A jigsaw? repeated Israel.
And a good brisk walk.
Im sure thatd do the trick, Ted. But can we talk about something else now, please?
Excerpted from The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom. Copyright © 2010 by Ian Sansom. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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