IT WAS A WET MONDAY morning in mid-autumn when Bruno
Boylan finally set foot in the land of his forefathers.
He was traveling on a four-hundred-dollar return fare that hed purchased just days beforehand from the comfort of his own home. A couple of clicks of the mouse and a sixteen-digit credit card number. No ticket, just an e-mail printout and a magic code. No delays, no stopovers, no adverse weather conditions for the crossing.
Hed stayed awake through the drinks cart and the meal. Hed read his book for a while. Then hed popped a Xanax, slicing hours off the flight time in one fell swoop. He was traveling light. All he had with him was a small backpack and a canvas bag in the hold. There was nothing whatsoever to suggest that this was anything in the nature of an epic journey.
The ping of the PA system woke him. He opened his eyes to find himself curled pathetically towards the wall of the plane for comfort, his face squashed against the window blind.
He hauled himself up to a sitting position, leaning his head back against the head rest. Closing his eyes again, he sat there without moving, waiting for a voice to come.
He became aware of an overwhelming physical discomfort. His back ached, and his knees were locked hard, they cracked when he tried to straighten them out. His butt hurt from sitting for so long. He needed to pee. The detritus of the journey was scattered around him. The thin blanket across his knees, the tangled earphones in his lap. His book was wedged somewhere underneath him, but he was so numb he couldnt even feel it. His shoes were under the seat. Soon he would have to find them and get his feet back into them. He allowed himself one more moment to savor the luxurious feeling of his socks on the carpeted floor.
Another ping and the pilots voice spread over the cabin. Bruno could hear him only in snatches, but he could guess what he was saying. He could fill in the gaps. They would shortly be beginning their descent. Something about the weather in Dublin, Bruno couldnt catch it. He nudged up the blind and looked out at thick white cloud. All he could see was the wing of the plane, strangely still.
He turned his attention to the little blue screen on the back of the seat in front of him. A moving map, all it showed was a blunt outline of the East Coast of America, the huge expanse of the Atlantic, and then the outline of Ireland and England up in the right-hand corner. A sweeping arc traced the trajectory of the flight, the dotted line ending in a virtual plane. The model plane was almost on top of Ireland now. It was so far out of scale that it was about to block out the entire country.
Brunos mind shifted a gear. He experienced an unexpected moment of panic, a sickly feeling that he should have prepared himself for this arrival. He wasnt ready for it. He shouldnt have slept. He should have stayed awake the whole time. He should have been present for the journey. He remembered something hed been told once: that American Indians sit in the airport after they arrive somewhere, that they like to give their spirits a chance to catch up with their bodies. Suddenly, that made complete sense to Bruno. His body was out of whack with his spirit, and he needed time to catch up.
The screen in front of him changed. Now it was showing a list of statistics. Time to destination, 0:23 minutes.
He had to use the time. He had to straighten it all out in his head. Three weeks since hed lost his job, three weeks that seemed like three years. Or three days, or three hours. It made no sense. It seemed like a lifetime ago and yet it was all so fresh, the wounds still open and raw.
A month to go to the election. The wait was unbearable. You had to convince yourself that time was marching on like it always does, that any day now it would all be over and you would know the outcome.
Excerpted from This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon. Copyright © 2012 by Kathleen MacMahon. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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