Back to Blood
The Sergeant was easing back on the throttle. The SMACKs became less violent and less frequent as they closed in on the huge white sailboat. They were approaching it from the rear.
Officer Lonnie Kite leaned down over the instrument panel and began looking upward. "Jesus Christ, Sarge, those mastsI never saw masts that high in my life. They're tall as the fucking bridge, and the fucking bridge has a mean water level clearance of eighty-fucking-two feet!"
Busy easing the Safe Boat in alongside the sailboat, the Sergeant didn't so much as glance up. "That's a schooner, Lonnie. You heard a the 'tall ships'?"
"Yeah I think so, Sarge. I guess so."
"They built 'em for speed, back in the nineteenth century. That's why they got masts that tall. That way you get more sail area. Back in the day they used to race out to shipwrecks or incoming cargo ships or whatever to get to the booty sooner. I bet those masts are tall as the boat's long."
"How do you know about all that, about schooners, Sarge? I never seen one around here. Not one."
"I pay attention"
"in class," said Lonnie Kite. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot, Sarge." He pointed upward. "I'll be damned. There's the guy! The man on the mast! Up on top of the forward mast! I thought it was a clump a dirty laundry or canvas or something. Look at 'im! He's up as high as the tontos on the bridge! And, man, looks like they're yelling back and forth "
Nestor couldn't see any of it, and none of them could hear what was going on, since the Safe Boat cockpit was soundproof.
The Sergeant had the boat throttled way down in order to sidle up against the schooner. They came to a stop just inches away. "Lonnie," said the Sergeant, "you take the wheel." When he rose from his seat, he looked at Nestor as if he had forgotten he existed. "Okay, Camacho, do something useful. Open the fucking hatch."
Nestor looked at the Sergeant with abject fear. Inside his skull he said a prayer. ::::::Please, Almighty God, I beseech thee. Don't let me fuck up.::::::
The "hatch" was a soundproof double-paned sliding door on the side of the shack that opened onto the deck. Nestor's entire universe suddenly contracted into that door and the Olympics-level test of opening it with maximum strength, maximum speedwhile maintaining maximum control now! Immediately! ::::::Please, Almighty God, I beseech theehere goes::::::
He did it! He did it! With the fluid power of a tiger he did it! Did what? Slid it! Slid a sliding door open! Without fucking up!
Outsideall was uproar. The noise came crashing into the sacrosoundless cockpit, the noise and the heat. Christ, it was hot out here on the deck! Scorching! Enervating! It beat you down. It took the wind kicking up the bay to make it bearable. The wind was strong enough to create its own whistling sound and SLAP the hull of the schooner with swells and FLAP the huge sails, two masts' full of themFLAP them until they blew up into clouds of an unnatural white brillianceMiami summer sun! Nestor glanced up toward that ball of fireburning itself upand even with his supreme darkest sunglasses he didn't try that againlooking up into that hellish heat lamp, which was the entire sky. But that was nothing compared to the roiling SURF of human voices. Cries! Exhortations! Imprecations! Ululations! Supplications! Boos! A great bellowing and gnashing of teeth a mile from shore out in the middle of Biscayne Bay!
The Sergeant emerged from the shack without the slightest flick of the eye toward Nestor. But as he disembarked, he made a jerking signal with his hand down by his hip indicating that Nestor should follow him. Follow him? Nestor followed him like a dog.
Excerpted from Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. Copyright © 2012 by Tom Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. 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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