Whenever I thought about this, I felt nauseated. It was months since I'd been out to Tom's but though I tried to tell myself that Mr. Beeman couldn't possibly know about us going into those houseshow could he know?my imagination was flying and darting around in panicked zig-zags. I was determined not to tell on Tom (even though I wasn't so sure he hadn't told on me) but that left me in a tight spot. How could I have been so stupid? Breaking and entering was a crime; people went to jail for it. For hours the night before I'd lain awake tortured, flopping back and forth and watching the rain slap in ragged gusts against my windowpane and wondering what to say if confronted. But how could I defend myself, when I didn't even know what they knew?
Goldie heaved a big sigh, put his hand down and walked backward on his heels to where my mother stood.
"Incredible," he said to her, with one jaded eye on the street. "We got the flooding down in SoHo, you heard about that, right, and Carlos was saying they got some streets blocked off over by the UN."
Gloomily, I watched the crowd of workers streaming off the crosstown bus, as joyless as a swarm of hornets. We might have had better luck if we'd walked west a block or two, but my mother and I had enough experience of Goldie to know that he would be offended if we struck out on our own. But just thenso suddenly that we all jumpeda cab with its light on skidded across the lane to us, throwing up a fan of sewer-smelling water.
"Watch it!" said Goldie, leaping aside as the taxi plowed to a stopand then observing that my mother had no umbrella. "Wait," he said, starting into the lobby, to the collection of lost and forgotten umbrellas that he saved in a brass can by the fireplace and re-distributed on rainy days.
"No," my mother called, fishing in her bag for her tiny candy-striped collapsible, "don't bother, Goldie, I'm all set"
Goldie sprang back to the curb and shut the taxi door after her. Then he leaned down and knocked on the window.
"You have a blessed day," he said.
I LIKE TO THINK of myself as a perceptive person (as I suppose we all do) and in setting all this down, it's tempting to pencil a shadow gliding in overhead. But I was blind and deaf to the future; my single, crushing, worry was the meeting at school. When I'd called Tom to tell him I'd been suspended (whispering on the land line; she had taken away my cell phone) he hadn't seemed particularly surprised to hear it. "Look," he'd said, cutting me off, "don't be stupid, Theo, nobody knows a thing, just keep your fucking mouth shut"; and before I could get out another word, he said, "Sorry, I've got to go," and hung up.
In the cab, I tried to crack my window to get some air: no luck. It smelled like someone had been changing dirty diapers back there or maybe even taken an actual shit, and then tried to cover it up with a bunch of coconut air freshener that smelled like suntan lotion. The seats were greasy, and patched with duct tape, and the shocks were nearly gone. Whenever we struck a bump, my teeth rattled, and so did the religious claptrap dangling from the rear view mirror: medallions, a curved sword in miniature dancing on a plastic chain, and a turbaned, bearded guru who gazed into the back seat with piercing eyes, palm raised in benediction.
Along Park Avenue, ranks of red tulips stood at attention as we sped by. Bollywood popturned down to a low, almost subliminal whinespiraled and sparkled hypnotically, just at the threshold of my hearing. The leaves were just coming out on the trees. Delivery boys from D'Agostino's and Gristede's pushed carts laden with groceries; harried executive women in heels plunged down the sidewalk, dragging reluctant kindergartners behind them; a uniformed worker swept debris from the gutter into a dustpan on a stick; lawyers and stockbrokers held their palms out and knit their brows as they looked up at the sky. As we jolted up the avenue (my mother looking miserable, clutching at the armrest to brace herself) I stared out the window at the dyspeptic workaday faces (worried-looking people in raincoats, milling in grim throngs at the crosswalks, people drinking coffee from cardboard cups and talking on cell phones and glancing furtively side to side) and tried hard not to think of all the unpleasant fates that might be about to befall me: some of them involving juvenile court, or jail.
Excerpted from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Copyright © 2013 by Donna Tartt. 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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