Excerpt from Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Days Without End

by Sebastian Barry

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry X
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 272 pages

    Sep 2017, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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You looking for clean boys? says John Cole, a tincture pugilistic right enough, still prophesying menaces.

You are right welcome, the man says. We are? said John Cole.

You are. You are just the thing, especially the smaller one there, he says.

That was me he was meaning. Then, as if he feared John Cole might take offence and stamp out away – But you'll do too, he says. I'm giving fifty cents a night, fifty cents a night each, and all you can drink, if you drink easy, and you can bunk down in the stable behind us, yes indeed, cosy and comfortable and warm as cats. That's if you give satisfaction.

And what's the work? says John, suspicious.

Easiest work in the world, he says.

Such as?

Why, dancing, dancing is all it is. Just dancing.

We ain't no dancers far as I know, says John, flummoxed now, violently disappointed.

You don't need to be dancers as such in the accepted dictionary definition of the word, says the man. It's not high-kicking anyhow.

Alright, says John, lost now just from a sense aspect – but, we ain't got no clothes to be dancing in, that's for sure, he said, displaying his very particular condition.

Why, all's supplied, all's supplied, he says.

The carpenter had paused in his work and was sitting on the steps now, smiling big.

Come with me, gentlemen, says the bartender, likely the owner too, with his swank, and I will show you your clothing of work.

Then he strode over his spanking new floor in his noisy boots, and opened the door into his office. It had a sign on it said Office so we knew. Why, boys, after you, he said, holding the door. I got my manners. And I hope you got your manners, because even rough miners love manners, yes indeed.

So we troop in, all eyes. There's a rack of clothes like a gaggle of hanged women. Because it's women's clothes. Dresses. There was nothing else there, and we looked around thoroughly, we did.

Dancing starts eight sharp, he says. Pick something that fits. Fifty cents, each. And any tips you get is yours to keep.

But, mister, says John Cole, like he was talking to a pitiful insane person. We ain't no women. Can't you see. I is a boy and so is Thomas here.

No, you ain't women, I can see. I could verify that second you came in. You fine young boys. Sign says looking for boys. I would gladly sign up women but ain't no women in Daggsville but the storeman's wife and the stableman's little daughter. Otherwise it's all men here. But men without women can get to pining. It's a sort of sadness gets into their hearts. I aim to get it out and make a few bucks in the process, yes, sir, the great American way. They need only the illusion, only the illusion of the gentler sex. You're it, if you take this employment. It's just the dancing. No kissing, cuddling, feeling, or fumbling. Why, just the nicest, the most genteel dancing. You won't hardly credit how nice, how gentle a rough miner dances. Make you cry to see it. You sure is pretty enough in your way, if you don't mind me saying, especially the smaller one. But you'll do too, you'll do too, he says, seeing John Cole's newly acquired professional pride coming up again. Then he cocks an eyebrow, interrogatory like.

John Cole looks at me. I didn't care. Better than starving in a wheat-sack.

Alright, he says.

Gonna put a bath for you in the stable. Gonna give you soap. Gonna supply the underwears, muy importante. Brought with me from St Louis. You'll fill them fine, boys, I reckon  you'll fill them fine, and after a few glasses no man I know will object. A new era in the history of Daggsville. When the lonesome men got girls to dance with. And all in a comely fashion, in a comely fashion.
And so we trooped out again, shrugging our shoulders, as if to say, it was a mad world, but a lucky one too, now and then. Fifty cents, each. How many times, in how many bowers before sleep in our army days, out on the prairie, in lonesome declivities, we liked to repeat that, John and me, over and over, and never failing in our laughter, Fifty cents – each.

Excerpted from Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. Copyright © 2017 by Sebastian Barry. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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