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Easy Rawlin's search for a stunning beauty takes him into America's racial dilemmas of the early '60s and the mysteries of the human character.Edition/Copyright: 02
Chapter 1 I awoke with a start in almost complete darkness. I didn't know where I was. The mattress was too soft. I reached over to get my watch but the night table wasn't there. I almost fell off the lawn chair onto the porch. Then I remembered how hot it was in the house. The kids, Jesus and Feather, had taken the only working fan to blow air from the window into Jesus's room. I'd come outside to the screened-in porch at two A.M. after waking up to find myself sweating in the bed.I sat up trying to throw off the nightmare. It had been almost five years, but Bruno died in my dreams at least once a month -- more often recently. I'll never forget him being nailed to the wall by my best friend's gun.I tried to think of better things. About our new young Irish president and Martin Luther King; about how the world was changing and a black man in America had the chance to be a man for the first time in hundreds of years. But that same world was being rocked almost daily by underground nuclear explosions and the threat of war.Across town an old friend of mine, Martin Smith, lay dying. He'd been the closest thing to a teacher that I ever had. I knew that I had to go see him, to say goodbye, but I kept putting it off.And through it all blew that hot September wind. It wouldn't let me rest. It just got hotter and hotter while my temper wore thin.I wanted to feel better but all I had was the certainty that the world had passed me by -- leaving me and my kind dead or making death in dark causeways.A strip of dawn light showed above the houses across the street. A better day might have been coming, for some people -- but not for everyone. Bruno was in his grave almost five years now, while Mouse languished in the state prison at Chino for manslaughter. I was in a kind of prison too. A prison of guilt, a prison of my mind.''Mr. Rawlins?'' a voice said.My hand went straight for the pistol in the night-table drawer again. But I wasn't in my bedroom. I was naked, not even under a sheet, outside in the dark. I grabbed a ceramic ashtray that Jesus had made me at summer camp.''Whoisit?'' I tried to sound calm. The silhouette in the screened doorway was a man -- somewhere between five foot six and six foot five. With my free hand I took the sheet from the floor and held it to my crotch.''Saul Lynx, Mr. Rawlins.'' A white man. ''Can you talk?''''Huh? What?'' I clutched the misshapen slab of clay so hard that it cracked in my hand.''I know it's early,'' the white man said. ''But it's important that I speak with you. I got your name last night, but by the time I got a chance to come over it was too late. I was going to wait outside until later, but when I came up to check the address I heard you talking in your sleep. You see, I have to talk to you this morning.''''Then why don't you get-ass away from here and call me in the mornin'?'' I could feel the strength in my arm build to the point where I could have hurled the ashtray through the screen. If he had touched the latch on the door he would have been a dead man.But instead of taking any chances he said, ''I've come to offer you a job. But you've got to start today -- this morning.'' Then he said, ''Can we turn on a light or something?''I didn't want him to see me with no clothes on. It was like I was still in a dream, as if I were vulnerable if someone could see my skin. I wanted to linger in those shadows, but I'd learned that you can't hide in your own house -- if somebody knows where you live you've got to stand up.I wrapped the sheet around me like an African robe and reached inside the front door to switch on the porch light. Mr. Lynx was still hidden in the faint light beyond my screen.''May I come in?'' he asked.''Come on then.''He was a smallish man in a light brown cotton suit and a loose dark brown tie. His nose was the only big thing on him -- protruding and somehow shapeless. If you'd forgotten his name you would have s
San Diego Union TribunePerceptive and poignant, humorous and horrifying...a rare blend of top-flight entertainment and incisive social comment.
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