Authors: Torsten Krol
Torsten Krol is a writer.
Nothing further is known about him.
First published in Australia in 2007 by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited, Sydney.
First published in trade paperback in Great Britain in 2007 by Atlantic Books, an imprint of Grove Atlantic Ltd.
This paperback edition published in Great Britain in 2008 by Atlantic Books.
Copyright Â© Torsten Krol 2007
The moral right of Torsten Krol to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978 1 84354 576 7
eISBN: 978 0 85789 540 0
Printed in Great Britain
An imprint of Grove Atlantic Ltd
26â27 Boswell Street
y name is Odell Deefus. I am a white person, not black like you might think from hearing the name and not seeing me. If you did see me, you wouldn't remember me for my face, which isn't the kind to stick in anyone's mind, but you might remember me for being tall. I am six-three, which makes women attracted to me, then they find out I don't talk the kind of talk they like to hear, so there goes the romance before it even started. You have to be able to talk to get anywhere. Me, I have to think awhile before I talk, but in the meantime the conversation has moved on, as they say, so forget that. I have had this difficulty all my life, with bad consequences.
I will be twenty-two years old on November 21, 2007. I will not be here then because I am riding this bus to somewhere else away from here. So far I have not said a single word to any of the other passengers. They are all asleep right now as we go
speeding through the night. They most likely think I'm a tall dumb hick but they would be wrong about that. I know this because I have read
sixteen times now, and that is a Pulitzer Prize book which you can't be dumb and be able to read it. I have tried three other books to read but they did not satisfy like
. If you have not read the story, it's about a boy that adopts a fawn after its mother gets shot in the woods, and he raises it to be his pet like a dog, only it all goes bad when the fawn gets to be a year old and is a big nuisance around the place, eating the corn crop and so forth, so in the end it has to be shot, which always wets my eyelashes it's so sad. Which is more proof I am not dumb, because a dumb person would not feel all that emotion.
I am writing this on the bus in a school exercise book with lined paper in it and the Little Mermaid on the cover. I got a bunch of these because I have got a long story to tell. There is the Lion King and the Incredibles, the whole family, and there is Nemo and Friends plus Shrek and his buddy the donkey that talks, also everyone from
. I would've got plain covers but the store only had the cartoon kind. There is a little light bulb over my seat to do the writing by. I have got the urge to write it all down, the things that happened to me, while everyone else is asleep, write it all down before something else happens to me. I will figure out later what to do with the story, maybe send it to the
New York Times
, which is the way true things get told no matter if someone wants the story not to get told. They will not stop me or the
A little while back I'm driving across Kansas in a '78 Chevy
Monte Carlo with an engine that sounded like it's driving piles into a riverbed. I was on my way to sign up for the Army now that they want people so bad they don't care all that much if you don't have that high school graduation certificate, which I don't, but not because of stupidity. I was not in the best frame of mind that last year of school, resulting in a bad consequence of not graduating, which was something I didn't care about at the time. But later on I did when the best job I could get was working in a grain elevator. I almost got killed in that job, low paid and dangerous with all that wheat thundering into silos two hundred foot tall. The Army wanted enlistees bad since the war in Iraq made guys quit signing up for enlistment. They even paid a bonus now, I heard, so that was the plan, get enlisted and collect that bonus and try my hardest to be a good soldier against the mad dog Islamites over there exploding everything they could get their hands on including their own people. I am not a blood-thirsty person, but that kind of craziness has got to stop right now. I was not a big success in the world yet, but maybe I would be if I could get some combat medals to show.
There was an enlistment office in Callisto, over there in Callisto County, so that was the direction I went, holding to a steady seventy miles per hour which the Chevy's engine operated best at. I had less than forty miles to go when it started sounding real bad, like it's about to throw a rod or something, so I had to slow down or risk the whole thing going up in smoke. You can't drive slow on the interstate highway, so I got off and went real slow and careful along the back roads, not sure exactly where I was but heading in the right direction for enlistment. Then the engine went all ragged and quit on
me, so I had to pull over and shut it down. I sat there awhile watching dust blow past, then I got out and raised the hood. Everything under there was all plugged in, nothing I could see disconnected or out of place, not that I'm a mechanical expert. So the problem was somewhere inside the block, most likely an old-age problem with the odometer reading ninety-eight thousand miles, its second go-round after clocking up that first hundred thou. The engine was ticking like a time bomb, blasting heat and oil stench up at me, so I backed away, thinking maybe if I let it cool down it'll be okay for later on. It was around midafternoon by then and I'd been driving most of the day, so I was ready for a break in any case.
There was nothing around to look at, Callisto County being flat and empty like most of Kansas except over in the east where they have got itty-bitty hills to look at. I leaned against the door and looked at the horizon a long ways off, not letting myself get mad about the engine quitting that way. It never does a bit of good to get mad about stuff like that, it's just a waste of time. You see some guys yelling at their car, even kicking it if they're pissed enough, but it never makes a bit of difference to the problem, so why waste your energy. Besides, this has happened before, so I am used to it. I'm thinking when I get out of the Army the first thing I'll get with my wages is a car with less than fifty thou on it and no problems yet.
It was hot in the sun with hardly no cloud cover at all, so I got in the back seat and opened my suitcase which had pretty near everything I owned in it, which just goes to show the sad state into which my life had fallen thus far. A life should not be able to fit in a single suitcase that way. There was some clothes
that needed the attention of a laundromat and a quarter-empty bottle of Captain Morgan which I'm partial to and my copy of
, getting split pretty bad along the binding I had it so long now. I studied the Captain in his pirate outfit for a long time, asking myself if I should take a shot or save it for later, being that I only had about twenty-five dollars in my jeans. They better take me on for the Army or I was screwed, financially speaking. In the end I put the bottle down, feeling strong and sensible about it, and picked up the book instead. I have this philosophy â if you have got the choice between picking up a bottle and picking up a book, pick up the book. It is almost always the correct and sensible thing to do. There are some that live by the bottle or else they smoke dope like they can't get enough, and this behavior is a distraction from real life. That was not my way and never would be. That's why I was confident they would pass me for the physical and not worry overmuch about the high school graduation certificate. What does shooting mad-dog Islamites have to do with anything you learned in school anyway?
I started in to read, passing the time. I was at the scene where the boy, Jody, goes to visit his crippled friend, Fodderwing, to say how-do. I have looked at titty magazines and car and gun magazines and there is no satisfaction in them for a mind that craves a story. You might say that I go through
the way some folk with religion go through the Bible, from front to back and start all over again. There is something new to discover every time, I have found.
One time a person I was acquainted with who was not a friend started in making fun of me for reading that book. He
said it was a book for little kids because it had a picture on the front of Jody with the fawn in his arms. I told him it was a Pulitzer Prize book, it said so right there under Jody and the fawn, but he wouldn't let up, kept on making these comments about how you'd have to be retarded to be reading a kid's book like that, probably he never even heard of the Pulitzer Prize, so in the end I had to set the book down and teach him a lesson. I am not often that way, getting violent, I mean, but he asked for it the way he was talking. I am tall like I said, but I am no skinny beanpole to be pushed around. This fool that was poking fun was no small person either, but I got the better of him all right with only a grazed cheekbone and knuckles to show for winning the argument. Sometimes things just have to be settled that way. It is not the way I prefer, but there is sometimes no choice in the matter and you have to stand up and do what's right or else get laughed at.
That happened back at my school, Kit Carson High in Yoder, Wyoming. I was held to blame and had to spend three days in suspension for it even though it was not my fault what happened. This is one reason I did not do well in school, resulting in no certificate and a string of jobs like the one at the grain silo, but the US Army would change all that, I hoped.