Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

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One evening, it was toward the end of October, Harry Arno said to the woman he’d been seeing on and off the past few years, “I’ve made a decision. I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before in my life.”

Joyce said, “You mean something you did when you were in the war?”

It stopped him. “How’d you know that?”

“When you were in Italy and you shot the deserter?”

Harry didn’t say anything, staring at her.

“You already told me about it.”

“Come on. When?”

“We were having drinks at the Cardozo, outside, not long after we started seeing each other again. You said it the same way you did just now, like you’re going to tell me a secret. That’s why I knew. Only I don’t think you said anything about making a decision.”

Now he was confused.

“I wasn’t drinking then, was I?”

“You quit before that.” Joyce paused and said, “Wait a minute. You know what? That was the second time you told me about shooting the guy. At Pisa, right? You showed me the picture of you holding up the Leaning Tower.”

“It wasn’t at Pisa,” Harry said. “Not where I shot the guy.”

“No, but around there.”

“You’re sure I told you about it twice?”

“The firsttime, it was when I was working at the club and we went out a few times. You were still drinking then.”

“That was what, six or seven years ago.”

“I hate to say it, Harry, but it’s more like ten. I know I was almost thirty when I quit dancing.”

Harry said, “Jesus Christ,” figuring that would be about right, if Joyce was around forty now. Getting up there. He remembered her white skin in the spotlight, dark hair and pure white skin the only topless dancer he ever knew who wore glasses while she performed; not contacts, real glasses with round black rims. For her age Joyce still looked pretty good. Time went by so fast. Harry had turned sixty-six two weeks ago. He was the same age as Paul Newman.

“You ever hear me tell anyone else?”

Joyce said, “I don’t think so.” And said right away, “If you want to tell it again, fine. It’s a wonderful story.”

He said, “No, that’s okay.”

— Elmore (“Dutch”) Leonard, Pronto, showing everyone else how a master can take a cliche and use it to pull the rug out from under you

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Written by [IMH]

21 March 2006 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Quotes

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