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“...his fingers fumbled, weak as water...”

That night the mild-mannered youth dreamed of the legless man. Lying on his rented bed, he heard a slow and heavy clumping, down some endless gaslit stair well. The legless man was coming. The light was on and he was sitting upright, paralyzed with an unknown terror, watching the doorknob turning slowly, hoping uselessly that it would be too high for Shorty to turn all the way. He still had time to lock it - the key was still in the lock. Moving like a man wading in a slow-motion sea, stiff with dread, it was almost too late, and saw, as the door opened slowly, that there was no one there. No one down a long and fog-lit hall. No one - he knew for sure - in the whole vast hotel. In an access of terror, his fingers fumbled, weak as water, at the key. And wakened at last with the light still burning and the key still in the lock, glinting a little from the light's reflection.

- Nelson Algren, "The Face on the Barroom Floor" (from The Neon Wilderness)

October 30, 2017 in Books | Permalink