Book excerpt: 'Run'

  • Updated: October 5, 2007 - 6:21 PM

There were three separate hits. They were so close together that someone who was not directly involved might not have been able to see them distinctly, but for Kenya time slowed down and gave her the chance to think of each one as its own act of a play. In the first, her mother left her on the sidewalk and ran to the older boy, Tip. She blindsided him with the full force of her body, the momentum of the blow knocking him very nearly clear of the car. The second one was the car hitting her mother, and this hit was made up of many smaller hits: her hip against the high front fender -- BANG -- her chest against the hood -- BANG -- and then she rolled up until her head struck the windshield with a single clear crack, just at the moment when the car slid to a stop. The third act was the worst to see because it was the whole scene played back in reverse. Her mother's head leaves the windshield, her body rolls backwards across the hood, and then she falls to the ground with a wet, heavy thump and lies there, face down in the snow in front of the tires of a light-colored SUV. One of her mother's arms was still in its coat sleeve but the rest of the coat was turned inside out and fanned the ground next to her, the slick green lining facing up. Kenya, who was capable of moving like lightning, of leaping, of vaulting, of being her mother's little gazelle, was there beside her before the coat had settled across the snow. Not only was Kenya fast, but she had trained her young reflexes to snap like springs. Crack the starting gun and she was off the blocks. She ran. She was down on her hands and knees, calling "Mama, Mama," but it didn't come out anything like the word. It was just a long, high sound that started with the letter M. She put her hand beneath her mother's cheek to turn her head. She needed to see her face. When did her mother's head get to be so heavy?

ANN PATCHETT

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