Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dog

Two passages from The Dog of The South, by Charles Portis, copied by opening on the desktop my Kindle's "clippings.txt" file. Turns out to be so easy that the temptation will always be to quote too much. No page numbers, of course, just "locations."

The Dog of the South (Charles Portis) - Highlight Loc. 278-85 | Added on Saturday, January 29, 2011, 04:21 PM

I decided that she was probably out for an afternoon of city obstruction and I went to the west side of town and cruised the parking lots of the big shopping centers looking for her car. On certain days of the week she and several hundred other biddies would meet at these places and get their assignments, first having taken care to park their Larks and Volvos and Cadillacs across the painted lines and thus taking up two parking spaces, sometimes three. Then they would spread out over town. Some would go to supermarkets and stall the checkout lines with purse-fumbling and check-writing. Others would wait for the noon rush at cafeterias and there bring the serving lines to a crawl with long deliberative stops at the pie station. The rest were on motor patrol and they would poke along on the inside lanes of busy streets and stop cold for left turns whenever they saw a good chance to stack up traffic. Another trick was to stick the nose of a car about halfway into a thoroughfare from a side street, thereby blocking all traffic in that lane.
The Dog of the South (Charles Portis) - Highlight Loc. 312-23 | Added on Saturday, January 29, 2011, 04:34 PM
In South Texas I saw three interesting things. The first was a tiny girl, maybe ten years old, driving a 1965 Cadillac. She wasn’t going very fast, because I passed her, but still she was cruising right along, with her head tilted back and her mouth open and her little hands gripping the wheel.

Then I saw an old man walking up the median strip pulling a wooden cross behind him. It was mounted on something like a golf cart with two spoked wheels. I slowed down to read the hand-lettered sign on his chest. JACKSONVILLE FLA OR BUST. I had never been to Jacksonville but I knew it was the home of the Gator Bowl and I had heard it was a boom town, taking in an entire county or some such thing. It seemed an odd destination for a religious pilgrim. Penance maybe for some terrible sin, or some bargain he had worked out with God, or maybe just a crazed hiker. I waved and called out to him, wishing him luck, but he was intent on his marching and had no time for idle greetings. His step was brisk and I was convinced he wouldn’t bust.

The third interesting thing was a convoy of stake-bed trucks all piled high with loose watermelons and cantaloupes. I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that the bottom ones weren’t being crushed under all that weight, exploding and spraying hazardous melon juice onto the highway. One of nature’s tricks with curved surfaces. Topology!
This is fairly representative material. Amusing, but the book is just one passage like this after another, organized as loosely as humanly possible around a journey, and by the mid-point it left me feeling slightly nauseous, as if I'd eaten too much marzipan.

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