Blogging the Bookshelf

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That’s Some Crash – “The Right Stuff” – Tom Wolfe

July 26th, 2011 · No Comments · Civilisation, Description, Science

Somebody’s running toward him… It’s a kid, a guy in his twenties… He’s come from the highway… He comes up close and his mouth falls open and he gives Yeager a look of stone horror…

“Are you all right!”

The look on the kid’s face! Christalmighty!

“I was in my car! I saw you coming down!”

“Listen,” says Yeager. The pain in his finger is terrific. “Listen… you got a knife?” The kid digs into his pocket and pulls out a penknife. Yeager starts cutting the glove off his left hand. He can’t bear it any more. The kid stands there hypnotized and horrified. From the look on the kid’s face, Yeager can begin to see himself. His neck, the whole left side of his head, his ear, his cheek, his eye must be burned up. His eye socket is slashed, swollen, caked shut, and covered with a crust of burned blood, and half his hair is burned away. The whole mess and the rest of his face and his nostrils and his lips are smeared with the sludge of the burning robber. And he’s standing there in the middle of the desert in a pressure suit with his head cocked, squinting out of one eye, working on his left glove with a penknife… The knife cuts through the glove and it cuts through the meat of his finger… You can’t tell any longer… It’s all run together… The goddamn finger looks like it’s melted… He’s got to get the glove off. That’s all there is to it. It hurts too goddamned much. He pulls off the glove and a big hunk of melted meat from the finger comes off with it… It’s like fried suet…

“Arrggghhh…” It’s the kid. He’s retching. It’s too much for him, the poor bastard. He looks up at Yeager. His eyes open and his mouth opens. All the glue has come undone. He can’t hold it together any longer.

A few minutes later the rescue helicopter arrived. The medics found Yeager standing out in the mesquite, him and some kid who had been passing by. Yeager was standing erect with his parachute rolled up and his helmet in the crook of his arm, right out of the manual, and staring at them quite levelly out of what was left of his face, as if they had had an appointment and he was on time.

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