In this captivating short story, the protagonist Hollingsworth suffers from his own isolation and seeks to subdue and control the two other major characters in the story: his father Buzbee (who is a virile seventy-seven-year-old man who lives in the wilderness) and Jesse, an elite cyclist that takes a break from riding and loses his edge, much to the delight of Hollingsworth. What’s most interesting about the story is the sympathy that the protagonist generates and the way in which the reader is forced to reconsider his/her earlier feelings about Hollingsworth.
Sentences Worth Studying
- “Hollingsworth had called in to Crystal Springs and had the asphalt truck come out and grade and level his gravel, pour hot slick tar down over it, and smooth it out: it cooled slowly and was beautiful, almost iridescent, like a black snake in the bright green grass; it glowed its way across the yard as if it were made of glass, a path straight to the store, coming in off the road. It beckoned” (50).
- “He didn’t use a stopwatch the way other cyclists did, but he knew he was getting faster, because just recently he had gotten the quiet, almost silent sensation—just a soft hushing—of falling, the one that athletes, and sometimes other people, get when they push deeper and deep into their sport, until—like pushing through one final restraining layer of tissue, the last and thinnest, easiest one—they are falling, slowly, and there is nothing left in their life to stop them, no work is necessary, things are just happening, and they suddenly have all the time in the world to perfect their sport, because that’s all there is, one day, finally” (52).
- “He kept a fire going continuously, to keep the mosquitoes away, and as he caught more and more of the big fish, he hung them from the branches in his clearing, looped vine through their huge jaws and hung them like villains in his little clearing, like the most ancient of burial grounds; all these vertical fish, out of the water, mouths gaping in silent death, as if preparing to ascend: they were all pointing up” (55).
- “The moon came down through the bare limbs of the swamp-rotted ghost trees, skeleton-white, disease-killed, but as he got higher above the swamp and closer to the town, near daylight, the water moved faster, had some circulation, and the mosquitoes were not a threat” (56).
- “Buzbee had a knife in one hand and a sharpened stick in the other, and he almost wished there would be an attack, so that he could be a hero” (65).
- “Part of him [Jesse] wanted to be as he had been, briefly: iron, and fast, racing with the fastest people in the world, it seemed—he couldn’t remember anything about them, only the blaze and rip of their speed, the whish-whish cutting sound they made, as a pack, tucking and sailing down around corners—but also, he was tired of that, and it felt good to be away from it, for just a little while” (67).
- “Moths fell down off the porch light’s bulb, brushed his [Jesse’s] shoulders, landed on the pages of his book, spun, and flew off, leaving traces of magic. And the wind began to stir harder. Stars were all above him, and they glittered and flashed in the wind. They seemed to be challenging him, daring him to see what was true” (79).