Wish in one hand and shit in the other. Let me know which fills up first.

Riley Arthur - Springfield Diner, Queens (Diners of New York City Series, 2018)


Even carrying the heavy cross, his head crowned with jagged thorns, his palms punctured (a discrete drop of bright red blood on each), Jesus remained serene, and Rub, an anxious child, hoped that when he grew up, he, too, would find such grace in the face of hardship, that his more or less constant longing would yield to tranquil acceptance. Of course this wasn’t to be, and twenty years later when he accidentally punctured his own left palm with a nail gun, he discovered that if you weren’t the Son of God (or at least a distant cousin) serenity in the face of that kind of pain was not an option. (p. 43*)

“Sully’s just jealous,” Carl observed when Wirf went back to reading the sex-addiction article, “because stupidity isn’t classified as a medical condition.”
“Actually, I believe it is,” said Wirf, not looking up.
“But not one worthy of sympathy.”
“No.”
“Or respect.”
“Certainly not.”
Poor Wirf. To Sully’s mind, the world had been less just and true since he left it. Also less fun. “When I’m gone,” he’d told Sully more than once, “you’re going to discover how hard it is to find another one-legged lawyer who’s always in a good mood,” and this had proven true.
“Of course you think about sex every ten seconds,” Sully told Carl now. “You stay up all night watching porn.” Since losing his house, Carl had been living in Sully’s old apartment over Miss Beryl’s. When Sully, who now lived in the trailer out back, got up to pee in the middle of the night, he could see lewd images reflected in Carl’s upstairs window.
(p. 59*)

“Hey, Ma?” Roy Purdy called from down the counter. “If it’s between me and the garbage can, I’d eat that last piece of day-old.”
This was in reference to the single slice of cherry left in yesterday’s pie dish. Sully couldn’t help smiling at Roy’s tactic. Begging for something even as you establish that it’s of no value means you’re not only more likely to get it but also—and here was the real beauty—you wouldn’t owe much of a debt of gratitude to the person who gave it to you.
(p. 59*)

After all, Carl’s legendary inability to keep his dick in his pants had ruined several marriages, including his own. Sully’d told him as much that night at the Horse. “Half the married men in Schuyler County are going to see this as simple justice. You do know that, right? You’ve heard of karma?” (pp. 60-61*)

Roy ignored this, the look on his face causing Sully to wonder what it must be like to go through life never getting the joke, to smile only when nothing was funny. (p. 66*)

“Aren’t you curious?” Becka always said whenever he asked why she was reading this or that. “About the world and how it works? About people and what makes them tick?” He supposed she had a point. Curiosity was probably a good thing, not always a cat killer. Still, what made people tick was no great mystery, was it? Greed. Lust. Anger. Jealousy. You could almost let your voice fall right there. Love? Some people claimed it made the world go round, but he wasn’t so sure about that. Love mostly turned out to be one of those other emotions, or a mixture of them, in disguise. Even if it did exist, Raymer doubted its relevance to much of anything. (p. 105*)

He knew nothing about Miller’s background but could recognize in him the same eagerness to please that so often went hand in hand with a reluctance to take chances. At every juncture, Miller had to be told what to do and then what to do next.
(p. 107*)

“What’s the matter, then?”
Two responses immediately suggested themselves: everything and nothing. Both true, neither accurate.
(p. 124*)

It reminded her of that story kids still had to read in school, the one where the guy kills an old man because of his “vulture eye,” then chops him up and hides him beneath the floorboards. That’s what people wanted to do with abnormalities: put them somewhere out of sight. Under the floor or back in the steamy kitchen, where people wouldn’t have to see them. This sweet, slow girl? Hide her away so she won’t get hurt. Hide her well enough and long enough and maybe she won’t ask the question you don’t know how to answer:
Who will ever want to love me? (p. 127*)

He hadn’t planned to say anything of the sort. Certainly not to Jerome, who would rat him out to Charice. And certainly not in Gert’s, where such an announcement could circulate widely.
“You’re just having a bad day,” Jerome consoled him.
“They’re all bad,” he replied. “Today’s especially bad, but every last one of them sucks.”
“You’re conflating two issues—your job and your grief.”
“Conflating,” Raymer said. “Isn’t that like giving a blow job?”
Jerome thought for a moment. “That’s <<<<fellating<<<<.”
“Oh.”
“You need to let her go,” Jerome continued. “Losing that garage-door opener? Best thing that ever could’ve happened.”
(p. 132*)

“You’re a good cop, is what I’m saying,” Jerome interrupted, serious again. “Like with that old gentleman across the street. All day long he sits out there on the sidewalk waving his little flag. Every now and then somebody honks. But you stopped to talk to him. That might be the only human contact he’ll have all day.”
“That’s social work,” Raymer countered. He knew Jerome was trying to pay him a compliment, but for some reason he wasn’t in the mood to accept any. “The police solve crimes. Prevent crimes. Apprehend criminals.”
“Police work is giving a shit.”
“So what’re you saying?” Raymer asked. “Because I don’t want a lonely old man to die of heat stroke, that makes me a good cop?”
“Don’t resign, is what I’m saying. If you do, you’ll be sorry, is what I’m saying.”
(p. 135*)

When Raymer finished relating the whole sorry saga, Jerome’s rigid expression was that of a man desperately trying to move a constipated bowel. “It’s okay,” Raymer said. “Go ahead.”
Permission granted, Jerome exploded into laughter so violent that he had all he could do to remain atop his barstool. For Raymer, it was alarming to see a man as tightly wound as Jerome, one so committed to self-control, lose himself so utterly.
(p. 138*)

The name on his tag was REGGIE, but Sully removed the tag, renamed him and settled in to enjoy the resulting confusion. When both Rubs were around, he liked to issue commands to see if either would obey. When the dog barked, Sully would say, “Quiet, Dummy,” causing both dog and man to regard him expectantly, neither sure who was being spoken to, neither wanting to guess wrong, the look on their faces identical. When the human Rub made the mistake of answering, Sully would say, “I wasn’t talking to you.” (p. 173*)

He swallowed hard, aware that whatever he said next would probably be a mistake, yet another opportunity for his favorite cocktail: two parts humiliation, one part bitter regret, blend until smooth. Drink up. After all, it had been that kind of day. About as bad as any he could remember since the one when Becka came downstairs like a Slinky. (p. 190*)

Until he learned to think, Miller had little choice but to remain a model of literal-minded obedience. (p. 224*)

Carl ignored him, distracted by the sound of Rub’s toenails scrabbling in the truck bed. “You shouldn’t let him ride back there.”
“He enjoys it,” Sully said weakly, because of course Carl was right. “He’s a dog.”
“Yeah, but what happens if you have to jam on the brakes? How are you going to feel when he goes flying and gets dead?”
“You’re right,” Sully said. “On the drive home you can ride back there.”
(pp. 260-261*)

They needed to believe that luck ruled the world and that theirs was bad and would remain so forever and ever, amen, a credo that let them off the hook and excused them from truly engaging in the present, much less the future.
Were they wrong? Gus was no longer so sure. Maybe they were simply realists.
(p. 283*)

Dare I ask how you parted with your father?”
“With him in one room and me in another.”
She gave him a puzzled look. “Do you understand forgiveness?”
“The concept, I guess.”
“I mean how it works.”
“Somebody’s an asshole and you tell him it’s okay?”
“That’s a willful misrepresentation.”
“As in untrue?”
“As in half true.”
(p. 376*)

“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it,” she said. “We forgive them because we deserve it.”
“I guess that’s something I don’t understand.”
She shrugged. “Guess what? I don’t, either. It’s true, though.”
“Maybe I’ll feel more forgiving when I get back.”
(p. 376*)

He’d made it halfway up the drive when Miss Beryl’s long-ago question popped into his head, unbidden as always. Does it ever trouble you that you haven’t done more with the life God gave you? Even now he couldn’t say for sure. Was it supposed to?
(p. 420*)

* sur ma liseuse
Richard Russo - Everybody's Fool (Knopf, 2016)

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