Contemporary Literature

Big Machine by Victor LaValle

By Victor LaValle

Ricky Rice is a middling hustler with a lingering junk behavior, a bum knee, and a haunted brain. A survivor of a suicide cult, he scrapes through as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, big apple, till in the future a mysterious letter arrives, summoning him to enlist in a band of paranormal investigators created from former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point soon of their wasted lives heard what could have been the voice of God.

Infused with the beauty of a disquieting dream and laced with Victor LaValle’s fiendish comedian sensibility, Big Machine is a mind-rattling secret approximately doubt, religion, and the monsters we stock inside of us.

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Big Machine

Ricky Rice is a middling hustler with a lingering junk behavior, a bum knee, and a haunted brain. A survivor of a suicide cult, he scrapes by means of as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, manhattan, until eventually in the future a mysterious letter arrives, summoning him to enlist in a band of paranormal investigators constructed from former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point soon of their wasted lives heard what can have been the voice of God.

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The sky remained blue-black, and in places the stars hid behind cloud cover. Snow stopped falling, but the wind continued, blowing so berserk that the top of every tree shuddered. Despite my weariness I got scared again. Or maybe because of it. It’s one thing to get in the car with some burly mountain man when you’re still in a city. But when he gets you out into the country, well, there’s too many tales about this going badly for a guy like me, and I couldn’t help but ponder the possibilities.

The driver looked at her, then looked away, into his side mirror. Then he pressed the silver button and opened the door. The old woman hopped down each step and went outside. The bum hadn’t even walked the length of the bus yet. She reached him and slapped at his arm. When he turned, she gave him her scarf, a purple puffy snake, and took the matching knit hat right off her head. Then she returned to the bus. But I guess the guy felt underwhelmed by the gesture. Maybe he thought she’d invite him back in.

I had to use my hand. I lurched my middle finger forward, even as I pulled my head back, and touched the corner of the soaked little sheet. I flicked at it and flicked at it, but the damned thing barely shifted. I had no choice. I picked the paper up, right out of the muck. The gray liquid didn’t even run down my fingers, it just clung, like jelly, to the tips. It was cold and lumpy. My skin went numb. The wet paper lay flat in my palm; I peeled it off with my left hand, then held it to the greenish light of the windows.

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