An Inimitable American Novel


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“It started with a clanging jerk. Norwood was half asleep. He turned on his side and adjusted his hat. Drops of sweat ran across his back and tickled. He was sweating like a hog. Did hogs sweat? No. That’s why they like mudholes. Mules did, and horses. Out in the sun they had shiny wet skins. He tried to remember what a hog’s skin looked liked out in the sun. He couldn’t remember seeing a hog in the sun. For any length of time. Hogs didn’t have to work. Had anybody ever tried to make one work? Maybe they tried it a long time ago in history, and just gave up. And told their sons not to bother with it any more. Better not leave the guitar out loose like that. All kinds of folks riding trains. He looped the shoulder cord around his wrist a couple of times. The bag was under his head, safe. Everything was secured. The head is secured. Some boot standing there at the door with a swab at port arms trying to keep you out. Even when it was secured for regimental inspection they had to keep one bowl and one urinal open. Everybody knew that. Why did they keep on trying to pull that swab on you? Norwood dozed and woke and blew flour out of his nose and slept and groaned and dreamed crazy dreams about Miss Phillips. The train stopped and started all night long. It seemed to last about three days.”

Charles Portis, “Norwood”