Charles Portis


(Note: page numbers refer to the 2000 The Overlook Press edition.)

"The letter was from my unknown enemy who signed himself 'Ah Kin' this time. He also called himself 'Mr. Rose' and 'Alvarado.' Or was it a woman? The letter was postmarked here in Mérida, and it read, without date or salutation, 'Well, Mr. Jimmy Burns, I saw your foolish red face in the market again today. Why don't you go back where you belong and stay there?'"

(Page 8)

"She walked around inspecting my room. She pulled the curtain and looked into the closet, which was so shallow that the coat hangers hung at a slant. She asked if she could use my bathroom. When she came out she said, 'I didn't really have to go but I wanted to see how you had organized your bathroom. I wanted to check out your shaving things and your medicine cabinet.'"

(Page 19)

"Minim was in the Bowling Hall of Fame. He was a retired bowler and sports poet, and he maintained that bowling was held in even lower esteem than poetry, though it was a close call."

(Page 83)

"My neighbors, Chuck and Diane, stopped to speak. That wasn't quite their names but some names you can't take in."

(Page 127)

"'Do you know where the dog goes from here?'

"He hesitated. I gave him some money. He thanked me and apologized, saying he was not moving up as fast in the Naroody organization as he had hoped. Naroody kept him short of pocket money. He got his keep and little more. He pointed to a window above one of the shops. That was his room. He had a room of his own up there with running water, or trickling water anyway, and he ate well enough at Naroody's second table, but he saw very little cash, not nearly enough to buy fashionable clothes and take women out at night. His life was not fulfilled. There were men his age, much less deserving, who drove cars and had as many as ten pairs of pointed shoes in their closets.

"'But the dog.'"

(Page 142)

"'When you get right down to it everything is a cube.'

"He had taken to saying that lately. Everything is a cube. I don't know what he had in mind. When you get right down to it everything is not a cube. You look around and see that. Hardly anything in nature is a cube. Some few crystals, I suppose. Art and Mike thought it might have to do with cubic increase, geometric progression, or with some mystical notion, of life raised to the third power. Had Doc really hit on something?"

(Page 165)

"Doc woke us in the night. He came to us with his yellow candle and a scrap of paper. It was headed 'Xupáh [as he spelled it] Guatemala,' and dated. Underneath that he had written, 'I swear or affirm that I accept without reservation Dr. Richard Flandin's theory of direct trans-Pacific Chinese settlement of Meso-America.'

"'Would you look this over and then sign it, please? Take your time. I don't like to disturb you but I might forget this in the morning. [...]'

"Refugio and I signed [...].

"'I can't sign this,' Gail whispered to me.

"'Why not? Just put something down.'

"She signed Denise's name by the light of the candle."

(Page 205-206)

"The girl with the lightning bugs followed me around too, saying the same thing over and over again.

"'Share the wonder, bring a friend.'

"'I did bring one.'

"'Share the wonder, bring a friend.'

"'Most people wouldn't want bugs in their hair.'

"'Share the wonder, bring a friend.'

"The bugs were tied to her hair with thread, and they flashed on in ragged sequence with a cool green light."

(Page 227)

"There was another letter waiting for me from my secret enemy, and this one was shorter and sweeter than ever. 'Just looking at you makes me want to vomit up all my food,' the message read, and it was signed 'Alvarado.' A strangely feeble performance."

(Page 265)

"'In my spare time I write stories of a speculative nature, if you want to hold that against me.'"

(Page 295)

"'Up in the front room is where we have our couch and our record player and our magazines. That's where we sit at night when we want to listen to our music or look through our magazines.'"

(Page 315)