IRWIN SHAW NIGHTWORK PDF

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Irwin Shaw Nightwork Pdf

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Nightwork by Irwin Shaw is an in the moment thriller about a hero stuck in a dead end lifestyle, how Nightwork: A Novel site Edition by Irwin Shaw (Author). Nightwork Irwin Shaw Nightwork Irwin ShawNightwork A Novel by Irwin Shaw PDF Books. Library Irwin Shaw – was an acclaimed award winning. Editorial Reviews. Review. “Is it a secret history of Irwin Shaw's soul? Or is it just an entertaining illustration of Keynesian monetary policy? It be all of the.

Since then I had not been particularly lucky. In fact, it was my devotion to gambling that had led me to the Hotel St. When I first drifted into New York, I had happened to meet a bookie in a bar. He lived in the hotel, and paid off there. He gave me a line of credit and we settled at the end of each week. The hotel was cheap and convenient, and my financial situation did not permit me to demand luxury. When I ran up a five-hundred-dollar debt to the bookie, he had cut me off.

Luckily, he said, the old night clerk had just quit his job and the manager was looking for a new man. I looked and sounded like a college graduate, the bookie said, and he knew I could add and subtract. I took the job, but moved out to a place of my own. Twenty-four hours a day at the St. Augustine was more than anybody could stomach. I paid the bookie off in weekly installments from my salary.

I had cleared my original debt with him and was on credit again. I was only a hundred and fifty dollars down on this night. He never awoke before eleven in the morning. I decided to bet five dollars. If the filly came in it would cut my debt by half.

I come from a religious family and had been reared on the Bible. My faith in God was not what it once was, but I still enjoyed reading the Bible. In the two years I had been working behind the desk, I had given myself a liberal education in English and American literature.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Could a timbrel be found in New York? High above, penetrating stone and steel, there was the whining noise of a jet, crossing New York. Descending from the pole, outward bound to Karachi. I listened, thinking of the quiet flight deck, the silent men at the controls, the flicker of the dials, the radar scanning the night sky.

Finished with the adding machine, I pushed my chair back, took a sheet of paper, held it on my thighs, looked straight ahead at a calendar on the wall.

Then I moved the sheet of paper up, bit by bit.

Only when it was high up on my chest, almost to my chin, did it come within the limit of my vision. No miracle had happened that night. I made a neat, small pile of the bills I had prepared and began filing them in alphabetical order. Now it struck me. The date on the bills was January It was now several hours before dawn on January An anniversary. Of a kind. I grinned. Three years ago, to the day, it had happened.

The snow glistened in the sunshine on the rolling hills below. I had flown the little Cessna down to Teterboro Airport early to pick up the New Jersey charter, and I could hear my passengers behind me congratulating each other on the blue skies and the fresh powder. We were flying low, only six thousand feet, and the fields made clearly defined checkerboard patterns, with stands of trees black against the clean white of the snow.

It was a flight I always liked to make. Recognizing individual farmhouses and road intersections and the course of a small stream here and there made the short voyage cosy and familiar. Upstate New York is beautiful at ground level, but on a fine day in early winter, from the air, it is one of the loveliest sights a man can hope to see. Once again, I was grateful that I had never been tempted to take a job on one of the big airlines, where you spent the best part of your life at an altitude of over thirty thousand feet, with the world below you just a vast sea of cloud or a remote and impersonal map unrolling slowly beneath you.

There were only three passengers, the Wales family, mother and father and a plump girl with buckteeth of about twelve or thirteen called Didi.

They were enthusiastic skiers and I had flown them up and back four or five times. There was a regular airline to Burlington, but Mr. Flatteringly, when he called for a charter he always asked for me. Part of the reason, or maybe the whole reason for this was that I skied with them from time to time at Stowe and Sugarbush and Mad River and led them down the trails, which I knew better than they did, and occasionally threw in a little tactful instruction about how they could improve their performance.

Wales and his wife, a hard-looking, athletic New York woman, were fiercely competitive with each other and went too fast, out of control a good deal of the time. I predicted to myself that there would be a broken leg in the family one of these days. Didi was a serious and unsmiling child, always with a book in her hands. According to her parents, she started reading as soon as she was strapped into her seat and only stopped when the plane rolled to a halt.

On this flight she was engrossed in Wuthering Heights. She was by far the best skier in the family, but her parents made her bring up the rear on all descents. I had skied alone with her one morning in a snowstorm, when the older Waleses were hung over from a cocktail party, and she had been a changed girl, smiling blissfully and fleeing joyfully down the mountain with me, like a small wild animal suddenly let loose from a cage.

For other nourishment there was a sandwich and a bottle of beer that I picked up on the way to work. Twice during the night I did isometric exercises, for the arms, the gut, the legs. Despite my sedentary occupation, at the age of thirty-three I was stronger and in better condition than I had been at twenty. People are surprised when they hear I weigh that much. I'm vain enough to be pleased by this.

But I wish I were taller. Some women have told me I look boyish, which I don't take as a compliment. I have never longed for a mother. Like most men I would prefer to resemble the sort of man who is cast on television as a captain in the Marines or the leading figure in a desperate enterprise. The machine made a noise like a large, irritated insect as I hit the keys. The sound, which had at first annoyed me, was now familiar and rhythmic, soothing.

Beyond the glass, the lobby of the hotel was dark. The management saved on electricity, as on everything else. The bulletproof pane had been put in over the front desk after the last night man had been held up for the second time.

Forty-three stitches. The night man had taken up another profession. I owed my position to the fact that, at the urging of my mother, I had taken a year's course in business procedures in college.

She had insisted that I learn at least one useful thing, as she put it, in those four years. I had finished college eleven years ago and my mother was now dead. The name of the hotel was the St Augustine. What yearning for the South the name represented for the original owner or what obscure religious whim would have been hard to say.

There were no crucifixes on any of the walls, and only the four potted rubber plants in the worn lobby had any conceivable connection with the Tropics. Although it looked respectable enough on the outside, the hotel had seen better days. As had its clientele. They paid modestly for their accommodations and expected little in return. Except for two or three guests who wandered in late, I hardly had to talk to anybody. I hadn't taken the job for its opportunities for conversation.

Often whole nights went by without a single light showing on the switchboard. I was paid one hundred and twenty-five dollars a week. Home was one room with kitchenette and bath on East Eighty-first Street. I hadn't been on duty when she came in so I had no idea which room she had been visiting.

There was a buzzer by the side of the door that was designed to open it automatically, but it had been broken for a week. I sniffed the cold night air briefly and was happy to close the door and get back to the office. The Racing Form was open on my desk to the next day's program at Hialeah. The warm holidays of the South. I had made my choice earlier. Ask Gloria m the second. The filly had finished out of the money in its last three outings, but had had a good race up North in the autumn and was drop ping down in class.

The probable odds were fifteen to one. I had always been a gambler. I had paid a good part of my way through college in fraternity poker games. When I still was working in Vermont, I played in a weekly poker game and figured I was ahead by several thousand dollars by the time I left. Since then I had not been particularly lucky.

In fact, it was my devotion to gambling that had led me to the Hotel St Augustine. When 1 first drifted into New York, I had happened to meet a bookie in a bar. He lived in the hotel, and paid off there. He gave me a line of credit and we settled at the end of each week. The hotel was cheap and convenient, and my financial situation did not permit me to demand luxury. When I ran up a five-hundred-dollar debt to the bookie, he had cut me off.

Luckily, he said, the old night clerk had just quit his job and the manager was looking for a new man. I looked and sounded like a college graduate, the bookie said, and he knew I could add and subtract.

I took the job, but moved out to a place of my own. Twenty-four hours a day at the St Augustine was more than anybody could stomach. I paid the bookie off in weekly installments from my salary. I had cleared my original debt with him and was on credit again. I was only a hundred and fifty dollars down on this night. As we had arranged in the beginning, I would write out my choice or choices for the day, and put them in an envelope in the bookie's box. He never awoke before eleven in the morning.

I decided to bet five dollars. If the filly came in it would cut my debt by half. I came from a religious family and had been reared on the Bible. My faith in God was not what it once was, but I still enjoyed reading the Bible. In the two years I had been working behind the desk, I had given myself a liberal education in English and American literature. As I sat down once more in front of the adding machine, I glanced over at the Bible lying open on top of the Racing Form.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Could a timbrel be found in New York? High above, penetrating stone and steel, there was the whining noise of a jet, crossing New York. Descending from the pole, outward bound to Karachi. I listened, thinking of the quiet flight deck, the silent men at the controls, the flicker of the dials, the radar scanning the night sky.

Finished with the adding machine, I pushed my chair back, took a sheet of paper, held it on my thighs, looked straight ahead at a calendar on the wall.

Irwin Shaw

Then I moved the sheet of paper up, bit by bit. Only when it was high up on my chest, almost to my chin. No miracle had happened that night. I made a neat, small pile of the bills I had prepared and began filing them in alphabetical order.

I had been working automatically, my mind on other things, and I hadn't paid any attention to the date on the bills on my desk. Now it struck me. The date on the bills was 15 January.

An anniversary. Of a kind. I grinned. Three years ago, to the day, it had happened. The snow glistened in the sunshine on the rolling hills below. I had flown the little Cessna down to Teterboro Airport early to pick up the New Jersey charter, and I could hear my passengers behind me congratulating each other on the blue skies and the fresh powder.

We were flying low, only six thousand feet, and the fields made clearly defined checkerboard patterns, with stands of trees black against the clean white of the snow. It was a flight I always liked to make. Recognizing individual farmhouses and road intersections and the course of a small stream here and there made the short voyage cozy and familiar.

Upstate New York is beautiful at ground level, but on a fine day in early winter, from the air, it is one of the loveliest sights a man can hope to see. Once again, I was grateful that I had never been tempted to take a job on one of the big airlines, where you spent the best part of your life at an altitude of over thirty thousand feet, with the world below you just a vast sea of cloud or a remote and impersonal map unrolling slowly beneath you.

They were enthusiastic skiers and I had flown them up and back four or five times. There was a regular airline to Burlington, but Mr. Wales was a busy man, he said, and took off when he could find the time and didn't like being tied down to a schedule. He had an advertising firm of his own in New York and he didn't seem to mind throwing his money around. Flatteringly, when he called for a charter, he always asked for me.

Part of the reason, or maybe the whole reason for this, was that I skied with them from time to time at Stowe and Sugarbush and Mad River and led them down the trails, which I knew better than they did, and occasionally threw in a little tactful instruction about how they could improve their performance.

Wales and his wife, a hard-looking, athletic New York woman, were fiercely competitive with each other and went too fast, out of control a good deal of the time. I predicted to myself that there would be a broken leg in the family one of these days.

I could tell when they were furious with each other by the different tones in which they called each other 'Darling' at various moments. Didi was a serious and unsmiling child, always with a book in her hands.

According to her parents, she started reading as soon as she was strapped into her seat and only stopped when the plane rolled to a halt. On this flight she was engrossed in Wuthering Heights.

I had been an omnivorous reader, too, as a boy - when my mother was displeased with me she would say, 'Oh, Douglas, stop acting like a character in a book' - and it amused me to keep track of what Didi was reading from one winter to another. She was by far the best skier in the family, but her parents made her bring up the rear on all descents. I had skied alone with her one morning, in a snowstorm, when the older Waleses were hung over from a cocktail party, and she had been a changed girl, smiling blissfully and fleeing joyfully down the mountain with me, like a small wild animal suddenly let loose from a cage.

Wales was a generous man and made a point of giving me a gift after each flight - a sweater, a new pair of fancy poles, a wallet, things like that. I certainly made enough money to be able to download anything I needed, and I didn't like the idea of being tipped, but I knew he would have been insulted if I bad ever refused to take his offerings.

He was not an unpleasant man, I had decided. Just too successful. He was a restless man and even in the small plane seemed always on the prowl. He would have made a terrible pilot. He brought a smell of alcohol into the cockpit. He always traveled with a small, leather-bound flask.

I had stuttered ever since I was a boy and as a result tried to talk as little as possible. Sometimes I couldn't help but speculate about what my life would have been like if I hadn't suffered from this small affliction, but I didn't allow myself to sink into gloom because of it. I didn't like to talk while I was at the controls, but I couldn't tell Wales that. Her brother worked in the airline office and I had met her through him.

She taught history at the high school, and I had arranged to pick her up at three o'clock, when school let out. She was a good skier and very pretty besides, small and dark and intense. I had known her for more than two years and we had had what was a rather desultory affair for fifteen months now. At least it was desultory as far as she was concerned, since for weeks on end she would put me off with one excuse or another and hardly notice me when we met by accident.

Then suddenly she would relent and suggest we go off together somewhere. I could tell by the particular kind of smile on her face when, for whatever reason, she was entering into a non-desultory phase. She was a popular girl, stubbornly unmarried; at one time or another, according to her brother, almost every friend of his had made a pass at her. With what success I never did find out. I have always been shy and uneasy with girls and I could not say that I pursued her.

I couldn't say, either, that she had pursued me. It had just, well, happened, when we found each other skiing together on a long weekend at Sugarbush. After the first night, I had said, 'This is the best thing that ever happened to me. If she hadn't badgered me continually about curing my stutter, I think I would have asked her to marry me.

IRWIN SHAW NIGHTWORK PDF

The coming weekend, I felt, was going to rise - or fall - to some sort of climax. I had decided to be cautious, leaving all options open. George,' I said. He had insisted from the first time I met him that I call him and his wife by their first names.

How about you? Should we wait for you at the inn? I'm afraid n I have my six-m In the winter, I mean?

You ever ski in the Alps? Except Canada for a f We've been talking it over and we'd love to have you with us. There's this club I belong to. It's surprisingly cheap. Under three hundred dollars round trip. The Christie Ski Club. It's not just the money, of course. It's the people.

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The nicest bunch of people you could ever travel with and all the free booze you can drink. And no worrying about a baggage allowance or Swiss customs. They just wave you through with a smile. You're supposed to belong at least six months in advance, but they're not sticky about it. There's a girl in the office I know, her name's Mansfield, and she fixes everything. Just tell her you're a friend of mine.

They have nights just about every week in the winter. We made St Moritz last year and we're doing St Anton this year. You'll dazzle the Austrians. I'll think it o He went back to his seat, leaving the smell of whiskey in the cockpit. I kept my eyes on the horizon, sharp against the bright blue of the winter sky, trying not to be jealous of a man who was as untalented on the slopes as Wales, but who could take three weeks off from work to spend thousands of dollars to ski in the Alps.

Dr Ryan was an eye-specialist, but kept up a limited general practice on the side. He was a slow-moving, gentle old man who had been listening to my heart, taking my blood pressure, and testing my eyes and reflexes for five years. Except for one occasion when 1 bad come down with a mild case of grippe, he had never prescribed as much as an aspirin for me. Every once in a while he would call me at my home when he would discover a horse that was outrageously underpriced or carrying, in his opinion, much too little weight.

The examination followed its usual routine, with the doctor nodding comfortably after each stage. It was only when he came to my eyes that his expression changed. I read the charts all right, but when he used his instruments to look into my eyes, his face became professionally sober.

His nurse came into the office twice to tell him that there were patients in the waiting room with appointments, but he brusquely waved her aside. He gave me a whole series of tests that he had never used before, making me stare straight ahead while he kept his hands in his lap, then slowly lifting his hands and asking me to tell him when they came into my field of vision.

Finally, he put away his instruments, sat down heavily behind his desk, sighed, and passed his hand wearily across his face. Technically,' he said, 'the name of the disease is retinoschisis. It is a splitting of the ten layers of the retina into two portions, giving rise to the development of a retinal cyst. It is a well-known condition.

Most often it does not progress, but as far as it goes it's irreversible. Sometimes we can arrest it by operating by laser beam.

One of its manifestations is a blocking out of peripheral vision. In your case downward peripheral vision. For a pilot who has to be alert to a whole array of dials in front of him.

Still, for all general purposes, such as reading, sports, et cetera, you can consider yourself normal. You know the only thing that's normal for me. That's all I ever wanted to do, all I ever prepared myself to do Grimes,' Ryan said. Of course, you can go to another doctor.

Other doctors. I don't believe they can do anything to help you, but that's only my opinion. As far as I'm concerned, you're grounded. As of this minute. For good. I'm sorry. I knew I was being unreasonable, but it was not a moment for reason.

I lurched out of the office, not shaking Ryan's hand, saying, 'Goddamnit, goddamnit,' aloud over and over to myself, paying no attention to the people in the waiting room and on the street who stared curiously at me as I headed for the nearest bar. I knew I couldn't face going back to the airfield and saying what I would have to say without fortification. Considerable fortification.

I ordered a whiskey. There was a thin old man in a khaki mackinaw and a hunter's red cap leaning against the bar with a glass of beer in front of him. In five years it'll be as dead as Lake Erie. And they keep putting salt on the roads so those idiots from New York can go eighty miles an hour up to Stowe and Mad River and Sugarbush, and, when the snow melts off the salt goes into all the ponds and rivers.

By the time I die there won't be a fish left anywhere in the whole state. And nobody does a goddamn thing about it. I tell you, I'm glad I won't be around to see it. The first one hadn't seemed to do anything for me. Nor did the second. I paid and went out to my car. The thought that Lake Champlain, in which I had swum every summer and on which I had spent so many great days sailing and fishing, was going to die, somehow seemed sadder than anything that had happened to me for a long time.

Cunningham was the president and sole owner of the little airline and was a World War II vintage fighter pilot, and I guess he knew how I felt that afternoon. In the office, maybe He stared at the pencil in his big hand. And I didn't want to get used to the look of pity I saw on Freddy Cunningham's honest face, or on any other face. He nodded, avoiding looking at me, deeply interested in the pencil. I mean you know where to come, don't you?

Then stood up and shook my hand. I didn't say good-bye to anyone else. There was a peculiar muted hum coming from the big, red-brick building with the Latin inscription on the facade and the flag flying above it. The hum of learning, I thought, a small, decent music that made me remember my childhood.

Pat would be in her classroom, lecturing the boys and girls on the origins of the Civil War or the succession of the kings of England. She took her history seriously. Had I been born to stutter or lived to be a discarded airman because Meade had repulsed Lee at Gettysburg, or because Cromwell had had Charles beheaded?

It would be an interesting point to discuss when we had an idle moment to spare.

Night work

Inside the building a bell clanged. The hum of education swelled to a roar of freedom, and a few minutes later the students began to pour out of the doors in a confused sea of brightly colored parkas and brilliant wool hats.

As usual. Pat was late. She was the most conscientious of ' teachers, and there were always two or three students who clustered around her desk after class, asking her questions that she patiently answered. When I finally saw her, the lawn was deserted, the hundreds of children vanished as if melted away by the pale Vermont sun.

She didn't see me at first. She was nearsighted, but out of vanity didn't wear her glasses except when she was working or reading or going to the movies.

It had been a little joke of mine that she wouldn't find a grand piano in a ballroom. I stood, leaning against a tree, without moving or saying anything, watching her walk down the cleared walk toward me, carrying a leather envelope that I knew contained test papers, cradled against her bosom, schoolgirl-fashion. She was wearing a skirt and red wool stockings and brown suede after-ski boots and a short, blue cloth overcoat.

Her way of walking was concentrated, straight, uncoquettish, always brisk. Her small head with its dark hair pulled back was almost half obscured by the big, upraised collar of her coat. When she saw me, she smiled, a non-desultory smile. It was going to be even more difficult than I had feared. We didn't kiss.

You never knew who was looking out of a window. She had a battered old Chevy. A good part of her salary went for Biafra refugees, starving Indian children, political prisoners in various parts of the world. I don't think she owned more than three dresses. I'm not going up there th I thought you were free this weekend. I'm leaving town. She squinted at me, as though I had suddenly gone out of focus.

Can you tell me where you're going? But there were no tears. And she didn't tell me that she loved me. It might have been different if she had, but she didn't. Then I got into the Volkswagen and drove off. I had left my skis and boots and the rest of my skiing equipment except a padded parka, which I liked, in a duffel bag to be delivered to Pat's brother, who was just about my size, and had told my landlady that she could have all my books and whatever else I left behind me.

Traveling light, I headed south, leaving the town where, I realized now, I bad been happy for more than five years. I had no destination. I had plenty of time to do it. As I drove south, down the entire East Coast of America, I was alone, unfettered, free of claims, with no distractions, plunged in that solitude that is supposed to be the essential condition of philosophic speculation.

There was Pat Minot's cause and effect to be considered; also not to be overlooked was the maxim I had been taught in English lit courses that your character was your fate, that your rewards and failures were the result of your faults and virtues. In Lord Jim, a book I must have read at least five times since I was a boy, the hero is killed eventually because of a flaw in himself that permitted him to leave a shipload of poor beggars to die.

He pays for his cowardice in the end by being killed himself. I had always thought it just, fair, inevitable. At the wheel of the little Volkswagen, speeding down the great highways past Washington and Richmond and Savannah, I remembered Lord Jim. But it no longer convinced me. I certainly was not flawless, but, at least in my opinion, I had been a decent son, an honorable friend, conscientious in my profession, law-abiding, careful to avoid cruelty or spite, inciting no man to be my enemy, indifferent to power, abhorring violence.

I had never seduced a woman - or cheated a shopkeeper, had not struck a fellow human being since a fight in the schoolyard at the age of ten.

I had definitely never left anyone to die. Yet there had been that morning in Dr Ryan's office. If character was fate. The ruling law was simple - accident. The throw of dice, the turning of a card. From now on I would gamble and trust to luck. Maybe, I thought, it was in my character to be a gambler and fate had neatly arranged it so that I could play out my destined role. Maybe my short career as a man who traveled the Northern skies was an aberration, a detour and only now, back to earth, was I on the right path.

In the beginning, all went well. I won often enough to live comfortably and not have to worry about taking a job. There was no job that anyone could offer me that I could imagine accepting. I kept by myself, making no friends, approaching no women. I found, mildly surprised, that all desire had left me. Whether this was temporary or would turn out to be permanent did not bother me. I wanted no attachments. I turned with bitter pleasure into myself, content with the long sunny afternoons at the track and the solitary meals and the evenings spent studying the performances of thoroughbreds and the habits of trainers and jockeys.

I also had time now for reading, and I indiscriminately devoured libraries of paperbacks. As Dr Ryan had assured me, the condition of my eyes did not interfere with my ability to read. Still, I found nothing in any of the books I read that either helped or harmed me. I lived in small hotels, moving on from one to another when other guests, to whom I had become a familiar presence, attempted to approach me. I was ahead of the game by several thousand dollars when the season ended and I drifted up to New York.

I no longer went to the track. The actual running of a race now bored me. I continued betting, but with bookies. For a while I went often to the theater, to -the movies, losing myself for a few hours at a time in their fantasies. New York is a good city for a man who prefers to be alone. It is the easiest city in the world to enjoy solitude. My luck began to change in New York and with the onset of winter I knew that I would have to look for some kind of job if I wanted to continue eating.

Then the night man at the St Augustine was held up for the second time. It was now three hours into 16 January. Happy Anniversary. I got up and stretched. I was hungry and I got out my sandwich and the bottle of beer. I was unwrapping my sandwich when I heard the sound of the door from the fire emergency stairs opening into the lobby and quick woman's footsteps. I reached for the switch and the lobby was brightly lit.

A young woman was hurrying, almost running, toward the desk. She was unnaturally tall, with those thick soles and exaggerated high heels which made women look like so many displaced Watusis. She had on a white, fake fur coat and a blonde wig that wouldn't fool anybody. I recognized her. She was a whore who had come in just after midnight with the man in I glanced at my watch.

It was just after three o'clock. It had been a long session in and the woman looked it. She ran to the front door, pushed futilely at the broken buzzer, then clattered over to the desk. She knocked sharply on the glass over the desk. The safety-deposit boxes were relics of a richer day.

None was in use now. I unlocked the door and stepped out into the lobby. The woman followed me across the lobby toward the front door. She was gasping for breath. Her profession didn't keep her in shape for running down six flights of steps in the middle of the night. She was somewhere around thirty years old, and by the look of her they hadn't been easy years. The women who came in and out of the hotel at night made a strong argument for celibacy.

It looked like a club. A baseball bat. It's dark in that hall. You bastards certainly don't waste much money on lights in this hotel. I just took off. You want to find out, you go up to the sixth floor and see for yourself. Open the goddamn door, will you? I have to go home. For a shabby old hotel like the St Augustine, the management was nervously security-conscious.

The woman pushed the door open impatiently and ran out into the dark street. I took a deep breath of the cold night air as the clatter of heels diminished in the direction of Lexington Avenue. I stood at the door another moment, looking down the street, on the chance that a prowl car might be cruising past. I would have felt better about going up to see what was happening on the sixth floor if I had a cop with me. I was not paid for solitary heroics. But the street was empty. I heard a siren in the distance, probably on Park Avenue, but that was no help.

I closed the door and locked it and walked slowly back across the lobby toward the office, thinking, am I going to spend the rest of my life ushering whores to and from anonymous beds? Praise him with stringed instruments and organs. In the office I took the pass-key out of the drawer, looked for a moment at the pistol. I shook my head and shut the drawer. Having the pistol there wasn't my idea. It hadn't helped the other night man when the two junkies came in and walked off with all the cash in the place, leaving the night man lying in his blood on the floor with a bump the size of a cantaloupe on his head.

I pushed the elevator button and heard the whine of the cables and the elevator started down the shaft. When the door creaked open, I hesitated before going in. Maybe, I thought, I just ought to go back into the office, get my overcoat and my sandwich and my beer, and walk away from here. Who needs this lousy job? But just as the door began to slide shut, I went in. When I reached the sixth floor, I pushed the button that kept the elevator door open, and stepped out into the corridor.

Light was streaming from the doorway of the room diagonally across from the elevator, number On the worn carpet of the corridor, half in and half out of the light, was a naked man, lying on his face, his head and torso in shadow, old man's wrinkled buttocks and skinny legs sharply, obscenely illuminated. The left arm was stretched out, the fingers of the hand curled, as though the man had been trying to grab at something as be fell.

His right arm was under him. He lay absolutely still. Even as I bent to turn him over, I was sure that nothing I could do and nobody I could call would do any good. The man was heavy, with a big loose paunch, that belied the thin legs and buttocks, and I grunted as I pulled the body over onto its back. Then I saw what the whore had said the man had been waving at her, that might have been a club. It wasn't a club, but a long cardboard tube tightly wrapped in brown paper, the kind artists and architects use to carry rolled-up prints and building plans.

The man's hand was still clutching it. I didn't blame the whore for being frightened. In the dim light of the corridor, I'd have been frightened, too, if a naked man had suddenly sprung out waving the thing menacingly at me. I stood up, feeling a chill on my skin, nerving myself to touch the body once more. I stared down at the dead face.

The eyes were open, staring up at me, the mouth in a last tortured grimace. Grunting animal sounds, the whore had said. There was no blood, no sign of a wound. I had never seen the man before, but that was not unusual with my working hours, coming in after guests had checked in for the night and leaving before they came down in the morning.

It was a round, fat, old man's face, with a big, fleshy nose and wispy gray hair on the balding skull. Even in the disarray of death, the face gave the impression of power and importance.

Fighting down a rising feeling of nausea, I knelt on one knee and put my ear to the man's chest. His breasts might have been those of an old woman, with just a few straggles of damp white hair and nipples that were almost green in the bare light. There was the sour, living odor of sweat, but no movement, no sound.

Old man, I thought, as I stood up, why couldn't you have done this on somebody else's time? I bent down again and hooked my hands under the dead man's armpits and dragged him through the open doorway into room You couldn't just leave a naked body lying in the corridor like that. I had been working in the hotel business long enough to know that death was something you kept out of the sight of paying guests. As I pulled the body along the floor of the little hallway that led into the room proper, the cardboard tube rolled to one side.

I got the body into the room, next to the bed, which was a tangle of sheets and blankets. There was lipstick smeared all over the sheets and pillows. The lady I had let out around one o'clock, probably. I looked down with some-tiling like pity at the old body naked on the threadbare carpet, the flaccid dead flesh outlined against a faded floral pattern.

One last erection. Joy and then mortality. There was a medium-sized but expensive-looking leather suitcase open on the little desk. A worn wallet lay next to it and a gold money clip, with some bills in it. In the bag three clean shirts were to be seen, neatly folded.

Strewn on the desk were some quarters and dimes. I counted the money in the clip. Four tens and three ones. I dropped the clip back on the desk and picked up the wallet. There were ten, crisp, new, hundred-dollar bills in it. I whistled softly.

Whatever else had happened that night to the old man, he had not been robbed. I put the ten bills back into the wallet and carefully placed it back on the desk.

It never occurred to me to take any of the money. That was the sort of man I used to be. Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not do a lot of things. I glanced at the open suitcase. Along with the shirts there were two pairs of old-fashioned button shorts, a striped necktie, two pairs of socks, some blue pajamas. Whoever he was, number was going to stay in New York longer than he had planned. The corpse on the floor oppressed me, made uncertain claims on me. I took one of the blankets from the bed and threw it over the body, covering the face, the staring eyes, the mutely shouting lips.

I felt warmer, death now only a geometric shape on the floor. I went back to the corridor to get the cardboard tube. There were no labels or addresses or identification of any kind on it.

As I carried it into the room, I saw that the heavy brown paper had been torn raggedly away from the top. I was about to put it on the desk, next to the dead man's other belongings, when I caught a glimpse of green paper, partially pulled out of the opening.

I drew it out. It was a hundred-dollar bill. It was not new like the bills in the wallet, but old and crumpled. I held the tube so that I could look down into it. As far as I could tell, it was crammed with bills.

I remained immobile for a moment, then stuffed the bill I had taken out back in and folded the torn brown paper as neatly as I could over the top of the tube. Holding the tube under my arm, I went to the door, switched off the light, stepped out into the corridor and turned the pass-key in the lock of room number My actions were crisp, almost automatic, as though all my life I had rehearsed for this moment, as though there were no alternatives.

There was a shelf running along above the safe. Pictures of extinct politicians, naked girls who by now were no longer worth photographing - the momentarily illustrious dead. Without hesitation I reached up and rolled the tube back toward the wall.

I heard it plop down onto the shelf, out of sight, behind the dog-eared testimony of scandals and delights. Then I went into the lighted office and called for an ambulance. After that I sat down, finished unwrapping my sandwich, opened the bottle of beer. While I ate and drank, I looked up the register.

Irwin Shaw

Number was, or had been, named John Ferns, had booked in only the afternoon before, and had given a home address on North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

I was finishing my beer when the bell rang and I saw the two men and the ambulance outside. One of them was in a white coat and was carrying a rolled up stretcher. The other was dressed in a blue uniform and was carrying a black bag, but I knew he wasn't a doctor. They don't waste doctors on ambulances in Manhattan, but dress up an orderly who is something of a medical technician and good enough to give first aid and who can usually be depended upon not to kill a patient on the spot.

As 1 was opening the door, a prowl car drove up and a policeman got out. He was a heavy-set, dark-jowled man, with unhealthy rings under his eyes.

I could hear the car radio chattering, dispatching officers to accidents, cases of wife beating, suicides, to streets where suspicious-looking men had been reported entering buildings. Calmly, I led the group through the lobby. The technician was young and kept yawning as though he hadn't slept in weeks.

People who work at night all look as though they are being punished for some nameless sin. The policeman's shoes on the bare floor of the lobby sounded as though they had lead soles. Going up in the elevator nobody spoke. I volunteered no information. A medicinal smell filled the elevator. They carry the hospital with them, I thought. I would have preferred it if the prowl car hadn't happened along.

When we got out on the sixth floor, I opened the door to and led the way into the room. The technician ripped the blanket off the dead man. The policeman stood at the foot of the bed, his eyes taking in the lipstick-smeared sheets, the bag on the desk, the wallet and money clip lying next to it.

Probably taken out his black book and written, 'Witness asserts name is Ozymandias. Probably an alias. I let a lady out around one o'clock. It might have been this one.

The technician stood up, taking the stethoscope plugs out of his ears. Dead on arrival. I could have told that without calling for an ambulance. I was discovering that there is a lot of waste motion about death in a big city. Coronary, probably. Then he felt around the throat for a pulse, his hands gentle and expert.

He took out the bills and riffled them. It was a good try, but from the way the cop looked at me, I wasn't fooling him. He was not a friendly neighborhood cop. Maybe he was a different man when he was on the day shift. Not stuttering was a triumph. He rimed the bills again. You'd think a guy with that much dough on him would pick a better place to knock it off than a creep joint like this. I guess I better take this into the station,' he said.

Officer,' the technician said. There was the faintest echo of irony in his voice. He was young, but already an expert at death and despoliation. The policeman looked through the wallet compartments. He had thick hairy fingers, like small clubs. That's funny,' he said. There's no credit cards or business cards or driver's licence.

A man with more than a thousand bucks in cash on him. I'll show you the register. A guy with a bad heart. Some people got no more sense than a horse. Look, I got to make a inventory. In the presence of witnesses. It didn't take long. One hundred and forty-three dollars. One suitcase, brown, unlocked, one suit and overcoat, gray, one hat The cop put his thick black pad into a back pocket.

He was out in the corridor. I dragged him in. This is a hotel,' I said. If I'd left him out where I found him and somebody had come along and seen him, I'd have had my ass chewed down to the bone by the manager. Just remember that, see? He telephone down or something?Data input. The goddamn Western Union called at ten o'clock. Try money, I thought grinning, for that run-down feeling, that midmorning sag. I wasn't conscious of feeling any emotion, not fear, or exhilaration, or regret. I went to a good sea-food restaurant near Lincoln Center and had a large grilled lobster that cost eight dollars, with two bottles of Heineken.

Now it struck me. I stared down at the dead face.

ODELL from Aurora
See my other articles. I take pleasure in netball. I do enjoy reading books certainly.
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