Sophie's Choice

Sophie's Choice by William Styron

Book: Sophie's Choice by William Styron Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Styron
Tags: Fiction
drifted off to sleep, but slept uneasily, indeed chaotically, once waking in the unfamiliar darkness to find myself very close to some droll phallic penetration--through folds, or a hem, or a damp wrinkle--of my displaced pillow. Then again I fell asleep, only to wake with a start just before dawn, in the dead silence of that hour, with pounding heart and an icy chill staring straight up at my ceiling above which Sophie slept, understanding with a dreamer's fierce clarity that she was doomed.
    Chapter 3
    Stingo! Oh, Stingo!" Late that same morning--a sunny June Sunday--I heard their voices on the other side of the door, rousing me from sleep. Nathan's voice, then Sophie's: "Stingo, wake up. Wake up, Stingo!" The door itself, while not locked, was secured by a night chain, and from where I lay against the pillow I could see Nathan's beaming face as he peered at me through the wide crack in the door. "Rise and shine," said the voice. "Hit the deck, kid. Up and at 'em, boy. We're going to Coney Island!" And behind him I heard Sophie, in clear piping echo of Nathan: "Rise and shine! Up and at 'em!" Her command was followed by a silvery little giggle, and now Nathan began to rattle the door and the chain. "Come on, Cracker, hit the deck! You can't lie there all day snoozin' like some ole hound dog down South." His voice took on the syrupy synthetic tones of deepest Dixieland--an accent, though, to my sleep-drugged but responsive ears, that was the product of remarkably deft mimicry. "Stir them lazy bones, honeychile," he drawled in the munchiest cornpone. "Put on yo' bathin' costume. Wegonna hab old Pompey hitch up the old coach-an'-foah and hab us a little picnic outin' down by the seashoah!" I was--to put it in restrained terms--somewhat less than exhilarated by all this. His snarling insult of the night before, and his general mistreatment of Sophie, had trespassed on my dreams all night in various allusive masks and guises, and now to awake to behold the same midcentury urban face intoning these hokey antebellum lyrics was simply more than I could tolerate. I leaped straight out of the bedclothes and hurled myself at the door. "Get out of here!" I yelled. "Leave me alone!" I tried to slam the door in Nathan's face, but he had one foot firmly entrenched in the crack. "Get out!" I shouted again. "You have your goddamned nerve, doing this. Get your goddamned foot out of that door and leave me the fuck alone!" "Stingo, Stingo," the voice went on in lulling cadences, having reverted to the Brooklyn style. "Stingo, take it easy. No offense meant, kid. Come on, open up. Let's have a coffee together and make up and be pals." "I don't want to be pals with you!" I howled at Nathan. I burst into a fit of coughing. Half strangling on the goo and crud of threescore daily Camels, I was surprised that I was coherent at all. As I hacked away, oddly embarrassed at the croupy noise I was making, I began to suffer further slow surprise--and not a little distress--over the fact that the atrocious Nathan had materialized like some wicked genie at Sophie's side, and seemed once more to be in possession and command. For at least a minute, perhaps longer, I shuddered and heaved in the throes of a pulmonary spasm, having had in the meantime to endure the humiliation of submitting to Nathan in the role of medical savant: "You've got a regular smoker's cough there, Cracker. You also have the haggard, drawn face of a person hooked on nicotine. Look at me for a second, Cracker, look me straight in the eye." I glared at him through leisurely narrowing pupils fogged over with rage and loathing. "Don't call me--" I began, but the words were cut off by another racking cough. "Haggard, that's the word," Nathan went on. "Too bad, for such a nice-looking guy. The haggard look comes from being slowly deprived of oxygen. You should cut out smoking, Cracker. It causes cancer of the lung. Also lousy on the heart." (In 1947, it may be remembered, the truly pernicious

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