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Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER TWO

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“Of course,” Johnny said comfortingly. He passed the woman in the ticket cage a dollar bill, and she pushed back two red tickets and two dimes with barely a glance up from her Photoplay.

“What do you mean; “of course”? Why are you “of coursing” me in that tone of voice?”

He shrugged. His face was much too innocent.

“It wasn't what you said, John Smith. It was how you said it.”

The ride had stopped. Passengers were getting off and streaming past them, mostly teenagers in blue melton CPO shirts or open parkas. Johnny led her up the wooden ramp and surrendered their tickets to the whip's starter, who looked like the most bored sentient creature in the universe.

“Nothing,” he said as the starter settled them into one of the little round shells and snapped the safety bar into place. “It's just that these cars are on little circular tracks, right?”

“Right.”

“And the little circular tracks are embedded on a large

circular dish that spins around and around, right?”

“Right.”

“Well, when this ride is going full steam, the little car we're sitting in whips around on its little circular track and sometimes develops up to seven g, which is only five less than the astronauts get when they lift off from Cape Kennedy. And I knew this kid… “Johnny was leaning solemnly over her now.

“Oh, here comes one of your big lies,” Sarah said uneasily.

“When this kid was five he fell down the front steps and put a tiny hairline fracture in his spine at the top of his neck. Then ten years later-he went on the whip at Topsham Fair… and… “He shrugged and then patted her hand sympathetically. “But you'll probably be okay, Sarah.”

“Ohhh… I want to get olliff…”

And the whip whirled them away, slamming the fair and the midway into a tilted blur of lights and faces, and she shrieked and laughed and began to pummel him.

“Hairline fracture!” she shouted at him. “I'll give you a hairline fracture when we get off this, you liar!”

“Do you feel anything giving in your neck yet?” he inquired sweetly.

“Oh, you liar!”

They whirled around, faster and faster, and as they snapped past the ride starter for the-tenth? fifteenth? -time, he leaned over and kissed her, and the car whistled around on its track, pressing their lips together in something that was hot and exciting and skintight. Then the ride was slowing down, their car clacked around on its track more reluctantly, and finally came to a swaying, swinging stop.

They got out, and Sarah squeezed his neck. “Hairline fracture, you ass! “she whispered.

A fat lady in blue slacks and penny loafers was passing them. Johnny spoke to her, jerking a thumb hack toward Sarah. “That girl is bothering me, ma'am. If you see a policeman would you tell him?”

“You young people think you're smart,” the fat lady said disdainfully. She waddled away toward the bingo tent, holding her purse more tightly under her arm” Sarah was giggling helplessly.

“You're impossible.”

“I'll come to a bad end,” Johnny agreed. “My mother always said so.”

They walked up the midway side by side again, waiting for the world to stop making unstable motions before their eyes and under their feet.

“She's pretty religious, your mom, isn't she?” Sarah asked.

“She's as Baptist as you can get,” Johnny agreed. “But she's okay. She keeps it under control. She can't resist passing me a few tracts when I'm at home, but that's her thing. Daddy and I put up with it. I used to try to get on her case about it-I'd ask her who the heck was in Nod for Cain to go live with if his dad and mom were the first people on earth, stuff like that-but I decided it was sort of mean and quit it. Two years ago I thought Eugene McCarthy could save the world, and at least the Baptists don't have Jesus running for president.”

“Your father's not religious?”

Johnny laughed. “I don't know about that, but he's sure no Baptist. After a moment's thought he added, “Dad's a carpenter,” as if that explained it. She smiled.

“What would your mother think if she knew you were seeing a lapsed Catholic?”

“Ask me to bring you home,” Johnny said promptly, “so she could slip you a few tracts.”

She stopped, still holding his hand. “Would you like to bring me to your house?” she asked, looking at him closely.

Johnny's long, pleasant face became serious. “Yeah,” he said. “I'd like you to meet them… and vice versa.”

“Why?”

“Don't you know why?” he asked her gently, and suddenly her throat closed and her head throbbed as if she might cry” and she squeezed his hand tightly.

“Oh Johnny, I do like you.”

“I like you even more than that,” he said seriously.

“Take me on the Ferris wheel,” she demanded suddenly, smiling. No more talk like this until she had a chance to consider it, to think where it might be leading. “I want to go up high where we can see everything.”

“Can I kiss you at the top?”

“Twice, if you're quick.”

He allowed her to lead him to the ticket booth, where he surrendered another dollar bill. As he paid he told her, “When I was in high school, I know this kid who worked at the fair, and he said most of the guys who put these rides together are dead drunk and they leave off all sorts of…”

“Co to hell,” she said merrily, “nobody lives forever.”

“But everybody tries, you ever notice that?” he said, following her into one of the swaying gondolas.

As a matter of fact he got to kiss her several times at the top, with the October wind ruffling their hair and the midway spread out below them like a glowing clockface in the dark.

4.

After the Ferris wheel they did the carousel, even though he told her quite honestly that he felt like a horse's ass. His legs were so long that he could have stood astride one of the plaster horses. She told him maliciously that she had known a girl in high school who had had a weak heart, except nobody knew she had a weak heart, and she she had gotten on the carousel with her boyfriend and…

“Someday you'll be sorry,” he told her with quiet sincerity. “A relationship based on lies is no good, Sarah.”

She gave him a very moist raspberry.

After the carousel came the mirror maze, a very good mirror maze as a matter of fact, it made her think of the one in Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, where the little-oldlady schoolteacher almost got lost forever. She could see Johnny in another part of it, fumbling around, waving to her. Dozens of Johnnies, dozens of Sarahs. They bypassed each other, flickered around nonEuclidian angles, and seemed to disappear. She made left turns, right turns, bumped her nose on panes of clear glass, and got giggling helplessly, partly in a nervous claustrophobic reaction. One of the mirrors turned her into a squat Tolkein dwarf. Another created the apotheoeis of teenage gangliness with shins a quarter of a mile long.

At last they escaped and he got them a couple of fried hot dogs and a Dixie cup filled with greasy french fries that tasted the way french fries hardly ever do once you've gotten past your fifteenth year.

They passed a kooch joint. Three girls stood out front in sequined skirts and bras. They were shimmying to an old Jerry Lee Lewis tune while the barker hawked them through a microphone. “Come on over baby,” Jerry Lee blared, his piano boogying frankly across the sawdust-sprinkled arcades. “Come on over baby, baby got the bull by the horns… we ain't fakin… whole lotta shakin goin on…

“Club Playboy,” Johnny marveled, and laughed. “There used to he a place like this down at Harrison Beach. The barker used to swear the girls could take the glasses right off your nose with their hands tied behind their backs.”

“It sounds like an interesting way to get a social disease,” Sarah said, and Johnny roared with laughter.

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