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Manhattan Transfer

thundered loud on the barrier reef. He didn't need to read. Jack was swimming fast through the calm blue waters of the lagoon, stood in the sun on the yellow beach shaking the briny drops off him, opened his nostrils wide to the smell of breadfruit roasting beside his solitary campfire. Birds of bright plumage shrieked and tittered from the tall ferny tops of the coconut palms. The room was drowsy hot. Jimmy fell asleep. There was a strawberry lemon smell, a smell of pineapples on the deck and mother was there in a white suit and a dark man in a yachtingcap, and the sunlight rippled on the milkytall sails. Mother's soft laugh rises into a shriek O-o-o-ohee. A fly the size of a ferryboat walks towards them across the water, reaching out jagged crabclaws. "Yump Yimmy, yump; you can do it in two yumps," the dark man yells in his ear. "But please I dont want to . . . I dont want to," Jimmy whines. The dark man's beating him, yump yump yump. . . . "Yes one moment. Who is it?"

Aunt Emily was at the door. "Why do you keep your door locked Jimmy. . . . I never allow James to lock his door."

"I like it better that way, Aunt Emily."

"Imagine a boy asleep this time of the afternoon."

"I was reading The Coral Island and I fell asleep." Jimmy was blushing.

"All right. Come along. Miss Billings said not to stop by mother's room. She's asleep."

They were in the narrow elevator that smelled of castor oil; the colored boy grinned at Jimmy.

"What did the doctor say Aunt Emily?"

"Everything's going as well as could be expected. . . . But you mustn't worry about that. This evening you must have a real good time with your little cousins. . . . You dont see enough children of your own age Jimmy."

They were walking towards the river leaning into a gritty wind that swirled up the street cast out of iron under a dark silvershot sky.

"I guess you'll be glad to get back to school, James."