Giving is something Mr. Rogers talks about. … Mr. Rogers didn't say anything about not drinking beer before you gave blood. Asel thinks that his big day is going to hell. Not too much has worked out for him. He drinks another beer at the bar and leaves. (p. 165)
Off in his head, he solved extraordinary problems of mathematics, science, medicine, the humanities. He wrote poetry, saw music. … People have told him, with your IQ you should be a genius. I was a genius and have long since abused myself into a state of average and like it better that way. Now there comes a momentary clearing, a moment of satorial splendor, and then it goes oblique. It fades away like blown dust.
A person can get used to just about anything if it happens slow enough.
He had experienced the horror that leaves you calm and unafraid, but for her something inside was broken and he did not know if it could be mended. Her life, her horror, he could not tell.
Could this be what people were fighting over, the many possessions that surrounded him? These objects with so much value and so little use? He thought how the sweep of a hand or the lick of a flame and they would be broken and burned. Maybe it was the weak and the fragile and the beautiful that made you the craziest and made you fight the hardest.
Tonight he was too tired to hate and hoped in the morning when he was rested he would hate again.
He decided from that day forever after that there must live a heartless God to let such despair be visited on the earth, or as his father said, a God too tired and no longer capable of doing the work required of him.
It was in these wounded days the beginning of the man he would grow to be. He bore his pain and endured his wound as if a sign he too had been blooded by the madness that’d taken ahold of the land. He no longer shied from people, from the lone riders, from the reenslaved herded South. He no longer feared their presence on the roads and his conversion was believable to him. He had lived and did not die. He was breathing. Still, it was only the beginning and he was not old enough to know these changes, did not even know enough to think this way yet.
Though he had never smelled the death of men before, he knew the smell as if it were a knowledge born into him.
The old man told how he was now worthless and no good to anyone anymore because he was filled with despair, and despair was useless in times such as these. He told him to remain angry, because anger was more useful than despair and would deliver him. But to despair would surely lead to failure and tragedy.
He could not remember when he stopped hating those who were trying to kill him. After all, he was trying to kill them too. He’d abandoned hatred somewhere on the plains of Montana or the jungles of the Philippines. He wasn’t sure, but no matter, it wasn’t good to hate. It always seemed to get in the way of doing the job, always seemed to take more than it ever gave back, always seemed to get the hater killed sooner than he otherwise might have been killed.
Why not give up the pain, the injury, the slow and terminal? He worried and fretted how cool his skin had become. He understood how at the end a freezing man felt alive with heat and a drowned man could breathe and a burning man became cold and shivered and then died.
On nights like this he would stop the horse and lay back and look at the stars, the haunches moving under his back. It is so like humans to think there is more out there than there is here. They are greedy for the water to be more and for the land to be more and even greedy for the sky to be more.
Of the men and women, the women were always the hardest of the band. They knew what the men knew but they also knew what the men would never know. They knew hard work and hunger, but they also knew childbirth and they knew the death of those children. They knew rape and the death of their men. They knew hatred and no one returns hate like a woman.
Under this cold moonlight he felt the shimmer of self. He felt no guilt, no pain, no remorse for what he'd done. He could have killed if he wanted to, but he did not. He felt as if he understood men, their discontent, their need to see what they'd not seen before, their need to be where they'd never been. He was one of them. He'd lived in a world of killing and blood and this world was returned to him. He'd lived in the silence and ineluctable mystery of violence. He knew the hold war had on him, the gore that would never come off in this world. He knew he could have killed Mercy's brother with his hands and it was the knowledge that gave him peace. (p. 243)