Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pisser

Excerpted from THE BLADE ITSELF, by Marcus Sakey

When they were ten, they’d played a game called Pisser. It was a made-up game, but it lasted for almost two years, until Bobby Doyle missed his jump from the roof of a two-story CVS to the fire escape of the building next door and broke both wrists.

When Danny remembered the game, he always felt the way he did when he caught his own voice on an answering machine. It felt familiar, but a little off, too. Like someone else was telling a story that had happened to him.

The leader of the game was the Big Dick. It was a title they fought to earn, though mostly it meant that as they went about their lives, they kept their eyes open for the right kind of opportunity. Say, a new skyscraper going up in the Loop, the concrete and glass of the curtain wall only half-finished, the dark silhouette of a tower crane looming sixty stories up.

Boom. Call a Challenge.

Meet at seven o’clock, the yard deserted except for the security guys drinking coffee in their trailer. Squeeze under the chain link on the far side, keeping low until you’re in the building. The first floors would have actual staircases, what would become the fire steps. After that, plywood ramps. When those ran out, grab the A-frame of the crane, hoist yourself over the rail to the gridwork stairs, and start climbing.

At twenty stories, your calves burn.

At thirty-five stories, you’ve come further than the outside wall. The wind hits.

At fifty stories, five hundred swimming feet of vertigo, people on the street are just dots. Cabs are those mini-Matchbox cars you can put a dozen in your pocket.

At sixty stories, you’ve run out of stories. The building drops away, structural steel blackened by welding marks. You’re climbing the crane to the sky. Start counting steps. Ignore your legs Elvis-ing.

One hundred and eighty steps later, you’ve reached the operator’s cab, the white box like the driver’s seat of a semi. But it’ll be locked, so go up twenty more, to the gangway on top of the mast.

Take panting breaths on the ceiling of the city, the sky indigo around you, the world spread out jeweled at your feet.

Now the Challenge, because that was just warm up.

Step onto the crane arm. The metal grid is maybe two feet wide, but it feels like a tightrope. Indian-walk one foot in front of the other, keeping low to fight the wind, nothing on either side, just a few inches of steel between you and a five-second trip to State Street. Hit so hard, they’d tell each other, your shins come out your shoulders. Hit so hard nobody can tell your head from your ass. Hit so hard your teeth bounce for blocks.

Step. Breathe. Step.

When you reach the end, take a bow. Then hustle back fast as you dare. If you’re the first to ante up, congratulations. You’re the new Big Dick. Pussy out, you’re the Pisser, a little baby still whines for his mommy and wets the sheets. No hair on his nuts. No nuts at all.

It was vivid to Danny, like he could step back into that Challenge today if he wanted. The way his legs had trembled and burned. The way the air cut as he drew it in, far, far above the city-street smells of exhaust and garbage.

Once he took that first step, the fear would fade. His mind would throw up interference, like radio static, that screened out everything but a calm inner monologue and his body’s response to it. The first step wasn’t the hard part.

No, the hard part came before he stepped into the void. The hard part was the waiting, his brain imagining all the things that could go wrong.

All the things he couldn’t control.

All the ways that fate loomed beneath him, hungry, eager for him to slip.



THE BLADE ITSELF
The more you have, the more you have to lose.
January 9th

7 comments:

Daniel Hatadi said...

Damn. That's an even better excerpt than the one from your website. Looking forward to this one, Mr. Sakey.

Robert Jordan said...

Hit so hard your teeth bounce for blocks.

Love it.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god...I think my plams are sweaty after reading that...can't wait.-melissa messer

JD Rhoades said...

Wow. Just...wow. Definitely on my "must buy" list.

Marcus Sakey said...

Thanks, guys! So glad y'all are enjoying it.

ab said...

Just wanted to pop in and wish The Outfitcollective Happy Holidays!

Louise Ure said...

Marcus, you've given me an image I'll never forget. Can't wait to read the rest of the book.