“Perfect Throws” — Excerpt from PAPERBOY by Bob Thurber


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In the dream I’m riding this red Schwinn Stingray Fastback — 26-inch wheels, nubby tires, high-rise handlebars. Very cool bike. Same model Jack & Harry’s Hardware sticks in the window every Christmas. Same candy-apple red, same slick nail-polish shine.

I’ve got my name stenciled in gold across the chain-guard, two chrome-wire baskets mounted saddlebag style, and another deep basket bolted to the handlebars. All baskets are full, heaped with newspapers, each paper neatly tucked and tri-folded and secured by a green rubber band. I’ve still got my dirty canvas bag looped across my chest, but it’s empty, a useless sack. I wear it just to remind people what I am, and to advertise the name of the newspaper.

There’s no traffic — the only cars in sight are parked in driveways — and I’m cruising down the middle of this smooth, black asphalt street, riding the centerline, barely pedaling as I reach and toss. A throw to my left, a throw to my right. Every house is a customer and I work in a regular snap rhythm. All my tosses are perfect. Each paper travels in a high arc, then lands soft, dead center on each porch’s welcome mat like it was placed there by careful hands. People open their doors, look down in amazement. Everyone smiles and waves.

I pedal and throw, working steadily but never frantically, delivering two hundred newspapers in less than an hour. The street ends in a cul-de-sac with newly constructed homes and I cruise the circle, looking at the pretty empty houses, deciding which one I’d like to buy and give to my mother for Christmas. I hit the brakes, skid into a half spin, and come to a dead stop. I take out my green book and a stub of pencil and place a checkmark next to every customer’s name, confident I haven’t missed a single one.

Then I turn the bike around and head for home, traveling the road I came, passing the same houses, the same lawns. Some of my customers are still waving, but my baskets are empty now, except for one last tightly tucked newspaper, which is for my mother. The empty canvas bag flaps behind me catching the wind like a flag as I pedal, pumping hard, my ass high off the seat, chest forward, my hair streaming.

What I want to ask, what I need to know, is there a place like that, a street that peaceful and serene, a route so straight and effortless outside of dreaming?

* * *

Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel came out today, May 1st, 2011.

–Bob Thurber is the author of Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel (Casperian Books, 2011) and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including The Barry Hannah Fiction Prize. He lives in Massachusetts. Visit his website at www.BobThurber.net

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