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"HERE COMES DA CREEP," one of the stoop kids said.
Levy did his best to ignore them, standing at the top of the brownstone steps, making sure his sneaker laces were properly tight. These were his best shoes, the cream of the Adidas line, and they fit his feet as if divinely sculpted, never, not even on the first day, giving a hint of blister. Levy felt passionate about few items of wearing apparel, but these running shoes he cared about.
"Hey creepy creepy creepy," another of the stoop kids shouted, this one their leader, small, quick, with usually the brightest clothes. Now he made his voice very hoity-toity: "I just absolutely adore your chateau," and he indicated Levy's hat.
Without really meaning to, Levy adjusted his golf cap, and as he did the stoop kids, three brownstones down, hit him with the sound of their triumphant laughter. Levy was particularly sensitive about the whole cap business. He had been wearing his peakbill for years, and no one cared, but then, in the '72 Olympics, Wottle won the 800 meters for the U.S.A. and he wore a golf cap, Wottle did, so everyone assumed that Levy was merely an imitator.
Levy felt genuinely confident about few things in this world, but one of them was—did it sound conceited? then it was conceited—his mind. He had, for someone not yet out of his middle twenties, a relatively original mind, and he would never have copied anyone, let alone a fellow runner. Now he took a breath, trying to ready himself for the taunts of the stoop kids as he began jogging storklike down the brown-stone steps. The stoop kids loved his awkwardness. They flapped their arms and made goose sounds.
Levy just hated it when they imitated him. Not because they were wrong, but because they were so aggravatingly accurate in their mimicking. He, T. B. Levy, did look like a goose, at least on occasion. He didn't much like it, but there it was.
The stoop kids—usually six in number, Spanish in origin—seemed to live on the brownstone steps of the house three doors closer to Central Park than Levy's own. At least, they had been perched there when he arrived in June, and here it was, September now, and they showed no signs of flying south. They were maybe fifteen or sixteen, small, thin, undoubtedly dangerous when provoked, and they ate on their stoop, played handball against the stoop steps or on the sidewalk in front, and often, late in the darkness, Levy would pass them necking and more with what he assumed were neighborhood girls. Morning till night, the stoop kids were there, sitting there, standing, playing, smoking, not caring to watch the world go by, because they were a world, tight-knit and constant, and sometimes, for that reason, Levy wondered if he didn't envy them. Not that he ever wanted them to offer him a seat. Certainly, he would have rejected such an offer. But then again, who knew how he'd behave, it was all academic, they'd never asked him.
Levy turned on the sidewalk toward Central Park, jogging his way, and as he passed them the one who adored his chateau said, "Why aren't you in school?" so suddenly that Levy had to laugh, because once, in June, when they had been particularly insulting to him, he had said that to them, "Why aren't you in school?" and not only had he not shut them up, for a month they'd never let him come close to forgetting it. But this was the first time in many days they'd used the line back on him, and therefore his laughter. Humor was the unexpected juxtaposition of incongruities, who had said that? Levy rooted around in his mind a moment before he decided on Hazlitt. No. Meredith maybe? G. B. Shaw? Think, he commanded, but the right name would not come. Levy stormed at himself, because you had to know that kind of thing if you were going to be really first-rate, his father would have known just-like-that, known the author's name and the work the quote resided in and the mental state of the creator at the moment of composition—were these good times for him, bad, what? Shamed, Levy jogged faster.
Levy lived on West 95th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus, not an appetizing neighborhood, certainly, but when you were a scholarship student you took what was available, and in June what was available was a single room with bath on the top floor of the brownstone at 148 West 95th Street. It wasn't all that bad, actually: a lovely jogging distance from Columbia, just across to Riverside Park and then up to 116th, a straight shoot along the river—you couldn't ask for more than that if you were a runner.
Levy crossed Columbus, picked up his pace a bit more as he closed in on Central Park, turned left at 95th, ran one block upland into the green area itself, straight to the tennis courts, and after that it was just a little half turn and then he was there.
At the reservoir.
Whoever invented the reservoir, Levy had decided months ago, must have done it with him alone in mind. It was without flaw, a perfect lake set in this most unexpected of locations, bounded by the millionaires on Fifth and their distant relations on Central Park South and their distant relations along Central Park West.
Levy easily passed other joggers as he began his initial circling of the water. It was half-past five—he always ran then, it was ideal for him. Some people liked a morning jaunt, but Levy wasn't one of them; his mind was at its best in the morning, so he always did his most complex reading before the noon hour; afternoons he took notes or read simple stuff. By five his brain was exhausted, but his body was desperate to move.
So at half-past five Levy ran. Clearly he was faster than anyone around, so if you were a casual observer it would have been logical to assume that this rather tallish, sort of slender fellow with the running style not unreminiscent of a goose covered ground really quite well.
But you had to consider his daydreams.
He was going to run the marathon. Like Nurmi. Like the already mythical Nurmi. Years from now, all across the world, track buffs would agonize over who was greatest, the mighty Finn or the fabled T. B. Levy. "Levy," some of them would argue, "no one would ever run the final five miles the way Levy ran them," and others would counter that by the time the last five miles came, Nurmi would be so far ahead, it wouldn't matter how fast Levy ran them, and so the debate would rage, expert against expert, down the decades.
For Levy was not going to be a marathon man; anyone could be that if you just devoted your life to it. No, he was going to be the marathon man. That, plus an intellect of staggering accomplishment coupled with an unequaled breadth of knowledge, the entire mixture bounded by a sense of modesty as deep as it was sincere.
Right now he only had the B.Litt. he'd won at Oxford, and could race but fifteen miles without fatigue. But give him a few more years and he would be both Ph.D. and Champion. And the crowds would sing out "Lee-vee, Lee-vee," sending him on to undreamed-of triumphs as now sports fans shouted "Dee-fense" as they urged on their heroes.
And they wouldn't care about how awkwardly he might run. It wouldn't matter to them that he was over six feet tall and under a hundred and fifty pounds, no matter how many milkshakes he downed per day in an effort to move up from skinny to slender.
It wouldn't bother them that he had a stupid cowlick and the face of an Indiana farmer, that even after spending three years in England he still had the expression of someone you just knew would buy the Brooklyn Bridge if you offered him the chance. He was beloved by few, known by none save, thank God for Doc, Doc. But that would change. Oh yes, oh yes.
"LEE-VEE ... LEEEEEEE-VEE."
There he was now, up ahead and running with the firm knowledge that no one could ever conquer him, except possibly Mercury. Tireless, fabled, arrogant, unbeatable, the Flying Finn himself, Nurmi.
Levy picked up his pace.
The end of the race was still miles off, but now was the greatest test, the test of the heart.
Levy picked up his pace again.
Levy was gaining.
The half-million people lining the course could not believe it. They screamed, they surged almost out of control. It could not be happening but there it was—Levy was gaining on Nurmi!
Levy, the handsome American, was closing in. It was true. Levy, so confident that he even dared a smile while running at the fastest pace in marathon history, was definitely destroying Nurmi's lead. Nurmi was aware now—something terrible was going on behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, and the disbelief was plain for all to see. Nurmi tried to go faster, but he was already at maximum pace, and suddenly his stride began to betray him, the crucial rhythm getting erratic. Levy was coming. Levy was making his move. Levy was getting set to pass now. Levy was—
Thomas Babington Levy paused for a moment, leaning against the reservoir fence. It was hard to really concentrate on Nurmi today.
For he had a toothache, and as he ran, as his right foot hit the ground, it jarred the cavity on the right side of his upper jaw. For a moment Levy rubbed the offending tooth, wondering if he should see a dentist now or not. The thing had come on only lately, and maybe it would depart as it had come, because it hadn't gotten worse, and proved a nuisance only when he ran. Dentists raped you anyway, they charged a ton for maybe two minutes' work, and there were better things to spend your money on, like books, all the books ever printed; records, too. To hell with it, Levy decided.
In the end, it didn't really matter. Once they found his weakness, they almost killed him ...CHAPTER 2
AS SCYLLA ENTERED THE airport bar, he spotted the toupeed man immediately, and for a moment he was undecided as to what to do, since at their previous meeting they had both tried very hard, if somewhat briefly, to kill each other.
True, that had been Brussels and business, while this was Los Angeles International and, if flying could ever be considered pleasurable, pleasure, but that didn't make Scylla's problem any less tangible: Namely, how did you tell a fellow you'd recently made a pass at destroying that now you were off duty and interested in nothing more lethal than a little conversation? You couldn't just walk up and say "Hi, how are things?" because more than likely there would be a new and unasked-for-hole in your temple before the "things" was fully sounded, Ape was that quick with a pistol.
Ape was working for the Arabs now, Libya or Iraq or one of them—Scylla could never really keep them straight—or at least he had been at the time of their Brussels encounter. As soon as he'd returned to Division, Scylla had asked to see Ape's file, knowing there would be one and also that it would be thick—Division prided itself on its ability to collect and itemize all information on any adversary.
Not that Ape had always been an enemy. He shifted countries and allegiances frequently, but for six years he had worked for the British, and the two following that for the French. After that he tried freelancing, but evidently that hadn't turned out well—it never really worked out well for anybody; only the inscrutable and virulent Mr. S. L. Chen free-lanced on a more or less permanent basis. After his attempt at becoming self-employed, Ape moved a good deal more quickly than before: Brazil for a while, then a quick stop in Albania before settling into his present slot with the Arabs.
Scylla stared at the little toupeed man sitting alone at the farthest stool. The genuinely remarkable thing was that he should be faced with the problem of how to introduce himself safely, because it was rare that two such as he and Ape should have gone against each other and both survived. Even though Ape was both shorter and less menacing-looking than Mickey Rooney, he had been absolutely top international level with any kind of small firearm for over a decade, whereas Scylla rated along with Chen as the two fastest at killing with either hand—palm up, palm down, right hand, left, it mattered not at all.
The logical thing, Scylla decided, was to find another bar. Risks didn't bother him, but the unexpected he always tried avoiding. He had backed several steps out of the place when he paused, because, dammit, he wanted to talk to Ape. You didn't get that kind of opportunity often, since when Scylla had first entered the business, Ape was one of the fewer than half dozen from any country who could lay legitimate claim to being remotely legendary. Scylla flicked back a bit, coming up with some of the others—Brighton, Trench, Fidelio—all, alas, retired. Violently.
And suddenly Scylla was in motion. He was extraordinarily quick for a man his size, especially at the start; he wasn't particularly fast, but straightaway speed meant nothing, quickness was all. He had once heard a basketball coach ask another about a young player: "How is his quick?" The phrase stuck—he had not known till then you could be both quick and slow. Scylla moved along the bar behind the stools, and when he was close enough for his move, he threw some recognition on his face and whirled in behind the little man, his powerful arms locking Ape firmly in place, and it looked like two long-lost Elks or Babbitty Rotarians suddenly finding each other and going into their semi-secret greeting as Scylla whispered, "Peace, Ape," followed by the lightning rejoinder "I've none."
Scylla took the next bar stool, impressed by the speed of Ape's reflexes; it was what made him unsurpassed with a pistol—not his aim, which was good, but that his bullet was already in the air while the enemy was still aiming. "Does that bother you?" Scylla wondered.
"What? Being unarmed? No, why should it, does it bother you?"
Scylla said nothing, his big hands clasped loosely together, fingers interlocked on the bar.
Ape flicked a glance at them. "But then, you're never unarmed, are you?"
"Hands are better," Ape said. "Close in, there's no comparison. If I'd had your size, I'd have specialized in hands."
Scylla thought immediately of Chen, who was far smaller even than Ape, frail, barely a hundred pounds. He would never have brought up the name, but he didn't have to, Ape did. Scylla had to smile. He hadn't the least idea where Ape had received his original training, which country, but more than likely it wasn't dissimilar to his own. Actually, all they really knew about each other was whatever was locked in the files of their different main offices. In a way, this was nothing; in another, all. They could almost, on occasion, mind-read each other, and this was clearly one of those occasions.
"The reason Mr. S. L. Chen can kill so adroitly with either hand is because he is a goddamn heathen Chinee, and that kind of thing comes as second nature to Chinks, like all coons can dance." Ape stared at the trace of whisky left in his glass. "That was supposed to be funny," he said. "It didn't come out that way though, did it?" Before Scylla could reply, the little man rode right on: "Now you'll probably go to your grave thinking I'm a treasure house of prejudice. Ape? I met him once. Bigoted little fart, wig didn't fit.' Another." This last was to the bartender, who nodded, went for a Scotch bottle, poured. "Make it a triple," Ape said. The bartender nodded and poured.
Scylla ordered what he always did. "Scotch, please, lots of soda, lots of ice," he said, thinking that Ape was too smart to be ordering triples. Triples were dangerous; your tongue got slow, your brain, your pistol reactions. All this was true, so of course he couldn't say it; he sought a different avenue. "It's not a bad wig," he said.
"Not bad? Jesus, in the wind here today it rose up on my head, the front part did—the back part stayed in place but the front started flapping—it must have looked like it was trying to wave to somebody." He stared at his drink. "That didn't come out funny either. I used to be so funny. Truly, Scylla. A comedian."
"I believe you."
"You don't a bit."
"Does it matter?"
"No," Ape said, before he said, "Yes, yes it does, a lot."
Scylla thought it best to say nothing.
"I picked my name," the little man went on. "I selected my own anonym. They said, 'What do you want to be known as?' and I've been dead bald since I was twenty-two, and out it popped, not even a pause—Ape,' I said. After the play Hairy Ape by O'Neill, the American. Don't you see how funny that is? I was like that all the time, barrels of laughs."
Scylla smiled, because it was the decent thing to do, and also because it was one of Ape's passions to keep his origin secret. He spoke no language quite well enough to seem native in it, and by referring to O'Neill as "the American" he seemed to remove that country as a possible home.
Excerpted from Marathon Man by William Goldman. Copyright © 2001 William Goldman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 14, 2014
First 15 pages of this already short book, are filler about the author. I paid ( over paid ) for a novel and that's what I expect to get.
The movie with the cold blooded dentist was exceptional but I'm struggling to get to that part. This writer has a strange style which I find hard to follow and I'm struggling to get through this book. I would not recommend this book but I would suggest seeking out the movie
Posted March 24, 2010
I bought this book about 2 years ago, and could only get through the first 20 pages for the longest time. It was a confusing start with two different scenarios going on, and I couldn't get into it.
Finally, I forced myself to keep reading and eventually the book got pretty interesting with some unexpected twists and turns. But the original reason I bought it was because I thought it would have alot of information on marathons, but in fact, I don't think the author knows a whole lot about marathons because it seemed a bit unresearched or written from a point of view of an outsider to the running world.
Overall, the book is more of a thriller secret agent/fbi type book with lots of killing and suprizing character revelations. It is decent and readable if you are looking for something with action, but don't get your hopes up for a touching love story or a book that will enlighten you on the world of running.
Posted May 16, 2003
This book is such a good book. I really like Goldman's writing style beacuse it never lets you go. I kept reading this book for really one reason it was the suspense. This book kept me at the edge of my seat and made me cringe when Babe was Being tortured.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2003
This is the best plotted novel I've ever read. In the beginning, the book's subplots appear to have noting to do with each other whatsoever. But how wrong you are! Goldman masterfully ties all these stories together and makes the book impossible to put down at the same time. The only problem with the book, is that it's not twice as long.
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Posted August 19, 2002
I have never had a book throw me through so many loops and twists and turns. Goldman is a master, playing with the reader and then striking with unexpected agility. You won't be able to put it down. I couldn't, even waaaaaay past when I usually end up falling asleep.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 17, 2001
This book is one of the greatest books I have ever had the pleasure to read. If indeed you do get a chance to read this book I also recmmend you read Brothers by Wiliam Goldman. It is out of print and very difficult to fnd. It is a National Bestseller and the sequel to Marathon Man. Both books ae smply incredible and clever novels.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 23, 2001
One of very few books that I didn't put down when my eyes started to close at 2 in the AM. This book shares little with 'The Princess Bride', or even 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' with the exception of the style. Goldman is one of the best writers we have in English; this book is a perfect example.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2014
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Posted July 4, 2014
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