I been silent so long now it's gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It's still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it's the truth even if it didn't happen.
Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. He knows there's a painful side; he knows my thumb smarts and his girlfriend has a bruised breast and the doctor is losing his glasses, but he won't let the pain blot out the humor no more'n he'll let the humor blot out the pain.
Doctor, do I look like a sane man?
He gave a cry. At last, falling backwards, his face appearing to us for a second upside down before he was smothered on the floor by a pile of white uniforms, he let himself cry out: A sound of cornered animal fear and surrender and hate and defiance, that if you ever trailed coon or cougar or lynx is like the last sound the treed and shot and falling animal makes as the dogs get him, when he finally doesn't care anymore about anything but himself and his dying.
Sweeping the dorm soon's it's empty, I'm after dust mice under his bed when I get a smell of something that makes me realize for the first time since I been in the hospital that this big dorm full of beds, sleeps 40 grown men, has always been sticky with a thousand other smells--smells of germicide, zinc ointment, and foot powder, smell of piss and sour old man manure, of Pablum and eyewash, of musty shorts and socks even when they're fresh back from the laundry, the stiff order of starch in the linen, the acid stench of morning mouths, the banana smell of machine oil, and sometimes the smell of singed hair--but never before now, before he came in, the man smell of dust and dirt from the open fields, and sweat, and work.
'But I tried, though,' he says. 'Goddammit, I sure as hell did that much now didn't I?'