Big Machine: A Novel
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Ricky Rice is a middling hustler with a lingering junk habit, a bum knee, and a haunted mind. A survivor of a suicide cult, he scrapes by as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, New York, until one day a mysterious letter arrives, summoning him to enlist in a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard what may have been the voice of God.
Infused with the wonder of a disquieting dream and laced with Victor LaValle’s fiendish comic sensibility, Big Machine is a mind-rattling mystery about doubt, faith, and the monsters we carry within us.
A man, coming to an end like mine, should perish in this pose: contrite, abject, mythic. Is this really all I am? I wondered. A grown man acting no better than a teenager? The image I’d always held of myself was so much more forgiving. All this occurred to me as my soul was sucked farther down into my body by those feline mouths below. I watched as I slipped out from the comfortable space of my skull and down inside the tight, moist channel of my throat. This is really happening, I thought.
that the Gray Lady and I turned our heads. Then the gates exploded. They cracked in two. One gate flung backward into the Bay and landed in the water with a splash. The other was knocked flat and burned black on the ground. The mayor’s lectern was a woodpile. And the half-incinerated banner blew into the air, snapping like a flag. When it floated back down, it had been reduced to a single singed word: “Welcome …” 32 POLICE INTERVIEWED THE GRAY LADY, myself, and the others who’d been
you know it doesn’t come on every day?” “ ’Cause I don’t see it every day,” Altagracia answered, exasperated. Karen said, “But that doesn’t mean it’s not on, Altagracia. Just because you don’t see it. How many days a week do you get to watch television?” “Two.” Gina said, “Well, then, how can you be sure it doesn’t come on the other five days? You’re asking the wrong question, baby girl. You should be asking why you can’t watch television seven days a week.” “Well, why can’t I?” “Because
a television, then. Worship some show. Choose that instead of being devoted to us.” I said, “So you want us to believe in God, or just in you?” My sister turned to me. Wilfred and Annabelle too. Altagracia gawked. I hadn’t said the wrong thing. I’d just won this little game. Rose said, “Ricky’s right. We’re elevating ourselves.” Karen nodded, agreeing with Rose. She smiled at us weakly. Karen said, “I remember Gina, Rose, and I were sitting in church on a Wednesday evening in March 1961. We
see anything like that?” The tech turned and frowned at the doctor. “Of course not.” The way the wand pressed against my skin really hurt, but these guys didn’t notice. I waved at the doctor. “You’re going to have to tell me something.” Dr. France looked relieved, actually, smiled widely. “I’ll make this plain, Mr. Royce. Your blood volume has increased by about twenty percent. Glucose levels are quite high. Your leukocyte count has gone up to almost seven thousand milliliters.” “That’s