The Music of Chance

Free The Music of Chance by Paul Auster

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Authors: Paul Auster
Shot.”
    “What did you do, play on stilts?”
    “I was the point guard, man, and I did all right out there, let me tell you. They called me the Mouse. I was so quick, I could pass the ball between guys’ legs. One game, I set a school record with fifteen assists. I was one tough little hombre out there.”
    “But you didn’t get any college scholarship offers.”
    “I got a few nibbles, but nothing that really interested me. Besides, I figured I could do better for myself playing poker than taking some business administration course at Bullshit Tech.”
    “So you found a job in a department store.”
    “Temporarily. But then my old man came through with a graduation present. He sent me a check for five thousand dollars. How do you like that? I don’t see the fucker for six or seven years, and then he remembers my high school graduation. Talk about mixed reactions. I could have died I was so happy. But I also felt like kicking the son of a bitch in the balls.”
    “Did you send him a thank-you note?”
    “Sure I did. It’s sort of required, isn’t it? But the guy never answered me. I haven’t heard a peep from him since.”
    “Worse things have happened, I suppose.”
    “Shit, I don’t care anymore. It’s probably all for the best.”
    “And that was the beginning of your career.”
    “You got it, pal. That was the beginning of my glorious career, my uninterrupted march to the heights of fame and fortune.”
    After that conversation, Nashe noticed a shift in his feelings toward Pozzi. A certain softening set in, a gradual if reluctant admission that there was something inherently likable about the kid. That did not mean that Nashe was prepared to trust him, but for all his wariness, he sensed a new and growing impulse to watch out for him, to take on the role of Pozzi’s guide and protector. Perhaps it had something to do with his size, the undernourished, almost stunted body—as if his smallness suggested something not yet completed—but it also might have come from the story he had told about his father. All during Pozzi’s reminiscences, Nashe had inevitably thought about his own boyhood, and the curious correspondence he found between their two lives had struck a chord in him: the early abandonment, the unexpected gift of money, the abiding anger. Once a man begins to recognize himself in another, he can no longer look on that person as a stranger. Like it or not, a bond is formed. Nashe understood the potential trap of such thinking, but at that point there was little he could do to prevent himself from feeling drawn to this lost and emaciated creature. The distance between them had suddenly narrowed.
    Nashe decided to put off the card test for the moment and attend to Pozzi’s wardrobe. The stores would be closing in a few hours, and there was no point in making the kid walk around in his baggy clown costume for the rest of the day. Nashe realized that he probably should have been more hard-nosed about it, but Pozzi was clearly exhausted, and he did not have the heart to force him into an immediate showdown. That was a mistake, of course. If poker was a game of endurance, of quick thinking under pressure, what better moment to test someone’s abilities than when his mind was clouded over with exhaustion? In all probability, Pozzi wouldflunk the test, and the money Nashe was about to shell out on clothes for him would be wasted. Given that impending disappointment, however, Nashe was in no rush to get down to business. He wanted to savor his anticipation a bit longer, to delude himself into believing there was still some cause for hope. Besides, he was looking forward to the little shopping excursion he had planned. A few hundred dollars wouldn’t make much difference in the long run, and the thought of watching Pozzi stroll through Saks Fifth Avenue was a pleasure he didn’t want to deny himself. It was a situation ripe with comic possibilities, and if nothing else, he might come out of it

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