An Excerpt from
Seymour — an Introduction

by J.D. Salinger ...formatted and excerpted here unceremoniously by Craig Leinoff

One late afternoon, at that faintly soupy quarter of an hour in New York when the street lights have just been turned on and the parking lights of cars are just getting turned on -- some on, some still off -- I was playing curb marbles with a boy named Ira Yankauer, on the farther side of the side street just opposite the canvas canopy of our apartment house. I was eight. I was using Seymour's technique, or trying to -- his side flick, his way of widely curving his marble at the other guy's -- and I was losing steadily. Steadily but painlessly. For it was the time of day when New York City boys are much like Tiffin, Ohio, boys who hear a distant train whistle just as the last cow is being driven into the barn. At that magic quarter hour, if you lose marbles, you lose just marbles. Ira, too, I think, was properly time-suspended, and if so, all he could have been winning was marbles. Out of this quietness, and entirely in key with it, Seymour called to me. It came as a pleasant shock that there was a third person in the universe, and to this feeling was added the justness of its being Seymour. I turned around, totally, and I suspect Ira must have, too. The bulby bright lights had just gone on under the canopy of our house. Seymour was standing on the curb edge before it, facing us, balanced on his arches, his hands in the slash pockets of his sheep-lined coat. With the canopy lights behind him, his face was shadowed, dimmed out. He was ten. From the way he was balanced on the curb edge, from the position of his hands, from -- well, the quantity x itself, I knew as well then as I know now that he was immensely conscious himself of the magic hour of the day. "Could you try not aiming so much?" he asked me, still standing there. "If you hit him when you aim, it'll just be luck." He was speaking, communicating, and yet not breaking the spell. I then broke it. Quite deliberately. "How can it be luck if I aim?" I said back to him, not loud (despite the italics) but with rather more irritation in my voice than I was actually feeling. He didn't say anything for a moment but simply stood balanced on the curb, looking at me, I knew imperfectly, with love. "Because it will be," he said. "You'll be glad if you hit his marble -- Ira's marble -- won't you? Won't you be glad? And if you're glad when you hit somebody's marble, then you sort of secretly didn't expect too much to do it. So there'd have to be some luck in it, there'd have to be slightly quite a lot of accident in it." He stepped down off the curb, his hands still in the slash pockets of his coat, and came over to us. But a thinking Seymour didn't cross a twilit street quickly, or surely didn't seem to. In that light he came toward us much like a sailboat. Pride, on the other hand, is one of the fastest-moving things in this world, and before he got within five feet of us, I said hurriedly to Ira, "It's getting dark anyway," effectively breaking up the game.