Butcher’s Crossing

When he awoke his room was dark; the cloth screen at his window let in a flickering brightness from the street below. He heard distant shouts beneath the querulous murmur of many voices, and the snorting of a horse and the clop of hooves. For a moment he could not remember where he was.

He got up abruptly and sat on the edge of his bed. The mattress rustled beneath him; he relaxed, and ran his fingers through his hair, down over the back of his head and neck, and stretched his head backward, welcoming the soreness that warmed pleasantly up between his shoulder blades. In the darkness he walked across his room to the small table, which was outlined dimly beside the window. He found a match on the table and lit the lamp beside the washbasin. In the mirror his face was a sharp contrast of yellow brightness and dark shadow. He put his hands in the lukewarm water of the basin and rinsed his face. He dried his hands and face on the same shirt he had used the day before. By the flickering light of the lamp, he put on his black string tie and brown sack coat, which was beginning to smell of his own sweat, and stared at himself in the mirror as if he were a stranger. Then he blew the lamp out, and made his way out of the room.

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