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THE TOWN AND THE CITY (Excerpt)

by Jack Kerouac

George Martin, almost as drunk as a lord, was singing loudest of them all, while the mother sat at the piano playing with a radiant and happy flush on her face. It made Mickey happy, yet also somehow sad to see his mother laughing and playing the piano like that. At Christmas, he always liked to just sit beside her on the couch. She let him have red port wine to drink with the walnuts, and watch the warm soft lights of the tree, red and blue and green, and listen to Scrooge on the radio. He liked to listen to Scrooge every year. He liked to have the house all quiet and Scrooge and Christmas songs on the radio, and everybody opening the Christmas presents after midnight Mass….

They all went in the house. The singing went on around the piano; big Mr. Cariter was doing a crazy dance with his wife’s hat on backwards. It was too much for Mickey who had to sit down in a corner and giggle. For a moment he was worried when the Christmas tree shook a little from side to side, but it had been well secured to the floor—Joe had done the job himself—and he guessed it wouldn’t fall over. He went and threw more tinsel on the branches.

Ruthey was whispering to Mrs. Mulligan: “That’s Mickey’s blue star up there on top of the tree. Every year we’ve got to get up on a chair and put it up or else! You know, or else!”

Mickey heard, but he paid no attention. He just stood before the tree with his hands clasped behind him. Then his mother came running over and threw her arms around him saying: “Oh, my little Mickey! He loves his tree so much!”

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Issued by Harcourt Brace in 1950, The Town and the City was Jack Kerouac‘s first published novel.