Big Machine by Victor LaValle

By Victor LaValle

Ricky Rice is a middling hustler with a lingering junk behavior, a bum knee, and a haunted brain. A survivor of a suicide cult, he scrapes via as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, ny, till sooner or later a mysterious letter arrives, summoning him to enlist in a band of paranormal investigators constituted of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point soon of their wasted lives heard what could have been the voice of God.

Infused with the sweetness of a disquieting dream and laced with Victor LaValle’s fiendish comedian sensibility, Big Machine is a mind-rattling secret approximately doubt, religion, and the monsters we feature inside of us.

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Example text

I paid no more attention to Cheryl because now I could read the two lines of the note: You made a promise in Cedar Rapids in 2002. Time to honor it. Without thinking, purely automatic, I walked back into that filthy toilet stall and flushed the note away. But not the ticket. 2 THREE DAYS I thought about that note. Thought about it, repeated it in my mind, tried to forget it. But on the third day I showed up at my job with a packed duffel bag, which I stored in my locker, my mind not yet made up.

I leaned back, out of the stall, and peeked at the bathroom door to make sure I was still alone. I checked the back of the ticket for something, a note, an explanation. Nothing. Then I remembered that I’d seen two silhouettes through the envelope. I ducked my head to the left, looking to the floor of the sanitary first stall, but it hadn’t landed there. Then I looked to my right and saw that little cream-colored sheet, not much bigger than a Post-it, flat on the floor of filthy old stall number three.

As if the bus was devouring him. Then a brown suitcase flew out, onto the shoulder, like a bit of indigestible beef. At that, the passengers applauded. Me too, I must admit. The bus driver shut the bay door, another grinding squawk, then made his way back inside. The bum dragged himself toward the front right away. I thought he might protest the excommunication, but there was nowhere to appeal. On this bus the passengers were all archbishops and the bus driver was our pope. The guy spoke as he moved.

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