By Julian Barnes
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Extra resources for Staring at the Sun
Nothing doing. Crossed the Channel higher than usual, about eighteen thousand. I must have left it later than I should because it was starting to get light. Maybe the nights were still getting shorter. “Anyway. There I was, looking up the Channel, and the sun was just starting to come up. ” “I went up in a De Havilland for the whooping cough,” said Jean, rather proudly. “But it was a long time ago. ” Prosser took the interruption without offence. “It’s so clear, it’s clearer than words can say.
You don’t want to kill anyone anymore—all that feeling has been leaking away with the oxygen. You feel happy. “And then one of two things happens. Either a 109 drops on you with a quick burst and a whouf of flame and then it’s all over, nice and clean. Or else, nothing at all happens, and you carry on climbing through the thin blue air, staring at the sun through your fingers, frost on your Perspex but all warm inside, all happy and not a thought in your head, until your hand drops in front of you, and then your head drops and you don’t even notice it’s curtains …” What possible answer could you make to that, Jean thought.
The cigarette had an inch of ash on it, and Uncle Leslie was taking another puff. At the next glance, his head was tipped slightly back, and half the cigarette consisted of ash. From this point on, Uncle Leslie wouldn’t look at her; instead, he would concentrate very carefully, slowly leaning back a little more with each puff he took. Finally, his head would be at right angles to his spine, with the cigarette, now pure ash apart from the last half inch where Leslie was holding it, rising vertically towards the roof of the giant bird-box.