This time the word was that number 9, Ewing, had developed blisters and had been warned twice. The word was that things looked bad for Ewing.
He passed the word to Baker, and Baker looked surprised. "The black fella?" Baker said. "So black he looks soma blue?"
"Yeah, he's black," Pearson said. He pointed to Ewing. Garraty could see tiny jewels of perspiration gleaming in Ewing's natural. With something like horror, Garraty observed that Ewing was wearing sneakers.
Hint 3: Do not, repeat, do not wear sneakers. Nothing will give you blisters faster than sneakers on a Long Walk.
"He rode up with us," Baker said. "He's from Texas."
Baker picked up his pace until he was walking with Ewing. He talked with Ewing for quite a while. Then he dropped back slowly to avoid getting warned himself. His face was bleak. "He started to blister up two miles out. They started to break back in Limestone. He's walkin' in pus from broken blisters."
"Warning! Warning 9! This is your third warning, 9!"
The soldiers were watching Ewing carefully now. So were the Walkers. Ewing was in the spotlight. The back of his T-shirt, startlingly white against his black skin, was sweat-stained gray straight down the middle. Garraty could see the big muscles in his back ripple as he walked. Muscles enough to last for days, and Baker said he was walking in pus. Blisters and charley horses. Garraty shivered. What in the name of God had Ewing been thinking about when he put on those P.F. Flyers?
Barkovitch joined them. Barkovitch was looking at Ewing, too. "Blisters!" He made it sound like Ewing's mother was a whore. "What the hell can you expect from a dumb nigger? Now I ask you."
"Move away," Baker said evenly, "or I'll poke you."
"It's against the rules," Barkovitch said with a smirk. "Keep it in mind, cracker." But he moved away. It was as if he took a small poison cloud with him.
Two o'clock became two-thirty. Their shadows got longer. They walked up a long hill, and at the crest Garraty could see low mountains, hazy and blue, in the distance. The encroaching thunderheads to the west were darker now, and the breeze had stiffened, making his flesh goosebump as the sweat dried on him.
A group of men clustered around a Ford pickup trick with a camper on the back cheered them crazily. The men were all very drunk. They all waved back at the men, even Ewing. They were the first spectators they had seen since the swaggering little boy in the patched overalls.
Garraty broke open a concentrate tube without reading the label and ate it. It tasted slightly porky. He thought about McVries's hamburger. He thought about a great big chocolate cake with a cherry on the top. He thought about flapjacks. For some crazy reason he wanted a cold flapjack full of apple jelly. The cold lunch his mother always made when he and his father went hunting in November.
Ewing bought a hole about ten minutes later.
He was clustered in with a group of boys when he fell below speed for the last time. Maybe he thought the boys would protect him. The soldiers did their job well. The soldiers were experts. They pushed the other boys aside. They dragged Ewing over to the shoulder. Ewing tried to fight, but not much. One of the soldiers pinned Ewing's arms behind him while the other put his carbine up to Ewing's head and shot him. One leg kicked convulsively.
"He bleeds the same color as anyone else," McVries said suddenly. It was very loud in the stillness after the single shot.
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