Peter is the first walker that Ray notices. His car parks soon after Ray's, and Peter is the first to exit. His family followed and, for a moment, the three stood in conference.  As Ray's mother left and he turned back toward the road, he noticed Peter watching his folks pull out. Garraty walked over to him and they greeted and introduced themselves to each other. McVries admitted to feeling jumpy before the long walk.
The two of them walked toward the road and the stone marker. Behind them, other cars were pulling out. A woman began screaming abruptly. Unconsciously, Garraty and McVries drew closer together. Neither of them looked back. Ahead of them was the road, wide and black.
"That composition surface will be hot by noon," McVries said abruptly. "I'm going to stick to the shoulder."
Garraty nodded. McVries looked at him thoughtfully.
"What do you weigh?"
"Hundred and sixty."
"I'm one-sixty-seven. They say the heavier guys get tired quicker, but I think I'm in pretty good shape."
McVries sat down in the shade near a couple of other boys, and after a moment, Garraty sat beside him. McVries seemed to have dismissed him entirely. Garraty looked at his watch. It was five after eight. Fifty-five minutes to go. Impatience and anticipation came back, and he did his best to squash them, telling himself to enjoy sitting while he could.
The boys he and McVries had sat down next to were talking.
"I'm not hurrying," one of them said. "Why should I? If I get warned, so what? You just adjust, that's all. Adjustment is the key word here. Remember where you heard that first."
He looked around and discovered Garraty and McVries.
"More lambs to the slaughter. Hank Olson's the name. Walking is my game." He said this with no trace of a smile at all.
Garraty offered his own name. McVries spoke his own absently, still looking off toward the road.
"I'm Art Baker," the other said quietly. He spoke with a very slight Southern accent. The four of them shook hands all around.
There was a moment's silence, and McVries said, "Kind of scary, isn't it?"
They all nodded except Hank Olson, who shrugged and grinned. Garraty watched the boy in the pine tree finish his sandwich, ball up the waxed paper it had been in, and toss it onto the soft shoulder. He'll burn out early, he decided. That made him feel a little better.
"You see that spot right by the marker post?" Olson said suddenly.
They all looked. The breeze made moving shadow-patterns across the road. Garraty didn't know if he saw anything or not.
"That's from the Long Walk the year before last," Olson said with grim satisfaction. "Kid was so scared he just froze up at nine o'clock."
They considered the horror of it silently.
"Just couldn't move. He took his three warnings and then at 9:02 AM they gave him his ticket. Right there by the starting post."
Garraty wondered if his own legs would freeze. He didn't think so, but it was a thing you wouldn't know for sure until the time came, and it was a terrible thought. He wondered why Hank Olson wanted to bring up such a terrible thing.
Suddenly Art Baker sat up straight. "Here he comes."
A dun-colored jeep drove up to the stone marker and stopped. It was followed by a strange, tread-equipped vehicle that moved much more slowly. There were toy-sized radar dishes mounted on the front and back of this halftrack. Two soldiers lounged on its upper deck, and Garraty felt a chill in his belly when he looked at them. They were carrying army-type heavy-caliber carbine rifles.
Some of the boys got up, but Garraty did not. Neither did Olson or Baker, and after his initial look, McVries seemed to have fallen back into his own thoughts.
The Major got out of the jeep.
Peter McVries was 61. Hank Olson was 70. He was with the Major longer than the rest. The Major laughed at something Olson said and clapped him on the back.
"I told him to keep a lot of money on short call," Olson said when he came back. "And he told me to give 'em hell. Said he liked to see someone who was raring to rip. Give 'em hell, boy, he said."
"Pretty good," McVries said, and then winked at Garraty.
Number 100 got his number and then they all sat and waited for what would come next.
Then three soldiers from the halftrack passed out wide belts with snap pockets. The pockets were filled with tubes of high-energy concentrate pastes. More soldiers came around with canteens. They buckled on the belts and slung the canteens.
"Would you let me jerk you off?"
- ↑ Chapter 1: He, like some of the other boys, was wearing a light packsack.
- ↑ Chapter 1
- ↑ Chapter 1
- ↑ 53-54
- ↑ 320
|The Long Walk|
| James Baker | Collie Parker | George Fielder | Bill Hough | Rattigan | Scramm | Pearson | Travin | Fenter | Toland | Aaronson|
Abraham | Arthur Baker | Gary Barkovitch | Curley | Davidson | Ewing | Fenter | Roger Fenum | Percy | Raymond Garraty | Gribble
Harkness | Klingerman | Larson | Peter McVries | Hank Olson | Stebbins | Tressler | Wayne | Marty Wyman | Yannick | Zuck
|The Major | Mrs. Garraty | Janice |Cathy Scramm | Priscilla | Jimmy Owens|