deceptively friendly tone

“He sat playing solitaire for hours. He calls me over, begins to talk in a very low, deceptively friendly tone. When my mother and I fell asleep, he told me, he would set fire to the house and we would burn inside while he looked on. Then he would change that story: Instead of setting fire to the house, he will kill my mother in bed, and in the morning, when I go wake her, she’ll be dead, and I’ll be left alone with him.”

— John Rechy, City of Night

out-of-the-world pleasures

“From this scene he had learned an alarming lesson: that the flesh domineers the soul and refuses to admit any schism. The flesh decisively does not intend that one shall get along without it and indulge in out-of-the-world pleasures which it can partake only on condition that it keep quiet. For the first time, reviewing these turpitudes, he really understood the meaning of that now obsolete word chastity, and he savoured it in all its pristine freshness. Just as a man who has drunk too deeply the night before thinks, the morning after, of drinking nothing but mineral water in future, so he dreamed, today, of pure affection far from a bed.”

— Joris-Karl Huysmans, La-bas

freshly polished gas cocks

“He’s coming! He’s coming! And who came? The Christ Child, the Savior? Or was it the heavenly Gasman with the gas meter under his arm, ticking away? And he said: I am the Savior of this world, without me you can’t cook. And he was open to reason, he offered special rates, turned on the freshly polished gas cocks and let the Holy Spirit pour forth, so that the dove could be cooked. And gave out walnuts and almonds in the shell, which were promptly cracked, and they too poured forth Spirit and gas, so that the gullible were easily gulled, saw all the gasmen in the increasingly thick and bluish air outside the department stores as Santa Clauses and Christ Children in all sizes and prices. And so they believed in the only true and saving Gas Company, which symbolized fate with its rising and falling gas meters, and staged an Advent season at standard prices, one many in fact believed would bring them the Christmas they expected, but only those for whom the store of walnuts and almonds was insufficient survived the holidays— though all had believed there was plenty for everyone.”

— Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum

the classic phrase

“Indeed, she had but now handed a note to a young man who had hurried out to open it beneath the gaslight in the vestibule, where he had grown slightly pale on reading the classic phrase — how often had others read it in that very place! — “Impossible tonight, my dearie! I’m booked!””

— Emile Zola, Nana