Tipping the gunstock to the ground, the girl took a step forward and reloaded by habit, with the barrel at an angle because she could not reach it standing straight on its end; she uncapped the horn with her teeth, poured powder into the muzzle too fast, spilling black on the scoop of her hand, down her arm, filtering, sifting black grains to the charred earth; she licked the wadding with no spit in her mouth, seated the ball with the first thrust, and went on jamming the ramrod down the barrel, again, and again, and again. Her eyes were glazed, staring at the far side of the circle, where the dog had found an old mottled terrapin crossing the cold coals and was uselessly worrying it. With the cap set, gun loaded, Matt’s eyes cleared, and she could see the dog whining and sniffing pointlessly at the box terrapin. When his nose came close the creature would pull its leathery neck back and shut itself away, and when Ringo backed off, the old terrapin would emerge and move on again, slow and relentless, undaunted, following its own secret and imperative purpose.
— admire much not just the execution of the long sentence in this passage from The Mercy Seat but also how it shows clearly a physical process with a series of steps, which I find hard, while also evoking tone and character, which I find beyond hard. And I like how the dog is out there doing what it’s doing before she sees it—and I like that she then sees it, that the writer took the care to manifest that. I like it that the turtle is a terrapin, and maybe most of all, there is that “secret and imperative purpose” right at the end of it all. For a turtle.