ACT Reading Jun. 2017 74C - Passage I

Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage.

LITERARY NARRATIVE: Passage A is adapted from the short story "Leaving Memphis" by Lauren Birden (©2008 by Narrative Magazine, Inc.). Passage B is adapted from the short story "Mandarins" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (©2006 by Fiction, Inc.).

Passage A by Lauren Birden

You see her first in the Memphis bus station on a
two-hour layover. You pretend you haven't because she
look;s ready to talk. "Stonewashed jeans,"you" think,
watching her tap her platform sandals at the front of the
5 boarding line. When she catches you staring, you pull
your lips tight and stare at the floor in front of her. She
starts toward you anyway. She plops down in, the hard
plastic seat next to you, moving her purse to her lap.
You motion to your open novel and shrug as if to say,
10 "Can't stop now," but she asks, "Where you from?" and
now you can't shake her.

You're not a bad person. You just wish Greyhound
assigned seating. It's not the straw-blond hair teased up
around her face, not even the sad, neglected teeth that
15 make you want to turn off the overhead reading lamp
and smile at her in the dark. "I have a sneaking suspi­-
cion that we're the same person," she says, and you say,
"That's funny," because you know you've been invent­-
ing yourself this whole time. She smiles and waits for
20 you to agree how similar the two of you are.

She tells you about the man she's taking the bus to
see. "Left for a construction job in Palm Beach. Says
my eyes are as blue as the Atlantic Ocean, and he can't
bear to look at the thing but one more time if I'm not
25 there with him. You can't trust a man with a gun or a
heart, but he swears he loves me." She waits for you to
tell her of a better love. You can't think of a story to

She says, "We're the same person." She's waiting
30 for you to tell her yes, that you both have had the same
heartache and know about scars and love the same. But
you're thinking at the window again as a radio tower
passes that reminds you of the Eiffel Tower.

Firefly porch lights are perched, fat and throbbing,
35 outside every occasional home you pass. You say, "You
know, you're so very right," and then, nothing more.
The woman resigns herself to turning away in the quiet.
You're telling the truth for once.

Passage B by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Evening was falling one cloud-covered winter's
40 day, as I boarded a Tokyo-bound train departing from
Yokosuka. I found a seat in the corner, sat down, and
leaned my head back against the window frame, half­-
consciously watching for the station to recede slowly
into the distance. But then I heard coming from the
45 ticket-gate the clattering of dry-weather clogs, followed
immediately by the cursing of the conductor. The door
of the second-class carriage was flung open, and a 13-
or 14-year-old girl came bursting in.

At that moment, with a shudder, the train began to
50 lumber slowly forward. I raised my eyes to look for the
first time at the girl seated now on the opposite side.
She wore her lusterless hair drawn up into a bun, in the
traditional shape of a gingko leaf. Apparently from con­-
stant rubbing of her nose and mouth with the back of
55 her hand, her cheeks were chapped and red. A grimy
woolen scarf of yellowish green hung loosely down to
her knees, on which she held a large bundle wrapped in
cloth. To blot her existence, I took out my newspaper,
and began to read.

60 The girl feverishly endeavored to open the
window, the glass apparently proving to be too heavy
for her. Gazing coldly at bet desperate struggle as she
fought with chilled hands, I hoped that she would fail,
and at that very moment, the window at last came down
65 with a thud. I would surely have barked at this unknown
girl to reclose the window, had it not been for the out­-
side view, which was now growing ever brighter, and
for the smell, borne in on the cold air, of earth, dry
grass, and water.

70 Just then I saw standing behind the barrier of a
desolate crossing three red-cheeked boys. Looking up
to see the train as it passed, they raised their hands as
one and let out with all the strength of their young
voices a high pitched cheer. And at that instant the girl,
75 the full upper half of her body leaning out of the
window, abruptly extended her hands and began
moving them briskly left and right. Five or six man­-
darin oranges, radiating the color of the warm sun and
filling my heart with sudden joy, descended on the
80 children standing there to greet the passing train.

I knew immediately the meaning of it all. This
girl, perhaps leaving home now to go into service as a
maid or an apprentice, had been carrying in her bundle
these oranges and tossed them to her younger brothers
85 as a token of gratitude for coming to see her off.

Elated, I raised my head and gazed at the girl with
very different eyes. For the first time I was able to
forget, at least for a moment, my unspeakable fatigue
and this tedious life.

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