فصل 11

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فصل 11

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Chapter eleven

Journey to San Francisco

We went back across the river on the ferry, then on a highway to Baton Rouge in purple darkness; turned west there, and crossed the Mississippi at a place called Port Allen. On through Louisiana - Lawtell, Eunice, Kinder, De Quincy, and Sabine. We had hardly enough money to get to San Francisco.

Soon we were crossing the Sabine River and saw lights in front of us. “Texas! Its Texas! Beaumont oil town!” We went through Beaumont, over the Trinity River, and on into Houston. The streets were empty at four o’clock in the morning.

Beyond Houston, Dean got tired and I drove. Rain began to fall. I drove through a little cow-town with a muddy main street, but couldn’t find my way out. “What do I do?” I said, but Dean and Marylou were asleep. I turned and went slowly back through the town. Outside the town I suddenly saw two car lights coming toward me.

“I’m on the wrong side of the road!” I thought, and moved right, into the mud. I rolled back on to the road and, at the last moment, realized that the other driver was on the wrong side, and didn’t know it. I pulled the car over into the mud again, and the other car stopped. There were four men inside it, all drunk.

“Which way to Houston?” shouted the driver.

I pointed my thumb back. Suddenly I thought, “They did this on purpose just to ask the way!” They looked sadly at the floor of their car, where empty bottles rolled, then drove away. I started the car; it was stuck in mud a foot deep.

“Dean, wake up,” I said. “We’re stuck in the mud.”

“What happened?” asked Dean, and I told him. He swore, and we put on old shoes and got out into the rain. We woke up Marylou and she sat in the driver’s seat while Dean and I pushed from behind. In a minute we were covered with mud. Then suddenly the Hudson slid wildly across the road, and Marylou stopped it, and we got in.

I fell asleep, and the mud on my clothes was hard when I woke up in the morning. We were near Fredericksburg, and it was snowing. I began to wish that I was back in New Orleans. Marylou was driving, and Dean was sleeping. She drove with one hand, the other reaching back to me in the back seat, and made sweet promises about San Francisco. I wanted her, but I was unhappy about it too.

At ten o’clock, Marylou let me drive. Dean slept for hours. I drove several hundred miles across snowy roads. At Sonora, I stole bread and cheese from a store while the owner talked to a big farmer in another corner. Dean was pleased. He was hungry, but we didn’t dare spend any money on food.

Dean drove the rest of the way across Texas, about five hundred miles, to El Paso. He stopped once to take off all his clothes, then drove on. “Now Sal, now Marylou,” he said. “I want you to do the same. Let the sun shine on your pretty skins. Come on!” Marylou took off her clothes, and so did I. All three of us sat in the front seat. Every mile or two big trucks went by, and the drivers stared as they saw a beautiful girl sitting between two men - all without clothes.

We came into El Paso that evening.

“We have to get some money for gas,” Dean said, “or we won’t get to San Francisco.”

We tried the travel office where you go for share-the-gas rides. We went to the Greyhound bus station to try to persuade somebody to give us their ticket money and travel with us, instead of taking a bus to the Coast. Suddenly, a crazy young kid joined us, and he and Dean rushed out for a beer.

“Come on, man, lets go and hit somebody on the head and get his money,” the kid said.

“OK, kid!” shouted Dean. They ran off. For a moment I was worried, but Dean only wanted to have fun with the kid. They weren’t going to hit anybody. Marylou and I waited in the car. She put her arms around me.

“Wait until we get to San Francisco!” I told her.

“I don’t care,” she said. “Dean’s going to leave me.”

“When are you going back to Denver?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t care. Can I go back east with you?”

“We’ll have to get some money in San Francisco,” I said.

“I know a restaurant where you can get a job,” she said, “and I can be a waitress. I know a hotel where we can stay. We’ll stay together. Oh, I’m sad.”

“What are you sad about, kid?” I said.

“Everything,” she said. “I wish Dean wasn’t so crazy.”

Dean came back, laughing. “He was a crazy kid!” he said, and he jumped in the car and drove fast out of El Paso. “We’ll just have to pick up some hitch-hikers.”

We saw one outside El Paso - a kid about seventeen years old - and Dean stopped. “How much money do you have?” asked Dean. The kid had no money, but Dean told him to get in the car anyway. His name was Alfred.

Then I remembered my old friend Hal Hingham in Tucson, Arizona. “He’ll lend me five dollars,” I said. Immediately Dean said that we were going to Tucson.

We arrived in Arizona at dawn. I woke up to find everybody asleep in the car. I got out. We were in the mountains - cool purple airs, red mountainsides, green valleys, and a beautiful sunrise. It was time for me to drive on. I pushed Dean and the kid out of the way, and went down the mountain with the engine off to save gas. I asked the man at the gas station in Benson, “Do you know a store where I can sell my watch?” And he pointed to a store near the station. The watch was a birthday present from Rocco and the man in the store gave me a dollar for it, and I went back to the gas station.

Now we had enough gas to get us to Tucson, and Dean drove there. The downtown streets were busy, the people were wild, ambitious, and happy. We saw Hingham, the writer, at his house in Fort Lowell Road. He was in Arizona to write his book in peace. His wife and baby were with him, and his mother lived across the yard in her own house. Hingham had heard of Dean through letters from New York. Hingham was wearing an old coat and was smoking a pipe. His mother invited us into her kitchen to eat. Then Hingham gave me five dollars. He was a sad, lonely man who wanted to get back to New York.

Us? We wanted to get to San Francisco - and we were nearly there!

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