فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen

The Road Is Life

My stay in San Francisco had lasted just a little more than sixty hours. Now Dean and I were going East again. The car we were traveling in belonged to a tall, thin guy who was on his way home to Kansas. He drove with extreme care. There were two other passengers, a man and a woman - tourists, who wanted to sleep everywhere.

Dean drove after Sacramento, and we traveled fast and crazy, which frightened the others in the car. We left Sacramento at dawn and were crossing the Nevada desert by noon. It was a hot, sunny afternoon, and all the towns along the Nevada road rolled by one after another. By the evening we could see the lights of Salt Lake City almost a hundred miles away across the flat country. Suddenly Dean stopped the car and fell back in the corner of the seat. I looked at him and saw that he was asleep.

The people in the back seat sighed and began whispering together. I heard one say, “We can’t let him drive any more, he’s absolutely crazy.”

“He’s not crazy,” I said. “He’ll be all right. And don’t worry about his driving, he’s the best driver in the world.” I sat back and enjoyed the quietness of the desert, and waited for Dean to wake up again.

The tourists insisted on driving the rest of the way to Denver. We sat in the back and talked. But they got tired in the morning and Dean got back into the driver’s seat. He drove all the way to Denver, passing everybody and not stopping, and it was good to get out of the car in the city and leave these silly people behind. We still had a long way to go, but it didn’t matter. The road is life.

We went to stay with the family who had been my neighbors when I was in Denver two weeks earlier. The mother was a wonderful woman who drove coal trucks in winter to make money to feed her kids. Her husband left her years before when they were traveling around the country. Her children were wonderful too. The eldest was a boy, who wasn’t there that summer. Next was lovely thirteen-year-old Janet, who picked flowers in the fields and wanted to be an actress in Hollywood. Then there were the little ones, Jimmy and Lucy. And they had four dogs.

I warned Dean not to touch Janet. The woman - Frankie, everyone called her - liked Dean straight away. She said that he reminded her of her husband. “And he was a crazy one, I’m telling you!” she said.

There was lots of beer-drinking, and singing. Frankie was about to buy an old car, but Dean immediately made himself responsible for choosing it. This was because he wanted to use it himself to pick up college girls and take them up into the mountains. But Frankie was afraid to spend her money when they got to the garage. Dean sat down on the pavement and beat his head with his hands.

“You can’t get anything better for a hundred dollars!” he shouted. And he swore until his face was purple.

Next day we went to downtown Denver to see the travel office for a car to New York. Later, on the way to Frankie’s, Dean suddenly went into a sports store, calmly picked up a ball, and came out again. Nobody noticed. Nobody ever notices things like this. It was a hot, sleepy afternoon and we played “catch” as we walked along. “Don’t worry, we’ll get a travel-office car tomorrow,” said Dean.

We started drinking a big bottle of whisky at Frankie’s house. A beautiful young girl lived across the field at the back of the house. As we drank the whisky, Dean ran out of the kitchen door and across the field to throw stones at her window and to whistle to her. Suddenly he came back, his face pale. “The girls’ mother is coming after me with a gun, and she got a gang of college kids from down the road to beat me.”

“Where are they?” I said.

“Across the field,” said Dean. He was drunk. We went out together and I saw groups of people on the road.

“Here they come!” somebody shouted.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “What’s the matter, please?”

The mother was there, with a big gun across her arm. “Your friend has annoyed us for long enough. If he comes back here again I’m going to shoot and kill him,” she said.

I was so drunk I didn’t care either, but I calmed everybody a little. “He won’t do it again,” I said. “He’s my brother, and he listens to me. Put your gun away.”

Dean swore quietly as the girl watched from her bedroom window. I took Dean back across the field.

“Whooee!” he shouted. “I’m going to get drunk tonight!”

Frankie wanted to go to a bar and drink beer, and the three of us went out in a taxi to a place outside the town, near the hills. After a few drinks, Dean ran out and stole a car that was parked outside. He drove to downtown Denver and came back with a newer, better one. Suddenly I saw cops and people outside, talking about the stolen car.

“Somebody’s been stealing cars!” a cop was saying.

Dean was right behind the cop, saying, “Oh, yes, yes.” Then he came inside and had another drink, and said, “I’m going out to get a really good car this time, and go for a big drive into the mountains.” And he ran out, jumped into the nearest car, and drove away. Nobody noticed him. A few minutes later he was back in a different car, a new one.

“It’s a beautiful car,” he whispered. “Let’s all go riding.”

“I’m not going out in a stolen car,” I told him.

So he ran out of the bar and drove away.

Frankie and I got a taxi to take us home. Suddenly, Dean went past us in the stolen car at ninety miles an hour. Then he turned and rushed back toward the town again as we got out of the taxi. We waited in the dark yard, worried, and a few moments later he returned with yet another car - an old one. He stopped it outside the house, rolled out, went straight into the bedroom, and fell on the bed.

I had to wake him up again to help me start the car. We got into it together, then drove it half a mile and left it under a tree. We got back into the house and Dean went straight to sleep. The living-room was a mess! Beer bottles everywhere. I tried to sleep.

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