فصل 15

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فصل 15

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Chapter fifteen

Driving East

In the morning, Dean went to find the car again. “I want to see if it will carry us East,” he said. He came back looking pale. “That’s a detective’s car and every police station in town knows my fingerprints. I must get out of town fast.”

We started packing, and I kissed Frankie and apologized.

“He’s a crazy guy,” she said. “Just like my husband.”

Every minute we expected to see a police car appear outside the door. We said goodbye and hurried off along the road with our bags.

We were lucky at the travel office. They wanted someone to drive a Cadillac - a beautiful big car - to Chicago. The owner had been driving up from Mexico with his family, and he got tired and put them all on a train.

We had to wait an hour for the car, and I fell asleep under a tree. Dean went into town and chatted to a waitress in a cafe. He promised to take her for a ride in his Cadillac later, and then he came back to wake me up with the news.

The Cadillac arrived and Dean immediately drove off with it “to get gas.” The travel-office man said, “When’s he coming back? The passengers are all ready to go.” He pointed to two college boys who were waiting with their suitcases on a seat.

“He just went for gas,” I said. “He’ll be back.”

I ran to the corner and saw Dean waiting for the waitress who was changing her clothes in her hotel room. A moment later she ran out and jumped into the Cadillac. They went to a car park, he told me later, and made love in the back of the car. Then Dean persuaded her to come to New York by bus later that week. Her name was Beverley.

Dean arrived back at the travel office thirty minutes later.

“I thought you’d stolen that Cadillac,” the travel-office man said to him. “Where were you?”

“I’m responsible for the car, don’t worry,” I said, because everybody was looking at Dean and guessed that he was crazy. Then Dean began helping the college boys with their luggage, and moments later we were rushing away from Denver at 110 miles an hour.

“The reason we’re going northeast, Sal,” Dean said as he was driving, “is because we absolutely must visit Ed Wall’s farm in Sterling. We can still get to Chicago long before the Cadillac owner’s train gets there.”

We turned off the highway on to a dirt road that took us across East Colorado. It was raining and the mud was wet and slippery. Dean slowed down to seventy miles an hour.

“You’re still going too fast,” I said when he turned left and the big car began to slip on the wet road. A moment later the back of the car was in a ditch and the front was on the road. I was angry and disgusted with Dean and I swore. He said nothing, but began to walk to a farmhouse a quarter of a mile up the road, in the rain.

“Is he your brother?” asked the boys in the back seat. “He’s a devil with a car, isn’t he?”

“He’s mad,” I said, “and yes, he’s my brother.”

Dean came back with the farmer in his truck, and the man used some rope and pulled us out of the ditch. The car was muddy brown and some of the front was broken.

We drove away, slower now, until it was dark and Ed Wall’s farm was straight in front of us. We saw the light in Mrs. Wall’s Kitchen.

Wall was about our age, and tall. He and Dean used to stand around on street corners and whistle at girls. Now he took us into his gloomy brown living-room.

His young wife prepared a wonderful meal for us in the big farm kitchen. She was a blonde, but like all women who live in the country she complained that her life was boring. Dean pretended that I owned the Cadillac, and that I was a very rich man and he was my driver and my friend.

“Well, I hope you boys get to New York,” said Ed. He was sure that Dean had stolen the Cadillac. We stayed at the farm for about an hour, then we were driving off again.

That night I saw the whole of Nebraska unroll before my eyes. We went straight through sleeping towns, and no traffic, in the moonlight. I went to sleep at last and woke up to the dry, hot July Sunday morning in Iowa.

A mad guy in a new Buick car decided to race us. He went past, and we went after him like a big bird. “Now watch,” said Dean. He let the Buick get some distance away, then caught up with it. Mad Buick went crazy, and took terrible risks to stay in front. We raced for eighty miles before the mad guy gave up and turned into a gas station. We waved and laughed as we went by him.

We stopped for breakfast at a cafe, then went on again.

“Dean, don’t drive so fast now,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said. The car was going 110 miles an hour again. My eyes ached and I wanted to get out.

“I’m going in the back seat,” I told Dean. “I can’t watch the road any more.”

He laughed as I jumped into the back seat. One of the boys jumped into the front. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t.

By the afternoon we reached Illinois, and another narrow bridge. Two cars in front of us were moving slowly over it. A very large truck was coming the opposite way, but by the time it got to the bridge the other cars would be over. There was absolutely no room on the bridge for the truck and any cars going in the other direction. The road was crowded and everybody was waiting to pass. Dean came down on all this at 110 miles an hour and never hesitated. He started to pass the slow cars, almost hit the left side of the bridge, went straight on into the shadow of the moving truck, turned right quickly and just missed the truck’s left front wheel, almost hit the first slow car, pulled out to pass, and just missed another car that came out from behind the truck to look. It all took just a few seconds, then Dean raced on, leaving a cloud of dust behind us.

We drove into Chicago that evening, the smell of fried food and beer in the air, bright lights all around us.

“We’re in the big town, Sal! Whooee!” cried Dean.

We parked the Cadillac, then followed the college boys to a small hotel where they got a room and allowed us to use their shower, and to rest for an hour. Then we said goodbye to those boys, who were glad they had got to Chicago in one piece.

Dean and I went to a bar and listened to some jazz music. And when the musicians moved on to a nightclub, we followed them. They played until nine o’clock in the morning, and Dean and I listened. We rushed out now and then in the Cadillac and tried to find girls, but they were frightened of our big, muddy, scarred car. Dean drove crazily, and soon there were more scars on the car, and the brakes stopped working. Now he couldn’t stop at red traffic lights, and the car was a wreck. But “Whooee!,” who cared? The musicians were still playing.

At 9 a.m., everybody came out of the club into the Chicago day, ready to sleep till it was night again. It was time for Dean and I to return the Cadillac to the owner, who lived out on Lake Shore Drive in an expensive apartment with a garage underneath. The garage mechanic didn’t recognize the Cadillac. We gave him the papers and got out fast. We took a bus back to downtown Chicago, and that was the end of it. We never heard a word from the owner of the Cadillac about the condition of his car, although he had our address and could have complained.

It was time for us to move on, and we took a bus to Detroit.

Dean fell asleep while I made conversation with a lovely country girl who was wearing a low cotton blouse that showed the tops of her beautiful breasts.

“What do you want from life?” I asked her.

She didn’t know. She yawned. She was sleepy. She was eighteen, beautiful - and dull.

Dean and I got out of the bus at Detroit. We were tired and dirty, and we went to an all-night movie theater and slept till dawn. We spent most of the morning in bars, chasing girls, and listening to jazz, then went to find our travel-office car. We struggled five miles in a local bus with all our luggage, and got to the home of a man who was going to give us four dollars each for the ride to New York. He was a blond fellow, about fifty, with a wife and kid and a good home. We waited in the yard while he got ready.

The moment we were in the new Chrysler car and off to New York, the poor man realized that he was riding with two madmen. But he soon got used to us.

In the foggy night we crossed Toledo and went on across Ohio. The man got tired near Pennsylvania, so Dean drove the rest of the way to New York and we got there early in the morning.

In an hour, Dean and I were at my aunt’s new apartment in Long Island. “Sal,” she said, “Dean can stay here a few days, and after that he has to get out, do you understand me?”

That night, Dean and I walked among the railroad bridges and fog lamps of Long Island, and agreed to be friends for ever. Five nights later we went to a party in New York and I met a girl called Inez. I told her I had a friend with me and that she ought to meet him. “Dean!” I called to him. We were both drunk.

An hour later Dean was kneeling on the floor with his chin on her stomach, promising her everything. In a few days they were talking on the telephone with Camille, in San Francisco, arranging for the necessary divorce papers so that they could get married. A few months later Camille had Dean’s second baby. And a few months after that, Inez had a baby. Dean now had four children - and no money. So we didn’t go to Italy.

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