فصل 16

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فصل 16

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Chapter sixteen

Together Again in Denver

I sold my book and got some money, then I paid my aunt the rent for the rest of the year. Whenever spring comes to New York, I’ve got to travel. So for the first time in our lives I said goodbye to Dean in New York and left him there.

“Sal, I wish you weren’t going, I really do,” he said. “It will be my first time in New York without my old friend. All the time I’ve been here I haven’t had any girl but Inez - this only happens to me in New York!”

“I hope you’ll be in New York when I get back,” I told him. “I hope, Dean, that some day we’ll be able to live on the same street with our families, and get old together.”

“That’s what I pray for, man, not forgetting all my troubles. I didn’t want the new baby but Inez insisted. Did you know Marylou got married to a man who sells cars, and that she’s having a baby?” Then he took out a photograph of Camille and her new baby girl. The shadow of a man crossed the child on the sunny pavement.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Ed Dunkel,” said Dean. “He came back to Galatea, and they’re in Denver now.” He took out other pictures, and I realized that these were photographs our children would look at one day. From these pictures they would guess we had lived smooth, ordinary lives, getting up in the morning to walk proudly on the pavements of life. They would not dream of our wild lives on the road.

I got the Washington bus; wasted some time there, wandering around; went out of my way to see the Blue Ridge, heard the bird of Shenandoah, walked the night streets of Charleston, West Virginia; at midnight, Ashland, Kentucky, and a lonely girl. The dark and mysterious Ohio, and Cincinnati at dawn. Then Indiana fields again, and St. Louis in its great valley clouds of afternoon. By night, Missouri, Kansas fields, and small towns with a sea for the end of every street; dawn in Abilene. East Kansas becomes West Kansas.

Henry Glass was riding on the bus with me. He got on at Terre Haute, Indiana. He had just come out of jail for stealing cars in Cincinnati. He was a twenty-year-old kid with curly hair, and was on his way to live with his brother. The brother and his wife had a job for the kid in Colorado.

When we arrived in Denver we went to a bar and I phoned Tim Gray.

“You?” laughed Tim Gray. “I’m coming now.”

In ten minutes he came into the bar with Stan Shephard. They loved Henry and bought him beers. I was back in the soft, dark Denver night, and we started visiting all the bars in town. Stan Shephard had wanted to meet me for years.

“Is it true that you’re going to Mexico?” he asked me. “Could I go with you? I can get a hundred dollars, and when I get there I can go to Mexico City College.”

OK, it was agreed, Stan was coming with me. He was a tall, shy Denver boy with a big smile who moved slowly and easily. That night, he went to sleep in Henry’s hotel room and I stayed at Tim Gray’s house. Later on, Babe Rawlins got me a neat little room and we all went there, and had parties every night for a week.

Henry went off to his brother’s, and we never saw him again. Tim Gray, Stan, Babe, and I spent a week of afternoons in lovely Denver bars where the waitresses have shy, loving eyes and fall in love with their customers.

I was getting ready to go to Mexico when someone gave me the news. “Sal, guess who’s coming to Denver. Dean! He bought a car and is coming out to join you!”

I knew at once that Dean was going mad again. “How can he send money to either of his wives if he takes all his money out of the bank and buys a car?” I thought.

The news was that he was going to drive me to Mexico.

“Do you think he’ll let me come along?” asked Stan.

“I’ll talk to him,” I said.

I was in Babe’s house when Dean arrived. Her mother was away in Europe, and her aunt was living in the house with her. Her aunt was called Charity. She was seventy-five years old and as alert as a bird. She was old but she was interested in everything we said and did, and she shook her head sadly when we drank whisky in the living-room. She sat in her corner, watching us all with her birdy eyes. Babe sat laughing on the couch. Tim Gray, Stan Shephard, and I sat around in chairs.

We were sitting around like this on a sunny afternoon when Dean stopped outside in his old car. He was with Roy Johnson, who had just returned from San Francisco with his wife Dorothy and was living in Denver again. So were Ed and Galatea Dunkel, and Tom Snark. Everybody was in Denver again. I went outside to meet Dean.

“Well, my boy,” he said, “I see everything is all right with you. Hello, hello,” he said to everybody, and we introduced him to Charity. “Well, Sal, old man, what’s the story? When do we leave for Mexico? Tomorrow afternoon? Good. I stopped in Kansas City to see my cousin…”

“And Inez?” I asked. “What happened in New York?”

“Officially, Sal, this trip is to get a Mexican divorce, cheaper and quicker than any other kind. Camille agrees at last, and everything is lovely, and we know that we are not now worried about a single thing, don’t we, Sal?”

Well, OK, I’m always ready to follow Dean, so we arranged a big night - and it was a night we’ll never forget. There was a party at Ed Dunkel’s brother’s house. Ed looked happy and successful. “Me and Roy are going to go to Denver University,” he said. “Listen, Dean gets crazier every year, doesn’t he?”

Galatea Dunkel was there. She was trying to talk to someone, but everybody was listening to Dean - Shephard, Tim, Babe, and myself, who all sat side by side in kitchen chairs. Ed Dunkel stood nervously behind him.

Dean was jumping up and down and saying, “Yes, yes! We re all together now and the years have rolled by behind us, and none of us have really changed, and that’s so amazing… “And on and on. And when we left the party that night and went on to the Windsor bar in one large noisy gang, Dean got more and more drunk.

Dean once lived at the Windsor with his father in one of the rooms upstairs. He wasn’t a tourist. He drank in this bar like the ghost of his father; his face got red and sweaty, and he shouted at the bar and rolled across the dance-floor, and tried to play the piano.

There were parties everywhere. There was even a party in a castle where we all drove later - except Dean, who ran off somewhere. Then late in the night it was just Dean and I and Stan Shephard and Tim Gray and Ed Dunkel and Tommy Snark in one car. Stan was happily crazy, and Dean was crazy about Stan. He repeated everything Stan said and wiped the sweat off Stan’s face. It was our last night in Denver and we made it big and wild.

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