بخش 05کتاب: جایی برای پیرمردها نیست / فصل 5
- زمان مطالعه 67 دقیقه
- سطح متوسط
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
Moss made his way down the ward and back again holding on to the nurse’s arm. She said encouraging things to him in Spanish. They turned at the end of the bay and started back. The sweat stood on his forehead. Andale, she said. Qué bueno. He nodded. Damn right bueno, he said.
Late in the night he woke from a troubling dream and struggled down the hallway and asked to use the telephone. He dialed the number in Odessa and leaned heavily on the counter and listened to it ring. It rang a long time. Finally her mother answered.
She dont want to talk to you.
Yes she does.
Do you know what time it is?
I dont care what time it is. Dont you hang up this phone.
I told her what was goin to happen, didnt I? Chapter and verse. I said: This is what will come to pass. And now it has come to pass.
Dont you hang up this phone. You get her and you put her on.
When she picked up the phone she said: I didnt think you’d do me thisaway.
Hello darlin, how are you? Are you all right, Llewelyn? What happened to them words?
Where are you.
What am I supposed to do, Llewelyn?
Are you all right?
No I’m not all right. How would I be all right? People callin here about you. I had the sheriff up here from Terrell County. Showed up at the damn door. I thought you was dead.
I aint dead. What did you tell him?
What could I tell him?
He might con you into sayin somethin.
You’re hurt, aint you?
What makes you say that?
I can hear it in your voice. Are you okay?
Where are you?
I told you where I was.
You sound like you’re in a bus station.
Carla Jean I think you need to get out of there.
Out of where?
Out of that house.
You’re scarin me, Llewelyn. Out of here to go where?
It dont matter. I just dont think you should stay there. You could go to a motel.
And do what with Mama?
She’ll be all right.
She’ll be all right?
You dont know that.
Llewelyn didnt answer.
I just dont think anybody will bother her.
You dont think?
You need to get out. Just take her with you.
I cant take my mama to a motel. She’s sick if you aint forgot.
What did the sheriff say.
Said he was lookin for you, what do you think he said?
What else did he say.
She didnt answer.
She sounded like she was crying.
What else did he say, Carla Jean?
He said you was fixin to get yourself killed.
Well, that’s what he would say.
She was quiet a long time.
Llewelyn, I dont even want the money. I just want us to be back like we was.
We will be.
No we wont. I’ve thought about it. It’s a false god.
Yeah. But it’s real money.
She said his name again and then she did begin to cry. He tried to talk to her but she didnt answer. He stood there listening to her sobbing quietly in Odessa. What do you want me to do? he said.
She didnt answer.
I want things to be like they was.
If I tell you I’ll try and fix everthing will you do what I asked you?
Yes. I will.
I’ve got a number here I can call. Somebody that can help us.
Can you trust them?
I dont know. I just know I cant trust nobody else. I’ll call you tomorrow. I didnt think they’d find you up there or I never would of sent you. I’ll call you tomorrow.
He hung up the phone and dialed the mobile number that Wells had given him. It answered on the second ring but it wasnt Wells. I think I got the wrong number, he said.
You dont have the wrong number. You need to come see me.
Who is this?
You know who it is.
Moss leaned on the counter, his forehead against his fist.
He cant help you now. What kind of a deal did you cut with him?
I didnt cut any kind of a deal.
Yes you did. How much was he going to give you?
I dont know what you’re talkin about.
Where’s the money.
What did you do with Wells.
We had a difference of opinion. You dont need to concern yourself about Wells. He’s out of the picture. You need to talk to me.
I dont need to talk to you.
I think you do. Do you know where I’m going?
Why would I care where you’re goin?
Do you know where I’m going?
Moss didnt answer.
Are you there?
I know where you are.
Yeah? Where am I?
You’re in the hospital at Piedras Negras. But that’s not where I’m going. Do you know where I’m going?
Yeah. I know where you’re goin.
You can turn all this around.
Why would I believe you?
You believed Wells.
I didnt believe Wells.
You called him.
So I called him.
Tell me what you want me to do.
Moss shifted his weight. Sweat stood on his forehead. He didnt answer.
Tell me something. I’m waiting.
I could be waitin for you when you get there you know, Moss said. Charter a plane. You thought about that?
That would be okay. But you wont.
How do you know I wont?
You wouldnt have told me. Anyway, I have to go.
You know they wont be there.
It doesnt make any difference where they are.
So what are you goin up there for.
You know how this is going to turn out, dont you?
No. Do you?
Yes. I do. I think you do too. You just havent accepted it yet. So this is what I’ll do. You bring me the money and I’ll let her walk. Otherwise she’s accountable. The same as you. I dont know if you care about that. But that’s the best deal you’re going to get. I wont tell you you can save yourself because you cant.
I’m goin to bring you somethin all right, Moss said. I’ve decided to make you a special project of mine. You aint goin to have to look for me at all.
I’m glad to hear that. You were beginning to disappoint me.
You wont be disappointed.
You dont have to by god worry about bein disappointed.
He left before daylight dressed in the muslin hospital gown with the overcoat over it. The skirt of the overcoat was stiff with blood. He had no shoes. In the inside pocket of the coat was the money he’d folded away there, stiff and bloodstained.
He stood in the street looking toward the lights. He’d no notion where he was. The concrete cold under his feet. He made his way down to the corner. A few cars passed. He walked down to the lights at the next corner and stopped and leaned with one hand against the building. He had two white lozenges in his overcoat pocket that he’d saved and he took one now, swallowing it dry. He thought he was going to vomit. He stood there for a long time. There was a windowsill there he’d have sat on save that it was spiked with pointed iron bars to discourage loiterers. A cab went by and he raised one hand but it kept going. He was going to have to go out into the street and after a while he did. He’d been tottering there for some time when another cab passed and he raised his hand and it pulled to the curb.
The driver studied him. Moss leaned on the window. Can you take me across the bridge? he said.
To the other side.
Yes. To the other side.
You got monies.
Yes. I got monies.
The driver looked dubious. Twenty dollars, he said.
At the gate the guard leaned down and regarded him where he sat in the dim rear of the cab. What country were you born in? he said.
The United States.
What are you bringing in?
The guard studied him. Would you mind stepping out here? he said.
Moss pushed down on the doorhandle and leaned on the front seat to ease himself out of the cab. He stood.
What happened to your shoes?
I dont know.
You dont have any clothes on, do you?
I got clothes on.
The second guard was waving the cars past. He pointed for the cabdriver. Would you please pull your cab over into that second space there?
The driver put the cab in gear.
Would you mind stepping away from the vehicle?
Moss stepped away. The cab pulled into the parking area and the driver cut the engine. Moss looked at the guard. The guard seemed to be waiting for him to say something but he didnt.
They took him inside and sat him in a steel chair in a small white office. Another man came in and stood leaning against a steel desk. He looked him over.
How much have you had to drink?
I aint had anything to drink.
What happened to you?
What do you mean?
What happened to your clothes.
I dont know.
Do you have any identification?
The man leaned back, his arms crossed at his chest. He said: Who do you think gets to go through this gate into the United States of America?
I dont know. American citizens.
Some American citizens. Who do you think decides that?
You do I reckon.
That’s correct. And how do I decide?
I dont know.
I ask questions. If I get sensible answers then they get to go to America. If I dont get sensible answers they dont. Is there anything about that that you dont understand?
Then maybe you’d like to start over.
We need to hear more about why you’re out here with no clothes on.
I got a overcoat on.
Are you jackin with me?
Dont jack with me. Are you in the service?
No sir. I’m a veteran.
What branch of the service.
United States Army.
Were you in Nam?
Yessir. Two tours.
What were your dates of tour duty.
August seventh nineteen and sixty-six to September second nineteen and sixty-eight.
The man watched him for some time. Moss looked at him and looked away. He looked toward the door, the empty hall. Sitting hunched forward in the overcoat with his elbows on his knees.
Are you all right?
Yessir. I’m all right. I got a wife that’ll come and get me if you all will let me go on.
Have you got any money? You got change for a phone call?
He heard claws scrabbling on the tiles. A guard was standing there with a German Shepherd on a lead. The man jutted his chin at the guard. Get someone to help this man. He needs to get into town. Is the taxi gone?
Yessir. It was clean.
I know. Get someone to help him.
He looked at Moss. Where are you from?
I’m from San Saba Texas.
Does your wife know where you are?
Yessir. I talked to her here just a while ago.
Did you all have a fight?
Did who have a fight?
You and your wife.
Well. Somewhat of a one I reckon. Yessir.
You need to tell her you’re sorry.
I said you need to tell her you’re sorry.
Yessir. I will.
Even if you think it was her fault.
Go on. Get your ass out of here.
Sometimes you have a little problem and you dont fix it and then all of a sudden it aint a little problem anymore. You understand what I’m tellin you?
Yessir. I do.
It was almost daylight and the cab was long gone. He set out up the street. A bloody serum was leaking from his wound and it was running down the inside of his leg. People paid him little mind. He turned up Adams Street and stopped at a clothing store and peered in. Lights were on at the rear. He knocked at the door and waited and knocked again. Finally a small man in a white shirt and a black tie opened the door and looked out at him. I know you aint open, Moss said, but I need some clothes real bad. The man nodded and swung open the door. Come in, he said.
They walked side by side down the aisle toward the boot section. Tony Lama, Justin, Nocona. There were some low chairs there and Moss eased himself down and sat with his hands gripping the chair arms. I need boots and some clothes, he said. I got some medical problems and I dont want to walk around no more than what I can help.
The man nodded. Yessir, he said. Of course.
Do you carry the Larry Mahans?
No sir. We dont.
That’s all right. I need a pair of Wrangler jeans thirty-two by thirty-four length. A shirt size large. Some socks. And show me some Nocona boots in a ten and a half. And I need a belt.
Yessir. Did you want to look at hats?
Moss looked across the store. I think a hat would be good. You got any of them stockman’s hats with the small brim? Seven and three-eights?
Yes we do. We have a three X beaver in the Resistol and a little better grade in the Stetson. A five X, I think it is.
Let me see the Stetson. That silverbelly color.
All right sir. Are white socks all right?
White socks is all I wear.
What about underwear?
Maybe a pair of jockey shorts. Thirty-two. Or medium.
Yessir. You just make yourself comfortable. Are you all right?
I’m all right.
The man nodded and turned to go.
Can I ask you somethin? Moss said.
Do you get a lot of people come in here with no clothes on?
No sir. I wouldnt say a lot.
He carried the pile of new clothing with him to the dressingroom and slid off the coat and hung it from the hook on the back of the door. A pale dried blood was crusted across his sallow sunken paunch. He pushed at the edges of the tape but they wouldnt stick. He eased himself down on the wooden bench and pulled on the socks and he opened the package of shorts and took them out and pulled them over his feet and up to his knees and then stood and pulled them carefully up over the dressing. He sat again and undid the shirt from its cardboard forms and endless pins.
When he came out of the dressing room he had the coat over his arm. He walked up and down the creaking wooden aisle. The clerk stood looking down at the boots. The lizard takes longer to break in, he said.
Yeah. Hot in the summer too. These are all right. Let’s try that hat. I aint been duded up like this since I got out of the army.
The sheriff sipped his coffee and set the cup back down in the same ring on the glass desktop that he’d taken it from. They’re fixin to close the hotel, he said.
Bell nodded. I aint surprised.
They all quit. That feller hadnt pulled but two shifts. I blame myself. Never occurred to me that the son of a bitch would come back. I just never even imagined such a thing.
He might never of left.
I thought about that too.
The reason nobody knows what he looks like is that they dont none of em live long enough to tell it.
This is a goddamned homicidal lunatic, Ed Tom.
Yeah. I dont think he’s a lunatic though.
Well what would you call him?
I dont know. When are they fixin to close it?
It’s done closed, as far as that goes.
You got a key?
Yeah. I got a key. It’s a crime scene.
Why dont we go over there and look around some more.
All right. We can do that.
The first thing they saw was the transponder unit sitting on a windowsill in the hallway. Bell picked it up and turned it in his hand, looking at the dial and the knobs.
That aint a goddamn bomb is it Sheriff?
That’s all we need.
It’s a trackin device.
So whatever it was they was trackin they found.
Probably. How long has it been settin there do you reckon?
I dont know. I think I might be able to guess what they were trackin, though.
Maybe, Bell said. There’s somethin about this whole deal that dont rattle right.
It aint supposed to.
We got a ex-army colonel here with most of his head gone that you had to ID off of his fingerprints. What fingers wasnt shot off. Regular army. Fourteen years service. Not a piece of paper on him.
He’d been robbed.
What do you know about this that you aint tellin, Sheriff?
You got the same facts I got.
I aint talkin about facts. Do you think this whole mess has moved south?
Bell shook his head. I dont know.
You got a dog in this hunt?
Not really. A couple of kids from my county that might be sort of involved that ought not to be.
Sort of involved.
Are we talkin kin?
No. Just people from my county. People I’m supposed to be lookin after.
He handed the transponder unit to the sheriff.
What am I supposed to do with this?
It’s Maverick County property. Crime scene evidence.
The sheriff shook his head. Dope, he said.
They sell that shit to schoolkids.
It’s worse than that.
Schoolkids buy it.
I wont talk about the war neither. I was supposed to be a war hero and I lost a whole squad of men. Got decorated for it. They died and I got a medal. I dont even need to know what you think about that. There aint a day I dont remember it. Some boys I know come back they went on to school up at Austin on the GI Bill, they had hard things to say about their people. Some of em did. Called em a bunch of rednecks and all such as that. Didnt like their politics. Two generations in this country is a long time. You’re talkin about the early settlers. I used to tell em that havin your wife and children killed and scalped and gutted like fish has a tendency to make some people irritable but they didnt seem to know what I was talkin about. I think the sixties in this country sobered some of em up. I hope it did. I read in the papers here a while back some teachers come across a survey that was sent out back in the thirties to a number of schools around the country. Had this questionnaire about what was the problems with teachin in the schools. And they come across these forms, they’d been filled out and sent in from around the country answer in these questions. And the biggest problems they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum. Copyin homework. Things of that nature. So they got one of them forms that was blank and printed up a bunch of em and sent em back out to the same schools. Forty years later. Well, here come the answers back. Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide. So I think about that. Because a lot of the time ever when I say anything about how the world is goin to hell in a handbasket people will just sort of smile and tell me I’m gettin old. That it’s one of the symptoms. But my feelin about that is that anybody that cant tell the difference between rapin and murderin people and chewin gum has got a whole lot bigger of a problem than what I’ve got. Forty years is not a long time neither. Maybe the next forty of it will bring some of em out from under the ether. If it aint too late.
Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.
Chigurh limped up the seventeen flights of concrete steps in the cool concrete well and when he got to the steel door on the landing he shot the cylinder out of the lock with the plunger of the stungun and opened the door and stepped into the hallway and shut the door behind him. He stood leaning against the door with the shotgun in both hands, listening. Breathing no harder than if he’d just got up out of a chair. He went down the hallway and picked the crushed cylinder out of the floor and put it in his pocket and went on to the elevator and stood listening again. He took off his boots and stood them by the elevator door and went down the hallway in his sockfeet, walking slowly, favoring his wounded leg.
The doors to the office were open onto the hallway. He stopped. He thought that perhaps the man did not see his own shadow on the outer hallway wall, illdefined but there. Chigurh thought it an odd oversight but he knew that fear of an enemy can often blind men to other hazards, not least the shape which they themselves make in the world. He slipped the strap from his shoulder and lowered the airtank to the floor. He studied the stance of the man’s shadow framed there by the light from the smoked glass window behind him. He pushed the shotgun’s follower slightly back with the heel of his hand to check the chambered round and pushed the safety off.
The man was holding a small pistol at the level of his belt. Chigurh stepped into the doorway and shot him in the throat with a load of number ten shot. The size collectors use to take bird specimens. The man fell back through his swivel-chair knocking it over and went to the floor and lay there twitching and gurgling. Chigurh picked up the smoking shotgun shell from the carpet and put it in his pocket and walked into the room with the pale smoke still drifting from the canister fitted to the end of the sawed-off barrel. He walked around behind the desk and stood looking down at the man. The man was lying on his back and he had one hand over his throat but the blood was pumping steadily through his fingers and out onto the rug. His face was full of small holes but his right eye seemed intact and he looked up at Chigurh and tried to speak from out of his bubbling mouth. Chigurh dropped to one knee and leaned on the shotgun and looked at him. What is it? he said. What are you trying to tell me?
The man moved his head. The blood gurgled in his throat.
Can you hear me? Chigurh said.
He didnt answer.
I’m the man you sent Carson Wells to kill. Is that what you wanted to know?
He watched him. He was wearing a blue nylon runningsuit and a pair of white leather shoes. Blood was starting to pool about his head and he was shivering as if he were cold.
The reason I used the birdshot was that I didnt want to break the glass. Behind you. To rain glass on people in the street. He nodded toward the window where the man’s upper silhouette stood outlined in the small gray pockmarks the lead had left in the glass. He looked at the man. The man’s hand had gone slack at his throat and the blood had slowed. He looked at the pistol lying there. He rose and pushed the safety back on the shotgun and stepped past the man to the window and inspected the pockings the lead had made. When he looked down at the man again the man was dead. He crossed the room and stood at the doorway listening. He went out and down the hall and collected his tank and the stungun and got his boots and stepped into them and pulled them up. Then he walked down the corridor and went out through the metal door and down the concrete steps to the garage where he’d left his vehicle.
When they got to the bus station it was just breaking daylight, gray and cold and a light rain falling. She leaned forward over the seat and paid the driver and gave him a two dollar tip. He got out and went around to the trunk and opened it and got their bags and set them in the portico and brought the walker around to her mother’s side and opened the door. Her mother turned and began to struggle out into the rain.
Mama will you wait? I need to get around there.
I knowed this is what it would come to, the mother said. I said it three year ago.
It aint been three years.
I used them very words.
Just wait till I get around there.
In the rain, her mother said. She looked up at the cab-driver. I got cancer, she said. Now look at this. Not even a home to go to.
We’re goin to El Paso Texas. You know how many people I know in El Paso Texas?
She paused with her arm on the door and held up her hand and made an O with her thumb and forefinger. That’s how many, she said.
They sat in the coffeeshop surrounded by their bags and parcels and stared out at the rain and at the idling buses. At the gray day breaking. She looked at her mother. Did you want some more coffee? she said.
The old woman didnt answer.
You aint speakin, I reckon.
I dont know what there is to speak about.
Well I dont guess I do either.
Whatever you all done you done. I dont know why I ought to have to run from the law.
We aint runnin from the law, Mama.
You couldnt call on em to help you though, could you?
Call on who?
No. We couldnt.
That’s what I thought.
The old woman adjusted her teeth with her thumb and stared out the window. After a while the bus came. The driver stowed her walker in the luggage bay under the bus and they helped her up the steps and put her in the first seat. I got cancer, she told the driver.
Carla Jean put their bags in the bin overhead and sat down. The old woman didnt look at her. Three years ago, she said. You didnt have to have no dream about it. No revelation nor nothin. I dont give myself no credit. Anybody could of told you the same thing.
Well I wasnt askin.
The old woman shook her head. Looking out through the window and down at the table they’d vacated. I give myself no credit, she said. I’d be the last in the world to do that.
Chigurh pulled up across the street and shut off the engine. He turned off the lights and sat watching the darkened house. The green diode numerals on the radio put the time at 1:17. He sat there till 1:22 and then he took the flashlight from the glovebox and got out and closed the truck door and crossed the street to the house.
He opened the screen door and punched out the cylinder and walked in and shut the door behind him and stood listening. There was a light coming from the kitchen and he walked down the hallway with the flashlight in one hand and the shotgun in the other. When he got to the doorway he stopped and listened again. The light came from a bare bulb on the back porch. He went on into the kitchen.
A bare formica and chrome table in the center of the room with a box of cereal standing on it. The shadow of the kitchen window lying on the linoleum floor. He crossed the room and opened the refrigerator and looked in. He put the shotgun in the crook of his arm and took out a can of orange soda and opened it with his forefinger and stood drinking it, listening for anything that might follow the metallic click of the can. He drank and set the half-empty can on the counter and shut the refrigerator door and walked through the diningroom and into the livingroom and sat in an easy chair in the corner and looked out at the street.
After a while he rose and crossed the room and went up the stairs. He stood listening at the head of the stairwell. When he entered the old woman’s room he could smell the sweet musty odor of sickness and he thought for a moment she might even be lying there in the bed. He switched on the flashlight and went into the bathroom. He stood reading the labels of the pharmacy bottles on the vanity. He looked out the window at the street below, the dull winter light from the streetlamps. Two in the morning. Dry. Cold. Silent. He went out and down the hallway to the small bedroom at the rear of the house.
He emptied her bureau drawers out onto the bed and sat sorting through her things, holding up from time to time some item and studying it in the bluish light from the yardlamp. A plastic hairbrush. A cheap fairground bracelet. Weighing these things in his hand like a medium who might thereby divine some fact concerning the owner. He sat turning the pages in a photo album. School friends. Family. A dog. A house not this one. A man who may have been her father. He put two pictures of her in his shirtpocket.
There was a ceiling fan overhead. He got up and pulled the chain and lay down on the bed with the shotgun alongside him, watching the wooden blades wheel slowly in the light from the window. After a while he got up and took the chair from the desk in the corner and tilted it and pushed the top backladder up under the doorknob. Then he sat on the bed and pulled off his boots and stretched out and went to sleep.
In the morning he walked through the house again upstairs and down and then returned to the bathroom at the end of the hall to shower. He left the curtain pulled back, the water spraying onto the floor. The hallway door open and the shotgun lying on the vanity a foot away.
He dried the dressing on his leg with a hairdryer and shaved and dressed and went down to the kitchen and ate a bowl of cereal and milk, walking through the house as he ate. In the livingroom he stopped and looked at the mail lying in the floor beneath the brass slot in the front door. He stood there, chewing slowly. Then he set bowl and spoon on the coffeetable and crossed the room and bent over and picked up the mail and stood sorting through it. He sat in a chair by the door and opened the phone bill and cupped the envelope and blew into it.
He glanced down the list of calls. Halfway down was the Terrell County Sheriff’s Department. He folded the bill and put it back in the envelope and put the envelope in his shirt-pocket. Then he looked through the other pieces of mail again. He rose and went into the kitchen and got the shotgun off the table and came back and stood where he’d stood before. He crossed to a cheap mahogany desk and opened the top drawer. The drawer was stuffed with mail. He laid the shotgun down and sat in the chair and pulled the mail out and piled it on the desk and began to go through it.
Moss spent the day in a cheap motel on the edge of town sleeping naked in the bed with his new clothes on wire hangers in the closet. When he woke the shadows were long in the motel courtyard and he struggled up and sat on the edge of the bed. A pale bloodstain the size of his hand on the sheets. There was a paper bag on the night table that held things he’d bought from a drugstore in town and he picked it up and limped into the bathroom. He showered and shaved and brushed his teeth for the first time in five days and then sat on the edge of the tub and taped fresh gauze over his wounds. Then he got dressed and called a cab.
He was standing in front of the motel office when the cab pulled up. He climbed into the rear seat, got his breath, then reached and shut the door. He regarded the face of the driver in the rearview mirror. Do you want to make some money? he said.
Yeah. I want to make some money.
Moss took five of the hundreds and tore them in two and passed one half across the back of the seat to the driver. The driver counted the torn bills and put them in his shirtpocket and looked at Moss in the mirror and waited.
What’s your name?
Paul, said the driver.
You got the right attitude, Paul. I wont get you in trouble. I just dont want you to leave me somewheres that I dont want to be left.
Have you got a flashlight?
Yeah. I got a flashlight.
Let me have it.
The driver passed the flashlight to the back.
You’re the man, Moss said.
Where are we going.
Down the river road.
I aint pickin nobody up.
We’re not pickin anybody up.
The driver watched him in the mirror. No drogas, he said.
The driver waited.
I’m goin to pick up a briefcase. It belongs to me. You can look inside if you want. Nothin illegal.
I can look inside.
Yes you can.
I hope you’re not jerkin me around.
I like money but I like stayin out of jail even better.
I’m the same way myself, Moss said.
They drove slowly up the road toward the bridge. Moss leaned forward over the seat. I want you to park under the bridge, he said.
I’m goin to unscrew the bulb out of this domelight.
They watch this road round the clock, the driver said.
I know that.
The driver pulled off of the road and shut off the engine and the lights and looked at Moss in the mirror. Moss took the bulb from the light and laid it in the plastic lens and handed it across the seat to the driver and opened the door. I should be back in just a few minutes, he said.
The cane was dusty, the stalks close grown. He pushed his way through carefully, holding the light at his knees with his hand partly across the lens.
The case was sitting in the brake rightside up and intact as if someone had simply set it there. He switched off the light and picked it up and made his way back in the dark, taking his sight by the span of the bridge overhead. When he got to the cab he opened the door and set the case in the seat and got in carefully and shut the door. He handed the flashlight to the driver and leaned back in the seat. Let’s go, he said.
What’s in there, the driver said.
The driver started the engine and pulled out onto the road.
Turn the lights on, Moss said.
He turned the lights on.
How much money?
A lot of money. What will you take to drive me to San Antonio.
The driver thought about it. You mean on top of the five hundred.
How about a grand all in.
You got it.
The driver nodded. Then how about the other half of these five caesars I already got.
Moss took the bills from his pocket and handed them across the back of the seat.
What if the Migra stop us.
They wont stop us, Moss said.
How do you know?
There’s too much shit still down the road that I got to deal with. It aint goin to end here.
I hope you’re right.
Trust me, Moss said.
I hate hearin them words, the driver said. I always did.
Have you ever said them?
Yeah. I’ve said em. That’s how come I know what they’re worth.
He spent the night in a Rodeway Inn on highway 90 just west of town and in the morning he went down and got a paper and climbed laboriously back to his room. He couldnt buy a gun from a dealer because he had no identification but he could buy one out of the paper and he did. A Tec-9 with two extra magazines and a box and a half of shells. The man delivered the gun to his door and he paid him in cash. He turned the piece in his hand. It had a greenish parkerized finish. Semiautomatic. When was the last time you fired it? he said.
I aint never fired it.
Are you sure it fires?
Why would it not?
I dont know.
Well I dont either.
After he left Moss walked out onto the prairie behind the motel with one of the motel pillows under his arm and he wrapped the pillow about the muzzle of the gun and fired off three rounds and then stood there in the cold sunlight watching the feathers drift across the gray chaparral, thinking about his life, what was past and what was to come. Then he turned and walked slowly back to the motel leaving the burnt pillow on the ground.
He rested in the lobby and then climbed up to the room again. He bathed in the tub and looked at the exit hole in his lower back in the bathroom mirror. It looked pretty ugly. There were drains in both holes that he wanted to pull out but he didnt. He pulled loose the plaster on his arm and looked at the deep furrow the bullet had cut there and then taped the dressing back again. He dressed and put some more of the bills into the back pocket of his jeans and he fitted the pistol and the magazines into the case and closed it and called a cab and picked up the document case and went out and down the stairs.
He bought a 1978 Ford pickup with four wheel drive and a 460 engine from a lot on North Broadway and paid the man in cash and got the title notarized in the office and put the title in the glovebox and drove away. He drove back to the motel and checked out and left, the Tec-9 under the seat and the document case and his bag of clothes sitting in the floor on the passenger side of the truck.
At the onramp at Boerne there was a girl hitchhiking and Moss pulled over and blew the horn and watched her in the rearview mirror. Running, her blue nylon knapsack slung over one shoulder. She climbed in the truck and looked at him. Fifteen, sixteen. Red hair. How far are you goin? she said.
Can you drive?
Yeah. I can drive. It aint no stick shift is it?
No. Get out and come around.
She left her knapsack on the seat and got out of the truck and crossed in front of it. Moss pushed the knapsack into the floor and eased himself across and she got in and put the truck in drive and they pulled out onto the interstate.
How old are you?
Bullshit. What are you doin out here? Dont you know it’s dangerous to hitchhike?
Yeah. I know it.
He took off his hat and put it on the seat beside him and leaned back and closed his eyes. Dont go over the speed limit, he said. You get us stopped by the cops and you and me both will be in a shitpot full of trouble.
I’m serious. You go over the speed limit and I’ll set your ass out by the side of the road.
He tried to sleep but he couldnt. He was in a lot of pain. After a while he sat up and got his hat off the seat and put it on and looked over at the speedometer.
Can I ask you somethin? she said.
You can ask.
Are you runnin from the law?
Moss eased himself in the seat and looked at her and looked out at the highway. What makes you ask that?
On account of what you said back yonder. About bein stopped by the police.
What if I was?
Then I think I ought to just get out up here.
You dont think that. You just want to know where you stand.
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. Moss studied the passing country. If you spent three days with me, he said, I could have you holdin up gas stations. Be no trick at all.
She gave him a funny little half smile. Is that what you do? she said. Hold up gas stations?
No. I dont have to. Are you hungry?
I’m all right.
When did you eat last.
I dont like for people to start askin me when I eat last.
All right. When did you eat last?
I knowed you was a smart-ass from the time I got in the truck.
Yeah. Pull off up here at this next exit. It’s supposed to be four miles. And reach me that machinegun from under the seat.
Bell drove slowly across the cattleguard and got out and closed the gate and got back in the truck and drove across the pasture and parked at the well and got out and walked over to the tank. He put his hand in the water and raised a palmful and let it spill again. He took off his hat and passed his wet hand through his hair and looked up at the windmill. He looked out at the slow dark elliptic of the blades turning in the dry and windbent grass. A low wooden trundling under his feet. Then he just stood there paying the brim of his hat slowly through his fingers. The posture of a man perhaps who has just buried something. I dont know a damn thing, he said.
When he got home she had supper waiting. He dropped the keys to the pickup in the kitchen drawer and went to the sink to wash his hands. His wife laid a piece of paper on the counter and he stood looking at it.
Did she say where she was? This is a West Texas number.
She just said it was Carla Jean and give the number.
He went to the sideboard and called. She and her grandmother were in a motel outside of El Paso. I need for you to tell me somethin, she said.
Is your word good?
Yes it is.
Even to me?
I’d say especially to you.
He could hear her breathing in the receiver. Traffic in the distance.
If I tell you where he called from do you give your word that no harm will come to him.
I can give my word that no harm will come to him from me. I can do that.
After a while she said: Okay.
The man sitting at the little plywood table that folded up from the wall onto a hinged leg finished writing on the pad of paper and took off the headset and laid it on the table in front of him and passed both hands backwards over the sides of his black hair. He turned and looked toward the rear of the trailer where the second man was stretched out on the bed. Listo? he said.
The man sat up and swung his legs to the floor. He sat there for a minute and then he rose and came forward.
You got it?
I got it.
He tore the sheet off the pad and handed it to him and he read it and folded it and put it into his shirtpocket. Then he reached up and opened one of the kitchen cabinets and took out a camouflage-finished submachinegun and a pair of spare clips and pushed open the door and stepped down into the lot and shut the door behind him. He crossed the gravel to where a black Plymouth Barracuda was parked and opened the door and pitched the machinegun in on the far seat and lowered himself in and shut the door and started the engine. He blipped the throttle a couple of times and then pulled out onto the blacktop and turned on the lights and shifted into second gear and went up the road with the car squatting on the big rear tires and fishtailing and the tires whining and unspooling clouds of rubbersmoke behind him.
I’ve lost a lot of friends over these last few years. Not all of em older than me neither. One of the things you realize about gettin older is that not everbody is goin to get older with you. You try to help the people that’re payin your salary and of course you cant help but think about the kind of record you leave. This county has not had a unsolved homicide in forty-one years. Now we got nine of em in one week. Will they be solved? I dont know. Ever day is against you. Time is not on your side. I dont know as it’d be any compliment if you was known for second guessin a bunch of dopedealers. Not that they have all that much trouble second guessin us. They dont have no respect for the law? That aint half of it. They dont even think about the law. It dont seem to even concern em. Of course here a while back in San Antonio they shot and killed a federal judge. I guess he concerned em. Add to that that there’s peace officers along this border gettin rich off of narcotics. That’s a painful thing to know. Or it is for me. I dont believe that was true even ten years ago. A crooked peace officer is just a damned abomination. That’s all you can say about it. He’s ten times worse than the criminal. And this aint goin away. And that’s about the only thing I do know. It aint goin away. Where would it go to?
And this may sound ignorant but I think for me the worst of it is knowin that probably the only reason I’m even still alive is that they have no respect for me. And that’s very painful. Very painful. It has done got way beyond anything you might of thought about even a few years ago. Here a while back they found a DC-4 over in Presidio County. Just settin out in the desert. They had come in there of a night and graded out a sort of landin strip and set out rows of tarbarrels for lights but there was no way you could of flown that thing back out of there. It was stripped out to the walls. Just had a pilot’s seat in it. You could smell the marijuana, you didnt need no dog. Well the sheriff over there — and I wont say his name — he wanted to get set up and nail em when they come back for the plane and finally somebody told him that they wasnt nobody comin back. Never had been. When he finally understood what it was they was tellin him he just got real quiet and then he turned around and got in his car and left.
When they was havin them dope wars down across the border you could not buy a half quart masonjar nowheres. To put up your preserves and such. Your chow chow. They wasnt none to be had. What it was they was usin them jars to put handgrenades in. If you flew over somebody’s house or compound and you dropped grenades on em they’d go off fore they hit the ground. So what they done was they’d pull the pin and stick em down in the jar and screw the lid back on. Then whenever they hit the ground the glass’d break and release the spoon. The lever. They would preload cases of them things. Hard to believe that a man would ride around at night in a small plane with a cargo such as that, but they done it.
I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics. Maybe he did. I told that to somebody at breakfast the other mornin and they asked me if I believed in Satan. I said Well that aint the point. And they said I know but do you? I had to think about that. I guess as a boy I did. Come the middle years my belief I reckon had waned somewhat. Now I’m startin to lean back the other way. He explains a lot of things that otherwise dont have no explanation. Or not to me they dont.
Moss set the case
in the booth and eased himself in after it. He lifted the menu from the wire rack where it stood along with the mustard and ketchup. She scooted into the booth opposite. He didnt look up. What are you havin, he said.
I dont know. I aint looked at the menu.
He spun the menu around and slid it in front of her and turned and looked for the waitress.
What are you? the girl said.
What am I havin?
No. What are you. Are you a character?
He studied her. The only people I know that know what a character is, he said, is other characters.
I might just be a fellow traveler.
Well you are now.
You’re hurt, aint you?
What makes you say that?
You cant hardly walk.
Maybe it’s just a old war injury.
I dont think so. What happened to you?
You mean lately?
You dont need to know.
I dont want you gettin all excited on me.
What makes you think I’d get excited?
Cause bad girls like bad boys. What are you goin to have?
I dont know. What is it you do?
Three weeks ago I was a law abidin citizen. Workin a nine to five job. Eight to four, anyways. Things happen to you they happen. They dont ask first. They dont require your permission.
That’s the truth if I ever heard it told, she said.
You hang around me you’ll hear some more of it.
You think I’m a bad girl?
I think you’d like to be.
What’s in that briefcase?
What’s in it.
I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
You aint supposed to carry a gun in a public place. Did you not know that? In particular a gun such as that.
Let me ask you somethin.
When the shootin starts would you rather be armed or be legal?
I dont want to be around no shootin.
Yes you do. It’s wrote all over you. You just dont want to get shot. What are you havin?
What are you?
Cheeseburger and a chocolate milk.
The waitress came and they ordered. She got the hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. You aint even asked me where I was goin, she said.
I know where you’re goin.
Where am I goin then.
Down the road.
That aint no answer.
It’s more than just a answer.
You dont know everthing.
No I dont.
You ever kill anybody?
Yeah, he said. You?
She looked embarrassed. You know I aint never killed nobody.
I dont know that.
Well I aint.
You aint, then.
You aint done, either. Are you?
What I just said.
She looked around to see if they might be overheard.
Yes, she said.
Be hard to say.
After a while the waitress brought their plates. He bit the corner off a packet of mayonnaise and squeezed out the contents over his cheeseburger and reached for the ketchup. Where you from? he said.
She took a drink of her iced tea and wiped her mouth with the paper napkin. Port Arthur, she said.
He nodded. He took up the cheeseburger in both hands and bit into it and sat back, chewing. I aint never been to Port Arthur.
I aint never seen you there.
How could you of seen me there if I aint never been there?
I couldnt. I was just sayin I aint. I was agreein with you.
Moss shook his head.
They ate. He watched her.
I reckon you’re on your way to California.
How did you know that?
That’s the direction you’re headed in.
Well that’s where I’m goin.
You got any money?
What’s it to you?
It aint nothin to me. Do you?
I got some.
He finished the cheeseburger and wiped his hands on the paper napkin and drank the rest of the milk. Then he reached in his pocket and took out the roll of hundreds and unfolded them. He counted out a thousand dollars onto the formica and pushed it toward her and put the roll back in his pocket. Let’s go, he said.
What’s that for?
To go to California on.
What do I gotta do for it?
You dont have to do nothin. Even a blind sow finds a acorn ever once in a while. Put that up and let’s go.
They paid and walked out to the truck. You wasnt callin me a sow back yonder was you?
Moss ignored her. Give me the keys, he said.
She took the keys from her pocket and handed them over. I thought maybe you’d forgot I had em, she said.
I dont forget much.
I could of just slipped off like I was goin to the ladies room and took your truck and left you settin there.
No you couldnt of.
Get in the truck.
They got in and he set the case between them and pulled the Tec-9 out of his belt and slid it under the seat.
Why not? she said.
Dont be ignorant all your life. In the first place I could see all the way to the front door and out the parkin lot clear to the truck. In the second place even if I was dumb-ass enough to set with my back to the door I’d of just called a cab and run you down and pulled you over and beat the shit out of you and left you layin there.
She got real quiet. He put the key in the ignition and started the truck and backed it out.
Would you of done that?
What do you think?
When they pulled into Van Horn it was seven oclock at night. She’d slept a good part of the way, curled up with her knapsack for a pillow. He pulled into a truckstop and shut off the engine and her eyes snapped open like a deer’s. She sat up and looked at him and then looked out at the parking lot. Where are we? she said.
Van Horn. You hungry?
I could eat a bite.
You want some diesel fried chicken?
He pointed to the sign overhead.
I aint eatin nothin like that, she said.
She was in the ladies room a long time. When she came out she wanted to know if he’d ordered.
I did. I ordered some of that chicken for you.
You aint done it, she said.
They ordered steaks. Do you live like this all the time? she said.
Sure. When you’re a big time desperado the sky’s the limit.
What’s that on that chain?
It’s a tush off of a wild boar.
What do you wear that for?
It aint mine. I’m just keepin it for somebody.
A lady somebody?
No, a dead somebody.
The steaks came. He watched her eat. Does they anybody know where you’re at? he said.
I said does anybody know where you’re at.
I dont know where you’re at because I dont know who you are.
Well that makes two of us.
You dont know who you are?
No, silly. I dont know who you are.
Well, we’ll just keep it that way and they wont neither of us be out nothin. All right?
All right. What’d you ask me that for?
Moss mopped up steak gravy with a half a roll. I just thought it was probably true. For you it’s a luxury. For me it’s a necessity.
Why? Because they’s somebody after you?
I do like it that way, she said. You got that part right.
It dont take long to get a taste for it, does it?
No, she said. It dont.
Well, it aint as simple as it sounds. You’ll see.
Why is that.
There’s always somebody knows where you’re at. Knows where and why. For the most part.
Are you talkin about God?
No. I’m talkin about you.
She ate. Well, she said. You’d be in a fix if you didnt know where you was at.
I dont know. Would you?
I dont know.
Suppose you was someplace that you didnt know where it was. The real thing you wouldnt know was where someplace else was. Or how far it was. It wouldnt change nothin about where you was at.
She thought about that. I try not to think about stuff like that, she said.
You think when you get to California you’ll kind of start over.
Them’s my intentions.
I think maybe that’s the point. There’s a road goin to California and there’s one comin back. But the best way would be just to show up there.
Show up there.
You mean and not know how you got there?
Yeah. And not know how you got there.
I dont know how you’d do that.
I dont either. That’s the point.
She ate. She looked around. Can I get some coffee? she said.
You can get anything you want. You got money.
She looked at him. I guess I aint sure what the point is, she said.
The point is there aint no point.
No. I mean what you said. About knowin where you are.
He looked at her. After a while he said: It’s not about knowin where you are. It’s about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. Or anybody’s. You dont start over. That’s what it’s about. Ever step you take is forever. You cant make it go away. None of it. You understand what I’m sayin?
I think so.
I know you dont but let me try it one more time. You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I dont know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who’s layin there?
You understand what I’m sayin?
I understand that. I been there.
Yeah, I know you have.
So are you sorry you become a outlaw?
Sorry I didnt start sooner. Are you ready?
When he came out of the motel office he handed her a key.
That’s your key.
She hefted it in her hand and looked at him. Well, she said. It’s up to you.
Yes it is.
I guess you’re afraid I’ll see what’s in that bag.
He started the truck and pulled down the parking lot behind the motel office.
Are you queer? she said.
Me? Yeah, I’m queer as a coot.
You dont look it.
Is that right? You know a lot of queers?
You dont act it I guess I should say.
Well darlin what would you know about it?
I dont know.
Say it again.
Say it again. I dont know.
I dont know.
That’s good. You need to practice that. It sounds good on you.
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