بخش 05

کتاب: جاده / فصل 5

بخش 05

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 41 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

فایل صوتی

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متن انگلیسی فصل

He came upon the barn from the hill above it, stopping to watch and to listen. He made his way down through the ruins of an old apple orchard, black and gnarly stumps, dead grass to his knees. He stood in the door of the barn and listened. Pale slatted light. He walked along the dusty stalls. He stood in the center of the barn bay and listened but there was nothing. He climbed the ladder to the loft and he was so weak he wasnt sure he was going to make it to the top. He walked down to the end of the loft and looked out the high gable window at the country below, the pieced land dead and gray, the fence, the road.

There were bales of hay in the loft floor and he squatted and sorted a handful of seeds from them and sat chewing. Coarse and dry and dusty. They had to contain some nutrition. He rose and rolled two of the bales across the floor and let them fall into the bay below. Two dusty thumps. He went back to the gable and stood studying what he could see of the house beyond the corner of the barn. Then he climbed back down the ladder.

The grass between the house and the barn looked untrodden. He crossed to the porch. The porch screening rotted and falling away. A child’s bicycle. The kitchen door stood open and he crossed the porch and stood in the doorway. Cheap plywood paneling curled with damp. Collapsing into the room. A red formica table. He crossed the room and opened the refrigerator door. Something sat on one of the racks in a coat of gray fur. He shut the door. Trash everywhere. He took a broom from the corner and poked about with the handle. He climbed onto the counter and felt his way through the dust on top of the cabinets. A mousetrap. A packet of something. He blew away the dust. It was a grape flavored powder to make drinks with. He put it in the pocket of his coat.

He went through the house room by room. He found nothing. A spoon in a bedside drawer. He put that in his pocket. He thought there might be some clothes in a closet or some bedding but there wasnt. He went back out and crossed to the garage. He sorted through tools. Rakes. A shovel. Jars of nails and bolts on a shelf. A boxcutter. He held it to the light and looked at the rusty blade and put it back. Then he picked it up again. He took a screwdriver from a coffee can and opened the handle. Inside were four new blades. He took out the old blade and laid it on the shelf and put in one of the new ones and screwed the handle back together and retracted the blade and put the cutter in his pocket. Then he picked up the screwdriver and put that in his pocket as well.

He walked back out to the barn. He had a piece of cloth that he intended to use to collect seeds from the haybales but when he got to the barn he stopped and stood listening to the wind. A creaking of tin somewhere high in the roof above him. There was yet a lingering odor of cows in the barn and he stood there thinking about cows and he realized they were extinct. Was that true? There could be a cow somewhere being fed and cared for. Could there? Fed what? Saved for what? Beyond the open door the dead grass rasped dryly in the wind. He walked out and stood looking across the fields toward the pine wood where the boy lay sleeping. He walked up through the orchard and then he stopped again. He’d stepped on something. He took a step back and knelt and parted the grass with his hands. It was an apple. He picked it up and held it to the light. Hard and brown and shriveled. He wiped it with the cloth and bit into it. Dry and almost tasteless. But an apple. He ate it entire, seeds and all. He held the stem between his thumb and forefinger and let it drop. Then he went treading softly through the grass. His feet were still wrapped in the remnants of the coat and the shreds of tarp and he sat and untied them and stuffed the wrappings in his pocket and went down the rows barefoot. By the time he got to the bottom of the orchard he had four more apples and he put them in his pocket and came back. He went row by row till he’d trod a puzzle in the grass. He’d more apples than he could carry. He felt out the spaces about the trunks and filled his pockets full and he piled apples in the hood of his parka behind his head and carried apples stacked along his forearm against his chest. He dumped them in a pile at the door of the barn and sat there and wrapped up his numb feet.

In the mudroom off the kitchen he’d seen an old wicker basket full of masonjars. He dragged the basket out into the floor and set the jars out of it and then tipped over the basket and tapped out the dirt. Then he stopped. What had he seen? A drainpipe. A trellis. The dark serpentine of a dead vine running down it like the track of some enterprise upon a graph. He stood up and walked back through the kitchen and out into the yard and stood looking at the house. The windows giving back the gray and nameless day. The drainpipe ran down the corner of the porch. He was still holding the basket and he set it down in the grass and climbed the steps again. The pipe came down the corner post and into a concrete tank. He brushed away the trash and rotted bits of screening from the cover. He went back into the kitchen and got the broom and came out and swept the cover clean and set the broom in the corner and lifted the cover from the tank. Inside was a tray filled with a wet gray sludge from the roof mixed with a compost of dead leaves and twigs. He lifted out the tray and set it in the floor. Underneath was white gravel. He scooped back the gravel with his hand. The tank beneath was filled with charcoal, pieces burned out of whole sticks and limbs in carbon effigies of the trees themselves. He put the tray back. In the floor was a green brass ringpull. He reached and got the broom and swept away the ash. There were sawlines in the boards. He swept the boards clean and knelt and hooked his fingers in the ring and lifted the trap door and swung it open. Down there in the darkness was a cistern filled with water so sweet that he could smell it. He lay in the floor on his stomach and reached down. He could just touch the water. He scooted forward and reached again and laved up a handful of it and smelled and tasted it and then drank. He lay there a long time, lifting up the water to his mouth a palmful at a time. Nothing in his memory anywhere of anything so good.

He went back to the mudroom and returned with two of the jars and an old blue enameled pan. He wiped out the pan and dipped it full of water and used it to clean the jars. Then he reached down and sank one of the jars till it was full and raised it up dripping. The water was so clear. He held it to the light. A single bit of sediment coiling in the jar on some slow hydraulic axis. He tipped the jar and drank and he drank slowly but still he drank nearly the whole jar. He sat there with his stomach bloated. He could have drunk more but he didnt. He poured the remaining water into the other jar and rinsed it out and he filled both jars and then let down the wooden cover over the cistern and rose and with his pockets full of apples and carrying the jars of water he set out across the fields toward the pine wood.

He was gone longer than he’d meant to be and he hurried his steps the best he could, the water swinging and gurgling in the shrunken swag of his gut. He stopped to rest and began again. When he got to the woods the boy did not look as if he’d even stirred and he knelt and set the jars carefully in the duff and picked up the pistol and put it in his belt and then he just sat there watching him.

They spent the afternoon sitting wrapped in the blankets and eating apples. Sipping the water from the jars. He took the packet of grape flavor from his pocket and opened it and poured it into the jar and stirred it and gave it to the boy. You did good Papa, he said. He slept while the boy kept watch and in the evening they got out their shoes and put them on and went down to the farmhouse and collected the rest of the apples. They filled three jars with water and screwed on the two-piece caps from a box of them he’d found on a shelf in the mudroom. Then he wrapped everything in one of the blankets and packed it into the knapsack and tied the other blankets across the top of the knapsack and shouldered it up. They stood in the door watching the light draw down over the world to the west. Then they went down the drive and set out upon the road again.

The boy hung on to his coat and he kept to the edge of the road and tried to feel out the pavement under his feet in the dark. In the distance he could hear thunder and after a while there were dim shudderings of light ahead of them. He got out the plastic sheeting from the knapsack but there was hardly enough of it left to cover them and after a while it began to rain. They stumbled along side by side. There was nowhere to go. They had the hoods of their coats up but the coats were getting wet and heavy from the rain. He stopped in the road and tried to rearrange the tarp. The boy was shaking badly.

You’re freezing, arent you?

Yes.

If we stop we’ll get really cold.

I’m really cold now.

What do you want to do?

Can we stop?

Yes. Okay. We can stop.

It was as long a night as he could remember out of a great plenty of such nights. They lay on the wet ground by the side of the road under the blankets with the rain rattling on the tarp and he held the boy and after a while the boy stopped shaking and after a while he slept. The thunder trundled away to the north and ceased and there was just the rain. He slept and woke and the rain slackened and after a while it stopped. He wondered if it was even midnight. He was coughing and it got worse and it woke the child. The dawn was a long time coming. He raised up from time to time to look to the east and after a while it was day.

He wrapped their coats each in turn around the trunk of a small tree and twisted out the water. He had the boy take off his clothes and he wrapped him in one of the blankets and while he stood shivering he wrung the water out of his clothes and passed them back. The ground where they’d slept was dry and they sat there with the blankets draped over them and ate apples and drank water. Then they set out upon the road again, slumped and cowled and shivering in their rags like mendicant friars sent forth to find their keep.

By evening they at least were dry. They studied the pieces of map but he’d little notion of where they were. He stood at a rise in the road and tried to take his bearings in the twilight. They left the pike and took a narrow road through the country and came at last upon a bridge and a dry creek and they crawled down the bank and huddled underneath.

Can we have a fire? the boy said.

We dont have a lighter.

The boy looked away.

I’m sorry. I dropped it. I didnt want to tell you.

That’s okay.

I’ll find us some flint. I’ve been looking. And we’ve still got the little bottle of gasoline.

Okay.

Are you very cold?

I’m okay.

The boy lay with his head in the man’s lap. After a while he said: They’re going to kill those people, arent they?

Yes.

Why do they have to do that?

I dont know.

Are they going to eat them?

I dont know.

They’re going to eat them, arent they?

Yes.

And we couldnt help them because then they’d eat us too.

Yes.

And that’s why we couldnt help them.

Yes.

Okay.

5

They passed through towns that warned people away with messages scrawled on the billboards. The billboards had been whited out with thin coats of paint in order to write on them and through the paint could be seen a pale palimpsest of advertisements for goods which no longer existed. They sat by the side of the road and ate the last of the apples.

What is it? the man said.

Nothing.

We’ll find something to eat. We always do.

The boy didnt answer. The man watched him.

That’s not it, is it?

It’s okay.

Tell me.

The boy looked away down the road.

I want you to tell me. It’s okay.

He shook his head.

Look at me, the man said.

He turned and looked. He looked like he’d been crying.

Just tell me.

We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?

No. Of course not.

Even if we were starving?

We’re starving now.

You said we werent.

I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.

But we wouldnt.

No. We wouldnt.

No matter what.

No. No matter what.

Because we’re the good guys.

Yes.

And we’re carrying the fire.

And we’re carrying the fire. Yes.

Okay.

He found pieces of flint or chert in a ditch but in the end it was easier to rake the pliers down the side of a rock at the bottom of which he’d made a small pile of tinder soaked in gas. Two more days. Then three. They were starving right enough. The country was looted, ransacked, ravaged. Rifled of every crumb. The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it. Like a dawn before battle. The boy’s candlecolored skin was all but translucent. With his great staring eyes he’d the look of an alien.

He was beginning to think that death was finally upon them and that they should find some place to hide where they would not be found. There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasnt about death. He wasnt sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or about goodness. Things that he’d no longer any way to think about at all. They squatted in a bleak wood and drank ditchwater strained through a rag. He’d seen the boy in a dream laid out upon a coolingboard and woke in horror. What he could bear in the waking world he could not by night and he sat awake for fear the dream would return.

They scrabbled through the charred ruins of houses they would not have entered before. A corpse floating in the black water of a basement among the trash and rusting ductwork. He stood in a livingroom partly burned and open to the sky. The waterbuckled boards sloping away into the yard. Soggy volumes in a bookcase. He took one down and opened it and then put it back. Everything damp. Rotting. In a drawer he found a candle. No way to light it. He put it in his pocket. He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.

At the edge of a small town they sat in the cab of a truck to rest, staring out a glass washed clean by the recent rains. A light dusting of ash. Exhausted. By the roadside stood another sign that warned of death, the letters faded with the years. He almost smiled. Can you read that? he said.

Yes.

Dont pay any attention. There’s no one here.

Are they dead?

I think so.

I wish that little boy was with us.

Let’s go, he said.

Rich dreams now which he was loathe to wake from. Things no longer known in the world. The cold drove him forth to mend the fire. Memory of her crossing the lawn toward the house in the early morning in a thin rose gown that clung to her breasts. He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the word and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.

They walked through the streets wrapped in the filthy blankets. He held the pistol at his waist and held the boy by the hand. At the farther edge of the town they came upon a solitary house in a field and they crossed and entered and walked through the rooms. They came upon themselves in a mirror and he almost raised the pistol. It’s us, Papa, the boy whispered. It’s us.

He stood in the back door and looked out at the fields and the road beyond and the bleak country beyond the road. On the patio was a barbeque pit made from a fifty-five gallon drum slit endways with a torch and set in a welded iron frame. A few dead trees in the yard. A fence. A metal tool shed. He shrugged off the blanket and wrapped it around the boy’s shoulder.

I want you to wait here.

I want to go with you.

I’m only going over there to take a look. Just sit here. You’ll be able to see me the whole time. I promise.

He crossed the yard and pushed open the door, still holding the gun. It was a sort of garden shed. Dirt floor. Metal shelves with some plastic flowerpots. Everything covered with ash. There were garden tools standing in the corner. A lawnmower. A wooden bench under the window and beside it a metal cabinet. He opened the cabinet. Old catalogs. Packets of seed. Begonia. Morning glory. He stuck them in his pocket. For what? On the top shelf were two cans of motor oil and he put the pistol in his belt and reached and got them and set them on the bench. They were very old, made of cardboard with metal endcaps. The oil had soaked through the cardboard but still they seemed full. He stepped back and looked out the door. The boy was sitting on the back steps of the house wrapped in the blankets watching him. When he turned he saw a gascan in the corner behind the door. He knew it couldnt have gas in it yet when he tilted it with his foot and let it fall back again there was a gentle slosh. He picked it up and carried it to the bench and tried to unscrew the cap but he could not. He got the pliers out of his coat pocket and extended the jaws and tried it. It would just fit and he twisted off the cap and laid it on the bench and sniffed the can. Rank odor. Years old. But it was gasoline and it would burn. He screwed the cap back on and put the pliers in his pocket. He looked around for some smaller container but there wasnt one. He shouldnt have thrown away the bottle. Check the house.

Crossing the grass he felt half faint and he had to stop. He wondered if it was from smelling the gasoline. The boy was watching him. How many days to death? Ten? Not so many more than that. He couldnt think. Why had he stopped? He turned and looked down at the grass. He walked back. Testing the ground with his feet. He stopped and turned again. Then he went back to the shed. He returned with a garden spade and in the place where he’d stood he chucked the blade into the ground. It sank to half its length and stopped with a hollow wooden sound. He began to shovel away the dirt.

Slow going. God he was tired. He leaned on the spade. He raised his head and looked at the boy. The boy sat as before. He bent to his work again. Before long he was resting between each shovelful. What he finally unburied was a piece of plywood covered with roofingfelt. He shoveled out along the edges. It was a door perhaps three feet by six. At one end was a hasp with a padlock taped up in a plastic bag. He rested, holding on to the handle of the spade, his forehead in the crook of his arm. When he looked up again the boy was standing in the yard just a few feet from him. He was very scared. Dont open it, Papa, he whispered.

It’s okay.

Please, Papa. Please.

It’s okay.

No it’s not.

He had his fists clutched at his chest and he was bobbing up and down with fear. The man dropped the shovel and put his arms around him. Come on, he said. Let’s just go sit on the porch and rest a while.

Then can we go?

Let’s just sit for a while.

Okay.

They sat wrapped in the blankets and looked out at the yard. They sat for a long time. He tried to explain to the boy that there was no one buried in the yard but the boy just started crying. After a while he even thought that maybe the child was right.

Let’s just sit, he said. We wont even talk.

Okay.

They walked through the house again. He found a beer bottle and an old rag of a curtain and he tore an edge from the cloth and stuffed it down the neck of the bottle with a coathanger. This is our new lamp, he said.

How can we light it?

I found some gasoline in the shed. And some oil. I’ll show you.

Okay.

Come on, the man said. Everything’s okay. I promise.

But when he bent to see into the boy’s face under the hood of the blanket he very much feared that something was gone that could not be put right again.

They went out and crossed the yard to the shed. He set the bottle on the bench and he took a screwdriver and punched a hole in one of the cans of oil and then punched a smaller one to help it drain. He pulled the wick out of the bottle and poured the bottle about half full, old straight weight oil thick and gelid with the cold and a long time pouring. He twisted the cap off the gascan and he made a small paper spill from one of the seedpackets and poured gas into the bottle and put his thumb over the mouth and shook it. Then he poured some out into a clay dish and took the rag and stuffed it back into the bottle with the screwdriver. He took a piece of flint from his pocket and got the pair of pliers and struck the flint against the serrated jaw. He tried it a couple of times and then he stopped and poured more gasoline into the dish. This may flare up, he said. The boy nodded. He raked sparks into the dish and it bloomed into flame with a low whoosh. He reached and got the bottle and tilted it and lit the wick and blew out the flame in the dish and handed the smoking bottle to the boy. Here, he said. Take it.

What are we going to do?

Hold your hand in front of the flame. Dont let it go out.

He rose and took the pistol from his belt. This door looks like the other door, he said. But it’s not. I know you’re scared. That’s okay. I think there may be things in there and we have to take a look. There’s no place else to go. This is it. I want you to help me. If you dont want to hold the lamp you’ll have to take the pistol.

I’ll hold the lamp.

Okay. This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They dont give up.

Okay.

He led the boy out into the yard trailing the black smoke from the lamp. He put the pistol in his belt and picked up the spade and began to chop the hasp out of the plywood. He wedged the corner of the blade under it and pried it up and then knelt and took hold of the lock and twisted the whole thing loose and pitched it into the grass. He pried the blade under the door and got his fingers under it and then stood and raised it up. Dirt went rattling down the boards. He looked at the boy. Are you all right? he said. The boy nodded mutely, holding the lamp in front of him. The man swung the door over and let it fall in the grass. Rough stairs carpentered out of two by tens leading down into the darkness. He reached and took the lamp from the boy. He started to descend the stairs but then he turned and leaned and kissed the child on the forehead.

The bunker was walled with concrete block. A poured concrete floor laid over with kitchen tile. There were a couple of iron cots with bare springs, one against either wall, the mattress pads rolled up at the foot of them in army fashion. He turned and looked at the boy crouched above him blinking in the smoke rising up from the lamp and then he descended to the lower steps and sat and held the lamp out. Oh my God, he whispered. Oh my God.

What is it Papa?

Come down. Oh my God. Come down.

Crate upon crate of canned goods. Tomatoes, peaches, beans, apricots. Canned hams. Corned beef. Hundreds of gallons of water in ten gallon plastic jerry jugs. Paper towels, toiletpaper, paper plates. Plastic trashbags stuffed with blankets. He held his forehead in his hand. Oh my God, he said. He looked back at the boy. It’s all right, he said. Come down.

Papa?

Come down. Come down and see.

He stood the lamp on the step and went up and took the boy by the hand. Come on, he said. It’s all right.

What did you find?

I found everything. Everything. Wait till you see. He led him down the stairs and picked up the bottle and held the flame aloft. Can you see? he said. Can you see?

What is all this stuff, Papa?

It’s food. Can you read it?

Pears. That says pears.

Yes. Yes it does. Oh yes it does.

There was just headroom for him to stand. He ducked under a lantern with a green metal shade hanging from a hook. He held the boy by the hand and they went along the rows of stenciled cartons. Chile, corn, stew, soup, spaghetti sauce. The richness of a vanished world. Why is this here? the boy said. Is it real? Oh yes. It’s real.

He pulled one of the boxes down and clawed it open and held up a can of peaches. It’s here because someone thought it might be needed.

But they didnt get to use it.

No. They didnt.

They died.

Yes.

Is it okay for us to take it?

Yes. It is. They would want us to. Just like we would want them to.

They were the good guys?

Yes. They were.

Like us.

Like us. Yes.

So it’s okay.

Yes. It’s okay.

There were knives and plastic utensils and silverware and kitchen tools in a plastic box. A can opener. There were electric torches that didnt work. He found a box of batteries and dry cells and went through them. Mostly corroded and leaking an acid goo but some of them looked okay. He finally got one of the lanterns to work and he set it on the table and blew out the smoky flame of the lamp. He tore a flap from the opened cardboard box and chased out the smoke with it and then he climbed up and lowered the trap door and turned and looked at the boy. What would you like for supper? he said.

Pears.

Good choice. Pears it is.

He took two paperware bowls from a stack of them wrapped in plastic and set them out on the table. He unrolled the mattress pads on the bunks for them to sit on and he opened the carton of pears and took out a can and set it on the table and clamped the lid with the can opener and began to turn the wheel. He looked at the boy. The boy was sitting quietly on the bunk, still wrapped in the blanket, watching. The man thought he had probably not fully committed himself to any of this. You could wake in the dark wet woods at any time. These will be the best pears you ever tasted, he said. The best. Just you wait.

They sat side by side and ate the can of pears. Then they ate a can of peaches. They licked the spoons and tipped the bowls and drank the rich sweet syrup. They looked at each other.

One more.

I dont want you to get sick.

I wont get sick.

You havent eaten in a long time.

I know.

Okay.

He put the boy to bed in the bunk and smoothed his filthy hair on the pillow and covered him with blankets. When he climbed up and lifted the door it was almost dark out. He went to the garage and got the knapsack and came back and took a last look around and then went down the steps and pulled the door shut and jammed one of the handles of the pliers through the heavy inside hasp. The electric lantern was already beginning to dim and he looked through the stores until he found some cases of white gas in gallon cans. He got one of the cans out and set it on the table and unscrewed the cap and punched out the metal seal with a screwdriver. Then he took down the lamp from the hook overhead and filled it. He’d already found a plastic box of butane lighters and he lit the lamp with one of them and adjusted the flame and hung it back up. Then he just sat on the bunk.

While the boy slept he began to go methodically through the stores. Clothes, sweaters, socks. A stainless steel basin and sponges and bars of soap. Toothpaste and toothbrushes. In the bottom of a big plastic jar of bolts and screws and miscellaneous hardware he found a double handful of gold krugerrands in a cloth sack. He dumped them out and kneaded them in his hand and looked at them and then scooped them back into the jar along with the hardware and put the jar back on the shelf.

He sorted through everything, shifting boxes and crates from one side of the room to the other. There was a small steel door that led into a second room where bottles of gas were stored. In the corner a chemical toilet. There were vent pipes in the walls covered with wire mesh and there were drains in the floor. It was getting warm in the bunker and he’d taken off his coat. He went through everything. He found a box of .45 ACP cartridges and three boxes of .30-30 rifle shells. What he didnt find was a gun. He took the battery lantern and walked over the floor and he checked the walls for any hidden compartment. After a while he just sat on the bunk eating a bar of chocolate. There was no gun and there wasnt going to be one.

When he woke the gaslamp overhead was hissing softly. The bunker walls were there in the light and the boxes and crates. He didnt know where he was. He was lying with his coat over him. He sat up and looked at the boy asleep on the other bunk. He’d taken off his shoes but he didnt remember that either and he got them from under the bunk and pulled them on and climbed the stairs and pulled the pliers from the hasp and lifted the door and peered out. Early morning. He looked at the house and he looked out toward the road and he was about to lower the hatch door again when he stopped. The vague gray light was in the west. They’d slept the night through and the day that followed. He lowered the door and secured it again and climbed back down and sat on the bunk. He looked around at the supplies. He’d been ready to die and now he wasnt going to and he had to think about that. Anyone could see the hatch lying in the yard and they would know at once what it was. He had to think about what to do. This was not hiding in the woods. This was the last thing from that. Finally he rose and went to the table and hooked up the little two burner gas stove and lit it and got out a frying pan and a kettle and opened the plastic box of kitchen implements.

What woke the boy was him grinding coffee in a small hand grinder. He sat up and stared all around. Papa? he said.

Hi. Are you hungry?

I have to go to the bathroom. I have to pee.

He pointed with the spatula toward the low steel door. He didnt know how to use the toilet but they would use it anyway. They werent going to be here that long and he wasnt going to be opening and closing the hatch any more than they had to. The boy went past, his hair matted with sweat. What is that? he said.

Coffee. Ham. Biscuits.

Wow, the boy said.

He dragged a footlocker across the floor between the bunks and covered it with a towel and set out the plates and cups and plastic utensils. He set out a bowl of biscuits covered with a handtowel and a plate of butter and a can of condensed milk. Salt and pepper. He looked at the boy. The boy looked drugged. He brought the frying pan from the stove and forked a piece of browned ham onto the boy’s plate and scooped scrambled eggs from the other pan and ladled out spoonfuls of baked beans and poured coffee into their cups. The boy looked up at him.

Go ahead, he said. Dont let it get cold.

What do I eat first?

Whatever you like.

Is this coffee?

Yes. Here. You put the butter on your biscuits. Like this.

Okay.

Are you all right?

I dont know.

Do you feel okay?

Yes.

What is it?

Do you think we should thank the people?

The people?

The people who gave us all this.

Well. Yes, I guess we could do that.

Will you do it?

Why dont you?

I dont know how.

Yes you do. You know how to say thank you.

The boy sat staring at his plate. He seemed lost. The man was about to speak when he said: Dear people, thank you for all this food and stuff. We know that you saved it for yourself and if you were here we wouldnt eat it no matter how hungry we were and we’re sorry that you didnt get to eat it and we hope that you’re safe in heaven with God.

He looked up. Is that okay? he said.

Yes. I think that’s okay.

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