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CHAPTER ХVIII



CROSSROADS

There was big drops of sweat standing out on my forehead and my fingers didn't feel like they was mine. I was floating in high finances, sixty-five stories above the ground, leaning my elbow on a stiff-looking tablecloth as white as a runaway ghost, and tapping my finger on the side of a big fishbowl. The bowl was full of clear water with a bright red rose as wide as your hand sunk down in the water, which made the rose look bigger and redder and the leaves greener than they actually was. But everything else in the room looked this same way when you looked through the rose bowls of water on the other twenty-five or thirty tables. Each row of tables was in a horseshoe curve, and each curve a little higher than the one below. I was at the lowest. The price of the table for the night was twenty-five dollars.
Sixty-five stories back to the world. Quite a little elevator ride down to where the human race was being run. The name of the place, the Rainbow Room, in the city called New York, in the building called Rockefeller's Center, where the shrimps are boiled in Standard Oil. I was waiting to take an audition to see about getting a job singing there. Classiest joint I'd ever seen. I looked all around at the deep rugs like a grassy lawn, and the wavy drapes bellied back from the windows, and laughed to myself as I heard the other performers crack jokes at the whole works.
"This must be th' ravin' ward, th' way they got things all padded up." A sissy-looking little man in a long tail coat was waiting for his time to try out.
"I just don't think they mowed th' upholst'ry yet this year," some lady with a accordion folded acrost her lap was whispering.
"An' them tables," I almost laughed, saying, "is jest like this here buildin, th' higher up ya git, th' colder it gits.''
The man that had been our guide and got us up there in the first place, walked across the rug with his nose in the air like a trained seal, grinned up at us waiting to take our tryouts, and said, "Sssshhh. Quiet, everybody!"
Everybody slumped down and straightened up and set tight and got awful quiet while three or four men, and a lady or two dressed to match the fixtures, walked in through a high arch door from the main terrace and took seats at one of the tables.
"Main boss?" I said behind the back of my hand to the others at our table.
Heads shook up and down, "yes.'' I noticed that everybody put on a different face, like wax people almost, tilting their heads in the breeze, grinning into the late afternoon sun that fell across the floor, and smiling like they'd never missed a meal. This look is the look that most show folks learn pretty early in the game; they paint it on their faces, or sort of mold it on, so it will always smile like a monkey through his bars, so nobody will know their rent ain't paid up yet, or they ain't had no job this season or last, and that they just finished a sensational, whirlwind run of five flops in a row. The performers looked like rich customers shining in the sun, and the head boss with his table full of middle-size bosses looked like they'd been shot at and missed. Through the water in the rose-bowls everything in the place had an upside-down look; the floor looked like the ceiling and the halls looked like the walls, and the hungry looked like they was rich, and the rich looked like they was hungry.
Finally somebody must of made a motion or give a signal, because a girl in a gunny-sack dress got up and sung a song that told how she was already going on thirteen, and was getting pretty hot under the collar, tired of waiting and afraid of being an old maid, and wanting to be a hillbilly bride. Heads shook up and down and the big boss and middle-size bosses and agents and handlers smiled across the empty tables. I hear somebody whisper, "She's hired."
"Next! Woody Guthrie!" a snazzy-looking gent was saying over the mike.
"Reckin that's me," I was mumbling under my chin, talking to myself, and looking out the window, thinking. I reached in my pocket and spun a thin dime out acrost the tablecloth and watched it whirl around and around, first heads, then tails, and said to myself, "Some difference 'tween that there apercot orchard las' June where th' folks wuz stuck down along th' river bottom, an' this here Rainbow Room on an August afternoon. Gosh, I come a long ways in th' last few months. Ain't made no money ta speak about, but I've stuck my head in a lot of plain an' fancy places. Some good, some just barely fair, an' some awful bad. I wrote up a lot of songs for union folks, sung 'em all over ever'where, wherever folks got together an' talked an' sung, from Madison Square Garden to a Cuban Cigar Makers' tavern in Spanish Harlem an hour later; from th' padded studios of CBS an' NBC to th' wild back country in th' raggedy Ghetto. In some places I was put on display as a freak, and others as a hero, an' in th' tough joints around th' Battery Park, I wuz jes' another shadow blund'rin' along with th' rest. It had been like this here little ol' dime spinnin', a whirl of heads an' tails. I'd liked mostly th' union workers, an' th' soldiers an' th' men in fightin' clothes, shootin' clothes, shippin' clothes, or farmin' clothes, 'cause singing with them made me friends with them, an' I felt like I was somehow in on their work. But this coin spinnin', that's my las' dime--an' this Rainbow Room job, well, rumors are it'll pay as much as seventy-five a week, an' seventy-five a week is dam shore seventy-five a week."
"Woody Guthrie!"
"Comin'!" I walked up to the microphone, gulping and trying to think of something to sing about. I was a little blank in the head or something, and no matter how dam hard I tried, I just couldn't think up any kind of a song to sing--just empty.
'What will be your first selection, Mister Guthrie?''
"Little tune, I guess, call'd New York City." And so I forked the announcer out of the way with the wiry end of my guitar handle and made up these words as I sung:

This Rainbow Room she's mighty fine
You can spit from here to th' Texas line!
In New York City
Lord, New York City
This is New York City, an' I really gotta know my
line!

This Rainbow Room is up so high
That John D.'s spirit comes a-driftin' by
This is New York City
She's New York City
I'm in New York City an' I really gotta know my
line!

New York town's on a great big boom
Got me a-singin' in the Rainbow Room
That's New York City
That's New York City
She's old New York City
Where I really gotta know my line!

I took the tune to church, took it holy roller, shot in a few split notes, oozed in a fake one, come down barrel house, hit off a good old cross-country lonesome note or two, trying to get that old guitar to help me, to talk with me, talk for me and say what I was thinking, just this one time.

Well this Rainbow Room's a funny place ta play
Its a long way's from here to th' U.S.A.
An' back ta New York City
God! New York City
Hey! New York City
Where I really gotta know my line!

The microphone man come running out and waved me to a stop, asking me, "Hhhhmmm, where does this particular song end, sir?"
"End?" I looked over at him. "Jest a-gettin' strung out good, mister!'
"The number is most amusing. Exciting. Extremely colorful. But I'm wondering if it would be suited to the customers. Ahemm. To our customers. Just a couple of questions. How do you get out to the microphone and back again?"
"Walk, as a rule."
"That won't do. Let's see you trot in through that arch doorway there, sidestep when you come to that flat platform, prance pretty lively when you go down those three stairs, and then spring up to the microphone on the balls of your feet throwing your weight on the joints of your ankles." And before I could say anything he had run out and trotted back, showing me exactly what he was talking about.
Another one of the bosses from the table at the back wall yelled, "As far as his entrance is concerned, I think we can rehearse it a week or two and get it ironed out!"
"Yes! Of course, his microphoning has got to be tested and lights adjusted to his size, but that can come later. I'm thinking about his make-up. What kind of make-up do you use, young man?" Another boss was talking from his table.
"Ain't been a-usin' none," I talked into the mike. I felt the faraway rattling and rumbling of freight trains and transfer trucks calling to me. I bit my tongue and listened.
"Under the lights, you know, your natural skin would look too pale and too dead. You wouldn't mind putting on some kind of make-up just to liven you up, would you?
"Naww. Don't 'spose." Why was I thinking one thing in my head and saying something different with my mouth?
"Fine!" A lady nodded her head from the boss's table. "Now, oh yes, now, what kind of a costume shall I get for him?"
"Which?" I said, but nobody heard me.
She folded her hands together under her chin and clicked her wax eyelashes together like loose shingles in a high wind, "I can just imagine a hay wagon piled high with singing field hands, and this carefree character following along in the dust behind the wagon, singing after the day's work is done! That's it. A French peasant garb!"
"Or--no--wait! I see him as a Louisiana swamp dweller, half asleep on the flat top of a gum stump, his feet dangling in the mud, and his gun leaning near his head! Ah! What a follow-up for the gunny-sack girl singing, 'Hillbilly Bride'!" A man losing a wrestling match with a four-bit cigar was arguing with the lady.
"I have it! Listen! I have it!" The lady rose up from her table with a look on her face like she was in a trance of some kind, and she walked over across the carpet to where I was standing, saying, "I have it! Pierrot! We shall dress him in a Pierrot costume! One of those darling clown suits! It will bring out the life and the pep and the giddy humor of his period! Isn't that a simply swell idea?" She folded her hands under her chin again and swayed over against my shoulder as I sidestepped to miss her. "Imagine! What the proper costuming will bring out in these people! Their carefree life! Open skies! The quaint simplicity. Pierrot! Pierrot!" She was dragging me across the floor by the arm, and we left the room with everybody talking at once. Some taking tryouts said, "Gosh! Gon'ta catch on!"
Outside, on a high glass porch of some kind, where wild tangled green things growed all along the floor by the windows, she shoved me down in a leather chair by a plastic table and sighed and puffed like she'd done an honest day's work. "Now, let me see, oh yes, now, my impression of the slight sample of your work is a bit, so to say, incomplete, that is, as far as the cultural traditions represented and the exchange and interrelationships and overlappings of these same cultural patterns are concerned, especially here in America, where we have, well, such a mixing bowl of culture, such a stew-pot of shades and colors. But, nevertheless, I think the clown costume will represent a large portion of the humorous spirit of all of them--and--"
I let my ears bend away from her talking and I let my eyes drift out the window and down sixty-five stories where the town of old New York was standing up living and breathing and cussing and laughing down yonder acrost that long island.
I begun to pace back and forth, keeping my gaze out the window, way down, watching the diapers and underwear blow from fire escapes and clothes lines on the back sides of the buildings; seeing the smoke whip itself into a hazy blur that smeared across the sky and mixed in with all of the other smoke that tried to hide the town. Limp papers whipped and beat upwards, rose into the air and fell head over heels, curving over backwards and sideways, over and over, loose sheets of newspaper with pictures of people and stories of people printed somewhere on them, turning loops in the air. And it was blow little paper, blow! Twist and turn and stay up as long as you can, and when you come down, come down on a pent-house porch, come down easy so's not to hurt your self. Come down and lay there in the rain and the wind and the soot and smoke and the grit that gets in your eyes in the big city--and lay there in the sun and get faded and rotten. But keep on trying to tell your message, and keep on trying to be a picture of a man, because without that story and without that message printed on you there, you wouldn't be much. Remember, it's just maybe, some day, sometime, somebody will pick you up and look at your picture and read your message, and carry you in his pocket, and lay you on his shelf, and burn you in his stove. But he'll have your message in his head and he'll talk it and it'll get around. I'm blowing, and just as wild and whirling as you are, and lots of times I've been picked up, throwed down, and picked up; but my eyes has been my camera taking pictures of the world and my songs has been messages that I tried to scatter across the back sides and along the steps of the fire escapes and on the window sills and through the dark halls.
Still going like a Nineteen Hundred and Ten talking machine, my lady friend had said a whole raft of stuff that I'd not heard a single word of. I'm afraid my ears had been running somewhere down along the streets. I heard her say, "So, the interest manifest by the manager is not at all a personal thing, not at all, not at all; but there is another reason why you are so certain to satisfy the desires of his customers; and I always say, don't you always say, 'What the customer says is what we all have to say'?" Her teeth shined and her eyes snapped different colors. "Don't you?'
"Don't I? What? Oh, 'scuse me jest a minute, huh? Be right back." I took one good long look all up and down the red leather seats and the plastic tables in the glassed-in room, and grabbed lmу guitar by the neck and said to a boy in uniform, "Rest room?" And I followed where he pointed, except that when I got within a couple of feet of the sign that said "Men," I took a quick dodge down a little hallway that said "Elevator."
The lady shook her head and nodded with her back turned to me. And I asked the elevator man, "Goin' down? Okay. Groun' floor. Quickest way's too slow!" When we hit bottom I walked out onto the slick marble floor whanging as hard as I could on the guitar and singing:

Ever' good man gits in hard luck sometime
Ever' good man gits in hard luck sometime
Gits down an' out
Dead broke
Ain't gotta dime!

I never heard my guitar ring so loud and so long and so clear as it did there in them high-polished marble halls. Every note was ten times as loud, and so was my singing. I filled myself full of free air and sung as loud as the building would stand. I wanted the poodle dogs leading the ladies around to stick up their noses and wonder what in the hell had struck that joint. People had walked hushed up and too nice and quiet through these tiled floors too long. I decided that for this minute, for this one snap of their lives, they'd see a human walking through that place, not singing because he was hired and told what to sing, but just walking through there thinking about the world and singing about it.
She mortally echoed around and glanced across the murals painted on the walls. And folks in herds and family groups stopped looking in the fancy lit-up shop windows along the corridors and listened to me telling the world:

Old John Dee he ain't no friend of mine
Old John Dee he ain't no friend of mine
I'm a-sayin' Did John Dee shore ain't no friend of
mine
Takes all th' purty wimmen
An' leaves us men behind!

Little boys and girls trotted up alongside of me, jerking out from their parents' hands, and kept their ears and noses rubbing against my guitar's sounding board. While I was beating the blues chords and not singing, I heard side remarks:
"What is he advertising?"
"Isn't he a card?"
"Quaint."
"A Westerner. Possibly lost in a subway.''
"Children! Come back here!"
I heard a cop say, "Cut it! Hey! Yez cain't pull dat stuff in here!" But before he could get at me, I'd whirled through a spinning door and fought my way across some avenues packed with traffic, and was lighting out along some sidewalks and not even paying much attention to where I was heading. A few hours could of went by. Or days. I wasn't noticing. But I was 'dodging walking people, playing kids, and rusting iron fences, rotting doorsteps, and my head was buzzing, trying to think up some reason why I'd darted out away from the sixty-fifth story of that big high building back yonder. But something in me must of knowed why. Because in a little while I found myself walking along New York's Ninth Avenue, and cutting over another long cement block to come to the waterfront. I seen mothers perched on high rock steps and out along the curbs on cane-bottom chairs, some in the shade, some in the sun, talking, talking, talking. Their gift of the spirit was talking, talking to the mother or to the lady next to them, about the wind, the weather, the curbs, the sidewalks, the rooms, roaches, bugs, rent, and the landlord, and managing to keep one eye on all of the hundreds and hundreds of kids playing in the open street. As I walked along, no matter what they'd been talking about, I heard them first to one side and then to the other, saying, "music man!" "Heyyy! Playa for ussa th' song!" "Hi! Le's hear ya tromp it!" "Would you geeve to us a museek?" "Play!" "Ser'nade me!" And so, not half caring, there in the last few patches of the setting sun, I walked along winding my way through the women and young boys and girls, and singing:

What does the deep sea say?
Tell me, what does the deep sea say?
Well, it moans and it groans,
It swells and it foams
And it rolls on its weary way!

I walked along, the day just leaving out over the tops of the tall buildings, and sifting through the old scarred chimneys sticking up. Thank the good Lord, everybody, everything ain't all slicked up, and starched and imitation. Thank God, everybody ain't afraid. Afraid in the skyscrapers, and afraid in the red tape offices, and afraid in the tick of the little machine that never explodes, stock market tickers, that scare how many to death, ticking off deaths, marriages and divorces, friends and enemies; tickers connected and plugged in like juke boxes, playing the false and corny lies that are sung in the wild canyons of Wall Street; songs wept by the families that lose, songs jingled on the silver spurs of the men that win. Here on the slummy edges, people are crammed down on the curbs, the sidewalks and the fireplugs, and cars and trucks and kids and rubber balls are bouncing through the streets. I was thinking, "This is what I call bein' borned an' a-livin'; I don't know what I call that big high building back yonder that I left.''
I'd noticed a quiet-faced young Mexican seaman following along behind my shoulder. He was of a small build, almost like a kid, and the sea and the sun had kept his hair oily and his smile smooth. After a block or two we'd got to knowing each other and he'd told me, "My name iss Carlos, call me Carl." Outside of that Carl didn't say much; we just almost knew that we was buddies without making lectures on the subject. So for about an hour I walked along singing, while this man walked beside me, smiling right on down through the wind, not telling me no big tall tale of submarines and torpedoes, no hero stories.
A little girl and boy clattered on roller skates, and told me to sing louder so's they could hear me above the noise. Other kids quit swatting each other and walked along listening. Mamas called in a hundred tongues, "Kids, come back here!" The kids would usually follow along humming and singing with me for about a block, and then stand on the curb when I crossed the street and look for a long time. In each block a new gang formed and herded along, feeling of the wood of the guitar, and getting their hands on the strap, the strings. Older kids tittered and flirted in dark doorways and pushed each other around in front of soda fountains and penny-candy hangouts, and I managed to sing them at least a little snatch, a few words of the songs they'd ask to hear. At times I stopped for a minute and papas and mamas and kids of all ages stood around as quiet as they could, but the whamming and banging of big trucks, busses, vans, and cars made us stand jammed together real tight to be heard.
It got to be night, the kind of summer night that pitches on the wind and dips in the white clouds and makes buildings look like all kinds of freighters creaking along. Dark swarms of us sprawled out along stone steps and iron railings, and I felt that old feeling coming back to me. When I reached the water front, the song I was singing over and over was:

It was early in the spring
Of nineteen forty-two
She was queen of the seas
And the wide ocean blue

Her smoke filled the sky
In that Hudson River's tide
And she rolled on her side
When that good ship went down

Oh, the Normandie was her name
And great was her fame
And great was her shame
When that good ship went down

Folks joined in like one voice in the dark. I could vision on the screen of fog rolling down a picture of myself singing back yonder on the sixty-fifth floor of Rockefeller's Center, singing a couple of songs and ducking back into a dressing room to smoke and play cards for two more hours until the next show, then more smoke and cards until the next show. And I knew that I was glad to be loose from that sentimental and dreamy trash, and gladder to be edging on my way along here singing with the people, singing something with fight and guts and belly laughs and power and dynamite to it.

When Carl touched me on the arm we was throwing on our brakes in the green shiver of a neon sign that said, "Anchor Bar." We stood outside on the curb and he grinned and told me, "This iss a nice place; always a good bunch here." By now we had a whole crew around us waving their heads in the wind, singing:

Oh, the Normandie was her name
And great was her fame
And great was her shame
When that good ship went down

I sung out by myself:

So remember her sorrow
And remember her name
We will all work together
And she'll soon sail again

All kinds of hats, caps, sweaters, and dresses stood around tapping shoes against the concrete, patting hands, like getting new hope out of old religion; and when my eyes got a plainer look at the crowd, I seen lots of uniforms and sailor caps of all kinds. Light sifted through the open door and big windows of the bar, and hit against our backs and faces.
"More!"
"Sing!"
"Crank up!"
A funny little gang of us there on that curb.
"Where'd ja pick up such songs at?" one lady asked me
"Ohh," I told her, "jest bummin' aroun', see stuff, make up a little song about it."
"Buy ya a drink if ya want it!" a man said.
"Mister, I'll take уa up in jest a minute! Cain't stop right now ta buy no drink! I'd lose my crowd!"
"What th' hell you doin'?" he said back in the crowd "Runnin' f'r office with that whang-danger music box?"
"Back in Oklahoma," I kidded him, "I know one Negro boy that blows a mouth organ, an' he's elected our las' four gov'nors!"
There was a little laugh run through the listeners, and you could see a pile of smoke rising out of our huddle from cigarets and cigars and ocean-going pipes the people was pulling on. In the flare of the smoking, I got looks at their faces, and when I seen how hard and tough they was, I thought I must be in just about the best of company.
A tall man pushed through the rest, with both hands stuck down in his overcoat pockets, and said, "By God an' by Jesus! Howya makin' out?" It was my old friend, Will Geer, an actor playing the lead part of Jeeter Lester in the play, Tobacco Road. Will was a big tall cuss, head and shoulders over the most of us, and I rocked considerably when he whooped me down across the back and shoulders with his open hand. "You оl' dog! Howya been?"
"Hi! Will! Dam yer hide! Lay yer head back, boy, an' sing!"
"Go right on. Don't let me stop you." Will's voice had a dry crackle to it that sounded like a stick in the fire. "Mighta knew who 'twas when I saw this big crowd here singin'! Keep it up!"
"Carl, shake han's with Will there."
"Meester Will? I am glad to know you."
"Hey! Ever'body! Here's another frienda mine! Name's Will!"
He stood with his long chin and square jaw set against the dampness of the fog, and folded his hands together and waved them above our heads. Behind him the doorway of the Anchor Bar was filled with three people on their way out, the bartender leading a lady and a man by the arm. She was about fifty, little and slight, leathery skin like wet canvas full of pulling wind, coarse black hair all tangled up with the atmosphere and scenery, and a voice like sand washing back into the ocean, "I don't need your help! I wanta buy another drink!" Then she looked up at the crowd and said, "Cain't insult a lady this-a way!"
"Lady," the bartender was pushing the pair onto the sidewalk, "I know you're a lady, an' we all know you're a lady; but Mayor La Gad-about says no drinks after closin' time, an' it's after closin' time now!"
"Honey, sweet thing," I could hear her husband talking, "don't hurt th' man, don't, he just only works here."
"Who ask'd you f'r advice?" She marched out onto the sidewalk beside us.
"Put'cher coat on! Here, hold still!" He was tip-toeing around her trying to get the coat untangled. First he held it upside down with the sleeves dragging the sidewalk; then he got hold of the sleeves, but he had the lining on the wrong side; and after a couple of minutes, they had one sleeve plumb on, but she was still running her fist through the air feeling for the last sleeve. She had a look on her face like she was searching the waterfront for a man because she knew he had one sleeve of her coat, and he was working in the wind with a serious look in his eye, but always, just about a foot or two south of where she was holding her arm up, fishing.
Will walked over and took her fist and jammed it through the sleeve, and except for some mumbling and grumbling in the crowd nobody laughed. Will lit up some kind of a long cigaret and took the pair by the arms and brought them over to the bunch. "Meet ever'body!" He was smiling and saying, "All of you, here, meet Somebody!"
"Ever'body, gladta knowya!"
"Somebody, hello! Join up!"
"Don' mind gittin' booted outa that joint! We're a-havin' a lot th' bes' time out here!"
"Welcome ta our mists! Wahooo!"
"What yez a-doin'? Sangin'? Oh! Lord Godamighty! I mortally luv ta hear good sangin'! Sang! Make some racket!" The lady was standing at my elbow in the middle of the crowd. We sung our song about the Normandie all over again, and her and her man both shook the wax out of their ears in a minute and started singing, and their voices sounded good, like coal being dumped down into a cellar.
I took a look over the heads of the crowd and seen the bartender standing just outside the door talking to a copper, and I knew our singing had cut off about three fourths of his trade for the night, so I started walking with my eyes up toward the stars, and the little mob followed me along, filling the Hudson River's tide and the hulls of the warehouses, the markets, loading buildings, and all of the docks, and all of the ocean, with good husky voices. Some rasping, some gasping, some growling and some rattling with whiskey, rum, beer, gin, tobacco, but singing all the same.
We'd walked for about a block when we heard a tough talker behind us yell, "Hey, sailor!"
We walked a few more steps singing, then it come again.
"Hey, sailor!"
"Keep on with th' singin'." A sailor was ducking at my ear saying, "Law says he's got ta yell 'hey sailor' three times!"
"Go on! Sing!" a second sailor said.
"Keep it up!" a third one put in.
Then it was, "Heyyyy, sailor!"
And a dead still spell come over our whole gang. The Military Policeman had yelled his third time. The sailors stopped and stood at attention,
"Yessir, Off'cer."
"Go to your stations, sailors!"
"Aye, aye, Off'cer!''
"At once, sailor!"
"Goin', off'cer!"
And the sailors walked away in good order, rubbing their eyes and faces in the night air, shaking their heads clear of tobacco smoke, and the dregs of beer. There in a few steps, they seemed to turn into somebody else, straightening up, fixing each other's shirts, blouses, ties, getting rigging in order. Low talk, laughs, thanks, and pats on the back was about all they give me, but as they slipped off in their different directions for their ships, some French, some British, some American, some Everything Else, I was thinking, There goes th' best fellers I ever seen.
"How'dya like ta be in th' Navy, Carl?" Will said.
"I would like to be in the Navy just fine," Carl said, "but I don't guess I ever can."
"Reason?" I asked Carl.
"I have a leetle something the matter with my lungs. Rosin. ТВ. I worked on a shingle-saw a few years. I'm in 4-F." His eyes followed the sailors away in the dark, and then he said, "The Navy, yes, it would be fine."
A Military Policeman swung his club around doing tricks and said to us, "Go ahead with y'r party, by God, ya gotta perty dam good song there--'bout that there Norm'ndie"
Another cop turned around and walked away saying, "It's jus' that we gotta git our sailors ta werk on time. Those songs was doin' them men a lot o' good!"
One or two of the bunch that was left took off in different directions and then three or four shook my hand and told me, "Well, we had a dam good time." "Be seem' ya." "Saved us money, too!" And all that was left was me and Carl and Will and the lady and her husband, standing there on the curb, looking out toward the waterfront, out across the big dark mountains moving up and down at their docks, bigger than buildings, more alive than the hills, sloshing at the portholes and waterlines, floating still and quiet like three women, the living Queen Elizabeth, the breathing Queen Mary, and the sleeping Normandie on her side.
"Fellers game ta go home with me?" the lady asked us. "Got a great, great big bottle, nearly almost half full."
Her husband held his hands in his pockets and shook his head after every word his wife said, his little hat rocking back and forth on his head when he nodded.
"Take us!" Will told her, winking around at us. "I haven't even had a drink tonight!"
We walked along just keeping our eyes on the red glare of her cigaret, first bright, then dull, in the dark. The old hard cobblestones was lit up with the filtered neon light that leaks somehow or other, some strange way, down into all of the big town's dirtiest corners, and shines like million-dollar jewelry, even on the spitty, foggy stones.
I seen the big hump-backs of five or six flat barges loaded full to the brim. Heavy highway gravel. The tie ropes bucking and stretching, the waters lapping and swelling and falling in the river with the up and down of the ocean's roll.
"Fair warnin'!" I heard the lady holler ahead of us. "Walk careful! Don't want hafta waste my time fishin' no land wallopers outa this slimy warsh!"
I followed the others across some narrow planks and I held my breath when I looked down under me at all of the moving, slurping water licking its mouth under my feet. Finally, after crossing over more whitish loads of gravel and rocks, we come to a little two-by-scantling shanty built on the head end of a creaking, heavy barge.
"So this is your homestead, huh?" Will asked her.
"I ain't so graceful out there much on that there solid groun'." She was fumbling with a lock at the door, and walked into the shack saying, "But they ain't a gal in th' show business c'n foller aroun' over these here river boats!"
She lit the lantern, lit the oil stove, and set a half a gallon coffee pot on the flame. We all found chairs on boxes and big lard cans; then she said, "Why not sing me a song about somethin' perty? While this here coffee's a-comin' ta a boirl? Likker goes a lot longer ways when ya mix it with scaldin' hot coffee."
"I'll make ya up one 'bout yer barge house here. Lemme think."

My bottle it will soon be empty
And I myself won't have a dime
But I've hauled my freight from here to yonder
A many, and a many, and a many a time

While fishing under her tin-topped cupboard she chanted and sung almost under her breath:

I pulled this package from here ta Albanyyyyy
From there ta Uticayyyyy
From there ta Schenectadyyyyyy
It's a many, an' a many, an' a many a time
Ohhh yes
A many, an' a many, an' a many a time

The only thing that broke up her singing was the coffee pot spewing over the sides and the fire barking at the steam. Then she said, "Never did ask me my name. Dam that stove ta hell, anyhow! Boirl all o' my coffee away!" She grabbed a few cups from nails over the sink and poured one half full in front of every one of us. Then she popped a stopper out of a mean-looking bottle and poured the cups the rest of the way full. "McElroy. That's me! But don't tell me your names," she said to all of us, " 'cause I can't remember names none too good noway. I'll just call you Mr. Broadshoulders, an' you there, lemme see, I'll name you Eel Foot! Mister Eel Foot; an' next, you there with th' music doin's, I'll name you--le's see--Curley."
She jammed the red-hot coffee pot down on the table under my nose, and a half a cupful sloshed out like melted lead and soaked the front part of my britches. I jumped to the floor and fought and fanned the spots where the coffee was scalding me, but she was laughing as loud as the barge would stand it, and yelling, while she downed her hot drink, "Whheeeww! Yipppeee! Flappin' salmon! What's th' matter, Hot Pants? Scorch you?" Her face turned against the lantern light and it was the first time I'd got a real look at her. Weather-whipped and wind-blistered, salt-soaked and frostbit ten thousand times just like the skim that shines across the humps and the swells of the tidewaters. "Mister Hot Pants! Yah! Yah! Yah!" she laughed while I fanned my legs to cool the hot spots.
Her husband in the deal got up and stumbled ten or fifteen feet through a little partition, heaving like a sick horse, and I heard him fall down across some kind of a couch. I watched her drain her cup into her mouth, and men she stuck out her tongue and made a witchy-looking face out through the window at the moon splashing along on the clouds. Will and Carl and me tipped our cups together, held our breath, shut our eyes, and sloshed our mouths full of the fiery mixture.


While she was waiting for us to fall over on the floor, we lit up some smokes, and I sung her another made-up verse:

I've freighted and barged it from New York and up
I drunk my hard likker from a blistering cup
And who was the pride of the brave river boys?
A lass by the name of Miss McElroy.

"Now ain't that perty? Ain't that a slippery shame?'' She only had two teeth in her head, one low and on the left, one high and on the right, but she put a look on her lace like she was a Freshman in a girls' school. "You mighty rum-com-a-tootin'! I wuz th' only female she womern up an down this Goddern slimy warsh! I wuzn't no dam house cat! No flower pot! an' if I wuz jus' twenty-five years younger tonight, I'd give you gents a honest ta God run fer yer marbles!" Then she run the end of her tongue out over her pair of mismated teeth, and tapped the oilcloth of the table, and laughed; and the whole string of barges rocked in the ooze and the bellies of the old rafts pushed against each other, and the waterfront groaned and foamed around the edges.
Songs rippled across the loads of highway rock and dripped off down across the edges, and such songs and such yarns and lies and windy tales as we pulled out of our minds for the next hour or two was never before or since topped by the humans on this planet.
She said she'd had six children, that being pregnant so much had caused her teeth to fall out. Four boys. Three alive. Two girls, both up and gone. She showed us picture post cards of the places one daughter had worked as a taxi-dancer. The other girl lived across the river and come to see her on Sundays. One son used to send picture cards, but he was a merchant seaman, and she hadn't heard from him for over eight months. One son got in jail four or five times for little rackets; then he went out West to work in the mines, and he never wrote much anyhow. Him and his pa was always a-scrappin' when they'd get together, because the old man did believe in being honest as the law allows. They'd of killed each other if the boy hadn'ta left. She was glad he was gone.
"What's this leave you with?" Will asked her.
"Well," she smiled around at all of us just a speck and let her eyes fall away to one side, "let me see. Thirty years o' river freightin', twenty-six years o' married ta th' same man, if ya wanta call 'im a man. This old rotten barge here. Three nice gent visitors, if ya call 'em gentlemen; an' well, a little less th'n a halfa bottle o' perty pore whiskey. Plenty o' hot scaldin' coffee f'r th' nights run, an' ta boot, ta boot, ya might add, I liv'd ta see th' day that by God, I gotta song wrote up about me!"
Will and me excused ourselves and walked out the door. We stood on the edge on the next-door barge, and listened to the water trickle into the Hudson River. The moon was pretty and scared-looking and the clouds chased across the sky like early morning newskids. I could feel a sticky veil of fog settle over the wood and the strings of my guitar, and when I played it, the tone was soft and damp and muffled along the waters. I kept picking off a little tune.
"Been doin' last few days?" Will asked me walking along.
"Awww, nuthin' very much. Singin' 'roun'."
"Chances for any jobs?"
"Yeah, few."
" 'Bouts?"
"Night clubs, mostly.''
"Get on?"
"Well, I, ah, that is, er, ah--I hadda big try-out ta day.
Rockefeller's Center."
"Rockefeller Center! Wow! Come out all right?"
"I come out, all right."
"Walk out on 'em?"
"Goddammit! I jes' had ta walk out, Will! Couldn't take that stuff!"
"Goin' ta keep pullin' them one-man walkouts till you've ruined all of y'r chances here in New York. Better watch y'r step."
"Will, you know me. You know dam good an' well I'd play fer my beans an' cornbread, an' drink branch water, 'er anything else ta play an' sing fer folks that likes it, folks that knows it, an' lives what I'm a singin' 'bout. I'm all screwed up in my head. They try ta tell me if I wanta eat an' stay alive, I gotta sing their dam old phony junk!"
"You'd just naturally explode up in that high society, wouldn't you? But, money's what it takes, Woody."
"Yeah. I know." I was thinking of a girl named Ruth. ''Damit all ta hell, anyhow! Mebbe I jest ain't got brains 'nuf in my head ta see that. But after alla th' hard luck I had, Will, I seen money come, an' money go, ever since I was jest a kid, an' I never thought 'bout nuthin' else, 'sides jest passin' out my songs."
"Takes money, boy. You want to make any kind of a name f'r yourself, well, takes all kinds of money. An' if you want to donate to poor folks all over th' country, that takes money." '
"Cain't I jest sorta donate my own self, sort of?''
Will grunted. "Can't you go back to the Rainbow Room? Not too late, is it?"
I said, "No, not too late, I guess I could go back. I guess I could!"
I looked up at the big tall building. The silence around us seemed to be hollering at me--all right, whatcha gonna do? Come on, runt, make up your mind. This is it! Christ, boy, this is it!

A little tugbout throwing smoke plowed out from ahead of us, and I looked at it working in the smeared water like a black bug kicking up dust.
"This barge a-movin'?" I asked Will.
"Blieve 'tis." He walked a few feet along the back end, made a jump clearing a two-foot gap, and landed back on the McElroy barge. "That barge you're on's gettin' hauled out by that tug! Better throw me y'r guitar! Jump!"
I didn't say anything right then. Will walked alongside where I was moving along and I stalled for a little time, saying, "Looks like it really is a-movin'."
"Jump! Jump quick! I'll catch your guitar! Jump!" He was trotting now at a pretty fair gait. "Jump!"
I set myself down on the hind-end of the moving load of gravel, and lit up a cigaret and blowed the smoke up toward tile long, tall Rockefeller Building. Will had a great big grin in his face there by the light of the moon, and he said, "Got any money on ya?"
I flipped a rock into the water and said, "Mornin' comes, I'll feel in my pockets an' see!"
"But, where'll ya be?"
"I dunno."
My old friend was left behind, panting and all out of breath. I drug my thumb down acrost the strings of the guitar. In the river waters at my feet, I could see the reflection of fire and kids fighting their gang wars and a right young kid up a tree and a mama cat hunting the squeezed-out bodies of her kittens. Clara didn't look burnt and Mama didn't look crazy in that river water, but kind of pretty. I seen the oil on the river and it might have come from somewhere down in my old country, West Texas maybe, Pampa, or Okemah. I seen the Redding jungle camp reflected there too, and the saloons along Skid Row except that they looked awful clean. But mostly I saw a girl in an orchard and how she danced along the mud bank of a river.
Sail on, little barge, heave on, little tug, pound your guts out, work, dig in, plow this river all to hell.
It'll heal over.
Chapter XIX
TRAIN BOUND FOR GLORY

The wind howled all around me. Rain blistered my skin. Beating down against the iron roof of the car, the sheets of rain sounded like some kind of a high-pressure fire hose trying to drill holes. The night was as pitch black as a night can get, and it was only when the bolts of lightning knocked holes in the clouds that you could see the square shape of the train rumbling along in the thunder.
"Jeez!" the kid was laying up as close to me as he could get, talking with his face the other way, "I tink she's slowin' up."
"I'm ready ta stop any old time," I was laying on my side with my left arm around his belly. "I'd like ta git cleaned up 'fore I git ta Chicago."
I listened in the dark and heard somebody yelling, "Hey, you guys! Been asleep?"
'That you, John?" I yelled back at my Negro riding pardner.
"Dis is me, all right! Been asleep?''
"I been about half knocked out!"
''Me, too!" I heard the older kid yell out.
"Youse boids is softies!" the kid I was holding grunted. "How's yo' music box?" "Still wrapped up in them shirts! I'm 'fraid ta even think about it!"
"She's clackin' 'er gait! We'll be stoppin' heah in a few minnits!"
"Hope so! Is this purty close to Chicago?" I was yelling loud as I could.
The little kid put in, "Naaa. Dis ain't ennywheres near Chucago. Dis is Freeport. Tink."
"Illinois?" I asked him.
"Yaaa. Illinoy."
"Son, is yore face got as much dirt an' cinders an coal dust on it as mine's got?"
"How can I tell? I cain't even see yer mug. Too dark."
"I'd give a dollar fer a good smoke."
"Come ta Chi, I'll git youse a smoke from me brudder."
"Wonder if them guys got finished with their fightin` inside th' car?"
"Shucks, man! Dey might of done et each othah up!" John slapped his hand against the back of the kid he was holding.
"I benna listinin' to 'em down through da rooof."
"Shore 'nuff? What're they doin'?"
"Banged aroun' a long time. Cuss'n. Been kinda quiet last few miles."
"Sho' been still! Man, I bet dey jes' natchilly cut one `nothah ta pieces!"
"I'm jest wonderin' how many we're gonna find that-away when this dam train stops. These is good guys. Just outta work. You know how a feller is."
John oozed along on his belly from the end of the car where he had been riding with his head to the wind. I felt him lay down at my side and hold his arm across my ribs to hang onto a plank in the boardwalk. "Seems like dis heah rain jus' holds alla dis train smoke right down on toppa th' train, don' it? I seen 'em befo'. Take a buncha th' bes' workin' fellas in th' worl'. Let 'em jus' git down an' out. No kinda steady job. Jus' makes ya mean's all hell."
"Me ol' man wuz datta way." I could hear the oldest kid talking while he crawled up and laid down alongside of the little one. "He was okay, okay. Man gits outta woik, tho', goes off on a Goddam blink. Wuz two diff'rent fellas. I go upstate now an' visit me maw when he ain't around. Slugged me 'bout a month ago. Ain't seen 'em since." His voice sounded slow and dry in the banging and the rain.
"None a ya mushy talk."
"By gosh, little squirt, ya know, I believe that you talk tougher than that whole boxcar fulla railroad rounders."
"Sho' do."
"I say what I t'ink, see!"
"Okay. Whatta yez men a-gonna do? Dere's de air brakes!"
I lifted my head up and looked over the top of my guitar. I saw the crazy red glares from neon lights cutting against the clouds. Bushes and hedges whizzing past with nice warm smears of electric lights from the windows of houses. Spotlights and headlights from other locomotives shot around in the rain. Chug holes and vacant lots standing full of water shined like new money when the lightning cracked. I tried to keep the buckets of water wiped out of my face long enough to see. "Edge of some town."
"Freeport. Ain't I done told yez oncet?" The runty kid snorted rain out of his nose poking his head over the guitar. "I put da bum on alla dese happy homes. Freeport."
All four of us got up on our hands and knees and listened to the screaking and jamming of the brakes against the wheels. A red-hot switch engine pounded past us. Heat flew from the fire box and every single one of us set down and held our hands out to warm a little. The rain was falling harder. Our car was wobbling along like a crippled elephant. Red and green switch lights looked like melted globs of Christmas candy. A purplish white glare was coming from a danger flare stabbed into a cross tie across the yards to the right. To the left there I could make out a lonesome dull red electric light blinking out through the windows of a burger joint. Headlights from fast cars danced along the highway past the chili places. Our train slowed down to a slow crawl, on both sides nothing but dirty strings of every crazy kind of a railroad car.
"Alla dem bright lites up ahead, dat's de highway crossin'. Bull hangout." The little kid was poking me and pointing.
"Shore 'nuf ? This a tough town?''
"Worse'n dat."
"Hay, dere, Pee Wee. You'n me'd betta unload." The tall kid kept down on his belly and crawled over the end of the roof. "We left our packs in this open machinery car," he explained to me.
"Wid ya." The little kid slipped along and followed him down the ladder.
I eased along on my hands and knees and looked over the end of the roof between the two cars. "Take it easy." I was holding my breath and watching them slip down the slick ladder. The rain and the clouds made it so dark I couldn't see the ground below him. "Watch out fer them wheels, big shot! All right?"
"Made 'er!" I heard him tell me. Then I saw his head and shoulders drop down into the end of the carload of machinery. Just then a bright streak of light shot up along the car. Both kids kept ducked down out of sight, but a man trotted along on the cinders and kept his flashlight beamed on them.
"Hey! Hey!" I heard him bellering out. He mounted the steps of the low car and shot his light over the edge. "Stand up! Stand up! Stand up there, you! Well! I be Goddamed! Where do you senators think you're going?''
The pair of kids' heads raised up between the machinery and the end of the car. Wet. Dirty with coal soot. Hats gone. Hair tangled. Sheets of rain pouring down on them in the bright glare of the cop's light. They blinked and frowned and wiped their hands across their faces.
"Mornin', Cap'n," the little one saluted.
'Tryin' ta git home," the big one was slipping his canvas pack on his back.
The little one grinned up into the flashlight and said, "Little rainy."
"That's a dam dangerous place to ride! Don't you know wet weather makes these loads skid? Beat it! Skat! Hit th' ground!" He motioned with his light.
Both kids slipped over the wall of the car and I rolled across the roof to the right-hand side and waved my guitar over the side at them. "Hey, want yer shirts back?" I swung down the ladder where the cop couldn't see me and hissed at the kids as they walked along beside our train. "Shirts? Shirts?"
Both kids pulled up their britches, laughed a little, and said, "Naaa!"
I swung there on the ladder for a bit watching the little fellers just sort of fade out. Rain. Smoke. All kinds of clouds. Night just darker than hell. I felt a little funny, I guess. Then they was gone. I pulled myself back up on top of the car and said, "Well, John, there goes our ridin' pardners."
"Sho' gone, all right. You still got dem shirts wrapped 'round yo' music box! Keep it dry?"
"Naw." I patted my guitar on the sides. "Couldn't be wetter. They wanted to give 'em to me, so I just took 'em."
"Little tramps some day."
"Well, one thing they gotta teach soldiers is how ta tramp."
"I sho' wish't I could fine me a good fast job of truck drivin'. I'd sho' as hell quit dis trampin'."
"Quiet! Duck down!"
As we oozed across the highway, a high-power spotlight shot its beams from a black sedan under a street light. The train pulled clear of the highway and then stopped. The sedan rolled up at the side of our car, a low siren sounded like a mean tomcat under a barrel. About a dozen harness cops wheeled the boxcar door wide open. Flashlights played around over the sixty-six men while three or four of the patrol cops crawled in the door.
"Wake up!"
"Okay! Pile out."
"Git movin', you!"
"Yes, sir."
"One at a time!"
"Who're you? Where's your draft card?"
"Whitaker's my name. Blacksmith. Here's my draft number."
"Next! Dam! What's been going on in this car? Civil war? How come everybody all tied up? Wrapped up?"
"Greenleaf is my name. Truck mechanic. Well, see, mister officer, we was havin' a sort of a picnic an' a dance in th' car here. Th' engineer hit his air brakes a little too quick. So quite a bunch of us got throwed down. Bumped our heads up against th' walls. On th' floor. Ah. Right here, My draft card. That's it, ain't it? I cain't see with this rag over me eye."
"I don't believe a word of it! Been some trouble in this car! What was it? Next! You!"
"Here's my card. Dynamite man. Lebeque. I broke my fist all to pieces when I stumbled."
"Draft card, bud! What is this? Car load of drunks? All of you smell like liquor!"
"Picolla. There's my number. Oil field driller. Somebody poured a bottle of wine down my back while I was asleep!"
"Asleep. Yeah! I see they left the chipped glass all over your shirt collar, too! Draft cards, men! Move faster!"
"My name's Mickey the Slick, see! I won't lie to yez! I'm a gambler. Da best. I wear good clothes an' I spent good money! I was lookin' all right, new suit, an' ever'ting. Den sombudy popped me with a quart wine bottle. Cracked my head. Ruint my suit! Here's my number, officer!"
"Whoever cracked this man, I wish to congratulate him! Move on! Fall out the door, there! Line op over there by that patrol car with the rest of them!"
'Tommy Bear. Quarter-breed Indian. Mechanic."
"Hey, Cap! Some of these birds are all beat up! Trouble of some kind! Every single one of them has got a busted ear, or a black eye, or a broken fist, or their clothes ripped dam near off! Been a hell of a fight in this car! About fifty of them!"
"Herd 'em out! All in a bunch!" The captain stuck his head in the door. "Match 'em out there under that street light! We'll make 'em talk! Any dead ones?"
"I don't know!" The sarg shot his light around over the car. "I see a few that don't seem to be able to get up!"
"Load 'em out! Git along, you guys! Walk! All of you! Right here under this light! Line 'em up! Finding any dead ones back there?"
"Three or four knocked out! Don't think they're dead! Well pull them out in this rain and wake them up! Load that one right out through the door. Shake him a little. He looks like he's still flickering. How is this one? His eyes are still batting a little around the edges. Stick his face up to the rain. Bring them other two, boys. Help them along. Shake them good. Looks like they might be salvaged. God, they really must have had a knockdown dragout! Hold them up a litlle.
"This boid's okay. Rain brought 'im aroun'."
"March him on over yonder to where the captain is. What's the matter with you dam fool men, anyway? Is this all you've got to do? Fight! Beat the hell out of each other! Why, dam me, I didn't think any of you had that much spunk left in you! Why in the hell don't you spend that much energy working? Walk along, there, stud horse! Walk! Here's these four, Cap. That's all of them."
"They look like a bunch of dam corpses!" The captain looked the crowd over. Then he turned toward the boxcar and hollered, "Any more in there? Look for guns an' knives around on th' floor!"
"Here's a pair!" A big tough looker stood up on top of the car behind John and me. "Duckin' outta sight, huh? Git movin' down dat ladder! Now. Watcha got wrapped up dere, mister?"
"This thing?"
"Dat ting. Corpse a some kind?''
"Guitar."
"Aha. Yodel lay dee hoo stuff, eh?"
"My meal ticket."
"Where you headin', black boy?"
''Anywhere I c'n find some work."
"Woik, eh? Where 'bouts is yer shoit?"
"On his guitar."
"Jeez! Christamighty. Do yez think more 'bout dat music box den yer own back?"
"Mah back c'n take it"
"Drop down dere on de groun'. Now git movin'. Over dere where yez see de whole gang 'round dat street light."
I walked along, shaking the water out of my hair.
John said, "Sho' some bad ol' stormy night,"
"Here's de pair I caught up on toppa de car, capt'n."
"You two line up. Where's your shirt?"
"Ah done tole him, Dis boy heah got it wrapped 'roun' his music box. Rainin'."
"You tryin' to tell me? It's raining! Men! Did you know that? It's raining! Any of you get wet?"
The sarg was shooting his light in our faces and saying, "Wash some of the blood off of this bloody bunch. What was the trouble, fellows? Who started it all? Who beat up who? Out with it Talk!"
The last two officers trotted from the boxcar over to the gang. "Here's their artillery," one of them said. He dumped a double handful of knives and the necks of three wine bottles, "No guns."
"No guns?" The captain looked the knives over. "You could cut a man all to pieces with the neck of one of these broken bottles. How many drunks among them?"
"Smell and see."
"I don't think you could tell by smelling, chief. Some bird broke a whole quart over another one's head. Then two or three other jugs got broke over other's heads. Everybody smells like liquor."
We passed by in double file, the cops guiding us, watching us. The sarg looked at one string of draft cards. The big chief looked at another string.
"You two boys. No draft card? It's th' jail if you haven't got 'em. Huh?" the chief said.
"Too young. Sixteen," one boy said.
"Seventeen," the next one nodded.
"All look okay, chief?"
"You, there! What you got wrapped up there--a baby?" The chief asked me,
"Guitar."
"Ohhh. Well. Why not take it out and plunk us offa ditty? Like this. Dum tee dum. Dum tee dum. Tra la la la la! Yodel layyy dee whooooo! Ha! Ha!" He flumped his coat sleeve and danced around.
"Too wet to play," I told him.
"What th' hell do you bring it out in this stormy weather for, then?" he asked me.
"I didn't order this stormy weather.''
"What's this all over you fellows?" the sarg asked us.
"Cement dust," John talked up by my elbow.
"With all of this rain," the chief asked us, "what's gonna happen to all of you?"
I said, "Gonna turn inta statues. You can set us around in yer streets an' parks, so rich ladies can see how purty we are."
"No, men. I ain't holdin' you for nothin'." The chief looked us over. "I could jail you if I wanted to. But I don't know. Vag. Disturbing th' peace. Fighting. Lots of things."
"Riding the freights," the sarg put in.
"Or just bein' here," I said.
"Tell you one thing, by God. I never did see such a dirty, messy, bloody, beat-up bunch of people in my whole life, and I've been a copper for twenty years. I could toss you men in the jug if I wanted to. I don't know. You see, men...."
A big eight-wheel driver locomotive pounded across the road, throwing steam a hundred feet on each side, easing along, ringing its bell, snorting and letting out a four-time toot on its whistle, and drowned out the chief's talking.
"Westbound," John was telling me over my shoulder. "She's sho' a daisy, ain't she?"
"Mighty purty," I told him.



An old gray-headed hobo trotted past us in the dark, swinging his bundle up onto his back, splashing through the mudholes and not even noticing the patrol men. He got a glimpse of all of us guys there under the light and yelled, "Plenty o' work! Buildin' ships! War's on! Goddam that thunder an' lightnin' to hell! Work, boys, work! I gotta letter right hyere!" He bogged on a few yards past us, waving a white sheet of paper in the dark.
"Work?" One guy broke and trotted hi after the old man.
"Job? Where 'bouts?" Another man swung his bundle under his arm and started off.
"Letter?"
"Lemme see it!"
"Where'd he say?"
"Hey! Old man! Wait!"
"Don't let dat stuff fool yez, men. Tain't nuttin' but justa dam hobo, wid a dam sheeta paper!"
"Seattle ! Seattle!" I heard the old man holler back through the rain. "Work, worrrrrk!"
"Crazy."
"Yuh know, men, they ain't no work out at Seattle. Hell's bells, that's more'n fifteen hundred miles west uv here!"
"Out toward Japan!"
"Th' old man had th' letter right there in his hand!"
"Reckin he's right?"
Three more men tore loose through the dark.
"I know them Seattle people. You cain't beat 'em. Mighty purty women. An', by God, 'they don't write letters, less they mean what they say!"
"I slep' under ever' bridge in Seattle! That's a workin' town!"
"You men going entirely nuts?" a cop asked us.
"I want as close ta Japan as I kin git!" Another man drifted off in the dark.
"Ah wants a crack at that Horehouse Heato man own se'f!"
"Pahdon me, mistah poleese. Is dat train headin' to'd wheah them Japs is fightin'?"
Men sloshed holes of water dry, and bogged off through the spray of wind and rain. Cops stood behind us in the street light, scratching and laughing. I snuffed my nose and squinched my eyes to keep the water from getting me.
"Risin' sun! Wahooo!"
"See ya latah, offisssahh!"
"Rain on, little storm, rain on!"
More men charged after the moving rain. It creaked along, the wet enamel flicking the dim light from the telephone pole where the cops stood around. Big iron wheels groaning along on the shiny rails. Slick ladders. Slippery tin roofs, bucking first to one side, then the other, and the black shapes of the men sticking like waterbugs, sucking on like snails, swaying with the cars, everybody mumbling and talking and cracking jokes back at the storm.
"Did Mr. A. Hitler say we was a nation of sissies?"
Four more men sidled off down and caught onto a boxcar right beside me. Six more slushed along behind them. Eight swung up the ladder at their heels. Whole boxcars littered with men talking and going to fight.
"Read that letter, old man! Yippeee!"
Ten more come up the ladder. Twenty behind them.
I told the cop next to me, "Those boys are shore gonna need some music! Let her rain!" And I shinnied up the iron ladder of the next car.
I hunkered down on top of the car, with John setting right beside me.
"Thunder! Let 'er crack!" An older man was waving his arms like a monk praying on top of a mountain.
"Ain't you th' dam guy I split in th' mouth? I'm sorry, man!"
"You broke a wine bottle over my head? We won' break de nex' wine! By God, we'll drink it! Yah!"
Men rolled around and laughed. Rocked back and forth as the train picked up speed. Smoke rolled back down along the tops of the cars, blotting them almost out. I looked back at the dozen cops standing around under the street light.
"Too bad we cain't ride inside!" I was yelling around at the night riders. "Gonna git wetter'n holy hell!"
"Let 'er ripple! What th' hell d'ya want in a war, boy, a big soft ass cushion? Ha! Ha! Ha!"
"Trot me out a ship needs a buildin'!"
"Whooofff!"
I was having a hard time standing up, blinking my eyes to try to get some cinders out. I looked around with my head ducked down into the wind and smoke.
And in that one blink of my one eye I got another look along the train. Men. A mixed-up bunch of blurred shadows and train smoke. Heard about work. Just heard about it.
"I'm da wattah boy!"
I looked down at my elbow.
"How. How'n th' hell come you two on this here train? I thought you was a long time gone!"
"Nawww. Nuttin' like dat," the little runt spit out into the rain. "Nuttin' like dat."
"This train's a-goin' ta Seattle! Fifteen hundred miles!"
"Yeaaaa."
John was riding at my feet, setting down with his bare back to the wind, talking. "Gonna be one mighty bad ol' night, boys. Rainy."
"Yaaaa."
"Stormy."
"So whattt?"
"We're goin' out ta th' West Coast ta build ships an' stuff ta fight them Japs with, if this rain don't wash us out before we get there!"
"Wid ya. Wid ya."
"Hell! We're fightin' a war!"
"Cut de mushy stuff."
I listened back along the train and my ears picked some low singing starting up. I strained in the storm to hear what the song was. The whoof-whoof of the big engine hitting her


speed drowned the singing out for a minute, and the rattle and creaking of the cars smothered it under; but as I listened as close as I could, I heard the song coming my way and getting louder, and I joined with the rest of the men singing:

This train don't carry no smoker,
Lyin' tongues or two-bit jokers;
This train is bound for glory
This train!

Wet wind curled in the drift of the train and cinders stung against my eyelids, and I held them closed and sung out at the top of my voice. Then I opened my eyes just a little slit, and a great big cloud of black engine smoke pushed down over the whole string of cars, like a blanket for the men through the storm.
THE END
POSTSCRIPT

Bound for Glory was first published in 1943. Since that time Woody Guthrie and his songs have traveled from one end of America to the other.
Woody Guthrie wrote more than 1,000 songs between 1936 and 1954, when he became hospitalized, a victim of Huntington's Disease (chorea).
The songs and ballads of Woody Guthrie have continued to grow in popularity. His songs have become as much a part of America as its rivers, its forests, its prairies, and the people whom Guthrie chronicled in them: 'This Land Is Your Land," "Reuben James," "Tom Joad," "Pastures of Plenty," "Hard Traveling," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh," "Union Maid," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Roll On, Columbia," "Dust Bowl Refugee," "Blowing Down This Old Dusty Road," and 'This Train Is Bound for Glory."
These songs and dozens more have been recorded by Guthrie and other folk singers. Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, The Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, Odetta, and Jack Elliott are among those who have expressed their love and admiration through their loyalty to Guthrie and the songs he wrote.
Woody's songs and his guitar made him a spokesman for the downtrodden everywhere, but he also sang of the beauty of America, a beauty he viewed from the open doors of boxcars as they sped across the country. He saw America from the open road, and he knew its people firsthand.
In 1943 he and his old friend the late folk singer Cisco Houston joined the merchant marine and Woody saw war and the world beyond the oceans.
After the war he briefly rejoined the Almanac Singers, a group that included Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, and others. He wrote a second book, American Folksong, a collection of thirty songs and sketches. A collection of prose and poems by him, Born to Win, 'edited by Robert Shelton, appeared in 1965. He was a member of People's Songs, also with Hays and Seeger. This group was described as a "new union of progressive songwriters."
In the early thirties Woody Guthrie married the former Mary Esta Jennings and in 1942 the former Marjorie Mazia Greenblatt. Woody died on October 3, 1967. He is survived by five children.
назад: CHAPTER ХVII <<

Вуди Гасри. BOUND FOR GLORY (ENGL)
   FIRST PLUME PRINTING, SEPTEMBER, 1983
   CONTENTS
   CHAPTER II
   CHAPTER ХVII
   CHAPTER ХVIII


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