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Part One Chapter 12
In the morning Remi and Lee Ann were asleep as I quietly packed and slipped  out the window the same way I'd come in, and left Mill City with  my canvas bag. And I never spent that night on the old ghost ship--the iAdmiral Freebeei, it was called--and Remi and I were lost to each other.
In Oakland I had a beer among the bums of a saloon with a wagon wheel in front of it, and I was on the road again. I walked clear across Oakland to get on the Fresno road. Two rides took me to Bakers- field, four hundred miles south. The first was the mad one, with a bur- ly blond kid in a souped-up rod. "See that toe?" he said as he gunned the heap to eighty and passed everybody on the road. "Look at it." It was swathed in bandages. "I just had it amputated this morning. The bastards wanted me to stay in the hospital. I packed my bag and left. What's a toe?" Yes, indeed, I said to myself, look out now, and I hung on. You never saw a driving fool like that. He made Tracy in no time. Tracy is a railroad town; brakemen eat surly  meals in diners by the tracks. Trains howl away across the valley. The sun  goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled--Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tange- rine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love  and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments. The madman was a brakeman with the Southern Pacific and he lived in Fresno; his father was also  a brakeman.  He lost his  toe in the  Oakland yards, switching, I didn't quite understand how. He drove me into buzzing Fresno  and let me off by the south side of town. I went for a quick Coke in a little grocery by the tracks, and here came a melancholy Ar- menian youth along the red boxcars, and just at that moment a locomo- tive howled, and I said to myself, Yes, yes, Saroyan's town. 
I had to go south; I got on the road. A man in a brand-new pickup truck picked me up. He was from Lubbock, Texas, and was in the  trailer business. "You want to buy a trailer?" he asked me. "Any time, look  me up." He told stories about his father in Lubbock. "One night my old man left the day's receipts settin on top of the safe, plumb forgot. What happened--a thief came in the night, acetylene torch and all, broke open the safe, riffled up the papers, kicked over a few chairs, and left. And that thousand dollars was settin right there on top of the safe, what do you know about that?"
He let me off south of Bakersfield, and then my adventure began. It grew cold. I put on the flimsy Army raincoat I'd bought in Oakland for three dollars and shuddered in the road. I was standing in front of an ornate Spanish-style motel that was lit like a jewel. The cars rushed by,  LA-bound. I gestured frantically. It was too cold. I stood there till midnight, two hours straight, and cursed and cursed. It was just like Stuart, Iowa, again. There was nothing to do but spend a little over two dollars for a bus the remaining miles to Los Angeles. I walked back along the highway to  Bakersfield and into the station, and sat down on a bench.
I had bought my ticket and was waiting for the LA bus when all of a sudden I saw the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks come cutting across  my sight. She was in one of the buses that had just pulled in with a big  sigh of airbrakes; it was discharging passengers for a rest stop. Her breasts  stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious; her hair was  long and lustrous black; and her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside. I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world. The announcer called the LA bus. I picked up my bag and got on, and who should be sitting there alone but the Mexican girl. I  dropped right opposite her and began scheming right off. I was so lonely, so sad, so tired, so qui- vering, so broken, so beat, that I got up my courage, the courage necessary to approach a strange girl, and acted. Even then I spent five mi- nutes beating my thighs in the dark as the bus rolled down the road.
You  gotta,  you  gotta  or  you'll  die!  Damn  fool,  talk  to  her! What's wrong with you? Aren't you tired enough of yourself by now? And  before I knew what I was doing I leaned across the aisle to her (she was trying to sleep on the seat) and said, "Miss, would you like to use my raincoat for a pillow?"
She looked  up  with  a  smile  and  said,  "No,  thank  you  very much."
 I sat back, trembling; I lit a butt. I waited till she looked at me,with a sad little sidelook of love, and I got right up and leaned over her. "May I sit with you, miss?"
"If you wish."
And this I did. "Where going?"
"LA." I loved the way she said "LA"; I love the way everybody says "LA" on the Coast; it's their one and only golden town when all is said and done,"That's where I'm going too!" I cried. "I'm very glad you let me sit with you, I was very lonely and I've been traveling a hell of a lot." And we settled down to telling our stories. Her story was this: She had a husband  and child. The husband beat her, so she left him, back at Sabinal, south of Fresno, and was going to LA to live with her sister awhile. She left her little son with her family, who were grape-pickers and lived in a shack in the vineyards. She had nothing to do but brood and get mad. I felt like putting  my arms around her right away. We talked and talked. She said she loved to talk with me. Pretty soon she was saying she wished she could go to  New York too. "Maybe we could!" I laughed. The bus groaned up  Grapevine Pass and then we were coming down into the great spraw............
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