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Part Two Chapter 6
It was drizzling  and mysterious  at the  beginning  of our  journey. I could see that it was all going to be one big saga of the mist. "Whooee!" yelled  Dean.  "Here  we  go!"  And  he  hunched  over  the  wheel  and gunned her; he was back in his element, everybody could see that. We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and non- sense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time,move.
And we moved! We flashed past the mysterious white signs in the night somewhere in New Jersey that say SOUTH (with an arrow) and WEST  (with an arrow) and took the south one. New Orleans! It burned in our  brains. From the dirty snows of "frosty fagtown New York," as Dean called it, all the way to the greeneries and river smells of old New Orleans at the washed-out bottom of America; then west. Ed was in the back seat; Marylou and Dean and I sat in front and had the warmest talk about the goodness  and joy of life. Dean suddenly became tender. "Now dammit, look here, all of you, we all must admit that everything is fine and there's no need in the world to worry, and in fact we should realize what it would mean to us to UNDERSTAND that we're not REALLY worried about ANYTHING. Am I  right?" We all agreed. "Here we go, we're all together ... What did we do in New York? Let's forgive." We all had our spats back there. "That's behind us, merely by miles and inclinations. Now we're heading down to New Orleans to dig Old Bull Lee and ain't that going to be kicks and listen will you to this old tenorman blow his top"--he shot up the radio vo- lume till  the car shuddered--"and listen to him tell the story and put down true relaxation and knowledge."
We all jumped to the music and agreed. The purity of the road.
The white line in the middle of the highway unrolled and hugged our left  front tire as if glued to our groove. Dean hunched his muscular neck,  T-shirted in the winter night, and blasted the car along. He in- sisted I drive through Baltimore for traffic practice; that was all right,except he  and  Marylou  insisted  on  steering  while  they  kissed  and fooled  around. It was crazy; the radio was on full blast. Dean beat drums on the dashboard till a great sag developed in it; I did too. The poor Hudson--the slow boat to China--was receiving her beating.
"Oh man, what kicks!" yelled Dean. "Now Marylou, listen real- ly, honey, you know that I'm hotrock capable of everything at the same time and I  have unlimited energy--now in San Francisco we must go on living together. I know just the place for you--at the end of the regu- lar chain-gang run--I'll be home just a cut-hair less than every two days and for twelve hours at a stretch, and man, you know what we can do in twelve hours, darling. Meanwhile I'll go right on living at Camille's like nothin, see, she won't know. We can work it, we've done it before." It was all right with Marylou, she was  really out for Camille's scalp. The understanding had been that Marylou would switch to me in Fris- co, but I now began to see they were going to stick and I was going to be left alone on my butt at the other end of the  continent. But why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?
We arrived in Washington at dawn. It was the day of Harry Truman's  inauguration  for  his  second  term.  Great  displays  of  war might were lined along Pennsylvania Avenue as we rolled by in our battered boat.  There were 6-295, PT boats, artillery, all kinds of war material that looked murderous in the snowy grass; the last thing was a regular small ordinary lifeboat that looked pitiful and foolish. Dean slowed down to look at it. He kept shaking his head in awe. "What are these people up to? Harry's sleeping somewhere in this town ... Good old Harry ... Man from Missouri, as I am ... That must be his own boat." Dean went to sleep in the back seat and Dunkel drove. We gave him specific instructions to take it easy. No sooner were we snoring than he gunned the car up to eighty, bad bearings and all, and not only that but he made a triple pass at a spot where a cop was arguing with a motorist--he was in the fourth lane of a four-lane highway, going the wrong way. Naturally the cop took after us with his siren whining. We were stopped. He told us to follow him to the station house. There was a mean cop in there who took an immediate dislike to Dean; he could smell jail all over him. He sent his cohort outdoors to question Marylou and me privately. They  wanted to know how old Marylou was, they were trying to whip up a  Mann Act idea. But she had her marriage certificate. Then they took me  aside alone and wanted to know who was sleeping with Marylou. "Her husband," I said quite simply. They were curious. Something was fishy. They tried some amateur Sherlock- ing by asking the same questions twice, expecting us to make a slip. I said, "Those two fellows are going back to work on the railroad in Cali- fornia, this is the short one's wife, and I'm a friend on a two-week vaca- tion from college."
The cop smiled and said, "Yeah? Is this really your own wallet?" Finally the mean one inside fined Dean twenty-five dollars. We told them we only had forty to go all the way to the Coast; they said that made no difference to them. When Dean protested, the mean cop threatened to take him back to Pennsylvania and slap a special charge on him.
"What charge?"
"Never mind what charge. Don't worry about ithati, wise-guy."We had to give them the twenty-five. But first Ed Dunkel, that culprit, offered to go to jail. Dean considered it. The cop was infuriated; he said, "If you let your partner go to jail I'm taking you back to Penn- sylvania  right now.  You hear  that?" All we wanted to  do was  go. "Another  speeding ticket in Virginia and you lose your car," said the mean cop as a parting volley. Dean was red in the face. We drove off silently. It was just  like an invitation to steal to take our trip-money away from us. They knew we were broke and had no relatives on the road or to wire to for money. The American police are involved in psy-chological warfare against those Americans who don't frighten them with imposing papers and threats. It's a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything, and can make crimes  if the crimes don't exist to its satisfaction. "Nine lines of crime, one of  boredom," said Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Dean was so mad he wanted to come back to Virginia and shoot the cop as soon as he had a gun.
"Pennsylvania!" he scoffed. "I wish I knew what that charge was! Vag, probably; take all my money and charge me vag. Those guys have it so damn easy. They'll out and shoot you if you complain, too." There was nothing to do but get happy with ourselves again and forget about it. When we got through Richmond we began forgetting about it, and soon everything was okay.
Now we had fifteen dollars to go all the way. We'd have to pick up hitchhikers and bum quarters off them for gas. In the Virginia wil- derness suddenly we saw a man walking on the road. Dean zoomed to a stop. I looked back and said he was only a bum and probably didn't have a cent.
"We'll just pick him up for kicks!" Dean laughed. The man was a ragged, bespectacled mad type, walking along reading a paperbacked muddy book he'd found in a culvert by the road. He got in the car and went right on reading; he was incredibly filthy and covered with scabs. He said his name was Hyman Solomon and that he walked all over the USA, knocking and sometimes kicking at Jewish doors and demanding money: "Give me money to eat, I am a Jew."
He said it worked very well and that it was coming to him. We asked him what he was reading. He didn't know. He didn't bother to look at the title page. He was only looking at the words, as though he had found the real Torah where it belonged, in the wilderness.
"See? See? See?" cackled Dean, poking my ribs. "I told you it was kicks. Everybody's kicks, man!" We carried Solomon all the way to Testament. My brother by now was in his new house on the other side of town. Here we were back on the long, bleak street with the railroad track running down the middle and the sad, sullen Southerners loping in front of hardware stores and five-and-tens.
Solomon said, "I see you people need a little money to continue your journey. You wait for me and I'll go hustle up a few dollars at a Jewish home and I'll go along with you as far as Alabama." Dean was all beside himself with happiness; he and I rushed off to buy bread and cheese spread for a lunch in the car. Marylou and Ed waited in the car. We spent two hours in Testament waiting for Hyman Solomon to show up; he was hustling for his bread somewhere in town, but we couldn't see him. The sun began to grow red and late.
Solomon  never  showed  up  so  we  roared  out  of  Testament.
"Now you see, Sal, God does exist, because we keep getting hung-up with  this town, no matter what we try to do, and you'll notice the strange  Biblical name of it, and that strange Biblical character who made us stop here once more, and all things tied together all over like rain connecting  everybody the world over by chain touch ... " Dean rattled on like this; he was overjoyed and exuberant. He and I sudden- ly saw the whole country like an oyster for us to open; and the pearl was there, the pearl was there.  Off we roared south. We picked up another hitchhiker. This was a sad young kid who said he had an aunt who owned a grocery store in Dunn,  North Carolina, right outside Fayetteville. "When we get there can you bum  a buck off her? Right! Fine! Let's go!" We were in Dunn in an hour, at  dusk.  We drove to where the kid said his aunt had the grocery store. It  was a sad little street that dead-ended at a factory wall. There was a grocery store but there was no aunt. We wondered what the kid was talking about. We asked him how far he was going; he didn't know. It was a big hoax; once upon a time, in some lost back-alley adventure, he had seen the grocery store in Dunn, and it was the first story that popped into his disordered, feverish mind. We bought him a hot dog, but Dean said we couldn't take him along because we needed room to sleep and room for hitchhikers who could buy a little gas. This was sad but true. We left him in Dunn at nightfall.
I drove through South Carolina and beyond Macon, Georgia, as Dean,  Marylou, and Ed slept. All alone in the night I had my own thoughts and held the car to the white line in the holy road. What was I doing? Where was I  going? I'd soon find out. I got dog-tired beyond Macon and woke up Dean to resume. We got out of the car for air and suddenly both of us were stoned with joy to realize that in the dark- ness all around us was fragrant green grass and the smell of fresh ma- nure and warm waters. "We're in the  South! We've left the winter!" Faint daybreak illuminated green shoots by the side of the road. I took a  deep  breath;  a  locomotive  howled  across-the  darkness,  Mobile- bound. So were we. I took off my shirt and exulted. Ten miles down the road Dean drove into a filling-station with the motor off,  noticed that the attendant was fast asleep at the desk, jumped out, quietly filled the gas tank, saw to it the bell didn't ring, and rolled off like an Arab with a five-dollar tankful of gas for our pilgrimage.
I slept and woke up to the crazy exultant sounds of music and Dean and Marylou talking and the great green land rolling by. "Where are we?"
"Just passed the tip of Florida, man--Flomaton, it's called." Flor- ida! We were rolling down to the coastal plain and Mobile; up ahead were great soaring clouds of the Gulf of Mexico. It was only thirty-two hours since we'd said good-by to everybody in the dirty snows of the North.  We  stopped  at  a  gas  station,  and  there  Dean  and  Marylou played piggyback around the tanks and Dunkel went inside and stole three packs of cigarettes without  trying. We were fresh out. Rolling into Mobile over the long tidal highway, we all took our winter clothes off and enjoyed the Southern temperature. This was when Dean started telling his life story and when, beyond Mobile, he  came upon an ob- struction  of wrangling cars  at a  crossroads  and  instead  of slipping around them just balled right through the driveway of a gas  station and went right on without relaxing his steady continental seventy. We left gaping faces behind us. He went right on with his tale. "I tell you it's true, I  started at nine, with a girl called Milly Mayfair in back of Rod's garage on  Grant Street--same street Carlo lived on in Denver. That's when my father was still working at the smithy's a bit. I remem- ber my aunt yelling out the window, 'What are you doing down there in back of the garage?' Oh honey Marylou, if I'd only known you then! Wow! How sweet you musta been at nine." He tittered maniacally; he stuck his finger in her mouth and licked  it;  he took her hand and rubbed it over himself. She just sat there, smiling serenely.
Big long Ed Dunkel sat looking out the window, talking to him- self. "Yes sir, I thought I was a ghost that night." He was also wonder- ing what Galatea Dunkel would say to him in New Orleans.
Dean went on. "One time I rode a freight from New Mexico clear to LA--I was eleven years old, lost my father at a siding, we were all in a hobo jungle, I was with a man called Big Red, my father was out drunk  in  a boxcar--it started to roll--Big Red and I missed it--I didn't see my  father for months. I rode a long freight all the way to California, really flying, first-class freight, a desert Zipper. All the way I rode over the couplings--you can imagine how dangerous, I was only a kid, I didn't know--clutching a loaf of bread under one arm and the other hooked around the brake bar. This is no story, this is true. When I got to LA I was so starved for milk and cream I got a job in a dairy and the first thing I did I drank two quarts of heavy cream and puked."
"Poor  Dean,"  said  Marylou,  and  she  kissed  him.  He  stared ahead proudly. He loved her.
We were suddenly driving along the blue waters of the Gulf, and at the same time a momentous mad thing began on the radio; it was the  Chicken Jazz'n Gumbo disk-jockey show from New Orleans, all mad  jazz  records,  colored  records,  with  the  disk  jockey  saying, "Don't worry about  inothingi!" We saw New Orleans in the night ahead of us with joy. Dean  rubbed his hands over the wheel. "Now we're going to get our kicks!" At dusk we were coming into the hum- ming streets of New Orleans. "Oh, smell the people!" yelled Dean with his face out the window, sniffing. "Ah! God! Life!" He swung around a trolley. "Yes!" He darted the car and looked in every direction for girls. "Look at iheri!" The  air was so sweet in New Orleans it seemed to come in soft bandannas; and you could smell the river and really smell the people, and mud, and molasses, and every kind of tropical exhala- tion with your nose suddenly removed from the dry ices of a Northern winter. We bounced in our seats. "And dig her!" yelled Dean, pointing at another woman. "Oh, I love, love, love women! I think women are wonderful! I love women!" He spat out the  window; he groaned; he clutched his head. Great beads of sweat fell from  his forehead from pure excitement and exhaustion.
We bounced the car up on the Algiers ferry and found our-selves crossing the Mississippi River by boat. "Now we must all get out and dig the river and the people and smell the world," said Dean, bus- tling with his sunglasses and cigarettes and leaping out of the car like a jack-in-the-box. We followed.
On rails we leaned and looked at the great brown father of wa- ters rolling down from mid-America like the torrent of broken souls-- bearing  Montana logs and Dakota muds and Iowa vales and things that had drowned in Three Forks, where the secret began in ice. Smoky New Orleans receded on one side; old, sleepy Algiers with its warped woodsides bumped us on the other. Negroes were working in the hot afternoon, stoking the  ferry furnaces that burned red and made our tires smell. Dean dug them,  hopping up and down in the heat. He rushed around the deck and  upstairs with his baggy pants hanging halfway down his belly. Suddenly I  saw him eagering on the flying bridge. I expected him to take off on wings. I heard his mad laugh all over the boat--"Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee!" Marylou wa............
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