Our Lady Of The Blues
Vol. VII, Part 8
The Heart Of The Matter
The formerly complacent mien of the First Class Bos’n’s Mate took on a troubled air. He walked around the ship with knitted brow.
And then he caved in to his desires. If he would never bunk in the Chief’s quarters he could at least create a Petty Officer’s section in First. The other Petty Officers were enthusiastic for the idea so they decided to requisition the port tiers of bunks for themselves.
Pardon called Trueman out of muster: ‘You come along too, Frenchey.’
Both men stepped out of ranks to follow Pardon. Trueman was somewhat surprised because he was usually told where to go over the side and dismissed.
Pardon had dissimulated his longings for far too long. In his own mind he had always considered Trueman as his man just as Dieter had his favorites. He now meant to set up his own little establishment with Trueman as his man. He was going to train Trueman in the fine art of overseeing.
In all his previous work parties Trueman had insisted on equality. No one had ever overseen him nor had he overseen anybody. The work load was shared. He had accepted criticism only from the Petty Officers and that of Castrato only resentfully.
Dieter had trained several of his favorites in the art of overseeing. The overseer has the job of supervising the work making sure paint lines are staight and paint is scaled and applied accurately. He does not participate but stands around observing. An observer is necessary but the act was not part of Trueman’s psychology.
‘OK, you two follow me below into the Deck compartment.’
Dewey stepped in behind Pardon. Frenchey made no effort to move. Always of a sullen mood the attempt on his and Trueman’s lives on the smokestack had made him even more reluctant to participate in shipboard life.
Dewey went back and took Frenchey by the arm to lead him below.
‘Zees ees no going to be, oh, how you say eet in Eenglish, hard, ees eet, Dewey?’
By that Frenchey meant was this going to be another attempt on his life. Trueman didn’t comprehend the meaning.
‘This is the deck force, Frenchey, no rocket scientists allowed. Nothing can be too hard. For Chrissakes this is the Navy; they break everything down so everything can be done by the lowest intelligence. Everything in the Navy is, Frenchey. Then they print manuals that explain everything so that even if you didn’t have anyone to tell you what to do you wouldn’t have to make decisions, difficult or easy. Come on La Frenniere loosen up, we just have to get along in this asshole environment for a few more months. We’re both under a year.
‘Mon nom est Frenchey, Meeshur.’
Trueman was growing weary of that game too.
‘So it is, Frenchey, so it is. My apologies.’
‘OK, Trueman, this job is important, take as long as you need to get it right. Can you do it?’
‘Oh, come on, Pardon, of course I can do it right. But…’ He stepped closer and whispered in Pardon’s ear. ‘…why don’t you take Frenchey and give him something else: Come on, don’t make this harder for me than it has to be.’
Pardon igorned Trueman. “OK, Trueman, you’re in charge of the work detail. Frenchey you take orders from Trueman, OK?’
‘Uh, Pardon, I usually work with someone as a team. No one’s in charge.’
‘Things have changed. You’re in charge on this job. I want you to oversee.’
Trueman groaned inwardly but for once was wise enough not to argue.
They were standing in the new Petty Officer’s quarters on the port side. The Seamen had been relocated to make room for the Petty Officers.
‘This is a pretty simple task and I’m counting on you to do it right Trueman. I got the best man for the job.’ Pardon’s humor was unintentional but Trueman smiled anyway.
‘Oh yeah. Thanks, Pardon.’
‘You see these footlockers? I want you to paint numbers on them one throught twenty-six.’
‘What for? You guys can’t find your footlockers without numbers? Nobody else has numbers. You see, there’s three of these under each tier of bunks. Top bunk get this one on the left, middle-middle, lower, right. No disrespect intended to a man of your seniority Pardon but that’s how it’s been done.’
‘I see you’ve grasped the general principle brilliantly as usual Trueman but I want them numbered, OK? You’ve got the principle down now work on following orders.’
‘A good sailor can geet keeled following zee orders, Meeshur.’ Frenchey put in sullenly.
Pardon ignored Frenchey while Trueman rolled his eyes.
‘Well OK, you want numbers you get numbers. Who’s got the supplies?’
‘Everything is ready for your use, Trueman. Number stencils.’ Pardon said placing his finger on them. ‘Paint.’ He held up two little cans of cream colored paint. ‘And brushes. Now, Trueman explain how you’re going to do this so I know you understand.,’
This detail may sound ridiculous but in the Navy one assumes nothing and even then you’ll be wrong. If there is a way to mess it up, and there always is, it will be messed up.
‘Well.’ Said Trueman. ‘First tell me where number one goes and where I’m supposed to end up.’
‘Nice eye for detail. Alright. This is number one.’ Pardon said placing his hand on a locker. ‘And you end up opposite. Down this side and up the other.’
‘OK. Up this row to the hatch we cross over and come back here.’
‘OK. So these locker lids are each twenty-six inches wide. So I put the single digit numbers exactly in the middle so the numbers are centered right? Double digits one number on each side of center. You don’t want them on the left or right corners?’
‘Excellent, Trueman, excellent.’
‘Uh huh. So far I’m doing all your work for you, Pardon. You’re supposed to be giving me the instructions. And how far back from the edge do you want this?’
‘OK. If I have any questions I’ll call you Pardon.’
‘I know i’ve put the job in the right hands. Fall to, Trueman.’
As Pardon walked away Frenchey said sullenly. ‘I do not like thees, Meeshur Dewey.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I do not see why these Monsewer Petty Officers have to have a separate location.’
‘I know what you mean, Frenchey. I don’t like it either. It seems like they’re really trying to create a class structure. The idea of Third Classes lording it over Seamen really makes me angry. Everyone has always been equal while this arrangement makes them think they’re superior to us but we’ve put in our objections now there’s nothing we can do about it.’
‘Oui, Meeshur.’ Frenchey said with profound seriousness. ‘But I am Sailor. I am not servant. Cleaning ze toilays ees for others. Eef they wan’ to have numbers on their lockers then that ees their personal preference. No one else having ze numbers. They can do eet themselves. I do not clean zee toilays and I do not paint zee numbers. We do not have to do thees personal service.’
‘I understand your point, but I don’t know how we’re going to get out of it, Frenchey.’
‘I weel appeal to zee Capitaine.’
‘I’m not sure he would listen to you on this one, Frenchey. I agree it’s a personal service but I’m not sure that would matter to anyone else.’
‘Eet ees clearly so.’
‘To us, Frenchey, but I don’t think it’s so clear cut that the rules wouldn’t be interpreted against us. You know they want to hang us and you know they won’t stop at murder. Right or wrong I think they would nail us hard if we refused.’
‘Well, we don’ hav’ to do eet well.’
‘C’mon man, I always do my work right.’ Trueman said eyeing Frenchey with apprehension. Deep resentment flowed from Frenchey’s eyes. His justified sense of injury and wrong was dangerously near the surface. Trueman decided to be cautious.
‘Here, you mix up this can of paint, Frenchey, I’ll be right back.’
Trueman went off to find a pencil. When he returned Frenchey was still standing with the paint can in his hand.
‘You go ahead and mix that up.’ Trueman said as he walked over to locker number one. Frenchey sullenly popped the lid, stirring the paint slowly. Trueman carefully numbered each locker in pencil. Then he checked each one counting off the numbers. He wanted no mistakes.
Frenchey had stirred the paint and set the can down. He was going to insist on being told each move. Trueman heaved a sigh as he realized that Frenchey was going to sabotage the job even if his best friend was sabotaged along with it.
‘OK, Frenchey, now measure the locker and put his number one exactly in the middle. See. I put each number in pencil so you can’t make a mistake.’
‘Thees is too deeficult for a mere Deck Ape, Meeshur Dewey.’
‘Uh, why don’t you go find Pardon and tell him the job is too complicated for you. Maybe he’ll relieve you.’
Frenchey went in search of Pardon. An hour or so later he was back fuming and muttering to himself.
‘He say I am to shut up and do as I am told.’
Trueman looked at Frenchey closely. The man was walking the edge. His sense of the injustice of his treatment aboard ship was reaching the breaking point. Trueman had no idea what to do. He just said: ‘Here Frenchey, I’ll show you how.’
Frenchey knew very well how. He could have done the job standing on his head but he wasn’t going to do it.
Dewey demonstrated the method to Frenchey who stood with clenched lips quivering with rage. The job was too much like a personal insult for his sensibilities. He thought that if Petty Officers wanted numbers they could paint them themselves. He was a sailor not a servant. He had his point. He remembered only too well having had to clean the head. Perhaps Castrato and Ratman had prevailed on Pardon to have Trueman and Frenchey do personal service.
Trueman sympathized fully with Frenchey but he could also sense a trap. Just as on the smokestack he knew how to deal with it.
Having explained the task to Frenchey Trueman stepped back to oversee in the prescribed manner. While Trueman worked fast impatient of obstruction or delay just wanting to get the job done Frenchey was a master obstructionist. He was quite prepared to take so much time as to make this job the last he would ever do in the Navy.
He looked up at Trueman watching him: ‘You are a Seaman just like me, Meeshur, Dewey.’
For Trueman this was an irrefutable argument. He certainly would not have stood still for Frenchey’s overseeing himself. Perhaps this was the trap. Neither he nor Frenchey knew how desperately Blaise Pardon yearned for the dignity of the Chief’s quarters. Trueman had no notion that Pardon considered him his fair haired boy nor did Frenchey realize that he and Trueman were considered a pair. Pardon from his point of view had every reason to believe Frenchey would cooperate with Trueman.
Trueman got Frenchey’s point. If he oversaw the job would never get done. If he chipped in and checked Frenchey’s work the job might get done but he couldn’t work and supervise Frenchey’s work at the same time. His anxiety to get the job done won out.
‘OK, Frenchey, I’ll take one through six and the opposite side. You take from the break and that opposite side but you can’t dally. I want to get this job done.’
‘What you say ees fine, Meeshur.’
Dewey and Frenchey went to work. Dewey wanted to please Blaise so he gave his best effort carefully centering the numbers one inch from the edge. He gave a quick check on Frenchey from time to time who seemed to have the job right although intentionally a little sloppier.
The morning had been wasted while only half the afternoon was used effectively. The job was less than half done at knocking off time.
That the job was one that would allow the Petty Officers to lord it over the two Seamen became apparent after dinner. Frenchey bunked closer to the Petty Officers so he was first insulted.
Bent Cygnette, who was only a Third Class called Frenchey over.
‘Hey, Frenchey, goddamn it, look at this. This is pretty sloppy work.’
Frenchey who was ready for them refused to budge.
‘I am not ze one to talk to, Meeshur. I am only humble servant. Messhur Dewey he ees zee overseer. Talk to heem.’
Cygnette called out to Trueman. Trueman feared Cygnette but was alerted by the appeal to Frenchey. He was not going to let a miserable Third Class anything attempt to boss him especially on off hours.
‘What do you want, Cygnette.’ He called over from the starboard side.
‘Get your ass over here and look at this Trueman.’
‘Get your ass over here and explain yourself, Cygnette.’
Cries of ‘ooh, hoo hoo’ rose from several throats.
‘Trueman’s asking for it now.’ The seamen got up ready for a confrontation. But as tough as he acted Cygnette was never ready for a direct confrontation. He always found a way out while seeming to be tough.
“If you’re looking for trouble Trueman I’m your man but this isn’t the time or place. Get over here and look at this workmanship.’
‘I don’t take orders from Gunner’s Mates during hours, Cygnette, and I sure as hell don’t take orders from one after hours. If you’ve got a complaint take it up with Pardon who’s standing right next to you there. He’s your man, I’m not.’
‘You’re a damn mouthy sailor, Trueman.’
Trueman really didn’t want to push it given Cygnette’s reputation as a brawler but he had to speak back.
‘If you’ve got a problem with anybody in deck, Cygnette, take it up with Pardon. I’m sure he’ll be able to help you.’
‘Fuck!’ Cygnette expleted noncommitally.
‘I told you thees ees to humiliate us Meeshur Dewey.’ Frenchey said the next morning as they were back on the job.
‘It’s not like I disagree with you Frenchey but there isn’t anything we can do about it. Let’s just finish the job and get it over with.’
Frenchey made no more demurs and they did finish the job. The numbering looked good. Dewey had returned the tools to the paint locker when Frenchey came up behind him.
‘There ees a problem, Meeshur Dewey.’ The master saboteur said defiantly.
‘What kind of problem, Frenchey?’
‘I have make zee mistake. I have paint zee same number two of zee times.’
‘Frenchey, how could you do that? I numbered the lockers in pencil to prevent that.’
‘I do not know how eet happens, Meeshur, but I know eet ees so.’
After the first day Trueman had approached Pardon to be relieved of Frenchey. He had explained that he could do it better and faster without him. Pardon had been adamant that Frenchey stay on the job.
Trueman assumed that Frenchey had used the same number on either side of the passageway. Now the prospect of stripping half the numbers to repaint them was too much for Dewey. He had no idea of the vindictiveness of the Arizona sailor. Trueman made one of the stupidest mistakes of his life.
‘Aw, just forget it Frenchey, those guys are so dumb they’ll never catch on.’
The anger seething in Frenchey’s soul drove him on. He managed to be in the area when Castrato spotted the error. Technically Frenchey was not responsible as Trueman had been appointed overseer but as Frenchey had rejected an overseer he was actually responsible but so what.
‘Here, look at this, two of the same number. What gives?’
‘I am only ze ‘umble deck hand, Meeshur, I am following zee orders.’
‘You were ordered to use the same number twice?’
‘Messhur Dewey, my overseer, say Petty Officers too dumb to notice.’
Heads snapped around. Pardon stalked over to Frenchey.
‘Trueman said we’re too dumb to notice that?’
‘Oui, oui Meeshur.’
Pardon walked stiff legged across the compartment in high dudgeon.
‘Trueman.’ He began with as much emotion as he had ever been know to exhibit. ‘You’ve got two of the same numbers over here. Come over here and look.’
Trueman, believing the identical numbers were on opposite sides of the aisle was prepared with a humorous patter but he was surprised the Petty Officers, who he sincerely believed were too dumb to notice, had noticed so quickly, walked over to take a look intending to be amazed. When he was shown the lockers nine and ten side by side both with nine stenciled on them but clearly marked nine and ten in pencil he was dumbfounded.
‘And you thought we would be too dumb to notice that?’
Dewey looked at the double dyed perfidious Frenchey standing smugly with his arms folded across his chest. He ceased at that moment to exist for Trueman.
‘Hey, Pardon, I didn’t realize they were next to each other, I thought they were on opposite sides of the passageway.
‘Oh, so you didn’t think we were too dumb to notice them side by side but we’re still dumb enough not to notice them across the aisle?’
That was what Trueman believed but he couldn’t say it. Why, he thought, hadn’t he checked Frenchey’s work out first.
Trueman was hurt. Deep down hurt. Not only had be been betrayed by Frenchey but he had earned the disrespect of the only man aboard that he had respect for and that because he had assumed that he knew what Frenchey had done. The loss of Pardon’s respect was more than he wanted to lose; given his own personality there was no chance now that he had been criticized by Pardon that any raprochement could take place so he threw the relationship to the winds.
‘What the hell did you expect, Pardon? I told you to give La Frenniere another job. I told you he wouldn’t work. He couldn’t accept an overseer and I don’t blame him. I couldn’t accept him or any other asshole deckhand. He simply would not move a finger unless I worked too.
Look at that penciled number, Pardon. There is no possible way that he made a mistake. He hates you; he did it on purpose. Furthermore he hates you with a good reason. Numbering these lockers isn’t Deck work. If you guys wanted numbers it was your responsibility to number them yourselves. We aren’t your personal servants.
Plus you tried to kill him by sending him up on the stack. Why wouldn’t he hate you? You could have stopped that Pardon, you could have intervened but you didn’t. You’re just as guilty of attempted murder as Dieter and that asshole Castrato.’ Trueman perorated pointing a finger at the Second Class.
Having finished he slunk out of the area chagrined at this ruptured relationship with Pardon but subconsciously seething in anger at the First Class because he had permitted the attempt on both La Frenneire’s and his own life.
‘Zat was very well said, Meeshur.’ La Frenniere said following Dewey.
‘Oh shut up La Frenniere, shut up. You asshole. I don’t care how much you hate someone else, I don’t care how justified it is but you never fuck yourself. Get that stupid, you never fuck yourself. And also you never fuck your friends. You’re so stupid, La Frenniere, that you did both. Now get away from me and don’t ever speak to me again.’
‘And cut that phony French crap, La Frenniere. You’re not French; you’re from Arizona.’
La Frenniere had hurt Dewey. He had breached Dewey’s defenses against the indignities of having to associate with men he considered beneath him to whom he would now be open to justified ridicule. Doing his job right had always justified Dewey in his mind against his slovenly deck mates.
Now he took his vengeance out on La Frenniere. The little spell La Frenniere had thrown over the ship to make them call him Frenchey had been dispelled. He had been identified once again as Dennis La Frenniere. He now stood naked before his shipmates just as he had denuded Trueman. No one ever called him Frenchey again. He had to deal with the indignities he felt in his own identity.
His pain at having to face Navy life without his screen as Frenchey was more than he could bear. His personality began to unravel before everyone’s eyes. He took to standing and weeping quietly. It was not his intention to go on a hunger strike but he stopped eating just the same.
He was transferred while Dewey was on leave. Discharged it would take several years before he would be able to function again. You know it ain’t easy; some have to fall by the wayside.
Trueman recovered as best he could but as he had managed to insult everyone in First in his defensive tirade he noticed a definite pressure drop.
Tory Torbrick Redux
Finding a circle is never easy. Cast aside by Trueman Torbrick who was no hail fellow well met was either unwanted by the other sailors or rejected them. The Navy was a tough life. Just as at sea there was water everywhere but none of it was fit to drink so in close proximity to a couple hundred men there were very few with whom one wished to associate.
Guilt bound Torbrick to Trueman so even though Trueman wouldn’t speak to him he ingratiated himself with Roque Da Costa, McLean and Whatley. Soon he was making the trip North with them. Trueman was forced once again to associate with him.
Still convinced that Trueman was insane he continued to behave in a deprecating manner toward him as though he were a technician handling dangerous materials which Trueman found distasteful. Having succeeded in forcing himself on Trueman Torbrick then wanted Trueman to ride in his car rather than theirs.
Dewey had had problems with McLean. Joe in his hatred of Trueman, which is to say himself, always gave preference to Da Costa and Whatley and even Torbrick. After the accident the convertible top had been sprung letting in copious amounts of air which at high speed at night even in Southern California was brisk enough to be uncomfortable.
The cold air overwhelmed the capacity of the heater. The only way to stay warm was to crouch down on the floor in front of the heater. McLean always gave the front seat to Da Costa or Whatley having Trueman ride in the back. Now that was chill. In an effort to keep warm Trueman to McLean’s delight had to lean over the front seat to catch warm air from the heater.
In the blindness of his friendship Trueman was incapable of seeing McLean laughing in delight at his discomfort.
As much as he hated to favor Torbrick the prospect of another November drive in the very nearly open car of McLean of which the top was shredding was too much for Trueman. He took the ride.
As a special reward for some reason the Navy gave the men a Friday off. Thus Trueman and Torbrick set off at five AM for the trip North to take full advantage of the long weekend.
In order to get someone in trouble, to get them to show their ‘true character’ it is necessary to place them in harm’s way. If Trueman having been lured to Tijuana and its whorehouses, had been led into a fight, he would undoubtedly have been taken by the gendarmes to the legendary Tijuana jail. Thus his ‘true character’ would have been revealed.
For the rest of his life he would have had to lie when asked if he had ever been arrested or in jail or defame himself by admitting it no matter in how comical or deprecatory a manner. The key to defaming a person is to create a criminal record for him.
Thus, even though Trueman didn’t have a driver’s license Torbrick insisted that he drive. This even though Trueman freely admitted that the only time he had ever driven a car was the few miles in San Juan Capistrano when he had been hitchhiking.
Driving without a license is a relatively serious violation of the Motor Vehicle Code. Especially so if your driving could be interpreted as dangerous or reckless. If Trueman had considered he would have refused to drive but he was eager to drive so he took the opportunity.
Torbrick had a ’56 Ford. Hard to tell where his old man got the money for that. It was a good driving car. Without being expert Trueman quickly got the knack. By the time they passed the towers of Disneyland he was negotiating the five lanes if not with the relaxed aplomb of the Marine, Bill Baird, at least adequately.
Torbric during the whole journey sat with his back to the door staring at Trueman as though he were some artefact on display at a museum. He had the habit of talking to Trueman as though he were a psychiatrist examining a real psychological oddity which transcended normal experience by too far and a half. Trueman found this exasperating and offensive.
By the time they got through the Stack the smog in LA was biting. LA was perhaps the first city in America to have a real smog problem. They were to have smog alerts in which they were warned to not breathe deeply.
As an interesting aside the hippy cartoonist of the LA Free Press, Ron Cobb, always used to ridicule the LA airport by having all his characters standing around in gas masks. Gasmasks certainly would have been useful at certain times. The restaurant outside the terminal took revenge on him by inventing the Cobb salad. Actually a very tasty salad the ingredients were chopped up into small particles and blended together as they wished they could do to Ron Cobb. It’s really quite funny if you dwell on it a while.
The smog was intense and biting on that day although not hazy but clear. The sun sliced brightly through the air but the acid really smarted causing the eyes to tear. In an effort to avoid blinking Trueman narrowed his eyes into little slits that reduced the area of exposed eyeball. To Torbrick leaning against the door looking at him it looked as though Trueman was driving with his eyes shut.
‘Open your eyes, Dewey. You can’t see the road with your eyes closed.’
‘My eyes are open, Torbrick and I can see the road. If I open them wide it hurts so much I can’t see the road.’
‘N-n-no. You’ve got your eyes closed. I can see it. Open them please.’ Torbrick thought there was no insanity that was beyond Trueman. As unreasonable as it was to suppose that Trueman was driving the Hollywood Freeway with his eyes closed Torbrick persisted in his belief.
‘Look Torbrick, if you’d rather drive I’ll stop the car right here and you can take over.’
‘Oh god, Dewey, you can’t just stop, there’s no place to pull over.’
‘I can stop and I will if you don’t shut up and leave me alone.’ Dewey said in exaperation but not conviction. The threat was enough to silence Torbric who thought Trueman was crazy enough to do it.
Although Trueman enjoyed driving, the trip was the most exasperating and boring that he would ever take. Torbrick was the most commonplace of minds.
They got into Oakland early Friday afternoon. School was not yet out so Trueman dumped Torbrick to go up to Castlemont High to suprise Louise and walk her home.
Castlemont only two years before had had only a few Black students but the Blacks continually arriving from the South had pushed deep into the forty and fifty blocks and were rapidly appropriating the sixties so that in a scant two years Castlemont had become half Black. You want to talk about stresses.
A lot of attention has been paid to White resistance to Black inroads in their neighborhoods but it should be remembered that those Whites were displaced from familiar and loved areas to have to go seek new roots elsewhere. It is wrong to think that Blacks wanted them in the neighborhood. The Blacks felt much more comfortable among their own.
A great many White lives were disrupted as high school students had to try to integrate themselves into new school environments which is an impossible thing to do. The social costs were perhaps higher for the Whites who were displaced than for the Blacks who displaced them.
Dewey had gone to an all White school so he was startled to see so many Black faces. Although he had thought he would walk Louise home, once inside the school he realized that he had no means to find her. Fortunately he ran into Donna Popp who lived up the block from Louise.
Donna was a very nice girl but afflicted with extreme hairiness. Not the light downy kind but the long black hairs that made her resemble a female Wolfman. She overcame this liability by being quite a wonderful person.
‘Oh, Dewey. I’m so glad you’re here. No, Louise skipped school today. She’s not here but don’t leave me, Dewey.’
‘Uh, OK, but why not, Donna?’
‘Gosh, I was late getting out of class. If I don’t get out right away with the rest of the girls the Black guys will rape you.’
‘You’re kidding me.’ Dewey replied, astonished as he looked down the hall at the dozens of Black boys standing around with hungry eyes like tigers lurking in the jungle.
‘They can’t get away with that, Donna.’
‘Oh yes they can. It’s happened to two friends of mine already and Louise had a close call.’
‘But why weren’t they arrested?’
‘Because they’re Black and if they get arrested they’ll cry discrimination and start a riot;.’
The Black guys stared hungrily in Dewey’s and Donna’s direction not sure whether to attempt it or not. Dewey put on his toughest Navy look and stance which established the relationship as he and Donna hurried out.
‘Are you and Louise going to the dance tonight?’
‘I don’t know. Is there a dance tonight?’
‘Uh huh. The homecoming dance.’
‘I’ll ask Louise when I get there. Want me to carry your books?’
Dewey dropped Donna off at her door continuing up the block to the house of Louise. Louise was busy but said that yes they were going to the dance. Dewey wandered off to return later.
Louise and Dewey with a gaggle of her friends entered the gymnasium where the dance was sparsely attended. The transition from a White school to a Black school was apparent in racial tensions that Dewey had never experienced. The Blacks sat on one side of the gym while the Whites sat on the other. The Blacks glared intense hatred and resentment across the basketball court while the Whites rendered impotent by their parents of the Greatest Generation sat and cringed in guilt.
The music was provided by a phonograph. Each side seemed to have a preference for specific records; the Blacks preferring a down home primitive sound while the Whites preferred a more sophisticated Rock and Roll. There may be voices of dissent that Black music was coarse, primitive and really unmusical but then if you haven’t listened to ‘White Port And Lemon Juice’ what can you really have to say? Records were alternated as neither side would take the floor with the others on it.
Dewey watched fascinated unable to envision the tensions that existed in the classrooms. The Blacks, many of them fresh up from ‘Bama had been placed in classes by age not by ability so the quality of education must have suffered severely. Some may say that I am unfairly characterizing the preparation of the Negroes but if you’re going to argue that the quality of education depends on the amount of money spent and that the amount spent on Black schools in the South was much less than that spent on White schools then it logically follows that the Black students fresh from points South had inferior educations and weren’t qualified for their grade years. I mean, really, you are bound to honor your own arguments. Logical consistency has been thrown overboard for racial interests since those times but it never hurts to have a reality check from time to time.
Several of the girls behind Dewey on the bleachers stared anxiously across the gym at some of the Black boys as they discussed them with a mixture of fear and awe and anticipation that they might soon be raped by them with no recourse.
‘See that one; that’s Bobby Thomas. You got to watch him. He’s really after me. I have to get out real quick or he’ll grab me. He’s always got four or five guys around him. You know how it is when they surround you so nobody can see while one of them does it to you. God, right there against the lockers, standing up.’
‘I know, it hasn’t happened to me yet but my friend Marsha got it a week ago. She’s really feeling bad, poor kid, not much you can do about it though. You’ve just got to learn to live with it.’
‘Yeah, but it’s bad enough to get pregnant and have a white baby, who wants a Black one? How do you explain that to anyone?’
‘I know. No one will believe you got raped. They’ll say you asked for it. I can’t even begin to convince my mother how bad it is. She and my dad go on about he fought the Nazis so people could be free. Some freedom. Which people is it that he was trying to make free and which was he trying to enslave? They just tell me not to be prejudiced. They’re just like us they say.’
‘Yeah, except if a White guy raped you you could put his ass in a sling.’
Dewey listened to this with, if not unbelieving ears, astounded ears. He had no idea as yet that life had become a war zone with the advantage on the other side. To make any complaint was to brand oneself as a racist.
In a few years he would learn that a hell on earth had been created by the Founding Fathers and enforced by the Greatest Generation. Trouble was coming everyday, indeed.
Dewey dropped Louise off with a sense of amazement, compassion and pity. Dewey wondered how he would have been able to put up with it.
Louise and her parents were gone on Sunday so after putting around all day with Torbrick they got on the highway at six for the trip back.
About midnight Torbrick began to worry Trueman about staying awake.
‘Look Torbirck I’ve been doing this for months and I’ve never had any trouble staying awake, see? You don’t go to sleep when you’re in someone else’s car.’
‘I know, but tonight might be different. I’d just feel better if you took a couple of these bennies.’ Torbrick said producing a box.
‘I don’t take drugs.’ Dewey snarled.
‘I know, I know. I’m not asking you to take drugs but if you don’t take a couple of these to stay awake you might crash the car and never wake up.’
Dewey gave Torbrick a sharp look, offended that he would try to get Dewey hooked on drugs while posing as his friend.
‘I don’t want to get hooked on drugs, Torbrick, if you’re worried you drive.’
‘You can’t get hooked one time, Dewey. I’d feel better with you driving. C’mon, it’s important to stay awake.’
Dewey reluctantly swallowed one of the pills to shut Torbrick up. The bennie didn’t so much keep him awake as dull his mind and slow his reflexes. The pill didn’t dull his mind so much that he didn’t see the red light of the Highway Patrol flashing behind him. He knew he wasn’t speeding so he didn’t know what it could be. His task now was to make it look like Torbrick was driving.
Tory suppresed a little glee sure that Trueman was in trouble. He made the mistake of getting out of the car when Trueman did. As usual the cop took a long time getting out of his car.
Trueman had walked back towards the police car, Torbrick meeting him behind the Ford. Trueman put the keys in Torbrick’s hand stepping over to the passenger side of him.
The cop got out doing a casual cop power stroll up to the car.
‘Know why I stopped you?’ The cop demanded.
‘Speeding?’ Torbrick said hopefully not realizing that he now appeared to be the driver with keys in his hand.
‘No. You’ve got a taillight out here.’ The cop said tapping the light on the driver’s side which was indeed broken out.
‘Oh, It’s his car.’ Dewey said swiftly getting into the passenger’s seat.
Well, I’m not going to give you a ticket this time but you better get that fixed right away.’
‘Yes, I will officer. Thank you.’
‘By the way, let me look at your driver’s license while I’m here.’
After a quick review Torbrick slid into the driver’s seat.
‘That was pretty slick, Dewey. He didn’t even know you were driving.’
‘I didn’t think it was too bad myself. Home, Torbrick.’
They both laughed. Dewey had avoided danger while Torbrick glanced at him admiringly but this was the last time Dewey elected to ride with Torbrick. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a driver’s license which was a risk he could accept but he deeply resented Torbrick’s having forced the bennie on him. If he hadn’t known before he now knew that Torbrick was not a true friend.
He wondered who had broken the taillight which had been intact in San Diego. It didn’t occur to him to suspect Joe McLean who would be the author of that little trouble and many another woe.
The two men walked aboard the Teufelsdreck while it was still pitch black.
THIS SIDE OF BIG RIVER.
A Journey Of Twenty-five Hundred MIles Begins With A Single Step.
Our Lady had hired his assassin but in his excitement he had forgotten to arrange for Dewey to be out on the highway; a small detail but an essential one.
By now Yisraeli had a pretty good psychological profile on Trueman. As he hadn’t gauged the conflicts raging in Dewey’s mind but dealt only with external manifestations Our Lady found him unpredictable. He had discerned Trueman’s predilection for novelty and he had found his enemy easily suggestible.
He had Kanary and a few of his confederates plant the notion of hitchhiking across country in Dewey’s mind. Hitching across country is no light matter; hitching is always dangerous; nobody knew that better than Trueman so he turned a deaf ear to the notion.
Time was of the essence as the lawyers say. Dewey had to be gotten off the bus quickly. If Trueman had little cash on him he still had two years of allotments sent to the bank in the Valley. He could have afforded to fly without any difficulty. Cursed by his mother of the Steel Womb he had been persuaded by her to allocate half his wages against the future. As J.P. Morgan once said: People always have two reasons for going anything; a good reason…and the real one.
Had Dewey sat down and reasoned the matter out he would have realized that even the good reason for foregoing his present wasn’t good enough. He wasted three years punishing himself by extreme poverty for no good reason. Three of the best years of his life which he should have been enjoying were thrown into a steel womb. But then that wasn’t his mother’s real reason. The real reason was that she would never stop punishing him for not having been a girl.
If questioned she would have said she wasn’t aware of it but that would have been nonsense too. There is no unconscious. In the way of the psychotic she just didn’t consciously acknowledge her motives to herself. And so Dewey scrubbed his best interests to buy a ticket for a bus ride he knew he wouldn’t be able to tolerate.
That’s where Our Lady got his leverage.
He kept the pressure on. Thus while his confederates were extolling the virtues of hitching Dewey was ruminating on the horrible prospect of that bus ride.
His fellows kept up a patter about fabulous hitchhiking feats. One lucky guy had caught a non-stop ride to New York City a few seconds after he put his thumb out. By alternating as driver he made it back in forty-eight hours. Forty-eight hours! Now there was incentive.
It was even proved, as it were, that by using some mathematical formula by dividing the speed of light by the retrograde motion of Mars that you could actually be in New York before you had debunked in San Diego. Dewey’s interest had been piqued but he had already bought the bus ticket.
Kanary reported the situation disconsolately to Yisraeli. Our Lady instructed Kanary to deal directly with Trueman himself taking him by the hand if necessary to get a refund on the ticket and then to lead him to the highway. Kanary protested that Trueman would never trust him. Kanary made the mistake of projecting his perception of their relationship on Trueman believing Trueman hated him as much as hated Trueman.
It was true that Trueman distrusted Kanary but Yisraeli had divined that Trueman’s desire to be liked would easily overcome a feeling of distrust by a display of apparent friendship. Kanary did as he was instructed. His guilt and hatred was such that he was not able to project much friendliness. Trueman remained suspicious but as he really did want to be liked he lowered his guard. Kanary took him to the bus station he get his refund.
Kanary then told him that he knew an excellent location to begin. Here there is no accounting for Trueman’s stupidity. He knew there was only one highway East out of San Diego. He knew that Kanary flew to San Francisco and never hitchhiked anywhere so there was no reason for him to know a good place to stand heading East.
Another remarkable thing in Trueman’s conduct is that he never consulted a map or carried one. he had an excellent general notion of the layout of the country; he knew where all the cities were in relation to the othr cities so he always knew the general direction he wanted to go. That was good enough for him.
A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step but the problem remains where the first step will be taken. Yisraeli himself had a crazy scheme that shouldn’t have worked but it almost did. This was really a case of dumb and dumber.
Yisraeli’s plan was to send Trueman North out of San Diego through San Bernardino and Barstow. Somewhere in that distance his agent, Dalton Dagger, was supposed to murder Trueman leaving the body out in the desert for the rodents to gnaw.
Dewey knew 99 thoroughly and was familiar with 101 but he had never been East or gone North up 395.
Highway 101 runs border to border on the West side of the Coast Range while 99, now Interstate 5, runs from border to border between the Coast Range and the ranges of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades. Highway 395 which ran from border to border on the East of the Sierras and Cascades was uncharted territory.
Dewey knew the lay of 395 in San Diego because it ran down the length of Balboa Park. From that knowledge he knew there was no good hitchhiking access. Kanary said he would show him where. That was such a nice little service on Kanary’s part for a a man he didn’t like that it should have made Dewey go back to the bus station for his ticket. But it didn’t.
On the morning of December 13th Dewey and Kanary could be seen picking their path through the traveling derricks toward the gate of the Naval Station. In a peculiar homosexual ritual Kanary carried his wallet and personal effects held chest high in his two hands like the talisman of a princess conducting the victim to the place of execution.
Trueman was amazed that Kanary could leave the ship on a weekday morning but then that’s why Yeoman is such a sensitive post. Not only does all correspondence pass through their hands but they have great discretionary latitude with their time. Describing Kanary’s Naval career would be another large branch of this story containing much revealing detail. But as the sage said: That’s another story.
As they walked through Balboa Park Kanary was no longer able to conceal his disgust and hatred. He kept three paces behind Trueman as though he were herding a sheep to the slaughter.
They came to an overpass above a deep thirty foot cut with steep ivy covered embankments and no shoulder. Dewey was incredulous.
‘You got to be kidding Kanary. I thought you said you knew a good access place. That’s dangerous. It’s high speed and there’s no place for a car to pull over. Jesus, I’m liable to be picked up by the cops before I get a ride.’
‘Well.’ Said Kanary with ill concealed scorn. ‘You can always take the bus.’
‘Yeah, but I’d waste a whole day now.’
‘That’s the way it is.’ Kanary sniggered. He now considered his self made enemy as good as dead. ‘So long.’ He said holding his purse up breast high with a little bow. ‘If I never see you again it will be too soon.’ He turned casting a hateful glance over his shoulder at Trueman and walked away. Teal Kanary had been quite successful in darkening his own world. He thought the impending doom of Trueman would be a lightning flash to illuminatie it.
Dewey was perplexed. He wasn’t clear yet that he was heading North but the highway was not propitious for hitchhiking. He looked up the highway but he couldn’t see a better place to start. Grumbling to himself he crossed the overpass scrambling down through the ivy of a very steep embankment. The curb was abutted to the roadbed so there was no place for cars to pull over. Standing with one foot in the ivy while the other was propped up nearly chest level on the embankment he surveyed the old concrete cracked two lane road, one each way, as he put his thumb out. The cars whizzed by; there seemed no propect for a ride.
‘Oh god, I’ve been set up.’ He realized belatedly. ‘If the cops get here first so much for my leave.’
The psychological necessity for the perpetrator is to see the victim entangled in his mesh. They will always come to see. The fellow you know who stands to watch you in your toils is the man who set you up. If they are really devious they will send a decoy as a scapegoat to draw your attention if they think you’re hep. Then they come along second or stand further in the background but they always come to watch. There are some devious people out there.
As Dewey stood there the car bearing Yisraeli, Beverly and Anne was speeding toward him.
Both Beverly and Anne had entered the plot with glee. Beverly who was still reeling under the blows of fate was only too glad to pass her torment on to another. Move that monkey along. Like so many deluded folk she though she could liberate herself by putting that monkey on someone else’s back.
Anne, who had been told that Dewey was her brother’s murderer, was only too glad to see the victim before ‘justice’ was done.
Dewey like any good hitchhiker made eye to eye contact with every passing driver. Thus for a hundred feet he watched the occupants of the oncoming car seeming to laugh and point at him. Our Lady drew his finger across his throat as they passed as an indication that Dewey was to be terminated.
Drivers sometimes did strange things as they passed. This was one of the strangest. Dewey noted it because of its strangeness. The only interpretation he could make of it was that a cop was close behind.
Yisraeli’s plan was not overly complicated but it had a number of uncontrolled variables. Dalton Dagger was supposed to be right behind Yisraeli to pick Trueman up. Yisraeli, who was not without a sense of humor, wanted to joke with Trueman. Aboard ship when Yisraeli’s confederates had told the story of how the hitcher’s first ride had been coast to coast they were setting Dewey up. Thus when Dewey would ask how far Dalton Dagger was going his very first ride would a non-stop to the Valley. Then when Dalton murdered Dewey on the highway to Barstow, Our Lady would have a great laugh.
However Dalton was not that reliable. Punctuality and Dalton spoke only from a distance over a great chasm so he wasn’t even close to beginning. Yisraeli’s plan was already getting sketchy.
By some miracle the car behind Yisraeli did stop to pick up the sailor. Trueman blessed his luck while a line of cars piled up behind his ride who obviously had to stop in the middle of the single Northbound lane. Even though the car had stopped almost in front of Trueman by the time he slammed the door there were ten irate drivers behind.
‘I’m only going as far as Escondido.’
‘That’s alright. Thanks for getting me out of that spot. I’m amazed you stopped, especially since all those driver’s got so angry.’
‘Ahh, nothin’. I do what I want. I’m king of this or any other road. If they don’t like it let ’em suck my exhaust pipe. I stop where I damn well please.’
Dewey was always too concerned about the rights of others. He both admired and condemned the driver’s self-centered attitude but he could have used a little of it.
Yisraeli had noticed Trueman being picked up in his rear view mirror so he kept his eye on the car until he could swing off the highway and come back on the on ramp and get behind it. Thus when Trueman took up his position in Escondido he was amazed to see the same people laughing and pointing at him again.
There were not nearly so many traveling to Riverside and San Bernardino as there re were to LA so three hours later he was still in the same place as the local traffic passed him by. He began to reflect that this was the 13th. Not superstitious but wary of superstitions he began to wonder why he would have picked a day like the 13th to begin. Of course he hadn’t. He’d been managed into it by Yisraeli through his surrogate Kanary but Dewey had forgotten or never noticed. Our Lady always was a joker.
The sun was going down when a car pulling an airstream stopped to pick him up. Dewey thought they were merely an exuberant couple as they headed up the highway. But then as the car and airstream swerved across the lane into oncoming traffic Dewey realized that they were not only exuberant but exceedingly drunk. He tried to keep his cool as the distance between the drunks and the oncoming car closed.
‘Don’t you think you should change lanes?’ He politely inquired as the grille of the oncoming car loomed in exquisite detail in his vision.
‘Arrr, you’re not one of them goddamned nervous nellies are you?’ The driver jocularly asked as the car and airstream drifted back across the line as the whites of the oncoming driver’s eyes loomed large in Dewey’s sight.
‘Say, why don’t you come up to the cabin and loosen up and have a good time with us?’
‘Oh now, I’d like to, you know, but I’ve only got a two week leave and I’m going back home.’
‘Awww, screw home. Forget it. Come on and spend a couple weeks with us.’
‘That’s a terrific offer but I think I’ll go home. It’s been a long time.’
All this time the car and airstream were weaving across the line. Dewey began to curse Kanary wishing he’d taken the bus instead. There was no doubt in his mind that he was going to die on that highway. But then the road to Lake Elsinore appeared on the left.
‘Come with us.’ The driver iterated.
‘No. I’ve got to get out.’
The driver feinted a turn then let Dewey out into a twilight in which the sun had already disappeared.
‘Good luck in the dark on this road, honey.’ The driver’s wife gloated maliciously as Dewey shut the door.
Dewey became apprehensive as night did indeed follow. But then, miraculously, a car stopped in front of him.
‘I’m not going very far.’ The driver who was a young guy of twenty-five said.
He was a malicious fellow. He drove Dewey down the highway another twenty miles then dropped him out in the blackness in the middle of nowhere. Then he continued on down the highway to San Bernardino with a sour laugh.
Dewey began to lament the error of his ways. The night was pitch black. There were no streetlights or light of any kind. He was dressed in his blues with his dark blue raincoat. The hat on his head was his only light colored garment. ‘Aw, Jesus.’ He lamented. ‘Nobody is going to be able to see me. I’ll probably still be here in the morning.’
The road was no 101 much less a 99; there were very few cars passing by. In the dark of the night and his own mental gloom Dewey lost all track of time imagining that it was much later than it was. Only a couple cars passed by over the space of two hours as Dewey stood back by the side of the road. Gradually he realized he couldn’t even be seen. He had no chance. His only hope was to stand out in the highway like a specter, jumping back out of the way as the cars passed. He did this a couple times over the space of an hour until he felt the danger of the maneuver when a car swerving to the side of the road to avoid him nearly took him out. Cursing his decision to hitch for the stupidity it was he had resolved to wait it out till morning not realizing how early it was when, standing off to the side as he was without even his thumb out, a car passed screeching to a stop a quarter mile down the road.
Dewey was sure they’d drive off when he got to them so rather than run he began a leisurely stroll.
‘Come on. Hurry up. Run. We stopped for you didn’t we?’
Dewey did run and he was not disappointed.
‘How far are you going?’ Dewey asked.
‘Oh way, all the way to San Bernardino?’ Dewey said with relief. ‘Thanks a lot.’
‘Why didn’t you run sooner?’ The driver’s girl friend asked. ‘We wouldn’t have waited forever.’
‘I didn’t even think you’d see me as dark as it is and all.’ Dewey replied apologetically.
‘You’re darn lucky we did in those dark clothers. You should have worn your white suit.’
‘Good idea but I can’t. Dress blues are the traveling uniform.’
They dropped him off at the main intersection of San Bernardino.
San Bernardino was the birth place of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. As such Dewey had always avoided the place. Berdoo was a tough working class city situated on the East edge of the LA megalopolis with Mt. Whitney, the highest place in the then United States to the northwest and Death Valley the lowest place in the US to the East.
Now Dewey was thoroughly disoriented. Because of the long duration of the short trip of only a hundred miles from San Diego he imagined that it was three or four in the morning while it was not yet midnight.
He was astonished to see the drag full of dragsters on a Thursday night. ‘God, they must never let up in San Bernardino.’ He thought. And in truth they didn’t.
As the raucus dragsters rolled thorugh the intersecition Dewey became completely turned around. In his turmoil he imagined it must be Friday night. That put the dragsters in the proper perspective but Dewey had lost a day.
As he stood at the intersection his confusion increased. He began to wonder why he was going North when he sould be going East. Thus he made the mistake of turning East into San Bernardion. He soon found that it wasn’t easy to walk along the drag in uniform. Not only were the dragsters less civilized and more abusive than on Lankershim but the worst of his fears was realized when a cop car braked to a stop across his path.
Dewey began to curse Teal Kanary because this cop could terminate his leave by sending him back to the base. If that happened the Navy would still consider him on leave so he would be unwanted while he had wasted precious time making it impossible to go on. As he had no money or at least not enough to pay for two weeks ashore he began to suspect that Kanary had done him an intentional disservice.
The LAPD might have been mean but at least they were slick with a fine sense of style. San Bernardino could compete with Oakland for klutzes. The cop was young, not more than twenty-three or twenty-four. He was the worst. He hoped to make the LAPD from Berdoo but it was a hopeless wish. The distance between a criminal and a cop is as narrow as an attitude. Like the criminal the cop had been on the short end of the stick through high school. Unlike the CWOB the CWB is not willing to sacrifice his well being to get back at society. CWBs are sadistic; CWOBs are masochistic. So the CWB joins the force where he can get away with bullying citizens. Young cops especially like bullying young men. This one had just gotten out of the Navy so he carried a grudge against sailors.
Dewey held his breath.
‘You hitchhiking son?’ How they love to demean a man by calling him son.
‘Well, yeah.’ Dewey said apologetically, not having the chutzpah to deny an obvious fact. ‘I’m going home on leave for Christmas and I’m just passing through.’ It was a chance Dewey thought he had to take. If the cop sympathized he would wave him on , if he were hard nosed Dewey would be in the squad car.
‘You’re out of bounds, bub.’ Every CWB ignored the out of bounds rule. This guy sounded like he was going to enforce it.
‘I don’t need an out of bounds pass, I’ve got my leave papers. I’m going back to Michigan for Christmas. Dewey said, humbling himself to death.
‘Let’s see ’em.’
Dewey flipped open his raincoat and indicated the papers in his inside pocket. He didn’t want to hand them over to the cop because once he gave them up the CWB might not give them back. These guys, always nasty, could be quite vicious; they could get mean enough to hurt without any reason. Psychocops on the loose.
‘Hand them to me and your ID too.’ There was a rude peremptoriness in his tone that dared Dewey to either give it back or eat dirt. Well, you couldn’t expect a decent person to take the job, could you?
Dewey forked over his leave papers and Navy ID.
‘I want your driver’s license too, boy.’
‘Don’t have one.’
‘What do you mean you don’t have one? Everybody’s got one; don’t lie to me boy. I can make you wish you never did.’
‘I don’t have one. My step-father wouldn’t let me drive and since I don’t have a car I don’t need one. If I had a car I wouldn’t be standing here now, would I?’ Dewey said showing more irritation than he should have. Any show of spirit drives this type of cop mad. The CWB looked at him sharply but as he thought Dewey had previously been suitably humble if not obsequious the cop threw Dewey’s ID and leave papers at his feet.
‘Here’s what I can’t figure; if you say you’re going to Michigan what are you doing on this road?’
‘Well, this is going East isn’t it?’
‘This is East alright boy, but you’ve got to go North if you want to go East. All this road will do is lead you up to Arrowhead. Go back to the intersection and take a right. If you do that I won’t take you in. But remember, if I come back in a couple hours and you’re still hitchhiking I’m going to take you in. Now, get going.’ He commanded.
Dewey stooped to pick up his ID while cursing the cop under his breath. On the bright side the CWB had probably saved him several hours from going the wrong way. On the other hand he would have missed his rendezvous with Dalton Dagger and might have had a relaxing time at the lake. Not Dewey, he wasn’t that flexible.
Back on the highway Dewey stood for an hour until a car pulled over. The driver had no sooner opened his mouth than Dewey groaned inwardly. Another one.
In point of fact the homo was justified in thinking Dewey was out for some action. The highway over the pass was virtually unused from sundown to sun up. Dewey was standing in the middle of a strip of bars; logically what other reason could he have for hitching there. If time was of the essence Dewey was wasting his. One can only assume that Our Lady was having the laugh of his life. How was this for a joke?
‘What’s a good looking sailor like you doing out by the side of the road at one in the morning?’ The dark visaged homo asked.
‘i’m on leave; trying to get to the East.’
‘Oh yes, to be sure.’ The driver lisped. ‘Short a little money? Well, it’s awfully hot in here. My heater is extremely efficient, if you get my drift. Open up your coat.’ He commanded obviously eyeing Dewey’s crotch. Dewey realized this was going to be a short ride.
‘That’s alright. I’m comfortable.’ Dewey replied.
‘You mean you’re not going to open your coat?’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘Well, listen Mister, let me explain the facts of life to you. Nobody rides for free.’
‘Well, then, let me out. I don’t want to pay the fare.’
‘I certainly will let you out you prick teasing bastard.’
Dewey was dropped a hundred yards or so outside the Berdoo city limits. He was beginning to feel desperate. He was not crossing the country at a forty-eight hour pace. Heck, he wasn’t even crossing the country. He was still going North.
The cop who had harassed him passed slowly by. On the other side of the city limits the cop knew Dewey was beyond his jurisdiction, but, oddly enough, there are no greater lawbreakers than the police; they have immunity. Maybe, the cop reasoned, Dewey would resist arrest whereby he could be charged with that.
In hesitating the cop had driven by. Dewey was in a state of panic as he watched him turn around. But as the cop was pulling up opposite Dewey a huge tractor and double bottom drew between to offer Dewey a ride. Dewey thankfully heaved his bag up in preparation to scrambling in the cab while Abe Griswold, the driver, grinned down insolently at the SBPD.
A Rolling Stone On The Lost Highway
I was totin’ my bag
Along that dusty Berdoo Road
When along came a semi
With a high and canvas covered load.
‘If you’re goin’ ‘cross the mountain pass
With me you can ride.’
So I climbed up in the cabin
And settled down inside.
He asked me if I’d ever seen a road
With so much dust and sand.
And I said: ‘Listen Bud,
I’ve traveled every road in this here land.
I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere,
Across the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere.
-Hank Snow ‘I’ve Been Everywhere.’
Abe Griswold wasn’t really that generous a character; he just really enjoyed thumbing his nose at authority. Like many truck drivers he had no place in the structure of society. His place was no place so he was continually in motion and always at home.
He was quick. From his perch high above the road he had seen the little drama unfolding as the CWB circled back to harass Trueman. Having foiled the cop he laughed down at him with a sneer as the CWB shook his fist at him.
An added incentive for Abe was the novelty of seeing a sailor hitching on this highway so he not only had the privilege of thwarting authority but he was going to have a laugh at Trueman’s expense too.
His cab was one of those huge old monsters. Maybe a White or a Freightliner, no cab over, the snout extended out in front of the windshield to the horizon. You could have played football in the cabin it was so big.
The truck roared unmercifully; the noise was deafening, the vibrations set your teeth rattling.
Abe wanted to talk. Through practice he had adjusted his hearing and vocal projection so that he could both hear and speak over, or rather, through the terrific din. Dewey’s voice was light and high. While he tried to comply with Abe’s wishes his voice wasn’t strong enough to stand the strain.
He managed to explain to Abe that his destination was Michigan which raised Abe’s eyebrows and brought a suppressed smile to his lips at what he considered rightly an eccentric route. He decided Trueman must be a real original.
Abe explained that he would drop him off at the foot of the pass on the desert floor. Abe picked up gravel on the other side of the moutains hauling it back to Riverside. His bottoms were empty at the time.
He advised that he wouldn’t hit the desert floor until surise offering to let Dewey use his fair sized sleeping quarters behind the seat. Abe seemed to be somewhat reminiscent of the satyr so rather than be at his mercy alseep Dewey chose to stay awake.
The big rig having passed through the gears, which are something like ten or fifteen, it labored up the pass. Abe did have designs on Dewey but he was more the rapist than the seducer so Dewey was alright so long as he stayed awake. The main road led straight over the pass but there was a long loop to the North that Abe took hoping to outlast Dewey, taking him while he was asleep. Then he could dump the sailor out of the cab a million miles from nowhere. It might be a couple days before Dewey reached civilization if he ever did.
Dazed by the noise and the incredible bumpiness of the ride which shook his internal organs in fifteen different directions there was no chance Dewey would go to sleep.
Having completed the loop the big rig crested the summit. Abe just let that big double bottom screech on down the mountain side. What little Dewey could see of the mountain in the headlights was bleak and sere. Bare rock climbed sheer outside the windows giving the impression they were in a chute or very narrow canyon.
As Dewey watched with eyes wide Abe didn’t even touch the brakes he just guided that monster missile down the grade. The scream of the engine seemed to increase to match the roar of the wind howling by. The canvas covers of the bottoms flapped and whistled while the sides of the empty bottoms began alternate concave and convex fluctuations with a deep bellow.
Dewey’s eyes opened wide as terror began to show on his face. As he stared out the windshield he could see that Abe was overdriving his headlights by a considerable distance. The light from the headlights was still on the canyon walls as they flashed by. Dewey thought Abe had lost control. Laughing like a madman Abe enjoyed Dewey’s terror.
They rolled through the pitch darkness for what seemed like hours until disgorging unto the desert floor they arrived at the crack of dawn.
The transition from mountain pass to desert floor was complete in a moment. It seemed as though the mountain range was set on the level desert floor without any intervening hills or grades. Abe finally touched the brakes bringing that huge twenty wheeler to a stop.
‘I take a right here. Get another load of mountain from the East side and drive it over to the West side. Moving mountains is what I do for a living. Just keep going on this highway and it’ll take you East. Watch out for the coppers now. So long pal.’
Dewey thanked Abe, jumped down and watched him drive off laughing madly.
Dewey wondered what the joke was. Then he began to look aorund as rosy fingered dawn lighted up the desert landscape. On taking stock of his situation he realized what a diabolical old jokester Abe was. All life was just a quip in the cosmic comedy to him.
Dewey took a full half hour to orient himself on the deserted highway. He wasn’t very successful. He had been up a full twenty-four hours now. His nerves were tingling from the terror of the ride with Abe Griswold. He had covered a couple hundred hundred miles due North away from his goal. Not a propitious start; he could give up his forty-eight hour hopes.
As he was dwelling on his misfortune rosy fingered dawn disappeared and the sun blazed up in the East like a big red rubber ball. Dewey had become so disoriented he thought the sun was rising in the West and thought nothing of it.
Every where he looked he saw nothing but bare ground. No grass, no bushes, no trees. He was in the desert; nothing but rocks and dirt. He looked back to where he had come. The mountains rose abruptly from the Mojave floor. The highway disappeared into the slot of the defile from which the truck had emerged so that it appeared that the road ended abruptly at the mountain side. The mountains rose up sere; nothing green was visible.
Dewey turned slowly around. Everywhere he looked there was nothing but yellowish-redish-brownish dirt. Way off across the valley foor in the distance another even more sere mountain range rose. If more sere was possible, and it was.
‘Jesus Christ.’ Dewey thought. ‘This is the desert.’
Dewey had been standing for an hour without a single car passing as the reality rather than the nature of desert pressed itself on his mind.
‘Not exactly a well traveled road.’ He observed to himself trying to make light of his situation.
Then he began to feel warm enough to take off his coat. As he did he remembered that deserts were hot, dry unforgiving places as in the song Cool Water: Keep a movin’ Dan, he’s a devil not a man, and he spreads the burnin’ sands with water.’ It occurred to him that he could dehydrate and die by the side of the road with a glass of ephemeral water in his hand. After all he’d had nothing to drink since breakfast the previous day.
Anxiety seized him as he thought he understood what Abe was laughing about. Dewey was the cosmic joke. Two hours after he arrived he was still waiting for the first car to pass.
As of three o’ clock the previous day Yisraeli hadn’t realized that Dalton Dagger had not yet left. When Showbaby told him that Dagger was still fiddling with his car Our Lady panicked. His heart was set on Dewey’s death at this time in this way. He threw caution to the winds and made further contact with Dalton. That was of course Dalton’s wish. Dagger was not a passive instrument in Yehouda’s hands; he had his game too.
He’d already spent the thousand he’d been able to collect. Even though he’d accepted it in lieu of half payment he felt he’d been cheated which he had and would be. Now confronted with his employer he obstinately held out for his other thousand.
Yisraeli replied that as he hadn’t even left yet he would only give it to him in Barstow because he had jeopardized if not destroyed the Porn King’s plans.
Yisraeli was desperate. He knew that it would be extremely difficult to get rides on the Berdoo road so he surmised or hoped that Dewey wouldn’t have passed through Barstow before he could get there.
He placated Dagger by promising, Our Lady Of The Blues, was a great promiser, the additional thousand if and when he got Dewey in his car. Dagger laughed out loud when Yisraeli said he wanted his thousand back if they missed Trueman.
Yisraeli took first things first and bundled Dalton into the latter’s car and drove straight through to Barstow where Our Lady passed the night in a motel while Dalton nursed his grudge against Yisraeli in his car as he had no money for a room.
Yisraeli called Showbaby instructing him to cruise the highway in the hopes of locating Trueman. Showbaby had gotten as far as San Bernardino the previous night when he actually spotted Trueman getting into Griswold’s truck. An inquiry told him the probable destination of the gravel carrier. He took a room in a motel rising with the sun as he began a slow cruise over the pass hoping to spot the victim.
By eleven o’ clock two cars had passed Dewey both going the other way. At eleven-fifteen Abe returned from the gravel pit to honk at him as he turned for the pass. Shortly thereafter a car emerged from the defile to the Mohave floor. This was Showbaby. He couldn’t miss Dewey as he was the only spot of color moving in the desert within miles. The temperature was rising and Dewey was getting desperate. Still, he couldn’t help noticing the leisurely pace of Showbaby’s car and the manner in which he stopped before him as though he were looking for him. Dewey slid in.
Showbaby treated Trueman to the cool detestation which is the lot of the victim. Zion drove at a very leisurely pace as they passed through Victorville toward Bartsow. He neither spoke nor acknowledged Trueman’s presence. He never said how far he was going.
Annoyed by what seemed to be a sinister attitude and the slow pace Trueman was about to ask to be let out when Barstow hove on the horizon.
‘This is as far as I’m going.’ Showbaby said indicating with a thrusting forefinger that Trueman was to get out.
Then he turned into the lot of the motel and to Yisraeli and Dagger who were waiting.
Yisraeli who mailed his porn everywhere had a few customers in Barstow. Generally speaking his customers revered him as a porno saint. They little knew that he was merely a businessman who really had scant respect ofr them.