Читать онлайн «High Hunt»
“I thought the Old Lady told me you graduated.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but I’m going on to graduate school.”
“No shit?” He looked impressed. “I hear that’s pretty rough.”
“I think I can hack it.”
“You always were the smart one in the connection.”
“How’s your beer holding out?” I asked him, shaking my empty can. I was starting to relax. We’d gotten past all the touchy issues. I lit another cigarette.
“No sweat,” he said, getting up to get two more. “If I run out, the gal next door has a case stashed away. We’ll have to replace it before her old man gets home, but Marg ought to be here before long, and then I’ll have wheels.”
“Hey,” I called after him. “I meant to ask you about that. I thought your wife’s name was Bonnie.”
“Bonnie? Hell, I dumped her three years ago.”
“Didn’t you have a little girl there, too?”
“Yeah. Joanne.” He came back with the beer. I noticed that the trailer swayed a little when anyone walked round. “But Bonnie married some goof over at the Navy Yard, and he adopted Joanne. They moved down to L.A.”
“And before that it was—”
“Bernice. She was just a kid, and she got homesick for Mommie.”
“You use up wives at a helluva rate, old buddy.”
“Just want to spread all that happiness around as much as I can.” He laughed.
I decided that I liked my brother. That’s a helluva thing to discover all of a sudden.
A car pulled up outside, and Jack turned his head to listen. “I think that’s the Mama Cat,” he said. “Sounds like my old bucket.” He got up and looked out the window. “Yeah, it’s her.” He scooped up the empty beer cans from the coffee table and dumped them in the garbage sack under the sink. Then he hustled outside.
They came in a minute or so later, Jack rather ostentatiously carrying two bags of groceries. I got the impression that if I hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have bothered. My current sister-in-law was a girl of average height with pale brown hair and a slightly sullen look on her face. I imagine all Jack’s women got that look sooner or later. At any rate Margaret didn’t seem just exactly wild about having a strange GI brother-in-law turn up.
“Well, sweetie,” Jack said with an overdone joviality, “what do you think of him?”
I stood up. “Hello, Margaret,” I said, smiling at her as winningly as I could.
“I’m very happy to meet you, Dan,” she said, a brief, automatic smile flickering over her face. She was sizing me up carefully. I don’t imagine the pint and the half-full beer can on the coffee table made very many points. “Are you stationed out here at the Fort now?” I could tell that she had visions of my moving in on them as a semipermanent houseguest.
“Well,” I said, “not really what you’d call stationed here. I’m being discharged here is all. As soon as they cut me loose, I’ll be moving back up to Seattle.” I wanted to reassure her without being too obvious.
She got the message. “Well, let me get this stuff put away and then we can talk.” She pulled off the light coat she was wearing and draped it over one of the kitchen chairs.
I blinked. She had the largest pair of breasts I’ve ever seen. I knew Jack liked his women that way, but Margaret was simply unbelievable.
“Isn’t she something?” Jack said, leering at me as he wrapped a proprietary arm about her shoulders. The remark sounded innocent enough, but all three of us knew what he meant.
“Come on, Jack,” she said, pushing him off. “I want to get all this put away so I can sit down.” She began bustling around the kitchen, opening cupboards and drawers. The kitchen area was separated from the living room by a waist-high divider, so we could talk without yelling.
“Dan just got back today,” Jack said, coming back and plunking himself on the couch. “He’s been in Germany for a couple of years.”
“Oh?” she said. “I’ll bet that was interesting, wasn’t it, Dan?”
“It’s got Southeast Asia beat all to heck,” I said.
“Did they let you travel around any—I mean visit any of the other countries over there?”
“Oh, yeah. I visited a few places.”
“Did you get to London at all? I’d sure like to go there.” Her voice sounded a little wistful.
“I was there for about ten days on leave,” I told her.
“I never made it up there,” Jack said. “When I was with the Sixth Fleet, we stayed pretty much in the Mediterranean.”
“Did you get to see any of the groups while you were in London?” Margaret persisted. She really wanted to know; she wasn’t just asking to have something to say.
“No,” I said. I didn’t want to tell her that groups weren’t particularly my thing. She might think I was trying to put her down.
“My wife’s a group-nut,” Jack said tolerantly. “That one cabinet there is stacked full of albums. Must be twenty of the damn things in there.”
“I dig them,” she said without apologizing. “Oh, Jack, did you get the kids to bed OK?”
“All fed, bathed, and tucked in,” he told her. “You know you can trust me to take care of things.”
“Patsy’s been getting a little stubborn about going to bed,” she said. “She’s at that age, I guess.”
“I didn’t have no problems,” Jack said.
“Are you guys hungry?” she asked suddenly. Woman’s eternal answer to any social situation—feed ’em. It’s in the blood, I guess.
“I could eat,” Jack said. “How about you, Dan?”
“Sure you can,” he insisted. “Why don’t you whip up a pizza, Mama Cat? One of those big ones.”
“It’ll take a while,” she said, opening herself a beer. She turned on the overhead light in the kitchen. She looked tired.
“That’s OK,” he said. “Well, Dan, what are you going to do with yourself now that you’re out?” He said it as if he expected me to say something important, something that would impress hell out of Margaret.
“I’ll be starting in at the U in October,” I told him. “I got all the papers processed and got accepted and all by mail. I’d have rather gone someplace else, but they were going to bring me back here for separation anyway, so what the hell?”
“Boy, you sure run rampant on this college stuff, don’t you?” He still tried to use words he didn’t know.
“Keeps me off the streets at night.” I shrugged.
“Dan,” Margaret said. “Do you like sausage or cheese?” She was rummaging around among the pots and pans.
“Either one, Margaret,” I said. “Whichever you folks like.”
“Make the sausage, sweetie,” Jack said. He turned to me. “We get this frozen sausage pizza down at the market. It’s the best yet, and only eighty-nine cents.”
“Sounds fine,” I said.
“You ever get pizza in Germany?” Margaret asked.
“No, not in Germany,” I said. “I had a few in Italy though. I went down there on leave once.”
“Did you get to Naples?” Jack asked. “We hauled in there once when I was with the Sixth Fleet.”
“Just for a day,” I said. “I was running a little low on cash, and I didn’t have time to really see much of it.”
“We really pitched a liberty in Naples,” he said. “I got absolutely crazed with alcohol.” We drifted off into reminiscing about how we’d won various wars and assorted small skirmishes. We finished the pint and had a few more beers with the leathery pizza. Margaret relaxed a little more, and I began to feel comfortable with them.
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