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High Hunt

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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“What’s the matter?” she sneered. “Afraid an MP might catch you with it?”

“Not particularly,” I said.

“Forget him Clydine,” the other one said. That stopped me.

“Is that really your name?” I asked the little one.

“So what?”

“I’ve just never met anybody named Clydine before.”

“Is anything wrong with it?” she demanded. She was very short, and she glared up at me belligerently. “I’m not here for a pickup, fella.”

“Neither am I, girlie,” I told her. I dislike being called “fella.” I always have.

“Then you approve of what the government’s doing in Vietnam?” She got right to the point, old Clydine. No sidetracks for her.

“They didn’t ask me.”

“Why don’t you desert then?”

Her chum pitched in, too. “Don’t you want to get out of the country?”

“I’ve just been out of the country,” I objected.

“We’re just wasting our time on this one, Joan,” Clydine said. “He isn’t even politically aware.”

“It’s been real,” I told them. “I’ll always remember you both fondly.”

They turned their backs on me and went on handing out pamphlets.

Farther up the street another young lady stopped me, but she wasn’t offering politics. She was surprisingly direct about what she was offering.

Next a dirty-looking little guy wanted to give me a “real artistic” tattoo. I turned him down, too.

Farther along, a GI with wasted-looking eyeballs tried to sell me a lid of grass.

I went into another bar—a fairly quiet one—and mulled it around over a beer. I decided that I must have had the look of somebody who wanted something. I couldn’t really make up my mind why.

I went back on down the street. It was a sad, grubby street with sad, grubby people on it, all hysterically afraid that some GI with money on him might get past them.

That thought stopped me. The four hundred I’d won was in my blouse pocket, and I sure didn’t want to get rolled. It was close enough after payday to make a lone GI a pretty good target, so I decided that I’d better get off Pacific Avenue.

But what the hell does a guy do with himself on his first night back in the States? I ticked off the possibilities. I could get drunk, get laid, get rolled, or go to a movie. None of those sounded very interesting. I could walk around, but my feet hurt. I could pick a fight with somebody and get thrown in jail—that one didn’t sound like much fun at all. Maybe I could get a hamburger-to-go and jump off a bridge.

Most of the guys I’d come back with were hip-deep in family by now, but I hadn’t even bothered to let my Old Lady know I was coming back. The less I saw of her, the better we’d both feel. That left Jack. I finally got around to him. Probably it was inevitable. I suppose it had been in the back of my mind all along.

I knew that Jack was probably still in Tacoma someplace. He always came back here. It was his home base. He and I hadn’t been particularly close since we’d been kids, and I’d only seen him about three times since the Old Man died. But this was family night, and he was it. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have driven a mile out of my way to see him.

“Piss on it,” I said and went into a drugstore to use the phone.

“Hello?” His voice sounded the same as I remembered.

“Jack? This is Dan.”

“Dan? Dan who?”

Now there’s a great start for you. Gives you a real warm glow right in the gut. I almost hung up.

“Your brother. Remember?” I said dryly.

“Dan? Really? I thought you were in the Army—in England or someplace.”

“Germany,” I said. “I just got back today.”

“You stationed out here at the Fort now?”

“Yeah, I’m at the separation center.”

“You finishing up already? Oh, that’s right, you were only in for two years, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, only two,” I said.

“It’s my brother,” he said to someone, “the one that’s been in the Army. How the hell should I know?—Dan, where are you? Out at the Fort?”

“No, I’m downtown.”

“Pitchin’ yourself a liberty, huh?”

“Not really,” I said. “I’ve only got three more days till I get out, and I think I’ll keep my nose clean.”

“Good idea—hey, you got anything on for tonight? I mean any chickie or anything?”

“No,” I said, “just kicking around. I thought I’d just give you a call and let you know I was still alive, is all.”

“Why don’t you grab a bus and bag on out? I’d come and pick you up, but Margaret’s workin’ tonight, and she’s got the car.”

“Your wife?”

“Yeah—and I’ve got to watch the kids. I’ve got some beer in the fridge. We can pop open a few and talk old times.”

“All right,” I said. “How do I find the place?”

“I’m out on South Tacoma Way. You know which bus to take?”

“I think I can remember.”

“Get off at Seventy-eighth Street and come down the right hand side. It’s the Green Lodge Trailer Court. I’m in number seventeen—a blue and white Kenwood.”

“OK,” I told him. “I’ll be out in a half hour or so.”

“I’ll be lookin’ for you.”

I slowly hung up. This was going to be a mistake. Jack and I hadn’t had anything in common for years now. I pictured an evening with the both of us desperately trying to think of something to say.

“Might as well get it over with,” I muttered. I stopped by a liquor store and picked up a pint of bourbon. Maybe with enough anesthetic, neither one of us would suffer too much.

I sat on the bus reading the ads pasted above the windows and watching people get off and on. They were mostly old ladies. There’s something about old ladies on buses—have you ever noticed? I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but whatever it is, it makes me want to vomit. How’s that for an inscription on a tombstone? “Here Lies Daniel Alders—Old Ladies on Buses Made Him Want to Puke.”

Then I sat watching the streets and houses go by. I still couldn’t really accept any of it as actuality. It all had an almost dreamlike quality—like coming in in the middle of a movie. Everybody else is all wrapped up in the story, but you can’t even tell the good guys from the bad guys. Maybe that’s the best way to put it.

The bus dropped me off at Seventy-eighth, and I saw the sickly green neon GREEN LODGE TRAILER COURT sign flickering down the block. I popped the seal on the pint and took a good belt. Then I walked on down to the entrance.

It was one of those “just-twenty-minutes-from-Fort Lewis” kind of places, with graveled streets sprinkled with chuckholes. Each trailer had its tired little patch of lawn surrounded by a chicken-wire fence to keep the kids out of the streets. Assorted broken-down old cars moldered on flat tires here and there. What few trees there were looked pretty discouraged.

It took me a while to find number seventeen. I stood outside for a few minutes, watching. I could see my brother putzing around inside—thin, dark, moving jerkily. Jack had always been like that—nervous, fast with his hands. He’d always had a quick grin that he’d turn on when he wanted something. His success with women was phenomenal. He moved from job to job, always landing on his feet, always trying to work a deal, never quite making it. If he hadn’t been my brother, I’d have called him a small-time hustler.

I stood outside long enough to get used to his face again. I wanted to get past that strangeness stage when you say all kinds of silly-ass things because most of your attention is concentrated on the other person’s physical appearance. I think that’s why reunions of any sort go sour—people are so busy looking at each other that they can’t think of anything to say.
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