In the kitchen he found Jim, the other boarder, eating mush very languidly, with a sick, far-away look in his eyes. Jim was a plumbers apprentice whose weak chin and hedonistic temperament, coupled with a certain nervous stupidity, promised to take him nowhere in the race for bread and butter.
Why dont you eat? he demanded, as Martin dipped dolefully into the cold, half-cooked oatmeal mush. Was you drunk again last night?
Martin shook his head. He was oppressed by the utter squalidness of it all. Ruth Morse seemed farther removed than ever.
I was, Jim went on with a boastful, nervous giggle. I was loaded right to the neck. Oh, she was a daisy. Billy brought me home.
Martin nodded that he heard, it was a habit of nature with him to pay heed to whoever talked to him, and poured a cup of lukewarm coffee.
Goin to the Lotus Club dance to-night? Jim demanded. Theyre goin to have beer, an if that Temescal bunch comes, therell be a rough-house. I dont care, though. Im takin my lady friend just the same. Cripes, but Ive got a taste in my mouth!
He made a wry face and attempted to wash the taste away with coffee.
Dye know Julia?
Martin shook his head.
Shes my lady friend, Jim explained, and shes a peach. Id introduce you to her, only youd win her. I dont see what the girls see in you, honest I dont; but the way you win them away from the fellers is sickenin.
I never got any away from you, Martin answered uninterestedly. The breakfast had to be got through somehow.
Yes, you did, too, the other asserted warmly. There was Maggie.
Never had anything to do with her. Never danced with her except that one night.
Yes, an thats just what did it, Jim cried out. You just danced with her an looked at her, an it was all off. Of course you didnt mean nothin by it, but it settled me for keeps. Wouldnt look at me again. Always askin about you. Shed have made fast dates enough with you if youd wanted to.
But I didnt want to.
Wasnt necessary. I was left at the pole. Jim looked at him admiringly. How dye do it, anyway, Mart?
By not carin about em, was the answer.
You mean makin blieve you dont care about them? Jim queried eagerly.
Martin considered for a moment, then answered, Perhaps that will do, but with me I guess its different. I never have cared much. If you can put it on, its all right, most likely.
You should a ben up at Rileys barn last night, Jim announced inconsequently. A lot of the fellers put on the gloves. There was a peach from West Oakland. They called m The Rat. Slick as silk. No one could touch m. We was all wishin you was there. Where was you anyway?
Down in Oakland, Martin replied.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|