Hobe's night out
|This was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives.
And maybe it was. They shore seemed happy. Bunch a glass-eyed-swells out dancing in the street. Prohibition ended thirteen hours ago, and they was still dancing, but it was raining now and me and Duke was sbroke.
We hopped the first open freight we saw. We wasn’t so much trying to get away from them and all that happy-happiness as we had a hankering to get otta the rain. It was a bad night to be outside and stone-cold-broke to boot, not that I could point to many good nights to be outside and broke. We was also hungry and old-man-stiff, which is not the same as young-man-stiff, if you catch my drift. In a nutshell, we was a good deal more miserable than we was accustomed to, which is sayin something, believe me.
We sat there in the dark of the car for ten minutes for we knew there was other mugs in there too. We had just gone under an overpass filled with rows of cardboard boxes when a light came through the open doors. Then we saw the three boes staring at us from over in the corner.
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Duke said in startlement.
None of em spoke up even then. They kept staring at us out a the darkness and we at them until our peeps adjusted more, then me and Duke spoke up at the same time.
“Clovis. . . Duke. . .” he said, nodding his head at each of us. “How are you doing this fine night?”
I said, “Bet youse awful dang glad to see us! Duke? You think Willy’s awful dang glad?”
“Awful dang glad,” Duke said.
“Now, if both you kind sirs can manage to not blow your wigs for a minute. . .”
He could see, as we all could see, there was a beaten coming. Duke was already on his feet. Well, not quite, but in the process of getting there by using my bum shoulder to push his self upright. Duke ain't big nor strong, matter of fact, he’s a little bitty fella and thin as a rail, but when he gets his dander up on ya, you best call a cab quick cuz the meatwagon’s on the way.
“You got my book?” Duke asked.
“Duke, Duke, Duke—look Duke, there was all a three pages left in that book!”
“It was my book and I wanted them pages!”
“We wanted them pages,” I corrected.
I heard the slap more than saw it. I noticed Willy’s old floppy sail off his head.
“I can make it up to you. Listen. Will you listen?” Willy was being led by the ear toward the open door. The train had picked up a good deal of speed by this time and we could see the lights in the night whooshing past outside. He had his toes over the edge of the door when he called out, “Make him listen, Clovis!”
“Abyssinia,” Duke said.
“Hold on, now. Go ahead an speak,” I said to Willy. “We’re all ears.”
Willy jerked his head backwards over his shoulder. “I haven’t introduced you to my good friend, Marvin yet.”
Duke and me looked over at the two men still seated in the corner. One was an obvious old bo like us. The other was a kid. Maybe eighteen. Both of them looked wide-eyed with fear.
“Say hello, Marvin,” Willy pleaded.
“Hello,” said the kid. I think he said it. I saw his lips move.
“Say goodbye, Marvin, your so-called friend is leaving,” Duke now held Willy’s head out the door. We could see the terror on Willy’s face and the rain slapping against it.
“Abyssinia,” Duke told him again.
“Marvin is taking us out! Listen to me. Marvin wants to go to a nightclub! Do you hear me? Tell ‘em, Marvin!”
“That’s right,” said Marvin. “Mr. Silver said he knew a good one.”
Though the name Mr. Silver was new to us, we both took a guess.
“Is that right! You gonna show this swell kid a good time in the Big Apple tonight, are ya, Mr. Silver?” I asked. “This your Butter and Egg Man?”
“I’m sure yer all invited,” Willy said. “Tell them, Marvin. They’re invited along, right?”
“By all means,” Marvin said. “The more the marrier!”
Duke bought Willy back from the door and we all took a good look at the kid.
“Okay, what’s your story there, morning glory?” Duke asked.
“It’s my birthday!” the kid said, suddenly delighted. He rubbed his hands along his tweed pants. His shoes were shiny and his hat looked like he just borrowed it recently from Bing Crosby.
“You never been out drinking before?” I asked.
“No sir. It wasn’t legal before but it is now!”
“It wasn’t legal before. That’s what stopped you?”
The kid nodded his head and we all had a good laugh at him.
“You got the lettuce?”
The kid looked blank, then he brightened. “Money, yes sir. Fifty-two dollars!”
We all brightened at that.
The train slowed down around Penn Station and we all jumped out. Turned out to be a happy night after all.