Monday, 15 September 2008

14 September 2008

Louanne and Al Hinkle roared east along Colfax and out to the Kansas plains. Great snowstorms overtook them. In Missouri, at night, Neal had to drive with his scarf-wrapped head stuck out the window with snowglasses that made him look like a monk peering into the manuscripts of the snow because the windshield was covered with an inch of ice. He drove by the birth country of his forbears without a thought. In the morning the car skidded on an icy hill and flapped into a ditch. A farmer offered to help them out. They got all hung up when they picked up a hitch hiker who promised them a dollar if they let him ride to Memphis. In Memphis he went into his house, puttered around looking for the dollar, got drunk, and said he couldn’t find it. They resumed across Tennessee: the rods were busted from the accident. Neal had been driving ninety, now he had to stick to a steady seventy or the whole motor would go whirring down the mountainside. They crossed the Smoky Mountains in midwinter. When they arrived at my sister’s door they had not eaten for thirty hours---just candy and cheese Crax. They ate voraciously as Neal, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph listening to a wild bop record I just bought called “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume. The Southern folk looked at one another and shook their heads in awe. “What kind of friends does Jack have anyway?” they said to my sister. She was stumped for an answer. Southerners don’t like madness the least bit, not Neal’s kind. He paid absolutely no attention to them. The madness of Neal had bloomed into a weird flower. I didn’t realize this till he and I and Louanne and Hinkle left the house for a brief spin in the Hudson, when for the first time we were alone could talk about anything we wanted. Neal grabbed the wheel, shifted to second, mused a minute rolling, suddenly seemed to decide something and shot the car full-jet down the road in a fury of decision. “Allright now Children,” he said rubbing his nose and bending down to feel the emergency and pulling cigarettes out of the compartment and swaying back and forth as he did these things and drove “the time

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