Sunday, 7 September 2008

07 September 2008

Pittsburgh. I was wearier than I’d been for years and years. I had three hundred and sixty five miles yet to hitch hike to New York and a dime in my pocket. I walked five miles to get out of Pittsburgh and two rides, an apple truck and a big trailer truck, took me to Harrisburg in the soft Indian Summer rainy night. I cut right along. I wanted to get home. It was the night of the Ghost of the Susquehanna. I’d never dreamed I’d get so hung up. In the first place I didn’t know it but I was walking back to Pittsburgh on an older highway. Neither did the Ghost. The Ghost was a shriveled, little old man with a paper satchel who claimed he was heading for “Canady.” He walked very fast, commanding me to follow, and said there was a bridge up ahead we could cross. He was about sixty years old; talked incessantly of the meals he had, how much butter they gave him for pancakes, how many extra slices of bread, how the old men had called him from a porch of a charity home in Maryland and invited him to stay for the weekend, how he took a nice warm bath before he left; how he found a brand new hat by the side of the road in Virginia and that was it on its head; how he hit every Red Cross in town and showed them his veteran World War 1 credentials; how they treated him; how the Harrisburg Red Cross was not worthy of the name; how he managed in this hard world and sometimes sold neckties. But as far as I could see he was just a semi-respectable walking hobo of some kind who covered the entire Eastern Wilderness on foot hitting Red Cross offices and sometimes bumming on Main Street corners for a dime. We were bums together. We walked seven miles along the mournful Susquehanna. It is a terrifying river. It has bushy cliffs on both sides that lean like hairy ghosts over the unknown waters. Inky nights cover all. Sometimes from the railyards across the river rises a great red locomotive flare that illuminates the horrid cliffs. It was drizzling too. The little man said he had a fine belt in his satchel and we stopped for him to fish it out. “I got me a fine belt here somewheres---got it in Frederick Maryland. Damn, now did I leave that thing on the counter at Fredericksburg? “You mean Frederick.” “No, no Fredericksburg Virginia!” He was always talking about Frederick Maryland and Fred-

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