Sunday, 22 February 2009

16 February 2009

irrigation ditches and shady dells---the places where little boys go swimming---produce a bug like the bug that bit Frank Jeffries. He had his arm draped over the broken door and was just riding along and talking happily with us when suddenly a bug flew into his arm and imbedded a long stinger in it that made him howl. It had come out of an American afternoon. He yanked and slapped at his arm and dug out the stinger and in a few minutes his arm had begun to swell. He said it hurt. Neal and I couldn’t figure what it was. The thing was to wait and see if the swelling went down. Here we were heading for unknown southern lands and barely three miles out of hometown, poor homely old hometown of childhood, a strange feverish exotic bug rose from secret corruptions and sent fear in our hearts. “What is it?” “I’ve never known of a bug around here that can make a swelling like that.” “Damn!” It made the trip seem sinister and doomed. It was a parting farewell from our native land. Did we know our native land so well? We drove on. Frank’s arm got worse. We’d stop at the first hospital and have him get a shot of penicillin. We passed Castle Rock, came to Colorado Springs at dark. The great shadow of Pike’s Peak loomed to our right. We bowled down the Pueblo hiway. “I’ve hitched thousands and thousands of times on this road” said Neal. “I hid behind that exact wire fence there one night when I suddenly took fright for no reason whatever.” We all decided to tell our stories, but one by one, and Frank was first. “We’ve a long way to go” preambled Neal “and so you must take every indulgence and deal with every single detail you can bring to mind---and still it won’t be all told. Easy, easy,” he cautioned Frank who began telling his story “you’ve got to relax too.” Frank swung into his life story as we shot across the dark. He started with his experiences in France but to round out ever-growing difficulties he came back and started at the beginning with his boyhood in Denver. He and Neal compared times they’d seen each other zooming around on bicycles. Frank was nervous and feverish. He wanted to tell Neal everything. Neal was now arbiter, old man, judge, listener, approver, nodder. “Yes, yes, go on please.” We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad where Hal Chase

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