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Chapter 15


Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for

thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Proverbs 27:1

OUTSIDE, WITHOUT planning it, I headed us toward the Salvation Army mission. Margrethe kept quiet and held tight to my arm. I should have been frightened; instead I was boiling angry. Presently I muttered, 'Damn them! Damn them!'

'Damn who, Alec?'

'I don't know. That's the worst of it. Whoever is doing this to us. Your friend Loki, maybe.'

'He is not my friend, any more than Satan is your friend. I dread and fear what Loki is doing to our world.'

'I'm not afraid, I'm angry. Loki or Satan or whoever, this last is too much. No sense to it. Why couldn't they wait thirty minutes? That hot fudge sundae was practically under our noses - and they snatched it away! Marga, that's not right, that's not fair! That's sheer, unadulterated cruelty. Senseless. On a par with pulling wings off flies. I despise them. Whoever.'

Instead of continuing with useless talk about matters we could not settle, Margrethe said, 'Dear, where are we going?'

'Eh?' I stopped short. 'Why, to the mission, I suppose.'

'Is this the right way?'

'Why, yes, cert -' I paused to look around. 'I don't know.' I had been walking automatically, my attention fully on my anger. Now I found that I was unsure of any landmarks. 'I guess I'm lost.'

'I know I am.'

It took us another half hour to get straightened out. The neighborhood was vaguely familiar but nothing was quite right. I found the block where Ron's Grill should be, could not find Ron's Grill. Eventually a policeman directed us to the mission... which was now in a different building. To my surprise, Brother McCaw was there. But he did not recognize us, and his name was now McNabb. We left, as gracefully as possible. Not very, that is.

I walked us back the way we had come - slowly, as I wasn't going anywhere. 'Marga, we're right back where we were three weeks ago. Better shoes, that's all. A pocket full of money - but money we can't spend, as it is certain to be funny money here... good for a quiet rest behind bars if I tried to pass any of it.'

'You're probably right, dear one.'

'There is a bank on that corner just ahead. Instead of trying to spend any of it, I could walk in and simply ask whether or not it was worth anything.'

'There couldn't be any harm in that. Could there?'

'There shouldn't be. But our friend Loki could have another practical joke up his sleeve. Uh, we've got to know. Here - you take everything but one bill. If they arrest me, you pretend not to know me.'

'No!'

'What do you mean, "No"? There is no point in both of us being in jail.'

She looked stubborn and said nothing. How can you argue with a woman who wont talk? I sighed. 'Look, dear, the only other thing I can think of is to look for another job washing dishes. Maybe Brother McNabb will let us sleep in the mission tonight.'

'I'll look for a job, too. I can wash dishes. Or cook. Or something.'

'We'll see. Come inside with me, Marga; we'll go to jail together. But I think I've figured out how to handle this without going to jail.' I took out one treasury note, crumpled it, and tore one corner. Then we went into the bank together, me holding it in my hand as if I had just picked it up. I did not go to a teller's window; instead I went to that railing behind which bark officials sit at their desks.

I leaned on the railing and spoke to the man nearest to it; his desk sign marked him as assistant manager. 'Excuse me, sir! Can you answer a question for me?'

He looked annoyed but his reply did not show it. 'I'll try. What's on your mind?'

'Is this really money? Or is it stage money, or something?'

He looked at it, then looked more closely. 'Interesting. Where did you get this?"

'My wife found it on a sidewalk. Is it money?'

'Of course it's not money. Whoever heard of a twenty-dollar note? Stage money, probably Or an advertising promotion.'

'Then it's not worth anything?'

'It's worth the paper it's printed on, that's all. I doubt that it could even be called counterfeit, since there has been no effort to make it look like the real thing. Still, the Treasury inspectors will want to see it.'

'All right. Can you take care of it?'

'Yes. But they'll want to talk to you, I'm sure. Let's get your name and address. And your wife's, of course, since she found it.'

'Okay. I want a receipt for it.' I gave our names as 'Mr and Mrs Alexander Hergensheimer' and gave the address - but not the name - of Ron's Grill. Then I solemnly accepted a receipt.

Once outside on the sidewalk I said, 'Well, we're no worse off than we thought we were. Time for me to look for some dirty dishes.'

'Alec -'

'Yes, beloved?'

'We were going to Kansas.'

'So we were. But our bus-fare money is not worth the paper it is printed on. I'll have to earn some more. I can. I did it once, I can do it again.'

'Alec. Let us now go to Kansas.'

A half hour later we were walking north on the highway Tucson. Whenever anyone passed us, I signalled our hope of being picked up.

It took us three hitches simply to reach Tucson. At Tucson it would have made equal sense to head east toward El Paso, Texas, as to continue on Route 89, as 89 swings west before it goes north to Phoenix. It was settled for us by the chance that the first lift we were able to beg out of Tucson was with a teamster who was taking a load north.

This ride we were able to pick up at a truckers' stop at the intersection of 89 and 80, and I am forced to admit that the teamster listened to our plea because Margrethe is the beauty she is - had I been alone I might still be standing there. I might as well say right now that this whole trip depended throughout on Margrethe's beauty and womanly charm quite as much as it depended on my willingness to do any honest work whatever, no matter how menial, dirty, or difficult.

I found this fact unpleasant to face. I held dark thoughts of Potiphar's wife and of the story of Susanna and the Elders. I found myself being vexed with Margrethe when her only offense lay in being her usual gracious, warm, and friendly self. I came close to telling her not to smile at strangers and to keep her eyes to herself.

That temptation hit me sharpest that first day at sundown when this same trucker stopped at a roadside oasis centered around a restaurant and a fueling facility. 'I'm going to have a couple of beers and a sirloin steak,' he announced. 'How about you, Maggie baby? Could you use a rare steak? This is the place where they just chase the cow through the kitchen.'

She smiled at, him. 'Thank you, Steve. But, I'm not hungry.'

My darling was telling an untruth. She knew it, I knew it - and I felt sure that Steve knew it. Our last meal had been breakfast at the mission, eleven hours and a universe ago. I had tried to wash dishes for a meal at the truckers' stop outside Tucson, but had been dismissed rather abruptly. So we had had nothing all day but water from a public drinking faucet.

'Don't try to kid your grandmother, Maggie. We've been on the road four hours. You're hungry.'

I spoke up quickly to keep Margrethe from persisting in an untruth - told, I felt certain, on my behalf. 'What she means, Steve, is that she doesn't accept dinner invitations from other men. She expects me to provide her dinner.' I added, 'But I thank you on her behalf and we both thank you for the ride. It's been most pleasant.'

We were still seated in the cab of his truck, Margrethe in the middle. He leaned forward and looked around her. 'Alec, you, think I'm trying to get into Maggie's pants, don't you?'

I answered stiffly that I did not think anything of the sort while thinking privately that that was exactly what I thought he had been trying to accomplish all along... and I resented not only his unchivalrous overtures but also the gross language he had just used. But I had learned the hard way that rules of polite speech in the world in which I had grown up were not necessarily rules in another universe

'Oh, yes, you do think so. I wasn't born yesterday and a lot of my life has been spent on the road, getting my illusions knocked out. You think I'm trying to lay your woman because every stud who comes along tries to put the make on her. But let me clue you in, son. I don't knock when there's nobody at home. And I can always tell. Maggie ain't having any. I checked that out hours ago. And 'congratulations; a faithful woman is good to find. Isn't that true?'

'Yes, certainly,' I agreed grudgingly.

'So get your feathers down'. You're about to take your wife to dinner. You've already said thank you to me for the ride but why don't you really thank me by inviting me to dinner? - so I won't have to eat alone.'

I hope that I did not look dismayed and that my instant of hesitation was not noticeable. 'Certainly, Steve. We owe you that for your kindness. Uh, will you excuse me while I make some arrangements?' I started to get out of the cab.

'Alec, you don't lie any better than Maggie does.'

'Excuse me?'

'You think I'm blind? You're broke. Or, if you aren't absolutely stony, you are so near flat you can't afford to buy me a sirloin steak. Or even the blueplate special.'

'That is true,' I answered with - I hope - dignity. 'The arrangements I must make are with the restaurant manager. I hope to exchange dishwashing for the price of three dinners.'

'I thought so. If you were just ordinary broke, you'd be riding Greyhound and you'd have some baggage. If you were broke but not yet hungry broke, you'd hitchhike to save your money for eating but you would have some sort of baggage. A kiester each, or at least a bindle. But you've got no baggage... and you're both wearing suits - in the desert, for God's sake! The signs all spell disaster.'

I remained mute.

'Now look,' he went on. 'Possibly the owner of this joint would let you wash dishes. More likely he's got three wetbacks pearl-diving this very minute and has turned down at least three more already today; this is on the main north-south route of turistas coming through holes in the Fence. In any case I can't wait while you wash dishes; I've got to herd this rig a lot of miles yet tonight. So I'll make you a deal. You take me to dinner but I lend you the money.'

'I'm a poor risk.'

'Nope, you're a good risk. What the bankers call a character loan, the very best risk there is. Sometime, this coming year, or maybe twenty years from now, you'll run across another young couple, broke and hungry. You'll buy them dinner on the same, terms. That pays me back. Then when they do the same, down the line, that pays you back. Get it?'

'I'll pay you back sevenfold!'

"Once is enough. After that you do it for your own pleasure. Come on, let's eat.'

Rimrock Restop restaurant was robust rather than fancy - about on a par with Ron's Grill in another world. It had both counter and tables. Steve led us to a table and shortly a fairly young and rather pretty waitress came over.

'Howdy, Steve! Long time.'

Hi, Babe! How'd the rabbit test come out?'

'The rabbit died. How about your blood test?' She smiled at me and at Margrethe. 'Hi, folks! What'll you have?'

I had had time to glance at the menu, first down the right-hand side, of course - and was shocked at the prices. Shocked to find them back on the scale of the world I knew best, I mean. Hamburgers for a dime, coffee at five cents, table d'h^ote dinners at seventy-five to ninety cents -these prices I understood.

I looked at it and said, 'May I have a cheese superburger, medium well?'

'Sure thing, Ace. How about you, dear?'

Margrethe took the same, but medium rare.

'Steve?' the waitress inquired.

That'll be three beers - Coors - and three sirloin steaks, one rare, one medium rare, one medium. With the usual garbage. Baked potato, fried promises, whatever. The usual limp salad. Hot rolls. All the usual. Dessert later. Coffee.'

'Gotcha.'

'Wantcha to meet my friends. Maggie, this is Hazel. That's Alec, her husband.'

'You lucky man! Hi, Maggie; glad to know you. Sorry to see you in such company, though. Has Steve tried to sell you anything?'

'No,'

'Good. Don't buy anything, don't sign anything, don't bet with him. And be glad you're safely married; he's got wives in three states.'

'Four,' Steve corrected.

'Four now? Congratulations. Ladies' restroom is through the kitchen, Maggie; men go around behind.' She left moving fast, with a swish of her skirt.

'That's a fine broad,' Steve said. 'You know what they say about waitresses, especially in truckers' joints. Well, Hazel is probably the only hash-slinger on this highway who ain't sellin' it. Come on, Alec.' He got up and led me outdoors and around to the men's room. I followed him. By the time I understood what he had said, it was too late to resent his talking that way in a lady's presence. Then I was forced to admit that Margrethe had not resented it had simply treated it as information. As praise of Hazel, in fact. I think my greatest trouble with all these worrisome world changes had to do, not with economics, not with social behavior, not with technology, but simply with language, and the mores and taboos thereto.

Beer was waiting for us when we returned, and so was Margrethe, looking cool and refreshed.

Steve toasted us. 'Skoal!'

We echoed 'Skaal!' and I took a sip and then a lot more - just what I needed after a long day on a desert highway. My moral downfall in S.S. Konge Knut had included getting reacquainted with beer, something I had not touched since my days as an engineering student, and very little then - no money for vices. This was excellent beer, it seemed to me, but not as good as the Danish Tuborg served in the ship. Did you know that there is not one word against beer in the Bible? In fact the word 'beer' in the Bible means 'fountain'- or 'well'.

The steaks were delicious.'

Under the mellowing influence of beer and good food I found myself trying to explain to Steve how we happened to be down on our luck and accepting the charity of strangers... without actually saying anything. Presently Margrethe said to me, 'Alec. Tell him.'

'You think I should?'

'I think Steve is entitled to know. And I trust him.'

'Very well. Steve, we are strangers from another world.'

He neither laughed nor smiled; he just looked interested. Presently he said, 'Flying saucer?'

'No. I mean another universe, not just another planet. Although it seems like the same planet. I mean, Margrethe and I were in a state Called Arizona and a city called Nogales just earlier today. Then it changed. Nogales shrank down and nothing was quite the same. Arizona looked about the same, although I don't know this state very well.'

'Territory.'

'Excuse me?'

'Arizona is a territory, not a state. Statehood was voted down.'

'Oh. That's the way it was in my, world, too. Something about taxes. But we didn't come from my world. Nor from Marga's world. We came, from -'I stopped. 'I'm not telling this very well.' I looked across at Margrethe. 'Can you explain it?'

'I can't explain it,' she answered, because I don't understand it. But, Steve, it's true. I'm from one world, Alec is from another world, we've lived in still another world, and we were in yet again another world this morning. And now we are here. That is why we don't have any money. No, we do have money but it's not money of this world.'

Steve said, 'Could we take this one world at a time? I'm getting dizzy.'

I said, 'She left out two worlds.'

'No, dear - three. You may have forgotten the iceberg world.'

'No, I counted that. I - Excuse me, Steve. I'll try to take it one world at a time. But it isn't easy. This morning - We went into an ice cream parlor in Nogales because I wanted to buy Margrethe a hot fudge sundae. We sat down at a table, across from each other like right now, and that put me facing a set of traffic lights-'

'A set of what?'

'A set of traffic signal lights, red, green, and amber. That's how I spotted that we had changed worlds again. This world doesn't have signal lights, or at least I haven't seen any. Just traffic cops. But in the world we got up in this morning, instead of traffic cops, they do it with signal lights.'

Sounds like they do it with mirrors. What's this got to do with buying Maggie a hot fudge sundae?'

'That was because, when we were. shipwrecked and, floating around in the ocean, Margrethe wanted a hot fudge, sundae. This morning was my first chance to buy one for her. When the traffic lights disappeared, I knew we had changed worlds again - and that meant that my money wasn't any good. So I could not buy her a hot fudge sundae. And could not buy her dinner tonight. No money. No spendable money, I mean. You see?'

'I think I fell off three turns back. What happened to your money?'

'Oh.' I dug into my pocket, hauled out our carefully hoarded bus-fare money, picked out a twenty-dollar bill, handed it to Steve. 'Nothing happened to it. Look at this.'

He looked at it carefully. ' "Lawful money for all debts public and private." That sounds okay. But who's this joker with his picture on it? And when did they start.printing twenty-dollar treasury notes?'

'Never, in your world. I guess. The picture is of William Jennings Bryan, President of the United States from 1913 to 192l.'

'Not at Horace Mann School in Akron, he wasn't. Never heard of him.'

'In my school he was elected in 1896, not sixteen years later. And in Margrethe's world Mr Bryan was never president at all. Say! Margrethe! This just might be your world!'

'Why do you think so, dear?'

'Maybe, maybe not. As we came north out of Nogales I didn't notice a flying field or any signs concerning one. And I just remembered that I haven't heard or seen a jet plane all day long. Or any sort of a flying machine. Have you?'

,No. No, I haven't. But I haven't been thinking about them.' She added, 'I'm almost certain there haven't been any near us.'

There you have it! Or maybe this is my world. Steve, what's the situation on aeronautics here?'

'Arrow what?'

'Flying machines. Jet planes. Aeroplanes of any sort. And dirigibles - do you have dirigibles?'

'None of those things rings any bells with me. You're talking about flying, real flying, up in the air like a bird?'.

'Yes, yes!'

'No, of course not. Or do you mean balloons? I've seen a balloon.'

'Not balloons. Oh, a dirigible is a sort of a balloon. But it's long instead of round - sort of cigar-shaped. And it's propelled by engines something like our truck and goes a hundred miles an hour and more - and usually fairly high, one or two thousand feet. Higher over mountains.'

For the first time Steve showed surprise rather than interest. 'God A'mighty! You've actually seen something like that?'

'I've ridden in them. Many times. First when I was only twelve years old. You went to school in Akron? In my world Akron is world famous as the place where they build the biggest, fastest, and best dirigible airships in all the world.'

Steve shook his head. 'When the parade goes by, I'm out for a short beer. That's the story of my life. Maggie, you've seen airships? Ridden in them?'

'No. They are not in my world. But I've ridden in a flying' machine. An aeroplano. Once. It was terribly exciting. Frightening, too. But I would like to do it again.'

'I betcha would. Me, I reckon it would scare the tar out of me. But I would take a ride in one, even if it killed me. Folks, I'm beginning to believe you. You tell it so straight. That and this money. If it, is money.'

'It is money,' I insisted, 'from another world. Look at it closely, Steve. Obviously it's not money of your world. But it's not play money or stage money either. Would anybody bother to make steel engravings that perfect just for stage money? The engraver who made the plates expected that note to be accepted as money... yet it isn't even a correct denomination - that's the first thing you noticed. Wait a moment.' I dug into another pocket. 'Yup! Still here.' I took out a ten-peso note - from the Kingdom of Mexico. I had burned most of the useless money we had accumulated before the quake - Margrethe's tips at El Pancho Villa - but I had saved a few' souvenirs. 'Look at this, too. Do you know Spanish?'

'Not really. TexMex. Cantina Spanish.' He looked at the Mexican money. 'This looks okay.'

'Look more closely,' Margrethe urged him. 'Where it says 'Reino'. Shouldn't that read 'Republica'? Or is Mexico a kingdom in this world?'

'It's a republic... partly because I helped keep it that way. I was an election judge there when I was in the Marines. It's amazing what a few Marines armed to their eyebrows can do to keep an election honest. Okay, pals; you've sold 'me. Mexico is not a kingdom and hitchhikers who don't have the price of dinner on them ought not to be carrying around Mexicano money that says it is a kingdom. Maybe I'm crazy but I'm inclined to throw in with you. What's the explanation?'

'Steve',' I said soberly, 'I wish I knew. The simplest explanation is that I've gone crazy and that it's all imaginary - you, me, Marga, this restaurant, this world - all products of my brain fever.'

'You can be imaginary if you want to, but leave Maggie and me out of it. Do you have any other explanations?'

'Uh... that depends. Do you read the Bible, Steve?'

'Well, yes and no. Being on the road, lots of times I find myself wide awake in bed with nothing around to read but a Gideon Bible. So sometimes I do.'

'Do you recall Matthew twenty-four, twenty-four?'

'Huh? Should I?'

I quoted it for him. 'That's one possibility, Steve. These world changes may be signs sent by the Devil himself, intended to deceive us. On the other hand they may be portents of the end of world and the coming of Christ into His kingdom. Hear the Word:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

"And then shall appear the sign ed the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

'"And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

'That's what it adds up to, Steve. Maybe these are the false signs of the tribulations before the end, or maybe these wonders foretell the Parousia, the coming of Christ. But, either way, we are coming to the end of the world. Are you born again?'

'Mmm, I can't rightly say that I am. I was baptized a long time ago, when I was too young to have much say in the matter. I'm not a churchgoer, except sometimes to see my friends married or buried. If I was washed clean once, I guess I'm a little dusty by now. I don't suppose I qualify.'

'No, I'm certain that you do not. Steve, the end of the world is coming and Christ is returning soon. The most urgent business you have - that anyone has! - is to take your troubles to Jesus, be washed in His Blood, and be born again in Him. Because you will receive no warning. The Trump will sound and you will either be caught up into the arms of Jesus, safe and happy forevermore, or you will be cast down into the fire and brimstone, there to suffer agonies through all eternity. You must be ready.'

'Cripes! Alec, have you ever thought about becoming a preacher?'

'I've thought about it.'

'You should do more than think about it, you should be one. You said all that just like you believed every word of it.'

'I do.

'Thought maybe. Well, I'll pay you the respect of giving it some hard thought. But in the meantime I hope they don't hold Kingdom Come tonight because I've still got this load to deliver. Hazel! Let me have the check, dear; I've got to get the show on the road.'

Three steak dinners came to $3.90; six beers was another sixty cents, for a total of $4.50. Steve paid with a half eagle, a coin I had never seen outside a coin collection I wanted to look at this one but had no excuse.

Hazel picked it up, looked at it. 'Don't get much gold around here,? she remarked. 'Cartwheels are the usual thing. And some paper, although the boss doesn't like paper money. Sure you can spare this, Steve?'

'I found the Lost Dutchman.'

'Go along with you; I'm not going to be your fifth wife.'

'I had in mind a temporary arrangement.'

'Not that either - not for a five-dollar gold piece.' She dug into an apron pocket, took out a silver half dollar. 'Your change, dear.'

He pushed it back toward her. 'What'll you do for fifty cents?'

She picked it up, pocketed it. 'Spit in your eye. Thanks. Night, folks. Glad you came in.'

During the thirty-five miles or so on into Flagstaff Steve asked questions of us about the worlds we had seen but made no comments. He talked just enough to keep us talking. He was especially interested in my descriptions of airships, jet planes, and aeroplanos, but anything technical fascinated him. Television he found much harder to believe than flying machines - well, so did I. But Margrethe assured him that she had seen television herself, and Margrethe is hard to disbelieve. Me, I might be mistaken for a con man. But not Margrethe. Her voice and manner carry conviction.

In Flagstaff, just short of Route 66, Steve pulled over to the side and stopped, left his engine running. 'All out,' he said, 'if you insist on heading east. If you want to go north, you're welcome.

I said, 'We've got to get to Kansas, Steve.'

'Yes, I know. While you can get there either way, Sixty-Six is your best bet... though why anyone should want to go to Kansas beats me. It's that intersection ahead, there. Keep right and keep going; you can't miss it. Watch out for the Santa Fe tracks. Where you planning to sleep tonight?'

'I don't have any plans. We'll walk until we get another ride. If we don't get an all-night ride and we get too sleepy, we can sleep by the side of the road - it's warm.'

'Alec, you listen to your Uncle Dudley. You're not going to sleep on the desert tonight. It's warm now; it'll be freezing cold by morning. Maybe you haven't noticed but we've been climbing all the way from Phoenix. And if the Gila monsters don't get you, the sand fleas will. You've got to rent a cabin.'

'Steve, I can't rent a cabin.'

'The Lord will provide. You believe that, don't you?'

'Yes,' I answered stiffly, 'I believe that.' (But He also helps those who help themselves.)

'So let the Lord provide. Maggie, about this end-of-the world business, do you agree with Alec?'

"I certainly don't disagree!'

'Mmm. Alec, I'm going to give it a lot of thought... starting tonight, by reading a Gideon Bible. This time I don't want to miss the parade. You go on down Sixty-Six, look for a place saying 'cabins'. Not 'motel' ' not 'roadside inn', not a word about Simmons mattresses or private baths - just 'cabins'. If they ask more than two dollars, walk away. Keep dickering and you might get it for one.'

I wasn't listening very hard as I was growing quite angry. Dicker with what? He knew that I was utterly without funds - didn't he believe me?

'So I'll say good-bye,' Steve went on. 'Alec, can you get that door? I don't want to get out.'

'I can get it.' I opened it, stepped down, then remembered my manners. 'Steve, I want to thank you for everything. Dinner, and beer, and a long ride. May the Lord watch over you and keep you.'

'Thank you and don't mention it. Here.' He reached into a pocket, pulled out a card. 'That's my business card. Actually it's my daughter's address. When you get to Kansas, drop me a card, let me know how you made out.'

'I'll do that.' I took the card, then started to hand Margrethe down.

Steve stopped her. 'Maggie! Aren't you going to kiss Ol' Steve good-bye?'

'Why, certainly, Steve!' She turned back and half faced him on the seat.

'That's better, Alec, you'd better turn your back.'

I did not turn my back but I tried to ignore it, while watching out the corner of my eye.

If it had gone on one half-second longer, I would have dragged her out of that cab bodily. Yet I am forced to admit that Margrethe was not having attentions forced on her; she was cooperating fully, kissing him in a fashion no married woman should ever kiss another man.

I endured it.

At last it ended. I handed her down, and closed the door. Steve called out, ' 'Bye, kids!' and his truck moved forward. As it picked up speed he tooted his horn twice.

Margrethe said, 'Alec, you are angry with me.'

'No. Surprised, yes. Even shocked. Disappointed. Saddened.'

'Don't sniff at me!'

'Eh?'

'Steve drove us two hundred and fifty miles and bought us a fine dinner and didn't laugh when we told him a preposterous story. And now you get hoity-toity and holier-than-thou because I kissed him hard enough to show that I appreciated what he had done for me and my husband. I won't stand for it, do you hear?'

'I just meant that -'

'Stop it! I won't listen to explanations. Because you're wrong! And now I am angry and I shall stay angry until you realize you are wrong. So think it over!' She turned and started walking rapidly toward the intersection of 66 with 89.

I hurried to catch up. 'Margrethe!'

She did not answer and increased her pace.

'Margrethe!' Eyes straight ahead -

'Margrethe darling! I was wrong. I'm sorry, I apologize.

'She stopped abruptly, turned and threw her arms around my neck, started to cry. 'Oh, Alec, I love you so and you're such a fub!'

I did not answer at once as my mouth was busy. At last I said, 'I love you, too, and what is a fub?'

'You are.'

'Well - In that case I'm your fub and you're stuck with me. Don't walk away from me again.'

'I won't. Not ever.' We resumed what we had been doing.

After a while I pulled my face back just far enough to whisper: 'We don't have a bed to our name and I've never wanted one more.'

'Alec. Check your pockets.'

'Huh?'

'While he 'Was kissing me, Steve whispered to me to tell you to check your pockets and to say, "The Lord will provide."'

I found it in my left-hand coat pocket: a gold eagle. Never before had I held one in my hand. It felt warm and heavy.




Chapter 14 | JOB: A Comedy of Justice | Chapter 16



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