Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/356

This page has been validated.


Manhattan Transfer

typewriters still in his ears, Jimmy Herf stood in City Hall Square with his hands in his pockets watching ragged men with caps and earsflaps pulled down over faces and necks the color of raw steak shovel snow. Old and young their faces were the same color, their clothes were the same color. A razor wind cut his ears and made his forehead ache between the eyes.

"Hello Herf, think you'll take the job?" said a milkfaced young man who came up to him breezily and pointed to the pile of snow. "Why not, Dan. I dont know why it wouldnt be better than spending all your life rooting into other people's affairs until you're nothing but a goddam traveling dictograph."

"It'd be a fine job in summer all right. . . . Taking the West Side?"

"I'm going to walk up. . . . I've got the heebyjeebies tonight."

"Jez man you'll freeze to death."

"I dont care if I do. . . . You get so you dont have any private life, you're just an automatic writing machine."

"Well I wish I could get rid of a little of my private life. . . . Well goodnight. I hope you find some private life Jimmy."

Laughing, Jimmy Herf turned his back on the snowshovelers and started walking up Broadway, leaning into the wind with his chin buried in his coatcollar. At Houston Street he looked at his watch. Five o'clock. Gosh he was late today. Wouldnt be a place in the world where he could get a drink. He whimpered to himself at the thought of the icy blocks he still had to walk before he could get to his room. Now and then he stopped to pat some life into his numb ears. At last he got back to his room, lit the gasstove and hung over it tingling. His room was a small square bleak room on the south side of Washington Square. Its only furnishings were a bed, a chair, a table piled with books, and the gasstove. When he had begun to be a little less cold he reached under the bed for a basketcovered bottle of rum. He put some water to heat in a tin cup on the gasstove