Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/392

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Manhattan Transfer

Skinny had gooseflesh down the back, he felt his lips getting cold, he wanted to run.

"That ham?" Suddenly the man addressed them in a purring benevolent voice.

"Yessir," said Joe shakily after a pause.

"Dont you know that the Lord God forbad his chillun to eat the flesh of swine?" His voice went to its singsong mumbling and shouting. "Gabriel, Brother Gabriel . . . is it all right for these kids to eat ham? . . . Sure. The angel Gabriel, he's a good frien o mine see, he said it's all right this once if you dont do it no more. . . . Look out brother you'll burn it." Skinny had got to his feet. "Sit down brother. I wont hurt you. I understand kids. We like kids me an the Lord God. . . . Scared of me cause I'm a tramp aint you? Well lemme tell you somethin, dont you never be afraid of a tramp. Tramps wont hurt ye, they're good people. The Lord God was a tramp when he lived on earth. My buddy the angel Gabriel says he's been a tramp many a time. . . . Look I got some fried chicken an old colored woman gave me. . . . O Lordy me!" groaning he sat down on a rock beside the two boys.

"We was goin to play injuns, but now I guess we'll play tramps," said Joe warming up a little. The tramp brought a newspaper package out of the formless pocket of his weathergreened coat and began unwrapping it carefully. A good smell began to come from the sizzling ham. Skinny sat down again, still keeping as far away as he could without missing anything. The tramp divided up his chicken and they began to eat together.

"Gabriel old scout will you just look at that?" The tramp started his singsong shouting that made the boys feel scared again. It was beginning to get dark. The tramp was shouting with his mouth full pointing with a drumstick towards the flickering checkerboard of lights going on up Riverside Drive. "Juss set here a minute an look at her Gabriel. . . . Look at the old bitch if you'll pardon the expression. Earthquake insurance, gosh they need it dont they? Do you know how long God took to destroy the tower of Babel, folks?