Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/77

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Dollars

65

or on the kitchen floor, because the scrubwoman's just left . . . naturally the coal had to come when the floor was clean. . . . I'll give you a dollar."

When he carried in the first load she was hovering in the kitchen. His caving hungersniff stomach made him totter lightheadedly, but he was happy to be working instead of dragging his feet endlessly along pavements, across streets, dodging drays and carts and streetcars.

"How is it you haven't got a regular job my man," she asked as he came back breathless with the empty basket.

"I reckon it's as I aint caught on to city ways yet. I was born an raised on a farm."

"And what did you want to come to this horrible city for?"

"Couldn't stay on the farm no more."

"It's terrible what's going to become of this country if all the fine strong young men leave the farms and come into the cities."

"Thought I could git a work as a longshoreman, ma'am, but they're layin' men off down on the wharves. Mebbe I kin go to sea as a sailor but nobody wants a green hand. . . . I aint et for two days now."

"How terrible. . . . Why you poor man couldn't you have gone to some mission or something?"

When Bud had brought the last load in he found a plate of cold stew on the corner of the kitchen table, half a loaf of stale bread and a glass of milk that was a little sour. He ate quickly barely chewing and put the last of the stale bread in his pocket.

"Well did you enjoy your little lunch?"

"Thankye ma'am." He nodded with his mouth full.

"Well you can go now and thank you very much." She put a quarter into his hand. Bud blinked at the quarter in the palm of his hand.

"But ma'am you said you'd give me a dollar,"

"I never said any such thing. The idea. . . . I'll call my husband if you dont get out of here immediately. In fact I've a great mind to notify the police as it is. . . ."