Thimble Summer

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright Read Free Book Online

Book: Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Enright
father’d always liked him. I thought maybe I could go out there and stay with him and work on his farm, so I wrote him a letter. The landlady, Mrs. Cady her name was, wanted me to wait for an answer but I wanted to get out of the city as fast as I could when the newsstand was sold. Most of the money went to pay bills, and there wasn’t much left. Mrs. Cady gave me enough for bus fare across the country.
    â€œI didn’t ride on the bus much though. I saved the money for food and hitchhiked. At night I slept in haystacks, and old barns, and once when it was raining I spent the night in an empty drainpipe beside the road. It took me three weeks to reach Oregon and when I got to Slaneyville where my cousin lived, they told me in the post office there that he had sold his farm and moved away a couple of months before. They didn’t know where, nobody knew. I asked everyone who’d known him at all.”
    Garnet sat with her chin on her knees looking at Eric and listening. She was trying to imagine sleeping in a drainpipe with the rain making a noise on it, and the damp coming in at both ends. She was wondering what it would be like to be alone in the world as he was, with no mother or father or brothers; no roof, no bed, no food half the time, no comfort when you were afraid, no scoldings when you were bad. It was hard to imagine.
    â€œWhatever did you do after that?” she asked.
    â€œWell, it was summertime,” said Eric. “A fellow there hired me to pick tomatoes for a cannery. While it was warm I could always get jobs picking stuff on the big farms. I made enough money to eat, and keep myself in shoes and overalls; then when I had a little bit extra I’d start hitchhiking again till it ran out, and then I’d get me another job. When people asked questions I told them I was going home to my folks in New York. It was part true; I felt I’d be better off if I worked back towards the East, then if I got in a jam I could go back to Mrs. Cady and she’d help me out. But I didn’t want to do it unless I had to. When they still asked questions I’d usually manage to skip out somewhere. I didn’t want people interfering with me then, and I don’t now.” He frowned.
    â€œTake it easy, boy,” said Mr. Freebody who had sat down again. “Nobody ain’t agoing to interfere with you. They got too much trouble of their own.”
    â€œOkay,” said Eric apologetically. “Well, anyway, I guess I’ve picked just about everything there is: tomatoes in Oregon, and berries, and melons; sugar beets in the big fields in Utah and Colorado and later in the summer there were apples and pears and peaches in the orchards everywhere. In the fall I shucked corn in Kansas and Missouri. Some of the guys were swell to work for and some were mean as dirt and paid us next to nothing and were even stingy about the drinking water. I met all kinds of folks, all kinds of kids, some of them making their own livings the way I do. I got into fights and out of them and I made friends, and I had some good times and some rotten ones, and I didn’t starve either, though sometimes, like tonight, I came close to it.
    â€œIn the winter it was harder. I stayed in the towns mostly and got jobs washing dishes in lunch wagons and eating places. When I broke a dish I had to pay for it, so I got pretty good after a while, but I don’t ever want to see another fried egg as long as I live. Once I worked for a road gang hauling buckets of sand and water, and once I did odd jobs in a garage. I learned to drive when I was there, and I got so I knew a lot about a car.
    â€œIn Kansas City I got me a shoe box and shined shoes for ten cents a shine, but a cop there asked me a lot of questions and I got scared. Some of the kids I’d met that bum their way around like I do told me you could get long rides on freight trains if you were smart, so I got some chocolate and some

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