Sunday Afternoon By Elroy Bode El Paso I. The Kid and the Lady The young woman was seated by herself at a table, listening carefully to each announcement over the bus station loudspeaker. She had finished her coffee and was sitting quietly, her coat across her lap. Occasionally she gazed past the cafe booths toward some focus of her thoughts. Then the Kid appeared at her table and sat down. “Where you goin’?” he said. “Mexico City.” Ci-ty. She said her words with a careful, exact pronunciation. “Yeah?” said the Kid. He began a light, syncopated tapping with both hands against the table top, swaying his shoulders a little, drawing down his mouth, arching his eyebrows. “I’m goin’ to Austin.” “Austin . . . ?” “You don’t know where Austin is? .. . Austin, Texas, fGod’s sake.” “I see.” The Kid continued to jerk mildly and tap on the table and keep an eye out for each passenger going into the waiting room. “Where you from?” he said. “Denmark.” The Kid slowed down his tappingnd rocking. “That’s in Europe. . . .” “Yes,” she said. She was smiling at him, directly, kindly. HE GRADUALLY stopped his tapping and hung the tips of his fingers on the edge of the table, his wrists bent down. “I went to Europe once. Just for the fun of it I made a trip around the world. You know, I had $850 so I said, ‘Hell, man, why not?’ So I went to Europe and Germany and all those places. Didn’t have time to get off the plane much but I went . . . I go’ by bus now; buses are better for a guy like me. I go everywhere by bus. . . When’s yours?” “Beg pardon?” “Your bus: what time you leavin’?”, “In 30 minutes more the bus is scheduled to leave at 1:45.” The Kid nodded, looked around the cafe, but he ended up staring at the young woman across the table. He was fascinated by something her way of talking, her simplicity, her class. “Mexico City, huh. Wha . . . What’cha goin’ to do down there if you’re from urope?” `I’m going to study.” She smiled. “I am a student.” “Yeah?” The Kid thought about it. \(A student . . . God, I’d like to study you There was a silence. The young woman glanced out toward the waiting room, then down at her watch. The Kid tapped his fingers idly, without rhythm, stopped, then began staring again into the young woman’s face. “And what do you do, if I may ask, for a living?” she said after a moment. He looked 16-17 at the most. “Me? I drive a dump truck. In Austin. I been out to California for a while and now I’m goin’ back. . . . That’s my old lady and my buddy over there” he jerked his thumb over his shoulder to the table behind him where a thin-faced girl in glasses was smoking next to a blond-haired boy with acne: two more kids. “We been out in L.A. for a while, makin’ the scene.” He looked toward the cash register, the counter waitresses. “Man, this is a lousy place, El Paso. You know?” The young woman smiled. “I have just been here for a few hours. It seems rather pleasant.” THE KID leaned back in his chair, stuck his hand up high and behind him, with two fingers wiggling; his wife put a cigarette in his fingers and he leaned forward again. As he lit the cigarette and snapped his silver lighter shut, the young woman regarded him openly a Danish Deborah Kerr sizing up her brash American table companion. “Mexico City,” he began, “well, shoot, I’ve picked up languages, you know knocking around.” He looked up at the clock on the wall. “El or-ra . . . uh . . . El or-ra ti-en-e son . . . uh . . . quin-ce min-u-toes. .” He struggled on for a while, jabbing at the air with his cigarette and frowning -intently and blowing out jets of smoke from the side of his mouth. When he finished, the young woman gently corrected his sentences; then, saying that she had enjoyed their little talk, she gathered up her coat and excused herself. She was smoothing out the back of her skirt as she went into the waiting room. The Kid half-turned in’ his .chair to watch her legs as she left, shrugged, mashed out his cigarette, and after signaling high with two wiggling fingers he began to roll his shoulders and bob his head and tap rhythmically against the edge of the table. II. Happy Hour Time: Two-thirty Place: The Happy Hour Lounge Characters: Lillian: in her early forties, prematurely grayed and beaten down; eyes baggy, skin wrinkled and rough; fingers tapered and cigarette stained as if made from slick, brown-streaked bamboo; once-pretty features now puffed and out of shape; something wrong with her upper lip; swollen, perhaps from a blow. Seated at one end of the bar, she stares toward the TV set at the opposite end while she talks to herself and to Roy: a big rancher who has the left side of his face badly twisted.. Standing, he mumbles through his distorted mouth when he leans down to whisper into Lillian’s ear. He occasionally turns and talks to The New Yorker: a toothless ex-seaman: a small Italian with a big nose and a raw, throaty, Mr. Magoo voice; who wears a small green hat with a red feather; who groans loudly for the benefit of the gods and anyone else who might be listening; who affects various accents; who sometimes shakes his head and turns down his mouth and vainly tries to strike a comradely note of we’re-above-this-barflystuff with The Pediatrician: Wearing brown slacks and a sports shirt open at the neck, he soundlessly shapes and reshapes words of apology, to his wife. He has had three Slim Jims in the past half hour. He continually March 17, 1972 17 THE TEXAS OBSERVER on microfilm. The complete backfile, since the first issue in December 1954, will be available. For prices and other information contact: Microfilming Corporation of America :,ubstcilary of THE NEW YORK TIMES 21 Harris -town Road Glen Rock, N J. 07452 201 447 3000
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