Crumley lit his cigarette and peered at me through the smoke.

“His voice aged me ten years in a few seconds,” I said. “I’ve never been so sure of my feelings in my life!”

“Everybody in the world has feelings.” Crumley examined his cigarette as if he couldn’t decide whether he liked it or not. “Everyone’s grandma writes Wheaties jingles and hums them until you want to kick the barley-malt out of the old crone. Songwriters, poets, amateur detectives, every damn fool thinks he’s all three. You know what you remind me of, son? That mob of idiots that swarmed after Alexander Pope waving their poems, novels, and essays, asking for advice, until Pope ran mad and wrote his ‘Essay on Criticism.’ ”

“You know Alexander Pope?”

Crumley gave an aggrieved sigh, tossed down his cigarette, stepped on it.

“You think all detectives are gumshoes with glue between their ears? Yeah, Pope, for Christ’s sake. I read him under the sheets late nights so my folks wouldn’t think I was queer. Now, get out of the way.”

“You mean all this is for nothing,” I cried. “You’re not going to try to save the old man?”

I blushed, hearing what I had said.

“I meant…”

“I know what you meant,” said Crumley, patiently.

He looked off along the street, as if he could see all the way to my apartment and the desk and the typewriter standing there.

“You’ve latched on to a good thing, or you think you have. So you run fevers. You want to get on that big red streetcar and ride back some night and catch that drunk and haul him in, but if you do, he won’t be there, or if he is, not the same guy, or you won’t know him. So right now, you’ve got bloody fingernails from beating your typewriter, and the stuffs coming good, as Hemingway says, and your intuition is growing long antennae that are ever so sensitive. That, and pigs’ knuckles, buys me no sauerkraut!”

He started off around the front of his car in a replay of yesterday’s disaster.

“Oh, no you don’t!” I yelled. “Not again. You know what you are? Jealous!”

Crumley’s head almost came off his shoulders. He whirled.

“I’m what?”

I almost saw his fingers reach for a gun that wasn’t there.

“And, and, and…” I floundered. “You, you’re never going to make it!”

My insolence staggered him. His head swiveled to stare at me over the top of his car.

“Make what?” he said.

“Whatever it is you want to do, you…won’t…do…it.”

I jolted to a full stop, astounded. I couldn’t remember ever having yelled like this at anyone. In school, I had been the prize custard. Every time some teacher slammed her jaws, my crust fell. But now…

“Unless you learn,” I said, lamely, feeling my face fill up with hot color, “to, ah, listen to your stomach and not your head.”

“Norman Rockwell’s Philosophical Advice for Wayward Sleuths.” Crumley leaned against his car as if it were the only thing in the world that held him up. A laugh burst from his mouth, which he capped with his palm, and he said, muffled, “Continue.”

“You don’t want to hear.”

“Kid, I haven’t had a laugh in days.”

My mouth gummed itself shut. I closed my eyes.

“Go on,” said Crumley, with a gentler tone.

“It’s just,” I said, slowly, “I learned years ago that the harder I thought, the worse my work got. Everyone thinks you have to go around thinking all the time. No, I go around feeling and put it down and feel again and write that down and, at the end of the day, think about it. Thinking comes later.”

There was a curious light in Crumley’s face. He tilted his head now this way to look at me, and then tilted it the other way, like a monkey in the zoo staring out through the bars and wondering what the hell that beast is there outside.

Then, without a word, or another laugh or smile, he simply slid into the front seat of his car, calmly turned on the ignition, softly pressed the gas, and slowly, slowly drove away.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106

Categories: Bradbury, Ray