Up jumped NO SALE.

I looked at myself in the mirror and almost barked like a seal at what I saw.

“It’s a great haircut, Cal,” I said.

“Git outa here.”

On the way out, I put my hand up to touch where the picture of Scott Joplin used to hang, playing great stuff with fingers like two bunches of big black bananas.

If Cal saw this, he didn’t say.

I slipped on some old hair, going out.

I walked until I found sunshine and Crumley’s buried-in-deep-grass bungalow.

I stood outside.

Crumley must have felt me there. He yanked the door open and said, “You doing that again?”

“I never did. I’m no good at being out scaring people at three o’clock in the morning,” I said.

He looked down at his left hand and shoved it at me.

There was a small clot of oily green seaweed on his palm, his clench marks in it.

I held out my hand, like someone trumping an ace, and opened my fingers.

My identical clump of seaweed, drier, and brittle, lay in my palm.

Crumley’s eyes moved from both our hands up to my eyes, my brow, my cheeks, my chin. He exhaled.

“Apricot pie, Halloween pumpkins, backyard tomatoes, late summer peaches, Santa Claus’s California son, you look like all of them. With a face like that how can I yell guilty?”

He dropped his hands and stood aside.

“You do like beer, don’t you?”

“Not much,” I said.

“Would you rather I fix you a chocolate malt?”

“Could you?”

“No, goddamn it. You’ll drink beer and like it. Get it in here.” He wandered off, shaking his head, and I came in and shut the door, feeling like a high school student come back to visit his tenth-grade teacher.

Crumley was standing in his parlor window blinking out at the dry dirt path I had wandered up a moment ago.

“Three o’clock, by God,” he muttered. “Three. Right out there. I heard someone weeping, how you figure that? Crying? Gave me the goosebumps. Sounded like a banshee woman. Hell. Let me look at your face again.”

I showed him my face.

“Jesus,” he said, “do you always blush that easily?”

“I can’t help it.”

“Christ, you could massacre half a Hindu village and still look like Peter Rabbit. What are you stuffed with?”

“Chocolate bars. And I keep six kinds of ice cream in my icebox, when I can afford it.”

“I bet you buy it instead of bread.”

I wanted to say no, but he would have caught the lie.

“Take a load off your feet and what kind of beer do you hate most? I got Budweiser which is awful, Budweiser which is dreadful, and Bud which is the worst. Take your pick. No, don’t. Allow me.” He ambled off to the kitchen and came back with two cans. “There’s still a little sun. Let’s get out of here.”

He led the way into his backyard.

I couldn’t believe Crumley’s garden.

“Why not?” He steered me out the back door of his bungalow, into a green and luscious illumination of thousands of plants, ivies, papyrus, birds of paradise, succulents, cacti. Crumley beamed. “Got six dozen different species of epiphyllum over there, that’s Iowa corn against the fence, that’s a plum tree, that’s apricot, that’s orange. Want to know why?”

“Everyone in the world needs two, three jobs,” I said, without hesitation. “One job isn’t enough, just as one life isn’t enough. I want to have a dozen of both.”

“Bull’s-eye. Doctors should dig ditches. Ditch-diggers ought to run kindergartens one day a week. Philosophers should wash dishes in a greasy spoon two nights out of ten. Mathematicians should blow whistles at high school gyms. Poets should drive trucks for a change of menu and police detectives…”

“Should own and operate the Garden of Eden,” I said, quietly.

“Jesus.” Crumley laughed and shook his head, and looked at the green seaweed he ground in his palm. “You’re a pain-in-the-ass know-it-all. You think you got me figured? Surprise!” He bent and twisted a garden valve. “Hark, as they used to say. Hist!”

A soft rain sprang up in brilliant blooms that touched all around Eden with whispers that said, Soft. Quiet. Serenity. Stay. Live forever.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray