“You think so?”
“I cannot read it. It is dirty.”
I wiped it off with the rag. “How’s that?”
“What?” I said. “You could have read it. It’s only dirty from the state of the roads.”
“You don’t like Italian roads?”
“They are dirty.”
“Fifty lire.” He spat in the road. “Your car is dirty and you are dirty too.”
“Good. And give me a receipt with your name.”
He took out a receipt book, made in duplicate, and perforated, so one side could be given to the customer, and the other side filled in and kept as a stub. There was no carbon to record what the customer’s ticket said.
“Give me fifty lire.”
He wrote in indelible pencil, tore out the slip, and handed it to me. I read it.
“This is for twenty-five lire.”
“A mistake,” he said, and changed the twenty-five to fifty.
“And now the other side. Make it fifty in the part you keep.”
He smiled a beautiful Italian smile and wrote something on the receipt stub, holding it so I could not see.
“Go on,” he said, “before your number gets dirty again.”
We drove for two hours after it was dark and slept in Mentone that night. It seemed very cheerful and clean and sane and lovely. We had driven from Ventimiglia to Pisa and Florence, across the Romagna to Rimini, back through Forlì, Imola, Bologna, Parma, Piacenza, and Genoa, to Ventimiglia again. The whole trip had only taken ten days. Naturally, in such a short trip, we had no opportunity to see how things were with the country or the people.
“How are you going yourself Jack?” I asked him.
“You seen this Walcott ?” he says.
“Just in the gym.”
“Well,” Jack says, “I’m going to need a lot of luck with that boy.”
“He can’t hit you, Jack,” Soldier said.
“I wish to hell he couldn’t.”
“He couldn’t hit you with a handful of bird-shot.”
“Bird-shot’d be all right,” Jack says. “I wouldn’t mind bird-shot any.”
“He looks easy to hit,” I said.
“Sure,” Jack says, “he ain’t going to last long. He ain’t going to last like you and me, Jerry. But right now he’s got everything.”
“You’ll left-hand him to death.”
“Maybe,” Jack says. “Sure. I got a chance to.”
“Handle him like you handled Richie Lewis”
“Richie Lewis,” Jack said. “That kike!”
The three of us, Jack Brennan, Soldier Bartlett, and I, were in Handley’s. There were a couple of broads sitting at the next table to us. They had been drinking.
“What do you mean, kike?” one of the broads says. “What do you mean, kike, you big Irish bum?”
“Sure,” Jack says. “That’s it.”
“Kikes,” this broad goes on. “They’re always talking about kikes, these big Irishmen. What do you mean, kikes?”
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
“Kikes,” this broad goes on. “Whoever saw you ever buy a drink? Your wife sews your pockets up every morning. These Irishmen and their kikes? Ritchie Lewis could lick you too.”
“Sure,” Jack says. “And you give away a lot of things free too, don’t you?”
We went out. That was Jack. He could say what he wanted to when he wanted to say it.
Jack started training out at Danny Hogan’s health farm over in Jersey. It was nice out there but Jack didn’t like it much. He didn’t like being away from his wife and the kids, and he was sore and grouchy most of the time. He liked me and we got along fine together; and he liked Hogan, but after a while Soldier Bartlett commenced to get on his nerves. A kidder gets to be an awful thing around a camp if his stuff goes sort of sour. Soldier was always kidding Jack, just sort of kidding him all the time. It wasn’t very funny and it wasn’t very good, and it began to get to Jack. It was sort of stuff like this. Jack would finish up with the weights and the bag and pull on the gloves.
“You want to work?” he’d say to Soldier.
“Sure. How you want me to work?” Soldier would ask. “Want me to treat you rough like Walcott? Want me to knock you down a few times?”