“Come on,” I said.
Outside it was good and dark.
“What the hell kind of place is this?” Tommy said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Let’s go down to the station.”
We’d come in that, town at one end and we were going out the other. It smelled of hides and tan bark and the big piles of sawdust. It was getting dark as we came in and now that it was dark it was cold and the puddles of water in the road were freezing at the edges.
Down at the station there were five whores waiting for the train to come in, and six white men and four Indians. It was crowded and hot from the stove and full of stale smoke. As we came in nobody was talking and the ticket window was down.
“Shut the door, can’t you?” somebody said.
I looked to see who said it. It was one of the white men. He wore stagged trousers and lumbermen’s rubbers and a Mackinaw shirt like the others, but he had no cap and his face was white and his hands were white and thin.
“Aren’t you going to shut it?”
“Sure,” I said, and shut it.
“Thank you,” he said. One of the other men snickered.
“Ever interfere with a cook?” he said to me.
“You interfere with this one,” he looked at the cook, “He likes it.”
The cook looked away from him, holding his lips tight together.
“He puts lemon juice on his hands,” the man said. “He wouldn’t get them in dishwater for anything. Look how white they are.”
One of the whores laughed out loud. She was the biggest whore I ever saw in my life and the biggest woman. And she had on one of those silk dresses that change colors. There were two other whores that were nearly as big but the big one must have weighed three hundred and fifty pounds. You couldn’t believe she was real when you looked at her. All three had those changeable silk dresses. They sat side by side on the bench. They were huge. The other two were just ordinary-looking whores, peroxide blondes.
“Look at his hands,” the man said and nodded his head at the cook. The whore laughed again and shook all over.
The cook turned and said to her quickly, “You big disgusting mountain of flesh.”
She just kept on laughing and shaking.
“Oh, my Christ,” she said. She had a nice voice. “Oh, my sweet Christ.”
The two other whores, the big ones, acted very quiet and placid as though they didn’t have much sense, but they were big, nearly as big as the biggest one. They’d have both gone well over two hundred and fifty pounds. The other two were dignified.
Of the men, besides the cook and the one who talked, there were two other lumberjacks, one that listened, interested but bashful, and the other that seemed getting ready to say something, and two Swedes. Two Indians were sitting down at the end of the bench and one standing up against the wall.
The man who was getting ready to say something spoke to me very low, “Must be like getting on top of a hay mow.”
I laughed and said it to Tommy.
“I swear to Christ I’ve never been anywhere like this,” he said. “Look at the three of them.” Then the cook spoke up.
“How old are you boys?”
“I’m ninety-six and he’s sixty-nine,” Tommy said.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” the big whore shook with laughing. She had a really pretty voice. The other whores didn’t smile.
“Oh, can’t you be decent?” the cook said. “I asked just to be friendly.”
“We’re seventeen and nineteen,” I said.
“What’s the matter with you?” Tommy turned to me.
“That’s all right.”
“You can call me Alice,” the big whore said and then she began to shake again.
“Is that your name?” Tommy asked.
“Sure,” she said. “Alice. Isn’t it?” she turned to the man who sat by the cook.
“Alice. That’s right.”
“That’s the sort of name you’d have,” the cook said.
“It’s my real name,” Alice said.
“What’s the other girls’ names?” Tom asked.
“Hazel and Ethel,” Alice said. Hazel and Ethel smiled. They weren’t very bright.