“What’s your name?” I said to one of the blondes.
“Frances,” she said.
“Frances Wilson. What’s it to you?”
“What’s yours?” I asked the other one.
“Oh, don’t be fresh,” she said.
“He just wants us all to be friends,” the man who talked said. “Don’t you want to be friends?”
“No,” the peroxide one said. “Not with you.”
“She’s just a spitfire,” the man said. “A regular little spitfire.”
The one blonde looked at the other and shook her head.
“Goddamned mossbacks,” she said.
Alice commenced to laugh again and to shake all over.
“There’s nothing funny,” the cook said. “You all laugh but there’s nothing funny. You two young lads, where are you bound for?”
“Where are you going yourself?” Tom asked him.
“I want to go to Cadillac,” the cook said. “Have you ever been there? My sister lives there.”
“He’s a sister himself,” the man in the stagged trousers said.
“Can’t you stop that sort of thing?” the cook asked. “Can’t we speak decently?”
“Cadillac is where Steve Ketchel came from and where Ad Wolgast is from,” the shy man said.
“Steve Ketchel,” one of the blondes said in a high voice as though the name had pulled a trigger in her. “His own father shot and killed him. Yes, by Christ, his own father. There aren’t any more men like Steve Ketchel.”
“Wasn’t his name Stanley Ketchel?” asked the cook.
“Oh, shut up,” said the blonde. “What do you know about Steve? Stanley. He was no Stanley. Steve Ketchel was the finest and most beautiful man that ever lived. I never saw a man as clean and as white and as beautiful as Steve Ketchel. There never was a man like that. He moved just like a tiger and he was the finest, free-est spender that ever lived.”
“Did you know him?” one of the men asked.
“Did I know him? Did I know him? Did I love him? You ask me that? I knew him like you know nobody in the world and I loved him like you love God. He was the greatest, finest, whitest, most beautiful man that ever lived, Steve Ketchel, and his own father shot him down like a dog.”
“Were you out on the coast with him?”
“No. I knew him before that. He was the only man I ever loved.”
Every one was very respectful to the peroxide blonde, who said all this in a high stagey way, but Alice was beginning to shake again. I felt it, sitting by her.
“You should have married him,” the cook said.
“I wouldn’t hurt his career,” the peroxide blonde said. “I wouldn’t be a drawback to him. A wife wasn’t what he needed. Oh, my God, what a man he was.”
“That was a fine way to look at it,” the cook said. “Didn’t Jack Johnson knock him out though?”
“It was a trick,” Peroxide said. “That big dinge took him by surprise. He’d just knocked Jack Johnson down, the big black bastard. That nigger beat him by a fluke.”
The ticket window went up and the three Indians went over to it.
“Steve knocked him down,” Peroxide said. “He turned to smile at me.”
“I thought you said you weren’t on the coast,” someone said.
“I went out just for that fight. Steve turned to smile at me and that black son of a bitch from hell jumped up and hit him by surprise. Steve could lick a hundred like that black bastard.”
“He was a great fighter,” the lumberjack said.
“I hope to God he was,” Peroxide said. “I hope to God they don’t have fighters like that now. He was like a god, he was. So white and clean and beautiful and smooth and fast and like a tiger or like lightning.”
“I saw him in the moving pictures of the fight,” Tom said. We were all very moved. Alice was shaking all over and I looked and saw she was crying. The Indians had gone outside on the platform.
“He was more than any husband could ever be,” Peroxide said. “We were married in the eyes of God and I belong to him right now and always will and all of me is his. I don’t care about my body. They can take my body. My soul belongs to Steve Ketchel. By God, he was a man.”