“Now he sure did. I never seen anything like it. He stood out front an’ he dropped his hat an’ stepped on it. Here, I got his hat here.” He brought the dusty broken hat from under the counter .
Tom took it from him. “That’s him, all right.”
“Well, sir, he got couple pints of whisky an’ he didn’ say a thing. He pulled the cork an’ tipped up the bottle. I ain’t got a license to drink here. I says, ‘Look, you can’t drink here. You got to go outside.’ Well, sir! He jes’ stepped outside the door, an’ I bet he didn’t tilt up that pint more’n four times till it was empty. He throwed it away an’ he leaned in the door. Eyes kinda dull. He says, ‘Thank you, sir,’ an’ he went on. I never seen no drinkin’ like that in my life.”
“Went on? Which way? I got to get him.”
“Well, it so happens I can tell you. I never seen such drinkin’, so I looked out after him. He went north; an’ then a car come along an’ lighted him up, an’ he went down the bank. Legs was beginnin’ to buckle a little. He got the other pint open awready. He won’t be far–not the way he was goin’.”
Tom said, “Thank ya. I got to find him.”
“You want ta take his hat?”
“Yeah! Yeah! He’ll need it. Well , thank ya.”
“What’s the matter with him?” the gray man asked. “He wasn’ takin’ pleasure in his drink.”
“Oh, he’s kinda–moody. Well, good night. An’ if you see that squirt Connie, tell ‘im we’ve went south.”
“I got so many people to look out for an’ tell stuff to, I can’t ever remember ’em all.”
“Don’t put yourself out too much,” Tom said. He went out the screen door carrying Uncle John’s dusty black hat. He crossed the concrete road and walked along the edge of it. Below him in the sunken field, the Hooverville lay; and the little fires flickered and the lanterns shone through the tents. Somewhere in the camp a guitar sounded, slow chords, struck without any sequence, practice chords. Tom stopped and listened, and then he moved slowly along the side of the road, and every few steps he stopped to listen again. He had gone a quarter of a mile before he heard what he listened for. Down below the embankment the sound of a thick, tuneless voice, singing drably. Tom cocked his head, the better to hear.
And the dull voice sang,
“I’ve give my heart to Jesus, so Jesus take me home.
I’ve give my soul to Jesus, so Jesus is my home.”
The song trailed off to a murmur, and then stopped. Tom hurried down from the embankment, toward the song. After a while he stopped and listened again. And the voice was close this time, the same slow, tuneless singing,
“Oh, the night that Maggie died, she called me to her side, an’ give to me them ol’ red flannel drawers that Maggie wore.
They was baggy at the knees –“