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|Buttered Side Down||Edna Ferber|
Where The Car Turns At 18th
|Page 3 of 8||
Eddie studied them all.
The man finished his task and looked up, quite casually.
"Hello, kid," he said.
"Hello," answered Eddie. Then--"That's some picture gallery you're giving us."
The man in the sailor suit fell back a pace or two and surveyed his work with a critical but satisfied eye.
"Pitchers," he said, "don't do it justice. We've opened a recruiting office here. Looking for young men with brains, and muscle, and ambition. It's a great chance. We don't get to these here little towns much."
He placed a handbill in Eddie's hand. Eddie glanced down at it sheepishly.
"I've heard," he said, "that it's a hard life."
The man in the sailor suit threw back his head and laughed, displaying a great deal of hairy throat and chest. "Hard!" he jeered, and slapped one of the gay-colored posters with the back of his hand. "You see that! Well, it ain't a bit exaggerated. Not a bit. I ought to know. It's the only life for a young man, especially for a guy in a little town. There's no chance here for a bright young man, and if he goes to the city, what does he get? The city's jam full of kids that flock there in the spring and fall, looking for jobs, and thinking the city's sittin' up waitin' for 'em. And where do they land? In the dime lodging houses, that's where. In the navy you see the world, and it don't cost you a cent. A guy is a fool to bury himself alive in a hole like this. You could be seeing the world, traveling by sea from port to port, from country to country, from ocean to ocean, amid ever-changing scenery and climatic conditions, to see and study the habits and conditions of the strange races----"
It rolled off his tongue with fascinating glibness. Eddie glanced at the folder in his hand.
"I always did like the water," he said.
"Sure," agreed the hairy man, heartily. "What young feller don't? I'll tell you what. Come on over to the office with me and I'll show you some real stuff."
"It's my supper time," hesitated Eddie. "I guess I'd better not----"
"Oh, supper," laughed the man. "You come on and have supper with me, kid."
Eddie's pink cheeks went three shades pinker. "Gee! That'd be great. But my mother--that is--she----"
The man in the sailor suit laughed again--a laugh with a sting in it. "A great big feller like you ain't tied to your ma's apron strings are you?"
"Not much I'm not!" retorted Eddie. "I'll telephone her when I get to your hotel, that's what I'll do."
But they were such fascinating things, those new booklets, and the man had such marvelous tales to tell, that Eddie forgot trifles like supper and waiting mothers. There were pictures taken on board ship, showing frolics, and ball games, and minstrel shows and glee clubs, and the men at mess, and each sailor sleeping snug as a bug in his hammock. There were other pictures showing foreign scenes and strange ports. Eddie's tea grew cold, and his apple pie and cheese lay untasted on his plate.
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