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Buttered Side Down Edna Ferber

Where The Car Turns At 18th

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"Now me," said the recruiting officer, "I'm a married man. But my wife, she wouldn't have it no other way. No, sir! She'll be in the navy herself, I'll bet, when women vote. Why, before I joined the navy I didn't know whether Guam was a vegetable or an island, and Culebra wasn't in my geography. Now? Why, now I'm as much at home in Porto Rico as I am in San Francisco. I'm as well acquainted in Valparaiso as I am in Vermont, and I've run around Cairo, Egypt, until I know it better than Cairo, Illinois. It's the only way to see the world. You travel 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----"

And Eddie forgot that it was Wednesday night, which was the prescription clerk's night off; forgot that the boss was awaiting his return that he might go home to his own supper; forgot his mother, and her little treat of green corn out of the garden; forgot everything in the wonder of this man's tales of people and scenes such as he never dreamed could exist outside of a Jack London story. Now and then Eddie interrupted with a, "Yes, but----" that grew more and more infrequent, until finally they ceased altogether. Eddie's man-size job had come.

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When we heard the news we all dropped in at the drug store to joke with him about it. We had a good deal to say about rolling gaits, and bell-shaped trousers, and anchors and sea serpents tattooed on the arm. One of the boys scored a hit by slapping his dime down on the soda fountain marble and bellowing for rum and salt horse. Some one started to tease the little Morehouse girl about sailors having sweethearts in every port, but when they saw the look in her eyes they changed their mind, and stopped. It's funny how a girl of twenty is a woman, when a man of twenty is a boy.

Eddie dished out the last of his chocolate ice cream sodas and cherry phosphates and root beers, while the girls laughingly begged him to bring them back kimonos from China, and scarves from the Orient, and Eddie promised, laughing, too, but with a far-off, eager look in his eyes.

When the time came for him to go there was quite a little bodyguard of us ready to escort him down to the depot. We picked up two or three more outside O'Rourke's pool room, and a couple more from the benches outside the hotel. Eddie walked ahead with his mother. I have said that Mrs. Houghton was a sensible woman. She was never more so than now. Any other mother would have gone into hysterics and begged the recruiting officer to let her boy off. But she knew better. Still, I think Eddie felt some uncomfortable pangs when he looked at her set face. On the way to the depot we had to pass the Agassiz School, where Josie Morehouse was substituting second reader for the Wilson girl, who was sick. She was standing in the window as we passed. Eddie took off his cap and waved to her, and she returned the wave as well as she could without having the children see her. That would never have done, seeing that she was the teacher, and substituting at that. But when we turned the corner we noticed that she was still standing at the window and leaning out just a bit, even at the risk of being indiscreet.

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Buttered Side Down
Edna Ferber

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