Forrest Gump Chapter Seventeen
Even tho they said they wouldn’t give me no money, one of the fellers did loan me a dollar before I lef the hotel. First chance I got, I phoned home to the po house where my mama was stayin to let her know I’m okay. But one of them nuns says, “We ain’t got no Mrs. Gump here no longer.”
When I axed where she was, the nun say, “Dunno – she done run off with some protestant.” I thanked her an hanged up the phone. In a way, I’m sort of relieved. At least mama done run off with somebody, an ain’t in the po house no more. I figger I got to find her, but to tell the truth, I ain’t in no big hurry, cause sure as it’s gonna rain, she’ll be bawlin an hollerin an fussin at me on account of I lef home.
It did rain. Rained cats an dogs an I foun me a awnin to stand under till some guy come out an run me off. I was soakin wet an cold an walkin past some government buildin in Washington when I seen a big ole plastic garbage bag settin in the middle of the sidewalk. Just as I get close to it, the bag commenced to move a little bit, like there is somethin in there!
I stopped an went up to the bag an nudged it a little with my toe. Suddenly the bag jump bout four feet back an a voice come out from under it, say, “Git the fuck away from me!”
“Who is that in there?” I axed, an the voice say back, “This is my grate – you go find your own.”
“What you talkin bout?” I say.
“My grate,” the voice say. “Git off my grate!”
“What grate?” I axed.
All of a sudden the bag lift up a little an a feller’s head peek out, squintin up at me like I’m some kinda idiot.
“You new in town or somethin?” the feller says.
“Sort of,” I answered. “I’m jus tryin to get outta the rain.”
The feller under the bag is pretty sorry-lookin, half bald-headed, ain’t shaved in months, eyes all red an bloodshot an most of his teeth gone.
“Well,” he say, “in that case I reckon it okay for a little wile – here.” He reach up an han me another garbage bag, all folded up.
“What I’m sposed to do with this?” I axed.
“Open it up an git under it, you damn fool – you said you wanted to git outta the rain.” An then he pull his bag back down over hissef.
Well, I did what he said, an to tell you the truth, it wadn’t so bad, really. They was some hot air comin up outta the grate an it make the bag all warm an cozy inside an kep off the rain. We be squattin side-by-side on the grate with the bags over us an after a wile the feller says over to me, “What’s your name anyway?”
“Forrest,” I says.
“Yeah? I knew a guy named Forrest once. Longtime ago.”
“What’s your name?” I axed.
“Dan,” he say.
“Dan? Dan??Chey, wait a minute,” I says. I thowed off my garbage bag an went an lifted up the bag off the feller an it was him! Ain’t got no legs, an he is settin on a little wood cart with roller-skate wheels on the bottom. Must of aged twenty years, an I could hardly recognize him. But it was him. It was ole Lieutenant Dan!
After he had got out of the Army hospital, Dan went back to Connecticut to try to get back his ole job teachin history. But they wadn’t no history job available, so they made him teach math. He hated math, an besides, the math class was on the secont floor of the school an he had a hell of a time makin it up the stairs with no legs an all. Also, his wife done run off with a tv producer that lived in New Yawk an she sued him for divorce on grounds of “incompatibility.”
He took to drinkin an lost his job an jus didn’t do nothin for a wile. Thieves robbed his house of everthin he had an the artificial legs they had give him at the VA hospital were the wrong size. After a few years, he said, he jus “give up,” an took to livin like a bum. There’s a little money ever month from his disability pension, but most of the time he jus give it away to the other bums.
“I dunno, Forrest,” he say, “I guess I’m jus waitin to die or somethin.”
Dan han me a few bucks an say to go aroun the corner an git us a couple of bottles of Red Dagger wine. I jus got one bottle tho, an used the money for mine to git one of them ready-made sambwiches, cause I ain’t had nothin to eat all day.
“Well, old pal,” Dan say after he has polished off half his wine, “tell me what you been doin since I saw you last.”
So I did. I tole him about goin to China an playin ping-pong, an findin Jenny Curran again, an playin in The Cracked Eggs band an the peace demonstration where I thowed my medal away an got put in jail.
“Yeah, I remember that one all right. I think I was still here in the hospital. I thought bout going down there mysef, but I guess I wouldn’t have thowed my medals away. Look here,” he say. He unbutton his jacket an inside, on his shirt, is all his medals – Purple Heart, Silver Star – must of been ten or twelve of them.
“They remind me of somethin,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what – the war, of course, but that’s jus a part of it. I have suffered a loss, Forrest, far greater than my legs. It’s my spirit, my soul, if you will. There is only a blank there now – medals where my soul used to be.”
“But what about the ‘natural laws’ that’s in charge of everthin?” I axe him. “What about the ‘scheme of things’ that we has all got to fit ourself into?”
“Fuck all that,” he say. “It was just a bunch of philosophic bullshit.”
“But ever since you tole it to me, that’s what I been goin by. I been lettin the ‘tide’ carry me an tryin to do my best. Do the right thing.”
“Well, maybe it works for you, Forrest. I thought it was working for me too – but look at me. Just look at me,” he say. “What good am I? I’m a goddamn legless freak. A bum. A drunkard. A thirty-five-year-old vagrant.”
“It could be worse,” I says.
“Oh yeah? How?” he say, an I reckon he got me there, so I finished tellin him bout mysef – gettin thowed in the loony bin an then bein shot up in the rocket an landin down with the cannibals an bout ole Sue an Major Fritch an the pygmies.
“Well my God, Forrest my boy, you sure as hell have had some adventures,” Dan say. “So how come you are sittin here with me on the grates under a garbage bag?”
“I dunno,” I says, “but I ain’t plannin to stay here long.”
“What you got in mind then?”
“Soon as this rain stops,” I say, “I’m gonna get off my big fat butt an go lookin for Jenny Curran.”
“Where is she?”
“Dunno that either,” I says, “but I’ll find out.”
“Sounds like you might need some help,” he say.
I look over at Dan an his eyes is gleamin from behin his beard. Somethin is tellin me he is the one needs some hep, but that’s okay with me.
Ole Dan an me, we went to a mission flophouse that night on account of it didn’t stop rainin, an Dan, he paid them fifty cents apiece for our suppers an a quarter for our beds. You could of got supper free for settin an listenin to a sermon or somesuch, but Dan say he’d sleep out in the rain afore wastin our precious time hearin a Bible-thumper give us his view of the world.
Next mornin Dan loaned me a dollar an I foun a pay phone an called up to Boston to ole Mose, that used to be the drummer for The Cracked Eggs. Sure enough, he still there in his place, an is damn suprised to hear from me.
“Forrest – I don’t believe it!” Mose say. “We had given your ass up for lost!”
The Cracked Eggs, he says, have broken up. All the money that Mister Feeblestein have promised them is eaten up by expenses or somethin, an after the secont record they didn’t get no more contracts. Mose say people is listenin to a new kind of music now – Rollin Stoned’s or the Iggles or somethin – an most of the fellers in The Cracked Eggs is gone someplace an foun real jobs.
Jenny, Mose say, is not been heard of in a long wile. After she had gone down to Washington for the peace demonstration where I was arrested, she went back with The Cracked Eggs for a few months, but Mose say somethin in her jus wadn’t the same. One time he say, she broke up cryin on the stage an they had to play a instrumental to get thru the set. Then she started drinkin vodka an showin up late for performances an they was bout to speak to her bout it when she jus done up an quit.
Mose say he personally feel her behavior has somethin to do with me, but she never would talk bout it. She moved out of Boston a couple of weeks later, sayin she was goin to Chicago, an that is the last he seen of her in nearly five years.
I axed if he knew any way for me to reach her, an he say maybe he have a ole number she give him jus before she lef. He leave the phone an come back a few minutes later an give the number to me. Other than that, he say, “I ain’t got a clue.”
I tole him to take care, an if I ever get up to Boston I will look him up.
“You still playin your harmonica?” Mose axed.
“Yeah, sometimes,” I say.
I went an borrowed another dollar from Dan an called the number in Chicago.
“Jenny Curran – Jenny?” a guy’s voice say. “Oh, yeah – I remember her. Nice little piece of ass. Been a long time.”
“You know where she’s at?”
“Indianapolis is where she say she was goin when she lef here. Who knows? Got herself a job at Temperer.”
“Temperer – the tire factory. You know, they make tires – for cars.”
I thank the guy an went back an tole Dan.
“Well,” he say, “I never been to Indianapolis. Heard it’s nice there in the fall.”
We started tryin to thumb a ride out of Washington, but didn’t have no luck to speak of. A guy gave us a ride to the city limits on the back of a brick truck, but after that, nobody didn’t want to pick us up. I guess we was too funny-lookin or somethin – Dan settin on his little roller dolly an my big ole ass standin nex to him. Anyhow, Dan say why don’t we take a bus, cause he’s got enough money for that. To tell you the truth, I felt bad about takin his money, but somehow I figgered that he wanted to go, and it would be good to get him outta Washington too.
An so we caught a bus to Indianapolis an I put Dan in the seat nex to me an stowed his little cart in the shelf up above. All the way there he be sluggin down Red Dagger wine an sayin what a shitty place the world is to live in. Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. I’m just a idiot anyhow.
The bus left us off in the middle of Indianapolis an Dan an me is standin on the street tryin to figger out what to do nex when a policeman come up an say, “Ain’t no loiterin on the street,” an so we moved on. Dan axed a feller where is the Temperer Tire Company an it is way outside of town so we started headin in that direction. After a wile there ain’t no sidewalks an Dan can’t push his little cart along, so I picked him up under one arm and the cart under the other an we kep on goin.
Bout noon, we seed a big sign say “Temperer Tires,” an figger this be the place. Dan say he will wait outside an I go on in an they is a woman at the desk an I axed if I could see Jenny Curran. Woman look at a list an say Jenny is workin in “re-treads,” but ain’t nobody allowed to go there cept’n if they works in the plant. Well, I’m just standin there, tryin to decide what to do, an the woman say, “Look, honey, they is bout to get a lunch break in a minute or so, why don’t you go roun to the side of the buildin. Probly she’ll come out,” so that’s what I did.
They was a lot of folks come out an then, all by hersef, I seen Jenny walk thru a door an go over to a little spot under a tree an pull a sambwich out of a paper bag. I went over an sort of creeped behin her, an she’s settin on the groun, an I says, “That shore look like a tasty sambwich.” She didn’t even look up. She kep starin right ahead, an say, “Forrest, it has to be you.”