I turned away and stared out of the dusty window. Over my shoulder, I growled, ‘I don’t ask favours nor expect them.’
He didn’t say anything to this and I kept staring out of the window, and after a while I heard him snoring gently. I turned to look at him. He was asleep, his cigar held between two thick fingers, his Stetson pushed down over his eyes.
It is just on ninety miles from Sacramento to Frisco. I’d be lucky to get there in three and a half hours. I hadn’t had any breakfast and I had a thirst on me that would have slain a camel. I had used up my last cigarette. I was now regretting I had refused his cigar.
I sat there, watching the scenery, feeling pretty low, wondering if I had made the right decision to leave the Atlantic seaboard for the Pacific seaboard. I reminded myself that I still had a few friends in and around New York, and although they couldn’t help me get a job, if things got really rough, I could have screwed them for a loan. The Pacific seaboard was an unknown quantity and no friends to screw.
After an hour or so, I saw a sign post that read: Wicksteed 40 miles Joe Pinner woke up, yawned, looked past me out of the window and grunted.
‘Not long now,’ he said. ‘Do you drive a car, Mr. Devery?’
‘Would a driving instructor’s job interest you?’
I frowned at him.
‘Driving instructor? You need qualifications for a job like that.’
‘Nothing to get excited about in Wicksteed. We are an easygoing lot. You need to be a good driver, have a clean licence and tons of patience … that’s about it. My old friend Bert Ryder needs a driving instructor. He owns the Wicksteed Driving-school and his man’s in hospital. It makes it awkward for Bert. He’s never touched a car in his life. He’s strictly a horse and buggy man.’ He relit his cigar, then went on, ‘That’s what I meant about helping people, Mr. Devery. He could help you and you could help him. The job’s nothing big: it pays two hundred, but it’s easy and keeps you out in the open air and two hundred is eating money, ain’t it?’
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