Friday, August 02, 2013

The Burglar by David Goodis (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 1953)

She gave him a look he couldn’t classify. Then other passengers were crowding him in, and there was no more time. He turned, walked down along the platform. Descending the steps leading to the waiting room, he heard the train going away. It occurred to him that this was the first time he had seen Gladden going away, and for some odd reason it was disturbing. He told himself Atlantic City was only sixty miles away. It was the place where Philadelphians went to get the sun and the salt air. It wasn’t China. It was practically right next door, and he would be in constant touch with Gladden. There was no cause for him to be disturbed.

He stood outside the terminal and wondered where he should go. It was always a problem, where to go and what to do. Sometimes he came close to envying the people whose lives were based on compulsory directives, who lived by definite need and command, so that every morning they had to get up at six or seven, and be at a specific place by eight-thirty or nine, and stay there and do specific things until five or six. They never wondered what to do next. They knew what they had to do. He had nothing to do and no place to go. He had plenty of money to spend, around seven thousand dollars remaining from his share of the two previous hauls, but he couldn’t think of a way to start spending it. There was nothing special that he wanted. He tried to think of something that he wanted, but a wall came up in his mind and blocked off everything tangible.

So he went back to the Spot because there was no other place to go. The Spot was reassurance. The Spot was security. In its own strange way, the Spot was home.

Entering, he heard Baylock’s voice from the kitchen. He walked into the kitchen. Baylock and Dohmer were at the table, playing their original variation of two-handed poker. Dohmer showed a hole card, an ace that matched another and gave him the hand. Dohmer collected a dollar and seventy cents, and then they put aside the cards and looked at Harbin.

Baylock said, “She go?”

“Took the three-forty.” Harbin looked out the window.

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