Monday, January 21, 2013

Excerpt from The Road to Los Angeles by John Fante

In the street I didn't know where to go.  The town had two worthwhile directions: East and West.  East lay Los Angeles.  West for a half mile lay the sea.  I walked in the direction of the sea.  It was bitterly cold that summer night.  The fog had begun to blow in.  A wind pushed it this way and that, great streaks of crawling white.  In the channel I heard foghorns mooing like a carload of steers.  I lit a cigarette.  There was blood on my knuckles - Mona's.  I wiped it on the leg of my pants.  It didn't come off.  I held up my fist and let the fog wet it with a cold kiss.  Then I wiped it again.  But it didn't come off.  Then I rubbed my knuckles in the dirt at the sidewalk's edge until the blood disappeared, but I tore the skin on my knuckles doing it, and now my blood was flowing.

"Good.  Bleed - you.  Bleed!"

I crossed the schoolyard and walked down Avalon, walking fast.  Where are you going, Arturo?  The cigarette was hateful, like a mouthful of hair.  I spat it out ahead of me, then crushed it carefully with my heel.  Over my shoulder I looked at it.  I was amazed.  It still burned, faint smoke curling in the fog.  I walked a block, thinking about that cigarette.  It still lived.  It hurt me that it still burned.  Why should it still burn?  Why hadn't it gone out?  An evil omen, perhaps.  Why should I deny that cigarette entry into the world of cigarette spirits?  Why let it burn and suffer so miserably?  Had I come to this? Was I so terrible a monster as to deny that cigarette its rightful demise?

I hurried back.

There it lay.

I crushed it to a brown mass.

"Goodbye, dear cigarette.  We shall meet again in paradise."


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