When the truck had gone, loaded with implements, with heavy tools



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CHAPTER 10


WHEN THE TRUCK had gone, loaded with implements, with heavy tools,



with beds and springs, with every movable thing that might be sold,



Tom hung around the place. He mooned into the barn shed, into the

empty stalls, and he walked into the implement lean to and kicked the

refuse that was left, turned a broken mower tooth with his foot. He

visited places he remembered- the red bank where the swallows

nested, the willow tree over the pig pen. Two shoats grunted and

squirmed at him through the fence, black pigs, sunning and

comfortable. And then his pilgrimage was over, and he went to sit on

the doorstep where the shade was lately fallen. Behind him Ma moved

about in the kitchen, washing children's clothes in a bucket; and

her strong freckled arms dripped soap suds from the elbows. She stopped

her rubbing when he sat down. She looked at him a long time, and at

the back of his head when he turned and stared out at the hot

sunlight. And then she went back to her rubbing.

She said, "Tom, I hope things is all right in California."

He turned and looked at her. "What makes you think they ain't?" he

asked.


"Well- nothing. Seems too nice, kinda. I seen the han'bills fellas

pass out, an' how much work they is, an' high wages an' all; an' I

seen in the paper how they want folks to come an' pick grapes an'

oranges an' peaches. That'd be nice work, Tom, pickin' peaches. Even

if they wouldn't let you eat none, you could maybe snitch a little

ratty one sometimes. An' it'd be nice under the trees, workin' in

the shade. I'm scared of stuff so nice. I ain't got faith. I'm

scared somepin ain't so nice about it."

Tom said, "Don't roust your faith bird-high an' you won't do no

crawlin' with the worms."

"I know that's right. That's Scripture, ain't it?"

"I guess so," said Tom. "I never could keep Scripture straight sence

I read a book name' The Winning of Barbara Worth."

Ma chuckled lightly and scrounged the clothes in and out of the

bucket. And she wrung out overalls and shirts, and the muscles of

her forearms corded out. "Your Pa's pa, he quoted Scripture all the


Page 67 , Grapes of Wrath, The - John Steinbeck

time. He got it all roiled up, too. It was the Dr. Miles' Almanac he

got mixed up. Used to read ever' word in that almanac out loudletters

from folks that couldn't sleep or had lame backs. An' later

he'd give them people for a lesson, an' he'd say, 'That's a par'ble

from Scripture.' Your Pa an' Uncle John troubled 'im some about it

when they'd laugh." She piled wrung clothes like cord wood on the

table. "They say it's two thousan' miles where we're goin'. How far ya

think that is, Tom? I seen it on a map, big mountains like on a post

card, an' we're goin' right through 'em. How long ya s'pose it'll take

to go that far, Tommy?"

"I dunno," he said. "Two weeks, maybe ten days if we got luck. Look,

Ma, stop your worryin'. I'm a-gonna tell you somepin about bein' in

the pen. You can't go thinkin' when you're gonna be out. You'd go

nuts. You got to think about that day, an' then the nex' day, about

the ball game Sat'dy. That's what you got to do. Ol' timers does that.

A new young fella gets buttin' his head on the cell door. He's

thinkin' how long it's gonna be. Whyn't you do that? Jus' take ever'

day."

"That's a good way," she said, and she filled up her bucket with hot



water from the stove, and she put in dirty clothes and began

punching them down into the soapy water. "Yes, that's a good way.

But I like to think how nice it's gonna be, maybe, in California.

Never cold. An' fruit ever'place, an' people just bein' in the

nicest places, little white houses in among the orange trees. I

wonder- that is, if we all get jobs an' all work- maybe we can get one

of them little white houses. An' the little fellas go out an' pick

oranges right off the tree. They ain't gonna be able to stand it,

they'll get to yellin' so."

Tom watched her working, and his eyes smiled. "It done you good jus'

thinkin' about it. I knowed a fella from California. He didn't talk

like us. You'd of knowed he come from some far-off place jus' the

way he talked. But he says they's too many folks lookin' for work

right there now. An' he says the folks that pick the fruit live in

dirty ol' camps an' don't hardly get enough to eat. He says wages is

low an' hard to get any."

A shadow crossed her face. "Oh, that ain't so," she said. "Your

father got a han'bill on yella paper, tellin' how they need folks to

work. They wouldn't go to that trouble if they wasn't plenty work.

Costs 'em good money to get them han'bills out. What'd they want ta

lie for, an' costin' 'em money to lie?"

Tom shook his head. "I don't know, Ma. It's kinda hard to think

why they done it. Maybe-" He looked out at the hot sun, shining on the

red earth.

"Maybe what?"

"Maybe it's nice, like you says. Where'd Grampa go? Where'd the

preacher go?"

Ma was going out of the house, her arms loaded high with the

clothes. Tom moved aside to let her pass. "Preacher says he's gonna

walk aroun'. Grampa's asleep here in the house. He comes in here in


Page 68 , Grapes of Wrath, The - John Steinbeck

the day an' lays down sometimes." She walked to the line and began

to drape pale blue jeans and blue shirts and long gray underwear

over the wire.

Behind him Tom heard a shuffling step, and he turned to look in.

Grampa was emerging from the bedroom, and as in the morning, he

fumbled with the buttons of his fly. "I heerd talkin'," he said.

"Sons-a-bitches won't let a ol' fella sleep. When you bastards get dry

behin' the ears, you'll maybe learn to let a ol' fella sleep." His

furious fingers managed to flip open the only two buttons on his fly

that had been buttoned. And his hand forgot what it had been trying to

do. His hand reached in and contentedly scratched under the testicles.

Ma came in with wet hands, and her palms puckered and bloated from hot

water and soap.

"Thought you was sleepin'. Here, let me button you up." And though

he struggled, she held him and buttoned his underwear and his shirt

and his fly. "You go aroun' a sight," she said, and let him go.

And he spluttered angrily, "Fella's come to a nice- to a nicewhen

somebody buttons 'em. I want ta be let be to button my own

pants."


Ma said playfully, "They don't let people run aroun' with their

clothes unbutton' in California."

"They don't, hey! Well, I'll show 'em. They think they're gonna show

me how to act out there? Why, I'll go aroun' a-hangin' out if I

wanta!"

Ma said, "Seems like his language gets worse ever' year. Showin'



off, I guess."

The old man thrust out his bristly chin, and he regarded Ma with his

shrewd, mean, merry eyes. "Well, sir," he said, "we'll be a-startin'

'fore long now. An', by God, they's grapes out there, just a-hangin'

over inta the road. Know what I'm a-gonna do? I'm gonna pick me a wash

tub full a grapes, an' I'm gonna set in 'em, an' scrooge aroun', an'

let the juice run down my pants."

Tom laughed. "By God, if he lives to be two hundred you never will

get Grampa house broke," he said. "You're all set on goin', ain't you,

Grampa?"


The old man pulled out a box and sat down heavily on it. "Yes, sir,"

he said. "An' goddamn near time, too. My brother went on out there

forty years ago. Never did hear nothin' about him. Sneaky

son-of-a-bitch, he was. Nobody loved him. Run off with a single-action

Colt of mine. If I ever run across him or his kids, if he got any

out in California, I'll ask 'em for that Colt. But if I know 'im,

an' he got any kids, he cuckoo'd 'em, an' somebody else is a-raisin'

'em. I sure will be glad to get out there. Got a feelin' it'll make

a new fella outa me. Go right to work in the fruit."

Ma nodded. "He means it, too," she said. "Worked right up to three

months ago, when he throwed his hip out the last time."

"Damn right," said Grampa.

Tom looked outward from his seat on the doorstep. "Here comes that

preacher, walkin' aroun' from the back side a the barn."


Page 69 , Grapes of Wrath, The - John Steinbeck

Ma said, "Curiousest grace I ever heerd, that he give this

mornin'. Wasn't hardly no grace at all. Jus' talkin', but the sound of

it was like a grace."

"He's a funny fella," said Tom. "Talks funny all the time. Seems

like he's talkin' to hisself, though. He ain't tryin' to put nothin'

over."

"Watch the look in his eye," said Ma. "He looks baptized. Got that



look they call lookin' through. He sure looks baptized. An'

a-walkin' with his head down, a-starin' at nothin' on the groun'.

There is a man that's baptized." And she was silent, for Casy had

drawn near the door.

"You gonna get sun-shook, walkin' around like that," said Tom.

Casy said, "Well, yeah- maybe." He appealed to them all suddenly, to

Ma and Grampa and Tom. "I got to get goin' west. I got to go. I wonder

if I kin go along with you folks." And then he stood, embarrassed by

his own speech.

Ma looked to Tom to speak, because he was a man, but Tom did not

speak. She let him have the chance that was his right, and then she

said, "Why, we'd be proud to have you. 'Course I can't say right

now; Pa says all the men'll talk tonight and figger when we gonna

start. I guess maybe we better not say till all the men come. John an'

Pa an' Noah an' Tom an' Grampa an' Al an' Connie, they're gonna figger

soon's they get back. But if they's room I'm pretty sure we'll be

proud to have ya."

The preacher sighed. "I'll go anyways," he said. "Somepin's

happening. I went up an' I looked, an' the houses is all empty, an'

the lan' is empty, an' this whole country is empty. I can't stay

here no more. I got to go where the folks is goin'. I'll work in the

fiel's, an' maybe I'll be happy."

"An' you ain't gonna preach?" Tom asked.

"I ain't gonna preach."

"An' you ain't gonna baptize?" Ma asked.

"I ain't gonna baptize. I'm gonna work in the fiel's, in the green

fiel's, an' I'm gonna be near to folks. I ain't gonna try to teach 'em

nothin'. I'm gonna try to learn. Gonna learn why the folks walks in

the grass, gonna hear 'em talk, gonna hear 'em sing. Gonna listen to

kids eatin' mush. Gonna hear husban' an' wife a-poundin' the

mattress in the night. Gonna eat with 'em an' learn." His eyes were

wet and shining. "Gonna lay in the grass, open an' honest with anybody

that'll have me. Gonna cuss an' swear an' hear the poetry of folks

talkin'. All that's holy, all that's what I didn't understan'. All

them things is the good things."

The preacher sat humbly down on the chopping block beside the

door. "I wonder what they is for a fella so lonely."

Tom coughed delicately. "For a fella that don't preach no more-"

he began.

"Oh, I'm a talker!" said Casy. "No gettin' away from that. But I

ain't preachin'. Preachin' is tellin' folks stuff. I'm askin' 'em.

That ain't preachin', is it?"


Page 70 , Grapes of Wrath, The - John Steinbeck

"I don' know," said Tom. "Preachin's a kinda tone a voice, an'

preachin's a way a lookin' at things. Preachin's bein' good to folks

when they wanna kill ya for it. Las' Christmus in McAlester, Salvation

Army come an' done us good. Three solid hours a cornet music, an' we

set there. They was bein' nice to us. But if one of us tried to walk

out, we'd a-drawed solitary. That's preachin. Doin' good to a fella

that's down an' can't smack ya in the puss for it. No, you ain't no

preacher. But don't you blow no cornets aroun' here."

Ma threw some sticks into the stove. "I'll get you a bite now, but

it ain't much."

Grampa brought his box outside and sat on it and leaned against

the wall, and Tom and Casy leaned back against the house wall. And the

shadow of the afternoon moved out from the house.

In the late afternoon the truck came back, bumping and rattling

through the dust, and there was a layer of dust in the bed, and the

hood was covered with dust, and the headlights were obscured with a

red flour. The sun was setting when the truck came back, and the earth

was bloody in its setting light. Al sat bent over the wheel, proud and

serious and efficient, and Pa and Uncle John, as befitted the heads of

the clan, had the honor seats beside the driver. Standing in the truck

bed, holding onto the bars of the sides, rode the others,

twelve-year-old Ruthie and ten-year-old Winfield, grime-faced and

wild, their eyes tired but excited, their fingers and the edges of

their mouths black and sticky from licorice whips, whined out of their

father in town. Ruthie, dressed in a real dress of pink muslin that

came below her knees, was a little serious in her young-ladiness.

But Winfield was still a trifle of a snot-nose, a little of a


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