John Steinbeck

"The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 6"

THE REVEREND CASY and young Tom stood on the hill and looked down on the
Joad place. The small unpainted house was mashed at one corner, and it had been
pushed off its foundations so that it slumped at an angle, its blind front windows
pointing at a spot of sky well above the horizon. The fences were gone and the cotton
grew in the dooryard and up against the house, and the cotton was about the shed barn.
The outhouse lay on its side, and the cotton grew close against it. Where the dooryard
had been pounded hard by the bare feet of children and by stamping horses' hooves and
by the broad wagon wheels, it was cultivated now, and the dark green, dusty cotton
grew. Young Tom stared for a long time at the ragged willow beside the dry horse
trough, at the concrete base where the pump had been. "Jesus!" he said at last. "Hell
musta popped here. There ain't nobody livin' there." At last he moved quickly down the
hill, and Casy followed him. He looked into the barn shed, deserted, a little ground
straw on the floor, and at the mule stall in the corner. And as he looked in, there was a
skittering on the floor and a family of mice faded in under the straw. Joad paused at the
entrance to the tool-shed leanto, and no tools were there—a broken plow point, a mess
of hay wire in the corner, an iron wheel from a hayrake and a rat-gnawed mule collar, a
flat gallon oil can crusted with dirt and oil, and a pair of torn overalls hanging on a
nail. "There ain't nothin' left," said Joad. "We had pretty nice tools. There ain't nothin'
left."
Casy said, "If I was still a preacher I'd say the arm of the Lord had struck. But now I
don't know what happened. I been away. I didn't hear nothin'." They walked toward the
concrete well-cap, walked through cotton plants to get to it, and the bolls were forming
on the cotton, and the land was cultivated.
"We never planted here," Joad said. "We always kept this clear. Why, you can't get
a horse in now without he tromps the cotton." They paused at the dry watering trough,
and the proper weeds that should grow under a trough were gone and the old thick
wood of the trough was dry and cracked. On the well-cap the bolts that had held the
pump stuck up, their threads rusty and the nuts gone. Joad looked into the tube of the
well and listened. He dropped a clod down the well and listened. "She was a good
well," he said. "I can't hear water." He seemed reluctant to go to the house. He dropped
clod after clod down the well. "Maybe they're all dead," he said. "But somebody'd a
told me. I'd a got word some way."
"Maybe they left a letter or something to tell in the house. Would they of knowed
you was comin' out?"
"I don' know," said Joad. "No, I guess not. I didn't know myself till a week ago."
"Le's look in the house. She's all pushed out a shape. Something knocked the hell
out of her." They walked slowly toward the sagging house. Two of the supports of the
porch roof were pushed out so that the roof flopped down on one end. And the housecorner was crushed in. Through a maze of splintered wood the room at the corner was
visible. The front door hung open inward, and a low strong gate across the front door
hung outward on leather hinges.
Joad stopped at the step, a twelve-by-twelve timber. "Doorstep's here," he said. "But
they're gone—or Ma's dead." He pointed to the low gate across the front door. "If Ma
was anywheres about, that gate'd be shut an' hooked. That's one thing she always
done—seen that gate was shut." His eyes were warm. "Ever since the pig got in over to
Jacobs' an' et the baby. Milly Jacobs was jus' out in the barn. She come in while the pig
was still eatin' it. Well, Milly Jacobs was in a family way, an' she went ravin'. Never
did get over it. Touched ever since. But Ma took a lesson from it. She never lef' that
pig gate open 'less she was in the house herself. Never did forget. No—they're gone—
or dead." He climbed to the split porch and looked into the kitchen. The windows were
broken out, and throwing rocks lay on the floor, and the floor and walls sagged steeply
away from the door, and the sifted dust was on the boards. Joad pointed to the broken
glass and the rocks. "Kids," he said. "They'll go twenty miles to bust a window. I done
it myself. They know when a house is empty, they know. That's the fust thing kids do
when folks move out." The kitchen was empty of furniture, stove gone and the round
stovepipe hole in the wall showing light. On the sink shelf lay an old beer opener and a
broken fork with its wooden handle gone. Joad slipped cautiously into the room, and
the floor groaned under his weight. An old copy of the Philadelphia Ledger was on the
floor against the wall, its pages yellow and curling. Joad looked into the bedroom—no
bed, no chairs, nothing. On the wall a picture of an Indian girl in color, labeled Red
Wing. A bed slat leaning against the wall, and in one corner a woman's high button
shoe, curled up at the toe and broken over the instep. Joad picked it up and looked at it.
"I remember this," he said. "This was Ma's. It's all wore out now. Ma liked them shoes.
Had 'em for years. No, they've went—an' took ever'thing."
The sun had lowered until it came through the angled end windows now, and it
flashed on the edges of the broken glass. Joad turned at last and went out and crossed
the porch. He sat down on the edge of it and rested his bare feet on the twelve-bytwelve step. The evening light was on the fields, and the cotton plants threw long
shadows on the ground, and the molting willow tree threw a long shadow.
Casy sat down beside Joad. "They never wrote you nothin'?" he asked.
"No. Like I said, they wasn't people to write. Pa could write, but he wouldn't. Didn't
like to. It give him the shivers to write. He could work out a catalogue order as good as
the nex' fella, but he wouldn't write no letters just for ducks." They sat side by side,
staring off into the distance. Joad laid his rolled coat on the porch beside him. His
independent hands rolled a cigarette, smoothed it and lighted it, and he inhaled deeply
and blew the smoke out through his nose. "Somepin's wrong," he said. "I can't put my
finger on her. I got an itch that somepin's wronger'n hell. Just this house pushed aroun'
an' my folks gone."
Casy said, "Right over there the ditch was, where I done the baptizin'. You wasn't
mean, but you was tough. Hung onto that little girl's pigtail like a bulldog. We baptize'
you both in the name of the Holy Ghos', and still you hung on. Ol' Tom says, 'Hol' 'im
under water.' So I shove your head down till you start to bubblin' before you'd let go a
that pigtail. You wasn't mean, but you was tough. Sometimes a tough kid grows up
with a big jolt of the sperit in him."
A lean gray cat came sneaking out of the barn and crept through the cotton plants to
the end of the porch. It leaped silently up to the porch and crept low-belly toward the
men. It came to a place between and behind the two, and then it sat down, and its tail
stretched out straight and flat to the floor, and the last inch of it flicked. The cat sat and
looked off into the distance where the men were looking.
Joad glanced around at it. "By God! Look who's here. Somebody stayed." He put
out his hand, but the cat leaped away out of reach and sat down and licked the pads of
its lifted paw. Joad looked at it, and his face was puzzled. "I know what's the matter,"
he cried. "That cat jus' made me figger what's wrong."
"Seems to me there's lots wrong," said Casy.
"No, it's more'n jus' this place. Whyn't that cat jus' move in with some neighbors—
with the Rances. How come nobody ripped some lumber off this house? Ain't been
nobody here for three-four months, an' nobody's stole no lumber. Nice planks on the
barn shed, plenty good planks on the house, winda frames—an' nobody's took 'em.
That ain't right. That's what was botherin' me, an' I couldn't catch hold of her."
"Well, what's that figger out for you?" Casy reached down and slipped off his
sneakers and wriggled his long toes on the step.
"I don' know. Seems like maybe there ain't any neighbors. If there was, would all
them nice planks be here? Why, Jesus Christ! Albert Rance took his family, kids an'
dogs an' all, into Oklahoma City one Christmus. They was gonna visit with Albert's
cousin. Well, folks aroun' here thought Albert moved away without sayin' nothin'—
figgered maybe he got debts or some woman's squarin' off at him. When Albert come
back a week later there wasn't a thing lef' in his house—stove was gone, beds was
gone, winda frames was gone, an' eight feet of plankin' was gone off the south side of
the house so you could look right through her. He come drivin' home just as Muley
Graves was going away with the doors an' the well pump. Took Albert two weeks
drivin' aroun' the neighbors' 'fore he got his stuff back."
Casy scratched his toes luxuriously. "Didn't nobody give him an argument? All of
'em jus' give the stuff up?"
"Sure. They wasn't stealin' it. They thought he lef' it, an' they jus' took it. He got all
of it back—all but a sofa pilla, velvet with a pitcher of an Injun on it. Albert claimed
Grampa got it. Claimed Grampa got Injun blood, that's why he wants that pitcher.
Well, Grampa did get her, but he didn't give a damn about the pitcher on it. He jus'
liked her. Used to pack her aroun' an' he'd put her wherever he was gonna sit. He never
would give her back to Albert. Says, 'If Albert wants this pilla so bad, let him come an'
get her. But he better come shootin', 'cause I'll blow his goddamn stinkin' head off if he
comes messin' aroun' my pilla.' So finally Albert give up an' made Grampa a present of
that pilla. It give Grampa idears, though. He took to savin' chicken feathers. Says he's
gonna have a whole damn bed of feathers. But he never got no feather bed. One time
Pa got mad at a skunk under the house. Pa slapped that skunk with a two-by-four, and
Ma burned all Grampa's feathers so we could live in the house." He laughed.
"Grampa's a tough ol' bast*rd. Jus' set on that Injun pilla an' says, 'Let Albert come an'
get her. Why,' he says, 'I'll take that squirt and wring 'im out like a pair of drawers.'"
The cat crept close between the men again, and its tail lay flat and its whiskers
j*rked now and then. The sun dropped low toward the horizon and the dusty air was
red and golden. The cat reached out a gray questioning paw and touched Joad's coat.
He looked around. "Hell, I forgot the turtle. I ain't gonna pack it all over hell." He
unwrapped the land turtle and pushed it under the house. But in a moment it was out,
headed southwest as it had been from the first. The cat leaped at it and struck at its
straining head and slashed at its moving feet. The old, hard, humorous head was pulled
in, and the thick tail slapped in under the shell, and when the cat grew tired of waiting
for it and walked off, the turtle headed on southwest again.
Young Tom Joad and the preacher watched the turtle go—waving its legs and
boosting its heavy, high-domed shell along toward the southwest. The cat crept along
behind for a while, but in a dozen yards it arched its back to a strong taut bow and
yawned, and came stealthily back toward the seated men.
"Where the hell you s'pose he's goin'?" said Joad. "I seen turtles all my life. They're
always goin' someplace. They always seem to want to get there." The gray cat seated
itself between and behind them again. It blinked slowly. The skin over its shoulders
j*rked forward under a flea, and then slipped slowly back. The cat lifted a paw and
inspected it, flicked its claws out and in again experimentally, and licked its pads with
a shell-pink tongue. The red sun touched the horizon and spread out like a jellyfish,
and the sky above it seemed much brighter and more alive than it had been. Joad
unrolled his new yellow shoes from his coat, and he brushed his dusty feet with his
hand before he slipped them on.
The preacher, staring off across the fields, said, "Somebody's comin'. Look! Down
there, right through the cotton."
Joad looked where Casy's finger pointed. "Comin' afoot," he said. "Can't see 'im for
the dust he raises. Who the hell's comin' here?" They watched the figure approaching
in the evening light, and the dust it raised was reddened by the setting sun. "Man," said
Joad. The man drew closer, and as he walked past the barn, Joad said, "Why, I know
him. You know him—that's Muley Graves." And he called, "Hey, Muley! How ya?"
The approaching man stopped, startled by the call, and then he came on quickly. He
was a lean man, rather short. His movements were j*rky and quick. He carried a gunny
sack in his hand. His blue jeans were pale at knee and seat, and he wore an old black
suit coat, stained and spotted, the sleeves torn loose from the shoulders in back, and
ragged holes worn through at the elbows. His black hat was as stained as his coat, and
the band, torn half free, flopped up and down as he walked. Muley's face was smooth
and unwrinkled, but it wore the truculent look of a bad child's, the mouth held tight and
small, the little eyes half scowling, half petulant.
"You remember Muley," Joad said softly to the preacher.
"Who's that?" the advancing man called. Joad did not answer. Muley came close,
very close, before he made out the faces. "Well, I'll be damned," he said. "It's Tommy
Joad. When'd you get out, Tommy?"
"Two days ago," said Joad. "Took a little time to hitchhike home. An' look here
what I find. Where's my folks, Muley? What's the house all smashed up for, an' cotton
planted in the dooryard?"
"By God, it's lucky I come by!" said Muley. "Cause ol' Tom worried himself. When
they was fixin' to move I was settin' in the kitchen there. I jus' tol' Tom I wan't gonna
move, by God. I tol' him that, an' Tom says, 'I'm worryin' myself about Tommy. S'pose
he comes home an' they ain't nobody here. What'll he think?' I says, 'Whyn't you write
down a letter?' An' Tom says, 'Maybe I will. I'll think about her. But if I don't, you
keep your eye out for Tommy if you're still aroun'.' 'I'll be aroun',' I says. 'I'll be aroun'
till hell freezes over. There ain't nobody can run a guy name of Graves outa this
country.' An' they ain't done it, neither."
Joad said impatiently, "Where's my folks? Tell about you standin' up to 'em later,
but where's my folks?"
"Well, they was gonna stick her out when the bank come to tractorin' off the place.
Your grampa stood out here with a rifle, an' he blowed the headlights off the cat', but
she come on just the same. Your grampa didn't wanta kill the guy drivin' that cat', an'
that was Willy Feeley, an' Willy knowed it, so he jus' come on, an' bumped the hell
outa the house, an' give her a shake like a dog shakes a rat. Well, it took somepin outa
Tom. Kinda got into 'im. He ain't been the same ever since."
"Where is my folks?" Joad spoke angrily.
"What I'm tellin' you. Took three trips with your Uncle John's wagon. Took the
stove an' the pump an' the beds. You should a seen them beds go out with all them kids
an' your granma an' grampa settin' up against the headboard, an' your brother Noah
settin' there smokin' a cigarette, an' spittin' la-de-da over the side of the wagon." Joad
opened his mouth to speak. "They're all at your Uncle John's," Muley said quickly.
"Oh! All at John's. Well, what they doin' there? Now stick to her for a second,
Muley. Jus' stick to her. In jus' a minute you can go on your own way. What they doin'
there?"
"Well, they been choppin' cotton, all of 'em, even the kids an' your grampa. Gettin'
money together so they can shove on west. Gonna buy a car and shove on west where
it's easy livin'. There ain't nothin' here. Fifty cents a clean acre for choppin' cotton, an'
folks beggin' for the chance to chop."
"An' they ain't gone yet?"
"No," said Muley. "Not that I know. Las' I heard was four days ago when I seen
your brother Noah out shootin' jackrabbits, an' he says they're aimin' to go in about two
weeks. John got his notice he got to get off. You jus' go on about eight miles to John's
place. You'll find your folks piled in John's house like gophers in a winter burrow."
"O.K.," said Joad. "Now you can ride on your own way. You ain't changed a bit,
Muley. If you want to tell about somepin off northwest, you point your nose straight
southeast."
Muley said truculently, "You ain't changed neither. You was a smart-aleck kid, an'
you're still a smart aleck. You ain't tellin' me how to skin my life, by any chancet?"
Joad grinned. "No, I ain't. If you wanta drive your head into a pile a broken glass,
there ain't nobody can tell you different. You know this here preacher, don't you,
Muley? Rev. Casy."
"Why, sure, sure. Didn't look over. Remember him well." Casy stood up and the
two shook hands. "Glad to see you again," said Muley. "You ain't been aroun' for a hell
of a long time."
"I been off a-askin' questions," said Casy. "What happened here? Why they kickin'
folks off the lan'?"
Muley's mouth snapped shut so tightly that a little parrot's beak in the middle of his
upper lip stuck down over his under lip. He scowled. "Them sons-a-b*tches," he said.
"Them dirty sons-a-b*tches. I tell ya, men, I'm stayin'. They ain't gettin' rid a me. If
they throw me off, I'll come back, an' if they figger I'll be quiet underground, why, I'll
take couple-three of the sons-a-b*tches along for company." He patted a heavy weight
in his side coat pocket. "I ain't a-goin'. My pa come here fifty years ago. An' I ain't agoin'."
Joad said, "What's the idear of kickin' the folks off?"
"Oh! They talked pretty about it. You know what kinda years we been havin'. Dust
comin' up an' spoilin' ever'thing so a man didn't get enough crop to plug up an ant's ass.
An' ever'body got bills at the grocery. You know how it is. Well, the folks that owns
the lan' says, 'We can't afford to keep no tenants.' An' they says, 'The share a tenant
gets is jus' the margin a profit we can't afford to lose.' An' they says, 'If we put all our
lan' in one piece we can jus' hardly make her pay.' So they tractored all the tenants off a
the lan'. All 'cept me, an' by God I ain't goin'. Tommy, you know me. You knowed me
all your life."
"Damn right," said Joad, "all my life."
"Well, you know I ain't a fool. I know this land ain't much good. Never was much
good 'cept for grazin'. Never should a broke her up. An' now she's cottoned damn near
to death. If on'y they didn't tell me I got to get off, why, I'd prob'y be in California right
now a-eatin' grapes an' a-pickin' an orange when I wanted. But them sons-a-b*tches
says I got to get off—an', Jesus Christ, a man can't, when he's tol' to!"
"Sure," said Joad. "I wonder Pa went so easy. I wonder Grampa didn' kill nobody.
Nobody never tol' Grampa where to put his feet. An' Ma ain't nobody you can push
aroun' neither. I seen her beat the hell out of a tin peddler with a live chicken one time
'cause he give her a argument. She had the chicken in one han', an' the ax in the other,
about to cut its head off. She aimed to go for that peddler with the ax, but she forgot
which hand was which, an' she takes after him with the chicken. Couldn' even eat that
chicken when she got done. They wasn't nothing but a pair a legs in her han'. Grampa
throwed his hip outa joint laughin'. How'd my folks go so easy?"
"Well, the guy that comes aroun' talked nice as pie. 'You got to get off. It ain't my
fault.' 'Well,' I says, 'whose fault is it? I'll go an' I'll nut the fella.' 'It's the Shawnee Lan'
an' Cattle Company. I jus' got orders.' 'Who's the Shawnee Lan' an' Cattle Company?'
'It ain't nobody. It's a company.' Got a fella crazy. There wasn't nobody you could lay
for. Lot a the folks jus' got tired out lookin' for somepin to be mad at—but not me. I'm
mad at all of it. I'm stayin'."
A large red drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone,
and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a
bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the
eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east. The evening star
flashed and glittered in the dusk. The gray cat sneaked away toward the open barn shed
and passed inside like a shadow.
Joad said, "Well, we ain't gonna walk no eight miles to Uncle John's place tonight.
My dogs is burned up. How's it if we go to your place, Muley? That's on'y about a
mile."
"Won't do no good." Muley seemed embarrassed. "My wife an' the kids an' her
brother all took an' went to California. They wasn't nothin' to eat. They wasn't as mad
as me, so they went. They wasn't nothin' to eat here."
The preacher stirred nervously. "You should of went too. You shouldn't of broke up
the fambly."
"I couldn'," said Muley Graves. "Somepin jus' wouldn' let me."
"Well, by God, I'm hungry," said Joad. "Four solemn years I been eatin' right on the
minute. My guts is yellin' bloody murder. What you gonna eat, Muley? How you been
gettin' your dinner?"
Muley said ashamedly, "For a while I et frogs an' squirrels an' prairie dogs
sometimes. Had to do it. But now I got some wire nooses on the tracks in the dry
stream brush. Get rabbits, an' sometimes a prairie chicken. Skunks get caught, an'
coons, too." He reached down, picked up his sack, and emptied it on the porch. Two
cottontails and a jackrabbit fell out and rolled over limply, soft and furry.
"God Awmighty," said Joad, "it's more'n four years sence I've et fresh-killed meat."
Casy picked up one of the cottontails and held it in his hand. "You sharin' with us,
Muley Graves?" he asked.
Muley fidgeted in embarrassment. "I ain't got no choice in the matter." He stopped
on the ungracious sound of his words. "That ain't like I mean it. That ain't. I mean"—
he stumbled—"what I mean, if a fella's got somepin to eat an' another fella's hungry—
why, the first fella ain't got no choice. I mean, s'pose I pick up my rabbits an' go off
somewheres an' eat 'em. See?"
"I see," said Casy. "I can see that. Muley sees somepin there, Tom. Muley's got aholt of somepin, an' it's too big for him, an' it's too big for me."
Young Tom rubbed his hands together. "Who got a knife? Le's get at these here
miserable rodents. Le's get at 'em."
Muley reached in his pants pocket and produced a large horn-handled pocket knife.
Tom Joad took it from him, opened a blade, and smelled it. He drove the blade again
and again into the ground and smelled it again, wiped it on his trouser leg, and felt the
edge with his thumb.
Muley took a quart bottle of water out of his hip pocket and set it on the porch. "Go
easy on that there water," he said. "That's all there is. This here well's filled in."
Tom took up a rabbit in his hand. "One of you go get some bale wire outa the barn.
We'll make a fire with some a this broken plank from the house." He looked at the
dead rabbit. "There ain't nothin' so easy to get ready as a rabbit," he said. He lifted the
skin of the back, slit it, put his fingers in the hole, and tore the skin off. It slipped off
like a stocking, slipped off the body to the neck, and off the legs to the paws. Joad
picked up the knife again and cut off head and feet. He laid the skin down, slit the
rabbit along the ribs, shook out the intestines onto the skin, and then threw the mess off
into the cotton field. And the clean-muscled little body was ready. Joad cut off the legs
and cut the meaty back into two pieces. He was picking up the second rabbit when
Casy came back with a snarl of bale wire in his hand. "Now build up a fire and put
some stakes up," said Joad. "Jesus Christ, I'm hungry for these here creatures!" He
cleaned and cut the rest of the rabbits and strung them on the wire. Muley and Casy
tore splintered boards from the wrecked house-corner and started a fire, and they drove
a stake into the ground on each side to hold the wire.
Muley came back to Joad. "Look out for boils on that jackrabbit," he said. "I don't
like to eat no jackrabbit with boils." He took a little cloth bag from his pocket and put
it on the porch.
Joad said, "The jack was clean as a whistle—Jesus God, you got salt too? By any
chance you got some plates an' a tent in your pocket?" He poured salt in his hand and
sprinkled it over the pieces of rabbit strung on the wire.
The fire leaped and threw shadows on the house, and the dry wood crackled and
snapped. The sky was almost dark now and the stars were out sharply. The gray cat
came out of the barn shed and trotted miaowing toward the fire, but, nearly there, it
turned and went directly to one of the little piles of rabbit entrails on the ground. It
chewed and swallowed, and the entrails hung from its mouth.
Casy sat on the ground beside the fire, feeding it broken pieces of board, pushing
the long boards in as the flame ate off their ends. The evening bats flashed into the
firelight and out again. The cat crouched back and licked its lips and washed its face
and whiskers.
Joad held up his rabbit-laden wire between his two hands and walked to the fire.
"Here, take one end, Muley. Wrap your end around that stake. That's good, now! Let's
tighten her up. We ought to wait till the fire's burned down, but I can't wait." He made
the wire taut, then found a stick and slipped the pieces of meat along the wire until they
were over the fire. And the flames licked up around the meat and hardened and glazed
the surfaces. Joad sat down by the fire, but with his stick he moved and turned the
rabbit so that it would not become sealed to the wire. "This here is a party," he said.
"Salt, Muley's got, an' water an' rabbits. I wish he got a pot of hominy in his pocket.
That's all I wish."
Muley said over the fire, "You fellas'd think I'm touched, the way I live."
"Touched nothin'," said Joad. "If you're touched, I wisht ever'body was touched."
Muley continued, "Well, sir, it's a funny thing. Somepin went an' happened to me
when they tol' me I had to get off the place. Fust I was gonna go in an' kill a whole
flock a people. Then all my folks all went away out west. An' I got wanderin' aroun'.
Jus' walkin' aroun'. Never went far. Slep' where I was. I was gonna sleep here tonight.
That's why I come. I'd tell myself, 'I'm lookin' after things so when all the folks come
back it'll be all right.' But I knowed that wan't true. There ain't nothin' to look after.
The folks ain't never comin' back. I'm jus' wanderin' aroun' like a damn ol' graveyard
ghos'."
"Fella gets use' to a place, it's hard to go," said Casy. "Fella gets use' to a way a
thinkin' it's hard to leave. I ain't a preacher no more, but all the time I find I'm prayin',
not even thinkin' what I'm doin."
Joad turned the pieces of meat over on the wire. The juice was dripping now, and
every drop, as it fell in the fire, shot up a spurt of flame. The smooth surface of the
meat was crinkling up and turning a faint brown. "Smell her," said Joad. "Jesus, look
down an' just smell her!"
Muley went on, "Like a damn ol' graveyard ghos'. I been goin' aroun' the places
where stuff happened. Like there's a place over by our forty; in a gully they's a bush.
Fust time I ever laid with a girl was there. Me fourteen an' stampin' an' j*rkin' an'
snortin' like a buck deer, randy as a billygoat. So I went there an' I laid down on the
groun', an' I seen it all happen again. An' there's the place down by the barn where Pa
got gored to death by a bull. An' his blood is right in that groun', right now. Mus' be.
Nobody never washed it out. An' I put my han' on that groun' where my own pa's blood
is part of it." He paused uneasily. "You fellas think I'm touched?"
Joad turned the meat, and his eyes were inward. Casy, feet drawn up, stared into the
fire. Fifteen feet back from the men the fed cat was sitting, the long gray tail wrapped
neatly around the front feet. A big owl shrieked as it went overhead, and the firelight
showed its white underside and the spread of its wings.
"No," said Casy. "You're lonely—but you ain't touched."
Muley's tight little face was rigid. "I put my han' right on the groun' where that
blood is still. An' I seen my pa with a hole through his ches', an' I felt him shiver up
against me like he done, an' I seen him kind of settle back an' reach with his han's an'
his feet. An' I seen his eyes all milky with hurt, an' then he was still an' his eyes so
clear—lookin' up. An' me a little kid settin' there, not cryin' nor nothin', jus' settin'
there." He shook his head sharply. Joad turned the meat over and over. "An' I went in
the room where Joe was born. Bed wasn't there, but it was the room. An' all them
things is true, an' they're right in the place they happened. Joe came to life right there.
He give a big ol' gasp an' then he let out a squawk you could hear a mile, an' his
granma standin' there says, 'That's a daisy, that's a daisy,' over an' over. An' her so
proud she bust three cups that night."
Joad cleared his throat. "Think we better eat her now."
"Let her get good an' done, good an' brown, awmost black," said Muley irritably. "I
wanta talk. I ain't talked to nobody. If I'm touched, I'm touched, an' that's the end of it.
Like a ol' graveyard ghos' goin' to neighbors' houses in the night. Peters', Jacobs',
Rance's, Joad's; an' the houses all dark, standin' like miser'ble ratty boxes, but they was
good parties an' dancin'. An' there was meetin's and shoutin' glory. They was weddin's,
all in them houses. An' then I'd want to go in town an' kill folks. 'Cause what'd they
take when they tractored the folks off the lan'? What'd they get so their 'margin a profit'
was safe? They got Pa dyin' on the groun', an' Joe yellin' his first breath, an' me j*rkin'
like a billy goat under a bush in the night. What'd they get? God knows the lan' ain't no
good. Nobody been able to make a crop for years. But them sons-a-b*tches at their
desks, they jus' chopped folks in two for their margin a profit. They jus' cut 'em in two.
Place where folks live is them folks. They ain't whole, out lonely on the road in a
piled-up car. They ain't alive no more. Them sons-a-b*tches killed 'em." And he was
silent, his thin lips still moving, his chest still panting. He sat and looked down at his
hands in the firelight. "I—I ain't talked to nobody for a long time," he apologized
softly. "I been sneakin' aroun' like a ol' graveyard ghos'."
Casy pushed the long boards into the fire and the flames licked up around them and
leaped up toward the meat again. The house cracked loudly as the cooler night air
contracted the wood. Casy said quietly, "I gotta see them folks that's gone out on the
road. I got a feelin' I got to see them. They gonna need help no preachin' can give 'em.
Hope of heaven when their lives ain't lived? Holy Sperit when their own sperit is
downcast an' sad? They gonna need help. They got to live before they can afford to
die."
Joad cried nervously, "Jesus Christ, le's eat this meat 'fore it's smaller'n a cooked
mouse! Look at her. Smell her." He leaped to his feet and slid the pieces of meat along
the wire until they were clear of the fire. He took Muley's knife and sawed through a
piece of meat until it was free of the wire. "Here's for the preacher," he said.
"I tol' you I ain't no preacher."
"Well, here's for the man, then." He cut off another piece. "Here, Muley, if you ain't
too goddamn upset to eat. This here's jackrabbit. Tougher'n a bull-b*tch." He sat back
and clamped his long teeth on the meat and tore out a great bite and chewed it. "Jesus
Christ! Hear her crunch!" And he tore out another bite ravenously.
Muley still sat regarding his meat. "Maybe I oughtn' to a-talked like that," he said.
"Fella should maybe keep stuff like that in his head."
Casy looked over, his mouth full of rabbit. He chewed, and his muscled throat
convulsed in swallowing. "Yes, you should talk," he said. "Sometimes a sad man can
talk the sadness right out through his mouth. Sometimes a killin' man can talk the
murder right out of his mouth an' not do no murder. You done right. Don't you kill
nobody if you can help it." And he bit out another hunk of rabbit. Joad tossed the bones
in the fire and jumped up and cut more off the wire. Muley was eating slowly now, and
his nervous little eyes went from one to the other of his companions. Joad ate scowling
like an animal, and a ring of grease formed around his mouth.
For a long time Muley looked at him, almost timidly. He put down the hand that
held the meat. "Tommy," he said.
Joad looked up and did not stop gnawing the meat. "Yeah?" he said, around a
mouthful.
"Tommy, you ain't mad with me talkin' about killin' people? You ain't huffy, Tom?"
"No," said Tom. "I ain't huffy. It's just somepin that happened."
"Ever'body knowed it was no fault of yours," said Muley. "Ol' man Turnbull said he
was gonna get you when ya come out. Says nobody can kill one a his boys. All the
folks hereabouts talked him outa it, though."
"We was drunk," Joad said softly. "Drunk at a dance. I don' know how she started.
An' then I felt that knife go in me, an' that sobered me up. Fust thing I see is Herb
comin' for me again with his knife. They was this here shovel leanin' against the
schoolhouse, so I grabbed it an' smacked 'im over the head. I never had nothing against
Herb. He was a nice fella. Come a-bullin' after my sister Rosasharn when he was a
little fella. No, I liked Herb."
"Well, ever'body tol' his pa that, an' finally cooled 'im down. Somebody says they's
Hatfield blood on his mother's side in ol' Turnbull, an' he's got to live up to it. I don't
know about that. Him an' his folks went on to California six months ago."
Joad took the last of the rabbit from the wire and passed it around. He settled back
and ate more slowly now, chewed evenly, and wiped the grease from his mouth with
his sleeve. And his eyes, dark and half closed, brooded as he looked into the dying fire.
"Ever'body's goin' west," he said. "I got me a parole to keep. Can't leave the state."
"Parole?" Muley asked. "I heard about them. How do they work?"
"Well, I got out early, three years early. They's stuff I gotta do, or they send me
back in. Got to report ever' so often."
"How they treat ya there in McAlester? My woman's cousin was in McAlester an'
they give him hell."
"It ain't so bad," said Joad. "Like ever'place else. They give ya hell if ya raise hell.
You get along O.K. les' some guard gets it in for ya. Then you catch plenty hell. I got
along O.K. Minded my own business, like any guy would. I learned to write nice as
hell. Birds an' stuff like that, too; not just word writin'. My ol' man'll be sore when he
sees me whip out a bird in one stroke. Pa's gonna be mad when he sees me do that. He
don't like no fancy stuff like that. He don't even like word writin'. Kinda scares 'im I
guess. Ever' time Pa seen writin', somebody took somepin away from 'im."
"They didn't give you no beatin's or nothin' like that?"
"No, I jus' tended my own affairs. 'Course you get goddamn good an' sick a-doin'
the same thing day after day for four years. If you done somepin you was ashamed of,
you might think about that. But, hell, if I seen Herb Turnbull comin' for me with a
knife right now, I'd squash him down with a shovel again."
"Anybody would," said Muley. The preacher stared into the fire, and his high
forehead was white in the settling dark. The flash of little flames picked out the cords
of his neck. His hands, clasped about his knees, were busy pulling knuckles.
Joad threw the last bones into the fire and licked his fingers and then wiped them on
his pants. He stood up and brought the bottle of water from the porch, took a sparing
drink, and passed the bottle before he sat down again. He went on. "The thing that give
me the mos' trouble was, it didn' make no sense. You don't look for no sense when
lightnin' kills a cow, or it comes up a flood. That's jus' the way things is. But when a
bunch of men take an' lock you up four years, it ought to have some meaning. Men is
supposed to think things out. Here they put me in, an' keep me an' feed me four years.
That ought to either make me so I won't do her again or else punish me so I'll be afraid
to do her again"—he paused—"but if Herb or anybody else come for me, I'd do her
again. Do her before I could figure her out. Specially if I was drunk. That sort of
senselessness kind a worries a man."
Muley observed, "Judge says he give you a light sentence 'cause it wasn't all your
fault."
Joad said, "They's a guy in McAlester—lifer. He studies all the time. He's sec'etary
of the warden—writes the warden's letters an' stuff like that. Well, he's one hell of a
bright guy an' reads law an' all stuff like that. Well, I talked to him one time about her,
'cause he reads so much stuff. An' he says it don't do no good to read books. Says he's
read ever'thing about prisons now, an' in the old times; an' he says she makes less sense
to him now than she did before he starts readin'. He says it's a thing that started way to
hell an' gone back, an' nobody seems to be able to stop her, an' nobody got sense
enough to change her. He says for God's sake don't read about her because he says for
one thing you'll jus' get messed up worse, an' for another you won't have no respect for
the guys that work the gover'ments."
"I ain't got a hell of a lot of respec' for 'em now," said Muley. "On'y kind a
gover'ment we got that leans on us fellas is the 'safe margin a profit.' There's one thing
that got me stumped, an' that's Willy Feeley—drivin' that cat', an' gonna be a straw
boss on lan' his own folks used to farm. That worries me. I can see how a fella might
come from some other place an' not know no better, but Willy belongs. Worried me so
I went up to 'im and ast 'im. Right off he got mad. 'I got two little kids,' he says. 'I got a
wife an' my wife's mother. Them people got to eat.' Gets madder'n hell. 'Fust an' on'y
thing I got to think about is my own folks,' he says. 'What happens to other folks is
their look-out,' he says. Seems like he's 'shamed, so he gets mad."
Jim Casy had been staring at the dying fire, and his eyes had grown wider and his
neck muscles stood higher. Suddenly he cried, "I got her! If ever a man got a dose of
the sperit, I got her. Got her all of a flash!" He jumped to his feet and paced back and
forth, his head swinging. "Had a tent one time. Drawed as much as five hundred people
ever' night. That's before either you fellas seen me." He stopped and faced them. "Ever
notice I never took no collections when I was preachin' out here to folks—in barns an'
in the open?"
"By God, you never," said Muley. "People around here got so use' to not givin' you
money they got to bein' a little mad when some other preacher came along an' passed
the hat. Yes, sir!"
"I took somepin to eat," said Casy. "I took a pair a pants when mine was wore out,
an' a ol' pair a shoes when I was walkin' through to the groun', but it wasn't like when I
had the tent. Some days there I'd take in ten or twenty dollars. Wasn't happy that-away, so I give her up, an' for a time I was happy. I think I got her now. I don't know if I
can say her. I guess I won't try to say her—but maybe there's a place for a preacher.
Maybe I can preach again. Folks out lonely on the road, folks with no lan', no home to
go to. They got to have some kind of home. Maybe—" He stood over the fire. The
hundred muscles of his neck stood out in high relief, and the firelight went deep into
his eyes and ignited red embers. He stood and looked at the fire, his face tense as
though he were listening, and the hands that had been active to pick, to handle, to
throw ideas, grew quiet, and in a moment crept into his pocket. The bats flittered in
and out of the dull firelight, and the soft watery burble of a night hawk came from
across the fields.
Tom reached quietly into his pocket and brought out his tobacco, and he rolled a
cigarette slowly and looked over it at the coals while he worked. He ignored the whole
speech of the preacher, as though it were some private thing that should not be
inspected. He said, "Night after night in my bunk I figgered how she'd be when I come
home again. I figgered maybe Grampa and Granma'd be dead, an' maybe there'd be
some new kids. Maybe Pa'd not be so tough. Maybe Ma'd set back a little an' let
Rosasharn do the work. I knowed it wouldn't be the same as it was. Well, we'll sleep
here, I guess, an' come daylight we'll get on to Uncle John's. Leastwise I will. You
think you're comin' along, Casy?"
The preacher still stood looking into the coals. He said slowly, "Yeah, I'm goin' with
you. An' when your folks start out on the road I'm goin' with them. An' where folks are
on the road, I'm gonna be with them."
"You're welcome," said Joad. "Ma always favored you. Said you was a preacher to
trust. Rosasharn wasn't growed up then." He turned his head. "Muley, you gonna walk
on over with us?" Muley was looking toward the road over which they had come.
"Think you'll come along, Muley?" Joad repeated.
"Huh? No. I don't go no place, an' I don't leave no place. See that glow over there,
j*rkin' up an' down? That's prob'ly the super'ntendent of this stretch a cotton.
Somebody maybe seen our fire."
Tom looked. The glow of light was nearly over the hill. "We ain't doin' no harm,"
he said. "We'll jus' set here. We ain't doin' nothin'."
Muley cackled. "Yeah! We're doin' somepin jus' bein' here. We're trespassin'. We
can't stay. They been tryin' to catch me for two months. Now you look. If that's a car
comin' we go out in the cotton an' lay down. Don't have to go far. Then by God let 'em
try to fin' us! Have to look up an' down ever' row. Just keep your head down."
Joad demanded, "What's come over you, Muley? You wasn't never no run-an'-hide
fella. You was mean."
Muley watched the approaching lights. "Yeah!" he said. "I was mean like a wolf.
Now I'm mean like a weasel. When you're huntin' somepin you're a hunter, an' you're
strong. Can't nobody beat a hunter. But when you get hunted—that's different.
Somepin happens to you. You ain't strong; maybe you're fierce, but you ain't strong. I
been hunted now for a long time. I ain't a hunter no more. I'd maybe shoot a fella in the
dark, but I don't maul nobody with a fence stake no more. It don't do no good to fool
you or me. That's how it is."
"Well, you go out an' hide," said Joad. "Leave me an' Casy tell these bast*rds a few
things."
The beam of light was closer now, and it bounced into the sky and then disappeared,
and then bounced up again. All three men watched.
Muley said, "There's one more thing about bein' hunted. You get to thinkin' about
all the dangerous things. If you're huntin' you don't think about 'em, an' you ain't
scared. Like you says to me, if you get in any trouble they'll sen' you back to
McAlester to finish your time."
"That's right," said Joad. "That's what they tol' me, but settin' here restin' or sleepin'
on the groun'—that ain't gettin' in no trouble. That ain't doin' nothin' wrong. That ain't
like gettin' drunk or raisin' hell."
Muley laughed. "You'll see. You jus' set here, an' the car'll come. Maybe it's Willy
Feeley, an' Willy's a deputy sheriff now. 'What you doin' trespassin' here?' Willy says.
Well, you always did know Willy was full a crap, so you says, 'What's it to you?' Willy
gets mad an' says, 'You get off or I'll take you in.' An' you ain't gonna let no Feeley
push you aroun' 'cause he's mad an' scared. He's made a bluff an' he got to go on with
it, an' here's you gettin' tough an' you got to go through—oh, hell, it's a lot easier to lay
out in the cotton an' let 'em look. It's more fun, too, 'cause they're mad an' can't do
nothin', an' you're out there a-laughin' at 'em. But you jus' talk to Willy or any boss, an'
you slug hell out of 'em an' they'll take you in an' run you back to McAlester for three
years."
"You're talkin' sense," said Joad. "Ever' word you say is sense. But, Jesus, I hate to
get pushed around! I lots rather take a sock at Willy."
"He got a gun," said Muley. "He'll use it 'cause he's a deputy. Then he either got to
kill you or you got to get his gun away an' kill him. Come on, Tommy. You can easy
tell yourself you're foolin' them lyin' out like that. An' it all just amounts to what you
tell yourself." The strong lights angled up into the sky now, and the even drone of a
motor could be heard. "Come on, Tommy. Don't have to go far, jus' fourteen-fifteen
rows over, an' we can watch what they do."
Tom got to his feet. "By God, you're right!" he said. "I ain't got a thing in the worl'
to win, no matter how it comes out."
"Come on, then, over this way," Muley moved around the house and out into the
cotton field about fifty yards. "This is good," he said. "Now lay down. You on'y got to
pull your head down if they start the spotlight goin'. It's kinda fun." The three men
stretched out at full length and propped themselves on their elbows. Muley sprang up
and ran toward the house, and in a few moments he came back and threw a bundle of
coats and shoes down. "They'd of taken 'em along just to get even," he said. The lights
topped the rise and bore down on the house.
Joad asked, "Won't they come out here with flashlights an' look aroun' for us? I
wisht I had a stick."
Muley giggled. "No, they won't. I tol' you I'm mean like a weasel. Willy done that
one night an' I clipped 'im from behint with a fence stake. Knocked him colder'n a
wedge. He tol' later how five guys come at him."
The car drew up to the house and a spotlight snapped on. "Duck," said Muley. The
bar of cold white light swung over their heads and crisscrossed the field. The hiding
men could not see any movement, but they heard a car door slam and they heard
voices. "Scairt to get in the light," Muley whispered. "Once—twice I've took a shot at
the headlights. That keeps Willy careful. He got somebody with 'im tonight." They
heard footsteps on wood, and, then from inside the house they saw the glow of a
flashlight. "Shall I shoot through the house?" Muley whispered. "They couldn't see
where it come from. Give 'em somepin to think about."
"Sure, go ahead," said Joad.
"Don't do it," Casy whispered. "It won't do no good. Jus' a waste. We got to get
thinkin' about doin' stuff that means somepin."
A scratching sound came from near the house. "Puttin' out the fire," Muley
whispered. "Kickin' dust over it." The car doors slammed, the headlights swung around
and faced the road again. "Now duck!" said Muley. They dropped their heads and the
spotlight swept over them and crossed and recrossed the cotton field, and then the car
started and slipped away and topped the rise and disappeared.
Muley sat up. "Willy always tries that las' flash. He done it so often I can time 'im.
An' he still thinks it's cute."
Casy said, "Maybe they left some fellas at the house. They'd catch us when we
come back."
"Maybe. You fellas wait here. I know this game." He walked quietly away, and only
a slight crunching of clods could be heard from his passage. The two waiting men tried
to hear him, but he had gone. In a moment he called from the house, "They didn't leave
nobody. Come on back." Casy and Joad struggled up and walked back toward the
black bulk of the house. Muley met them near the smoking dust pile which had been
their fire. "I didn't think they'd leave nobody," he said proudly. "Me knockin' Willy
over an' takin' a shot at the lights once-twice keeps 'em careful. They ain't sure who it
is, an' I ain't gonna let 'em catch me. I don't sleep near no house. If you fellas wanta
come along, I'll show you where to sleep, where they ain't nobody gonna stumble over
ya."
"Lead off," said Joad. "We'll folla you. I never thought I'd be hidin' out on my old
man's place."
Muley set off across the fields, and Joad and Casy followed him. They kicked the
cotton plants as they went. "You'll be hidin' from lots of stuff," said Muley. They
marched in single file across the fields. They came to a water-cut and slid easily down
to the bottom of it.
"By God, I bet I know," cried Joad. "Is it a cave in the bank?"
"That's right. How'd you know?"
"I dug her," said Joad. "Me an' my brother Noah dug her. Lookin' for gold we says
we was, but we was jus' diggin' caves like kids always does." The walls of the water-
cut were above their heads now. "Ought to be pretty close," said Joad. "Seems to me I
remember her pretty close."
Muley said, "I've covered her with bresh. Nobody couldn't find her." The bottom of
the gulch leveled off, and the footing was sand.
Joad settled himself on the clean sand. "I ain't gonna sleep in no cave," he said. "I'm
gonna sleep right here." He rolled his coat and put it under his head.
Muley pulled at the covering brush and crawled into his cave. "I like it in here," he
called. "I feel like nobody can come at me."
Jim Casy sat down on the sand beside Joad.
"Get some sleep," said Joad. "We'll start for Uncle John's at daybreak."
"I ain't sleepin," said Casy. "I got too much to puzzle with." He drew up his feet and
clasped his legs. He threw back his head and looked at the sharp stars. Joad yawned
and brought one hand back under his head. They were silent, and gradually the
skittering life of the ground, of holes and burrows, of the brush, began again; the
gophers moved, and the rabbits crept to green things, the mice scampered over clods,
and the winged hunters moved soundlessly overhead.

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