The drinks arrived.
I had a dream that evening about Lohren. I had gone back to my room at the lodge and had thought I'd try some putting on the carpet, but I flopped down on the bed instead, and soon I found myself, half-asleep, worrying over Lohren at the railroad crossing. The dream was very detailed and very vivid.
Lohren was wearing a baby-blue turtleneck sweater, blue golfing slacks and sky-blue golfing shoes with big flaps down over the laces. He was getting his feet acclimated to the shoes, which were new and needed breaking in. He wore a blue golfing glove which he removed and put in his pocket when the car disappeared down the road. His golfing hat, also blue, had an emblem on the front, with crossed golf clubs and a red tee and letters identifying the country club around its border. It was a very long Indian name which I could not quite make out—the Chippequa National Links, something on that order. The hat was very jaunty. His golf club was a Spalding Executive driver, which he lifted and gestured with as the dust cloud settled in the distance behind his car.
When the train had gone, and nothing was left of it but the faint moan of its whistle through the pine trees, the noise of the frogs started up from the railroad ditches. The golfer looked around. He took a despairing swing with his Spalding Executive. It kicked up a fine puff of white dust which settled back on his blue golfing shoes. How many miles, he wondered, before his driving partner would look back over his shoulder and see that he was missing from the back seat? Perhaps not until the car pulled into the outskirts of Jacksonville. His partner was a very laconic sort of fellow, slow-thinking, and the pros called him Sleep, because that seemed his condition as he stood over his putts. He loved to drive cars on those long stretches between the stops on the tour, perfectly content to hunch over the steering wheel with little murmurations escaping his lips—snatches of songs, brief dialogues, jokes, small ho-hums of laughter, like the gentle indistinct sounds of occupancy drifting from the house next door. He was alive with inner voices.
The golfer had overheard these dialogues on the fairways—so soft that he was never sure that he had them straight, hardly sure that anything had been said at all. But he would see Sleep's lips moving, a thin little conversation going on, and he could catch just suggestions of it: "My, look at that lie, just perched up there." "Yes, yes excellent." "Tum-te-tum-te-tum." "I think it'll be a five-iron from here." "No, no Priscilla—it's a six, a six-iron would be nifty."
"Priscilla!" the golfer thought. "What a great break—that guy at the wheel."
He turned and started back up the road toward a filling station with a clapboard lean-to structure alongside that had a sign above it reading EATS. It stood out from the pine forests, a lonely place, white in the sun, as quiet as a vulture's perch. He walked toward it rather halfheartedly, not expecting to find anyone about. He stepped up on a small porch that creaked alarmingly underfoot and pushed open the screen door to go inside. It was darker within, like walking under the lip of an overhanging rock, and there was a sudden strong country smell of ripe apples. The wood on the floor was old and soft, and he felt his golf cleats sink in. A woman wearing a straw hat stood behind a scarred counter next to a tall old-fashioned cash register. Her eyes widened.
"Claude!" she called.
There was an abrupt movement off to his right, a chair leg slamming down, and he perceived in the gloom three men sitting around a table, all of whom had apparently been asleep.
It took some time for everyone to adjust their senses: the three of them had been sleeping with their legs on the table, their chairs tilted back, and to get themselves seated properly and attentive required a certain amount of shifting and settling. One of them, the one called Claude apparently, wore a tall hillbilly hat.