"What do you do for entertainment in Meridian?"
"I don't go to bars. It's bad here." Somehow people always sense, correctly, that Madden's curiosity is neither condescending nor threatening.
"Has it always been a tough town?"
"What do you do then, stay home?"
"Stay home. Go to church."
"Well, church is always safe."
Once on the Crescent and settled in the dining car, Madden soon learned that the four young guys playing cards across the aisle were on their way to Fort Dix in New Jersey, that the woman behind him was a girls' basketball coach at a junior high in Laurel, Miss. and that the two college boys from North Carolina seated nearby were defeated debaters on their way back to school. "Took all day to get down there just to get stomped," said one.
Of course the passengers all knew who Madden was, and the basketball coach asked for his autograph, but that was later, after she and her husband, who said he was a friend of Kenny Stabler's, had had a few drinks. Nobody had to screw up his courage to talk to Madden. Madden approached them first.