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THE END OF THOSE THINGS/PM/p Gould i. April 1956 ABOARD THE TEN A.M. ferry from Algeciras, among the crowd of passengers, Moroccans, Spanish, French, English, Italians, Germans , others who could not so easily be identified at sight, three Americans occupied standing room on an open deck: Ben Sinclair, on assignment from the Paris bureau of the New York Times, and Jay ParneU Powell and Joseph Comerford, both of them simply, or not so simply, travelers traveling together, unemployed, though for a while weUenough financed. Sinclair thought PoweU was about thirty-two or -three. Comerford appeared to be in his early twenties, a pale, seriouslooking young man, black Irish, shy and stiff in black dress shoes, brown trousers, a black raincoat, collar up. His black Basque beret seemed worn primarily to keep his head warm in the wind. Still, in more stylish clothes and after a few days in the sun, he would be presentable enough, Sinclair thought. Powell, in contrast, was ill-favored by nature. Congenitally pudgy, he had an oversized head, reddish hair, thinning and wild, and a potato nose. It seemed unfair that he should also be cursed with bad teeth and weak eyes behind steel-rimmed glasses that had a cracked lens and a broken earpiece patched with adhesive tape. His pants, jacket and turtleneck sweater were three unmatching shades of dark green, shapeless and stained, the pants too long over brownish brogues. Sinclair had heard Powell speaking English. Sinclair did not go out of his way to strike up conversations with fellow Americans on his travels, but he had thought from the sound of it and from their appearance that the two were Irish. What intrigued him especially was the fact that young Comerford was trying to read Joyce's Ulysses to himself , though Powell, between sips from a silver pocket flask, was interrupting by quoting from his copy of Finnegan's Wake. The ferry plowed noisily along its thirty-mile diagonal path to the coast of Africa. Above the noise, Powell shouted, "Can't hear with the waters of . . . the hitherandthithering waters of . . . !" "Is it Marion Tweedy^ Gibraltar that brings you this far from Ireland?" Sinclair asked. 196 ยท The Missouri Review Powell roared with laughter. "In part, in part. We're actuaUy missionaries to the heathen," he added conspiratorially behind the back of his hand, laughed loudly again and took another swaUow from his flask. Comerford frowned. "Don't you think you should go easy with that stuff, Jay ParneU?" he said. "It isn't even noon." Powell clapped the younger man on one shoulder. "Be not your brother's keeper, Joseph," he said amiably. "Where in Ireland are you from?" Sinclair asked. "Not there. New York. And Detroit," he added, jerking a thumb at his companion. "Though here, to be sure, by way of Dublin, Paris and points south." He poked his copy of Finnegans Wake with a stubby forefinger . "Thanks to the great black book of doubleends jined. I suppose you've heard they've torn down the Third Avenue El in Manhattan?" "I know, and I was sorry to hear it," Sinclair said. "Torn it down and most of the old houses it ranbetween, mine among them," PoweU lamented. "In the trauma of moving, the book inadvertently gotleftbehind. I returned to retrieve it. From a legal point ofview, the rubble was insufficiently cordoned off by barriers and warning signs. Part of a waU feU on one leg." He took a few steps to illustrate the limp he was left with. "Weeks in hospital, twenty thousand in compensation . I think of it as poetic justice. It led me away from P. S. Nineteen, where I was teaching, and into the footsteps of the master." Before them, as they approached, a white, compact city, a glamorous vision of the Orient, grew larger as it climbed up its limestone hiU from the shore to the casbah heights at the entrance to the strait. Tangier was the Orient, the far west of it, as west as Dublin, but the Orient unmistakably , in the spring of 1956 still alive with the glittering, tawdry atmosphere of a Berber-Arab-international city, now stirred up by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 196-209
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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