Cadillacs Will Roll (Clare Jonte)

Cadillacs Will Roll

by Clare Jonte

He looks so beautiful she thought. His round boyish face was lit with delight. Again he was the whole show, and there was something splendid about him. This is what she had known and loved, but now she knew his other side as well. She knew how the slightest defeat, the slightest disapproval could disfigure this loveliness and change it into something dark and frightening that crushed and destroyed her.

“I would’ve called but I worked straight through. Five more days at one fifty a day and over-time. What a break.” His voice was pleasantly scratchy. “Mel took me right over this morning. They were shooting when we got there. James Hurst was doing this. He was hospitalized last night. Broken leg.” He was out of breath.

A feast, she thought, another feast.

“I do this newspaper reporter,” he threw the script on the bed. “It’s a good spot.” Tracy had brought turkey sandwiches and coffee and while he talked he was spreading it all out on the table. He moved like a fighter or a dancer; all his gestures were neat and complete. “This may be it, Kid.”

Lorna had lived this same scene a hundred times but it always seemed unreal, even now, inside of the strong, comforting fragrance of hot coffee that filled the room it still remained shadow-like.

“You know those suitcases, hon?”

She froze, a fragment of memory pierced her like an old chronic pain. Tracy always had expensive luggage— even if it was empty! This was the way to impress the world—the world of bell-boys and cheap hotels and one-night-stands.

“Well,” he cut the air with his square hand as he spoke, “pretty soon we’ll have something to put in them.”

She shuddered. When he said things like this, it was as if she were looking at him through a microscope. It made her feel old, unlovely, and shabby inside. “Everything’s falling apart,” she thought, “and he doesn’t even know it.”

“Look happy! All the way I kept thinking what your face would look like when I told you. Your reaction’s wrong, Kid, or awful slow.” He kissed her.

She tasted peppermint. His face was cool from the damp frosty air, Lorna touched his chin, running her finger caressingly over the familiar rough. “You need a shave.” A smile fluttered on her lips. “You know I’m glad.”

“Well, act like it, won’t you.”

All the while she wanted to look somewhere else, anywhere away from his face, away from this joy she stood poised to shatter.

“We got it made. In a week they’ll be working for me. Tomorrow the Cadillacs will roll.”

She winced. “Oh, damn tomorrow!” She shouted in despair.

It was hard to see his face change, drain of color, and to see the smile go. His mouth drew back in a harsh line that gave him the disappointed expression she dreaded.

“I know,” he said, and his voice grew hoarse with urgency. “I know it’s been tough, real tough.” He touched her shoulder lightly. “Are you with me?”

She stood there helplessly. There were lines around his eyes she’d never noticed before. “It’s hard, “she thought, “it’s hard.” Her body swayed from side to side, in a sort of rocking motion, unconsciously she was trying to soothe herself.

“I can’t make it without you, that’s all.” he looked down at the carpet.

“He acts ashamed,” she thought. And then, the inarticulate lullaby to grief that was grinding out deep within her found its voice in awful wrenching sobs. She covered her mouth with her hands, and Tracy pulled her to him.

“I love him”. [sic] she told herself, “I do love him,” but somehow this gave no comfort. His arms around her felt strong, hard, substantial, but she was aware they enveloped her in the black night of a world which had no meaning. Impaled by her deadly sympathy she clung to him desperately, as if she too believed he would take them to the mountains of the moon, but she knew he never would—she knew they were lost.

“Cadillacs Will Roll,” by Clare Jonte originally published in Forum (1958, City College of San Francisco).

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