The Vagabond


The glittering new Pontiac smoothed to a halt a few feet from the Vagabond's not-glittering shoe-tips. Emblazoned all over its simonized flanks were painted signs proclaiming it a dual-control driver-training car. A. Mr. Yordan, from the Bureau for Street Traffic Reseach, stuck his head out from one of the driving sides--it didn't seem to matter which one--and invited the Vagabond to come for a ride to Newton High School where juvenile drivers were to be given the latest pointers on how to play wrinkle-fender. "Four boys," said Mr. Yordan, "and four girls make up my two classes." Four girls, huh? Without further ado, the Vagabond inhaled vigorously and stepped into the car.

As they zipped toward Newton, he eyed the road nervously. Lot of gadgets in this car, must be complicated to handle. Look out! A car in front of them had stopped abruptly. Instinctively he pressed his feet hard on the floorboards and to his and Mr. Yordan's surprise, the Pontiac jerked to a stop. "Funny," mused Mr. Yordan, "I thought I stepped on the gas to go around him." Then he laughed and pointed to the Vagabond's hoofs on the floorboards. "Dual controls," he said softly. "Don't freeze on them again." The Vagabond looked down, and sure enough, sprouting 'neath his ten-and-a-halves was a clutch and brake pedal of his very own. From there to Newton he kept his feet parked up by the heater.

At the school, four fresh young lassies were taken aboard. One got in front and three got in back-yes, with the Vagabond. It was delightfully crowded back there, and he found it difficult to keep up any real interest in driving instruction. But soon Mr. Yordan brought the car to a stop within the practice area on Commonwealth Avenue and suggested that Bernice, with whom the Vagabond was just becoming acquainted, take the helm--or one of them. There was a major reshuffling as Bernice disengaged herself from the heap of girlhood, hooked her heel in the Vagabond's cuff and catapulted into the front seat, to replace Mary who was already nosing down for a landing in his lap.

At once, Bernice stalled. Then she lacerated a telephone pole. Then, enough of this mild play, she decided, and off they went in a cloud of gear teeth, both steering wheels flapping idly, both gas pedals down to the floor. The Vagabond tactfully arranged his harem around him to form a feminine cushion in case of a crash. At once he realized he had made a blunder. Mary's Dubble-Bubble chewing gum now exploded in his face with every third or fourth stroke of her jaws, spraying him with minty mixture.

One after another the girls put the uncomplaining Pontiac through tests more fiendish than any proving grounds ever devised. The one who always shifted without touching the clutch quite stole the show. On the way back to Cambridge after the ordeal, Mr. Yordan spouted elements of safe driving and made a pronounced full stop at every "stop" street, which touched the Vagabond's conscience. He resolved to reform. The Bureau for Street Traffic Research and the Newton girls had shown him the light.


But that very evening, the Vagabond, a forgetful soul at best, leaped into the saddle of his single-control Ford and, weaving in and out and speeding and cutting off trucks all the way, whizzed his way to Wellesley. There he escorted for the evening a sullen creature who chewed no gum and had never heard of dual control.