Chapter 21 Summary

A furniture dealer returns from a business trip to Tennessee and tells his wife of an event that occurred on the way. He was stopped at a service station to get some gas when he sees a young girl holding a bundle. He belatedly also notices a nondescript young man. Sensing that the man is going to ask for a ride, the dealer volunteers that he is going to Jackson, Mississippi, not Memphis. The young man says that is all right, but he would appreciate it if the dealer would give him and the girl a ride. When the dealer asks their destination, the young man says they are just travelling. The dealer invites them to ride in the back of his truck, but he notices that the bundle is a baby as the girl climbs in. He invites her to sit in the front seat rather than in the back of the truck. As they drive along, she occasionally checks to make sure the young man has not fallen out of the back. The dealer wonders at the couple: he sees them as mismatch because the young man is nothing much.

The young girl tells the dealer she came from Alabama, having had the baby on the way. She mentions Jefferson, and the dealer recognizes it as the place where a black man was killed. They stop for the night and the dealer invites them to sleep in the back of his truck (because it is obvious they do not have money for a hotel room). The young man appreciates that he will let her sleep in the truck, though the dealer notices that he does not say anything about himself sleeping with her. The dealer then understands that the man and girl are not married and that the baby does not belong to the young man. Ready to turn in for the night, the girl climbs into the truck. When the young man tries to climb in with her, she forces him out. He goes off into the bushes and does not come back. The next morning, the dealer and the young girl take off. Eventually they find the young man standing by the side of the road. The dealer stops the truck, and the young man climbs in the back.

The dealer reflects that the young girl is just travelling before she has to settle down with a baby. When they approach the town of Salisbury, the young girl reflects that she left Alabama only two months previously, and now she is already in Tennessee.