Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 594
Motes does not arrive in the city until the next evening at 6:00. This morning he got off the train to get some fresh air, and when he was not paying attention, it slipped away. He started to run after it, but his hat blew off and he had to retrieve it. Fortunately, he had taken his duffel bag off the train with him, afraid someone might steal something from it. He waited six hours at the junction stop for another train into Taulkinham.
The first thing he sees are flashing neon lights frantically blinking and moving, advertising everything imaginable. Motes paces the station, duffel in hand. He walks slowly and appears determined under the brim of his hat. No one who is watching could know that he has no place to go. He feels the need for some privacy and finally goes into the white-only men’s bathroom.
It is a dingy room, marred with graffiti. He enters one of the only stalls with a door and sits there for a long time, examining the inscriptions and writings in the “narrow box.” On the left, next to the toilet paper, he sees a name and address—Mrs. Leora Watts, 60 Buckley Road—and the testimony that she has the “friendliest bed in town!” Soon he writes down the information and goes out to find a taxi.
After hearing the name and address, the taxi driver wonders how Motes knows the woman, since she does not usually have preachers visit her. Motes explains that he simply saw her name in the bathroom—and that he is not a preacher. The driver insists he is dressed like a preacher, especially with the hat, and Motes gets angry, asserting he is not a preacher and it is just a hat. As they pull up in front of a small, one-story house, the taxi driver sees something in the man’s face which indicates Motes is, indeed, a preacher. When he stops, he tells Motes that even preachers are not perfect, and they can often talk about how terrible sin is if they experience it. Motes is adamant and says he does “not believe in anything.”
The house is not much more than a shack, but a warm glow emanates from the window. The door is unlocked, and he walks down a dark hallway with a door on either side. He looks through the crack of the door on the left and sees Mrs. Watts sitting alone on a white iron bed. She is a large woman with white skin and very yellow hair. She is wearing a too-tight pink nightgown and is cutting her toenails. When he makes a noise, she looks at him through the crack, gives him a penetrating stare, and continues cutting her nails.
He enters the slovenly room and watches Mrs. Watts’s slightly distorted figure in the mirror. His “senses are stirred to the limit,” and he sits on the edge of the bed, running his hand along the sheet. He can see the pink tip of her tongue, and she seems as glad to see him as if he had been an old friend. Neither of them speaks. Eventually he touches her foot and she grins at him, her sparse teeth speckled green.
She grabs his arm and asks if he wants something. He finally stammers that he is there for the “usual business.” The one thing he must make sure she knows is that he is not a preacher. Mrs. Watts says she does not mind if he is a preacher.