Sample N06 from Thomas Anderson, Here Comes Pete Now. New York: Random House, 1961. Pp. 4-12. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,017 wordsN06

Used by permission of Thomas Anderson. 0010-1640

Thomas Anderson, Here Comes Pete Now. New York: Random House, 1961. Pp. 4-12.

Typographical Error: of [for or] [0100]

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Such was my state of mind that I did not question the possibility of this ; ; under the circumstances I was only too willing to confess all . I was nearly thirty at the time .

I went to the hall in the afternoons only , on these preliminary matters . It was dark and , I sensed , very large ; ; only the counter at one end was lighted by a long fluorescent tube suspended directly above it . Sometimes I was aware of people moving about in the darkness . I would turn away from my writing in the hope of getting a good look at them but I never quite succeeded . A glimpse of three of four vague figures , at the most . Drifting here and there . Squatting , as if waiting . The pulsing glow of a cigarette . Since they could see me but I not them , their presence in the hall disturbed me . The clerk paid them no attention . This impressed me , until I realized how limited was his sphere of influence . His job simply consisted in registering new men . When the phone rang he answered it . His authority extended to the far edge of the counter , no further . None of the men hanging around the hall bothered to speak to him . Baldness was attacking his pate . He spoke to me in a gruff voice , an affectation which quite belied his personality . He wore his white shirt open at the neck , revealing a bit of scrawny pale chest underneath . It was obvious that he wished himself different from the sort of person he thought he was . But it was not easy for him and he often slipped . When one of the men in the hall behind us spat on the floor and scraped his boot over the gob of spittle I noticed how the clerk winced . I felt certain he was really a spineless little man . His hat ( the cause of his baldness ? ? ) hung on a hook on the wall , and underneath it I could see his tie , knotted , ready to be slipped over his head , a black badge of frayed respectability that ought never to have left his neck . The morning's tabloids were on the counter , and a stack of dog-eared men's magazines . On a shelf in the office behind the counter was a small radio dialed permanently on a station which broadcast only vulgar commercials and cheap popular music . Everything about the clerk was trivial . Once , pressing him , I learned that his job was only part-time , in the afternoons when nothing went on in the hall . Noticing my disappointment he attempted to salvage what scraps and shreds of authority he felt might still be clinging to his person . With distaste I saw him assume a pompous air . When he saw me coming he turned his radio off . He made a show of rearranging my forms on the shelf . He would pick up the ringing phone with studied negligence , then bark into it with gruff importance . What limited knowledge he possessed he forced upon me . In the mornings , I was informed , fluorescent tubes , similar to the one above the counter , illuminated the entire hall . They , and the two large fans which I could dimly see as daylight filtered through their vents , down at the far end of the hall , could be turned on by a master switch situated inside the office . He pointed out the switch to me and for a moment I foolishly believed that he would let deed follow words . I was shown , instead , a batch of white tickets of the sort handed out , he told me , every morning . Now , here was something of obvious importance to me , yet when I reached for the tickets he snatched them away from my hand . He couldn't afford to have anyone mess around with them , he said . Each of those tickets was of great value to its rightful recipient . I withdrew my hand . Later I would remember what this pompous little man had told me about the worth of a ticket .

Having nothing else to do except wait for my forms to be processed , I gave myself over to speculations concerning the hall itself . When suitably lighted , what would it look like ? ? The presence of the two exhaust fans seemed to indicate that the hall could become crowded for air . One afternoon , upon receiving permission and the necessary instructions from the clerk , I had visited the toilet adjoining the hall . By counting the number of stalls and urinals I attempted to form a loose estimate of how many men the hall would hold at one time . For although I had crossed a corner of the hall on my way to the toilet I still could not tell for sure how far to the rear the darkness extended . I could observe the two fans down at the end , but their size in themselves meant nothing to me as long as I had no measure of comparison . I had for some time been hoping , in vain , for one of the dim figures to pass between the fan vents and myself . I knew that three or four of them were almost always present in the hall , but what they were doing , and exactly where , I could not tell . It was , I felt , possible that they were men who , having received no tickets for that day , had remained in the hall , to sleep perhaps , in the corners farthest removed from the counter with its overhead light . This light did not penetrate very far back into the hall , and my eyes were hindered rather than aided by the dim daylight entering through the fan vents when I tried to pick out whatever might be lying , or squatting , on the floor below . Also the clerk appeared to disapprove of my frequent curious glances back over my shoulder . No sooner would I turn my head away from the counter before he would address me , at times quite sharply , in order to bring back my attention . And I had hardly finished my business in the toilet on the aforementioned occasion when the lights in that place , like the hall lights controlled from the switch in the office , flicked off and on impatiently . This sort of petty vigilance annoyed me . I felt certain it was self-appointed . It sprang from a type of mentality I'd encountered often enough but certainly had not expected to find here . I decided to see no more of the clerk until the processing of my papers was completed .

I felt strongly attached to the hall , however , and hardly a day passed when I did not go to look at it from a distance . I lived in a state of suspense because of it . I could not cling to my past nor did I wish to . I had signed it off on the forms . My future lay solely with the hall , yet what did I know about the hall at this point ? ? Although I had been inside it I had not yet seen it functioning . I wished to prepare myself but did not even know what sort of clothes I ought to be wearing . I did not despair , however ; ; far from it ! ! I was constantly searching for clues around the neighborhood of the hall . Though only a relatively short walk separated it from my own part of town , its character was wholly foreign to me . Large warehouses flanked the street on which the hall fronted . The river was only a few blocks away but an unbroken line of piers prevented me from seeing it . Sometimes I noticed the tops of ships' masts and funnels reaching above the pier roofs . The sounds issuing from beyond -- winches whirring , men shouting -- indicated great activity and excited me . The hall , on the other hand , appeared lifeless and deserted on these long waterfront afternoons . It resembled nothing I'd ever seen before . Its front was windowless , but irregularities in the masonry might be an indication that windows , now blinded , had once looked out upon the street . I kept circling the block hoping to see , from the street behind it , the rear of the hall . But it was not a tall structure and other buildings concealed it . For weeks I wandered about this neighborhood of warehouses and garages , truck terminals and taxi repair shops , gasoline pumps and longshoremen's lunch counters , yet never did I cease to feel myself a stranger there .

I returned to the hall , despite my dislike for the clerk . As I had expected , he insisted that my visits to the hall would do nothing to further the process of my application . Meanwhile spring had passed well into summer . At last , when I put it to him directly , the clerk was forced to admit that the delay in my case was unusual . When I asked him what , if anything , I could do about it , he surprised me by referring me to the director of the hall . I could consult this personage on any weekday morning , though not before ten o'clock . The clerk impressed this upon me : that I should not arrive in the hall before ten o'clock . When I went for my interview with the director I saw why . Although it was dark as usual I could see that the hall had only recently contained a great many people . Cigarette butts littered the floor . The big fans were going , drawing from the large room the remnants of stale smoke which drifted about in pale strata underneath the ceiling . I had felt the draft they were making while mounting the stairs . The staircase itself seemed still to be echoing the heavy footfalls of many men . I stopped by the counter . No one was behind it , but in the rear wall of the office I noticed , for the first time , a door which had been left partially open . Past it I could see part part of a desk , a flag in a corner , a rug on the floor . The director's office . I rapped my knuckles on the counter . The director came to the door . I was at once disappointed , although just what I had expected him to look like I could not have explained . He was a man in his late forties , with graying hair , of medium height ; ; he looked dapper in a lightweight summer suit , brown silk tie and green-tinted soft collar . He wore perforated , white-topped shoes ; ; they somehow made me expect to see him launch into a vaudeville tapdance routine any moment . But he came toward me sedately enough , showed me around the counter , offered me a seat inside his office , then walked to a file cabinet and got out my application . I had the impression that he had read my forms , perhaps several times . He did not look at them now . As he lowered himself on the chair behind his desk I wondered what this dapper , slightly ridiculous man could possibly have to do with the workings of the hall . He spoke , in a voice as immaculate as his appearance . Why had I registered ? ? Begging my pardon , he must express his astonishment over seeing a person of my background applying at the hall . He had looked over my forms and was impressed by what he had seen there ; ; indeed , my scholastic qualifications were such that he , a college graduate himself , must envy me them . Was I sure , he asked , that I knew what I was applying for ? ? What sort of men I would come into contact with , at the hall ? ? These questions did not surprise me ; ; I felt certain that the director , like the afternoon clerk , seldom moved beyond the counter , that the hall , to them , was a jungle , a dark and unwelcome place . Though I doubted that he would understand me , I told the director my motives for applying . I had always , I said , hankered after working hard with my hands . This desire , I went on , growing voluble as my conviction was aroused , had mounted at such a rate recently that I now found its realization necessary not only to my physical but also to my spiritual wellbeing . To this effect I had already severed all connections which bound me to my former existence .