In January 1946, Corporal Stuart Dulley was discharged from the United States Marine Corps in which he had served since September 1940. His wounded arm had healed as much as it was going to, which wasn’t much.
Other men at the hospital were aching to get back to something. Wives, jobs, hometowns. Stuart’s parents had died in an auto accident while he was in high school, and the aunt with whom he lived afterward had died of cancer during the war. He had no brothers or sisters, no cousins. The town he had grown up in held no allure. He changed out of his uniform and folded it away into a carton. He had nowhere to send it, so he left it under his bed.
In the Corpus Christi bus station he had purchased a ticket to San Francisco for no particular reason. He climbed aboard the bus as soon as the driver opened the door. The bus was empty, so he had his pick of places to sit. He settled into one of the comfortable seats in the center of the bus.
At his feet was a new valise he had bought at the Corpus Christie Kresge, along with three pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks, a toothbrush and a comb. That was the extent of his belongings.
He wished he had remembered to buy a book. He had never been much of a reader, even in the hospital, but he figured he may as well start. Reading would be a good habit.