Posts Tagged ‘bus

09
Feb
10

0630

I’m taking the bus home this afternoon and I want you to be there early.
No, seriously. There’s no reason you can’t be there at least by 2:30.
So, when the big hand starts creeping around you need to just drop
Whatever you’re working on and drive down to the bus stop.
I look stupid if I’m standing there long after the bus
Has left. Get there early, please, so we don’t have the same kind of fuss
As yesterday. Of course, we might get enough people to practice; that’d be great
Because we have a tournament tomorrow. So I might be too late
For the bus. And if it’s sunny then I may just walk
Up the hill anyway. If I see Justine, I need to grab her because we need to talk
About the party this weekend. I had such a good time Saturday when I went to John Wu’s.
I think this is another party for someone’s birthday. I don’t remember whose
And, of course, their birthday has already passed.
But who is it? I’ll ask Justine. Maybe someone in our English class.
But probably I’ll be on the bus. So please be there on time. I hate looking like the last mangey pup
In the basket who nobody wants. And if I’m not there, you can just drive out to school and pick me up.

Advertisements
03
Feb
10

O Bus Driver

O Bus Driver,
How easy it would be to fall in love with you.
Punctual, dependable, compassionate-
So many of the things I’ve been taught to look for in a man.
Guiding this carriage along its designated route,
Up streets and down, stopping at the appointed places,
Greeting each new guest with respect and humor.
Does it ever grow tedious? Do you feel the need to slink
The bus down an alley? Take the freeway exit and keep going?
Stage an impromptu tour of the places visiting celebrities
Breathtakingly, rioutously vomited up their overindulgence
Of the local microbrews? Wherever you’re going, take me with you.
O Barista,
With your memory for who ordered this or that and which
Drink should be half-caf and which skim,
You would never forget my birthday or where we first met
Or the song we were dancing to at your niece’s wedding
When I got goosebumps. Your steps behind the counter are
So sure and so deft, you would be a great dancer.
I would thrill to see the designs you make for me in the crema
Each morning and each evening I would kiss away the hurt
From the places you burned yourself with the steam.
Pizza-maker my Pizza-maker,
I see you shaping the dough, kneading, rolling, tugging gently.
I know my flesh would be like new clay in your strong hands;
I grow hypnotized watching them until with split-second perfection
You toss the dough into the air and catch it.
A shaft of light, diffused by your raised arm, touches your forehead,
Gilding a trickle of sweat. It is Alph, the sacred river and
I am already in love with you.
And you, Meter Man, risking derision and abuse to bring order to our block;
Old Woman, sweeping the leaves from before your storefront,
And plucking them from the flowerbeds;
And the Old Man coming into the shop, serenading us,
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” flows out from him, the rich timbre of his voice
Paying false to his fragile bones;
O Bicyclist,
You show such care: checking the lock twice, arranging the chain just so,
Giving your steed a final reluctant pat, looking back
Even after you’ve tucked a wheel under your arm and walked away.
I know you would take good care of me too
And I would love you all the more for it; we would love each other.
But it’s still the beginning of February and I should finish this coffee before it grows cold.

21
Dec
09

Rebirth And Retribution

In my next life, I’m going to be a big man
And I’m going to drive a big damn truck.
Being rich could only help me;
Having influential friends couldn’t hurt.
Then I could cut off other drivers with impunity
Especially the ones with Christian fish on
Their cars who force folks nearly off the road.
I could say what I wanted too like
“Cover your mouth, you son of a bitch.
No one else wants your germs because
You feel the need to cough.”
I’d take my grocery cart with 47 items and
Unload it in the express lane.
If people griped about it, I’d pay for their items too
Then they’d feel like dirt for complaining.
And, of course, there’d be no problem with my
Picking up young people- who’re sitting on the
Bus in the seats reserved for Honored Citizens- and
Moving them to more appropriate spots;
My influential friends would take care of getting
Any charges dropped or settlements arranged.
For some reason it was my destiny in this life
To be a small woman who drives junkers.
Maybe I’m supposed to learn humility or patience
Or just how to cope with a lot of crap.
But in my next life I’m going to be a big man
And I’ll be making up for lost time.

23
Apr
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Eighteenth Installment)

Chapter 7

“They found Mari on a bus headed for Gearhart, Oregon.”
“What?  What the hell time is it?”  Clement unwrapped the cord for the cell phone charger from his arm and sat up to look at his alarm clock.”
“It’s 7:30,” Buzz said.  “Did I wake you?  I figured you’d be getting ready for work.”
Clement unplugged the cell phone and tucked the end of the charger cord behind the bedside table.  He got up and walked over to the closet.  “Yeah, I should have been.”
“Did you set your alarm?”
“No.  I forgot.  I never do that but I got in late last night from riding the bus and-“
“You were on the bus again?  You oughta get a new car.”
“Yeah, that’s what Kenny said last night.”
“Kenny?”
“I can’t believe I forgot to set the alarm.”
“I believe it.  You’ve got a lot on your mind.  You’ve got a friend in jail accused of murder and an unreliable car.”
“Forget the car.  What were you saying about Mari?”
“I was still wondering about Kenny but okay.  They found Mari on a bus headed for Gearhart, Oregon.”
“Did she have relatives there or something?”
“No.  She was actually headed for Peachtree, Georgia but she figured while she was on the road why not stop and see the beautiful Pacific Ocean.”
“Yeah, why not?”
“The answer to that would be if anyone knew her and knew she loved the ocean they wouldn’t have had much trouble tracking her down.  The area along the Oregon and Washington coast isn’t that big.”
“No kidding.  You talk to her yet?”
“No.  She’s smarter than Clement thought she was because as soon as she got back into town she got lawyered up.”
“You want me to try to talk to her?”
“You’re pretty smart too.  Even if you don’t know how to operate an alarm clock.”
“I can’t talk to her first thing this morning because I need to take care of some things in the office.  We’ve been getting some weird calls lately and I feel like I should see what’s going on.  I wasn’t in yesterday and Jeff was gone yesterday and, obviously, won’t be in today either.  Is Jeff coming in today?”
“Not unless Mari throws her lawyers out and starts singing.”
“Right.  So, no Jeff.”
“That sounds right.  How long will it take you to get everything sorted out at the office?”
“Everything?  Longer than both of us have left on Earth.  I can probably get a handle on these weird calls and put a couple of irons in the fire by noon.  You want me to meet you there?”
“Yeah, at noon.  When you say weird calls what do you mean?”
“Not creepy or harassing kind of weird.  People have been calling and asking for products we don’t sell.”
“You sell chicken strips.”
“Yeah, just the plain frozen breaded kind.”
“Sounds awful.”
“No, just boring.  We go to trade shows and sometimes the boss sends us out on good-will missions.”
“That’s where you were two days ago when you met the kid who explained what Mari was working on.”
“Right.  I went back there yesterday afternoon and had a long talk with the principal.”
“About the kids?”
“About them and I wanted to get her impression of Jeff.”
“And?”
“She thinks he has a great capacity for mischief but would never do anything really bad.”
“Does she consider murder to be really bad?”
“I didn’t ask her but I got the feeling she would.”
“That was either brave or foolish of you.”
“What was?”
“Volunteering to go to the principal’s office.”
“Yeah, she’s good people.”
“That doesn’t sound like something you’d usually say.”
“You’re right.  It’s probably from spending so much time on the buses.”
“Blame it on the working poor.  I’ll see you at noon and you can explain about Kenny.”
“Deal.”

Clement drained the day-old coffee into a large pitcher and dumped it down the sink before dismantling and washing the coffee urn.  He wrapped his index finger in a soapy paper towel and scrubbed inside each piece.  “Why the hell are these people calling and asking for things we don’t sell?”  He remembered how his mouth had watered when the woman described the sausages filled with chicken, green pepper and kalamata olives and Jeff saying, “I wish we did sell those.”  He rinsed the pieces and set them on a three-layer stack of paper towels to air-dry.  Opening the refrigerator, he found a can of Red Bull, which he took, and the last half of a tuna sandwich bearing impressions of the eater’s fingers , which he did not.  Sitting down at his desk, he popped the top on the can, set it on the upper left corner of the blotter, and pulled his Rolodex closer.
“Yeah, Mike?  This is Clement Powell.  Yeah, like you know a lot of other Clements.  You ever hear of sausages with chicken, green peppers and kalamata olives in them?  Who’d know about them?  Some woman called me and asked if I could track them down for her and she’ll pay me extra.  I dunno.  I think they sound good too.  Yeah, I’ll let you know if I find them.  Thanks.”
He flipped several cards forward.  “Eco Meats.  Who the hell is Eco Meats?  Must have been from a trade show.”  He continued to look through cards but kept coming back to Eco Meats.  He dialed.  “Yeah, you’re gonna think I’m crazy but I’m looking for some sausages made with chicken, green peppers and kalamata olives.  Do you have anything like that?  You do?  Oh, this is Clement Powell from Rockin’ Rooster.  Yeah, the plain breaded chicken strips.  How many to a package do the sausages come?  Really?  What else do you have?  With curry and apples?  Well, it doesn’t grab me but I’m more of a Nathan’s Finest guy.  Could you fax me over a price list?  No, I’ve got somebody calling me wanting to know if I can order them and she’ll pay me extra.  No, I’ve never thought about jumping ship.  No no, just send me the price list.  Yeah.  555-4166.  Got it?”  Clement hung up the phone and put a paper clip on the Rolodex card for Eco Meats.  Then he called the woman from King Foods and told her he was waiting on a price list and he’d be in touch and yes she was very welcome and no he hadn’t thought of selling the sausages himself instead of the chicken strips which weren’t very good.  She thanked him again, he hung up, he picked up the Red Bull, turned off the lights and went downtown to talk to Mari.

17
Apr
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Seventeenth Installment)

Chapter 6

“Come in, Mr. Powell. Coffee?”
“Yes, please. I’m a little nervous.”
“That’s understandable. Would it help if you called me Debra instead of Mrs. Lamb? It’s after school hours and you’re not actually one of my students.”
“It might but you’ll probably have to keep reminding me. I wasn’t raised that way and I still have a hard time calling my boss by his first name.”
Mrs. Lamb stood up. “Would you like to walk down the hall to the teachers’ lounge and get the coffee? We’d still have a chance to talk but you wouldn’t be sitting in the principal’s office. I take it that’s pretty stressful for you.”
“Isn’t it for most people?”
“No, your friend, Mr. Matthews, was very comfortable down here. He seemed very proud of having spent a lot of time outside principals’ offices.”
Clement stopped to look at a painting hung about waist-high: A row of brilliantly-colored tulips stood against a blue background with their faces turned towards a smiling sun. In the lower left-hand corner of the picture, in black, the artist had attempted to paint his name. A large drop of paint marred the middle of the name and eight legs had been drawn onto it with a pencil. Clement straightened and listened to a vacuum cleaner humming in one of the distant classrooms. “I’d like to ask you something that has nothing to do with why I came here today.”
Mrs. Lamb chuckled. “You have an interest besides school reform? Can we continue?” She gestured down the hall.
“Oh, yes.” He took two steps then stopped and looked at the ceiling. “Mrs. Lamb-“
“Debra.”
“Oh, yeah. You got an impression of Jeff when you talked with us yesterday, right?”
“Oh, yes.”
“Probably not the most favorable one.”
“I would say that I’m glad he’s not a student here.”
They began walking again. “Did he seem really bad to you?”
“He seemed like he had a great capacity for mischief and he seemed proud of having it. I doubt he’s ever done anything ‘really bad’ but he appears full of himself and wants other people to think he could be ‘really bad’. Why? Did he do something?”
“Do the walls have ears?”
Debra chuckled again. “Not at this point in the day.”
“Then maybe he did something. I’m not sure. I don’t believe he did. The police think he did and they’re holding him and asking him a lot of questions.”
“If the police are holding him then it’s serious.”
“Yeah, pretty serious. Jeff has a girlfriend named Mari. Mari used to have a boyfriend named Aaron. I say ‘used to’ because they broke up and because someone killed him last night.”
“Where is she now?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Aren’t the police going to want to talk with her too?”
“They said they would but they have to find her first.”
“Where did she go? You must have some idea.”
“Me? Why would I know where she is?”
“You’re the one who told her to go away, aren’t you?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Mr. Powell, Clement, my job greatly resembles the job of a policeman; I have to be able to hear a story and size up the storyteller and determine almost at once whether or not there is truth in either one.”
“And that leads you to believe I know where Mari went? Why?”
“You like to rescue people. You like to help them. Maybe all those dinner rolls you were hit with made you protective. It’s hard to tell what it was now but you can’t stand it. Whether it’s helping Nick Henderson get his sloppy Joes or giving his brother a dinner roll- yes, I know about that- or helping this girl get away from her dangerous boyfriend you have to do it. But you didn’t think this one all the way through.”
“What do you mean?”
“Clement, did this girl have a reason to kill her ex-boyfriend?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Would the police think so?”
Clement poured the fourth packet of sugar into his coffee and stirred. “They might.”
“Did this girl have the means to kill him?”
“They think he was killed with a shovel that was leaning against the wall of his office. Anybody that got into the office would have had access to the shovel.”
“She could get into the office?”
“At one time she had a key. I don’t know whether she still had one last night or if she gave it to Jeff who gave it to me. But she wasn’t the only one with a key.”
“Was she the only one with an alibi that you gave her? ‘I couldn’t have done it. I left town hours before it happened. Ask Clement.’” She took a sip of her coffee.
Clement slapped his forehead with his palm. “And the only way to find out whether she killed him or not would be to find her.”
“She probably won’t be so well hidden that the police can’t find her. She may not even be sufficiently hidden that her boyfriend couldn’t have found her if he was free to put in the effort. From what I’ve read, women seem to have a very hard time getting lost.”
“She wouldn’t be lost at all if I hadn’t told her to get out of town.”
“Before you beat yourself up too much, did you still want to talk about you and the Henderson brothers and how everyone can learn and be friends?” She sat in one of the cushioned chairs and set her coffee on the table beside her then invited him to do the same.
“Yeah. I would still like to do that. I’d like that very much.”

Clement reached the top step of the number 12 bus, stopped and smiled. He had a bus ticket and a mission. His shoes were free of jelly. The man he was looking for was halfway back on the right-hand side. Clement slid into the seat ahead of him and waited to be recognized. They passed under a streetlight and a moment later the other passenger said, “Is your car broken again? You should get a new one. Where did you go the other night after the bus stopped running?”
“No, my car is fine.”
“Then why are you on the bus? You said you don’t usually ride the bus.”
“I’m riding it tonight because I wanted to talk to you.”
“I don’t think that’s ever happened before. I don’t think anyone’s ever ridden on the bus because they really wanted to talk to me and not because they wanted to make fun of me. Are you gonna make fun of me?”
“No no. I want to talk to you about riding the bus.”
“You have a ticket now. You got on the bus so you have a schedule. You’re doing okay. Where did you go the other night? Did you go home?”
“No, not right away.”
“Did you go to some lady’s house?”
“Not really. I went to Shari’s.”
“Shari’s the restaurant or somebody named Shari who isn’t a lady?” He laughed and patted Clement on the shoulder.
“Shari’s the restaurant.”
“Did you get eggs? I like my eggs cooked so you can sop them up with the toast.”
“I like mine like that too. Maybe we’ll go over there some time and have eggs together.”
“No. That’s a nice thing to say but we’re not going.”
“No. Probably not.”
“What did you want to ask me about riding the bus?”
“Were you on the bus last night?”
“Yes.”
“Were you on this one? Is this the only bus you ride?”
The man laughed. “You’re starting to ask questions like me. I was on the 47 until dinner time then I got off and had a sandwich and an orange pop. Then I got on this one and rode it till it stopped running. Then I went home and fed my cat and put some clothes in the washer and some soap and pushed the button and went to sleep. How come you want to know what bus I was on?”
“Do you remember that building I was keeping an eye on the other night when I rode the bus with you? I didn’t say that’s what I was doing but you probably noticed it anyway.”
“Yep.”
“Do you remember going by that same building last night?”
“I rode this bus from after supper till 3 am. I’m sure we went by it every time we were down that street. What’s your name?”
“What?”
“You and I have been riding together, this is the second time, and you’re asking me all these questions and I’m asking you all these questions and I don’t know what your name is.”
“Oh. My name is Clement.”
“Okay, Clement. Good to meet you.”
Clement realized the man was still watching him intently. “Oh gosh. I’m sorry.” He held his hand out over the back of the seat. “I forgot my manners. I’m Clement and you are?”
“I’m Kenny,” he said, grasping Clement’s hand and shaking it hard. “You can take classes, you know.”
“In what?”
“In manners and how to meet people and how to act. I took them and my coach says I’ve really improved. Maybe you should take some if you’re worried about your manners.”
“Thanks but I won’t really have time for a while. I’m going to be busy helping a friend of mine.”
“I like to help people. Maybe I can help too. If I’m smart enough.” He winked.
“Yeah, well. One of us had to walk all the way across town and it wasn’t you so I think you’re the smartest one.”
Kenny laughed. “I’m retarded; I’m not stupid.”
“Yeah, you told me that before. It makes a lot more sense now.” Both men laughed. “Okay, here’s where I need your help. Last night when the bus went by that building around ten o’clock-“
“Yes? What about it?”
“When you went by around ten did you see any cars in the parking lot?”
“No.”
“Did you see any cars there at nine o’clock?”
“No.”
“But I was there about eight. You saw my car when you went by after eight, right?”
“Nope.”
“But I was there. My car was parked in one of the first parking spots. How could you not see my car?”
“Simple. You can’t see any cars back there from the bus because the parking lot doesn’t face the street.”
Clement slapped his forehead for the second time that day. “Of course! The windows on the other side face the parking lot and the goat. Aaron’s office is on the street side and that’s how we were able to see the lights.”
“I don’t know anything about a goat but I just told you about the parking lot.”
“So anybody could have been back there. They could have been there for hours after I left and nobody would have seen anything.”
“Maybe if they were driving in or coming out when the bus went by but the bus doesn’t go by that often.”
“Wait a minute! The lights in the office. At eight o’clock when I got to the office the lights were all off and there were just the dim night-time ones in the hallway. Do you remember seeing any lights on in that office I was watching before?”
“I don’t remember for sure. Maybe later on when we’d gone by a bunch of times.”
“How many times? Three or four?”
“Maybe. Maybe more like four.”
“So about eleven o’clock?”
“I guess so. I think so. I’m not really sure. I don’t look at the time because I don’t have any place else I’m supposed to be.”
The driver looked into his rear-view mirror. “You doing okay back there, Kenny?”
“Yep, I’m all right.”
“That guy giving you any trouble?”
“No, he’s okay. He was just asking me if I saw something last night.”
Clement turned in his seat to face the driver. “Maybe you saw it. I was wondering if you noticed if the lights were on in the third floor center window of the new business complex.”
“I keep my eyes out for three things- cops, passengers, and bicyclists who’ve done all they wanted to do in life and are prepared to end things on the front of my bus.” He looked in the mirror again. “Oh, and I also keep an eye on my buddy, Kenny, to make sure nobody’s giving him a hard time.”
“He wasn’t giving me a hard time. This is Clement. We rode the bus together a few nights ago. He didn’t know where to go when the buses stopped and he had to walk to Shari’s restaurant.”
The light turned red and the driver turned to look at Clement. “You walked all the way over to the Shari’s by 164th and Mill?”
Clement sighed. “Yes, I did.”
“Wow, you’ve got some walking feet. You’re crazy to walk all that way but I got to admire your perseverance.”
‘Yeah, well don’t be too proud. I fell asleep right in the middle of my hash browns and bacon.”
“I’ll just bet you did . That’s a long damn way to 164th and Mill.”
“Can I catch the number 37 up here?”
“Yeah, it’s two stops from now. You want me to let you off there?”
“Yes, please.”
“You got it. Any friend of my man Kenny’s is a friend of mine. Ain’t that right, Kenny?”
“That’s a nice thing for you to say even though it isn’t all the way true.” Kenny patted Clement’s shoulder. “If you know you need to take the 37 to get where you want to go then you’re really getting good at riding the bus.”
“I like my car.”
“With the seats that heat up. Yeah, that would be nice. Clement has a car that you can push a button in and the seats get warm.”
“For real?”
“Yes.”
“And you’re out here riding the bus.” The driver shook his head.
“I wanted to talk to Kenny.”
“I told him people don’t usually look for me unless they want to make fun of me.”
“That is true.”
“Clement has been nice to me but he said he might want to take classes on how to have good manners and how to meet people.”
“We can all use more manners,” the driver said. “This is you.” He waited until Clement was stepping down from the bottom step to say, quietly, “Kenny’s a good guy. I’m glad you came looking for him.” The door thwumped shut and Clement was standing alone in a cough of diesel fumes.

16
Apr
09

Warming Up

On frosty driveway,
A boy stands, sipping coffee,
Waiting for his day.

10
Feb
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Fourth Installment)

“He’s been like that for about an hour. He looked okay when he came in- maybe a little weird- and he gave me his order and he was kind of grouchy and then he just fell over. I thought maybe he was asleep.”
“It’s not food poisoning. I can guarantee it’s not food poisoning because everything is made fresh and he didn’t even eat anything. Caroline brought it over and put it down but his fork is even still clean. See?”
“He just fell over like that and I thought well maybe he’s taking a little rest and then he’s gonna eat and then he never did. I waited and waited and I thought I didn’t wanna call 911 if it wasn’t really an emergency and then thank God you guys came in so I asked you to look at him.”
“You did fine, ma’am. That’s one of the reasons we like to spend time in a place like this; if we’re out here then maybe we can help somebody.”
“Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with actually consuming food. Lucky for us.”
“I’m gonna need you to step back, ma’am. If this gentleman passed out here, there could be a lot of different reasons for it. There’s a lot of unusual people walking around this time of night. You probably see that every night.”
“Well, we know it’s not food poisoning. He might be on drugs or something but he didn’t eat anything and you can see his fork is clean.”
“Now, sir, I’m going to check your pulse and your breathing. I’m not arresting you. I’m not going to hurt you. I just need to make sure you’re alive and that you’re all right.”
“He isn’t dead, is he? I mean he wasn’t snoring and maybe when I saw he wasn’t snoring I should have called 911. I’m going to be so fired if he’s dead.”
“He isn’t dead. He has a pulse. It’s a bit slow but that’s to be expected if he’s been here and out as long as you say. He seems to be breathing fine so I’m going to try to wake him up now. I need you two ladies to step way back. If he is on drugs or might be having some kind of mental issues then we have no way of knowing what might happen when I try this.” Caroline took one step back. Susan went behind the counter, took up a coffee-pot and started topping up the customers who were watching but trying to pretend they weren’t. “Sir, I’m going to need you to try to wake up now.” He reached over and gently shook Clement’s arm. “Josh, let’s see if we can sit him up a little bit. If we end up carrying him out of here it’s gonna be a lot harder with him partly under the table like that. Is there anybody at the table behind us? Okay then reach over the back of the seat and see if you can get under his right arm and I’ll get under the left one. We’ll lift on the count of three. Ready? One. Two. Three. He’s sitting up but he still didn’t wake up. This guy is really out of it.”
“I say we get a pan out of the kitchen and fill it with warm water and stick his hand in it. Always worked before.”
“Sir, I need you to try to wake up now. I’m going to gently tap the side of your face and then I’m going to shake your arm a little bit more. You’re really starting to scare these ladies and that’s not fair. They’re trying to do a good job of serving people breakfast. They’re going to need this table and they need to be able to pay attention to their work. It’s hard to do that when there’s something like this going on. The breakfast rush really starts at six and this place is going to be packed.”
“What time did you say it was?”
“Don’t try to stand up, sir. We’re not quite sure what happened to you.”
“What time is it?”
“It’s about five minutes to six. What’s your name? Do you know where you are?”
“My name is Clement Powell and I’m in hell, obviously.”
“Well, he’s awake and talking but he seems disoriented.”
“Not necessarily. I wake up in hell every day; Why shouldn’t he?”
“It’s not hell, Josh. It’s just Five Corners. Sir, can you tell me why you think you’re in hell? Did you have anything unusual to eat or drink this evening uh last evening?”
“I had a cherry fruit pie and a Coke. They tried to give me some poppers but I didn’t want them. I didn’t think they were fresh.”
“Poppers?”
“With the jalapeno and the cream cheese and the grape jelly. A Mexican kid gave me some poppers and I didn’t eat them and he threw grape jelly at me and it got on my shoes.”
“Sounds reasonable. I like mine with ranch dressing but yeah grape jelly would be all right.”
“Sir, why did you say you think you’re in hell?”
“Is he really gonna be okay? Because if he’s really going to be okay then I should probably go help set up tables or top up coffee or something.”
“It looks like he’s going to be okay. His eyes look okay. If I need any more help, I’ll call you.” He smiled. Caroline picked up the other coffee-pot and joined Susan in her rounds. Their heads were together almost at once.
“Oh, yeah. Why are you in hell?”
“If you’d had a night like I have then you’d know. If anyone had had a night like I’ve had. I just want to go home.”
“Is there some medication you’re supposed to be taking? Would you like me to have Caroline bring you some fresh coffee so you can take it?”
“No no. There isn’t any medication. I haven’t taken any drugs. I had a Coke hours ago and I haven’t even had any of this coffee. I just want to go home. I want this night to end.”
“Why don’t you go home? Why are you sleeping in a Shari’s?”
“Josh. Did something happen, sir? Is that why you couldn’t go home?”
“Yes, something happened. The damn buses quit running. It was 3 a.m., I was in the middle of nowhere, the bus driver went home to sleep with his girlfriend, the old man went home to feed his cat, and I had no change. Again. I’m going to get two quarters and tape them to the inside of my shoe- as soon as I’m done beating Jeff to death with it- and then I won’t have to worry about it.”
“Susan, could we get a fresh cup of coffee over here? Maybe one of those sticky buns?”
“I’d like one of those sticky buns.”
“You can order your own breakfast. Just sit over there. I want to talk with this gentleman a little more. Cream? Susan, cream too please.”
When they had dressed their coffee, Clement said, “Look, it’s nice of you to get me coffee and a pastry but I really just want to go home. Okay? I’m tired. It’s been a long night. I just want to go home. You said it’s six so that means the buses are running again. I have a bus ticket so I’ll just pay for my breakfast and find the nearest stop and go home.”
“You’re going to get home but why don’t you eat a little bit of that bun and have some coffee and tell me more about you and Jeff. Did you guys have a fight?”
“No no. Jeff is a friend of mine. We’re not mad at each other. I’m not mad at him. I didn’t mean what I said before. I’m tired and I’ve had a frustrating night and he’s just the person I decided to blame it on.”
“Why were you riding the bus at three in the morning?”
“I dropped my car off at the repair place and then I decided I wanted to go somewhere to think. I don’t drink and I wasn’t hungry and a former girlfriend of mine was always bitching at me for driving everywhere instead of riding the bus so I decided to see what it was like to ride the bus.”
“You’ve never ridden the bus before?”
“Oh yeah, years ago. But I hadn’t done it lately. I didn’t know what it was like now. It’s pretty nice. The seats are better.”
“What time did you get on the bus? You want more coffee?”
“Yes. I got on the bus around 11:30, midnight.”
“Why so late? Isn’t that kind of an unusual time to be dropping off a car?”
“Well, yeah. See I hadn’t really decided if it was bad enough to go in. I wanted to drive it around, think it over. As I was driving along, I thought, ‘What the hell are you waiting for? You want to wait till you have to be towed in from somewhere?’”
“At three in the morning?”
“Exactly.” Clement laughed. He sipped his coffee and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
“Okay, here’s the thing, Mr. Powell. Your story is kind of odd. Actually, it’s very odd. You haven’t done anything though except ride on the bus and fall asleep in the Shari’s and that’s not illegal. I don’t think you meant to fall asleep here; You don’t seem to be homeless. You really scared the young lady there and I think it would be very nice if you gave her a big tip. If there had been something wrong with you, she might have saved your life.”
“Yeah, if she’d actually called 911.”
“So, you’re letting me go home?”
“You can go home but I don’t feel comfortable just waving bye-bye from the door there. Is there someone you can call to come get you?”
“Yeah, but I really hate to bother anybody. They’ll be on their way to work or getting ready to go to work or stuck in the drive-up line at Starbucks and it’ll really be a headache. I’ve got a bus ticket. Can’t I just take the bus?”
“Josh can come back for his hash browns and we’ll give you a ride to the bus stop and wait while you get on. The guys at the transit center will make sure you get on the bus at that end. Which one are you taking home?”
“The um 19?”
“There aren’t many riders on the 19 at this time of day so it will be easy for the transit folks to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay. Josh?”
“Geez, I didn’t get the hot sauce mixed in yet. I’m gonna come back and they’ll be greasy and the hot sauce is gonna slide right off.”
“Okay, now, the nearest stop is a block and a half. Sorry you have to ride in the back.”
“It’s not the most comfortable but you clean it out, right?”
“Oh yeah, we hose it out every two hours. You see the game last night? Or were you already riding the buses?”
“No, I didn’t see it.”
“Then you probably didn’t have any money on it. Did you?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“These effing guys. They’re favored by seven so I’m thinking, ‘It’s a touchdown and an extra point so how hard can it be?’”
“So what happened?”
“I’ll tell you what happened.”
“We’re almost to your stop, Mr. Powell.”
“What happened is just when they’re lined up and they’re ready to make the extra point some crazy bit- um lady runs out onto the field naked and starts trying to tear down the goal post.”
“I thought they had those special goal posts you can’t tear down.”
“I said she ‘tried’ to tear down the goal post.”
“Here we are.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, there she is as naked as a monkey’s butt and they’re trying to take her off the field but they can’t show them trying to take her off the field because, of course, she’s naked and they go to a commercial and they come out of the commercial into the middle of another game.”
“Did they win? Did you get the seven points?”
“Hell no. It took the whole heart out of the game. They lost by three.”
“That’s too bad.”
“You’re telling me. That was fifty bucks I had to eat.”
“Well, that’s why they call it gambling, right? Is this my bus?”
“Yes, it is. This will take you right down to the transit center then you get on the 19 and you’re home. Are you picking up your car today?”
“I hoped to.”
“I’d recommend getting some more food and sleep before you try to drive anywhere. I don’t want to have to come look at you again.”
“Absolutely.”
“Nice meeting you.”
“Yeah. Good luck with the team.”
“Yeah. It’s up and down.”
“Take care of yourself, Mr. Powell.”
“Oh, I intend to.” They watched him board the bus then signaled left for the Shari’s.