A Night of Hot Love and Heated Tempers
February 13, 2014
Several Years ago, I discovered that a long, winding bus ride through the South was not unlike living inside a novel. Old characters get off and new characters get on every time the bus stops. This is the story of my trip from Dallas to Atlanta. Part 3.
The bus pulls into Little Rock for a forty-minute dinner stop where you can order burgers and fries or indigestion to go.
The shy blonde shares her apple pie with the curly-haired stranger, and she has blushed since Hot Springs when he asked her what perfume she had on, and she wasn’t wearing any.
The four-year-old scatters another sack of potato chip crumbs, though some make it it to his stomach and some are hanging on his mouth.
Navy and Flat Feet go to war with a video game.
And Jean Marc Levie is concerned because his bags aren’t on the bus, and he’s tired, and he wants to get off and spend the night in an Arkansas motel. He has to have his suitcase. There is medicine inside, and he must take his medicine before breakfast. The pain of thirty-four operations is embedded in his eyes.
Billy Myers, behind the Greyhound counter, looks at the long line before him, and he doesn’t want to waste his time on the little man with the limp and funny accent.
“If the ticket agent in Dallas check the begs,” he says, “there’s no telling when they’ll get around to putting them on a bus.”
“But he said he would get them on.”
“You should have taken them to the bus yourself.”
“Please call Dallas and see about them.”
His broken English is breaking up again.
“Can’t,” the Greyhound man says.
“It wouldn’t do you any good. The next bus to Little Rock has already left.” Billy Myers shrugs. “Maybe your bags are on it.”
He is gruff.
His voice is filled with gravel.
Jean Marc’s eyes are pleading.
The Greyhound man is not concerned.
They happen all the time.
“Please call,” says the man with the limp and funny accent.
Billy Myers rolls his eyes and dials Dallas. He says a few words, then hangs up.
“What did Dallas tell you,” Jean Marc asks.
“He says he can’t work the ticket counter and the baggage claim both. You’ll just have to wait until the next bus gets in and see if your bags are on it.”
“When does it arrive?”
“At two-forty-five in the morning.”
“Does it have my suitcase for certain?”
“You’ll know when the bus gets here.”
“I’ll come back then,” Jean Marc says.
“We’re closed at two-forty-five in the morning.”
Billy Myers turns his attention to another customer with real cash money in his hand.
At the newsstand, Love Those Jugs thumbs through the tabloids with headlines that scream: “How to Flatten Your Stomach,” “Flush Out Body Fat,” and “Amazing Miracles of New Holy Shroud.”
She buys the one that promises “Live After Dead – Startling New Evidence,” and shuffles back to the bus.
Sleep has finally tracked down the four-year-old.
Invaders from another galaxy have eaten all of Flat Feet’s quarters.
The shy blonde has drifted back to the darkness that hides the middle of the bus, and the curly-haired stranger squeezes in beside her, the legs of his faded jeans pressed hard against her thighs.
He whispers and she giggles.
And she no longer worries about anybody harassing her or, God forbid, doing even worse.
“Hey,” Love Those Jugs asks Miss Harley Davidson, “do you believe in life after death?”
“It says here this woman remembers dying and waking up in a beautiful pace with lush, green grass and flowers all around and a bright blue sky overhead. And she actually talked to her granddaddy.”
“I did that once.”
“Actually talked to my granddaddy.”
Love Those Jugs turns with surprise. Her eyes are wide with excitement.
“You did?” she exclaims.
“Yeah,” Miss Harley Davidson tells her. “He lives in Omaha.”
“Was he dead?”
“My grandma sometimes wished he was.”
The lights are out.
The bus is dark.
It smells of sweat, onions, garlic, and potato chip crumbs.
A woman sneezes.
A man groans.
I look for Jean Marc.
His seat is empty.
If his bags don’t arrive with his medicine at two-forty-five, he may be spending he night in a hospital.
That’s what he told me.
If his bags don’t arrive with his medicine at two-forty-five, the Greyhound Man may lying be in the bed next to his.
He knows what the Greyhound man doesn’t.
Jean Marc has just enough money left to buy a taxi ride, a motel room, and, if necessary, a second-hand gun. All he needs is one bullet, he told me before we left, and he can steal one of those.