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Life On Buses

Posted by in Short Fiction


It’s odd what you see when you spend enough time on buses. Odd not because it’s ever particularly interesting, but because after a while — a much shorter while than you’d think — the unimaginably mundane begins to seem fascinating.

Take the guy in the hoody sitting to my left. The first question you should be asking is, “Why the damn hoody?” It’s about 94 degrees on your average Louisiana afternoon and the air is the consistency of week old Gumbo. In what Universe does someone wake up in weather like this and decide to swaddle themselves in a half pound of fleece.

Hoody Guys are usually your long term travelers, the kind who pick up month long greyhound passes in someplace like Boise, and just decide to see how far they can get before the food money runs out. For them, the hoodie serves the same purpose as a camper’s tent, half protection, half a sign of where their space begins and yours ends.

God, I must be losing it, I just spent five minutes talking about some poor guys unfortunate taste in outerwear. Ugh, there has to be something a little more… Did I mention how incredibly bored I am?

I’ve been traveling on this bus for the better part of 4 hours. Baton Rouge to Mobile, it’s a trip I’ve made about ten thousand times before, and it never ceases to irritate me. My Uncle Andrew says that road trips build character, I just think they build callouses and a tolerance for smelly hobos with nowhere else to be and frightened yuppies who have decided to spend the afternoon slumming.

Uncle Andrew is a burnt out hippie who at first glance would remind you of Bob Dylan pre-religious conversion. Back in the day he was a roadie, following Phish and Styx and a bunch of other bands I’ve never heard of. From what I could gather, the experience basically amounted to about a decade of drugs, drinking and strange sex followed by a stern talking to from my dad, which lead to a quasi-religious conversion and the birth of my cousin. Hm, I guess he’s more like Dylan than I thought.

Either way, the point I was trying to make is that old Andrew thinks that just about everything is an experience, especially when it means putting his favorite niece on a bus and having her spend 8 hours hating the Universe in order to come visit.

The thing I could never quite get was why my dad was always so OK with this. He was an accountant, in every sense of the word, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him laugh at a joke, and his idea of excitement is picking up an extra pack of oreos during our monthly trips to Costco. Dad and his brother couldn’t be more different if they were perfect strangers, but in this one thing they agreed — me traveling to see Uncle Andrew was an experience I would grow from.

Did I mention how strange this stupid bus is? You would think a Greyhound would at least have air conditioning, but no, apparently a discount fare means you get to boil while nestled between an overweight gentlemen with a breathing problem and Mr. Hoodie.

You know another thing about the kind of weirdo that you meet on a bus? They can’t just be weird in one way, they have to have some freaky compound weirdness — like the fellow to my right who could not only do to drop about 150 pounds, but also sounds like he is getting ready to choke on his own tongue. Then there was Mr. Hoodie over here, I don’t know his story but based on the fact that he refuses to even acknowledge my existence, whatever he’s hiding must be a doosy.

You want to hear another funny thing about Uncle Andrew? I’ve visited him maybe a dozen times since I turned 16, and in all that time he has never once talked about growing up with my dad. He’ll talk about me and my life with daddy dearest. The missed football practices and the time he “forgot” me at school for six hours and Mrs. Granger had to drive me home in her old, beaten down Volvo. He’ll talk about that all day long, but just mention his life with dad and he’ll change the subject like I’d just asked him about the year he spent in the CIA or something.

Gawd, the hoodie guy is really starting to creep me out. How can someone just stare off like that? It’s like he’s not even there — kapote, checked out, gone fishing, with no intention of ever coming back. I’d love to know what’s going on in his head, I’m sure creepy would be a gross understatement.

At least Uncle Andrew had a nice, big house. Weird how an old burnout like him could afford a place like that. Nice garden, a few acres of premium land, and even an exercise pool. It was like a country club, except it wasn’t. I guess that explains why there were always so many other kids over there. They were all about my age, but they had problems, kind of like the hoodie guy. Is it normal for a 40 year old man to board a pile of F’d up teenagers? Probably not, Uncle Andrew, probably not.

Ugh, I’ve been talking too much. You probably aren’t even listening anymore, are you? What do you need again? My ticket? Yea, sure, let me just find it. “Sir?” What do you mean by that, are you blind? I am not a “sir.” Hm, sorry, that was rude. Maybe you aren’t blind, I’m probably a little hard to see, give me second to get this hood out of my eyes.