(a little short story written yonder in 1990)
One glowing finger of the almost but not quite rising sun caressed the rolling hills of Montana. I awoke and beheld this in the deep purple world outside the windows of the Greyhound bus.
A night, a day, and another night had passed since I, Frank N. Upfront, had broken out of the traffic tortured city of San Diego, down by the Mexican border.
When I awoke, any indecision I felt about this trip up north was expelled by the panoramic view, which I beheld outside the windows across the aisle ~ and I forgot the ache in my 40 year old back. As the bus rolled along, the glow of the almost but not quite rising sun, affectionately, it seemed, embraced more and more of the nocturnal world until it too was beginning to glow.
Then I beheld beneath the rolling purple hills the silhouette of a freight train heading in the same direction as the Greyhound. We slowly inched by it. The addition of the train to the panoramic view caused me, not to count boxcars, but to count blessings. They were many: I was riding the all American Greyhound; I had finally reached big sky country; I was about to catch what was to me a holy sunrise; I had even spied a train; and the seat next to me was empty, so I could stretch.
I became serene as a yellow leaf set free ~ a yellow leaf afloat upon a mellow breeze. A family reunion in a little cowpoke town of Montana was my destination. I was almost there.
Another little town further northeast, near the Canadian border, was the destination of the woman asleep across the aisle, one row back. She half lay in two seats beneath one of the several windows out which I was witnessing the accumulation of my blessings. She was the greatest blessing of all. She was the pretty woman around whom my mind had been fancifully playing ever since we passed through Las Vegas.
The pretty woman was obviously, mostly, if not totally, Indian ~ and without make-up. She had shoulder length raven black hair, a lean strong body still tainted with youth, and an aloofness that could turn mean if a man got stupid with her. Sprawled out on top of her there slept a child ~ maybe three years old. He was a half-breed, I presumed, since his hair was almost but not quite blond. They were heading home.
Back in Las Vegas, the bus upon which we had been seated was a piece of broken-down junk and crowded. Some fellers had to actually stand, later lay, in the aisle to get to where they were going. It was August and hotter than hell in Nevada and the air conditioning didn’t work. Alas, I must mention here that the bus drivers’ union was in the midst of a long strike. None of us should have even been on the bus. It should have been empty. But us poor folks had places to go and the tyrant in charge of the company knew it.
There in Las Vegas, a baggage man had harrassed our heroine about a suitcase that, according to the rules, belonged some place other than where it was or something. So she had to bump and squeeze on and off and on the bus again and had nothing nice to say about it. Everybody else cracked bad jokes to maintain their precarious equalibrium. She seated herself next to her little babe again, almost but not quite in the back of the bus. Then she punched a stranger, me, Frank N. Upfront, in the back of the shoulder and said, “You look just like my best friend back home.”
I wasn’t ready for that. The resulting conversation sizzled briefly and burned out. Through out the entire trip this turned out to be the only information she volunteered to me, without my interrogating her.
One time, at some other pit-stop along the way, I was headed up the narrow aisle and she was headed down it. Oh, did I see a good thing coming! She turned a hard butt gift-wrapped in jeans toward me and I didn’t try to avoid it. After an intimate rub past that, whenever we changed buses I began helping her carry her stuff. She was always so loaded down. Women alone with children almost always are. Now she was the pretty woman on this ride around whom my day-dreaming mind dabbled.
I’m a poor man ~ a poor man who has managed to remain a free man ~ free of extracurricular responcibilities like marriage, hospital bills, child support, even business. There are no dollar signs in this laborer’s eyes and damn few in his pocket. In fact, after having experienced an occasional hot and wild relationship with some fine fine gals along the way, I’m becoming more and more religious in a fermenting solitude.
So there I was on the clippity cloppity Greyhound, my somewhat long legs stretched across the empty seat next to me, my wore-out but polished work boots sticking out into the aisle. I contentidly watched the cineramic Montana sunrise. The Road Madonna of my dreams slept dead to the world beneath one of the windows.
Then the child sprawled out on the woman’s layed-out lap moaned in his sleep and started slipping toward the floor ~ headed for a fall! Without opening her eyes, without, I swear, even waking up, his mother grabbed him and saved him from catastrophe.
As the few passengers slept, in my solitude I became enchanted. Tears tempestuously taunted my eye. What if? What if? What if the sleeping child were to slip toward the floor again and his sleeping mother did not catch him ~ but I dove across the aisle and did?
Sure enough, the kid began to slip toward the floor again…
(Copyright Clyde Collins 2012)