After seven hours of absorbing the dull beat of the diesel engine, the bus doors opened with a hiss stirring me from a lethargic half sleep. I needed a breath fresh air; I was rewarded with diesel fumes and the sour smell of a dumpster. At least I could escape from that foul seat. Seven hours was way too long to sit on dirty fabric slimed with the sweat, body oil, and odors of years of strangers. The sour taste of last night’s hot dog and coffee coated my mouth. As soon as feet touched the greasy asphalt I fired up the first Camel of the day.
A no smoking sign kept me out of the station. I idled along the walkway. A discarded newspaper caught my eye. The paper was double folded to the headline murder story. I picked up the paper and read of the death of a mother and her child. Police were withholding details but the beat writer hinted strongly that her lover was suspected. Flipping the paper out exposed typical gray tone newspaper photos of a woman worn by a hard life, a child looking too cynical too young, and a goateed man peeping from under the local ball team’s giveaway cap. Shifty, shifty eyes in a hatchet face I thought.
I scanned the classified ads for a furnished room as a ambled into town. I randomly turned onto a narrow street. “Hey buddy how about a light?” he said. I avoided eye contact but chose to dig out my lighter. I didn’t want no crap right now. As he bent his head to the flame, I saw the ball cap. He leaned his head back and there were shifty eyes in a lean mean face.“You just come from the bus?” he looked over my shoulder as he spoke. “Yeah long freaking ride.”“Station crowded?” he asked.I used the folded paper to scratch my chin flashing him the pictures. His eyes flared open and he sucked in a ragged breath. “Give me your hat,” he mumbled. “Fifty bucks,” I said and grinned to let him know I had him by the shorthairs. Folding the twenties and a ten into my palm, I watched him race off toward the station. I considered retrieving the old hat he shoved in the trash. Well there’s a couple days good eating taken care of and I could still phone in a tip. Of course what did I owe the good people of this town or anywhere for that matter?
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