GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Friday, February 18, 2005

End of the Line

The bus left Miami and within 20 minutes, I was staring down at a redhead in a topless convertible who was naked from the waist down. I blinked. She looked up, waved at me and drove off. I considered getting off the bus right there because nothing would ever match that moment. Thirty hours later I was regretting denial of that impulse.

When asked why I was taking a bus across the Deep South I answered that it was because I wanted to see what was out there, instead of looking at clouds at 30,000 feet. They believed me. What I actually had in mind was some formless idea of getting off the bus somewhere and roaming until my money, nerve or luck ran out. I was in no hurry to get anywhere so long as I kept moving. Could be the story of my life.

One long day and one interminable night later, I got off the bus in the tiny station of a town I never knew existed until it sent me a letter. The stationmaster (busman? ticket agent?) pulled out a box and a large suitcase. None were mine. The bus took off like whales out of Purgatory don’t. I asked the guy about my suitcases. He took it as a matter of routine and walked back in to pick up the phone.

The station area was dirty and faded. I looked up and down the street. Nothing caught my eye. I walked into the station and asked the guy when the next bus was passing by. That snapped him out of routine. He looked me up and down and said “You just got here.”

I nodded. “When?”

He opened his mouth, then closed it, glancing at a schedule. “Five hours. Goes to Jackson.”

I walked out of the station as a cab drove up. The driver got out, a burly guy, with a crew-cut, reddened face, rough features and gray eyes. Gray hair. “Take you in?" he asked. I was slow in answering so he jerked a thumb over his shoulder and said “The university. Get you settled in.”

I agreed and got in the cab. He said his name was Earl and he’d been driving a cab for 14 years. He asked me where I was from and I said Miami. He’d never been there. He told me his grandchildren had gone to Disney World, but he stayed behind because he was too old for that.

He dropped me off in front of a red brick building with columns. Less than an hour later I was staring out of a sixth-floor window, wondering what to do. I called the station. My bags were in Atlanta. I called the cab company and asked for Earl. They told me they would send a cab immediately. I told them I’d only go with Earl. The dispatcher hung up while saying something that sounded a lot like swearing.

Earl drove up half an hour later, looking worried. “You asked for me?” I said yes and asked him if that was a problem. He told me that lots of people asked for him, more than any other driver. It did give him trouble because the other drivers and the dispatcher complained about it. He shook his head. “Where do you want to go?”

“Any store that sells clothes and personal items. My bags won’t be here for a few days.” He took me to a small department store. I told him to wait. He looked uncomfortable. I bought what I needed in minutes and he took me back.

Along the way, I asked him if he liked living here. He thought about that for a while and said “I like other places more, but this one suits me fine.” He gave me a sharp look. “Fixin’ to leave already?”

I shrugged. He kept glancing in the mirror to look at me as I stared out the window. Back at the dorm, as I got out of the cab Earl said to me: “Call me when your bags come in and I’ll take you to pick ‘em up.”

“Won’t that be a problem?”

“Not this time.” He waved my money away. “Call me.” I watched the cab make a left, a right and disappear from my sight.

I walked back into the dorm as my formless idea faded away.


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