The International Writers Magazine: Bus Driver Tales
on the Sausage Run
(Une tranche de vie, inbound)
morning DEspirito "Dez" Carmine knew that one
of his passengers was in trouble. Dez shifted gears of the twelve-seat
bus as he came out of Revere onto the highway north, his eyes,
as ever, studying the dozen passengers on their way to work, determining
a snarl, a scowl or grimace, as a straight-out giveaway.
Oh, they were splendid
facial characters, make-up aficionados, the mostly imperturbable cast
for his play-going. Each one of them he knew almost intimately, their
habits, likes and dislikes, their temperaments; how they showed impatience
or worry. The lip biters were evident and the knee tappers, the finger
squeezers and the puckered, silent whistlers. Who slept around, who
was prone to wander come of an evening after work, he knew. Evidence
of it came from eye flight or hair disarrangement, an early exhaustion
showing itself off or a head yet rolling in a kind of rhythm. The morning
body electric, he heard a voice say in the back of his head.
Dez, for that matter, had no sense of guilt for his diurnal intrusions.
None of the cast of characters would even have guessed that he long
earlier had repositioned the rear view mirror so he had a better view
of all of them, including MaryGrace Poplucca and Troy Aquanders seated
directly behind him in seat No.1 and opposite in seat No. 2 where sat
Jose Negrada and Miriam Hosto. The four had been paired off for more
than two years, as if their names were stitched on the seats. In his
mind he had numbered the seats, behind him, left to right, 1 and 2,
then 3 and 4, and finally 5 and 6. The full bench-like seat across the
back end of the bus was reserved for coats, parcels, or whatever the
day brought for them, coming and going. There were days that the rear
seat looked like a flea market, strewn with toss-outs, collectibles,
souvenirs of one sort or another, the makings of a special lunch or
affair at noon hour or after work. All of them worked in the sausage
plant in Peabody, lately moved from Revere, a forty-minute ride north.
This morning one of them was marked. He couldnt see who it was.
Not yet. Worse, he had no idea, not an inkling, of what was going on,
what had transpired that caused whispers, asides, and accusations hanging
in the air. Eavesdroppers, he subsequently believed, have their own
bit of rue, the added weight of knowing half way measures, no full story.
For brief seconds he was aware of a small sense of guilt about the replacement
of the mirror, what had driven him to do it, yet came with that doubt
an appreciation of his passengers; he truly liked them. His wards they
were for a piece of the day, two pieces, the coming and the going.
Every morning and evening Dez thought he was on Broadway, front and
center with the best seat in the house. The passengers were part of
the play that Dez sat in on, every day since he had been hired. They
had, some of them, glamorous morning faces, or faces marked so heavy
with character and chance that life was here visible in his mirror,
every damn angle of it. Once, early on the job, he thought of keeping
a journal, about his day and the traffic, about his passengers, but
that had gone by the boards as quickly as it had come. Now and then
hed reflect on it as laziness, but managed to also push lack of
time into the reason column. The scenes were too much for him not to
enjoy, to mark, to measure upon, the daily minute gestures in which
to find development.
At the very moment Joses hand was in Miriams lap, Miriam
in her favorite blue jeans, skin-borne and worn ass-tight, splendidly
crotched, at the stop waiting for him so marvelously prominent. Joses
hand was a motionless weight exacting certain demands on the pretty
brunette, high forehead of pale skin, almost purple lipstick, her eyes
closed, her mouth slightly ajar in a silent salute to an inner feeling,
a girl who smiled continually when not at work. Dez had seen that development
from the day she had first pushed Joses hand away from her thigh,
a distinct and noticeable act whose energy receded each day. And Dez
determined it to be the ultimate seduction by seating arrangement. Jose,
it proved out, was relentless and Dez figured he knew the night of their
copulation, when, in the morning, Miriam leaned forward, looking up
the street eagerly as they approached Joses apartment building.
The sight of him brought her flashing into Dezs mirror, the eyes
dark and pleasant and reaching, the way only certain people can broadcast,
Dez thought, still liking Miriam no matter the submission. Miriam, he
also believed, would not really take a second look at him if it werent
for the mirror. At least he knew that part of the argument.
Now, 5 a.m. daylight falling in the windows of the bus, late April,
coffee steaming at his left hand, eyes straight out on the road, Dez
said, "Hey, Jose, what do you think of them Sox last night?"
He said it as much to Miriam as to Jose, and felt her stir in place,
the body language coming to him from off-stage a ways, corner of the
eye, the far extent of vision. She was in that early beauty stage so
evident in young love, that lift of eye and chin, that mouth so resolutely
at memory. The morning Red Sox interruption had brought her out of a
mild reverie and Dez hoped fervently that she was not the one in trouble.
From the first morning he had liked her, smiling widely, innocent in
a warm sense, calling him Mr. DEspirito as she climbed aboard
the bus. "My neighbor in the next apartment says your Aunt Lucy
is her friend and told her you got this job. My names Miriam."
Her hand, so recently from bed, from touching herself in morning wash
or arousal, was hot and comfortable in his hand. A whole lifetime of
dreams she carried in her handshake. Dez had taken to her immediately.
That face he would remember forever, the perfect beauty of it, the knowing
something and not telling all that shone in her eyes, the art of possibility.
With a slight twist of his wrist, and alert to rotary traffic, he avoided
a pothole in the road. Consciously seeking approval, he looked up and
she alone of the twelve passengers smiled back at him, an honest and
warm reply that seemed to say how well he had handled that maneuver.
In a particularly severe move her hair had been pinned back and showed
off elegantly small ears and a soft glow riding freely on the mounds
of her cheeks. Her mouth, Dez thought, was almost pursed, and made her
attractive enough to catch his breath. A small prayer crossed his mind,
hoping she wasnt the one this day to be called on the carpet,
placed on the coals. Life can get so sufferably fucked up, he whispered
to himself, knowing his lips broadcast themselves in the mirror.
The irrepressible Jose, still at conquest, left his hand at attention
in her lap. Dez wished the bus was an old regular stickshift so he could
shift gears, jam the torque of them. He felt like slamming the whole
entity into high speed. Her lips in the mirror were red and puffy.
MaryGrace Poplucca and Troy Aquanders sat directly behind Dez, the two
of them usually stiff and formal in their loving, giving little notice
of what they were at in their lives, except for the whispers each managed
through stiff lips, set chins. She was dark as evening allows itself,
clean and brittle as china, always on the edge of being discovered.
Troy, in most cases, imitated her; he had become what he loved, and
Dez had seen that evolution. Once Troy talked up a storm, about anything
and everything, his words and arguments rampant on the air, and now
he voiced little about the world around him; no politics, no sports,
no restaurant reports or gripes. Nada. He whispered his being to MaryGrace,
succumbed, Dez thought, pussy-whipped. Turn in your green card, feller,
your time is done. Get rid of your license ID cause you aint
the same guy in the picture you was. Dez almost giggled looking in the
Behind them, in #3 and #4 were the butchers, Harry Kashem and Nate Goodbind,
and Nellie McCurry and Penny Angulis, wrappers, widows, whiners. Both
Harry and Nate, early drawn together by some instinct for survival,
had served time for small crimes, penny ante stuff they would say. They
gambled at the beginning and end of day, scratched lottery tickets getting
on the bus in the morning, got off at least a full block before their
across-street apartments to buy more tickets, even in inclement weather.
Neither snow nor rain nor gloom at the end of the day kept them from
their appointed rounds. Nobody knew when they scratched a winner, and
could only tell the next day when all accounting had been accomplished.
In this whole world they trusted no one, including each other. Nellie
and Penny, on the other hand, let it all hang out about where they stood
on matters, and could say it all and easy and nearly in one breath.
"Work sucks. Life sucks. This bus sucks. Dja see that
asshole yesterday passing out those forms, like he thinks his crap dont
#5 and #6 were mysterious pairs to some extent. Not because they were
most distant in the mirror, and therefore exhibited to Dez less clearly
who and what they were, but they dressed in dark clothes, wore sun glasses
regardless of the weather, set hats atop their heads not in a rakish
manner but one that drew little attention. At times Dez thought them
to be fading from his view, diminishing, merging with one another. Max
Galatin and Drew Montroy were cutters and stuffers and gave to #5 a
sense of inertia. Dez believed that if the small bus caught fire theyd
be the last two out; not by choice but by a pure lethargy. Neither one,
he thought, drew enough oxygen for the whole day.
The last pair, in #6, two packers, energetic, continually moving as
if their jobs moved away from the line with them at the end of the day,
were a married couple, Dorothy and Henry Pelican. They worked to send
their children to school, and with two doctors to their credit and one
lawyer, all high on the pay scale and distant from home, they were on
their last child who had sworn to be an astronaut. Daily they dreamed
him into space, "into the company of the creatures who surely wait
out there for us, not wanting to come here where everything is so foul,
so messed up, so unjust where life calls out its every demand, forces
all issues to completion."
Dez looked them all over in a scanning and optional study and heard
again the words he heard on the other side of the garage wall, just
the day before. "I dont know how it was done, but one of
them on the bus did it. Thats how they got it out of here. And
weve got to find it before it falls into hands not favoring us."
Jose, intent on his ministrations, did not respond immediately to the
Red Sox opener from Dez. Sort of absentmindedly he was roused from where
he found himself to say, "If they hit into any more double plays
to kill a good inning, Dez, they oughtta let us in for nothing, not
that Id go then anyway for what they get for parking. Thats
eight or nine games in a row, and all at home, they drop with a tying
or winning run in scoring position in late innings. They need a lefty,
they need some speed." A voice popped in from the back of the bus:
"They need a life! Face it, them guys dont care if they win
or lose they got so much cash coming in. Theys frigging playboys,
ever one of them. Dont waste no time going there or watching them
cause they squeeze your balls ever time.
Ever time." Harry Kashem was holding up another losing scratch
ticket, waving it over his head. "Theys no better than this.
Losers. Someone getting fat on the little guys like us. Where you think
the money goes from the lottery? Its cut up and divied right under
the golden dome, bet on it."
"Why do you keep playing, Harry? You won something last year. Was
that crooked?" Dorothy Pelicans long angular face was sour
this morning, Dez noted, her eyes depressed, her mouth slack. Dez looked
immediately to make sure the first aid kit was still strapped to the
corner of the dashboard. Jeez, he thought, she sure doesnt look
like shell get another kid all the way through school. Lightening
the weight of his foot on the gas pedal, he wondered how hed handle
things when that moment came, for any of them. She was the one who missed
the most work, but was also one of the original workers in the plant,
a long-time employee. She had the inalienable rights, whatever they
were. Yet, when she didnt go to work, no one would sit with her
husband, as if the space would be violated or a disease would be loitering
in place. To a person they were deathly frightened of germs or bacteria
of any sort, and of salmonella in particular. The true scourge.
Well, he argued with himself, theyre not the ones gonna get their
asses whipped for something besides the education of their kids. Not
the Pelicans. They put every last affordable penny in their last sons
lap. Damn, it wouldnt be them, he hoped. Again he looked and thought,
by bent itd be Harry or Nate Goodbind. It goes with the territory,
he heard himself say as a northbound Greyhound bus roared beside them,
the draft almost sucking in the little transportation brother. What
goes in the joint comes out of the joint. Dezs hands on the wheel,
bouncing a bit in the wake of the big bus, felt relaxed as Miriam smiled
in the mirror at him. Dez felt warm all over his body, and he pictured
her that very morning stepping from the shower wet and warm and eager.
Her eyes looked like Oreo cookies, big goddamn Oreo cookies looking
right down to his toes. He swore he could taste her. The Greyhound bus
was nearly out of sight. Miriam, he swore again softly to himself, could
probably read him right through the damn mirror. Why the hell did he
ever move it?
"Dont you hate them smart-ass bastards, Dez, that sneak up
on you like they want to kiss you and then dump crap on you? Dont
you hate them bastards!" Harry was pointing to the big Greyhound
bus moving rapidly off in the distance, square back end getting smaller,
the whoosh of its passing still hanging an echo about them, as if the
air had not yet returned to its place. Dez jammed his foot down on the
minibus accelerator, felt a shift of weight and balance, looked
at Miriam looking back at him, reading him again. Im supposed
to do the reading, he uttered behind his lips, and let a dim smile hang
in place. The fast-disappearing Greyhound had him thinking that perhaps
just behind him, on the road north, bound for work, someone was looking
at the ass-end of his little bus passing through, receding, wondering
where the day would bring it, and those it carried.
© Tom Sheehan Oct 2005
email: tomsheehan at comcast.net
travel story from the word go
Dreamscapes Fiction here
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