Riding On A Bus With Old People

Riding On a Bus With Old People

The driver instructed me to place four quarters in the machine.  She smiled back, and without saying a word nodded for me to take a seat. I looked down range into the mob of gray hairs, with ginormous dark glasses and was immediately terrified that my youth would suddenly be taken from me. I’d never even known my grandmother, or grandfather. My parents had no siblings, so there was never a cool uncle or ravishing aunt to teach me about the dangers in life. Apparently the gray haired crowd gets up with the rest of us. You know, us folks who go to our jobs, that pay dirt, all of us fully committed to losing our energy for an entire week, so we can’t have any fun with the significant hopefuls we want to latch up on at the end of that interminable week. Someday I have to buy a rust bucket.
“You can sit here sweetie.”
Does she really think I’ll sit on her lap? “That’s all right I’m aiming for the middle seat.”
Ah, there she is, torn padding, rusted and lose backrest, right over the rear wheels so I can feel every bump. I take the only seat left.
“What’s your name?” I’m Doris.” Going to work?
“Ah yeah, going to my wonderful job. No car”
“That’s Jean-Anne over there, and Felicity in front of you. We ride to the mall every Thursday morning to walk.”
I only nod.  Felicity turns a little and asks about my wonderful job. “Are you a carpenter? That sounds wonderful”
“No what?
“I’m not a carpenter.”
Oh, I thought I heard you say carpenter. My husband was an electrician.”
I nod. “I wash dishes at a café.”
Doris askes Jean-Anne a question, I think. They both turn and look at me. Okay, I’m self-conscious. I think something is wrong with my clothes, or shoes, or hair. Doris asks Felicity, “What does he do?”
“He owns a café on Washburn street.”
“Washburn, his name is Washburn.?
“No, he owns a café on Washburn.”
“Oh, he washes clothes at the Washburn hotel.”
The three of them continue to talk. I try to ignore them, but they occasionally turn and smile at me. I just nod a little.
“Doris, did you say the seal was broken on his washing machine?”
“He’s a Navy seal. Oh my gosh. A real live hero on our bus.”
That I heard. And I looked at my toothpick frame. Definitely not a Navy Seal. The bus bounces down the pothole zone of route twenty-one. The engine seems to be getting louder. The ladies continue to chat, and look at me, and chat. I think they’re fantasizing.
“Kroger street, two more blocks,” the driver announces.
“Cougar, where’s a Cougar? asks Doris.
“Oh I’m afraid my cougar days have passed,” says Felicity.
“Jean-Anne, you still have some cougar in you. Don’t you?”
They all laugh. Then Jean-Anne looks at me. She waves when our eyes meet. They’re all batty!
The bus stops, two young girls from the back get off, and two elderly gentleman get on. They go the back, then one asks to switch seats with me. I get up and move back one row. The gentleman’s name is Tom; Felicity calls for him. He waves back. Then he fidgets with a hearing aid in his right ear.

Watch Arrival Right Now 

“Tom, where you off to today?”
“To get fudge for the grandkids.”
Doris tells the others, “He’s fudged up, he’s going to the doctor.”
They all cover their mouths. Such revelations! Tom attempts to correct.
“No, I’m not going to the doctor. I’m going to the candy store to buy fudge for the kids.”
“Oh, he’s taking his son who owns the candy store to the doctor.”
“Doctor, who’s a doctor? The young man. I thought so. He didn’t look like a Navy Seal.”
Okay. Now I’m smiling a little. I’m being admired, and elevated in life from dishwasher to Navy Seal to Doctor. What’s next CEO of What-A-Burger?
“After the candy store, I’m going to Robbins to get some cloth for Claudia, she’s not feeling well, couldn’t make the trip today”
All at once, all three. “Tom, no don’t do it. I implore you don’t resort to this. We’ll help you. Whatever money you need. But don’t rob the candy store.”
Tom turns and says to me, “Thank God I only need to put up with this one day each week.” He laughs. The ladies continue.
“Tom, can’t your son the Doctor help? Please we beg you, don’t do it. Think of the children. The sad faces. You’ll scare them. Then Doris stands and out loud proclaims, “Tom, don’t rob the Baskin-Robbins.” She stands on one crutch, while holding the seat-back bar. “I’ll stop you I will.”
I lean forward. “Do they have hearing aids?”
“They do. But they won’t wear em’. Stubborn! Still clinging to their youth,” Tom responds.
My stops coming up. On my way to the front, Felicity pats my butt, and Jean-Anne seconds her. Groped on a bus. Don’t think I’ll share.  While I walk the two blocks to work. I start to smile again. I can’t help it. It was funny. Maybe I’ll forget about the rust bucket. Nothing but a pain in the ass with insurance, registration, and changing my own oil. 

© Copyright 2017 Artemis J Jones


“My guest tonight will read from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s works.”
    “Bill wake-up.”
   “Huh, what, oh, was I sleeping?”
   “You dozed a little, musta been having a bad dream. Figured I best wake you, snap you out of it.”
   “Benny, It was a horrible dream. David on QVC had a guest and they were talking about blueberry apple scones.”
   “You don’t watch QVC.”
   “My mom does, she’s always buying stuff on that channel, I hate it. They really sucker in the old folks with their charm and easy payments.”
   “Do you remember any of it?”
   “Any of what…?”
   “The dream,” implored Benny.
   “Oh yea, it was horrible. After the blueberry apple scones David Kitchens and his guest, Shantel from New Orleans were cooking fire breathing kale and shrimp from the new roaster that was only three easy payments of $99 a month. Then Shantel disappeared and Calypso Vega came on the set and cooked Coconut veggie burgers in a tropical colored grill that automatically cleaned itself for four low easy payments with your Q card of just $119 a month, but it didn’t end there.”
   “What happened next?”
   “Miranda came out and started selling ten inch tablets, that were Andriods, and you could hang them like pictures or take them to the office, and hook them to the cloud, or connect them to 3D printers that made thousands of toys for kids you don’t have and then turn the toys into life managers that could buy more apps without your permission, and drain your bank account.”
   “That’s our modern world. Its breeding laziness and ignorance, soon we’ll all be stupid.”
   “Yeah, you’re right about that. So any way the dream shifted to my mom watching these purveyors of delusional lives constantly selling crap and I freaked out. She was sitting there in her recliner, talking and rambling about ‘I could use that. Wow, only nine easy pays, and I could have a rolling cart that is turquoise—which goes with my new grill—so I can put my nutty blaster on the other counter to make fritters for your papa.’ Mom, Dad doesn’t eat fritters, I told her. She just waved me off like I was some nonsensical idiot trying to delude her with crazy ideas.  Yeah in the dream I turned into the bad guy, my Mom thought I was evil trying to stop her from happiness.”
   “Did she throw something at you like last time?”
   “No, this time it got worse before it got better. Miranda disappeared and Lori from Shark tank came on selling jewelry with a model. The model was cute, nice brown hair, long and wavy, but the horror was soon unveiled. Lori opened up a case for jewels that constantly opened into new and ever expanding sections. It had draws that had more draws, and doors that were hidden behind more doors, soon I was trapped by emeralds and diamonds behind a thousand doors and no-way out. Mom was in her recliner saying ‘I want that, I need that.’ She got on the phone and asked if she could get three easy Q card payments. Lori talked to her, smiling right into the camera, pulling her in, taking her back to her youth, dreaming of glamour, and having the desires of strong affectionate men. I’m telling you, my mom saw herself as twenty-five again, and partying on Lori’s yacht. She bought the case. Lori thanked her then disappeared. I screamed at the top of my lungs STOP! STOP!”
   “Is that when I woke you?”
   “No, there was a moment of peace; suddenly I was a guest on re-runs of Q & A on C-Span. Brian Lamb asked me about my new book of Tennyson quotes and other thoughts. I responded to several enlightening questions that brought viewers to the inner-sanctum of deep thought. But my Mom called in and said right on the phone, to a national audience, ‘My sons an idiot. He wouldn’t know how to write a book on anything that really matters. Like how do you bake coconut custard pudding while reading your eBook in your motorized reclining chair while watching QVC and never have to get up and turn on the oven. That’s what’s important in life.’
   “It’s like Mick says, ‘you can’t get no satisfaction,’” Benny commented, then added, “Let’s make a pizza.”

    Finished version of this story is titled Home Shopping. It's in my latest book, Conversations.
Copyright © 2015
Artemis J Jones

#FlashFiction  This is a draft.

The Obituary

The Obituary

My first impression was: is this photo of Shelly photo shopped?  She was smiling.  I worked with her for twelve years, quit, and later came back to work another eight years with her and I never saw Shelly  smile once. She was my boss, not directly, she was the owner’s daughter and she took care of the accounting.
   I wasn’t  happy about her death, but it was expected. Shelly smoked, drank—like a fish—and never looked healthy. Her partying gold digger boyfriend John, only added to her overall deterioration.
   John, in polite company, was a lush, but in honest company, he was a sponge ready and willing to soak up any amount of funds he could get his hands on. Someday Shelly’s replacement will find a trail that leads to John, and a lot of used up missing cash. But what does that have to do with Shelly’s obituary?
   To be sympathetic, the obit was written by one of Shelly’s sisters. As a family they all seemed close, but you could tell there were differences among the Strunk clan.  Shelly and her twin Kelly were both average looking, slightly unattractive, and both had the same habits.  The other two sisters, were more health conscious, obviously did better in school, and married successful people.
   Let’s take some actual quotes from the real obituary.  “Died after a courageous battle with cancer.” False, she went where her money could take her but never made any attempt to battle the disease. She continued to smoke, and drink— to newer higher excesses—and never made any attempt to change her life. There was nothing courageous about it, she gave up the day she was diagnosed.
   “Never one to sit idle, even for a moment.” False, she only came to work when she had to, she hated her boring job, and frequently came in late, sleeping off a hangover. When she did arrive, usually after ten in the morning, she left for a two hour liquid lunch, and returned to her office late. But let’s be fair, she did work past closing time, sometimes as late as five thirty. Of course,  after closing time, it was drinking time.  Shelly was an alcoholic.
   “She had an abundance of pride for her only son Stephen.”  She loved her kid, in her own miserable drunken sot way—but pride? Not by a long shot.  She complained to the staff openly about the number of times he was in re-hab, she constantly shook her head in disgrace at him when he came in the business with really dark, old fart, sunglasses on to ask for money.  She had to fire her own son at least six times from a cushy job that he never deserved.  
   “Shelly shared a most unique bond with her identical twin sister Kelly.” True.  They were both party animals in their youth, they were both unhappily married on the same day, both divorced quickly after they realized their first husbands could only have sex with them when they ( the husbands )were drunk.  
   Okay, so it isn’t wine and roses. It wasn’t a fairy tale life. After all the fancy words someone lost a family member, and a sponge lost a revenue stream.
   But why write a bunch of lies?  Of course we all have a tendency to think about ourselves in a state of constant regard for our family and friends, always caring, always loving, and always thoughtful.  We never see ourselves living—not for one single moment— in pursuit of selfish pleasure. So why do we write a bunch of lies about the dead?
   Because the truth hurts too much.