“Is this bus going downtown?” a woman shouted across the threshold of the bus’s open doors.
The man who had been waiting at the bus stop with her stepped inside and turned to face her, oozing exasperation.
“Damn, how many times do I have to tell you? Yes, this bus goes downtown. Get on the bus and it will take you downtown.”
“But is this bus going downtown?”
“Yes!” he shouted, placing a steadying hand on the cowboy hat atop his head.
The woman took a tentative step inside, and the doors closed behind her.
The bus was headed in the opposite direction of downtown.
The woman clutched a red, unfurled sleeping bag as if it were a buoy in choppy waters. Its bottom drug across the floor as she shuffled past the exasperated cowboy towards the front of the bus. She stopped in front of a man slouched over in one of the chairs in the handicap section.
“Excuse me. Is this bus going downtown?” she asked.
“Damn!” shouted the cowboy, who turned and stormed towards the back of the bus, enraged that his incorrect advice wasn’t being heeded.
The slouched over man sluggishly rolled his head up to look at the woman. He had glassy, red eyes and his mouth hung lazily open. Thin wisps of white hair covered his scalp.
“Is this bus going downtown?” the woman asked again.
“I’m too drunk to answer questions, so stop pressing me, lady,” mumbled the slouched man, his mouth and tongue moved exaggeratedly with each word.
The woman paused for a moment, considering this. “So, is this bus going downtown?”
“How old are you?” asked the slouched man.
“Umm, maybe 40 something. I might have been 50 at some point. I think I’m closer to 35 now, but is this bus—”
“I’m 60 and I still have all my teeth,” the man smiled broadly revealing two neat rows of yellowed teeth. “Do you want to know the secret?”
“I want to know if this—”
“I swish around at least a gallon of wine a day to keep them clean,” the man chortled and his rubber neck, unable to sustain the laughing vibrations, gave way and his head slumped forward, chin resting on his chest.
The woman was unperturbed. Rather than asking the bus driver, she turned and started towards the back of the bus. Her sleeping bag made a soft shhhh along the ground.
“This bus isn’t going downtown,” offered a young man as the woman approached.
She stopped and looked at him with a quizzical expression across her weathered face.
“If you want to go downtown, you’ll have to get off at the next stop and cross the street. You’ll get on that Emerald Express and it will take you downtown,” he continued.
“I’m trying to go downtown.”
The young man paused and then tried again. “Yes, you’ll have to get off here and cross the street.”
On cue, the bus halted and opened its doors.
Swiveling her head from the young man, the woman gazed at the open doors. The young man gazed at her contemplative face. With his rear-view mirror, the bus driver gazed at the woman. Slipping from behind the clouds, the sun gazed down at the scene below. Grumbling to himself, the cowboy menacingly gazed from the back of the bus.
A passing driver honked their horn as another driver cut into their lane.
“Is this bus going downtown?” the woman asked the young man.
The bus doors closed.
“Damn!” shouted the cowboy.