The bus was stale with strangers and their air. There was the heat-wavy highway 5, dry cheap hills, slaughterhouse stink so thick it stung the nostrils. The man next to me grinned, sans front tooth, beanie pulled down to his eyes. He asked was this my first Greyhound ride. I told him yes, about the snowboarding trip gone awry, my friend with his broken collarbone and half his spleen gone in a Tahoe hospital, his mom’s crumpled Honda I’d now spend my summer working off.
The man told me not to work for no chumps. He hit my arm like a brother or a bro. Don’t be nobody’s bitch, boy. He spit tobacco juice into a Pepsi can. He called himself a drifter slash artist. I sat up straighter, showed him my sketches. You got it all wrong, he said. All straight lines and shadows – where’re the demons? He slept, he snored.
My stop came an hour later. He pulled his beanie off and the tattoo-green letters LSD gleamed from his forehead. I remember the knife of feeling as I waved goodbye and smiled away my shock. When I met my mother in the parking lot she was crying.
Short Dark Oracles