General Fiction posted November 6, 2016

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1967 bus ride 874 words

Talking Rock

by LIJ Red

US Naval Communications Station, Adak, Alaska, June, 1967.

I got the poison pen letter at the start of my eighty hour break in watchstanding. It said my wife was banging her boss at the sock mill back home.
I went to the Ptarmigan Club and got soused. i woke up in a laundry cart in the barracks hall eighteen hours later and went back to the Club. Then I made up my mind.

The maintenance division officer was lt. Lee, a tall, lean mustang who went backward from chief to ensign and was climbing slow. The geezer must have been nearly forty.  I went to his office and asked for leave. I told him the whole story. He yelled at the A brancher (That's a yeoman with a top secret clearance wearing a Communications Technician rating badge) to bring the request chit and forms and I was on my way.

As I left, he said, "Hey. Don't do anything stupid."

Now things began to happen too fast. I barely caught the DC3 to Anchorage, The Northwest Orient jet left an hour later for O'hare. My military standby tickets were good. The Delta cowboy on the Atlanta run barely finished his steep full-throttle climb then fell like a rock into Atlanta International.

The eight-door checker station wagon, euphemistically called a limo, was loading for its shuttle run to the bus terminal.

There I paced and waited for two hours, drinking part of a canned Coke.

The Rebel Route Trailway was right on time. Express up US 41 to Canton she stopped from there on at every mailbox on state highway 5 into LIJ. Oldest bus on the line, her red and white paint a bit dull, her corners rounded. The driver was sixty, at least, gaunt and stooped, with dentures too small, letting his chin buddy up to his nose. His uniform was faded, his driver hat drooping like a salty U-boat captain's cover. I paid the six bucks and sat by a left-side window. The sun passed the zenith and the AC was spotty. It was fifty degrees on the Rock. Here it was a hundred.

The old bus had guts. She skipped through traffic like a dancer out to the four-lane, US 41, and the old man upshifted twice and we went up the inside lane, passing everything in sight. The diesel had a deep, croupy roar, and the worn drive train sang a gritty, howling song.

Two girls smiled at me--or my dress blues--but I didn't start a conversation. I was dog tired but there was no question of napping.

The stops began. The girls got off in Canton. Commuters came and went at stops in Nelson, Tate, and Jasper.

Then the driver called, in his rasping nasal voice, "Talking Rock."

The last stop before LIJ. Before...

I did a double take. I grabbed my AWOL bag and left the bus.

An old man in overalls and striped soft railroader's cap sat on the tailgate of a dusty pick-up.

I strode to him and we gripped hands. "Pa. Lord have mercy, old man."

"Had to head you off. Bet your ma and Ginny wonder where I wandered off to. They'll be at the bus stop on the square in LIJ by now. You wanta drive?"

"Ain't safe. I been up about forty hours. Been drunk twicet."

We puttered back to the state road and Pa was driving north at his usual fifty. As we entered the Ball Ground straight, a raucous framping snort of air horn made the cows in the sprawling pastures glance our way. The Rebel Route bus pulled out and passed Pa, diesel bellowing, black smoke rolling, and went on out of sight at about eighty miles per hour.

Pa shook his head. "Ya womern quit her job. Then she called you. They said you was done gone. Coming home."

After a minute he said, "Boy! You asleep?"

My voice sounded shaky, even to me. "Naw. I heard ya, Pa."

"Her best friend Izzybel writ that letter t'you. Then as soon as it was in the mail, got sick of herself and begged Ginny to fergive her. That's how Ginny found out that young boss of her'n was bragging about how he had scored with Ginny. He had been hitting on her real hard, and she was scared for her job, and tried to be polite. Izzybel was red hot to let that boy score with her. So she wrote to you that Ginny was makin' it with her boss. Ginny talked to Izzybel like a dog and went to the plant manager's office and told him to take his job and shove it. Now she's scared plumb to death, waiting for you to come home raisin' mortal Hell. I had to cut you off and tell you-- Ginny ain't done nothin'."

We went through the 5/136 wye, taking the main fork, SR 5. The sign said LIJ, 9 miles. Under it the matching sign with the reverse arrow said Talking Rock 6. That Georgia sun on the tall green woods was too beautiful. Unreal.

"Old man, stop this piece of shit and let me drive--er step on it!" I said. "I only got jest two weeks of leave."


The potlatch prompt is tensions(emotions) on a bus ride.
The picture is Georgia State Road 5, near LIJ, with the Veteran's day memorial
crosses in place.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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