A Bus To Pittsburgh

 

 

She glanced at her cell phone, for the third time in the last five minutes or so, to check the time. “Probably stuck behind some fucking logging truck”, she grumbled, the way she bit off the words showing a growing frustration with the intractability of time and narrow, winding two-lane roads. They were sitting at a makeshift bus shelter outside of the vacant storefront where the Rexall pharmacy used to be (the shelter itself simple plywood covering a bench, ostensibly a temporary measure until the village constructed a permanent one, although it had been there some three years) waiting for the bus that would take her to Pittsburgh–hopefully in time to get her to the airport and a flight to Denver, where she was to begin a new job (a contracting gig, she was always quick to point out; she would be home for Christmas, most likely, certainly by Easter). He had originally planned to drive her to the airport, but his Subaru wagon, ancient though normally dependable (he’d bought it because his friend who worked at the newspaper over in St. Mary’s had said it was the vehicle of choice for paper carriers, all of whom swore it was virtually indestructible) had picked an inopportune time to give up the ghost, and it was now sitting at Yose’s Garage up in Wilcox awaiting either repair or a dignified burial, so they’d been forced to lug suitcases the three-quarters of a mile down Market Street to await the bus, which was apparently moving at a leisurely crawl somewhere between Kane and Montmorenci Falls.

 

“So what are you going to do now?” she asked, which he knew was code for Why are you staying around this dump? What’s here that isn’t in Denver?, but he decided that it wasn’t the time or place to re-hash an argument they’d already had too many times, so he simply said “Dunno for sure. I’m on the sub list at the middle school. Maybe I’ll try to get a job up at the mill or the refinery in Bradford if things pick up.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head, and gave a brief, dismissive snort, but thankfully left it at that. He’d never had (in her view, at least) a particularly good answer for why he’d decided to stay behind; he’d talked on and on about how a place becomes part of you– the sounds and the languid pace of life in these never-quite-boom towns, the dull roar of the mill punctuated by the strident, discordant whistles denoting the shift change at seven, three, and eleven, the manner in which in the elk, re-introduced onto the hillsides by the game and wildlife people, had survived and improbably, almost magically, prospered–but the sentences came out all jumbled up and chaotic, which invariably brought her to a purple-faced rage. More than once, she shouted at him You’ve said yourself that’s the kind of romantic bullshit that helped kill your father. You’re not going to be happy until it kills you, too? Invariably, he’d had little to say in response, save for occasionally grunting Well, I can’t help it if words are no damn good sometimes.

 

She shivered as she sat on the bench, tucked back as far as possible toward the plywood to keep out of the wind. “You watch–it’ll snow enough today to cover the ground” (they had, on the walk down, seen the odd flurry wander aimlessly earthward and disappear on the sidewalk), and he found himself on the cusp of saying Yes, but the sun’ll come out, and the snow will melt into little gems of wetness, and you know it will warm up enough where we get that little bit of haze mixing in with the smoke from the mill which’ll make the place look like goddamn Brigadoon, but he caught himself at the last moment. In the end, he just took her hands between his and said “Well, this time of year it’ll never stick around, anyhow.”

 

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2 thoughts on “A Bus To Pittsburgh

  1. Hi wk,

    These mill towns…I suspect you might know them well…your description takes me there as an eavesdropper.
    Fun for me to read your prose-poetry. Remember? Steinbeck wrote in this spirit in several of the inter chapters in Grapes of Wrath.

    I will observe (just my age, sir) that the font size makes it a bit of a strain on my eyes…but maybe it is just me!

  2. I remember this piece – the bitter-sweet moment you captured so brilliantly in the crucial line: “Well, I can’t help it if words are no damn good sometimes.” There is no way to know why some people leave and others stay behind… but I suspect it is a fundamental truth of our existences.

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