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Tom Lichtenberg

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In the Bathroom, On the Bus
By Tom Lichtenberg
Thursday, February 03, 2011

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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It was supposed to be a short bus ride into town for a job interview, but there was an unexpected detour, and then there was something weird going on in the back, and soon the situation is completely out of hand.

In the Bathroom on the Bus

 

I was at the stop by 6 a.m. No one else was there. I knew it was the right stop, because there was a sign, but I had never taken this bus before. It went on Highway 9 to Wetford, about a three hour ride from where I was. The sign said 88X, so I assumed it was an express bus, but if it was an express bus, then why would it stop here? My stop was half a mile from anywhere, and that anywhere wasn't much, just a half a dozen houses and a Super Seven Store, which is where I worked. I rode my bike to work, but I didn't want to ride it all the way to Wetford, so I had to take the bus. I never had a car, and Megan needed hers to go to her job, which was just as far as Wetford, but the other way. It only took her forty five minutes to get there, so when they told me it was three hours, I figured it couldn't be an express, even though it seemed it was because it had an X on after the number. So, I didn't really know, and that was one thing I was going to be discovering for myself.

The bus was supposed to show up at six fifteen, but it did not arrive on time. I figured that was normal because although I almost never take the bus I have heard about these things. I wasn't worried, but I was a little cold, and it was boring standing out there all alone. But there wasn't any reason for anybody else to be out there at 6 a.m. People in my town don't go to Wetford very much, and when they do they drive their cars. So that was just another reason why I got to thinking it was strange they had a stop right there, since no one ever used it. But then I figured there are some things I don't know too much about and that was probably one of them. I stood around and every now and then I looked up and down the highway, but there wasn't any bus. A couple of cars passed by but so fast that I couldn't see if they were anyone I knew who might be going to Wetford but I doubted it. At six thirty five I began to think that maybe it was the wrong stop after all. So I lit another cigarette and tried to think.

If it was the wrong stop, then I didn't know what I was going to do. I had to be in Wetford by eleven or else I'd miss the interview, and I didn't want that to happen. It was an opportunity, and I never got too many of those where I happened to be living at the time. Okay, it wasn't much, but it was something and I needed that. I couldn't just hang around forever there. For one thing I was almost twenty two years old and that meant Megan shouldn't still be taking care of me. Of course, I had this job, so I earned my keep all right, but I was tired of living in my sister's house, especially since I didn't get along too well with Jack, her second husband. He was a writer, so he wasn't any fun, and he didn't want anyone around the house when he was writing, which was almost never, but he said that was because he couldn't do any writing when the situation was "like this". So that is why I had to catch the bus, and if it wasn't the right stop after all, then I didn't know what I was going to do.

I was going to call the people from the bus again, but there wasn't any phone booth right near there, and if I went to where there was a phone I would miss the bus if it came by after all. So I decided I would wait some more before I really got to being worried about the thing. I figured that this is how it is when you do a thing that you have never done before and just don't know that much about. People should never have to do anything for the first time. It made me think about the time I went over to the college down in Calamar. I didn't know that much about it at the time. I just went down one day and found the place to ask, but since the people there knew all about that stuff and I did not, it got to be confusing, and finally I said well thank you and came home, but I never figured out exactly what I had to do or when to do it by.

I thought next time I'll know better and I would have, maybe, except there was no next time after that. But this was different. I was going to have to take the bus back in the afternoon, so by then I would know better because I had already done it in the morning. And when I came back from the college down in Calamar, I did know all about that bus, and it was easy getting home. I thought well that's something at least, and I felt better about the thing. But since by six forty five there was still no bus and I was still out there alone, I figured maybe it was time to worry just a little bit, so I lit another cigarette and began to start worrying for real. I worried maybe it will never come, and this is the wrong stop after all. Maybe I will waste my whole day off just standing out there like a total moron, and I will lose this opportunity and have to stay with Megan and her second husband for awhile until another chance like this comes up, and then that might be years because there isn't much that comes my way, and it would be a shame to blow it all because I waited at the wrong stop for a bus that never came. Well that was all the worrying I could do, because I never was a person who could worry very well, so it was now six fifty one and I was all out of ideas on what to do.

That is when I saw the bus coming down the road. I stood out on the shoulder and I waved and waved. The driver pulled it over and he stopped to let me on. I got on and thanked him and he laughed and said it's four years I've been driving up this road and you're the only one this year that's got on at that stop. It was only February then, but still, it made a lot of sense to me, because the people who live out here don't go to Wetford very much, especially not at six a.m. on a Monday, and when they do they usually drive their cars. I told him this and he said that's just what I was thinking. I paid him and I started looking for a seat. I had to go all the way to the back because the little signs kept saying 'smoking only in the last three rows', and if I was going to be on that bus for all that time I knew that I was going to want to smoke.

There were other people on the bus already. Up front there was a nun accompanying a little girl who had a box of popcorn on her lap. There were a couple of what looked like sisters in their middle age, and from their hats I figured they were going to visit someone for the day. An old guy in the middle of the bus was staring at a magazine which from the page that I could see appeared to be a business journal of some kind, because it had a chart and graphs of pillars going up and up and up from left to right. Then there was a man dressed up in navy clothes, and he was in the last row on the left, right before the bathroom that they had back there. The only other person was a guy who was asleep all stretched out on the very back three seats, in front of the rear view windshield. And I sat two rows up from him, one up and the other side from the man in navy clothes. It was a quiet bus, which I could understand, because it was so early in the morning, and no one but the driver and myself really seemed to be awake at all.

I was looking out the window, watching as the trees and telephone poles went by, and I felt just like a kid again, in the backseat of his daddy's car when they are on the way to somewhere which the little boy doesn't know but seems like it's forever getting there, but all the way there's things he's never seen before, especially not like that, from going by so fast, so he doesn't mind how long it takes, he really kind of hopes it will go on and on all day and night, and that is always how I feel when I get inside a bus and it is rolling down the road. I forgot where I was going for awhile, and in the quiet of the morning and the hum beneath the wheels it felt like I was on a big adventure, or really more like I was going to be on one but first I had to get there. I didn't want to think too much about the interview. It wouldn't do me any good to think about the thing. It was something that was going to happen, and then it would be happening, and later it would just be something that had happened and I could think about it then. All I knew was someone's name, and an address that I had that I was going to. That just wasn't very much to go on thinking about.

Nothing happened for awhile, and since the bus didn't stop at any other place for half an hour or so, I figured maybe we would get to Wetford earlier than they told me, and then I'd have to think of something else to do because the interview was not until eleven, and if we got there soon than I would have about three hours on my hands. I figured that I ought to give myself an hour to find the place, because I'd only been to Wetford twice before, and never on my own. Of course, I didn't think that it would take that long, but just in case I planned ahead and set aside an hour for doing that. I remembered once when I had just arrived in this part of the world, and Megan took me in and got me the job at the Super Seven Store that one day I decided I would walk to work, although it was about a mile and a half from where she lived. And it was a pretty sunny summer day, a little too hot, but then the temperature is just never right for me, it seems, it's always one way or the other, and I figure that is just how it is going to be, but any way I went down the windy road that leads from her house to the highway, and I looked at all the fences and I played with all the dogs behind them safely, and I noticed everybody's house and said hello whenever there was someone there, and it was very nice and everything was fine. The I got down to the highway and I started walking down it too.

Well it wasn't very interesting. You couldn't see the houses if they were even there or not, and everything was only trees and telephone poles on either side, and they didn't go by fast at all, and every half a mile was just exactly like the one before and the one that was to come. And I must have walked about two miles before I started thinking that it didn't look so familiar after all, because I had been riding my bicycle ever since I started working there, so for awhile I figured it was just because the different pace of walking that made it seem so different. But then I didn't pass the Chevron station and I didn't pass the trap shop when I figured it was time to do so. I still walked a little while because it didn't seem like it was possible that I would make the wrong turn after all. But it happened that I did, and soon I had to turn around and going back the other way I got to thinking, what if I was almost there back then, and now I'm going to walk forever and I'll never get to work. And I had set aside an extra hour just in case because you never know. Well it turned out I was late in any case because I had to walk the two miles back to where the little windy road led in, and then the next about a mile and a half to where the store was at.

I figured well maybe he will fire me for that, but then he didn't. It wouldn't have mattered much to him in any case. I was the only one beside himself who ever worked there, and he didn't hardly have to work at all because I did all the work, whatever there was to do of it, which was never very much. People didn't come by there a lot, just once a week or so, but when they did they just bought everything in sight. So it was a kind of unusual place to work, lots of sitting around and doing very little and then all at once a lot to do then nothing for awhile again. I didn't like it very much but since my mother ran away I had to go to Megan since she was the only one and I was pretty young back then. I was glad that I was working, though, because it would have been embarrassing for me another way. I never liked to be getting anything for nothing, and Megan would have had to kick me out in any case because they didn't have much more than I did which was almost nothing at the time.

So I figured just in case to have the extra time and maybe see the sights, although from what I knew of Wetford at the time there wasn't much to see and I doubt that there is more of it by now. And the bus was zooming right along and it was only seven thirty two, but then the bus slowed down and it turned off on this little road that I had seen before but never paid attention to, and it was like a magic charm, 'cause as the bus slowed down and made this turn the other people seemed to wake up all at once, and the sisters started talking and the little girl made fussy noises, and the nun got up and headed towards the back where I was staring out the window. She was going to the bathroom. And that's when all the trouble started, because the bathroom door was jammed and she couldn't get it open. She pushed on it and pulled on it and the man in navy clothes leaned over and he looked around and saw her fighting with the door. He said what's the trouble sister, and she said it's this stupid door is locked. Maybe there's somebody in there he said and she said they would have had to be in there all night because I was the first one on this morning and there is no one else that's gotten on the bus that I don't see sitting out here now.

Well he got up and let me try, he said. And he started pushing and pulling at the door just like she did but even though he was a navy man and stronger than a nun he couldn't get the door to open either. He pounded on the door and yelled out, anybody in there, but it was like the nun had said, there was no one in that bathroom on the bus. Well I'll just have to break it down he said but she said don't do that, we'll have to ask the driver. The navy man sat down again and shrugged. He didn't think the driver would do any better than he could, and he was right. The nun went up and asked the driver to stop and come and fix the bathroom door so that a person might be able to go in there and answer their calls of nature, but he said, sorry, sister, but I can't stop the bus. I got a schedule that I'm on, you know. That made the sister just a little angry and she said what's the big ol' hurry and he said I'm sorry rules are rules and I thought it was peculiar at the least because we didn't stop for anyone and we didn't seem like we were going anywhere in particular, just down this little road that didn't seem to have an end or anything along the way.

It wasn't very long until the little girl had to go to the bathroom too. By that time the nun had resigned herself to waiting, but it was going to be more difficult to make the little girl wait too. The nun said no you can't go now because the bathroom door is stuck, but the little girl said but I have to go. The nun got up and went over to the driver again, and she said can't you please just stop for one minute and fix the door because this little girl has to go to the bathroom too. The driver didn't look around but just said lady like I told you I'm on schedule and I can't stop even for a minute. This is my job we are talking about here. So when the nun got back and told the little girl the little girl began to cry and fidget in her seat. Just great, the man in the navy suit said, now the girl is going to pee all over herself and the whole bus is going to stink like piss. That's what made him get back up again and try to break the lock with his pocket knife.

The driver must have seen him doing this in the rear view mirror because he called out hey don't fuck with the door bud, it ain't your bus! Then you come and fix the fucking thing the navy man yelled back. I'll fix your ass the driver threatened him, and that is when the window sister got up and said now everyone calm down. There is no need to have a scene. The nun didn't like to hear all this, not everybody saying fuck and piss, but the sister saying that about a scene, so she started yelling at the sister, who do you think you are, that nice man is trying to fix the door so my little girl can pee and here you're taking that stupid driver's side. The sister said I am not taking anybody's side, I just don't like to hear this yelling going on. It is upsetting my sister and me. But the other sister didn't seem to be upset at all. She was sitting on the aisle side just smiling and her head was bobbing up and down like it had been since I saw it when I first got on.

The navy man was still fiddling with the lock, and this was when the tip of his knife broke off and he got really mad and started yelling at the driver about how the company was going to pay for it and it was going to come out of his ridiculously inflated wages. This made the driver so mad that he didn't say a word, but you could tell from the way he didn't turn around or even look in the rear view mirror that he had just then made his mind up that he wasn't going to stop for anything, not even if there was a passenger waiting by the road, because if he stopped at all then he would have to fix the door and he'd be damned if he was going to lift a finger to help out people like the nun, the little girl, and the man in navy clothes. I don't think that there was any reason for the bus to stop in any case. The road that we were on was curving round and round and there wasn't anything on either side of it, just the same old telephone poles and trees, and it seemed to me we could be anywhere at all and there was no way you could tell th difference between the half a mile ahead and the half a mile behind. There weren't any houses, not a single gas station, not even a Super Seven Store.

The bus was going slower now than it had been going on the highway. After the navy man had broke his knife he just sat down again and the little girl was whimpering but the nun just let her be, except for every now and then she'd hush her but it didn't do her any good. The window sister settled back and smiled as if she'd won the most important battle of her life, and the business man turned another page in his business magazine, and I could see, when I kind of half stood up and peeked around the seats, that there was just as many charts and graphs on this page as there had been on the other one. Maybe it is just a chart and graph magazine, I thought, and he is studying the things. I figured there would be a need for experts on the stuff like that, and so maybe he was trying to improve himself and get another job or a promotion where he was. I wondered what he did for a living but since I didn't have all that much to go on I didn't get too far. I never was a person who could wonder very well. I need to have a lot of things to go on wondering about.

Everything was quiet or sort of for a few more minutes, and then the business man, who must have been completely caught up in his charts and graphs, got up and started heading back towards the bathroom as if he hadn't heard a thing that had been going on. Me and the navy man just stared at him, and then we looked at one another and I could tell that we were thinking the same idea; where has this guy been? He got to the bathroom door and tried to open it, but since it was still stuck, he just sat down on the empty seat between the sleeping man and me, just across the aisle from the man in navy clothes. He had brought his magazine along and so he settled down to reading it until such time as whoever was in the bathroom would come out. We let him sit there for a minute or two, but the finally the navy man just couldn't take it anymore, so he leaned over and he said hey, the bathroom door is stuck, there ain't no one in there. The business man did not look up or give another sign that he had even heard a word he said. So the navy man reached out and he poked him on the shoulder.

That got the business man's attention okay, he nearly jumped right up and he was even trembling - I figured he was scared, although I don't know why or what - and he said what do you want with me? The navy man almost cracked up laughing because he thought this guy must be some kind of total moron, but he just said, nothing, pal, I was just telling you that you are not going to be able to get inside that bathroom because the door is jammed and there ain't no one in there anyway. All at once the business man's expression changed completely. It went from being surprised and scared to being righteously angry and uprightful. He said, what do you mean the door is jammed? It is, I said, finally putting myself into the situation there. Well then why doesn't someone fix it? The driver says he can't stop even for a minute, I replied. This is an outrage, the business man declared, and he got right up and marched off to the front of the bus where we could see him bending over and yelling whisperly into the driver's ear. The driver shrugged and he muttered something about his job and then the business man was yelling louder, what do I care about your job? I paid for this bus ride and I am entitled to the things that go with the price of the ticket!

That didn't make the driver very happy and he said listen mac if you don't like it I can let you off right here, and I will kick you off if you don't shut up now and go right back to where you were before. The business man started to say something else, but then he decided that he better not risk it being thrown off out here in the middle of nowhere, since I figure he had important things to do in Wetford, like I did, and didn't want to blow it on account of having to pee. So he just turned red and came back to the back of the bus where he told the navy man and me that since the driver wasn't going to do a thing about the bathroom door then we would have to do it for ourselves. The navy man said he tried already and he broke his fucking knife and the business man replied that there had to be another way since there is always more than just one way to do a thing. So we sat there and we started thinking about the matter and then finally I said what if we all push on it at once then maybe we can break it through.

So the other guys agreed that it was worth a try. We all got up and started pushing at the door together but it didn't budge. Finally the navy man said I am going to rush and kick the god damned thing, so we got out of the way and he backed up to the window of the row of where the man was still asleep stretched out along those seats. The navy man got two steps and he threw his feet out at the door but all he did was fall down and he hurt his knee, but the door didn't come any closer to being open than it had ever been before. The driver wasn't saying anything and I could tell from the way he had his head that he was getting madder all the time, and wouldn't have minded throwing us all of right then and there. The only problem with that would be that if he stopped the bus to throw us off the nun would badger him to fix the door while he was stopped and he couldn't throw a nun off too. That could mean his job.

Instead what happened was the other sister, the one who was sitting in the aisle seat, she got up and started coming towards the bathroom. She didn't seem to notice what was going on, and the three of us stood back incredulous as she stepped right by and tried the door, and then sat down to wait. The navy man leaned over and he told her that the door was stuck and all, but she didn't say a thing or even seem to hear. I thought this is just like with the business man all over but it wasn't. Because the window sister came to fetch her other sister and she told us that the other one was deaf and couldn't hear a thing. The business man said, isn't this just great. Here we are on this stupid bus, and all of us have got to pee, but we can't get in the bathroom and the driver is no help at all. The window sister said well I guess that means that everyone will have to wait, but at the time when she was saying this the other sister had kind of wandered off a bit and she accidentally sat down on the man who was still there sprawled out on the last three seats. This was when this old deaf woman started screaming, I mean if you could call it that, because it was more like suddenly a wounded moose had snuck into the back and started howling in the wind. It scared the living daylights out of me and everybody else I think was also taken by surprise.

The window sister went to fetch her and she tried to calm her down, but the deaf one kept on howling and mooing or however you want to say it, and there was nothing she could do to make her stop. This is when the nun came back to see what all the noises were about, while the driver shouted keep it down back there, this ain't a circus, it's a bus. The nun yelled back at him, it kind of seems like maybe it is a circus, with clowns like you around, and everybody laughed but at the same time we were still upset with all those scary sounds that just kept coming from the sister. Of course the window sister wouldn't let the nun come near her sister because she was the only one who knew her and could take care of her, so once the nun got there there wasn't anything for her to do, so in all the confusion she sat down on top of the sleeping man's feet just like the other one had done, and just like her she started to scream, though we could understand this time. And all at once the thing got pretty serious.

This sleeping man had made it all the way through all of this and never even snored a single time or turned around or anything. And it was the way his legs were so damned cold that scared the sister and the nun. They figured he was really not asleep but dead. They both just had a sense of it. At least that's what the nun kept saying, and pretty soon we were all examining the man and sure enough the guy was dead all right. We argued who should tell the driver, but since he didn't like the nun or business man or the man in navy clothes or me already, it should be the window sister with the purple pillbox hat. So she went up there and told the driver that there was a dead man on the bus. The driver thought it was a ploy to make him stop the bus and have to fix the door, so he just said, well, it'll keep until we get to Wetford and he told her not to bother him again. Well the nun was very very mad when the sister came and told us what he said and she wanted to go up there and smack him on the head, but we said no don't do it because we'll get into an accident and it's bad enough that one of us is dead, it won't do any good for the rest of us to end up dead as well.

So we all sat down and wondered what to do, all of us except the nun who was already praying for the dead man's soul. We sat there, everyone was quiet except the nun, and then the business man spoke up and said, you know, it could just be the killer of that man is hiding in the bathroom there. Well that seemed to be ridiculous at first, but then he went on and he said he could be waiting till it's night out and the bus is parked somewhere to sneak away, because he knows the driver will never come and fix the door because he couldn't care less about his customers conveniences. But then the navy man spoke up and he said maybe the driver is in it with the killer, maybe the guy has paid him off to open the door and let him out once the bus is safe alone. Or maybe, the window sister said, he's just been paid to look the other way and the killer will let himself out of the bathroom when the driver gives a signal that the coast is clear.

We didn't like the idea of there being a murderer in the bathroom on the bus, and we were frightening ourselves to death but then the nun said there is no one else who's gotten on this bus that I don't see now sitting out here. That got us quiet for a bit but then the business man said maybe he got on before you did and has been hiding in the bathroom from the start, only he snuck out once to kill the man then snuck back in when nobody was watching out. The nun couldn't say it was impossible, so we all decided that that is exactly what really happened. And there was nothing we could do about the thing.

I could tell from everybody's face that we were all of us thinking the same idea at once, that if there was a killer in the bathroom then it would be best to leave it be for now and just call the cops once we got into Wetford. The only problem now was whether the driver and the murderer were in some kind of communication, like if they had some walkie-talkies or something like that, because if they did, and we were all back there near the bathroom saying all these things, then the murderer could just call up the driver and say these people figured it out and now we have to get rid of them for good. And that wouldn't be too hard, because we were still riding in the middle of nowhere and there wasn't anything around, and all the driver had to do was stop the bus and lock the door, and then the murderer would come out and kill us all and they could throw our bodies in the trees and nobody would ever know. They'd take our tickets first, so there wouldn't be any thing to link us all together, and the driver could pretend he didn't have any fares that day and keep the money for himself, or he could make up some phony passengers and say they all got off at stops before we got to Wetford.

No one said these things aloud, but I could tell that we'd all watched the same shows on TV and it wasn't hard to figure what the bunch of us were thinking in our minds. There was a killer in cahoots with the driver, there was a body and there were witnesses - ourselves. Well we were all so scared by our imaginings that we couldn't say a word, so we just sat there quietly and trembled. It would have been almost funny if we had begun to talk about the thing and maybe that would have helped to ease our minds a bit, but we didn't want the killer to overhear anything more we had to say. But what I mean was funny was that we couldn't have decided if we were shaking because we were frightened of the murderer or because we had to pee so bad. Finally the nun said I wonder where we are in any case, and then the window sister said we're halfway through the Indian reservation, that is where. What are we doing in the reservation? everybody asked at once, and the window sister said it is the route. My sister and I come on this bus every Monday morning, and every time it is the same. I asked a driver once and he said it's in the contract and it's forced by law, the government of the state. They have an agreement with the Indians that the government must provide some kind of public transportation service, so the government made this deal here with the bus company, and now they go through the reservation every Monday morning at this time if any Indians want to go to Wetford. And there is a bus that comes back Tuesday in the middle of the night. Of course the Indians don't go to Wetford very much, especially not on Monday morning at eight o'clock, and they don't come back on Tuesday in the middle of the night, but when they do, they usually just drive their cars. So it's all a joke, you see. The state is always getting around these deals they have to make because the federal government makes them make them, but they don't really want to do a thing for the Indians that live here.

The navy man said let me see if I get what you're saying. You mean that this bus turns off the highway just to drive through this here reservation though there aren't any Indians who want to take the bus? That's how it is, the sister said, and once we get through with this part, we just get right back on the highway about a mile from where we'd gotten off, and we just drive into Wetford, which is about another fifteen minutes down the road. But it takes about an hour and a quarter just to get through this part of the trip. Why do you always take this bus, the business man asked her, if I had known I would have taken the next bus - it leaves a couple hours later but it gets there only half an hour later, but I wanted to get there earlier than that, but now it seems it really isn't worth the time at all. Well, the sister said, my sister likes this ride. She likes to be on the bus for hours, for as long as possible. There isn't much for us to do in Wetford, but we have to get out of the house every week, or else she'd drive me crazy. That's why we take this bus. It's about two and a half hours altogether, or five hours both ways and that's enough to keep her quiet for the rest of the week. I can tell you, it isn't easy taken care of a person like she is. You have to do a lot of things like this just to keep her pacified.

The nun said isn't she just deaf? And the sister said, no, it's more than that. She'd out of her mind as well. She thinks she still a child of five, and so she acts like one The best thing you can do with a child that age or somebody who thinks they are is to put them on a long bus ride. We all sat back and thought about this story, and we all felt kind of foolish because I know that we all thought the same thing when we first got on, that it was just like being a little kid again, but that did not explain the fact that that deaf retarded sister didn't even get the window seat. I figured that the other sister thought she was entitled to some privileges from having to take care of her like that. At least that made some sense to me.

I'm just taking this little girl back home to her parents, the nun put in. She's more trouble than she's worth down at the convent, or so the Mother Superior says, but I don't think it's true . I mean, just look at the little girl now. Any other little girl would be fussing and screaming about this bathroom thing, and she's already calmed down and gone to sleep again. If it was up to me I'd keep her there, but the Mother Superior says that budget constraints make it impossible to keep everyone, so someone's got to go. I can understand about all that, the business man put in, budget constraints are the single most important factor about all life on earth, he said. You just look at those little trees out there along the side of the road. Most of them won't make it, because there isn't enough room in the sun for every one of them. This seemed to him to be the deepest thing that anyone could say, and it made everyone stop talking for a minute, as if they were busy trying to absorb the words.

Actually we just wanted to have anything to think about except the killer in the bathroom, and we didn't care just what it was as long as it distracted us and maybe made the killer think that he could let us live and it would be okay. After all, I mean, we never saw his face or anything, so if he got away we never could identify him in a court of law. I figured we were safe, and that he only wanted to kill one persona and he had already done that. Who wants to kill some people you don't even know? You'd have to be a maniac, but I wished I hadn't had that thought occur to me, because I couldn't shake it, and it gave me something more to worry about. I didn't worry very long, though, because I didn't really know, and since I wasn't all that good at wondering, I couldn't wonder enough about him to make me worry very much.

Then all at once we all decided that we'd be better off if we weren't sitting so close to the body and the bathroom, so we all got up and moved towards the front, where we found new seats, and even though I couldn't smoke up there and I felt I wanted to, still I figured it was better to be far enough away that there might be chance to rush on off the bus before the driver and the killer had a chance to trap us in the back. I still had to pee real bad, and so did everybody else, but it's amazing how you can hold it in in case you really have to. We had already turned around and the window sister told us that it wouldn't be too long before we got back on the highway and headed into Wetford. It was now about nine am, and I was ready to arrive, although I had some time to kill. Better to kill some time, I thought, but I didn't want to think about that now. And it's a good thing that I wasn't very good at wondering, because the other people were, and I could see that they were really scaring themselves to death with all of this.

It's funny how nobody said a word until we got to Wetford. No one even thought about attempting to open the bathroom door. It was the last thing that any of us wanted to do. So we didn't think about peeing, and we didn't think about breaking down the lock, and we just sat there and tried to pretend that we were five years old and loving every minute of this bus ride staring out the window at the trees and telephone polls as they zoomed by. But I think he only one who had a good time was the sister who was deaf, and she seemed to have forgotten all about the corpse and was enjoying herself again just like she'd been before. I tried to get myself to think about the interview, but I didn't know that much about the thing I had been to K-Po's once, but that was as a shopper, and I didn't know how different it would be to be a stock clerk there than it was to be a stock clerk at the Super Seven Store. For one thing, K-Po's was a lot bigger, and it had more and different kinds of things, and it was bound to be a lot busier most of the time than where I worked.

I tried to think about what it would be like to live in Wetford, which I would have to do in case I got the job, but since I'd only been to Wetford twice, and I never got a chance to really look around the times that I was there, I didn't know that much about it, so I couldn't really imagine very well about my living there. So I didn't do too well at keeping my mind off things, but at least it wasn't very long until we got there at around nine twenty, and when we pulled into the station I could sense that everyone was getting really tense and bothered. It was time to see this thing through to the end.

What happened was the driver pulled in and he stopped the bus. He opened up the doors and then he said, okay folks, here we are, now there's a bathroom just inside the station on your left, and that is all he said. We stood up but nobody got to moving off. He said again,come on, we're here, I thought you all had to go so bad. Finally the nun spoke up and said what about the dead man in the back? What dead man? the driver asked, and I was right that he had never once believed a word of it but only thought it was a ruse to get him to stop the bus and fix the bathroom door. The dead man in the back, the window sister said, he's just sprawled out there on the last three seats. Who, Charlie? the driver said, hell, he's no more dead than I am. Dead drunk's more like it, and he laughed. But then he went back there to check on Charlie anyhow because no one was going to leave the bus until he did. And it turned out Charlie really was a corpse.

Well the driver was pretty shocked, and he didn't want to open the bathroom door either, so he made us all get off the bus and then he called an ambulance and the cops, and even though we all had other things to do we hung around, and we didn't even go to the bathroom during the time that we were waiting for the policemen to arrive. They finally came and the driver told them all about the dead man in the back and how the bathroom door was jammed, and the cops got on the bus and pulled their pistols out, and marched off to the bathroom door. We heard them pounding on the door and calling for whoever it was in there to come on out with their hands held high or else they'd count to ten.

Whoever it was did not come out and so the cops had to kick the door in, something they did so easily that it made the navy man blush a bit. And it turned out there was no one in there after all. I guess the man just died all on his own. Well we all felt petty stupid, and even the cops were laughing, though I think they were laughing at themselves because they even half believed it too themselves, but we just went our separate ways without another word. It was almost ten o'clock by then and I had just about an hour to find where I was going to, which was the time I figured I might need to set aside in case I couldn't find it right away. And if I did then I could look around a bit at Wetford, though I could do that later too, because the bus going back did not leave until four thirty. I noticed on the schedule that it passed my stop at five fifteen, so I knew it wasn't going through the Indian reservation again. It was funny that I could have taken the next bus and I would've got there still on time, but I didn't know about that at the time.

Wetford isn't very big a town, and it didn't take me hardly fifteen minutes to find the K-Po's, which was right downtown and not that far from the station. So I had another forty five minutes on my hands so I decided I would look around the town. But I can tell you that there wasn't all the much to see, just a street of little shops, a local government building with a post office and some offices inside it, and the rest was all a bunch of little houses side by side with yards and little fences out in front. It wasn't that the houses weren't pretty and all because they were, but I was never very big on wandering around and seeing stuff and I got bored before too long. I like to ride my bike and that is fine, but walking if I'm going to walk I'd rather do it in the countryside where you don't have to see a lot of people things and think about the things the people do.

I mean, it wasn't much to think about. It was just like where I was except there were about a hundred times more people here, which still isn't very much, and I figured that they lived the same way pretty much and did the same things as the people where I was, so that wasn't very interesting. I could've lived there easily enough, and I thought maybe when I live here than it will be more interesting to me, but at the time it was only just another place and that wasn't very much to go on wondering about. So after a lot of walking I just went straight back to K-Po's and I waited around outside the front until it was eleven and the time to do the interview. Then I went inside and told someone why I was there and who the name was that I was supposed to see.

Then they called the man and he came over to the front where I was standing and he said, listen, I am very sorry that you came all this way and I tried to call you up this morning but you had already left, because, you see, there isn't any job now as it turns out after all, but maybe there will be some other time and if you like I'll call you first when that occurs. I said okay thats fine with me, and I told him that I was very interested in the opportunity because where I was they didn't come around too much and I had to find something because I couldn't stay out there forever. He said he knew and understood and that the next time anything came up he would be sure to call me first, okay? I said okay and thank you very much and that was that.

Well, there wasn't much for me to do in Wetford after all. It turned out that I wasn't going to get the job because there wasn't any job, and I didn't even have to go in any case. But there I was and there wasn't any bus till four thirty so I had about five hours left to kill and nothing at all to do. It turned out to be about the longest afternoon that I have ever had. The first thing that I did was go back to the station and use the bathroom there, because I had forgotten to pee with all the things that had been going on. After that I bought a magazine and wandered over to this little green they had there in the center of the town. I read the magazine about three times, and then I bought the daily paper and I read it twice.

I didn't have anything to think about or wonder about or even to try and worry about. There was nothing I could put inside my mind at all. I didn't like Wetford very much that day, and I could see now why nobody ever went there very often, and why they drove their cars if they happened to go there, because if I had a car I could've left at any time I chose, and I think that is a very important thing to be able to do in Wetford. But I couldn't, so I waited and I waited for the time to come when I could catch the bus to go back home. And it turned out that I did just waste my whole day off that day, but it wasn't because I missed the bus, but because I'd caught it after all.

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