Back to the World
by James Shaffer
Table of Contents|
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
At the Amarillo bus station, Tom Piper bought three bus tickets, but he didn’t follow his son’s instructions exactly. He did buy three tickets like Johnnie had said, but the bus he was thinking of taking went to Russell, Kansas, by way of Wichita.
He’d have to change buses in Wichita. He thought for a moment and bought a ticket to Wichita. In Wichita he’d get another ticket for Russell. That’d throw them off the scent. I can be smart too, he thought. He didn’t need a Chicago ticket. His sister’s farm was about twenty miles north of Russell on the Saline River. He’d hitch a ride out to the farm when he got to Russell.
* * *
By the time Ed Wills woke up from his beating, Tom was halfway to Wichita. Tom’s life had been a mess since Johnnie’s mama died. Nothing he did seemed worth it after that. Everything he’d valued was gone, painfully gone. The war had taken some. He’d taken the rest. He was a drunk and a gambler, and he wasted what he had left on bad habits.
The thought of taking care of Johnnie had been secondary, but then Johnnie could always take care of himself, it seemed. He loved Johnnie. There was no doubt about that. The thing was, what he’d lost made him wary. You love someone; then they’re gone, gone forever, never coming back. It left an emptiness he filled with bad habits. Bad or good, habits stayed with you. Habits were a sure thing, reliable. You could count on ’em.
The Wichita bus station was busy. It was rush hour. He found the ticket window, stood in line and got a place for the next bus to Russell.
“You’re lucky. The next bus for Russell leaves in fifteen minutes. You’ll have to buy a ticket to Hays, but you can get off in Russell,” the ticket agent said as he took Tom’s cash payment.
“Thanks,” Tom answered. “’Bout time I had some luck. If you only knew the kind of day I’ve had.”
The agent laughed. “I’d hate to see what the other guy looks like.” He referred to Tom’s bruised face as he made change from the fifty-dollar bill Tom handed him.
“If I’m not mistaken, the other guy’s probably still out cold.” Tom shared the joke.
“Have a good trip.”
“I’ll try,” answered Tom.
He took his change. Clutching his briefcase full of cash and a suitcase full of clothes, he went off in search of the bus to Hays.
Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer