The Bus

Many years ago I worked on a commercial seafood pier in California, where I mainly unloaded fish and crab, depending on the season, from commercial boats. One of the salmon boats that delivered to us was owned and operated by a guy named Norm and his girlfriend, whose name I can't remember, but I think it was something like Carrie, so that's what I'll call her. Norm and Carrie were in their thirties, as was I and the owner of the seafood company I worked for. His name was Dave, but most of us called him "Big D," because he was from a small town outside of Dallas, Texas. Carrie was from Texas, too. I don't remember where Norm was from, but it wasn't Texas. I'm not from Texas, either, but the two Texans didn't hold that against us.

A fun memory I have of that time is when one afternoon Norm and Carrie came out to the pier with beer, smoke, and a dictionary, and introduced Big D and I to what they called the "dictionary game." The way it was played was one person would look through the dictionary and find an obscure word that they assumed none of us ever used, and probably didn't know the meaning of. They would pronounce the word and give the spelling so we could write it down on a piece of paper. After that, it was our task to write what we thought the word meant. After we each wrote what we thought the word meant, or if stumped, perhaps write something spawned from our imaginaton, we would give our papers to the person that chose the word and that person would read the offered definitions aloud. I remember one time the chosen word was "moraine," which is a mass of rocks and sediment carried down and deposited by a glacier. I didn't know the meaning at the time, so I wrote the definition as "a cure of a drought."

I had a room on the pier, so that's where I slept, most of the time, but once, between seasons, Norm and Carrie went to visit Carrie's family in Texas, and they asked me if I wouldn't mind staying in the bus they lived in, which was parked at what was known as the "upper parking lot" at the harbor, and keep an eye on it and water a couple of plants that were in it while they were gone. I said I would, and I thought it might be convenient because I usually finished my nights at the harbor bar, and afterwards, when it came time for me to crash, it would be a short walk to the bus instead of the fifteen-minute walk to the pier.

The bus was fairly new and in good condition, kept-up and clean, so I thought my stay there for a week or so would be pleasant, but I was absolutely wrong about that. The first night I entered the bus I was immediately struck by an overwhelming feeling of not being wanted. It was as if the bus had a brain, a heart, a soul, and in no way wanted me there. I had drank a lot of vodka at the bar, so was able to eventually go to sleep in the big, comfortable bed. When I awoke in the morning I still felt strange. The next night I decided to just walk back to the pier. The bus really gave me the creeps.

The night after that I thought I would try sleeping in the bus again, and once again I got the same intense creepy feeling. I was baffled as to why. I got along great with its owners, and I was asked to be there by them, but I really felt like an invader. I was drunk and tired, though, so I was determined to sleep in the bus. I laid down for a while, but couldn't pass out. I got up and had a smoke. As I smoked and looked around the bus I saw a pair of Carrie's red panties on a stool. When I finished the smoke I looked back at the panties, and thought maybe if I took them to bed with me I might be able to sleep by bonding, in a way, with one of the bus's rightful inhabitants. I returned to the bed, and as I laid down I put the hand that clutched the panties under the pillow and closed my eyes. As I did, a California gull flew by in the darkness outside and let go its laugh-like call.

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