2019 Ironology Challenge #7 – October 4, 2018

2019 Ironology

Challenge #7

November 1, 2018

Deadline is Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 00:01 AM MDT

1000 word limit

All submissions will be posted on the website, without the authors names.

Authors names will be added after voting is complete.

Send your submission to Brian via FB Messenger.

No email submissions will be accepted.

Only the first five submissions received are eligible for the anthology.

To vote, send the title to the story you liked best to Brian via FB Messenger.

Prompt:

A late bus
A village store
A case of wine
A long way from home

Shelter

A cool light wind blew across the unstirred meadow, rattling the bus-stop sign holding on by one loose nut and bolt against the pole. Todd sat on the second of the last two usable seats in the dilapidated rusting metal frame the locals called a shelter.

“You look like you’re a long way from ‘ome,” said a voice to his right, corroded and worn by life, matching their spot to a T. He shot a glance at its owner, dressed in brown, dirty overalls, rotten working boots with hanging tongues, all topped off with an ancient overlarge red and black flannel hat with holes in its ear protectors. The man’s beard was as gray as the morning smoke from the illegal refuse fires seen in the distance down the road. “Any chance I can ‘elp you with that?” He nodded down to the case of wine Todd had bought from the village store a few hours ago. The truth was, Todd hadn’t ever been here before, but Jeff had dropped him off to buy them.

“In what way?” asked Todd. Sure, the case was heavy, but the man’s fat, red tongue appeared from beneath his beard, suggesting some other action.

“I can relieve you of some of yer weight there,” said the man smiling and now showing his lack of teeth. Todd couldn’t decide whether the waft of rank sweet smelling shit came from the manure on the nearby fields or from a closer source.

“No, no, I’m okay, thanks.” Todd looked down the road for the bus. The timetable said it was due at half part two, but as Todd could see on his watch, it was already getting close to four. If it didn’t come soon, he’d be late for the evening get-together. What was even worse was he’d been trusted by Jeff to get the wine, a crucial element in their plan to seduce the Kleimmer twins, who’d only drink wine and nothing else, and if he didn’t appear with the goods, he’d lose all standing. He hoped twelve bottles of cheap Chardonnay would be enough. But if they didn’t arrive…

“The bus is a bit late, isn’t it?” Todd asked the man. His palms were now sweating a little as the minutes drained away.

The man grumbled and mashed his jaws together, closing one eye and turned to Todd. “What bus?”

As Todd sat there, trying to figure out how many miles it was to Jeff’s place from here, the man maneuvered closer…

A cool light wind blew across the unstirred meadow, rattling the bus-stop sign holding on by one loose nut and bolt against the pole. The dilapidated rusting metal frame the locals called a shelter was empty and bare, save for a black watch with a crushed face left abandoned on the crumbling concrete. The smell of piss and blood hung heavy on the second of the last two usable seats. With a hiss of hydraulic brakes, a bus pulled up and stopped, allowing one passenger to slowly board as his rotten working boots with hanging tongues scrapped across the top of the metal steps. A bottle of cheap plonk he held in his left hand rang against the frame of the bus’s door as he clumsily got on.

 

Proactive

Nervously looking around, Jack walked the five blocks from his apartment to the bus stop.  It was getting dark. He hated this city; this concrete jungle.  It was dirty, busy, noisy and dangerous.  He had timed his arrival at the bus stop so he wouldn’t have to sit around long.  He certainly didn’t want to attract any attention looking like he was a vulnerable traveler with time on his hands.  He missed his hometown; he missed the friends he grew up with. Being the day before Thanksgiving, he was missing the big extended family gatherings where everybody brought lots of food.  Most of all, he missed his parents.  Face it, Jack was homesick, and he was a long way from that home.  This city? This was not “home.”

Good; no one was at the bus stop. Jack looked at his watch. He either missed it or the bus was late. He looked up at the Village Pantry convenience store right there, kept his momentum, and went inside.  There was a clerk working the register and a young woman cleaning the coffee machines.

“Miss, you gonna make more coffee when you’re done?”

“Yeah, I’ll be about ten minutes.”  Jack smiled, “Okay; let me know.” He turned away and thought, “Wow!  She’s nice!”  He moseyed on down the aisle looking over the donuts, walked around the cold drinks, past the restrooms and the open back door. He figured the woman must be running in and out with trash.  He scanned through the display of greeting cards and then back up to the front.  The woman called out, “Coffee’s up.”

He bought a cup, a couple donuts, and went back outside.  Still no bus.

No sooner had he sat down than some greasy old derelict with a white beard stumbled over and slouched down next to him. “Nice night ain’t it?” Greasy inquired.

Jack pulled his coffee in closer so it wouldn’t be conspicuous and replied with a deliberate indifference , “I suppose.”

The man looked slightly hurt. “Relax, kid. I’m harmless. You waitin’ for the bus, are ya?”

“Yep.”  There was an awkward silence.  He added reluctantly, “Going home for Thanksgiving.”

The old guy smiled. “It’s always late; the bus.  Might be awhile. Going to see family? There’s nothing as important as family.  I should know.”

Intrigued, Jack looked over at the man.  The man went on, ”I try not to think about it.”

Jack responded, “I think about it … a lot.”

The man pulled a liquor bottle out of his breast pocket, “You can never go home, kid.” Then he realized the bottle was empty. “Son of a bitch!”  He tossed the bottle into the street.

Jack became conscious of the warm cup he was holding and thought to himself, “Oh, what the heck!” He pulled it into view and extended it and the two donuts toward the man.

The man looked surprised, but he took them gratefully.  “Bless you, son.  That’s very kind of you.”  Jack smiled and looked away.  That’s when he saw the two punks go into the store.  They were wearing ski masks.

Jack stood up, “Excuse me,” and hurried around to the back door of the convenience store.  It was still open.  He tiptoed inside.  One kid was behind the counter already.  The clerk was unconscious. The other kid had the woman by her arm.  Jack grabbed a Slim Jim, snuck up behind the kid holding the woman, stuck the beef stick in his ribs and spoke softly, “Let her go or I’ll decorate the donut case with your liver!”  The kid let go. She ran into the back and phoned the police.  Jack hollered at the other kid as the two of them moved closer to the front, “I got a gun in your friend’s back.  Look, take the money, I don’t care.  All I want is for you two to leave and NOBODY else gets hurt!”  The kid behind the counter paused, finished cleaning out the register, and bolted out the front door. Jack shoved the other kid out after him.  They both disappeared into the city.

Jack went over to check on the clerk; he was okay.  The kid had just knocked him out with a sucker punch.  Turned out the woman was the clerk’s daughter.  They were Daniel and Annie McGuire. The police arrived, reports were filled out, and the police left.  Jack helped tidy things up, and then McGuire wanted to show Jack his appreciation for saving his daughter from harm. “Take anything you want from the store; help yourself.”  At first Jack didn’t want anything, but he thought for a second then he slid a small box of wine from the shelf.  Annie let Jack out the back door.

Greasy was still nursing his coffee when Jack sat back down and took a bite of the Slim Jim.  After about five minutes of silence the bus pulled up.  The doors opened and the driver hollered, “Either of you getting on?” Surprisingly, Jack waved the driver on. The bus doors closed and it pulled away. The two watched the bus until it rounded a corner and was gone.  The old man inquired, “I thought you were anxious to go home.”

Jack looked at the ground pensively. “You were right. I can’t ever go home. You see, my parents died in a car accident about a year ago, and I’m an only child; that part of my life is over.  I was just going to ride the bus for awhile.”

The old man made no visible expression.  After a couple of minutes he declared, “Well then, you’ll just have to make a new one; a new home.  It’s all on you now, son.”

Jack smiled thoughtfully, “I suppose.”  He pushed the box across the bench.  “Here, happy Thanksgiving!”

The man was beside himself. He fondled the box, but then took on a more somber expression,  “I saw what you did in there.  You’re giving your reward to me?  You do something like that and walk away with nothing?”

Jack smiled, “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”  He took another bite of the Slim Jim then held up a piece of paper, “I got her phone number.”

 

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