The Greyhound bus was packed on this particular evening, which was unusual. I’d ridden it half a dozen times or more and there’d always been just a few of us on leaving the station at ten o’clock at night. I’d take a quiet corner in the back and read, undisturbed. This night there were no empty seats and a man with straggly strawberry-blonde hair and an unevenly cut moustache slipped into the seat next to me. As the bus rolled on he started to talk.
“Man, this bus ain’t nothin’ like the old days. The old days were so good. You could smoke, you could drink. There’d be old ladies with big jugs of wine passin’ em up and down the aisle and they’d be carryin’ boxes of live chickens. Everybody smoked. Everybody drank. Everybody made so much racket. The bus’d go from side to side like this.” He leaned back and forth, pressing into me then pulling away. “You ever ride the bus in those days, man?”
“No, never did. I didn’t know it was like that.”
“That’s when ridin’ the bus was fun. Everything went on in those days man. All those ladies with their wine and everybody yellin’. You never knew what was gonna happen. I remember somebody got killed in the back of the bus. Got a knife stuck right in him. Nobody knew until the bus stopped and he was just left back there in the seat.” He looked around. “That could happen now too. It’s so dark in here. Somethin’ like that could happen and nobody’d know.”
The Ray Bradbury story The Town Where No One Got Off flickered across my mind. It’s about a chance meeting between strangers that almost leads to murder.
I had a large thick book with me and held it up as kind of a shield between us.
“Whatcha readin’?” he asked.
“A book by the Marquis de Sade.”
“Is it good?”
I narrowed my eyes. “It’s great. Everything goes on in it. There’s all kinds of torture and crazy sex. It ends with a massive orgy where all but a few of the characters get violently murdered.”
At the first stop most of the passengers got off and he moved to another seat.
Moral: Know your safe words.
Alternative moral: If you can’t join ’em beat ’em.