Tuesday, November 09, 2004

excerpt from The Magic Bus

Terrence climbed onto the bus, hung his umbrella over his arm and withdrew his wallet. Paid his fare. Ten thousand dollars. The driver didn't smile - he never did at Terrence - just pressed a big red button and the windows fogged as they accelerated away.
Terrence glanced over the singular passengers who looked expectantly at him. Hopeful faces.
He chose an empty seat beside a rugged looking Army man with a scar across his lip and thick dark hair, wearing a khaki shirt and trousers.
"So you sit with me," the Army man said in a gravelly voice. He pulled a pack of Camels from his shirt pocket and lit one by flicking his thumbnail over the red and blue head of a wooden match. Didn't offer a cigarette to Terrence. His hands were like freshly dug potatoes.
"It'll be rough ya know. Autumn ‘44 ain't no country picnic, even if the war is leavin' Italy. They're still tryin' to hang on wherever they can. Mussolini's up there somewhere in them hills. Montecatini maybe, who knows? But we'll find him, don't worry, we'll find him." Smoke drifted out of his nose as though his lungs might be permanently smoldering.
"But, um, wasn't Rome already liberated in the Spring of 1944?" Terrence remarked.
"Yeah, but that kinda shit's easy. Artillery, whole friggin' divisions rollin' along. Tanks. That's velvet pie. Ya could use one of them new flame throwers if ya wanted. Fry the friggin' Krauts right in their burrows."
"F-fry them in their b-burrows?"
"Bunker Barbeque."
"Um, provided you can get close enough to use the thing."
"Who said it wouldn't be dangerous? That's the whole ticket. It's why yer here, ain't it? To go one on one?"
"I'm not sure yet."
"The game is diggin' 'em out one at a time, Buddy ... You'll love it, there's fun if ya get off at my stop with me, better than a table grade woman ... and no one'll beat ya up this time." The virile offer was tempting.
"I hope not, I abhor violence."
"So ya got punched in the head and the mugger took yer wallet, that's why ya want to face it now, ain't it? Believe me, them new flamers are the cat's ass. The Nazi's howl is like a Wagner opera." He pronounced the composer’s name WAGner.
Terrence gulped, corrected, "VAHGner."
The soldier took a deep drag from the cigarette. Smoke clouded his voice. "Get off with me ... Ya don't ever live better than when yer so close ta dyin'."
Terrence shuddered with a chill and looked around, opted to move near the little blond woman.
As he sat beside her he realized she was only a young girl. Soft, supple looking. She could have been sixteen, had fine yellowy hair and a light fragrance like wild roses.
"Hello," she said, her voice musical, her eyes possessing a kind of blue sheen. "Are you getting off when I do?"

© RC Westerholm


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