Each day Denny takes the bus into the city to fulfill his mandatory community service. Since Denny’s twin sister died in a river accident, Denny’s become human dynamite, creating a fair share of destruction.
Denny hates the bus. Destitute grannies, drunks, mumbling lunatics, gangbangers and skin heads make up the bulk of the passengers.
Lacking air conditioning, the bus absorbs odors - urine, cheese, dead fish, sauerkraut, wet dog - as if mechanically engineered to do so. Summers are worst, because the heat intensifies every stench, leaving Denny with burning eyes, migraines and an urge to hit someone.
Once he’s on the bus, the first thing Denny does is attach his headphones and turn on music - usually something violent-sounding like “Rage Against The Machine.” Maintaining a sneer the whole ride, he talks to nobody.
One morning a man Denny’s never seen before steps aboard. He carries a cane and wears the world’s biggest shit-eating grin. As he passes each row, he touches the seatback. Denny assumes this is to steady himself, but then Denny notices the man’s gnarled fingers, how they flutter on the shoulder of each passenger.
It’s clear what’s going to happen. The blind man will travel three more aisles, then stop precisely at Denny’s row where the first available spot is.
Denny quickly scoots into the aisle seat.
“Would you mind letting me in?” the blind man says, “or perhaps you’d care to take the window seat?”
Denny is so stunned by this that he returns to his former seat and promptly plucks his ear buds back in.
The bus has just started to lurch forward when the blind man taps Denny’s arm. Denny turns the music up as loud as it will go, his ears.
The blind man continues tapping.
Denny tries singing aloud, “Rally ‘round the family, with a pocket full of shells!”
“Okay, hey man, what?”
“I’m Marvin,” the blind man says, holding out his hand.
“Sorry, bud. I’ve got a cold.” Denny’s not touching anyone, plus now the blind man might rethink his seat choice.
“Fine, fine, no problem at all,” the blind man says.
Denny’s starting to return to his music when the blind man says, “You’re about twenty-one, twenty-two, I suppose?”
“My birthday’s next week.”
“Twenty-two on Tuesday. How’d you know?”
“Your taste in music,” he says, pointing at Denny’s ear, “and your choice of cologne. Aqua di Gio, I take it?”
“How’d you know there was an empty seat here?”
“Ah, must I give all my secrets away?”
“What’re you smiling about?”
“Indeed, what. But aren’t you chockfull of questions?”
“Hey, dude, sorry.”
“No, I love it. Dude! Anyway, I thought I’d do something different today, something extraordinary.”
“Take the bus, of course.”
“How’s that so special?”
“Why, this vehicle is filled with fascinating people.”
“Fascinating’s not the word I’d use.”
He pats Denny’s leg. “Everyone has a story to tell. Even you.”
“Nah, I ain’t got nothing.”
“Let’s start with why you’re so angry?”
published 7 June 2013