Lily sat in the bus terminal waiting for her bus to be called. She looked down at her left hand, at the long thin line that ran across the palm, the scar from when Jeff had sliced her with a kitchen knife for forgetting to put mustard on his sandwich, causing him to have to do it himself and missing the winning touchdown on the tv. It didn’t matter that he saw the touchdown one minute later on instant replay. He had missed the actual moment, so Lily had to be punished. Lily had had to be punished often in the last five years. Jeff’s favorite shirt was in the wash when he wanted to wear it or Lily had overcooked the chicken. Sometimes, Jeff punished Lily for things that weren’t even her doing. Jeff hadn’t gotten a promotion or had missed a deadline or had lost money at the racetrack. Lily often ran her right index finger along the scar when she was nervous or when she was trying to think. She didn’t do that now. She wasn’t nervous, not anymore. And she didn’t need to think, because she had decided. Lily didn’t know what finally snapped her into action. She didn’t know which was the last straw. Lily just woke up this morning and knew that today was the day. She was getting on the bus and she wasn’t coming back.
Lily stood up. “I’m bored. Is there a place to get coffee around here? I think you should put a Starbucks in the corner over there,” she said, pointing.
What are you doing? Sit down. It is not supposed to be boring. You just left an abusive husband. You should be scared and excited and relieved and a thousand other things, but not bored.
“Yeah, what can I say? I’m not really feeling it,” Lily said, “I’m leaving. What about that guy? The one three seats over with the mahogany box on his lap. That looks like cremains. Write about him.”
James sat holding a wooden box on his lap. He was still in shock. His mother had died suddenly in Boston and he had gone to collect her ashes to bring home to Ohio. He and his mother had always had a complicated relationship.
“No, we didn’t,” interrupted James. “We had a perfectly normal relationship.”
Okay. Then how about if you find out at the funeral that your mom was a spy in World War Two?
“My mom was 5 years old in 1945.”
Okay, your grandmother, then.
“My grandmother had a baby in 1940. My mother, remember? In Toledo. How is she a spy?”
I don’t know! She had German ancestors. She was sending information that she picked up to her Nazi cousins.
“There were no military bases anywhere near Toledo during WWII. Also, I’m leaving. You’ve insulted my family. My grandmother was not a Nazi!”
I can’t insult you or your family. You’re fictional. Come back here!
As James strode away, he had to dodge a six-year-old who was on the floor with a small toy car. The boy was pushing the car around an invisible track, making vroom noises. An eight-year-old sat nearby, reading Dr. Seuss to a two- and a four-year-old. The mother was busy rummaging through a large tote bag and handing plastic bags of animal crackers to a ten-year-old. The mother looked up.
“Don’t you even think about it! I got enough to do without you sending me off on adventures. No way, sister!” she said.
“Nope! I am tired. I don’t have the time or the energy. Go bother that obviously single woman under the clock.”
The woman stood up, collected all her children and hurried from the station.
Under the clock, Linda stood, checking her watch. She had planned this vacation for months. Two entire weeks in a cabin in the woods of Maine. No bar code scanners beeping constantly. The absence of rude customers being angry at her because the peaches aren’t ripe. No break room smelling of cigarette smoke because the obnoxious smokers stand directly outside the door and all their smoke blows back into the building. Two weeks of swimming in the lake, reading in the shade, walking in the woods. Heaven! She smiled in anticipation. Little did she know what mayhem was in store for her.
“No way! Nuh-uh. No mayhem! I need this vacation. I need peace. Don’t you dare drop mayhem into my life,” Linda said.
Look, you’re the only person left in here.
“What about that guy?”
What guy? There’s no guy.
“Right there. See him? Really expensive suit. Probably very rich.”
No. We’re in a bus station. What’s a rich guy in an expensive suit doing in a bus station?
“Exactly!” said Linda, “That’s the story. What’s he doing here?”
Nothing, because he doesn’t exist.
“None of us exist,” said Linda. “Get a grip.”
I’d much rather write a nice thriller set in the woods in Maine. You can be the heroine.
“No. I don’t want to be the heroine. I want to sit around and read romance novels for two weeks. Look at the guy! He’s intriguing. He’s wearing bespoke shoes! Figure out why he’s here.”
He’s apparently a figment of your imagination, so why don’t you tell me?
“He’s an alien from a faraway planet! That’s why he looks out of place. He doesn’t know that his clothes don’t match his surroundings.”
I don’t write science fiction.
“Today is a good day to start!”
“He’s a ghost, and this is where his home used to be in 1867.”
I thought his suit was modern?
“Now it’s Victorian. Just go with it.”
Yeah, I don’t write ghost stories, either.
“Well, I don’t think you should be so picky, seeing as you’re the one with the writer’s block.”
Linda turned her head to better hear the announcement over the intercom. Her bus to Moosehead had just been called. She picked up her suitcase and walked away.
“I’m off to Maine!” Linda said, “See ya!”
I’m going to go walk the dog. Have a pleasant ride up there. When I get back from my walk, I’ll meet you in Maine for murder and mayhem.
“Damn!” said Linda.
© 2018 Liza Cameron Wasser