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An Important Meeting

4 Mar

The salesman attempted to speak in a persuasive tone. As he did, the customer’s face grew more exhausted from feigning interest in the sales pitch, not convinced, simply waiting for it to be over so he could decline. It was late. The man had been expected at three, but had got ‘caught up in other things’, postponing the time to four, five, six o’clock. Around nine, he finally had rung the doorbell at the customer’s house. He regretted not being on time, and knew that his tardiness had set the tense nature of the whole meeting. The customer was growing weary and ready to say goodnight, but the more he subtly pushed towards the door, the more the salesman desperately wanted to stay, welcomed in this warm home. He had forgotten what having a real home was like. Maybe he should ask about the vase on the mantel. Anything to make idle conversation and prolong his departure. What basketball game was on TV? Did they have any kids? The customer’s wife sat on the recliner, pretending to read, but all growing more and more suspicious that this man wasn’t here to help. Why hadn’t he left by now?

The customer and the salesman were standing by the door now, the customer’s hand on the doorknob to let him out. Time was up. It was almost eleven.

“It sure is getting chilly,” the salesman said. Handing the man a company card, he told him to call if he changed his mind.

“We’ll think about it,” said the customer, but his mind was clearly already made up.

The salesman stepped outside, waving goodbye to the suspicious wife. She thought he would return to rob them. When he approached his white van outside, he fumbled with his keys before unlocking the door, and before climbing inside, he gazed upward at the heavens. Funny the way the cards were dealt, he thought. With a sigh, he opened the door and got in, beginning the trip to the next town over—I think it was Moyertown—to try his hand again. And maybe make a sale.

An Eventual Departure

25 Feb

My first attempt at fiction this semester…..I hope you like it. 🙂

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2:57. Oscar triumphed on the inside. He was early. The bus would be there in three minutes.

            He had to get to Walmart.

            The words continuously looped through Oscar’s mind as he sat perched on the freezing bench, partially, but not particularly, safe from the rain that beat down on the roof of the bus stop shelter. He looked down the street to the left, and then looked to the right, before glancing at his watch again. It was still 2:57.

            With a sigh, Oscar put down his hood and settled back into the seat of the bench, but then sat back up straight again as to not get too comfortable. The bus would be here soon. He might fall asleep if he got too comfortable.

            But how could he fall asleep, he thought to himself, with the lady talking unnecessarily loudly on her cell phone right next to him?

            “No, EDward, we are not staying with your parents”, she said, enunciating every word as if she were talking to a lost foreign man. Maybe she was. “I know how your mother is.” She paused, listening to Edward’s response. “But EDward, HOW can we stay with your parents when she knows I don’t eat eggs.”

            Oscar wondered how crucial eggs were to Edward’s parents, and what other reasons there were as to why this woman so badly did not want to stay with them. It seemed that Edward didn’t understand. But, her conversation really didn’t matter to Oscar. She was talking too loud. It made it hard to think.

            He just really needed to focus on the main issue.

            He had to get to Walmart.

            He needed to get to Walmart.

            Oscar glanced around at the small crowd that had formed at the bus stop. Only two others had crammed underneath the meager shelter that CityLine had provided. Oscar counted how many people were gathered—there were seven. Five of them were on some sort of cellular device.

            “No man, we’re not stayin’ at a hotel. I don’t care, you do what you want, but I’m stayin’ at a hostel. It’s so cheap, man.”

            “I’m just waiting for the bus. What are you up to?”

            “My laundry pants. Please bring me my laundry pants.”

            It was 3:00, on the nose. The bus would be here any minute.

            Oscar stood up and lifted his hood to once again cover his head, forfeiting his seat underneath the safety of the roof. It was okay, though, because he wanted to be the first in line for when the bus arrived. He always sat in the front, on the left side behind the driver. He liked this seat for multiple reasons—he could hear the radio, there was extra room for his legs, and he was always the first one off. The first one on, and the first one off. Oscar liked that.

            He watched a lady with glasses that were too small for her face approach the bus stop in what seemed like a prance, weaving in and out around invisible barriers. She did not have an umbrella, and perhaps she was attempting to avoid each individual raindrop. Whatever it was, she looked ridiculous. The woman quickly ducked under the shelter, taking what had been Oscar’s seat, huffing as she sat down.

            She looked as if she had too much caffeine today, and each of her movements seemed snappy, like the staccato movements of a finch. She took out a nail file from her bag and began to file furiously away at her fingernails, paying no attention to the woman still talking on her phone, now speaking in quiet, hushed tones. Maybe Edward was mad.

            It was 3:07.

            The bus tends to be late sometimes, Oscar assured himself. Especially on rainy days. It had to travel extra slow as a precaution. No big deal.

            But he was getting wet. Even though his plushy winter coat had been waterproof fifteen years ago, there were patches where Oscar could feel the wetness soak through to his sweater then to his skin. He didn’t really need a new coat, though. This one did just fine.

            Oscar hadn’t noticed in the past few minutes that a timid-looking man had shuffled up to the stop. He wore only a light windbreaker, but he didn’t seem to be bothered by the rain drenching his face. From afar it looked like he was permanently smiling, but then Oscar realized it was just because he was squinting to keep the rain out of his eyes, forcing his lips upward.

            But he looked happy. Content. Swaying back and forth in his new looking white sneakers that were soaked just like the rest of him. Although it was hard to hear over the voices of people talking, Oscar heard a faint sqshh, sqshh with each of his movements as the water in the sneakers squished around, sending tiny jets of water out onto the sidewalk.

            There wasn’t any particular reason why Oscar noticed this. Anything to keep him occupied while he waited, which seemed like he had been doing forever now. It was 3:11.

            Oscar furrowed his eyebrow, as he often did when he was concerned. Time was flying by, and there was no bus in sight.

            What if he didn’t get to Walmart in time?

            He was getting very wet. He turned to duck back under the roof, although he wasn’t going to have a seat. Ignoring the dirty looks from the women whom his coat dripped on, he rummaged around in his pocket until he found his shopping list, among receipts and gum wrappers that fluttered to the ground as he pulled out the list. He didn’t bother to pick them up.

            The woman on her phone had hung up, and was now sitting with her lips pursed, looking as though she could lash out at anyone at any time. Bird Lady was still filing her nails, taking particular interest in her thumb. A man with big eyes and a saggy hat sat at the end of the bench, staring blankly through the glass.

            Tissues. Wintergreen gum. A new blue notebook. Apples. Oscar checked off each item in his mind and began planning the most efficient route around the store to pick up everything he needed. Band aids. Cough drops.

            Why wasn’t the bus here yet?

            Peanut butter cups. Paper cups. Toothpaste.

            Instant coffee. That’s what he had forgotten. He reached down to his left back pocket, which was empty, and then his right, which was also empty. He had forgotten his pen. He needed to add it to the list or else he would forget about it.

            Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

            He repeated the mantra in his brain so he would remember. It would be the first thing to pick up when he got there so he wouldn’t have to worry about it later.

            Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

            More people were accumulating at the bus stop. Oscar hadn’t noticed, since he was so engrossed in his list and planning his trip to Walmart. He did a quick head count; there were sixteen people waiting for the bus.

            What if there wouldn’t be space for him? Once again leaving his spot underneath the roof, Oscar flipped up his hood, his neck immediately icy from the water that had pooled inside of it. How had water gotten in his hood when he was under the roof? Maybe there was a leak. He ventured to the outside to stand beside the CityLine signpost.

            Perhaps he had looked at the wrong arrival time. Even though he went to Walmart at the same time on the same bus every week. Maybe the transportation department had changed things around. They did that sometimes.

            He wiped away the water so he could see the schedule posted on the sign. Charleston Street. 3:00 PM. It should have been here at two. It was almost 3:45 now.

            Oscar thought that surely he couldn’t have been the only one growing worried. He looked around, but everyone seemed content. Bird Lady was done filing and had now moved on to picking at a callous on her dry palm. Angry Wife looked at her feet, while the Big-Eyed Man stared straight ahead still, unfazed.

            The Smiler was still squinting and smiling, but had moved on to more of a stationary bouncing motion. Bounce bounce bounce. His head involuntarily nodded from the motion. With every bounce it was as if he was nodding. Yes, yes, yes.

            Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

            The outside crowd clutched their multicolored umbrellas, which really didn’t keep anyone dry, but still took up more space than one person ever needed for standing. A young girl, who looked to be about seventeen, stood next to Oscar, almost hidden underneath a bright pink umbrella. She wore a shiny yellow coat and pink earrings.

            “Pardon me,” Oscar said to her, peeking underneath the pink umbrella.

            Her eyes grew wide.

            “Are you waiting for the bus?” She asked, her voice inflecting obnoxiously upward at the end of the sentence.

            “Yes, yes I am,” Oscar replied. “Now tell me, this bus will take me to Walmart, am I correct? The bus is going to Walmart?”

            The girl nodded and smiled enthusiastically. “It will take you to Walmart!”

            Oscar looked down and noticed she was wearing bright yellow rain boots that matched her coat. She was dressed as if she had been expecting to stand in the rain for a long time.

            “Do you know when it will get here?” Oscar inquired, knowing it was a dumb question as soon as it left his lips.

            The girl flashed a grin of perfect white teeth, giggling as she said, “It will get here eventually!”

            Her optimistic attitude was too much for Oscar. Nodding, he turned away from her to face down the street in the direction that the bus would be coming from.

            Oscar’s heart skipped a beat when he looked at his watch. It was 4:07 now. The bus was over an hour late.

            Turning again to the Bright Faced Girl, he asked, “What time is it, miss?”

            She rolled back her yellow sleeve to reveal a pink watch on her arm. “It’s four-oh-seven!” Her head bounced as she uttered each number in a singsong, rhythmic fashion. She looked at him expectantly, waiting for his next question.

            Oscar was going to forget to get his coffee. He really wished he had brought a pen so that he could write it down. How could he have been so careless?

            Time was running out.

            He had to get to Walmart.

            There was nothing he wanted more right now than to be sitting on the bus, second seat in on the left hand side. Right behind the driver. That way, he could keep an eye on the road, and also hear the radio.

            When he got to Walmart, he would get his coffee right away.

            The Angry Wife had a pad of paper on her lap, scribbling what seemed to be a list. Maybe she was going to Walmart, too, thought Oscar.

            Approaching the shelter once again, Oscar ducked inside, spraying the seated people again with rain from his hood as he pushed it off his head. The Bird Lady cocked her head, glaring through her tiny glasses.

            “Excuse me”, Oscar hovered over the Angry Wife making the list. “Are you waiting to go to Walmart?”

            She looked up. “I’ll get to Walmart eventually.

            Her phone rang, and she answered, exasperated. It was probably Edward again.

            A cackle erupted from the Bird Lady, a laugh that fit with her demeanor.

            “What, are you in a hurry?” She said, staring at Oscar through her tiny lens. The small glasses made her eyes look like little black beads.

            “I just have some things I need to get,” Oscar replied, trying his best not to appear flustered about the entire situation.

            She cackled again. “We all have things we need to get, dear”.

            Oscar didn’t like the condescending tone of her voice. He also didn’t like that she looked like a bird. The whole exchange had made his mood even worse. It was still raining, although not as hard.

            He turned away and surveyed the scene. The size of the crowd seemed to be multiplying exponentially. He estimated that there were about thirty-three people crowded on the sidewalk at the bus stop now. Most of them were clutching big umbrellas that bumped clumsily into each other with every movement. Oscar noticed the characteristic buzz of conversation, mostly on phones, but some to one another, as everyone waited. Waited for so long.

            He was positive that this wasn’t a dream. No, everything was very real—the Angry Wife, the Bird Lady, the Smiler, whose uncovered head was still seen bobbing amidst the crowd, the Big-Eyed Man, the Bright Faced Girl. He knew he hadn’t fallen asleep and missed it; if he had, why would there still be so many people waiting?

            It was all very nerve-racking. Oscar closed his eyes while he stood, taking a deep breath. He pictured himself walking through the automatic doors, greeted by the smiling blue-shirted greeter. The huge, bright store waiting for him. Calling to him. Reminding him to get his coffee even though it wasn’t on his list.

            Dammit. He had forgotten.

            There was so much noise. It was making his head hurt.

            He must have appeared noticeably perturbed, because in the blink of an eye the Bright Faced Girl in her yellow coat had appeared next to him.

            “We’ll all get there eventually,” she said encouragingly, raising her eyebrows and smiling in a kind way.

            “I must be going crazy,” Oscar muttered, ignoring her.

            Bright Faced Girl giggled, crinkling her nose in delight. “You’re not crazy! It’s just hard to wait!”

            It was getting dark. The bus was now two and a half hours late.

            Time was really running out.

            Oscar considered his options. Going home was out of the question. If he didn’t get to Walmart today, who knew the next time he’d have a chance to go. There were too many things he needed.

            Once again, he looked at the crowd. They all seemed to be comfortable. It was almost as if they had come prepared to wait. The Bird Lady was filing her nails again. The Angry Wife was reading a book. The Big Eyed Man’s eyes were closed, protruding in their sunken sockets. Conversations continued among the Umbrella Folks.

            The rain was letting up. Oscar decided he was going to walk to Walmart.

            Yes, this seemed like the most reasonable alternative. It wasn’t too far. He would walk fast. It was very important that he got there tonight. It could be many more hours—days, even—before these people even saw a bus.

            Oscar felt a sense of pride. Why hadn’t anyone else thought to walk to their destination? Fools, he thought to himself, waiting for something that may never even come.

            He took one last look at everyone, and turned to start down the street. It wasn’t really raining anymore. If he walked fast, he could get there in an hour probably. Two hours, tops.

            No one noticed that he was leaving, except for the Bright Eyed Girl.

            “Well, see you later I guess!” She waved as if they were old friends.

            He turned his head, and flicked his wrist in a wave, before turning to face forward again.

            Oscar got the whole way down Charleston Street when he heard the roar of an engine. Turning to face the direction he had just come from, off in the distance, he saw it. He saw the bus.

            He would have run to catch it. It was all uphill, but he could have made it.

            But somehow Oscar’s feet were glued to the sidewalk and all he could do was watch the hoard of people get up and gather around the door of the bus. He saw the umbrellas go down. People packing away their things. He swore he saw the Smiling Swayer’s white shoes.

            They all filed onto the bus, miraculously all fitting, and the bus started down the street towards where Oscar stood, unable to move. As it passed, the faces pressed against the window stared at him. He saw the Bird Lady and her little spectacles, shaking her head at him as they passed. He caught a glimpse of the Bright Faced Girl. She was waving and smiling. It passed just as quickly as it had approached, and took off into the night.

            Oscar began to walk again. The streetlights lit the way as he turned onto Carter Avenue.

            Don’t forget the coffee.

            He would get there eventually.