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Greyhound BusLow Key looked at John for a few seconds before answering. “Okay, I’ll play. Hi, John, my name’s Louise Trainer but folks call me Loki,” she said, offering him her hand.

“Nice to meet you, Low Key,” he replied, taking her hand in his. “Do people call you that because it’s hard to rile you up?”

“What?” she asked, releasing the handshake.

“’Low Key’? Your nickname? Is that because you’re ‘low key’, you know, don’t get easily excited?”

“Low Key?” she asked. “My name is Loki, L, O, K, I; you know, the god of mischief? Thor’s brother? Don’t you ever go to the movies?”

“Oh! Loki! Ha! Now I get it. I heard you say that you were low key. I don’t go to very many movies but they have graphic novels at the library and I used to read comic books when I was younger. By the way,” he added in a conspiratorial volume, “Loki is Thor’s adopted brother, they’re not related.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “I thought they were half-brothers?”

“Nope. Pretty sure. You can check it on your phone once your battery’s charged.”

“You’re probably right; I never paid that much attention. You really like to read, don’t you?”

“Well I do, plus it’s free. All I have to do is go to the library.”

“Library has movies too you know.”

“I don’t have a DVD or video player. So, your stepmother passed away?”

“Yeah. She had M.S. and was in a home. Couldn’t hardly move; only her right hand. They were moving her out of bed and they dropped her,” she said quietly. “Bam!” she exclaimed with a punctuating clap. “Now she’s dead.”

“Wow. That’s terrible. How’s your father?”

“He’s a retard. I’m half retard, by the way.”

John’s mouth opened but he didn’t say anything. After a pause he asked, “I beg your pardon?”

“My dad’s a retard and I’m half retarded.”

“Soooo,” he paired her verbal riposte, “was he was born mentally challenged or did he have an accident?”

“No, no. He was born that way, that’s why he’s a retard. If he wasn’t born like that then he’d have brain damage; don’t you know that? I figured you for somebody who knows just about everything.”

“Uhm, I did know the difference between brain damage and mental retardation, I’m just not used to people saying that word.”

“What? Retard? He is and I’m his kid so I’m half retard; right?”

“Well, no. It doesn’t work that way. Do you really have a low IQ?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I get by okay.” She leaned in and whispered, “It’s okay for me to say retard because I am one. Just like Aziz and his brother and mama can use the N-word without getting in trouble,” adding air quotes to N-Word.

John screwed up his right eye and cheek. “I’m not sure that it is, but I get what you’re saying. You’re a MOTT.”

“A mott? What’s that? I told you, I’m half retard, not some mott.”

“MOTT? Member of the tribe? That’s the rule you were using when you said Tamika can use the N-word and you can use the R one. Haven’t you ever heard MOTT before?”

“I don’t think so, but I like it. M, O, T, T; MOTT. I’ll have to remember that. So what happened to your mother in law?”

“Massive coronary. My wife said she was fine when she last saw and then was dead the next. Crazy.”

“Was she shoveling snow?”

“Nope, nothing as far as they could tell, just had a huge heart attack. Poor Joni came home from work and found her dead in the kitchen. Can you imagine?”

“No. That sounds awful. Were you close?”

“Sort of. We got along, we loved each other, but I didn’t see them much. I had a hard time finding work in Iowa so Joni went to live with her parents and I headed south to find a job. Her dad died, I guess three years ago come next month, it’s been just the two of them for a while.”

“How’s she taking it? Is there anybody up there to help her?”

“She has two brothers who live about two hundred miles away and a sister who lives close by and she’s got lots of friends to support her. I just wish I had a car or that I could have flown up there but there’s no way I could afford a ticket.”

“Yeah, I feel you. When did this happen?”

“Saturday. Earliest bus I could catch was today and I won’t get there until tomorrow. I just feel helpless; you know?”

“I do. We have a car back in Orlando but my wife needs it and I wouldn’t trust it to get me to Oklahoma anyway. You think you’ve got it bad? I’m only half way.”

“First world problems,” John said to himself. “So how’s your dad doing? Is somebody looking out for him or is he really not challenged like you said?”

“Oh, no. He’s a real retard. He’s got a brother who helps him and a crazy routine he follows most every day. Rides his bike all around. Lives a couple miles west of the airport.”

“Do you see him much?”

“No. Not since I got divorced and moved to Crime Hills.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Crime Hills? It’s really called Pine Hills but it’s not a very nice neighborhood so the locals call it Crime Hills.”

“And that’s in Orlando?”

“Oh yeah. Right close to 400 and I-4?”

“Never been.”

“You’ve never been to Orlando?”

“Never been to Florida. New Orleans is as far south as I’ve ever been. I’d like to go to Disney Land someday but we’ll see. Right now I’m heading north.”

“Disney World,” Loki corrected. “Disney Land is in California. Yeah, January is not the best time to head to Oklahoma, let alone Chicago.”

“That’s for sure,” he said. But then again, he thought, when is it a good time to bury either your mother in law or your stepmom?

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