It was just before ten when John left Some Luck’s Iowa of a century back and returned to the real world. The bus was exiting Interstate 55 in accordance with the scheduled ten-minute stop just north of New Madrid, Missouri. Earbuds stopped playing his game and popped out his right side earpiece. “Hey? What’s going on? Do you think everything’s okay?” he asked.
John placed his book in his duffle and looked at the young man. “Yeah,” he said, nodding his head four times as he spoke, “just a scheduled stop. Ten minutes I think.”
“Oh. Cool. Where you going?”
“I’m getting off in Effingham. I go to Eastern,” the youngster said, seeming to assume that this information would clarify why he’d be heading to Effingham.
“That’s a college I assume?”
“University. Eastern Illinois University? It’s in Charleston.”
“Oh. That’s nice. What are you studying?”
“I’m undecided but I’m leaning toward graphic design. Hey? Can we get off the bus? I mean, and not get in trouble?”
“Sure. Stretch your legs. Use the bathroom. There might be a little lunch counter, though it could be closed by now.” John checked his watch. “It is after ten. Sure to be vending machines.”
“Cool. Thanks. Hey? If I leave should I take my bag?”
John shrugged. “I guess it depends on what’s in there. Should be safe but I take mine with me. Just cautious I guess. Or paranoid.”
“Well just because you’re paranoid that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you; right?” he asked giving a big stage wink.
“Right,” John agreed with a big smile. “Is it very far to school? Where did you say? Charleston?”
“Not too bad. Half an hour. I got a buddy who said he’d pick me up.”.
“Yeah. He’s a good guy.”
“Cool,” the teen replied. After a short pause he asked, “You getting off?”
“Yeah. I like to use the restroom. Bus restrooms aren’t my favorite.”
“Or airplane; right?”
“Wouldn’t know. Never flown.”
“You’re kidding me! Really?”
“Really,” John answered, raising his eyebrows and nodding.
John just shrugged.
“You going to take your bag?” the boy asked.
“Yep. They’re out to get me; remember?”
“What? Oh! Oh, yeah. Paranoid.”
“’Paranoia will destroy ya,’” John replied, slipping into his overcoat.
“Old song. The Clash? You should look it up on YouTube,” John suggested. “You might like it.”
“Maybe I will.”
“Cool,” repeated the teen
The bus pulled into the Greyhound station and the driver announced a ten-minute stop. John grabbed his bag and stood to leave but the youngster tugged his sleeve. “You were part right,” he said.
“Beg your pardon?” John asked.
“About the paranoia song?” he asked, holding up his electronic device. “It’s called Destroyer. 1981. The Kinks sang it. It’s good though.”
“Kinks? Yeah, that makes sense. Same time frame. Punk era. Hey! Could you do me a favor? Can you check on the relationship between Thor and Loki in the comic books?”
“You know, the Marvel comic books, Thor, God of Thunder?”
“Like in the movies?”
“Yeah, like in the movies.”
“Sure? Aren’t they brothers?”
“I don’t think so,” John replied. “Can you check?”
“So, did you do a lot of clubbing back then?” he asked as they made their way to the front of the bus.
“Not too much. I was still in diapers,” he threw over his shoulder as he walked quickly to the depot to beat the restroom line.