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Greyhound BusJohn returned to the bus as soon as he’d emptied his bladder and washed his hands and face. He nodded to the driver and made his way back to row four. He decided to keep his coat on for a while; it was getting colder at every bus-stop. “Kid,” as he’d begun to think of his traveling companion, was not yet back on the bus but he had left a ball cap on his seat as a nearly universally recognized property marker, an unofficial “Dibs!” sign that claimed seats 4 C and 4 D as theirs. A glimmer of esteem for the youngster blossomed in John’s heart and when Kid returned to his seat carrying two Hershey bars John came to the conclusion that the youngster must be okay.

Holding out the two candy bars he asked, ”You like plain or with almonds?”

John jerked his head back and gave Kid a lopsided grin as he stood up and entered the aisle to allow the youngster to get to his seat. “For me? Why thank you! Almonds please, if that’s okay with you?”

Kid handed him the Hershey with almonds, scooped his hat from his seat, placed it back on his head and said, “No, I don’t mind.” As he sat he added, “Hey? Sorry about that crack about your age?”

John’s eyebrows raised. “Beg pardon?”

“You know,” Kid responded as he peeled open his chocolate bar. “About clubbing in the eighties? I knew you weren’t that old; I just said it without thinking.”

“Oh, that!” John laughed. “No worries; didn’t think anything of it. Anyway, I am old enough to be your dad; I get it.” John opened his Hershey Bar, inhaled deeply, turned away from Klein, surreptitiously Crossed himself, mouthed his meal blessing and then took a medium sized bite of the chocolate treat. “Thanks! This is great.”

“No problemo. Dude, my dad’s fifty-five.”

“Really? So’s mine. Still, I’m twice your age.”

“How old do you think I am?”

“Eighteen?”

“Well, barely. I turn nineteen in six weeks. Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh, well happy birthday. My niece’s birthday is the thirteenth. That’s nice. Easy for folks to remember.”

“Yeah, I guess. How old’s your niece? And are you really 38?”

“Isabella will be three and I turn thirty-six about three months after you hit 19.”

“See? Twice my age? Not even close,” he answered, taking an extra-large chomp out of his candy bar. “Three, huh? Cute?”

“As a button I’m told. I don’t see them much; they’re out in L.A.

“And what do you mean, ‘not even close?’ How many decimals are we working with here? My name’s John, by the way,” he said offering his hand.

“Klein,” Kid responded. “You travel by bus much?”

“When I travel. It’s cheap and I’m poor so we make a good team.”

“Ha! That’s funny. I’ll have to remember that one.”

“All yours, just try to remember to give me credit if you can.”

“Yeah,” Klein said, “I will. So, where you headed, John?”

“Chicago.”

“Really? That’s kind of far. What time will you get in?”

“Supposed to arrive at 5:30; early enough to miss rush-hour traffic at least.”

“Five thirty? Whoa. Better you than me. So that’s what? Nine and a half hours?”

John tilted his head and smirked. “I wish. Try twenty and a half.”

“Twenty and a half?! Where did you leave from?”

“New Orleans, just before nine AM. Of course I’ve had a few bus changes and layovers but the NOLA bus left just before nine and I’m due to see my honey at five thirty.”

“Your honey, huh? That’s what I was doing. How long have you been dating?”

“Let’s see… We’ll be fifteen years married in May, so, call it 17 years?”

“Seventeen years! Ha! That’s how old Allison is! She’s my girl. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken back calling you old.”

“Thanks, Klein. You’re a peach. Cradle robber, huh?”

“One year. Big deal. She graduates in May.”

“She lives in Memphis?” John asked.

“Close. Sort of. Fifty miles east. Little town called Walnut, Mississippi. It’s nice there, rolling hills, green, hardly ever snows. I like it.”

“So that’s where you’re from too?”

“Just north. Middleton, Tennessee. Less than five miles. We met at a dance when she was a junior. Love at first; kinda like Romeo and Juliet.”

“Except no poison or knives?”

“What?” Klein asked, perplexed.

“You know they both die; right?”

“Oh. Well, yeah. I mean, sure. You know what I meant. Love at first sight?”

“Cool. She going to go to school Illinois too?”

“Maybe. That’s one of the things were working out. I hope so.”

“Well good luck with that.”

“Yeah. Thanks. It’s hard, you know? Difficult? Being separated?”

“Yes, it is. I do know.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool.”

“Cool.”

“I think I’m going to sleep for a bit,” Klein announced. “I came down just before Christmas and I’m not sure I’ve slept eight hours in ten days. Worth it though, She’s pretty special.”

“I bet.”

“She is. I’ll see you in a bit.”

“I’ll be here.”

“Ha! Good one! Oh, hey! You were right; about Thor and Loki? They’re not related at all. Loki was the son of Frost Giants and Odin adopted him. Thor is Odin’s son but Loki’s just an adopted son, no blood kin.”

“Oh!” John exclaimed. “Thanks for checking. I was pretty sure that was the case.”

“No problem. I’ll have to try and remember that. Nice trivia question, don’t you think?”

“Yeah. Seems like a lot of folks are confused by that.”

“Well, g’night.”

“Night, Klein.”

Klein pulled his cap down over his eyes and laid his head against the bus window. John took out his book and before he knew it Klein was emitting the small grunts that frequently accompany sleep.

 

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