Dan was sleeping when the kid sat down next to him on the bus, so it was a complete surprise when he woke to the muttering going on beside him. Dan usually took the bus on long trips. It was a welcome relief from the hectic schedule he usually kept. 36 hours in a greyhound was heaven – A good book, scenery that wasn’t the tops of clouds 20 thousand feet below was always restorative. Once in a while a worthy companion to chat with, if they were willing. Sometimes the ride between Billings and Detroit were silent as a church after a funeral. This trip, the kid next to him was having a conversation all on his own.

Dan tried to ignore the mutterings, ignore any eye contact and tried to learn what he could from the kids shoes. White sneakers with Velcro straps. Jeans. Cheap looking faded things from Kmart or Walmart. Not much to go by that is until Dan got a whiff of BO that could stop a rhino. Where there any other seats available? Maybe he could nonchalantly gather his possessions and pretend to go to the john in back and just plop into a different seat leaving the kid, his BO and mutterings to himself.

Dan began to stuff this latest civil war novel into his backpack. “Don’t do it misterrrrrrrrrrr, don’t you leave on my account. On my account, don’t you leave me.” It was then that they made eye contact. The kid looked about 40. The left side of his head, above the ear was all mottled and shiny. Dan had seen this before in a childhood friend who’d be scalded with hot chicken soup when playing too close to the stove.
“I was just going to the john, man. I was…” The kid grabbed Dan by the arm and tugged him down into his seat. They never made eye contact because the Kid’s eyes were darting in 6 directions at once. Dan even began to suspect that the kid had one glass eye. Dan sat down with a little trepidation, knowing he’d be stuck here for maybe 36 hours, maybe less if the Kid got out at Rapid City, or Dubuque, or Chicago.
“whats, what’s whats…..your name!” he shouted. Dan could feel passengers looking at him from 3 rows away. Dan told him. The Kid thrust out a hand, offering it to Dan to shake. “Hopkins. Jessie, Jessie, hop…kins.”

Dan always assumed he was a nice guy, a compassionate guy, but Jessie Hopkins was going to be the seatmate from hell. His BO was approaching gag stage. Jessie clutched a desert camo backpack on his lap with markings from the 82nd airborne on it. Dan pointed to the Screaming Eagle and said ‘you?” Jessie nodded.

“Fuckin’ war. Fuckin’ shame.” Dan whispered. Jessie nodded in a jerky reply.

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