“Just curious about something.” Tom replied, looking straight ahead.
Lesa cranked the wheel of her teal, 68 Bug hard left, crossing traffic as she turned into the nearly deserted “Trailways” parking lot, centrally situated in the decomposing shell of downtown Jackson.
“Why are we here?” she asked with a bit less patience than before.
“I like buses.” He said evenly, still giving nothing away.
Before Lesa had a chance to throw the stick in “Park” Tom had completed five bounding steps across the lot, and for the first time she thought she could make out a visible bulge in the fabric of Tom’s jacket, which extended backwards, from under his left armpit.
“Hang On!” she hollered to no effect. She was still inside of the car, doors closed, and trying, with mounting aggravation, to jerk the key out of the ignition.
Swinging the door open, and her legs to the ground, in one fluid motion, she tried again, “Wait Up!” Her words were deflected by the now closed terminal doors. Tom was out of sight.
Lesa had grown accustomed to Tom’s flights of fancy years ago but, as yet, she still had no real idea how or why she had been led here. He could be so taxing.
Once inside, she saw the back of Tom as he trotted up to the ticket count window, partially obscuring the lone ticket agent. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the bus station, Lesa spotted an ancient drinking fountain out of the corner of her eye and was momentarily derailed from joining Tom. She had wanted to stop at a Drive-thru for a Coke, while en route to the station, but Tom had persuaded her that there would be time enough later. As she gulped down an immense amount of arguably cool water, she cocked her head in Tome’s direction to keep an eye on him. “I’ve got time.” she thought.
When the watering was finished, Lesa stood erect once more, sending a last, single drop of fountain water, dripping from her chin, and onto her Charlie Chaplain t-shirt. It landed on the surface of the print, at the corner of his eye, then, after hanging there for a moment it began to run down a few inches without soaking in, making it appeared as though the “Little Tramp” was crying. Lesa walked up to Tom as he spun away from the ticket counter, his business concluded.
Lesa was presently struck by the bright, yellow slip of paper in Tom’s left hand. It was the same color as the Styrofoam banana on her Grandpa Hal’s 79 Cutlass. He had received it “Free” with a fill-up at the gas station, and now proudly displayed on the tip of his antenna.
Without betraying her growing unease, she asked, “Whatcha got there?”
“Ticket.” he replied, looking past her in the direction of the boarding platform.
With an extremely curious tone of voice, she continued with her questioning.
“Ticket singular? Not “Tickets” plural?”
“One…Just one.” he replied, tapping the edge of the ticket repeatedly on the side of his right index finger.
She proceeded with caution.
“May I see the ticket?”
Without taking his eyes of the platform he turned the ticket around so Lesa could examine it carefully. She learned that Tom was in possession of a boarding pass for a one-way trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin which would be leaving in about six minutes, according to the large clock that hung on the wall, above Tom’s head.
“Why’d you buy this ticket Tom?” Lesa asked quietly.
“To go to Kenosha,” Tom answered, a bit confused by the obvious nature of her question.
Staring directly into his eyes, Lesa stemmed the rising frustration that this exchange was stirring within her.
“Why are you taking a bus to Kenosha, Wisconsin?” she asked.
“Ohhhh.” he said, now realizing the actual meaning behind her previous question. “I want to see what the world looks like, getting to Kenosha.”
Lesa lowered her head, closed her eyes, and emitted a small sigh. After a moment she raised her head again finding Tom’s gaze fixed on the boarding area.
“Tom” she said quietly, with only the slightest quiver in her voice. “What will you do once you get there?”
Tom’s response was humorously enthusiastic, “I’m going to perform random quality checks on various dairy products.”
“How?” Lesa said, as the flame of her confusion reignited.
“By eating lots of ice cream, cheese, and butter everywhere I go there.” he said smiling broadly.
After considering all she had just learned, Lesa ventured forth once more
“The ticket is marked one-way Tom. When will you be returning?” she asked, now quite exhausted by the scene.
“I really don’t think I’m the one to ask, do you?” he replied with a hint of mischief.
While forming her next question with furrowed brow, Tom suddenly pulled out a rolled up old, brown paper bag from inside of his jacket. Now distracted by the emergence of the “Mystery Lump” Lesa asked, “What’s in the bag Tom?”
“Things” he said without emotion.
“Could you show me?” she asked, almost afraid to find out.
Tom unrolled the wadded bag slowly and, one at a time, produced a variety of items for Lesa’s inspection. First, a clean, white, pair of men’s underwear, then a clean, white, pair of men’s ankle socks. Next an unopened 5 stick package of Juicy Fruit which had always been, both Tom and Lesa’s favorite flavor of chewing gum.
“Hold out your hand.” Tom said.
Lesa’s curiosity was in full-bloom as she extended her hand. Tom drew his tightly closed fist from the bag one last time, and deposited a set of small toy cars on to Lesa’s palm. One was a yellow ambulance, and the other, a red, 1971 Corvette Stingray. Lesa recognized the toys, which she’d seen hide, nor hair of, since they had been misplaced when she was about nine years of age. She smiled as she drank them in. Mystery solved.
While Tom gently placed the gum and the clothing back into the bag, and rolled it closed, Lesa could hear the voice of a women coming over the loud speaker. The voice sounded very much like Lesa’s own voice as it echoed through the terminal.
“Announcing final boarding for express service to Kenosha, Wisconsin.”
As the voice trailed off it was replaced by a steady, and growing, buzzing sound.
Lesa looked on as Tom’s hands closing tightly around the worn, brown bag. The buzzing surged. Lesa’s eyes slammed shut, while her jaws, neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, fingers, and toes contracted in unison.
“That ought to do it Doctor.” The lab technician’s voice was nearly emotionless.
“Thank you,” said Dr. Frankel, “Let her cool down here for a few minutes then have the orderly take her down to recovery.”
The technician broke Lesa’s pit bull hold on the rubber mouth guard by grasping the handle and giving it a wiggle and a tug slipping it past Lesa’s clenched teeth and lips. He wiped the saliva from his gloves on to the leg of his scrubs before removing the electrodes which rested lightly against her temples.
Dr. Frankel signed the bottom of the chart indicating that the prescribed voltage had been properly administered as he loosened his neck tie.
Stepping outside to the waiting room Dr. Frankel saw Lesa’s mother sitting on a couch, in the corner and moved to sit down on the arm of the chair across from her.
Her mother, impatient for answers, immediately asked, “Well Doctor… is this going to work?”
“Oh, I think I can safely say we’ve seen the last of Lesa’s imaginary friend,” Frankel answered, with no perceivable hesitation.
Chewing steadily on a piece of gum, the tall, dark, young orderly took the medical chart, with its signed, bright yellow pages, and placed them on Lesa’s stomach before guiding her gurney quietly out of the small room, and on towards the recovery area.
“Announcing final boarding for express service to Kenosha, Wisconsin,” the orderly announced gleefully. As he spoke, the scent from his chewing gum cascaded down upon his patient.
Had Lesa been slightly more conscious, she might easily have recognized its fragrance.