Breakfast and a Cigarette: A Novella in Four Directions
by Bill McLaughlin,
It was a long walk to the bus station. Though he had lived in the area for more than a dozen years, he had never once walked farther than the few blocks to the Quik Chek. Ray was not only walking, he was strolling. He was moving without the usual burdens of stress and urgency. For the first time in years he had no deadline to beat. No copy to edit. No headlines to write. No complainers to appease. No ass to kiss. True, he thought, at the end of the week he would also have no check to cash. But he had nearly two thousand dollars in the bank, a cheap way to travel, and with a little frugality and ingenuity he was sure he could make the money last. He could work as he traveled—pump gas, clean toilets. It didn't matter.
“Christ, anything's better than that newspaper... that house. I'd rather have my head in a toilet than my ass behind that desk. Working for what? I'm done with that shit.”
Ray continued his walk. He passed the strip mall, gas stations and McJunkfood joints. Downtown, the skimpy trees lining Main Street had burst into their autumn suits. They stood like sentinel torches guarding the few remaining businesses that had survived the Wal-Marts, Kmarts, Targets and Home Depots out on the highway. Finally, at the tired end of town, Ray crossed the oil-soaked parking lot and entered the store front of the Mercury Bus Company. Orange plastic chairs interlocked with square chrome bars lined the walls. Giant amoeba coffee stains devoured the old linoleum while soda and snack machines played a chorus of hum and buzz that permeated every atom in the cramped office.