Breakfast and a Cigarette, Part I

A Novella in Four Directions


Breakfast and a Cigarette: A Novella in Four Directions
by Bill McLaughlin,
208 pages

(page 5 of 7)

                    help the girl with no home
                    help the girl with no money
                    help the girl with nothing

Without waiting for donations, and with automated movements, she folded up the sign and put it back down on the dirty floor of the train, turned on the radio and began dancing again, her eyes still staring straight ahead, still refusing to acknowledge where she was. At the next stop Ray put some change in the shoe box, felt for his wallet and transferred for the downtown train. Like a dog wandering the neighborhood after finally jumping the fence, he was free to go anywhere, free even, to take the wrong train.

Three hours later he was back at the Port Authority promising himself he would never again ride the dog into a big city. He would instead strike out for wide horizons, big sky country where he could disappear, quiet and small.

In the washroom, Ray leaned over an ancient porcelain sink to splash his face. With streams of water dripping onto the floor, he blotted himself with a ragged shred of brown paper towel. Standing back, he stared at his mirror image. He had been on the road for only eight hours but already the change was obvious. His short brown hair, usually neat, was disheveled. His droopy green eyes looked weary. The hollow in his chin was now shaded with new whiskers. He decided he would buy a razor, shave in bus terminal washrooms. Sleep would come, he learned, on the bus. He could save money on motels by taking the night bus. But Ray soon realized that sleeping on the Greyhound was not a simple matter of economics. There are babies and toddlers whose constant yelping would invade his dreams and startle him into consciousness. Sudden jerks and stops, hissing brakes, wheezing old men and the smell of urine and whiskey would all wrestle him back from dreamland. Ray would soon learn that three days on a bus will dull your senses, blend the landscape into a whirring blur of fast food chains, empty lots, and boarded storefronts. Necklaces of street lamps and car lights stream past: unrelenting novas interrupting fitful sleep. The wind, now only a white noise brushing past steel, devoid of its fresh smells and brisk caress.

At 8:14 p.m., as the last glow of daylight surrendered to dusk and the lights of Manhattan began their nightly vigil, the Greyhound whirled down the spiral ramps of the Port Authority bus terminal. During the next 24 hours, while its passengers dozed and dreamed, it would slice through the rolling granite of the Appalachians, skirt the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia, then twist—first east, then west—around the Black mountains and finally into the hidden hollows and hogbacks of North Carolina. Ray leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. The girl appeared before him, her head held straight and staring blankly. She softly whispered a single word. Ray awoke as she disappeared into a cloudy gauze. He shivered as he silently repeated the word she had spoken: homeless.

Breakfast and a Cigarette, Part I continues...
Share: 
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Reddit
Pin It
Embed

About Bill McLaughlin


Follow
6 1
Bill McLaughlin was born in the later half of the last century. He has worked as a freelance journalist and independent radio producer. After spending more than a decade as an itinerant writer and gardener, living and traveling in a 1973 VW camper bus, he now homesteads in upstate New York where he hauls water,...read more chops wood, and ponders the Rights of Nature, late frosts, and black flies.
0 comments
Discussion
There are no comments yet...

Poem of the Week

Who Is Heat?

Story of the Week

BOMB

Most Popular

Working

Poem of the Week

Who Is Heat?

Story of the Week

BOMB

Most Popular

Black Friday