Mediocrity has its own charms. Certainly it’s own following! Though not too many would take a step forward in public to advance that proposition. Old threadbare notions that are hard to release one’s grip from. The old car that needs some fixing. The job of painting the soffits of a house has gone over long. A job that won’t get one anywhere but that provides the confidence that it will still provide a ready location to go to the very next morning at 7:00 AM. A local store in the neighborhood where one can find some form of the basics of life at a cheap price. Even the upkeep of one’s own physical form in the form of some aches and pains that slowly seem to be becoming more acute. The safe harbor of little or no expectation for change has many phantoms hulks anchored anonymously residing within.
The need for food put off Jimmy decided on the spur of the moment that he was hungry. The Carter-Williams department store was an nicely location to admit to this condition as any sustenance that they could offer was merely a superficial accommodation. A traveling carnival setting up town to town having more substantial nourishment to offer. Worse yet closing time of five o’clock was fast approaching! The solitary clerk lingering about her department obviously had more pressing issues of her own flooding through her consciousness. Yet she took Jimmy’s order for the store’s house specialty with aplomb. In point of fact Jimmy had absolutely no idea of what he was ordering from the small flyer that he had picked up from beside the register. He figured like many that it bearing the name of “Carter’s Favorite Snack” it should be fast and reasonably satisfying to any palate. His own stomach was grumbling right now from inattention as the clerk walked off. Supposedly to pick up his order he surmised. “Service is our business!“, proclaimed a sign hung overhead of the store’s back exit. A reasonable proposition yet a curious one that one would be afforded the convenience of ordering food from any location in the store? He paced back and forth through the aisles nervously eyeing rows of lackluster items most of which struck him as particularly useless to his own conception of necessity.
Boredom dissatisfied, he decided to range farther afield opening a door to a patio and what appeared to be a lumber and lawn care wing. The light of the Summer Sun bore down with brutal efficiency convincing one that it was mid-afternoon when in truth it was closer to five hours past. Jimmy strolled down the lanes stocked full of potted plants, tall racks of two by four’s and quite literally found himself clueless as to how to mount a return journey. The light of the day was finally waning and Jimmy’s stomach had finally relented in its painful protest having rolled over and gone back to sleep. He really wasn’t interested in eating here at all. Besides it made more sense to just return home and rustle something up that wouldn’t cost him anything. Not being a regular customer he figured he could find a small exist far from his initial point of entry and slip away without causing much fuss. It was just past closing time and he formed a vision in his mind that the clerk had purposely forgotten anyhow. “So much for service!“, he mentally grunted ungraciously. He slipped out an open gate just before another store employee, equally hasty to close it, let him pass. The dusk was falling now as he walked alone across the mostly emptied parking lot. Here and there individual vehicles loudly exhaling that initial burst of exhaust after sitting silent since morning until by the time Jimmy had made the curb of the main intersection they had all flown off like a clock of crows.
What was it about waiting for a bus at night that seemed so lonely and chaotically vulnerable? Jimmy stood looking up at the weather beaten metal ensign of the route number static upon its old galvanized pole. The route numbers of three separate buses and an approximate range of time in small text etched in fluorescent ink. The traffic still seemed inordinately heavy even though ‘Rush Hour’ was officially far past its peak. No one else was in the vicinity beyond the many indifferent souls encased in metal and plastic passing indifferent to the world without. The only thing that Jimmy could summon was a reciprocal feeling of impersonal menace from the notion that none within this see of impatient ‘beetles’ would mind the distraction of running over him if he were so foolish to wish to wade in haphazardly before their paths. The equally taciturn sentinels of the traffic lights hovering high over over the intersection projecting their colored beams with a grimly efficient timing. No sense of a concern for the personal or the variance of individual human experience evident in this transitional wasteland. This was a place that humans might be tolerated to briefly wait but never inhabit. Jimmy looked about behind him at the thicket of bushes and the section of car exhaust inebriated forest behind it. What manner of dangers lurked waiting just yards within he could not fathom. A certain sense of unaccountable nightmarish terror that he did not wish to admit to. But he was very sure that he did not wish to explore. He turned back around to the inconstant sound of a sea of tires rushing endlessly past.
The long hulking oversized bulk of a breadbox congealed from the shadow moving towards him. The Route fifty-three rolled to a halt and bared it’s vertical fissure from two revolving door panels with an abrupt hydraulic hiss. The light brightly illuminating the passengers from within the closest thing thing to palpable civilization that Jimmy could now imagine. He felt instinctively inclined to step forward though the bus he was looking for bore the number fifty-eight. A darkened form trundled down the three steps of the entrance unsteadily onto the curb. The figure’s arms weightily encumbered with a large flat square expanse of what appeared to be a disordered pizza or cake. It was the same clerk from the store who with no hesitation she made her way straight towards Jimmy nearly colliding with him as he mechanically responded by bringing his own arms up to receive that large unstable surface that she was carrying onto his own. “Here’s your order sir!“, she commanded. Whatever this thing was it was not conventional in the sense of any identifiable foodstuff. The woman hopped back on the bus as Jimmy still confused by such an enigmatic encounter tried to take stock of what so precariously was sliding and leaking about. What ever this stuff was, good bad or otherwise it had need of a more robust container than just the soaked through corrugated square that barely kept it from sloughing off onto the ground. There being no place to put it down beyond the sordid junk ridden grass or gravel without incurring a hail of dust from passing tires and trucks. Jimmy was stuck with the dilemma of whether to let it default to destruction by unceremoniously dropping it straight to the ground? Or to continue the unwanted balancing act that the rankled clerk from the store had left him within? The general appearance of it just below his nose was one of an amorphous mass of something unidentifiable. It smelled strange and barely palatable as if its creator had be some store policy tried to produce something that would please everybody. But of course, would never satisfy any!
Jimmy’s stomach gurgled awake like some unfettered animal while his temper became short. The Route Fifty-Eight bus came to a stop across the street traveling the other way. And it suddenly crossed his mind that he was on the wrong side to get back home. The light was threatening to shift green and he hobbled across like some overly preoccupied sleepwalker, arms still fully encumbered. The bus driver seemed to sense the possibility of an unwanted complication heading his way and the rasp of the hydraulic hiss of the doors closing and the shiver of the vehicle as it edged forward had Jimmy in a steeplechase to gain the curb and race around the back of it. The driver’s conscious ridden face now staring back at him from the big mirror by the door reluctantly jamming the bus to a stop and the dragon-like hiss of the entrance yet again greeting Jimmy as he approached with his burden. “I can’t let you bring any un-boxed food on this bus!“, the driver warned with a scowl. Jimmy looked down his chin grazing what seemed to be some festering mess of hastily assembled dubious food products and frowned. It was not worth risking being relinquished any longer to these inconstant ‘moors‘. He nodded at the driver and turning quickly around he swung his arms towards the emptiness of the road’s shoulder leaving his unwanted parcel as an offering to the crow’s. The only evidence of his recent adventure a chin painted clown red with an oily tomato sauce like grease.