another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
FERN PARK MAN by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | SEP 2016
After a lively late lunch (the first NFL Sunday of the 2016-17 season) and engaging conversation with Agent 37 (Dave) at the Altamonte Springs (FL) Duffy’s Sports Grill, we headed across the multilane boulevard to the Lynx bus stop. About a half-hour later, Agent 32 (Monique) and I (Agent 33) were boarding a green bus (route 436N). We soon arrived at the Fern Park Superstop, a nondescript bus shelter where four lines meet.
“Well, this is where we change buses, Monique.” I stood up and resituated my green backpack in the aisle.
Monique, sitting next to the window, then packed her smartphone. “What bus do we take to get back to the condo in Casselberry?”
“The 436S. It should be here shortly.”
Sure enough, a pink 436S Lynx bus pulled in behind the bus that we were on just two minutes earlier. We quickly boarded it to escape the steamy Florida heat and blazing sun. (These buses have good air conditioning.)
The driver allowed eight more people to get on. Then he walked out, closed the door, and went off to presumably get something to eat and/or drink.
“How long will he be gone, Parkaar?” [my ailing alias]
“Probably not that long. Maybe five minutes, Agent 32.” Agent 32? I guess he brought that darn digital audio recorder with him from Charlotte. He’s such a sneaky thing.
Our gaze soon focused on a conversing pair of waiting passengers: a skinny, 30-ish, light-brown-haired, extremely tanned Caucasian lady and a wobbling back and forth (most likely drunk), husky, ball-capped Caucasian dude in his late 30s. The duo were standing thirteen feet (4 meters) from the bus-stop sidewalk on the edge of a motorcycle-driving-instruction parking lot behind a jai-alai building. What an unforeseen pairing. Wonder what their stories are. Did they know that they would meet here today and be in a future short story? Probably not. But, as they now have …
We couldn’t hear a word they were saying, but their body language was amusing. The man would lunge forward when he spoke. Then the lady would smile, laugh, and flap her hands about. When she would reply, he would stumble backward. We watched this go on for six or seven cycles. Gosh, she’s so unnaturally thin. I bet she’s on crack. He’s drunk and trying to pull a date, but he couldn’t even pull his sausage out in his condition. / She’s a crack whore, I bet. Dude smells an easy lay. He’s stumbling in for the thrill. She’s just sizing up his wallet.
Then my attention shifted to a silver-haired, bronze-faced gentleman in his 60s. He was wearing a thrift-store-looking plaid suit, a yellow dress shirt, tweed slacks and brown loafers. He was totally oblivious to the inebriated pair six feet (1.83 meters) behind him as he sat on what appeared to be a milk crate. He must have earplugs. Or, maybe he’s deaf. He still hasn’t even acknowledged the intoxicated tandem behind him.
He had his routine, too. He would stare out to his left for maybe ten or so seconds, look down, rub his eyebrows, and then rake his right hand through his long bangs. Then he would look up at the sky and sigh, before looking back down at the sand in front of him. He must have had a major financial reversal. Something big went bust. But, he still has his dignity. Even if now destitute, he’s not going to go around looking like a bum. He still has his pride in this sauna-like heat. I wonder if I’m on the right track with my hunch. He would be one interesting interview. He’s a living novel.
On his third iteration, Monique noticed me studying him and not the other two. “That man sure seems pensive. What do you think is on his mind, Agent 33?” Maybe some of the bus passengers heard that. Hope so.
“I’m thinking that he’s replaying 2008 in his mind, Agent 32. He must have lost it all. That’s when the Great American Recession began, Monique. Though, some back it up to late 2007.”
“He is certainly troubled by something, Agent 33. That’s for sure.”
I looked back at him just as he looked skyward. “I can tell that he had it all within his grasp and that it suddenly slipped away.”
“Maybe his business venture suffered a Gerrard slip.”
“Maybe so. That would be the worst, and would explain it. He’s a haunted man now. Probably all the way to the grave. But, as for Liverpool, they sure looked good yesterday against Leicester City at the enlarged Anfield.”
“We finally met Kerry and the Orlando group at The Harp. That was a fun time, Parkaar. You know, that old man looks like the guy at Lake Eola.” Huh?
“You saw him yesterday, 32?”
“Yes. Or, someone who looked just like him.”
“Oh, I must have missed him.”
“Because you were hiding in the shade, Parkaar.”
“I can’t deal with the Florida sun, Monique. My skin just wasn’t designed for this climate.”
Monique then looked back at the old man, who was now looking down again. “Maybe his wife died recently, 33.”
“That could be the case, 32.”
“I really think so.”
I caught the old man sighing again. “Something is really eating at his psyche.”
“I feel sorry for him, 33. Maybe his whole family has abandoned him.”
“Maybe he had no family, Monique.”
“Ah, that’s so sad, Parkaar.”
“Or, maybe he’s just dreading the arrival of the 102 bus that will take him back to his assisted-living center in Winter Park. Maybe he despises the routine there.”
“It’s kind of fun trying to guess what people are thinking; isn’t it, Agent 33?”
“It is as long as one is in a cool-enough-to-think place, Agent 32. If we had a thought interceptor like the one mentioned in [_ Galax_ Galaxy, _] [a short story from 2012] we’d be rich.”
“Or, dead.” Quite possibly.
Then the old man rubbed his right eye as the 436N and 103 buses pulled away.
I then saw our driver quick-footing it across the parking lot with a pizza box in his hands. Ah, so he went to Venice. [an Italian restaurant a block away] Looks like it took too long. / So, our driver went out for pizza on his break. I wonder if that pizza is any good. The one from New York Pizza, Baby was just average the other night.
The stocky Cuban American bus driver passed the improbable pair and the old man. He opened the front door of the bus and set his pizza box down next to the fare box. The driver turned and smiled at us. “Did everyone have enough time to collect their thoughts?” He chuckled to himself. What a joker. / Maybe his girlfriend works at Venice.
Our bus driver then sat down, buckled up, and opened the front door for the eleven waiting passengers, including the delirious duo. All aboard. All a-bored a board. Jeez, what am I thinking?
Before we pulled away from the curb, the 102 bus – which had parked behind our bus, completely unbeknownst to us – passed our bus and headed for US 17/92.
The old man was still sitting on the milk crate. He was still going through the same series of mannerisms. Well, he didn’t care to get on any of these buses. Maybe he’s suffering from some form of dementia. How sad. / That old man is still just sitting there. I can tell that he is ‘buang’. [crazy in Cebuano]
The bus lurched forward. I saw the old man stand up. He waved to the bus (and to us?), and started walking towards Oxford Road. How odd. Does he just like to watch people get off and on the buses here? Very strange. Probably some mental issue. / I bet he and his wife used to ride the 436S bus. Maybe that’s it. Poor old man. I really pity him. I wonder what becomes of him. Where does he live?
Our bus made the half loop with a right on US 17/92, followed by a right on Semoran Boulevard (State Road 436). When we came to Oxford Road (on the right), I looked down it, hoping to see the old man in the plaid suit. However, he was nowhere to be found. Maybe he slipped into that corner convenient store back there. [Pelican Discount Beverage] I really doubt that he went in the nail salon, [CCS] recording studio, [Real Feel] or that vacuum cleaner repair shop. [B&C] Ah, maybe he slipped into that massage parlor. [Star Massage Therapy] Yeah, the old sly dog. A happy ending to close out the day. Maybe he was secretly taking mental notes on everyone for his novel. Maybe Monique and I will be in it. What an insane thought. Need to lay off the granules. / I wonder what nonsense my agent-in-space-time husband is thinking now. I’m sure that I’ll read about it soon.
The author and his wife (Agents 33 and 32) take a weekend trip in September 2016 to the Orlando metro (Florida, USA). After a Sunday lunch in Altamonte Springs with Agent 37, they wind up at the bus stop in Fern Park. There they observe an interesting trio of characters. The oldest one steals the show. Approximately 1500 words. No sex. No violence. No foul language. No drug usage (though the possibility of such is mentioned). If this little real-life tale were a movie, it would probably be rated PG-13 for the adult thoughts.