Commuter

by Edward Wells & Nicolas Diaz

a novella

[1]

Stuff you can do in the commuter bus: fall asleep in your seat; pretend to fall asleep in your seat so that you don’t have to give it up; pretend to fall asleep in your seat to avoid conversation; read in your seat; pretend to read so you don’t have to give up your seat; pretend to read to avoid conversation; listen to music through your headphones; pretend to listen to music through your headphones to avoid conversation; make small talk with someone you know.

Stuff you can’t do in the commuter bus: look strangers in the eye.

So, students and employees use headphones and magazines. Some play music, some listen to it. Some look at their magazines, some read them. Those who don’t want to carry on just nod off to sleep or watch through the windows. Without moving, they are all going home. From downtown to the old districts, to the not-so-old districts, to the industrial park, to the old commuter town and the new commuter town. It takes an hour to go from downtown to the new commuter town. The buses that do not take the industrial park road take an hour-and-a-half to get to the commuter town.

As they were in the Middle Ages, old people are strange creatures here. They dwell on their porches and sidewalks, in their armchairs, in their beds. They only move in twos, the way girls do in elementary school. They ride the commuter bus in twos. They don’t have headphones or magazines, they talk to each other, or to whoever they want. Rules don’t apply to old people.

“He doesn’t understand, not until things happen to him.”

“You know the saying, ‘they cover the well once the child is drowned’.”

Hands holding evening newspapers, gossip magazines. Eduardo is not wearing headphones; he is not reading a magazine, and he’s not old. So, he pretends to sleep with his head against the window.

“They cover the well once the child is drowned.”

Eduardo toys with ideas, imagining himself as an old man, or as a young kid watching this present self of his.

“And he wants me to throw away all my stuff, he says it’s all useless—” “Because it’s not his stuff.”

“It all will be his one day, when I’m gone.”

Eduardo pretends, so well he actually falls asleep. Wakes up when the commuter bus reaches his district, white houses. There is almost no one on the bus when he steps down the stairs, only two elderly women talking.

(2)

[The End]

Joe rests on the edge of a well. He is leaning over with his ear turned to the well’s center. After a few minutes he reaches down and pulls a rusted 19th century iron from his hiking pack. He holds it over the well’s center and hesitates for a moment looking back down at his hiking pack, nudging the contents with his foot. He bends down, putting the iron on the ground. He rummages through the bag picking up several of the items, bouncing them in his hand, before replacing them in the pack. He again stands with the iron and centers it above the well. He drops it and leans over with his right ear turned to the well’s center. He covers his left ear with his left hand and waits.

No sound returns.

Erika turns to the clothes line hanging a sheet in front of the lemon tree in the far corner and speaks to the woman sitting behind her. “You know that I won’t take that ring from you–I mean you know when I will take the ring, Mira.”

Erika continues to hang sheets forming a curtain between the older woman and the circular formation of stones which takes center place in the courtyard. “I do not need to be dead to see you happy, child,” the older responds flatly, then sighs before beginning to slip away, as Erika struggles with a clothespin on the next sheet. Lifting the empty basket from the compacted dirt floor, Erika swings around as the curtain rises.

“Now, what is this talk about visions of a boy–” She breaks off as she realizes she is talking to the wind.

At home Eduardo drops his backpack and lays on the sofa without turning on the light. Rummaging through his pockets, he makes sure parts of a newspaper are still there. He places them quickly onto the short table that sits in front of the worn sofa. He looks around at the three objects in the room: the sofa, the table, and a tall lamp. There is no well here or kids that could fall inside a well.

He looks toward the kitchen and places a hand over his stomach. He pushes his shoes off using his feet and straightens his legs on the sofa. In the dark room, it is sleep which ultimately holds his attention.

(3)

[Waking Happened.]

 Joe walks along the line of objects leading away from the well and picks them up, placing some of them into his hiking pack. He attempts to place his hiking pack into the passenger’s seat of his truck. It bumps against the dashboard. He turns it and tries again, but the top bumps into the gear shift rising from the floor. He pulls it out and walks around to the back of the truck where he slides it up into the the bed. A metal lemon juicer slides out of the top of the bag.

He returns to the well and collects two suitcases. These he slides into the bed of the truck alongside the hiking pack.

The mirror is in front of Eduardo, and then the water is at his back. He looks down and his toenails are longer than the last time he cut them. He is turning the knob.

He stands at the counter and eats from a bowl. The spoon rises, lowers, submerges, and rises. He chews. The spoon; chewing. He stands looking at the sink. The bowl is on the dish rack. He turns and walks toward the couch. He raises his bag and looks at the cuttings on the small, short table. He picks up one and puts it in the left inside pocket of his jacket. He zips the zipper of his jacket and slips the strap of the bag over his head. It crosses his heart and rests where the slope of his shoulder meets the neck.

He stands holding a rail with his right arm. He looks around and sees a young woman rising from her chair to leave. He sits. There is a pulsing sound. The bus softly rocks as a smooth curve is navigated. He looks out the window to his left. His eyes follow the crest of the ridge of the mountain. After the last summit, they follow the path down, below the mountains and the hills, below the top of buildings and below the bottom of the window, down to his left outside jacket pocket.

He pulls out his phone. He looks at the words. He types some words and sends them. They become part of what once was called the ether. They pass through the glass and aluminum. They are sent out en masse and without aim. They reach the first successful receiving device. Cooperation begins and the signal is passed again and again without aim, until it reaches the intended ear: the device of the recipient, who sent the first message, the instigator or initiator.

The bus comes to a stop. It is now long after the message was received in the time of technology. Someone looks up and eyes open then the lids settle gently to cover them again as the head lowers.

Erika looks up from the floor and the mop. The red tiles with hexagonal patterns have begun to crack in some places, and the open windows constantly allow the dust to collect on the floor and mahogany wood furnishings in this street-side room, but she still cleans. “The visions are not always right, Mira.”

The old woman smiles, sitting on a chaise lounge. “I do not always read them well.” She chuckles slightly, leaning to the short table in front of her to re-center the doily a peasant figurine rests on, and continues, “And you do not need to fear being happy, child.”

Erika huffs and pushes the mop into the corner of the yellowish stucco walls beside a tall wardrobe.

“That will not bring the dirt out of the corner.” The old woman laughs and turns to leave the room. “The vision says it will be soon now,” floats in a trail as Erika bends to the corner.

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Edward Wells IIEdward Wells II studied Creative Writing: Fiction at Colorado State University. He is currently finalizing details for divergent future paths. He is currently working on a new collection of poetry & short fiction under the working title “I Am Not Sam: Scribblings from American Samoa” while teaching English at Leone High School on Tutuila.

His work can be found online at Gone Lawn, Eunoia Review, and many other places. His most recent collection, CO (2013) was released by The Pedestrian Press. You can contact him through his facebook artist page https://www.facebook.com/EdwardWells II.

Nicolas DiazNicolás Díaz was the author of Trouble Every Day, a blog on pop culture for Milenio newspaper, between 2007 and 2013. Previously he coedited Sonitus Noctis ezine. His personal blog is called Murmujú.