The Last Half Angel (InkNotes #4)

I'm really not happy with this one, but I'm almost out of time, so here goes, my submission for InkNotes #4.

It was 'cause of the bus system, the bus system did it. 'Cause in Houston, nobody rides the bus, nobody, mostly because there's always, like one guy on the bus, and you don't want to sit with him. So, since nobody rides the bus, it wasn't very crowded when I took it home every day, 'specially 'cause I didn't work 'till five; I worked 'till nine o'clock, and on Montrose and Westheimer, at nine all the regular weirdos are already home, and all the drunk stoned weirdos, they don't leave for a few more hours, right? Yeah, you know what I mean. Right, nine pm, that's the best time to ride the Westheimer bus, unless you like that 11 o'clock sort of thing, you know, girls all falling out of their vinyl dresses, and guys who wink at you funny. You know. That's how it is, Westheimer.

But at nine, it isn't how it is. At nine, there's only one other person who is on the bus every time, and she was this lady, this old lady, right? Like the kind of old lady that rides the bus, with a thrift store t-shirt, and somethin' ratty on her shoulders like a shawl or something, and like an old dirty Astros cap, and a bag, always a big old bag, and one of those canes that's metal, and that has four feet on it, cause one foot's not enough, 'cause these old ladies have big old legs and can't stand up straight, right? That's what this old lady was like, and she always just sat on the bus and stared, stared right at this advertisement, I remember 'cause I always wondered what was so big about the advertisement. At the start, it was for some lawyer, and he was this good looking 40-odd old white guy, and I kinda figured, like, he looked like her dead husband, or something. Then, they changed the advertisement, and it was for some Starbucks knock-off, and she was still always staring at it, and just staring, like the whole time I was on the bus. So I figured she wasn't really staring at anything really, like maybe she was just messed up, and the bus was a cheap way to keep herself outta trouble all day, right? 'cause, I never saw her get on, and I never saw her get off, so I figure she just sat there all day long, like that, staring at that lawyer, or coffee cup, or whatever.

Then, one day, I'm sitting, and I'm reading the quiz in Cosmo - come on, you know you've done it, tto, EVERYBODY does a quiz in Cosmo once in a while, and I'm like, in a bus, right, with just this old lady, and I figure she doesn't care what I'm reading, cause it's not the coffee and donut special at Knock-off-Starbucks-House-of-Beans. So, yeah, I was sitting doing Cosmo, and then the lady, she just starts talking, she doesn't even look over, she just starts in.

"You like Cosmo?"

And I say no, not really, 'cause like I said, it's not like I'm this big fan of Cosmo or nothing. So she just kinda nods, still staring at the big ol' triple whatever latte, for a minute, then she talks again.

"D'you know I used to be an angel?"

So, I'm here thinkin, what the f*** has this got to do with Cosmo? And, I'm thinking maybe she means like, she looked like an angel, like she was hot, like all the girls in Cosmo, so I'm all like, yeah, I'm sure you were pretty, kinda mumbling, like in a don't talk to me crazy lady voice, right? And she just starts in laughing, at me!

"Wrong about that, hon. All that about angels being beautiful? Archangel Gabriel looked like a shar pei dog, with these big heavy cheeks, and big slobbery lips. Some angels is pretty, just like some people, but not a real irregular number. I never was, I was ugly, hon. Ugly since the day I was made."

So, what the hell do you respond to something like that, am I right? So I'm just kind of sitting, hoping to hell we're almost at my stop. And I sure the hell didn't respond. But she doesn't seem to care, she's got started now, so she just keeps talking.

"Yeah, I was an angel. Not no more. I couldn't take the fighting. I'm no soldier, nope. I was what you call a princ'pal'ty. 't was a good job, mostly just, like, dropping off blessings, when folks were well-behaved. It was nice, 'cause if you met someone, they were always glad to see you, you know? Like bein' a mailman who only works at Christmas. Being an angel, hon, it's not like being an accountant, or something, it's like you're put together specially just for one thing and then you get to do it, forever! Yeah... then the fighting started. Don't know how they expected me to fight - if they wanted me to fight, why didn't they make me a fighter? I jus' couldn' do it. I mean, I COULDA done it, fighting isn't so different from blessing, you know. I just COULDN'T. You know what I'm talking about?"

And, finally, she turned, and stared at me, and I couldn't help it, looking back at her, you know? And there she was, staring at me, and I had this thought. I don't even know WHY I had this thought, right? But I'm sitting here staring at her, with her big bag and her goddamn cane, and I think, how the hell do angels fight, anyway? What, do they just go praying at each other or something? But I just keep this straight face, right? And then I realize I'm supposed to answer, so I just mutter some lame sort of oh, yeah, sure.

And she just keeps rattling on, and she's staring at me, only it's not so creepy, because the lady is obviously totally whacked, and she doesn't even really see me, and I just can't stop thinking, right? I mean, devils have pitchforks and fire and stuff. Sure, I wouldn't want to fight a devil. But, what the hell is an angel gonna do? I remembered this cartoon, all of a sudden from when I was a kid, Goofy or something, one of those ones where you got a devil sitting on one shoulder and an angel on the other, right? And the angel gets all mad, and takes an arrow, and shoots it off one of the strings on his harp at the devil. The lady keeps on jabbering, and I get this sudden image, right, of this dumpy lady here in her goddamn Astros cap pulling out a harp and just goin' Rambo on me and the bus driver.

And god help me, I start laughing.

I don't know why it struck me so funny, I mean, this lady had this dopey little face, and her big old chicken-gobble arms, and it just struck me wrong. I don't even know what she was in the middle of talking about, but apparently it wasn't funny, 'cause she stops, and looks all hurt at me.

I was kind of embarrassed, but sometimes, you know, when you're embarrassed, you kind of get mad at the same time, so I'm just like What? and she just mutters out that she doesn't think it was very funny, and I'm just like,

"Yeah, well lady, you don't look like no angel to me."

And then the lady gets all mad, and she starts crying, and I feel real bad, 'cause I just made this old lady cry, right? And I'm muttering how I'm sorry, and she just stands up and yanks on the pull to say she wants to stop, and looks at me, and says F*** you! And she just keeps saying it over and over and over, and over, and the bus driver, I think he's finally paying attention now, 'cause he's like, freakin' out now to find somewhere to pull over, 'cause the lady just keeps yelling, and yanking on the pull. And I was just staring at the floor all embarrassed, and the bus driver he pulls over right by this big old park, and the lady gets off, and I look up to make sure she's not gonna, like, chuck her cane at me or something, and she gets off on this sidewalk, and like, shakes her feet funny, like she's twitchy, and the door shuts, and we drive off.

The bus driver, he's all like are you OK, right? And I say I'm fine, and we keep driving, and I'm still staring at the floor. Then, there musta been some kinda church thing, or something, 'cause all these black kids in their dresses and little button shirts and these couple of old ladies, they all get on the bus, and it's like almost full, right? Only nobody sits in my seat, nobody sits in the seat in front of me, nobody sits behind me. There's this whole damn bus full of people, and this big empty hole, and I'm sitting in the middle of it. So we drive a couple blocks, and the sunday school or whatever gets out, and we drive a little more, and then we're coming to my stop, and I'm just sitting there. I didn't forget my stop or anything, I knew it was there, but I was just sitting, hell if I know why, I'm just sitting, and I'm sitting watching my stop go by, watching my girlfriend sitting there on the grass doing her homework waiting for me, and we just keep on going.

Now the bus was all driving in parts of town I never saw before, but it just keep on going. I'm kind of freaked out, and I get up, cause I wanna pull the stop and figure out where the hell I am, but it's like even though I get up, I'm still just sitting in this seat. And I try to look around now, see what's wrong, only I can't, cause my eyes won't move either, and so now I'm totally freaked out, and I'm yelling and screaming, only I can't make no noise, either, and I'm just staring and sitting, I know I am, it's like I can see me, just sitting, and staring at that damn coffee cup ad. And everything just keeps going, and going, and then the bus stops and parks, and I'm still not getting up, and the bus driver he cleans the bus, picking up trash and wiping down the seats, and just sort of wipes around me, without looking at me, and gets out, and locks the bus up, and that's it.

I'm just sitting on this bus, waiting, right? Just sitting. Next driver comes in, drives back out for the late shift, we pick up all the weirdos, all the girls spilling out of their vinyl dresses and guys who wink at you funny, only now nobody winks at me, nobody even looks at me, and sure as hell nobody sits by me. And we do it all again, we're driving home, people stumbling out, and we go by the bus stop, and there's my girlfriend still, I can see her out of the corner of my eye, and she's yelling in her cell phone, and we just keep going, and going and we park in the garage, and they clean up and just sort of wipe around me. All night, all quiet in this bus, in a garage, so dark I can't even see the damn coffee cup anymore. Bus is the same, bus don't change, I don't change. We drive out the next day, and it's the same, no more old lady, my girlfriend ain't at the bus stop no more. Just driving, just nobody sitting close to me, nobody looking at me. Every day, every damn day, and I just get stiller and stiller and stiller.


Amanda said...

Okay. 1) That's creepy. and 2) It's not bad! Why did you keep saying it was bad? This is excellent!

Julie said...

It has an excellent sense of creepiness to it kind of a cross between The Twilight Zone and the X-files. I like it!
Also, parts of it reminded me of my old bus-riding days in college. I liked the 9 p.m. bus home too. Plus, when I was much younger, I always wanted to be an angel. ;)
Very distinct voices in this too!

Jason Gignac said...

Amanda - I felt like it was an imitation of something good. The main speakers voice still doesn't jive with me. I'm horrible at writing believable voices. But I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Ms Julie - I was a bus rider for a few years too - honestly I miss it, it's nice riding the bus, it's more social and you can read a book instead of concentrate on the road. I never wanted to be an angel, but I always loved fairies, which after I wrote this story, it strikes me that the woman sounds more fairy-ish than angel-ish (after all, fairies were supposed to be angels who are too bad for heaven and too good for hell).