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Len Joy lives in
On the second day of my married life, I found myself sitting
next to Edgar Rawlings on the back seat of a Greyhound Bus bound for
My first day in this new world hadn’t gone so well. I’d left
Forgetting the ring unnerved me but was nothing compared to how I felt when her father asked me about our honeymoon plans.
“We’re driving to
“Joel, how the hell are you going to drive to
It was December 1973. I was aware of the energy crisis in sort of an academic way, but in grad school we never drove anywhere. I stood in his den, clutching my stupid map, my face burning. I was going to be married in three hours and had already screwed up our honeymoon.
He tossed a phonebook at me. “Call Greyhound.”
We spent our wedding night at the local Holiday Inn,
overslept, and nearly missed the bus. My tiny wife squeezed into a window seat
next to a woman who had to weigh three hundred pounds.
He moved his bag. “Here, partner, take a load off.” He patted the seat. “I was hoping they’d oversell and bump me. Get to extend my furlough.” He held out his hand. “Name’s Edgar Rawlings.”
We shook hands. “I’m Joel. You’re a soldier?” I asked.
“Nah. Prison furlough. Trustee’s meeting the bus at Napier to drive me back to Cowansville.”
Edgar had a rough buzz-cut and the hint of whiskers on his chin and upper lip. He opened his sack and took out a croissant. He pushed the bag towards me, “Take one. My mom baked them.”
I wondered if there were rules about eating on the bus, but didn’t want to offend him. “Thanks, these taste awesome, Edgar,” I said, my mouth full of warm, flaky pastry.
His face lit up. “Where you headed, Joel?”
When I told him I was going to
I reached for the silver Cross pen in my shirt pocket that my folks had given me as a wedding gift. Edgar ripped a piece of paper out of his notebook and wrote down the name of the bakery. “Ask for Mario. Tell him Edgar Rawlings sent you.”
Turned out Edgar was a Yankees fan. When I told him I’d grown
“Good luck, Edgar.” I stood up and shook his hand.
“You and your girl gonna love Mario’s.” As he reached the bus
door he looked at
I watched him walk towards a rusty van parked near the bus. The driver, a bear of a man with greasy matted hair and a beard got out. He pushed Edgar up against the vehicle and frisked him. Then he shook his fist in Edgar’s face, handcuffed him, shoved him into the van and stomped over to the bus driver who was smoking a cigarette at the curb. The man said something to the bus driver and then boarded the bus and marched down the aisle to my seat. “This your pen, boy?” he asked.
He was holding my Cross pen. My hand rose to my shirt pocket. “Uh….”
“That punk stole it from you. Damn stupid thing to do.”
I could tell Edgar was in big trouble. “It’s not my pen,” I blurted.
“I gave it to him for, uh…his croissants.”
“Sure you did.” He wrinkled up his face like I’d given him indigestion. “We both know he stole it. Here.” He poked the pen into my pocket like I was a grade-schooler. “Cons can’t have fancy college-boy pens. He might make a shiv. Hurt someone. You wouldn’t want that on your do-gooder conscience.” He wheeled around and walked off the bus.
As our bus headed off down that highway I looked out the window at the van taking Edgar back to prison. He was a good guy.