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Len Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and three children.  For fifteen years Joy owned and operated an automobile engine remanufacturing company in Phoenix. 

 In the last year his work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 3AM Magazine, 21Stars Review, Antithesis Common, and Boston Literary Magazine.

 In April 2006 Joy was one of three finalists in a personal essay contest sponsored by and in November 2006 he took third prize in the Canadian Writers’ Collective Short Story Contest.

Trees & Lightning by Peter Schwartz


Len Joy

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 Montreal. I was on my honeymoon. Edgar was returning to prison. It was snowing.

My first day in this new world hadn’t gone so well. I’d left Crystal’s ring at my parent’s house on Long Island. When I told her, she gave me the look, as though she were angr, but she couldn’t pull it off and started giggling. She told the “Joel forgot my wedding ring” story for the next thirty years. She thought she was so funny.

Crystal died last year.

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 Montreal. Staying at the Hotel Bonaventure,” I said. Her father was tall, grey and imperious. I unfolded my roadmap on his desk and showed him how I’d red-penciled our route. He didn’t even look at it.

“Joel, how the hell are you going to drive to Montreal? Don’t you know they aren’t selling gas on weekends?”

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. Crystal winked at me and started writing thank you notes. My seat was in the last row, next to a skinny kid in green work-pants and a too-big flannel shirt.

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 Montreal on my honeymoon he nearly jumped out of his seat. “Montreal’s the greatest city in the world. I know a place that has rolls almost as good as Mom’s. Let me borrow that pen.”

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 up on Long Island and had actually been to Yankee Stadium he pumped me for information. What was Billy Martin like? What did I think of Winfield? Did I ever see Mickey Mantle play? When the bus stopped in Napier, I couldn’t believe we’d been talking for two hours.   

“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 Crystal, still shoehorned into her seat, and gave me a thumbs-up. He didn’t act like a guy going back to prison. He didn’t act like a guy who’d been in prison. He was a kid, just like me.  

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.


Riding a Greyhound



Bus into the New World