Long Beach Transit - 60 Cents
2010 by Steven Hunley
lady at the bus stop is trying to pop something open. Pop! There it
goes. It’s a tiny bottle of Jose Cuervo! What is this, a bar? She
sees a friend drive by in a car and gets a ride. I don’t.
I see out the window-
Lords of Dogtown walk down the boulevard, hair to shoulders, noggin
to noggin, consulting about their “rails”. Vans, what
else, are transporting their feet down the street. They’re
searching for an abandoned swimming pool. Good luck. This is Long
the bus I notice-
crippled Hispanic man sits next to me with a nickel in his paw and
scrapes on a lottery ticket, checks the numbers, finding no matches
to ignite his fire of hope. Our eyes meet.
can’t win them all,” I comment.
can’t even win one of them,” he observes. “It’s
blows the refuse off his lap and sits back, now quietly resigned to
woman from a passing bus regards me, right below her a sign reads,
“Any coffee 99 cents.” I can’t find a cent
sign on the computer keys to convey it. I got trouble. Dollar signs
but no cent signs. That must mean something but I’m not sure
what. Maybe that I’m losing my mind.
turn on Long Beach Boulevard. Now we’re in for it.
are hung on the lamp posts, red, yellow, brown, chestnuts and blowing
leaves, behind them the sun. It’s Socal’s way of
reminding folks it’s autumn. In Socal they have to measure the
seasons by the calendar. The California palm trees don’t know
the difference or the season, never have.
woman gets off, two women get on.
man with a well-fed look is patting his belly outside of Sizzler’s.
I wonder if he’s rubbing it for luck, hoping he doesn’t
have a coronary tomorrow when the good tasting fat turns solid again
in his gut and clogs up his arteries. He must be a gambler by
nature. Russian roulette with fat is his game.
handsome young man looking like Eddie Murphy with Valentino sideburns
steps in and makes eyes at the driver, one diamond earring in his
ear. As he talks on his cell phone he furrows his brows. "Who’s
this?” brows furrowing. “But you're the one calling me!”
great great grandpa had poor southern earth to furrow with a plow and
a mule. Read his books by the light of his fire, not LED lamps. Back
then it was tough. He had no diamond earring.
pass a man on a corner dressed in rags who waves the bus on. He’s
bald-headed and nearly naked, like some wandering sadhu in India. His
eyes are shut tight against reality. He should be in Bengal or
Rajasthan. Such things should not be allowed in a country as rich as
the corner an Arco station has so much bucks it can afford to fly Old
Glory on a tall metal mile-high post made of money. Usually you only
see flags on police stations, government offices and public schools.
At first it seems out of place. But then it makes so much sense. It’s
Arco’s way of reminding you who really runs America.
front of the station a Mexican gardener plants flowers, no tools, no
plans, just brown simple hands digging in the earth.
line up at a school to pick up their kindergarteners. Some are so
small they get carried away in their arms. Sometimes I wish I’d
never got past the first grade.
is Hughes Way. An older exec is smoking a cigarette on a outside
stairwell. He looks lonely, abandoned, in exile. Did Howard smoke?
I wonder. Though Howard has always been my hero, my mad-genius money-making manic-compulsive
hero, I don’t even know if
he smoked. Sorry Howard.
woman who sits directly across from me sounds exactly like Vivian
makes me want to scream, “Stella!” and ask her if she has
a sister in New Orleans. Sir Lawrence Olivier would be jealous.
Makes me wanna take a streetcar home instead of a bus. Makes me wanna
slap Tennessee Williams for making me think these thoughts.
Santa Fe and Thirty-Third Street, twin ball-capped gangsters are
smoking a blunt at the bus top and wave it on. They look happily
busy...or maybe just loaded.
foot falls asleep so I re-cross my legs and continue to write.
smiling couple walking a pit-bull on a leash are laughing. They know
they’ve got nothing to fear.
people of color are lined up at Louisiana Fried Chicken. People, I
don’t make this stuff up.
Cabrillo High thousands of students get on. Two girls sit directly in
front of me. They compare their fingertips with glee and hold them
up. Nail jobs are discussed with enthusiasm.
they’re awesome. I like them a lot!”
“Oh, where did you get them done?”
can see their nails from my seat. They look so good, these girls are
true artists! It must have taken them hours.
nothing like high-school girls on the face of the planet. They
assault womanhood like D-day in Normandy, which is to say, with
determination and vengeance. You gotta admire their spirit.
the bus is stuffed like canoli and it’s hard to hear. But one
voice rings out true. It’s from a gentleman standing up near
the front. His voice is clear and grating. He has his hand extended
skyward and announces to everyone on the bus,
may not believe in him. Some people don’t believe in him.”
believe in him.
if you don’t believe in him. God is real! God is real!”
the next stop he gets off. At this point a woman with corn rows
that. The sermon is over.
tiny girl sitting on her Momma’s lap reminds me of my
granddaughter. Pony-tailed, pink-topped, blue-jeaned-bottomed baby
girl is what she is.
eyes, full of wonder and enquiry, are lashed to perfection. Her smile
is as engaging as Shirley Temple’s million–dollar
see my destination coming up. I pull on the buzzer to get off. At
least I’m not at the end of my rope, just the end of the
buzzer, thanks to the baby girl playing peek-a-boo with me through
the headrest. The bright eyes of kids always do me good.
arrive at my stop and at the same time...hop off... now at the end of
my journey and story.
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