This is the thirteenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”. The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.
“Tell me your story,” I said to Buster on the bus.
“I went to college. I had a family that didn’t understand me but loved me and wanted me to do good things. My grades were good. So they sent me to college. While I was there they died in a car crash and that was it. I was unhooked. I had no reason to be there and I was kind of broken and now saddled with debt. There were one or two good classes. Philosophy of Religion. History. But the rest was shit and most of the kids were shit, just kind of dumb big shots who hadn’t been told they were useless and dumb. But I told them, especially when I drank, and I didn’t make many friends that way. I have a big mouth. It was easy to just slip away. My older sister, she had to deal with the will and the aftermath of my parents’ death and I drop out and can’t handle anything and she just kind of cuts me off, takes the little inheritance and says if I’m not going back to school then too bad, no money. Well, fuck her then. I don’t need any largesse. So I go to work at this place, this property management place. I’m a handy man and cut the grass at a bunch of office buildings and apartment complexes. I meet the HVAC repair guys and let them in. I fix toilets. I fix a lot of toilets. It’s fine. The money’s fine. I have a small apartment in one of the buildings. I play softball. I even have a girlfriend from the team. The boss is a good guy and cuts me in on profit-sharing after a couple years. I guess I was what you would call happy. Or at least not unhappy. 2007. Then the bankers blew up the economy and there were vacancies and people just jumping out on their leases and evictions and soon there was no profit to share, no toilets to fix and no more softball. My boss was crying when he let me go. He was truly a good man but he was into a lot of real estate at the wrongest time ever. My girlfriend? She left. I pushed her away. Whatever. Things all just went to shit. It became clear then all those mortgages were crap, the usual people got rich and got out, and the usual dumbasses like me were left holding the bag. Then the feds go and bail out the banks! That’s when it was all clear. You know how we always joke and get little hot flashes of outrage when the sacks of shit who have all the money and power get away with murder? We shake our heads and vent about it and resign ourselves to our lives, which are good enough, after all. Don’t we all have a big screen tv? Those bailouts for all those bankers who all know each other and understand each other even. Then they’re all up there in Washington with the Fed claiming they saved the fucking economy! The same economy they wrecked!”
“Be quiet!” The shrill lady again.
“I try to wake people up. I’m a street preacher now and I have no illusions that I’m being heard. People are just comfortable enough to move on from the latest shooting, the latest outrage, the latest act of racism, the latest misogyny. Things are good enough for most people. Barely. But I aim to make people uncomfortable. Comfort and convenience are not worthy goals in life, especially with what’s going on. I want to inconvenience and discomfort you and everyone else.”
We were quiet and Buster looked out the window.
“That’s it,” he said. “I’m going to shut my eyes now.”
When we arrived in Denver I moved into the aisle to let him out. I was continuing on but he was going into the streets to preach and inconvenience people.
“You take care,” he said and shook my hand. “You keep wandering around but whenever you get the chance, you make people uncomfortable.”
“I don’t seem to have a problem with that,” I said.
“Well keep at it.”
“By the way,” I said. “You ever see a guy up in the mountains driving a black BMW? Tinted windows. Menacing.”
“You don’t ever want to meet that man,” Buster said. “You keep moving now, especially if he’s already seen you.”
“I plan on it,” I said. And he went down the aisle, down the steps, and I watched him walk into the terminal. He was gone.