This is the twelfth 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.
After my brush with evil, I wanted to be off the road as I headed north to see Kat. I don’t want to disparage any form of transportation, especially since I’m essentially a misanthropic hobo. But the bus sucks. Hitch hiking takes effort and patience, but there’s a dignity and status to being a successful hitch hiker. The train evokes history and romance, especially if you only take it once in awhile. But the train is expensive. Walking is my favorite because it’s free (and you’re free) and you can keep your distance from others. But walking is slow and exposed. I needed cheap sheltered travel, faster than walking. So I took the bus.
I boarded a half-filled bus at a stop in front of a hardware store in Salida, Colorado, and scanned for an empty row. There were none. The problem? I needed to pick a seat partner for the next several hours with no prior knowledge or evidence of what I was getting into. Due to some remnant of childhood manners, I don’t like to sit down next to a sleeping person. But, everyone seems to share this etiquette, and the experienced bus rider knows this, so most of the passengers were either asleep or pretended to sleep in order to keep their single seat. The passengers who didn’t care and looked expectantly at me as I shuffled down the aisle and looked for someone not too obviously talkative or addled, these passengers presented a sort of carnival wheel of crazy people. Just spin the wheel. One seat is just as good (or bad) as any other.
I hate the bus.
I chose a seat next to a man who was peering out the window. I figured his lack of interest in my seat choice indicated a general indifference and perhaps maybe, silence.
Nope. My ass had hardly hit the seat when…
“It’s all going to shit,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I started to rise and re-shoulder my pack.
“You don’t want to sit with me? I won’t talk.” He turned his head to look back out the window.
I was caught in an awkward crouch, half in the aisle, with my unwieldy gear and I noticed the driver giving me the stink eye for holding up the departure. So I slung my pack into the overhead and sunk down into the seat.
“It’s all gong to shit,” he said.
I sighed as the bus pulled away. Sometimes it’s best to let them have their say. “Oh yeah? What’s going to shit?”
“All of it. Everywhere I go. What’s happening out there?”
“I suppose you’re going to tell me.”
“Modernization. Globalization. Capitalization. The rich getting richer. No one calls them on it because they think they can get rich too. Not likely. Markets. Rigged markets only free when the rich make money but bailed out when they don’t. Pissed off people everywhere. Shooting people. Blowing shit up. Social media. Fecesbook and Shitter. That’s not human progress.
“Did you say Feces…
“People confusing comfort with progress, convenience with human advance. The promised gifts of the modern world are a sham. People are alone, only talking to people who all hate the same things. Makes it easier and easier to hate.”
“Oh buddy, don’t get me started.”
I was getting some impressions from this man (not just body odor). A sense of a stormy force growing behind a jagged ridge, seeking for a way over and out, determined and not resigned to being penned in.
“Tell me more about Fecesbook and Shitter,” I said.
“All that bullshit. Tweeting. Keeping in touch, friends doing friendly things. Guess what? It’s also a conduit of evil. I’m not just talking China or Russia or Trump here. It’s a conduit for spiritual evil. Coveting. Soul destroying desire. Let me tell you a story…”
“Keep it down!” A shrill ladies voice from the seat behind. So he leaned closer and I got the dry rot of his breath to go with the moist rot of his body.
“Let me tell you my story,” he said. “But you tell me to shut up if you need a break. Deal?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Name’s Buster,” he said and offered a hand.
“Dude,” I said and took it. “Mountain Dude.”
“Mountain Dude? What’re you running from, Mountain Dude?”
“Tell me your story,” I said.