I finally did it. After two years of reliable service to both myself and this fair city, I retired my Commodore 128. Yes, Bertha served my well these past 24 months but the old girl just couldn't keep up with the rigorous demands of my job. After finding her a spot in my basement to begin gathering dust, I had to fill the vacancy in my office. So I drove down to nearby Fairbury, home of McNush Park, the oldest continuously boll weevil infested recreational facility in Southern Nebraska.
The Dell Computer store is located just down from McNush Park on the corner of 11th and J Street so I decided to go sit a spell and enjoy some lunch before shopping. Though right in the middle of the city, the cozy park feels well insulated from the hustle and bustle of the noisy city streets. The cool breeze against my cheeks and the mildly painful, yet hypnotic, bites from the boll weevils as they found their way up my pant leg allowed me to truly relax for the first time in a long while. I only wish that Agnes could have been there with me to enjoy the experience and not teaching those piano lessons to hobo children in Strang. What a saint she is.
I decided to take the opportunity to do some long and hard thinking about some things. This world is a mess. Just last night I watched a documentary on how to raise good Christian children called Jesus Camp. Seeing the way things should be made me realize just how bad things really are in America. Take global warming for instance. It was 55 degrees as I sat there in that park, watching some local kids rolling doobies. Now I typically don't approve of drug use because it doesn't support the American farmer. But they said they grew it themselves. Either way, it was cool out. Chilly even. Take that NASA and The Weather Channel!
These days kids don't have any purpose. Not in Belvidere though. There's nothing like the fear of being torn to ribbons by a roving band of mutant opposable thumbed turkeys to set a boy straight. Other than widespread indoctrination against people different from them perhaps. But then again that also just boils down to fear. Fear is good. Fear is the chum that provides sustenance for our insatiable desire to control our environment, whether it is what people should be allowed to believe, or not to believe; what we do behind closed doors, and who we do it with; or who is allowed to reap the bountiful harvest that democracy and George W. Bush have provided us.
I ended my respite, and finished up the cold roast beef sandwich I had packed for myself before leaving Belvidere. I took one long pause to take the beauty of McNush park in. There were no turkeys or irregular sheep to be found. The incessant din of the weevils as they devoured the few remaining shreds of plant life was a cacophony of delight. A small latino boy ate ice cream next to a rusty old jungle gym. And an old man licked mustard from the corner of his mouth before heading back towards the bus station.
There is just one bus that services the town of Fairbury and it's never late. Some of the folks around town say it is haunted but rarely do they agree on just who or what the ghostly spectre is that walks up and down the path between the seats, always stopping at the thick white line placed just prior to the driver's seat. I've always had a thing for ghost stories and I wanted to see for myself if this one was true.
The bus pulled up at a quarter past one and unloaded a motley assortment of passengers. A thin boy of about 7 or 8 jumped off the bus from the top step, biting his lower lip as he landed. He screamed in a mix of suprise and pain. I couldn't help but laugh at him and I immediately felt ashamed for doing so. A woman older than me by many years, maybe in her 90's, was helped off by two young men in baseball uniforms. One had a limp and a streak of blood trailing down his pants which originated at a large tear in the fabric just above his right knee.
"Did you at least win the game son?", I asked.
"What game?", the boy muttered as he ran off, the elderly woman now safely sitting on a nearby bench.
A few more folks, one of which was obviously drunk, exited the bus and headed their own seperate ways. Perhaps to their home or a local pub. I can't say for sure. Finally a beautiful young woman in a Dairy Queen uniform stepped down onto the curb from the lower step. I thought of Agnes immediately. Not because Agnes was a very a beautiful woman mind you but because the eyes were the same. A young man, equally attractive but missing an ear, ran up as if to embrace her. She pushed his arms down and looked nervously around. I couldn't make out the exact words as they walked towards Grimp's Hotel, but I know an angry woman when I hear one.
As the crowd dispersed I noticed the old woman again, still sitting quietly on her bench. After placing the remains of my lunch in a large metal bin I joined her.
"How's turnips?", I asked. "How's Turnips" being a common greeting in Southern Nebraska. Historians and etymologists have argued over the origin of the phrase with estimates ranging from the early 18th century to 1997.
"Turnips up, turnips down.", she replied as is the custom.
"More up than down I hope.", I said with a hearty laugh. She smiled, taking out a cigarette from her plain brown leather purse.
"Oh I don't smoke 'em so put your eyes back in your head holes!", the woman spat before placing a single unfiltered Pall Mall in her mouth. She began to chew vigorously.
"So what do you know about that bus? She really haunted?", I inquired.
"Yes. That bus is haunted. I'll tell you about it if you got the time. You got the time young fella?"
I nodded and she began to speak.....