Scab Picker

The night was dark, the mood was quiet. On the old city bus, of the Polk City Express, Kevin and Jeremy sat, in the farthest back row. Both were tired — homeward bound from a factory where they had worked all day — nine hour shifts for each, and so naturally, they were drained.

The bus was served in a fashion of continuous use under the Polk City Express since the early 1970’s — and for that matter, all buses owned and run under the name Polk City Express were of that same era — The bus lacked air conditioning, among other such features of the most basic luxury, and the seating upholstery, was made up entirely of an odd in appearing, greenish colored material — something which was resembling of rubber by its touch but which was made in the intention of emulating an appearance of genuine leather — Jeremy had said of this material that it was “lubber,” which he insisted was something much different than just plain old regular pleather–to which Kevin could care less.

Old time jazz played from the front speaker stereo system — a matter of the bus driver’s own personal choice and preference. From the farthest away row, toward the very end of the bus, where Kevin and Jeremy were both seated, one could hardly hear the music playing.

Jeremy tapped his fingers on a metal bar that was alongside parallel of his seat — he was strumming to a patterning motion, following the musical rhythm of the old time jazz — at least, so he was that is to the best that he could, from the sporadic bits of the music he’d hear. Kevin however had his earbuds and his own music to occupy his senses.

Kevin, and Jeremy, and the bus driver aside, the bus was almost entirely empty, just but two other people were aboard: an older woman, who was keeping to herself, away from the other passengers, and seated in the middle row was one, and then a younger woman, who’d sat toward the front, close to the driver and near the exit was the other. It was not so unusual for the bus to be so empty at such a time on such a night — it was a weekday after all — not too many people in Polk City would have too many reasons to be on the streets after midnight.

The bus driver switched his eyes off the road — through way of his rear-viewing mirror, for just only a moment, and muttered something short at his passengers. Perhaps it was under his breath what he’d said but perhaps maybe it was not, but regardless, of whether he had intended it to be noticed, it was noticed — Kevin saw it, and had caught a glimpse of it happening as soon as the driver’s eyes appeared in that mirror — Kevin saw the driver’s lips open and close in more than two repetitions, and had seen a flash of a knowable emotion that was struck in the driver’s face, which was found in his eyes. But Kevin was not concerned, he had responded but just barely as he merely but nodded, and by the time that he did, it would not be received, the driver’s eyes were already returned to the road — Kevin could care less — his thoughts then resumed from where they had left off as if nothing had happened.

Jeremy was picking at debris from a small crater that was melted into the surface of his seat — the intentional product of someone’s cigarette lighter lit until hot and branded into the upholstery — It was like a school bus Jeremy thought. Kids always used to abuse his school bus Jeremy thought remembering, and began to reminisce on his old school days, and of his own all-time greatest offense, which was of his fourth grade year in elementary school, in which he had carved a one-inch hole through the top plane of his school desk — having used only just a compass to do it, it’s impressive that he had managed — and required in him much of that full school year just to cut it through. He had started out from underneath and just worked his way into it until eventually breaking past the surface. Every day he’d work on it — scraping away with his little tin compass — bit-by-bit, digging maybe just millimeters at most in a productive full day’s work, and somehow had managed to evade his teacher ever knowing all the while he would.

The driver again looked into his rear-viewing mirror, and saw that Jeremy was picking at the upholstery — He shook his head, and again he muttered something short before returning his focus to the road. And again, Kevin as well would notice — he then looked to Jeremy, to see if Jeremy had noticed it, too. But Jeremy hadn’t — Jeremy was looking downward — still picking at the upholstery. “I bet he picks his own scabs” Kevin thought to himself, and turned away, and resumed his prior train of thought.

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