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no time for Sunday afternoons
by Johnny St. Clair
i had just come out of the store when i saw her, standing there, waiting by the avenue with one or two others. i had the black bottle of red wine in my hand, wrapped in a twisted brown bag, tapping it gently against my leg. she was waiting with a handled red shopping bag in her hand, like the kind i’ve seen girls with before…from one of those stores, probably, where i’d be loathe to enter. and even if i did, i’d be the white trash the cool kids invited to the party and couldn’t believe actually showed up.
so she’s there – her hand tucked neatly into her jacket pocket, her other hand hanging at her side, attached to that bag, and whatever secrets it held – just looking down the road, waiting for something
and i got transfixed like i always do, and just stood there outside the cab watching and disappearing while she and the other ones stepped back to allow an oncoming bus to slow at the stop. when the driver figured that they – this girl and the other ones – that they weren’t gonna get on, he started away again. and it’s the craziest thing, but i swear that she and one of the other ones hopped on the back of the bus. there were these silver metal bars bolted onto the back, like handles, and she and one of the other ones hopped onto the bus’s bumper as it was slowly pulling away from the curb. the driver, i don’t know, it was like he knew they were back there. he must’ve stepped on the gas, because the bus really started to motor down the road. but that girl, she was just hanging on with one hand, and i swear that just before it rounded the bend, she threw her head back and laughed and, before the whole scene went out of sight, i don’t even think i saw her holding on anymore.
this one meter maid, though, she was givin’ me the eyeballs…i guess it had something to do with keys in my hand and drinking in broad public. and i understand, or at least i understood, and tipped my hat before putting the cork halfway back in the bottle, in the bag, and back into the car.
i took a little ride before i headed back to the garage, and pulled in to that same meter maid. she was peering into the car, trying to adjust tired eyes from her darkened vantage point to the bright light from where i was coming. so she sees it's me, and she starts motioning, and she’s right there with my boss, and i’m all well, shit, it’s goin’ down.
the boss, he’s basically a good dude. after he gives me the ear-beatin’ in front of this lady, he pulls me into the office and starts singin’ the blues about policy and protocol and whatever else middle-management horseshit he has to deal with. i know what it looks like - drinking on the job - and i’d seen enough heartache for one day. so i just took the hit and the days without pay to save him some grief.
it was raining by the time i was leaving the garage and it slanted in through the open door. i saw that meter maid and waved, but i don’t think she’ll wave back no more.