Everyone but Billy stood. The driver left the bus, and Billy watched as he opened the side panel and took out the suitcases.
When the last person left, he ambled down the aisle. The driver waited for him and offered a hand.
“I ain’t that old, I can git down myself.”
“Don’t want you to fall and sue us, young fella.”
Billy laughed. His dentures dropped. He pushed them up with his tongue, remindin him that his kisser was as fake as his hip and stepped off the bus.
“I’ve never seen a suitcase this old,” the man said, handin Billy the luggage.
“Had it since the sixties, before you was born, I bet.” Billy took the leather handle and felt the moist exchange of sweat.
“You have a good day, sir.”
“Goin to Miami, I am. On a way to see a friend.”
The man already climbed up the steps of the bus, leavin Billy talkin to himself.
He shuffled toward the train station, with the closeness of the Hillsborough Bay; Billy caught a breeze, rufflin his straggly white hairs under the straw hat. His sense of smell worked just fine as he breathed in the sharp crude from the cargo rigs mixed with the bay.
A woman held the door for him as he headed toward her.
“Thank you, ma’am. Fine day, ain’t it?” He pointed his index finger to the brim of his hat and winked. She smiled and hurried on.
Air conditionin stung the sweat on his body. Billy shivered. “My God,” he whispered as he gazed around. The place was beautiful with long wooden benches, ferns growin in large pots at the end of each row. The last time he’d been here the place was fallin apart. But now, wrought-iron gates, wall lanterns, the floor so shiny looked like you could take a dip in it, so much light from all the glass windows it seemed the sun had eyes just for the station.
He shuffled cross the depot and out the door to the number 235 train.
Climbin aboard the Amtrak, Billy strained as he stretched for the handrail and tightened his grip round the metal. The steps were damn far apart for a man his age, but he made it. Course it knocked the air clean outta him.
It was stupid to act like he was younger than his years, he couldn’t hide the hearin-aid behind his ear, the bum leg with the dummy hip, the missin lower teeth his tongue liked to suck, or the skinny ropes of white hair once blond and thick as a Fuller Brush mop. But he ain’t gonna turn into a mark where’s he trusted someone else to tell him what was up, no, Billy thought as he put on his glasses and matched his ticket with the seat number. All he wanted right now was to be able to walk on his own and see his friend without fallin down.
Billy wasn’t great at spellin, he’d made it no farther than the fifth grade, but what he saw out the window was nothin but young man’s rage who don’t care whether it make sense or not, just wanna leave somethin of themselves, like a dog pissin on tires.
He found his seat by the window, four chairs two on either side with a table between em. Not sure if he could lift his suitcase to the luggage rack without seemin lame, besides, someone might steal it, so’s Billy set it next to him on the empty chair.
He took off his hat and put it on the table. He’d never get use to people rollin their suitcases. His been a friend for years, made of wood and leather, like him gouged with character, the handle worn from his grasp of luggin it from midway to midway.
A man put his bag on the rack above where Billy sat.
“Want me to put your suitcase up?” he asked.
Billy marked him as a businessman; suit, tie, bag strapped cross his shoulder, late thirties, nothin stand-out bout him cept for the flashy watch, gold and turquoise ring, and a ruby stud in his ear that made him look ridiculous. Somethin bout him seemed familiar.
“Naw, thanks though.”
He sat cross from Billy, next to the window. Another guy stood lookin down at him from the aisle.
“You’re going to have to move your suitcase. This is my seat,” a man said, holdin up his ticket. “I’ll get it.” The guy grabbed Billy’s case, lifted the luggage and shoved it onto the rack.
The fella was closer to Billy’s age than the guy with the ruby and this side of obese. When he took his seat, Billy smelled Bengay. He pulled down the armrest so’s the guy’s fat would stay on his own side.
The train began to rock. The conductor welcomed the people aboard the Amtrak then Billy experienced the thrill of movin. The wheels forward motion caused him to lurch toward the table. He stared out the window as the air-conditionin blasted through the vents, just like old times, like watchin a movie, it was, lots of overgrown shrubs and cast-offs as rusted and troubled as his own trailer. Metal stuff with graffiti sprayed on it. Crap didn’t make no sense. Billy wasn’t great at spellin, he’d made it no farther than the fifth grade, but what he saw out the window was nothin but young man’s rage who don’t care whether it make sense or not, just wanna leave somethin of themselves, like a dog pissin on tires.
As the train picked up speed the cool air faded, cheap-trick, made the customer think they git their money’s worth, then slight them, like he used to do out on the bally. Can’t dupe a con, Billy thought smilin to himself.
He felt like talkin so’s he took out a quarter from his shirt pocket and rolled it cross his knobby knuckles. Not with the skill like in the old days but a conversation piece, no matter.
Sure enough, the young man cross from him raised his eyebrows and smiled.
“Where did you learn that?”
“Worked the carnival for over half a century.”
“What did you do?”
“A talker, mostly.”
The guy frowned. “A barker?”
“People don’t know nothin call us that. That’s some watch ya got there,” Billy said.
“My husband bought it for me.”
Billy grinned, it never took him long to git used to the freaks, like Jamie, the half man, half woman, and Angelo, with his twin’s arms and legs comin outta his gut, but it would take some time for him to git accustomed to a man callin his partner, a husband. “Oh,” Billy said. “Guy’s got good taste. You look familiar.”