Johnny America


The Hairy Elbow


As an adult, rid­ing a school bus de­signed for chil­dren makes me feel like a fail­ure, as if I am bound to re­peat high school for­ev­er. It is, per­haps, a less pride-rob­bing en­deav­or than be­ing mar­ried, but un­like the abus­es of a thank­less bride, the bus is more de­plorable in its sullen per­sis­tence. Each day my pa­tience is test­ed, stretched, and ul­ti­mate­ly mauled un­til I can do noth­ing but close my eyes and pre­tend I am elsewhere…very far elsewhere.

This day, a large mid­dle-aged man, who bent as he walked to avoid hit­ting his head on the ceil­ing dropped him­self in­to the seat in front of me like a bag of base­ball bats. His white skin was mot­tled with freck­les, leav­ing me to imag­ine that his tyran­ni­cal kids blast­ed him with cof­fee as he left for work. He pulled out a pa­per and raised his right arm on the back of the seat be­hind him, di­rect­ly in front of me. The seat is the wall be­tween us. It is a sa­cred bar­ri­er that, as­sum­ing we want to live in peace with our fel­low bus pa­trons, must not be vi­o­lat­ed. He an­ni­hi­lat­ed the green di­vide with his slop­py, pale limb.

His fore­arm bris­tled with dense, un­kempt hair that spread straight past his el­bow to his up­per arm. His el­bow had hair grow­ing out of it. His el­bow grew hair! Short, dark, re­pug­nant hairs. I felt the need to vom­it as the bus hauled its qui­et load. I tried to look away but the arm was there, inch­es from my face, in­vad­ing my per­son­al space with au­dac­i­ty and sweat. In a mo­ment of vi­o­lent re­course, I straight­ened my bony legs, pierc­ing with my nar­row knees the seat he filled so gross­ly. He turned his head and quick­ly glanced in my di­rec­tion. I looked calm­ly at the street be­low, while vi­o­lat­ing his per­son­al space.

He left his arm on the seat un­til I got off the bus. Clear­ly, he liked the attention.

Filed under Fiction on July 23rd, 2004

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