“Hey you, either remove your ass off the bus or bring it up here and pay your damn fare like everybody else! Ain’t nobody sneakin’ in through the out door!” The bus driver’s voice is amazingly loud. The idea that the bus would provide a safe and immediate exit is quickly crushed. It’s complete chaos: there is a throng of high school students on some sort of field trip, without a chaperone or supervision. This neighborhood is a mixed racial bag, mostly Latino, then Asian, then white, and lastly black… but that’s the demographics for adults. When it comes to the youth it’s: Latino, black, Asian and white. The activity level on the bus this morning is shy of a disbanded circus in the middle of an early 19th century battlefield; the only things missing are bayonets on long rifles and a flying trapeze.
I make my way up to the front of the bus, squeezing past the melee and keeping a firm hand on my wad of mystery money, much like a junkie palms his freshscored dope. I have a sudden fear that I don’t have fare and that I’ll have to peel off one of those bloody bills and hand it to the driver and then be an obvious mark for anyone to jump me. I quickly calm my fears and remind myself that I always keep $5 in dollar coins with me (the poor man’s version of the John Wayne myth, where he kept a thousand dollar bill in his vest pocket at all times). I figure $5 can get you out of harm’s way in this country if you can find some public transportation.
At the next stop, 90 percent of the passengers get off and I have a moment to savor the loss of noise. I really wish I had had more time to finish my beer without that lunatic interfering; what a fucking trip. Hell, if he hadn’t done himself in, we probably could’ve had a good time. I love meeting a weirdo in the bar for some casual case study in my fellow humans. I rub the wad of cash and think for a second about the guy at the bar, recounting the crap in the truck and the amount of Alligator Milk-brand soft drink canisters he had in the back of his truck.
My phone rings and without looking at it I know who it is. I let it go to voicemail. Then I call my voicemail to listen to the two messages. A very gentle, soothing and calm male voice is heard: “Harry, Hi. This is Bill.” Like I don’t know the man who I’ve worked for the last 15 years’ voice? “Down at the office, I wanted to get a first hand account from you prior to your written report concerning some alleged events that took place at the Food Manufacturers’ Union march last night. If you could give me a call as soon as you get this message, I’d greatly appreciate it, 978, 345, 22, 28. Thanks, b’bye.” And he leaves his number, like I don’t know the fucking number?! He must really want to talk to me.
Message two. He meant to hang up, but obviously the handle didn’t make it into the cradle of the phone and I hear the voice I normally hear: “Damn it! That son of a bitch never calls in a report after a job! It’s always a document file emailed the following day! Should have known better than to try anyway but this is huge!”
“Yes, Mr. Pelbell.” I hear his secretary, Mary, respond in the background.
“Try him again in five minutes, if he doesn’t answer the damn phone I’m going straight to his GOD DAMN HOUSE AND WAKING HIM UP!”
“Yes Mr Pelbell.” The message ends there.
I dial him up and he gets into me immediately. “How’d it go last night? Were there many of your type watching?”
“I saw one person I recognized, seemed there may have been about 4 ‘lookers.’” Lookers are what people like me have come to call ourselves. We’re professional witnesses either hired by the police, interest groups or individuals to bear witness to anything and everything. It’s not great work but when you lose your law license that’s what you do. Or notary work. “So there was us and the usual amount of Main Stream Media represented as well.”
“No, I didn’t see any anarchists, not really their thing.”
“What about G-men?”
“G-men? What is this, a 1940’s gangster movie? Do you mean any obvious CIA or FBI looking folk?”
“No, Ganderthals.” Ganderthals are a new protest group. They fancy themselves as malicious pranksters bent on a very strange type of justice agit-prop. The name is a melding of the words gander, as in a number of geese, and Neanderthal. They made their first mark blowing off enormous confetti canons, when confetti was not called for. Then they started dropping pies from remote-controlled helicopters on the heads of political enemies or people they just thought needed a pie on their head.
“No, no sign at all, it’s hardly their place either. Why?”
“Well, last night one of the police officers working the detail was none other than Officer Roger Hallis.”
“The Cop who kicked and maced the pregnant mother he mistook for a protester last year?”
“Yeah, and that’s not all. The Ganderthals are claiming responsibility for his abduction.”
“What!? That’s a huge leap from pies and confetti. How do we know it’s really them?”
“That’s why I’m calling you, to see if you saw anything out of the ordinary?”
“Nothing like that. Wow, that beats the rest of my morning.” I catch myself saying regretfully.
“Oh, what happened to you?”
“Oh, uh… just a strange bus ride with some kids, that’s all.”
“Well get me that report, and be thorough!” Bill hangs up.
The bus stops and I get off even more puzzled as the day’s haze burns off to a beautiful, sunny day…