Pete's Sake - Part 1
He was new to taking the bus downtown, so he asked my advice: “What time should I catch the bus? I like to get to the office by 7:30. My name’s Pete.”
“The earlier the better,” I said as we stood in the bus stop shelter in the cool morning darkness. It was late winter.
At 6:30 a.m. in the Midwest at this time of year, one might mistake the time for 1 a.m. if it weren’t for the birds making their morning mischief. “Ten after six is even better than 6:30. I only catch this bus if I’m running late like today. I’m Tom.”
With a warm cloud of diesel smoke, the bus squealed to a stop and we boarded. That’s when Michelle, another bus regular, raced into the parking lot in her black Chevy.
“Hold the bus for her,” I told the driver. Pete and I sat down opposite each other in the inward-facing seats in the front of the bus. At this hour, seniors and others who should get these seats are few. As Pete pulled a book from his case, Michelle boarded and dropped her fare into the box. “Thanks,” she said to the driver with a smile. I said hello to her and she flashed her natural smile to me. She had short dark hair and a freckled complexion that gave her a youthful look. She always looked fresh in the morning. Sometimes we talked, and when we did, I watched her square jaw because I did not want her to think I was staring at her freckles. Pete flipped open his book and glanced at Michelle before turning his eyes to his book. She didn’t notice and sat in the back.
This was the first of many times the three of us caught the same bus. Over the spring, I got to know Pete, and on occasion I’d see him and Michelle engaged in small talk: “How was your weekend?” “Gee, the bus is late.” “Boy, it’s cold out.” These kinds of expressions always started talk between the two, but their conversations to me resembled a broken plate that had been glued back together. Somehow, something didn’t seem right, although the two looked happy and pleasant as they chatted. [To be continued....]