Sample From Mississippi Cotton

Flora, Mississippi was the first stop, but I didn’t count it as a real stop because no one actually got off. There were only a couple of passengers getting on at the bus stop, which was just a grocery store with a Trailways sign stuck on it.

Some seedy-looking man got on and sat across the aisle. He wore a straw Stetson and a blue work shirt with the sleeves rolled up above his elbows. He wadded his sport coat up and put it behind his head for a pillow. The shirt was too small for his fat stomach, and you could see his undershirt between the buttons which were stretching his shirt open between them. He had a tattoo of an eagle on his arm and underneath it was written, YEAH BOY. It didn’t look like he had shaved in a while, and I would make a guess that he was about fifty or sixty. A pretty old guy anyway.

But the bad thing was, the thing that I had been most afraid of, was that some old lady with straw-looking hair got on, and stopped next to my seat. After staring at my sandwich bag for about five minutes, she said, “Anybody settin’ here, Hon’?”

I started to say something smart like, “Oh yeah, a little bitty guy is in that sack.” I didn’t though. The FBI might find out that I had smarted off. There’d be a black mark on my conduct, plus the wrath of my mother and daddy if they found out.

“No, ma’am.”

She sat down. Fortunately, I was able to swoop up my bag before she made mush out of it.

“Well now, that feels better,” she said. “I feel like I been on my feet forever and ever.” She plopped a big round-ish bag down in her lap.

I couldn’t tell if it was a huge purse or a clothes bag of some kind, but it had a bunch of stuff in it, and it was really round and big, like she had her own toilet in it or something. She hugged it like it was a prize she had won. “Well, now I guess we’re gonna be fellow travelers for a while,” she said. She smiled yellow.

“Yes, ma’am, I guess so.” I didn’t know what that meant for sure. I heard my daddy talk a lot about communists and their fellow travelers, so maybe she thought I was some kind of a communist or something.

“And where’re you goin’ this fine day?”

“Cotton City.”

“You got family there?”

“Hope you ain’t kin to that dead guy they found in the river,” blurted the man with the Yeah Boy tattoo.

“Dead guy? In the river?” My lips almost quivered when I said it.

Her glare brought him up without a word. “Now you just keep your mouth shut. This young gentleman don’t need your comments. Now go ahead, young man.” Yeah Boy frowned and slumped more in his seat.

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