In celebration of the release of Joe R. Lansdale’s enthralling OF MICE AND MINESTRONE – HAP AND LEONARD: THE EARLY YEARS, Tachyon presents glimpses from the “delightful collection of stories with interesting introduction and bonus collaborative recipes.” (Nonstop Reader)
The Sabine Was High
Joe R. Lansdale
I had gotten a phone call from Leonard a few days before he was to be mustered out, and he told me where he would be coming in, told me he wanted me to pick himup at the bus station in Tyler. From there, he wanted to go camping and fishing.
It was raining that day, and the water ran across the highway in silver sheets and filled the ditches on either side of it. The Sabine River actually touched the sides of the high bridge’s upper railing, and the water sloshed onto the highway.
I tooled on into Tyler, over to the bus station. The old colored section was still there, and most of the black people were sitting there, even though legally they didn’t have to.
I looked at the clock on the wall. I was early. I went to the coffee machine, dropped a few coins in. The cup came out upside down and the coffee hit the bottom of the cup and sprayed out onto me. The coffee was the color of diarrhea.
I tried again, and the cup was right this time, but the coffee tasted like what it looked like. I threw it in the trash and bought a package of peanut butter crackers, but the crackers were stale, and the peanut butter had a nasty taste somewhere between river mud and brick mortar. I tossed the crackers too.
I went outside. The rain had stopped. I walked out to my car and sat in it, read from a book I had in the glove box. I always had a book. It was science fiction. But I wasn’t in a mood to read. I walked back to the station. I looked at my watch, but I wasn’t wearing it. Inside the station I glanced at the clock again. It was five minutes until arrival time.
At the ticket desk I asked if the bus was on time.
The fat man behind the counter, who looked as if he had been built by stacking snowballs in three piles like Frosty the Snowman, and may have bought his clothes from a clown store, said, “We’ll know if they show up on time, won’t we?”
This was impossible to argue with. I thanked him and went back outside. I leaned on the wall. I saw there were flies on the wall next to me, high up close to the roof. I guess they were having a picnic, or maybe just a family reunion. I watched them for a while, and then I watched the road in front of the bus station.
The Greyhound came rolling in, shiny from the rain. The hound design on the side of the bus looked happy and in a hurry. The bus brakes hissed and the bus bumped a little as it stopped.
The bus door whispered open, and people started out. The first one out was a tall, well-constructed woman in her thirties wearing a blue miniskirt and blue top with the confidence of a nun who thinks being a bride to Christ means she’ll someday get epic action from Jesus. She had on white boots, and her brown hair was piled at the top but long in back. Watching her walk into the station, I almost forgot I was there for Leonard.
Looking back at the bus, I saw Leonard get off. The sunlight made his black skin shine. I guess I was expecting him to be in uniform for some reason, but he wasn’t. He was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots and a blue western shirt with a blue jean jacket. He had a brown cowboy hat in his hand and a duffel bag slung across his back on a strap. He looked at me and smiled.
There are some people you don’t talk to for a couple years, maybe more, and soon as you see them, it’s like they have only left the room for a moment, and that’s how it was with me and Leonard.
Continue on to page two for more OF MICE AND MINESTRONE content with a preview from GOOD EATS: THE RECIPES OF HAP AND LEONARD by Kasey Lansdale.