Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bus in an Ice Storm

In a bus in the freezing rain, b and I the only passengers and night getting more slippery. The rain the day before had eaten away most of the ice but as we travelled highway, suburb and city the ice thickened. We couldn't stop for intersections and neither could anyone else. An ice-encrusted truck, navy with a light blue thin stripe was in the ditch, back wheels still on the shoulder facing he direction of traffic. It's roof was rimed, the side panels gradually icing in. Our driver held middle course so we'd be less likely to hit the ditch. I urged him to pull over and he said that was the plan but he'd need a safe place where we didn't get hit and where we could control the turn.

The landscape was becoming glittering. Passing traffic lights Shon like neon from every surface. There was a gas station. Slow as he turned he slid sideways to the other lane and inches with little traction to the second of the two driveways. It was just inside the gearly empty parking lot, not in danger of colliding with anyone.

We jumped out as soon as it stopped moving. There was a phone booth near us near the road. I said I have to call my patens so they don't worry and assume we're dead. B said they likely don't have power anyway. I tottered my way to an enclosed phone booth, broke open the sheet of ice from the door. B put money in but it was jammed. We kept trying to feed it the three quarters it needed and a woman walking by in the freezing mist ducked out from under her umbrella and into the humidity of the phone booth. She said, that one won't work. There's a seven cent one in the station. She pointed with her head to the blaze of lights over the petroleum bar. B. Tried feeding another quarter in the slapped the side as he pulled the return money lever. The change fell from the bottom along with a newspaper, a glossy junk mail flyer and between them, a crumpled $50 and $20 bill. But that isn't...I said to myself. B didn't seem to notice the cash.

All good, the woman asked, her having stepped back a couple paces under her black umbrella. She gestured with her head again and moved towards the station proper. B was collecting his thoughts. I tucked the package under my arm. We began to hobble towards the bright. It was excruciatingly slow. my back was tight and feeling pressured from all the balancing.

Inside the convenience store I asked about the phone. He gestured a thumb backwards towards the road we'd come from. I quickly said that that one was jammed and a lady had said there was another up here. He looked disgruntled and reversed the jab of his thumb. There were a few plywood cream risers against the far wall leading up to what appeared to be a PA system speaker and an antique phone mouthpiece.

Going up the steps and picking up the phone I said hello? A crackley voice said, this is the seven cent phone. There's another phone by the highway. It's jammed I said. The phone said nothing then said, alright then, what number are you trying to reach. I ticked out the number, proud I could remember it so readily, then repeated it again slower in 3 chunks so the PA phone could catch it. I heard a flipping of pages. That's the __ residence he said, naming both my parents, the house of snakes? What a peculiar way to be listed in a directory I thought to myself. Well, is it that? Prompted the phone. Oh, I'd said nothing. That's the right number I added hastily.

Dialing, the phone said. Outside the sounds were changing. A strong wind was blowing againsts the metal siding in gusts that flexed the sheets of ice off with a clatter and the sheets of metal flexed. There was pure rain now, eating away at the ice in a torrential downpour that caused a river of rushing water to be heard.

Dialing the phone said and it was ringing. 3rd ring and I woke.