Topaz, Chapter 2
Topaz, Chapter 1: Here
It takes several minutes for the man to reach the bus stop three houses down from his brick bungalow. Two teenagers obviously evading school react to an adult entering the sidewalk, but their eyes turn from the shock of being discovered to relief, and then patronization as they see the octogenarian slowly move toward them. As the children pass their elder, they mock the man with those same eyes that moments earlier feared his supposed authority.
The man reaches the bus stop and sits on the convenient bench supplied by taxpayers for just such a purpose. Through lenses tinted to darken in the brightening sunlight the man turns and sees a city bus rumble lazily down the tree-lined street. The vehicle’s brakes, long overdue for servicing, screech as the large transport void of passengers stops obediently at the curb directly in front of the waiting commuter. With the teenagers gone, no one save the bus driver notices the old man painfully climb the required three stairs and sit among the bus’s empty seats.
The bus stops and deposits its singular rider at the shopping center three miles from the house where the cat only now leaps from the comfort of the old man’s bed in search for food. The morning sun beats down upon the old man’s shaded head. Small beads of sweat escape into the hat, darkening the fabric. The perspiration continues until after the automatic doors of the shopping center close, engulfing the man as he continues his task.
An hour after the building swallows the man, the same doors expel him—the pace of his gait exactly the same as when he entered. The man again finds a bench on which to sit and wait for another bus. Once seated the man removes his hat and pulls out a cotton handkerchief. He daps moisture from his exposed scalp, replaces the hat, and checks his watch. A moment later the old man looks up and is greeted by another bus, the sounds of its diesel engine mix with those from automobiles, motorcycles, and of airplanes overhead. With the aid of his cane the man stands while the bus stops before him. He boards the bus.
Once aboard the diminutive man chooses the same seat he chose an hour earlier. This bus is not empty. The old man finds himself sitting across from a fellow rider, a younger man dressed in work attire sleeping, his strong shoulders swaying gently in tandem with the rocking of the bus. The old man notices the young man’s clothing, work boots caked with a thin layer of dried mud, the man’s jeans worn and tattered, his flannel shirt adorned with sweat and coffee stains. A hardhat and lunchbox sit silently beside the sleeping worker, on the man’s lap rests a magazine, a large earth-moving machine adorning the magazine’s back cover.