October 1st, 1977: I had been on a Continental Trailways Bus for almost three days. I was in bad shape. I had the shakes, I was hearin’ and seein’ things.
All through the long night before, the wheels on the bus went round and round singin’ The Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night.” I asked my mind to turn the music off or change channels, one, but it was in no mood to cooperate.
And, when it came time to switch buses in a Mississippi Depot, the ticket taker’s soft voice and thick southern accent made his directions for boarding impossible for me to understand. Thank God another busman looked at my ticket and pointed me to the proper portal.
I had a 6 hour lay over in Mobile, Alabama, and, instead of sayin’ yes to a hooker’s party, I stumbled into a local diner for a cup of coffee…
And I saw grits on the menu.
And I wondered how they
tasted so I ordered a
And I painted it red with tabasco.
And I grabbed a spoon and stirred the contents till they were pink and had the consistency of gruel.
And it felt so damn good goin’ down my throat.
And it gave my growlin’ belly comfort.
And, when I stood from the counter stool,
I walked steady to the register and, with a steady hand,
I paid my bill and I walked out the grit-store
door steady still
till I went back to the bus station and sat down on the bench placed in the middle of the lobby. The semi-loud voice gargling from the station’s semi-loud speaker woke me. It was announcing the arrival of my Florida bus. I stretched, stood and made my way to the gate. I waited as the driver checked my ticket and allowed me to board.
2 hours later, I stepped from Trailways bus onto Northwest Florida bus ramp concrete.
And The Old Man was there.
And he was sober.
And he had a big smile on his face.