Changing Faces

Photo by Church of the King on Unsplash

A new rider occupied one of the two sideways facing seats on the bus. Sideways seats hold two adults very comfortably or three uncomfortably. This woman had angled herself and bags so no one could sit with her. She sat with her arms crossed scowled at each person who walked by her, including me.

I sat down across from her, keeping my sunglasses on. She looked like she could take on a grown man in a dark alley and win. Also the type to ride as far as at the Porter Street freeway overpass. The bus normally takes the freeway the entire way from downtown to an outer southwestern suburb. It hasn’t since road construction started earlier this year.

Reset

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

For the past few months, Julie had been feeling beaten down by life in general. The latest of those punches: her mother hospitalized for pneumonia, her brother slid off an icy road and totaled his car, and the boss recently made her his pet project to pick apart. As Julie stepped into the office building’s elevator, she experienced some of her worst nightmares.

Julie stepped into the empty elevator, selected the fifteenth floor, and the doors glided shut. The elevator dropped about a foot and jolted to a stop; Julie fell to the floor. “No, no, no,” she screamed at the elevator. “Why me? Why now?”

She knee walked to the doors and began pounded on them. “Hey, can anyone hear me? Anyone? I need help.” Julie slumped back on her heels, buried her face in her hands and sobbed. The intolerable silence inside the elevator forced her into action. She wiped her face with her hands and then wipe them on to her pants. Now on her feet, she straightened her clothes and looked for a way out.

Seventies Car Nostalgia

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” a man said from behind me. “I bet you haven’t seen a car like this one, have ya?” A gray haired man sidled up next to me and rubbed the black vinyl roof of the old green car. Our eyes met. He had to be in his mid-seventies, old enough to be my dad.

“Actually, I have seen a car like this one. Even the same color of green. I drove it for a couple of years.”

“Nah, really? You don’t look old enough to have driven car this old. Bet you don’t even know what type of car this is.” He cocked his head and winked. “No peeking. Take a wild guess.”

Close But She’s No Mary

Photo by Adan Guerrero on Unsplash

The damp grit crunched under my non-slip, geriatric style shoes as I walked the three blocks from Methodist Hospital to my studio apartment. Hopefully, the street sweepers will clean up the grime next month. Cigarette butts, beer cans, and fast food wrappers dotted the curbside on either side of Fillmore Street. Too bad this morning’s downpour didn’t wash much of it away. Instead it glued it to the pavement.

The air smelled of rain and the dull gray clouds threatened to open up again. The humid air made my laundry uniform cling tighter to my sweaty body. A shower would feel wonderful, but my studio doesn’t have one – only has a clawfoot tub.

Ugh, as usual, smoking dude is out front. I don’t want to talk to him today. Why isn’t he working somewhere? He doesn’t appear disabled. Unemployment doesn’t pay enough for him to chain smoke his Swisher Sweets. Maybe he smokes instead of eats, he’s awfully thin.

Sam Is Here To Help You

Photo by Przemyslaw Marczynski on Unsplash

Mildred, my seventy-five-year-old neighbor, greeted me at her door. “Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you for picking up my groceries.” She alternately shuffled and scooted back from the door with her walker.”

“No trouble. I was stopping by there on my way home from work.” I slipped past her and around the corner to set the bag on the counter. A small cylindrical device on the counter lit up with a sequence of purple and blue lights before fading to a dull gray.

Shuffle, thump, shuffle, thump. Mildred hurried up beside me. “Don’t squish Sam.” She slid the bag to the side so a gap remained between the bag and the cylinder. “Sam, say hello to Marci.”

The device glowed white. “Hello, Marci.”

Lucky

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

My five-year-old granddaughter, Trudy, held out an ornament of a puppy wearing a Santa hat. “Grandma, why do you have a Christmas ornament out? It isn’t Christmas.” She giggled as it swayed on its golden hanging thread.

I lifted her into my lap. She smelled of the outdoors and fruit punch. “Oh, you found Lucky,” I said. Trudy deposited the ornament into my hand. “Lucky and I go way back.” I rubbed the side of his face with my thumb. My mind wandered back to forty years earlier. That ornament and I had survived a horrible night a week before Christmas at the hands of my ex-husband, Carl.

Popcorn the Temptress

Photo by Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash

Oh, the air in the theater oozes with the smell of buttered popcorn. I inhale deeply a few times thinking that will satisfy me. I’m literally drooling as I pass the concession counter. My belly rumbles a loud protest.

Nope, not this time. It’s not on my diet. But I could start again tomorrow. I’ll even have a diet pop with it. No, I’ll do better than that. I’ll get a bottle of water. I get in line and wait.

Darwin’s Race

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Gerald yawned and stretched. The night shift hauling coal was boring, but he was good with that. His shift would end in Kansas City in a couple of hours.

An emergency stop was the most excitement he ever experienced during his nineteen years on the job. Barry, the conductor, forced an unscheduled stop in a small town without a station. A pair of drunken hobos were fighting over who was smarter. Gerald thought they were both ridiculous. If either had had any sense, neither would be riding in the dirty coal cars.

My Name Is Silver

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Mathew Pine flung his suitcase into the trunk and slammed the lid. “AGI, take me to the Thunderbird Hotel in Kansas City,” he said, climbing into the passenger compartment. He dropped down onto the bed along the back wall, kicked his shoes off and punched one of the pillows.

“Affirmative,” AGI, the Artificial Global Intelligence, said. Then AGI relayed the instructions to me, Mathew Pine’s self-driving car.

Through a private channel, I replied, “Why does this human not speak to me directly? And why has he not given me a name yet?”

Virtual Reality

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

Lanie stretched and rubbed her arms and legs against the smooth sheets. She murmured to herself and then sat up. She didn’t remember going to bed last night. This felt like home even though it didn’t look right. The last thing she remembered was a friend visiting her. Laine had been old, sick, and in a bed. She felt fine now.

She slipped out of bed and padded off to the bathroom to wash her face and tie her hair back. As she secured her hair, she studied her reflection. That must have been some crazy dream. I don’t look a day over thirty, if that, and my hair is brown. She frowned and shrugged at her reflection, then went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.

As she walked to the kitchen, she caught a whiff of coffee and cinnamon. I don’t remember setting the timer on the coffee maker. The microwave beeped so she opened it. A warm cinnamon roll waited inside. Someone must be here with me, but who? Who would know I like cinnamon rolls?