16Sunsets – Centre of Attention


“Buddy! Hey, buddy!”

Kristof looked up and surveyed his surroundings.

“Whatcha reading there, buddy?”

Kristof lifted the heavy hardback and pointed the spine towards the man.

Decision Trees and Logic.” The man read and squinted to read the subtitle. “Pattern Recognition in a Chaotic World. That’s some heavy reading, buddy.”

Kristof lowered the book back to his lap. “Heavy book, too.”

“That’s funny, buddy. The name’s Jules. It sounds like a precious gem. Am I right, buddy?” Jules motioned to his lap and smiled when Kristof followed his gaze. “Yeah, you get it. What’s your name, buddy?”

Kristof smiled at Jules’ juvenile humor. “Kristof,” he replied.

“Well, buddy,” Jules continued, “I wasn’t sure if you knew we had stopped for a break.”

Kristof looked around at the empty seats surrounding him. Empty, except the seat next to him. Excitable, thought Kristof.

“It’s obvious you’re into your book, buddy, but I need to go.”

Kristof nodded and slipped the book under his arm as he stood to vacate the isle seat.

“Woah, buddy. Aren’t you gonna mark your place?”

“Don’t need to, I remember what page I was on.”

“Yeah, buddy?” Jules said as he inched past Kristof’s seat and into the isle. “What page were you on?”

“Three sixteen.”

“Sweet, buddy. It was fun watching you when we went through that tunnel.”

Kristof furrowed his brow and looked towards the back of the bus. Lacking a rear window, he saw only bus wall. “We went through a tunnel?”

“Yeah, buddy. As it got darker, your book inched closer to your face.” Jules held his hand to his nose. “If that book were a woman, you’d know all her secrets.” Jules elbowed Kristof in the ribs. “Ya’know what I mean, buddy?”

Kristof stepped aside and allowed Jules to pass. He followed behind and stopped briefly to glance at the bus’s odometer. He closed his eyes and did some calculations in his head. “We’re almost to the Canadian border,” he said out loud.

“Ya’know it, buddy. I’m gonna get me some duty-free smokes.” Jules winked. “I’m passionate about sellin’ ’em to my carnival buddies.” Jules nodded conspiratorially, “those guys are freaks.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works, Jules.”

“You can call me ‘Buddy,’ buddy.”

“All right, buddy,” replied Kristof dryly.

“I like you, buddy.” Jules clasped Kristof’s shoulder. “I gotta whiz, then off to the duty free shop.” Jules stopped and smiled. “Heh heh… duty.”

* * *




Joaquin sighed and looked away from the window. He unclenched his fist and looked at the crumbled, sweaty bills. Get yourself to Canada and don’t come back, dumbass. He recalled the words said to him by Detective Massey. Joaquin closed his eyes and pictured Massey shake his head and roll his eyes, before pointing to the front door of the halfway house. Joaquin laid low for a few days, at Massey’s suggestion. While Massey ‘figured a few things out.’ It happened suddenly – Massey showed up at the halfway house, shoved a wad of bills into Joaquin’s hand, and mandated that Joaquin get on the number sixteen bus, leaving in forty minutes.

Joaquin spent most of the bus ride staring out the window watching the boring landscape roll by. Each mile looked alike, but it was obvious that the weather was getting colder. His thoughts were of Anne and the warehouse. Tiny and Lil’Cee. The chump he mugged on that rainy night, and, of course, Massey shooting him in the chest. He thought about his attempts to be a hero and the destruction that followed.

I’m a failure, he thought as another mile flew by. My brother was right – I’m a loser. When the bus pulled into a service area just south of the Canadian border, Joaquin made sure he was the first one off the bus. He jogged into the restroom and looked at himself in the mirror as he was washing his hands.

I look like a gangsta, he thought. I need to blend in with the locals. His sleeveless denim jacket was fine in the city, but in Canada, he needed sleeves. Joaquin made his way to the duty free shop and perused the wares. He came across a blue jersey with a green stripe bordered with a white stripe. He pulled the jersey off the rack and eyeballed the exploding dye pack clipped to the sleeve. The jersey featured a shark breaking through ice in the shape of a stylized letter ‘C.’ In arched letters, the space above the logo was adorned with ‘VANCOUVER.”

These guys like hockey, he thought, I’ll blend right in.

He noticed a sticker over the price tag hanging from the dye pack with the words ‘75% OFF.’ Joaquin walked the jersey to the sales counter and waited for the cute young brunette to notice him. When he had her attention, he flashed his best winning smile.

“Garrison fan, eh?”

“Huh?” replied Joaquin, his smile fading.

“Not many sales of Jason Garrison’s jersey since he was traded to Tampa Bay.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” He glanced at the digital readout. “How much is tax here?”

The girl smiled. “We’re duty-free here. No tax as long as you take this into Canada.”

Joaquin nodded and peeled off a few bills to pay for his purchase. The girl removed the dye pack with a device. “You want me to cut off the tag for you?”

Joaquin nodded and took off his denim jacket. He shouldered into the jersey and put his jacket back on over it. He mumbled a thanks and headed for the door. As he stepped out, he had to sidestep a man with his nose in a book.

“Hey! Watch it, yo!” Joaquin called out, but the man was so engrossed in his book, he didn’t respond.

16Sunsets – Centre of Attention, Continued

#3WW Chuck’s doing this click through to get a random D&D character. He’s instructed us we don’t have to write fantasy, but to use the prompt for inspiration. I clicked ‘EXCITABLE GNOME CLERIC FROM A CARNIVAL FREAK SHOW WHO ALWAYS NEEDS TO BE THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION.’ I included prompt 409 from three word wednesday. These 975 words bring the total to 29,479:

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “16Sunsets – Centre of Attention

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