Emmaline had sprung for a round trip ticket from St. Louis to Reno. It only made two stops on the way out: At fucking Midway Airport in the goddamn city of Chicago and at fucking Denver International where her brother Ug lived with that bitch he called a wife. Did she want to meet her brother in Denver and drive out to Reno with him, Emmaline had asked. Fuck No. How much is he into you for those cancer treatments? Fuck yeah — I heard. What makes you think I wouldn’t? That dumb bitch doesn’t work and feeds him shit I wouldn’t give my hogs. No wonder he’s sick.

Both Frankie’s brothers groveled at the feet of any woman who showed them one iota of kindness. Then they ran to Emmaline to bail them out when those women became more and more demanding. Sure Frankie took a hand out every now and then, but that was different. She had her farm to run. If Emmaline expected her to take two days off to play dutiful daughter, it would cost her a pretty penny. Much more than just airfare.

Her plane landed in the evening and Emmaline met her with keys in hand. “You’ll have to drive,” she said. “I can’t drive at night.”

“It’s dusk.”

“Worse. But the car’s new. We bought it just before ….” Emmaline’s voice drifted off. “I may give it to David. His car barely made it out to Reno and he’s had such a bad year.”

“How about Ted’s Jeep? You know I could really use it on the farm and I hate flying. You can’t smoke in either the planes or the terminals! It’s total BS!”

“The Jeep? Oh it’s gone. I think Sara took it. Let’s stop at the liquor store and buy a couple of bottles of champagne for the service.”

“Sure why not.” Frankie could use a carton of ciggies. Maybe two. One for her and one for Shorty. Last time they’d talked she made a comment about his homo son that he’d taken the wrong way. She hadn’t meant to upset him … it’s how they talked when they were kids. How their parents talked. How their friends all talked. But, Frankie figured, it’s different when it’s your own. Still Shorty should have cut her some slack.


“Shouldn’t Ted’s kids get first shot at his crap?” Frankie asked as she watched her brothers fill their station wagons with skis, camping equipment, hunting rifles and saddles.

“But Ted thought of all of you as his kids. He made no distinctions between his and mine. He was that kind of man!” Emmaline said with a fresh sob.

“Well, he did put up with you,” Frankie began but her mother had already turned toward the screen door where the neighbor stood waiting. “That should qualify him for some kind of sainthood.”

“Can you just can it for the next twenty four hours?” Shorty asked.”Here, have some bourbon.” He was pushing fifty but still looked like one of Peter Pan’s lost boys. Dressed in ill-fitting clothes. Fat, like his wife. Probably pigging out on crap food and riding that Harley all over town instead of walking.

“I don’t have to drink to deal with my shit.”

“Let’s see. What is your shit? Your husband left you. You kicked your own daughter out of the house.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Alice wanted to go live with her father. She was too damn lazy to work on the farm and so I told her ‘go live with your fat father but don’t come back here when it all turns to shit.’ And it did.”

“God, you have an ice cube for a heart.”

“Yeah and how did I get that way? You think Emmaline has a heart?”

“The kid’s father was dying,” Shorty capped the bottle and put it back in the fridge. Then he turned to his brother. “It’s time to go. You gonna carry the urn, Dave, cause you know Emmaline. I’ll drive…“

“Sure. I’ll take Ted. He was a good to me—”

“Micheal’s death wasn’t my fault.”

“Just can it, Nancy Jean or whatever the hell you call yourself now. For one night, just can it. Dave and I don’t want to hear your shit.”

“We can’t take an airline ticket as payment for a ticket on the bus.” The man in the ticket booth said. “We can take cash or a debit card, that’s it.”

“Reno sure has gone to shit!” When Frankie was a girl an airline ticket was easy to hock for just about anything. A carton of ciggies, a six pack or two for the guys. “How about the pawn shops?”

The cashier rolled his eyes. “If you haven’t noticed, we’re shutting down the terminal. The next bus headed east leaves for Salt Lake at four AM, lady. Cash or debit card. Now.”

“Shorty, can you lend me fifty. That should get me home and outta your hair.”

Shorty reached into his pants pocket and pulled forth four tens. “Don’t tell me you’re that broke because I don’t believe it.”

She grabbed the cash from her brother’s hands and handed it to the ticket agent.

“The terminal won’t reopen till five so you’ll have to meet your bus outside at Gate Five.”


The man handed her a ticket and closed the window. “Thanks for choosing Greyhound”

Shortly threw her bag at her feet. “Well, that’s it. Another stellar family reunion. Why don’t we do this again real soon.”

“Say Shorty. Wanna take a drive? I’ve got like four hours to kill. We can visit our favorite haunts … like McGain’s Sporting Goods? See the spot where the Colonel got his brains blown out by the bad guys.”

“You’re sick, you know that? God do I hate this town.”

“Yeah, like Houston is that much better. What about me – what am I gonna do until four AM in goddamn Reno Nevada.”

“You had to bring it up, didn’t you? You weren’t here. You don’t know what happened. You just had to stick it to Emmaline. And right after we spread Ted’s ashes.”

“You know it wasn’t a goddamn homicide … you know that.”

“Good bye Nancy Jean.” Shorty said and then turned to walk away. Maybe if she called him Curt he wouldn’t be so goddamn precious. She could understand Ug being all uppity. He had gone back to college and gotten a degree but Shorty was a goddamned biker.

Frankie grabbed her bag and walked out into the night. Christ. It could still be fucking 1969, she thought as she stood on Center Street. Nothing had changed. The same old strip malls lined the street, many of the stores abandoned or neglected as they had been twenty-five years earlier. I wonder if the Cal Neva still has that all night cafe, she wondered. Of course they do. Nothing changes in this hell hole.

She pulled the hundred dollar bill Emmaline had given her from the pocket of her jeans and tucked it into her bra. The Greyhound might take a day and a half to reach St. Louis but at least she’d be able to take plenty of smoke breaks. Maybe the driver would even let her light up on the bus. Especially if the bus was empty. And when she hit St. Louis she could probably get a refund on that Reno to St. Louis ticket. Of course it would be nothing compared to what her brothers could get by hocking all Ted’s stuff. Too bad, Ted. I liked you. I really did.

9 thoughts on “Greyhound

    1. A while back there was some discussion of suicide which reminded me of the last time I saw my step siblings. Their bio father (a Colonel) had been stationed for awhile in Vietnam. My step sister always claimed that he committed suicide after returning home and that her mother and brother staged it to look like a robbery for the insurance money. She decided to make a scene of it at my father’s wake!!! Anyway – don’t know why this post thinks it was published back in December – the joys of WordPress.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Hi Jan,

    I laughed through most of this and , of course, it ended sadly, which was the way it was supposed to end. I was talking to Aaron yesterday about dialog and I’ve got to say, this was really, really good dialog. It could easily go into a stage play. It helps to live somewhere and know the people there in order to write about all of it. The closest thing I have to Reno is Sparks and my great-great uncle, John Sparks. Otherwise, I don’t have a clue. Maybe that’s my problem with Flipka, I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. Anyway, about this excellent piece of writing: why can’t you do this all the way through with Flipka. Why can’t these characters be involved? You got the mojo working here, just let it “bleed”, as A. Mole says, into your rewrite. It might be exciting for you. Oh well, I must attend to my shingles. I forgot to mention that to you. Fighting this shit is not so easy. Duke P.S. This is the day of the expanding man. It seems like only yesterday … that’s all in the past. What a shame about me. I’m ready to cross that line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somebody read “Blank Women”, which I’d totally forgotten about. It’s in Malverde Days. It’s about Mexican women who have lost lovers and kids to the Narcos. It seemed ok. Also, I’m rereading Naked Lunch. I’ve decided that Burroughs is pretty much a giant dick with weirdly great talent as a writer. Otherwise, what a self centered, lying motherfucker. I probably would have killed him down here in Mexico, but that’s easy talk eighty years after the facts as they played out in Roma. Have a nice day. Keep up the progress on your injury. Tough luck. Sorry. Duke PS, How many people do you know who make meaningless threats about William Burroughs? Not many, I’d guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I forgot to add … at least you and I have been consistent all of these years. There has to be something good about that. Authenticity of voice? Probably. Duke

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’s save to make death threats to a dead man.. The first month out of the cast my foot was numb but now after PT it’s starting to hurt like shit. But at least it’s starting to look like a foot.


    2. I often see that Greyhound bus station at midnight even though I wasn’t there. You probably would have gotten a kick out of my step sister – she dressed and looked a lot like a female Tom Waits and even had that raspy voice. And she had no filter. Completely self-absorbed except when it came to her goats, pigs, ponies, chickens etc.. And I’m sure she would have agreed that she was a rotten mother to animals of the human variety.


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