The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Bus ride measured in staccato phone snap and ring glint

Rachael Conlin Levy
Holman Road, 1959

Holman Road, 1959. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives.

The man cupped the hair brush in his hand and turned toward the bus window for a private evaluation of his reflection in the glass. He smoothed his hair, then began on his mustache, thick and coarse as straw. Because it was the same pale shade as eyebrow and eyelash, it created a permanent impression of surprise on his face. He wore a brown leather jacket too wide in the shoulders, and on both hands he wore chunky gold rings.

He slipped the brush into a coat pocket and pulled out a scuffed flip phone that he opened and closed, opened and closed as his rings glinted in the sunlight. A second man took the empty seat next to the first. The bus was quiet except for the phone’s staccato snap.

 

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Holman Road, 2020. View from a bus.

“That’s some jewelry you got there,” said the second man. “What are they? Dragons?”

“Nah, man,” said the first, putting the phone away and holding out both hands. “This is a panther, this is a bat, and this is onyx–all from Value Village.”

“I’ve never seen jewelry like that,” the second said.

“You gotta check out their jewelry case. Sometimes there’s nothing but junk, but then you find things like this,” and he shaped the three ringed fingers into devil horns. “I’m an Ozzy Osbourne fan.”

“I like the Stones, myself.”

“Classic rock is cool. Rolling Stones. Elvis. Elvis was the original.”

“They say rock and roll got its start in the Blues,” the second said.

“That’s right, man. It’s a straight line.”

“You hear B.B. King died?”

“Huh-huh. Eighty-nine.”

The bus climbed Holman’s hill, and the driver called out the next stop.

“That’s mine,” the first said. “Getting out at Dick’s. A man’s gotta eat, you what what I mean?”

The two men talked burgers and Seahawks and the weather until the conversation stalled for a measure. In the silence, the first man hummed to himself, head-banging to an internal rhythm.

“You a musician?” the second asked.

“Nah. But my dad, he was a songwriter. Thirty-five years.”

“Yeah? Anything, I kno–”

“Never published.”

“Oh.”

The bus slowed to a stop. A ringed hand was extended and gripped.  “Rock on, man,” the first said, then he was out the door, fist-pumping the bus, the sunshine, the city.



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