Dispatches

Blue Moon

Stephen Osborne

We look back and so much of the past seems to portend what would come later. The man in the seat in front of me on the Greyhound bus was returning to Edmonton from his annual vacation in Las Vegas, where in the off-season you can get a cheap room with everything you need, colour TV, air conditioning, room service, no windows, but who needs windows in Las Vegas? He didn’t gamble but he liked to eat cheap meals and read thriller novels and go out to girlie shows, which he preferred to do discreetly as he put it, although once this last time they sat him at a front table two feet away from the showgirls, and that was something, he said, and he held a hand out in front of his chest and blew out his cheeks: if you know what I mean. Across the aisle an older woman with a German accent and her husband, who spoke in the flattened vowels of the Cree peoples or perhaps the Blackfoot Nation, were telling the young woman in the seat ahead of them about the limousine that they had been given use of in Hollywood because the husband, who owned a ranch in Alberta and was wearing a ten-gallon hat in the Greyhound bus, had played an Indian chief in River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe. I would have liked to join their conversation and perhaps introduce myself to the young woman and get to know her a little and go and live with her somewhere in deepest Alberta, but I couldn’t escape the narrative grip of the man in front of me, who had draped himself over the back of his seat and locked his eyeballs onto mine. After Las Vegas he had gone on to San Francisco, where they have porno movies everywhere as he put it, and he had seen Hair the musical, the men standing naked straight up just like that, but the women were all sitting down. The Greyhound bus hurtled down a hill toward a river and then we were in the depot and I hastened off the bus away from the man in the seat in front of me and stepped for the first time into the freezing streets of Lethbridge, Alberta. I had been on the Greyhound bus for twenty-three hours with no sleep and when I went into the nearest beer parlour my eyeglasses steamed up in the warm air and my hands were trembling as I put down my suitcase. Within moments a short balding man in a green windbreaker was explaining to me that his mother was going to take him shopping for pork chops and coconut fingers, heaven help him, a man of his age living with an aging mother in a crummy downtown apartment. His name was Ron and he was forty-seven years old. Last week the aging mother called the police when she lost her wallet, and she and Ron were eating their pork chops when the police came to the door and arrested him in the middle of dinner, but he wasn’t one to complain, for such was fate or perhaps it was destiny that he meant: here was a man whose life was a parable of the unkindness of the world. Last month he’d gone to the HBC to inquire about a janitor position at closing time and a couple of floorwalkers as he called them grabbed him and dragged him into the back room and next thing he was in the paddy wagon heading downtown, which in his words was ironic because everything in Lethbridge is downtown. There was a table full of beer in front of us and I had turned my gaze to the TV set above the bar, on which a wrest

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.


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