It was cold. God it was cold. He wasn’t sure if the sun was rising in the East, but there seemed to be a sliver of light. The snow squeaked under his feet as he shifted his weight trying to stay warm. He inhaled deeply and his nasal passages felt as if they were on fire. “Snot freezing cold”, he thought. He hadn’t heard that phrase in years, since his father said it.
Big flakes fell, immediately bleaching the roofs of the buildings, blurring his vision. His home town seemed to disappear right before his eyes. Wind driven snow blew across his face, further stinging his eyes. He was at the same familiar bus stop he knew growing up. It was the only one in town. Standing here to leave meant following his hopes and dreams. Returning to this stop for more than a brief minute meant failure.
The game means everything to him; sometimes the worst thing to lose is your reason to live. No one can ever please a ghost once they are dead. He can not devour his own salvation and fate and whatever fields that are sacrificed by his arbitrary mind longing to exist by itself. He can not diminish his autonomy because he needs to cross the bridge and change his life; he was poised to change his life with some clarity of conscience. He was cognizant; whatever journey the earth provides would ultimately lead to his death. The journey itself rested on someone who was willing to lend a helping hand. He knew the alcohol became destructible. He viewed himself worthless and his hypocrisy became invisible to himself rather than others.
Off in the distance, well before he could see it, he could hear the moaning of the bus’ diesel engine. The bus creaked to a halt, and the door swung open. The drivers face was hidden in the shadows but the silhouette showed a fedora tilted back on his head. Myles lifted an eyebrow and looked around. In less than a blink, less than a sigh, the air was different. The door hissed shut and the wind died. Silence enveloped him.
“Mornin’ Myles. You’re the first stop. The bus is fully stocked so sit back and relax. This is going to be a long trip.” The driver nodded his head towards the back of the bus. Myles made his way to his favorite seat, seventh from the back on the left. He tilted his seat back, closed his eyes and gently leaned against the window, decorated with a heavy frost, which meant no one could see either in or out.
As he drifted to sleep, his conscience became uneasy and he realized he had become estranged from his family. He had a tendency to push as far as he could; his judgment was easily disguised by his teammates that have paid to take this journey.
A loud scream startled Myles from his sleep. He unfurled his body and stood up from his seat, carefully avoiding the luggage rack above. At the front of the bus, Swede and Brian were trying to hold Jonathon down. He was yelling obscenities, fighting the headlock that Swede had around his neck. Myles quickly headed to the front of the bus. Myles’ presence seemed to calm Jonathon momentarily. Then he started to struggle again. “Hey Myles!” It was Brian. “Give us a hand, Jonathon is freaking out. Myles squeezed by grappling the latch. Inside was a plastic bag full of white powder.
Myles took it and tossed it to Brian. Jonathon broke free from Swedes grip and grabbed the bag. He tore it open and jammed his face into it. A couple of deep breaths later, a strange smile crossed Jonathon’s face. He sat back upright. “Where the hell are we? It seems like we’ve been on this bus for years. Where are we going?” He seemed to be approaching hysteria and he suddenly stopped. His head lolled back, his mouth agape, drool oozing out the corner of his mouth.
Brian reached over and scooped some of the white powder from the bag and offered to Swede. Swede shook his head grinning evilly, pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He tipped it to his lips and wiped his mouth and sleeve, and said “To each their own poison!” As he was passing the bottle, Swede thought to himself “I better not have too many, I promised my wife I would be home early tonight.”
Swede handed the bottle to Myles. Myles hesitated, seemingly considering whether or not he wanted a drink. He shrugged and swallowed almost one-third of the bottle. He passed the bottle back to Swede who passed it on to Brian. Brian took a long swig and shivered. He didn’t like the neighborhood the bus was in. He couldn’t see it but it just felt ominous. The teammates spent the next while just passing the bottle in a circle, each drinking as much as they wanted.
Myles leaned over into the aisle. He looked out the windshield of the bus, but all he could see was darkness and snow being driven into the windshield. He had no idea where they were. It seemed like so many other road trips. They all just become a blur, never quite sure where the next stop is, and trying to remember when he was going to get home.
Occasionally the bus would creak to a halt, and more teammates would pile on. Every time it did, Myles would look through the front window to get his bearings. No matter where they kept driving, he just wasn’t able to recognize his location. Everything seemed normal. But it wasn’t. Myles’ head was telling him something was wrong. His watch had stopped 1:30. Every time he’d ask one of the other guys the time, they would have different responses, as if their watches were all set at different times.
Myles was getting restless and irritable. “I know we have a game, but how can we play? Everyone is drunk or high. We might be late. There is nothing worse than being late. It means everything is rushed and nothing ever falls into place. It never happens when you’re rushed! Look at these guys, they don’t give a damn if we play or not.”
Myles took another drink from the bottle and he surveyed the bus filled with players. Some he recognized, others he didn’t, teammates had always come and gone. He watched as they played cards, shot craps, and told filthy jokes. Myles was getting angry now. “These guys just don’t care. I bust my ass to get back home after a game on the road because we play the next night. These other guys are probably going to be up all night. I can’t do that, I have to get home.” He thought.
In a low voice Brian said to the group, “We need to know where the hell we’re going. Hey Bus driver, you lost?” His question was greeted with silence from the driver’s seat. “Has someone got the itinerary? Is this the last game of the trip? I need to see what’s going on!” “Boys I think I’m going to call it quits on the fun & games. All I can think about is being back at home this morning waiting in front of our arena. I remember my coining my dad’s old phrase ‘snot freezing cold’. This is freaking me out!”
One of the other players piped up. “That must have been some party last night. I thought the same thing when I woke up. Hey bus driver! What the hell is going on? Where are you taking us?” Everyone began joining in now and moving to the front of the bus. The hand from the seat signaled them to stop, and then pointed out the front window, and a familiar place took shape.
The bus creaked to a stop one last time and the driver stood up, faced the players, and pushed his fedora further back. The players recognized him instantaneously, and were about to question him when he gave them all an icy stare. The driver then stated “This is the last stop boys. Your last game.” The players all filed off the bus, while the driver read out their names. “Lindberg starts in goal, Sawchuk on the bench. Horton starts on defense. Kordic and Spencer on forward.”
The bus driver looked at Myles, “It’s your turn to get off the bus.” He refused and continued to sit silently. The bus driver returned to the wheel, lifted his fedora, shut the door, put the bus into gear and took Myles home to his wife and children. The bus driver knew what he did: he will sacrifice his life in order for him to live. That is the price he paid for running God’s errands and his failure in completing the job in order for him to live.