Synopsis: Roger Kiser has been slipped on a bus to an unknown location so that is bumpkin family could sell everything he owned. This was hardly a tragic turn considering Roger was desperate to leave them. But like a rubber ball down a storm drain, there was no way to know where he would end up.
Roger stared at the blue bus seat in front of him in profound disbelief. He had imagined leaving the Boykin clan a hundred times but never like this. In his mind, he would stride away from the house with two suitcases and a nice suit. They would ask him to stay and he would gruffly refuse. One rude gesture and a ride into Little Rock would cleave him from them forever.
Instead, they cleaved him. He was freed in such a way that the road, both figuratively and literally, was sending Kiser in any direction. Here was his opportunity for a strange start to a normal life.
The bus shook. Almost immediately, it slid into a comfortable idle and finally a low roar as it slid away from the bus station. That was it. He was free.
Roger took a moment to politely greet an older woman in the seat next to him before placing his backpack on the floor. After unzipping it, he rummaged through to remind himself of all he had left in the world. It contained his origami book, plenty of paper, a package of granola bars (rhubarb and fig), his wallet, and a bottle of urine.
For some reason, he was always forced to carry the bottle used by the little boys on long road trips. Mother had feared B.J. and Jud would fall through the hole in the back of the bus. It was all Kiser had to remember his family and it seemed strangely suited to the task.
After a period of quiet contemplation, which quickly became a nap, Roger began glancing about for something to occupy his attention. Snow-covered landscapes were nice, but somehow repetitive. Many of his fellow passengers sat either asleep or lost in their own thoughts. He looked quickly away from anyone who purposefully returned his gaze. To his surprise, there was a small brown travel bag just underneath the seat.
“Huh, looks like someone left some of their baggage.” Roger thought. “How convenient.”
Inside were a toothbrush, comb, a little cash, a tube of anti-fungal cream, and a few other items. Kiser attempted the nose hair clipper with painful results. He then noticed something vastly more interesting, a small mobile phone and an adaptable charger.
“My, my how convenient indeed.”
The phone and its accessories were all simple black except for a vaguely familiar corporate logo on the phone’s faceplate. The liquid crystal display seemed to function well, and it subtly invited Roger to attempt a call.
There were few phone numbers that he could remember or believed worth dialing. Instead, Roger decided to try a random number. He quickly pecked in 1-800 before spelling out MON-TANA in what he considered his own personal joke. Roger then pressed SEND, and raised the phone to one ear.
After two rings, a woman with a smooth voice picked up, “Thanks for calling the Nole Hotline! On behalf of myself, I would like to thank you and your corporation for making this call. Please give me your name and pass phrase in order to set up or access your account.”
After pausing for thought, Roger followed the instructions.
The woman’s voice adopted a sarcastic tone. “Ok the name on your company’s new account is ‘Honorable Roger Kiser, Esquire’, and your pass phrase is ‘Help me, I’m abandoned on a bus.”
There was a brief pause before she continued. “Thanks again for calling. This is Nole, what can I help you with?”
Roger shrugged. To what did he just sign up? “Uh, yea. I don’t know. Do you know how to get to the Land of Oz?
Her reply was surprising and not very professional, “Well, that depends on where you’re coming from. In your case that would be Stupidsville or maybe Moronsboro. Look, either way you need to head to south until you find the exit marked Gate of Hell. Take it.
Do you have any other questions sir?”
“Well, no.” Roger admitted, “not after that.”
Kilwein had thought all people who make their living on the phone understood that they were automatically required to observe a higher standard of conversational etiquette. This understanding is much the same as the way a professional truck driver is extra courteous on the highway.
In what he thought was a genuinely polite gesture; Roger asked if she had any questions.
To his surprise, she did, “Yeah, pal, I do. Where and how do you get a title like esquire anyway? Did you complete some sort of college class? Do you have to make love a certain way? Maybe you can’t have any bad habits except cigar smoking, right?”
“Not really. I just thought it was…”
Roger’s answer wasn’t satisfactory. Nole’s harangue continued, “Yeah, I bet I know! You just have to somehow convince others that that’s what you are right? I’m on to you!”
Faced with an increasingly threatening situation, Kiser hit END. He then wrapped the wire around the charger and placed the charger and the phone in his backpack.
Roger’s days riding the bus progressed without event. He would use the restroom when presented the opportunity and finding a fountain was never too difficult. Inside the restrooms were electric sockets he would use to charge Nole.
On several occasions, usually during the middle of the night, or whenever he was especially bored, Roger would whip out the mobile phone and call Nole. She always had a monologue of some sort prepared. To be honest, Roger was never really sure if her speeches were prepared just for him or this was her job. Whenever he would ask her, she would crank her ever-present ambivalence to new levels.
“So I’ve been thinking Nole,” Roger was slouched in his seat with his feet against the back of the seat in front of him. “How many foods can you name that cannot be conceivably eaten with either cheese or chocolate?”
He paused, it was the middle of the night and Roger was thinking in drowsy circles. “You know what? I cannot think of any! You might consider breakfast cereal but they have chocolate kid’s cereal right? Well, mark that off the list.”
It took a second for Nole to respond. “If I had a pickle right now, I would shove it through this phone and ram it down your throat.”
With Nole to keep him company and the country laying out for him in endless miles, Roger should have been content, yet this was not the case. His stomach had been without food for sometime, and, after spending what money he had, there was no way of attaining any more. At first, he thought this would be a major problem but after the first few days his stomach’s grumbling eased.
Also, his clothing was becoming as stale his bus seat. Roger was tired of turning his underwear inside out and washing it with hand soap from rest stops. When it was wet, he had to go without and drape it over his backpack to dry. The old lady beside him didn’t care for this method.