The Buses Aren't Running


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  1. #1

    The Buses Aren't Running

    3K words— drug themes and depressing. Be warned!

    The snow hasn't started to fall yet, but the predictions are for large totals. It would be a great day to stay inside and hide out in the basement. The only problem is I'm starting to feel that gross urge and I realize I absolutely have to go out— regardless of inclement weather conditions.

    Let me tell you a little more about myself and the reason why I have to leave the basement will start to make more sense. Mid 30's, unemployed and addicted. Live in parents basement, other addicts apartments and on the streets for long periods of time just walking in the neighborhood that I buy and use in. I'm not doing too well mentally and I'm not really worried about whether I'm following the rules of society any longer.

    I'm searching through things that I have scattered all around the basement and trying to locate anything that will help me to feel better. Looking for a book that I can sell at the used bookstore for a few dollars bus money, a random stolen checkbook in one of the several different styles of wallets I've collected that might have a last check that I can parlay into a bottle and a few dollars for the dealer.

    I find enough to get on the bus downtown and proceed to get ready for the trip. Most of the people I hang around with these days are too good to ride the bus and steal from the thrift store to get a little bit of nothing to sit and smoke and get by. I am not sure why I'm not able to be too good for that too. I'm really on my last leg. Truly on the bottom rung.

    School kids are on the bus a lot and usually I am so focused on the task at hand that I don't mind their looks and the looks of the other adults riding downtown. Even though it's my hometown city and I'm riding in the part of town that I've lived for years I never see anyone I know. I'm not supposed to be on the bus. I went to college prep school. I sat in fancy restaurant bars and dated beautiful girls. I'm not supposed to be a bus rider in this city with poor mass transit.

    I've done this same day so many times that it's really automatic. I had this same experience when I was younger with trips to the bar— I swore the car knew the way home regardless of how in the bag I was. Now it was buses and backpacks with little undercover slits cut into them to hide contraband and long days of wandering from dealers house to dealers house searching for just a little bit to keep my engine firing. This was a normal day except for the snow that was predicted. Normal for me, I mean.

    It's hard to be a good thief when you are sketchy and riding the bus. It isn't impossible to do it, it's just hard. There is an element of surprise that you bring to the table as a vehicle-less thief that I don't think should be overlooked. It never got normal. The sharing of the bench with the 80 year old woman with her grocery bag always felt odd. I usually chose to stand.

    Mass transit is hard to understand when you're scared and high. There are a surprising amount of routes and the fold up schedules are hard to manipulate with shaky hands. I had so
    many of those schedules. Today the schedules are probably digital and carried on smart phones. I couldn't have kept a smart phone for long. I would still be using fold up schedules like the maps that you buy on road trips.

    The backpack was usually stuffed with books no one wanted to buy from me,a chef's knife for protection,a meth pipe stuffed in one of the carefully sliced slits in the pack for when I scored and maybe a small container of Listerine to take the edge off during the bus rides.

    I'd make my way down to a nice part of the city where I used to work and enjoy the partying in the bars and now I went to try and make a few dollars by petty thievery. I'd go back and forth in the downtown on foot and try to work up the courage to try and snatch something to steal and sell. If I had a little something to get loaded on first it was easy. When you're dying to get money for a score it was really fucking brutal. No one's paying as much attention to you as you think they are but hindsight as they say is twenty twenty and I wasn't seeing very clearly.

    Normally I'd start off with small talk with Jim the bookstore owner and then sneakily meander over to the art books or the classic literature section and then I'd start looking for rare and hopefully small copies of desirable books. I don't think Jim cared too much. He was kinda old and it was probably harder to deal with me than it was to allow me to pilfer.

    After a few small books were jammed under the shirt the next step was the walk across the downtown area or a bus ride uptown to a different area if I was feeling extra paranoid about being caught. The big churchy guy at the midtown used bookstore was easy to take advantage of until the taped -up thief coat that was held together with duct tape fell to pieces at his checkout area one afternoon.

    After getting a few dollars, maybe as much as 40 or 50 on a particularly good day, I'd buy a pack of cigarettes and a pint of booze and start the walk into the neighborhood. The neighborhood was where I knew people who sold and used and I felt comfortable wandering that area high and was normally able to score as long as I had cash or something good to swap.

    I was comfortable in the neighborhood as long as I had somewhere to stash my pack and get high for a little while. It wasn't really safe to stay in most of the places I'd score for very long on account of frequent police visits. Everyone we saw was assumed to be undercover police. I didn't live in the neighborhood and wasn't completely accepted in it, but most people knew I wasn't undercover and therefore let me keep coming around even when I started being a problem in the area. Scams had become a regular way of life in the neighborhood long before I arrived and I wasn't quite as seasoned as some of the other people making petty theft their avocation. I wasn't a big deal.

    The people I met in the neighborhood were unlike any other people I'd ever spent time with in my life. None could be trusted — including me. People had brothers in the penitentiary and sometimes a few of the people we knew were on the lam and particularly dangerous to be around. A one-eyed addict, a drug dealing mother, a criminal or two that I was learning new ways of getting by from and a hot-head dealer were all in a days acquaintances. It was fun. The excitement was real. It felt great as long as the booze and drugs were available — which meant the crime had to be continuous.

    Lifting books from the thrift stores and second hand book shops was getting it done for me sometimes but it didn't produce any major income. The crimes had to be bigger and better in order for the whole group of derelicts to get by and continue to use without having jobs. All kinds of high hours were spent concocting new schemes and planning elaborate new crime options. The vast majority of them never came to fruition and I believe we never even attempted most of the plans.

    If there was one thing that kept this group going to the dealers house it was check fraud. All of the offshoots of each group seemed to know someone who broke into houses and stole. One thing that was always taken was a checkbook. Checks were a prized commodity because the dreams of how big they could be written for and cashed were never ending. Usually it didn't amount to much.

    Sometimes a particularly weak business would be found where they accepted checks no questions asked and everyone would descend upon it with a flurry. The place would get bombarded and the clerk working wouldn't give a damn since he was getting minimum wage and likely wouldn't have minded being fired. Liquor, phone minutes and cigarettes were flying out of the place until someone would see a cruiser in the vicinity and assume they were waiting for the eighth guy with the same name to write a check that week. It was just a matter of time before the "no checks" sign would go up on the convenience store door.

    They called the one-eyed guy "The Sandman"because he had been a knockout artist in the penitentiary and used to "put people to sleep." He wasn't an upstanding citizen, but he liked me and I didn't give a damn how bad he was as long as it didn't negatively affect me. Sandman shot-up his drugs and that always freaked me out. The IV users always brought the brutal force of reality down and I didn't dig reality. He had been shot in a dope deal years ago and lost the eye. He was a big, strong Native American kid and the girls in the neighborhood liked him even with the missing eye. He was on the cities most wanted list for punching a cop. He punched some of those girls that liked him too.

    The neighborhood had all kinds of long term residents that knew every person that had lived there for the last 40 years. People there were absolutely mad. The drugs had really made the reality factor dip low and everyone had stories of witchcraft and conspiracy theories and secret underground dwellings. The longer I wandered that neighborhood and smoked those drugs the more mad I found myself becoming too. Every face was watching me. Every car an unmarked police car.
    I teetered on the brink of a nervous breakdown and maybe actually crossed the line a few times.

    When it got too insane I'd try to sell something and take a bus back to my parents basement. It was a chance to get some food and sleep a dozen or more hours. My instincts always sent me right back out the door as soon as I'd recharged the batteries. I'd start calling people from the neighborhood and looking for the next chance to get obliterated.

    Doing this for a few years takes its' toll on the body, especially the brain, of a person. The depression and the anxiety level that's involved in this lifestyle is immense. But I didn't really want to stop.

    On the bus downtown in the winter I thought about Sherry the drug dealing mother who had moved from partying on the weekends and making a few dollars on the side, to now being locked away in the women's penitentiary. The kids were doomed. The chances of ever stopping the cycle of addiction in the family were small and these things added up to misery for exponentially more people in the future. She probably didn't care. I certainly wouldn't have cared.

    The other addicted souls from the neighborhood were a bigger mystery to me than the incarcerated mother. The others were in and out of county lockup and seemed mostly alright with that. They tried some new con or small time robbery and then they either accepted the consequences of it or they continued to do it as long as it was bearing fruit. They were much ( probably exactly) like me, but they didn't have a security blanket in their family. When the heat came down they were left to handle it on their own.

    One day the main place that we all met up at in the neighborhood was being painted. The absentee ownership was trying to fix up the small complex in order to get what they could get and disappear, I assume. The scaffolding went up and the whole neighborhood began to chatter. It couldn't be as simple as a slum lord getting ready to sell— it had to be the drug enforcement department bringing in undercover cops.

    When I arrived and saw the work going on it was unusual and the paranoia certainly did begin to envelop me. The apartment that we met at was rented by a few people in the neighborhood that were trying to use it to get life a little more normal at the beginning. Eventually it became a hub for the local drug trade and a regular stop for the local police.

    The apartment started off as a relatively nice place and didn't always have the security cameras installed at the front door. Eventually the furniture was stolen and the main tenants were away in jail on various charges and various lengths of stay. I decided to keep coming back even when no one else was coming.

    Walking around the neighborhood when all my regularly seen people were scared to show their faces because of frequent patrolling or were down the street in county jail was strange. The main dealer was still around. He was immediately thought to be a confidential informant and was probably one. I used to visit his sheeted and card boarded up windows place and bring him whatever I could manage to lift that he might like while all the other members of the unofficial crime ring were away. He usually didn't want what I came up with, but he was an addict too and he usually liked to have company while he was high. I'd sit in his place and wait for as long as necessary for him to offer me a chance to get a hit. It was excruciating.

    When the group started to return and make its way back into the neighborhood after jail stints the place was having its outsides painted. All the returning addicts were trying to convince one another that they weren't now snitches and could be trusted back in the fold. All the lucky early releases were looked at as damning evidence of certain informant.
    The scaffolding with painters on it led us to move toward destroying any trace of our illegal behaviors of the previous months. The place had a fireplace and everything started to go into it.

    When I saw this happening it was obvious that the real mess was about to begin and the true amount of thievery was about to be exposed. The boxes of papers with early attempts at check forgery, stolen contents of house break ins, all the remnants of failed attempts at drug production— all were being tossed into the tiny fireplace. It was a weird couple of days.

    My main running mate this whole time was a resourceful small time crook named Carl that always seemed to be pretty confident that the next big score was right around the corner and that all was going to be fine. He had been a kid from a good family that somehow ended up having a bunch of connections in the various thievery rings around the city. I never figured out how he had made these seemingly random connections. The city wasn't so big that it was unthinkable to know people in every part of town, only the different elements didn't seem to mesh.

    Carl was sort of different than the rest of us. The drugs were always going through him and he never seemed to take a break. Everyone except Carl disappeared for a few days now and then. Occasionally he'd snap and need a day or two alone to get his mental faculties back together— as much as that was possible. I'd always be waiting around for him to snap back on account of his ability to find the best connections. He'd be annoyed by my waiting around while he tried to cool out, but I was not in any hurry and eventually we'd get back out.

    The snow had really dumped on the city since I went into the boarded up place that the dealer lived in. It was getting late and one of the bus schedules that I'd managed to pull out of my backpack and decipher told me I'd missed the last scheduled run back to my parents' part of town. There was no other option than walking. I was mostly alright with it— I had accomplished my mission.











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    Last edited by loueleven; May 19th, 2017 at 03:01 AM.

  2. #2
    Member dither's Avatar
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    Loue,
    as a piece of writing, a story, I sort of like it. It's a shit subject but that's life, it is what it is. Life I mean.
    3K, that's a lot of words but you had me hanging in there waiting for, hoping for, something to happen.
    Like what ? you may ask. I don't know like what but dialogue, give me some interaction and bring some of your characters to life.
    Y'know? Sure, as piece of writing, the purists would probably rip the hell out of it but I think it could be worth the read and worth the effort of work required to put some meat on those bones.
    It promises raw and edgy but, for me, it doesn't deliver
    And you know what? I was sort of okay with it until the fourth last paragraph when you spoke of it being " a weird couple of days". I would have preferred " a strange couple of days" but then what do I know? I'm only a reader.

    Good luck Loue,
    keep writing and keep posting.
    If i post a comment on a "WIP", LOOK! I'm a reader that's all, and i can only tell how i feel, as a READER, giving/offering feedback. Hoping to learn and grow here. So please, tell me where i'm going wrong.

    Me? I'm just a fly on the wall.

    Look! I'm trying, okay?

    One can but dream, if only i had dared.

    "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong" Mahatma Gandhi.
    Alas, i am weak.

    I must find a way to Eastbourne and i so wish that i could dance.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by dither View Post
    Loue,
    as a piece of writing, a story, I sort of like it. It's a shit subject but that's life, it is what it is. Life I mean.
    3K, that's a lot of words but you had me hanging in there waiting for, hoping for, something to happen.
    Like what ? you may ask. I don't know like what but dialogue, give me some interaction and bring some of your characters to life.
    Y'know? Sure, as piece of writing, the purists would probably rip the hell out of it but I think it could be worth the read and worth the effort of work required to put some meat on those bones.
    It promises raw and edgy but, for me, it doesn't deliver
    And you know what? I was sort of okay with it until the fourth last paragraph when you spoke of it being " a weird couple of days". I would have preferred " a strange couple of days" but then what do I know? I'm only a reader.

    Good luck Loue,
    keep writing and keep posting.
    Thank you very much, dither. It's a work in progress and I appreciate the feedback— anything in particular of yours that you would like read? I'm a better reader than I am a writer.


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  4. #4
    Member dither's Avatar
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    loueleven,
    I was dreading looking at your response to my comments but I saw the like and how bad could it be?
    I'm no writer, just a reader who has a dream, y'know? And I hate offering a critique cos what the hell do I know?
    Well, I know what I like or rather, I know what I don't like. No I don't. How confusing is that?
    You took me on a journey and I sort of " got it ".
    If i post a comment on a "WIP", LOOK! I'm a reader that's all, and i can only tell how i feel, as a READER, giving/offering feedback. Hoping to learn and grow here. So please, tell me where i'm going wrong.

    Me? I'm just a fly on the wall.

    Look! I'm trying, okay?

    One can but dream, if only i had dared.

    "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong" Mahatma Gandhi.
    Alas, i am weak.

    I must find a way to Eastbourne and i so wish that i could dance.

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