(A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT VERSION APPEARED ON BURIALDAY.COM)
He was tall, very tall, the man they called Gerin. He stood at the exit of the train cart and glanced over at several corners of the train station. He was mustached, balding on top, hair parted in a ridiculous school boy fashion. His face showed of a man very serious and stern. His suit was a bland gray with a fat blue tie that most definitely didn't match.
Gerin was confused. He was standing at the exit of the train station, not really sure why he was there. Or why he was traveling at all. He remembered almost nothing about his past, knew nothing of his future. He only knew he needed to reach the town of Vandy.
A young man in a white tunic and pale green slacks was handing out pamphlets. He saw Gerin and noticed Gerin looked lost. The pamphlets in the young man's hands revealed a doctrine of that Jesus would return to earth and all would be right. It also had a piece of scripture about stocking up on food and weapons that would help Jesus in his last crusade. On the cover of pamphlet a black and white drawing of Jesus in a cape and tights destroying the white house with laser beams shooting from his fingertips.
“I think I should give this to you,” The young man said to Gerin.
Gerin barely made a noise. Without actually looking at the young man, he took the pamphlet.
“Thank you----” Gerin smiled when he moved his eyes to the pamphlet. Gerin looked at the young man, “Yes,” He said. “Very insightful, indeed.”
“You look lost, Mister,” The young man said. “Jesus, our Lord and savior, champion of the universe, will take good care of all his children---”
The young man trembled when their eyes met. He saw Gerin no longer had pupils in his eyes, but a milky black void.
The young man dropped the pamphlets to the floor of the train station, all of them falling under the shoes of other travelers. He backed away slowly at first. Then turned and ran as fast as he could.
Gerin found a cab parked a few feet away from the newsstand behind the train station. The only cab not bothered by anyone. He walked up to the cab, opened the door to the left rider's side and slid in on
the noisiest vinyl covering he'd ever came across.
The cab driver was in the middle of his lunch. A messy hamburger where the sauce sat comfortably on his chin. “I'm not on duty,” The Cabbie said, his mouth spitting out chewed bun on his shirt. He casually wiped it off. He was looking at Gerin in the rear view mirror.
Gerin sighed. “Look I need a ride into Vandy. I'll pay double the rate.”
The Cabbie finished his burger in one swallow. When he was done, he laughed. “My God, friend. No one ride's into Vandy. Not the least it's a good fifty-six miles from this train station. It's also the most boring town in America.”
“As you say, sir, I need the ride. It includes the tip.” Gerin avoided the Cabbie's gaze in the mirror.
“It would have to, friend. On top of the fare and double the rate.” He started the engine and the cab coughed and spat out a dark cloud of fumes that nearly choked Gerin to death. “And away we go.” The Cabbie said in a sing-song voice. A few miles down a road that took them across a hill of green grass and cows with eyes the color of the black hole. Still, Gerin would not look his driver in the eyes. This annoyed the Cab driver to no ends.
“For you to pay this amount of money, not rent a car, must be pretty important to go to Vandy.” The Cabbie said.
Gerin thought a moment. He kept his eyes on the scenery. “Yes, I suppose it must be.” He retorted.
The Cabbie waited a few minutes. He laughed, looked in the rear view mirror. “Why the hell didn't you rent a car, friend?”
Gerin breathed through flared nostrils. “I can't drive,” He said.
“You're kiddin', at your age?” The Cabbie turned around briefly to see Gerrin's reaction.
Gerrin thought again. His eyebrows lowered. “I'm not not sure why I'm going there.” He said. He saw a pair of confused eyes in the rear view mirror. He looked away. “Yes. Business.”
The Cabbie felt the iciness of Gerin's voice. He shrugged, said, “I don't care what you do.”
The ride was a long one for both driver and rider. Still, almost any conversation would end with a false start. The jazz that came from the radio annoyed both, so it would get switched off several times. Gerin nearly fell asleep staring out the window a number of times. He wasn't sure, but he felt whenever his eyes were getting, so too was the Cabbie's, as the car would jerk back and forth on the road between lanes.
In two hours by the back roads, they reached Vandy. The cab pulled into a town reminiscent of white picket fences and clean roads, the stuff only existing in most minds in TV land.
The Cabbie seemed to get excited. “Man, I haven't been here in years.”
The cab pulled into the parking lot of the only hotel in town. Gerin paid the Cabbie, the stack of bills rested in the palm of his hands, then rolled them up in rubber bands and placed them in a cigar box under his seat.
“Hey, you have nice visit, mister,” The Cabbie turned to Gerin, who had already slammed the door to the cab.
Gerin walked into the lobby. A group of elderly people dressed in black parted in the middle for him to pass. He stood at the desk, waiting for the two clerks to acknowledge him. One clerk, a woman with dyed black hair fashioned in a bee hive looked at Gerin as if she'd seen the taxman at her doorstep. The other clerk, a man dressed in a black tuxedo, had eyes that bugged out of his head and was constantly blinking.
“Excuse me,” Gerin said. “Could I have some service, or do you have to be a member?”
They exchanged looks. But the male clerk stepped forward. He blinked twice, said in a high pitched voice, “Very droll, sir.”
“I'd like a room,” Gerin said.
They exchanged looks. Whispers came from the circle of elderly people. The male clerk twice. “I'm afraid I haven't any rooms available, sir.” He blinked twice more.
“Oh, no,” Gerin gave a tug at the lips of what resembled a smile, but could also have been gas. “There are very few vehicles in the parking lot. This, what I believe, is the only hotel in town.”
“That matters not,” He blinked twice. “The parking extends down the street, sir. We have a town pageant, sir. Folks from the adjoining counties are also here for the occasion.” He blinked twice more.
“I was not aware there was holiday--”
“Good day,sir.” He blinked twice, went back to the female clerk and their conversation.
Gerin was dumbfounded. He'd never experienced such rudeness. As he left the hotel, he glanced back. The circle of elderly folk were staring, one lady had her head bowed, mumbling a prayer.
Gerin had no idea where to go next. He decided to walk toward the courthouse. In a long row of houses he'd seen a cafe in the tradition of a malt shop. He'd passed a drugstore where four men, dressed in black and blue suits, sat in rocking chairs.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Gerin stepped toward them. They exchanged uneasy looks. “Could any of you point me in the direction of a bed and breakfast.”
“What in the hell would you want with a bed and breakfast room,” One of them said in a shocked voice.
“That's a silly question,” Gerin fired back.
“I'll tell you, son, but I don't think Halley will give you a room.” Another said, stubbed out his cigar.
“Why wouldn't she rent me a room?” Gerin was exasperated.
They exchanged looks.
The third man sighed. He stood, pointed. “Go a ways two blocks up this road. You see a sign for Lafferty Ave. Take that. The third house on the left. You'll know her house, she's got a sign that says Halley's place.”
“How convenient,” Gerin said sarcastically.”Thank you, gentlemen.” He walked away knowing they were staring at him.
Gerin knocked on the door of a quaint two story house that was painted powder blue. The curtains in the front room moved slightly, placed back carefully. The door opened and a woman in her early fifties, dressed in black, appeared smiling.
“Yes?” She said in broken English. She focused her eyes on the man standing at her door and her breath exited her body uneasily. She stepped back and tried to close the front door.
“Wait!” Gerin caught the door with a hand. “Please! I'm only here for a room.”
They struggled with the door, the woman finally winning the battle. “I have no rooms left!” She screamed and slammed the door shut.
Gerin walked away, running a hand across an exasperated face. “I only want a lodging for the night,” He said to no one in particular.
“What's a matter, friend? Can't get a place to stay?” Gerin looked up and it was the Cabbie who brought him to town.
Gerin smiled slightly. “It seems I rub people the wrong way,” He walked up to the cab that was idling in the street. He leaned in, resting his arm on the side mirror. “You haven't left yet?”
“Naw, I'm enjoying this place. People are friendly...well, to me. Food here is wonderful. Gee, mister, I don't know what you did to these people, but they treat me like a king.” The Cabbie thought a second. He slapped his hand on the steering wheel. “I got! Come with me and I'll get you some food and a room.”
Gerrin was more than willing. Like a child who'd received the best Christmas present ever, he giggled as he jumped in the backseat of the cab.
An hour later, Cabbie and Gerin was parked along a curb by the empty school grounds.
Gerin was slumped over in the backseat with his hand casually draped over his face. The Cabbie fiddled with the car radio. Neither was saying much. Cabbie couldn't stay quiet for long.
“Like I said, I don't know what you did to these people---” Cabbie said, almost in a whisper.
“I didn't do anything to these---oh, hell with it.” Gerin kicked the backseat.
“You want me to take you back to the train station---say...where are you from?”
Gerin sighed. “I don't remember,” He said, lost in thought.
“Okay, don't tell me.”
“No...no. I swear...I don't remember. I look in my wallet...it says on an I.D. Card I live in Santa Barbra..I really don't remember...”
Cabbie reached back there, took the wallet from Gerin. He looked through it. “Jon Gerin, 5504 Furoh Dr, Santa Barbra, CA. Looks like this is your wife,” Cabbie showed him the photo through the plastic casing inside the wallet. A wedding picture of Gerin holding hands with a young blonde woman dressed as a bride, he as a groom. “No pics of any kids..but one of a Great Dane...you really don't remember anything? Job? Parents? Where you grew up?”
Gerin shook his head.
“Geez, friend. You got it bad---hey! The Town Pageant is starting! Let's go look.” Cabbie jumped out of the car, star struck.
Gerin reluctantly followed Cabbie out of the car and down the street. He stood beside Cabbie and hundreds of onlookers as a a band of people dressed in black walking behind an old hearse led by a horse and a driver with a whip in one hand, reins in the other. The onlookers were tossing lilies at the feet of a woman walking directly behind the hearse.
“Ain't that something, friend? Right out of a PBS drama, huh? Reenactment of some kind...” Cabbie noticed Gerin wasn't at his side anymore.
Gerin had rushed out in the crowd of marching people in the street, fighting his way to the woman right behind the hearse. When he reached her, Gerin turned her around, tore the veil from her face. It was the bride from his wedding picture. He fell backwards on to the back of the hearse. The horse had stopped in it's tracks. Gerin peered inside the hearse window.
He saw himself lying there in the velvet lining of the hearse, arms folded across his the front of his black suit, eyes closed, resting so peaceful.