Leroi got on the bus and presented his transfer slip to the driver, who
him and said, "This is from last Tuesday. You can't use this." Leroi
headed toward the back of the bus. The driver shook his head and stomped on the
gas, sending him lurching down the aisle. He took a seat, second from the
the right, as always. He pulled a crumpled lunchbag from his backpack and
extracted a flattened peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He laid one half on
knee and took out a bottle of beer.
The bus driver, who had been peering at him distrustfully in the mirror, slammed on his brakes. He whipped off his seat belt, stood up, hiked up his faded blue pants, and ran to the back of the bus. He grabbed Leroi by the shoulders and swung his limp body around, smashing him against the window. The glass shattered loudly. All of a sudden, everyone on the bus sprung out of their seats, grabbed a shard of glass, and began slashing at their neighbor's face. A man named Janson survived. The media did not escape retribution.
Leroi lay in the hospital bed, wiggling his fingers in his cast. He reached for the call button and hit it with his plaster-encased wrist. A nurse entered the room with a worried look on her face.
"Did you eat your Jell-O, Leroi?"
He glared at her. "I don't like green Jell-O."
"Did you eat your mashed potatoes?"
He stared at his feet.
"Leroi?" She repeated. He didn't answer, closing his eyes with exasperation. A machine next to his bed let off a high-pitched shriek. The nurse started yelling for a doctor as she grabbed Leroi by the shoulders and shoved his head back. "Respiration!" she shouted.
"What?" Leroi choked as a tube was shoved down his throat.
"You're dying!" the nurse screamed into his ear. He slipped into unconsciousness, dreaming of huge bowls of green Jell-O.
Leroi stood behind the counter, staring blankly at the little screaming woman in front of him. "Without salt!" she yelled.
Leroi signed. "Ma'am... we don't sell hash browns."
"I want them without salt!"
He turned and looked for the manager, who had been ignoring him since he issued his uniform. "No salt!" the woman said again, poking him in the back with a sharp finger.
Leroi walked over to the fry maker and peered into it. The drive-though attendant shoved him out of the way as he reached for the scoop; Leroi slipped in the grease and skidded off toward the back room. He went in and ate his lunch.
"Gregor," Leroi said impatiently, "why don't you come in? It's snowing."
His friend gurgled in reply. Leroi opened the window wider and Gregor stuck a hairy antenna inside. He made a series of quiet noises which Leroi understood as "gardenhose constancy."
Leroi tossed him a crusty roll and watched him scuttle off. The telephone rang and he stared at it, wondering who it could be.