Magic Bus By Melanie Browne

It all started with the initial surgery I had on my index finger. It was crooked, so much so that when I pointed at someone, I was never really pointing at them, but at something else, like a fire hydrant or an elm tree or something. It all became very confusing. The insurance considered this type of surgery “cosmetic,” and so I had to take out a bunch of loans with some very low-brow people. I mean this figuratively and literally. At the same time I owed money to some crooks for those very high interest loans, I became addicted to painkillers. I used anything to get rid of the pain, including alcohol.

I quit my most recent job renewing fashion magazine subscriptions because it was boring and started scouring Craigslist. Besides wanting to escape the bad loans, I wanted some excitement and adventure. I selected at random Anchorage, Alaska, and then Associate Wedding Photographer. I am not a photographer. I also know nothing about Alaska, however it sounded exciting. It sounded sophisticated. I wanted a new life.

I watched a couple of videos about Anchorage, Alaska, and also a couple of videos about How to Photograph Weddings, neither of which were very helpful.

I wasn’t even certain people got married there. Weren’t they too busy hunting and fishing and chopping wood? Because I wasn’t sure how the phone interview would go, I also made sure to respond to an ad to “get paid to review music,” which sounded fun. I knew it was possible that both of these jobs were scams, well highly likely, but I figured that since the jobs were both in Anchorage, I might hear something.

A few days later I got an email back from Aaron with the ad about getting paid to review music. He asked me to call his cell phone and so I did that.

“Hello?”

“Is this Aaron, about the ad, in Alaska?”

“Ad, oh yeah, that’s right. The ad. Listen I’m kind of busy right now, let me call you back in 10 minutes.”

I couldn’t be sure, but I think I heard the sound of screaming in the background. It sounded like several people screaming actually. This freaked me out, but over the years I have learned to shut off my instincts, because they never really help me to achieve my goals -which is to have money at my disposal and not have to do much to get it. I finished watching the Kardashians and then called Aaron back.

This time he was calm and relaxed. I didn’t hear anything in the background.

“Yes where were we? The ad …”

“I thought I heard screaming before. Is everything ok? Do you need me to dial 911?”

“Oh that? No, that was just cats, I have a lot of cats, and they were hungry. They get like that sometimes.”

He coughed a couple of times, and then cleared his throat.

“So, you’re interested in the job? You live here right? You’re not another one of those Magic Bus people are you? Please don’t say you live in Georgia.”

I coughed.

“Pardon me, what are Magic Bus people?”

“Oh, you know, they see that movie about that McCandless kid that starved and they come out here looking for enlightenment.”

“No, I’m looking for cash enlightenment. I don’t live there yet, but I’m coming soon, and I like pasta.”

“Well, look, the job won’t pay enough to feed you, but it’s worth at least a crapload of Ramen noodles. Just review a couple of bands and if it’s worth publishing it, we will. If not, no harm no foul.”

“Great.”

*

“Listen, there’s another job. One that pays a bit more so you don’t starve. It’s not for everybody but you sound desperate.”

“I’m listening.”

“You get to Anchorage and then give me a ring and we’ll take it from there.”

I pawned a couple of my exes’ guitars to help get a one way ticket to Anchorage. I was only there a few days living in a low budget place with only off-brand raisin brand and sour milk for breakfast when I called Aaron back.

“So, now you really live here?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t say live exactly.”

He gave me an address, but I didn’t want to take any chance so I wrapped a Bowie knife in several layers of washcloths and tucked it in my purse. I didn’t want to be caught unawares.

When I arrived at the address a rugged looking man came to the door with sunglasses. He motioned for me to come inside where he looked me over thoroughly up and down before carefully shutting the door.

“Did you take Home Economics?”

“What?”

“In Junior high, did you take Home Ec?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“So you can cook and clean and sew and use small appliances?”

“Certainly.”

“You’re hired.”

And so began my life as a willing accomplice to a kidnapper. Most of the Kidnapees were a bit older so sometimes I had to check their blood pressure or give them medications or prepare them sandwiches without much salt. Sometimes I had to sew up wounds which was a bit disgusting and if they bled a lot, we used sugar to stop the bleeding. We used anything we could find really. Life in Anchorage wasn’t really like I had envisioned it, but Aaron promised to take me to see some Fjords, which is pronounced “Fee-Yords” or so he tells me.

After a few weeks, Aaron started getting a bit too jealous natured if I tended to an elderly man’s wounds too long or if I took extra care preparing a younger man’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That started getting old, so I started to prepare a “rainy day fund – to leave at a moment’s notice.

The first place I am going is Christopher McCandless Magic bus. But I plan to take a lot of provisions, and a lot of Ramen Noodles.

 *

Melanie Browne lives in Texas.

6 thoughts on “Magic Bus By Melanie Browne”

  1. I really like this story! It’s intelligent, interesting, witty, and quirky (quirky is extremely good in my eyes). P.S. If you decide to follow in Christopher McCandless’s aka Alexander Supertramp’s footsteps, be careful what seeds you eat.

  2. I love this story! I read it twice, enjoying it at least as much the second time. I agree with Chris Stucchio. “It’s intelligent, interesting, witty and quirky,” four of my favorite attributes in a story.

  3. There’s nothing more refreshing than being “caught unawares” by a Mel Browne story with crunchy pop culture and side of ramen noodles.

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