Jenna knew riding the bus would be unpleasant, but she was totally unprepared for the pungent aroma that now pummeled her senses. With furrowed brows and wriggling nose, she turned her head from side to side, searching out the offending odor that seemed to be all around her at once. That’s when she noticed the scruffy gentleman sitting next to her. He wore a beat-up olive-green army jacket and a navy blue toboggan pulled down to his ears. His face was black with a combination of dirt and five o’clock shadow. Jenna leaned in close and sniffed.
“You stink,” she said.
Far from taking exception, the man flashed a broad, toothy smile tinged with yellow and something green between the lower incisors. But it wasn’t his teeth that struck Jenna dumb(er), but his eyes. They were so… brown. They reminded her of that song, “Brown-eyed girl,” but in Jenna’s mind, where she now heard the chorus, the word girl had been replaced with boy. “You’re my brown-eyed boy,” she mumbled breathlessly.
“I am?” The man asked.
“Oh… um. Not you,” Jenna hurried to conceal her thoughts. “I certainly didn’t mean you. I was thinking about this other stinky, brown-eyed boy I know. I don’t know why I thought of him. He’s nothing like you.”
“The name’s Hunk. Hunk Stormdrain.”
“Oh my,” Jenna said. She touched her heart, which was suddenly beating madly. She began to feel faint.
Hunk leaned forward and spat in a paper cup.
Jenna took the opportunity to recover her bearings. “And what do you do, Mr. Stormdrain,” she asked.
“You’re lookin’ at it, Princess.”
“You’re a professional spitter?”
“For a time. For a time. Now I mostly ride The Hound from one end of the country to the other. Then, I hop on another bus and ride the other way.”
“You live on a bus?”
“Yep. Extravagant, ain’t it?” He wiped a bit of tobacco juice off the corner of his mouth with his sleeve.
“Ew,” said Jenna, her voice somehow combining disgust with overt longing.
“Yep. It’s the life all right, but I can afford it. You’d be surprised how much money falls out of people’s pockets while they’re asleep. ‘Course, I do other things when I’m short on funds. I make trades with the drivers. Change tires, oil, that sort of thing.”
“Did you say you change the oil?”
Jenna held her breath and leaned in close. “I don’t suppose you have any secrets about that do you, Mr. Stormdrain?”
“Nope. I’m an open book.”
Jenna was dazzled by that smile of his, and also by his exotic lifestyle. For the first time in several hours, Jenna began to consider what her life might be like if she didn’t return to the post office. Sure, Hunk didn’t have the money and the power that Postmaster Koop J had, but he did have most of his teeth. At that moment, she came to an important albeit impulsive decision.
“Oh, Hunk. I’m coming with you. I want to ride The Hound with you.”
“What’s that?” Hunk held a cupped hand up to his ear, but it was no use. He was deaf in that ear.
“Oh, I don’t care what people think. I don’t even care how smelly you are—although we’ll be sure to take care of that at the next rest stop—the important thing is that I love you.”
“Look, lady. I’m not really interes-” At that moment, Hunk’s words were cut off by Jenna’s tongue, which had entered his mouth. He struggled momentarily, but Jenna’s grip around his torso was too strong. As the greyhound roared down the highway, Hunk’s muffled protests were drowned out by sound of the engine. Within a few miles, Hunk decided to go with the flow. Long ago, he had given up on trying to predict the future. There was only one thing he knew about the future: that it was full of secrets. What he didn’t know was that some of those secrets could be very oily.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Review of Novel-in-Progress Chapter 7 Chapter 8