Brian looked out at the greyness of the road as it blurred past his window. The white lines pounded on and on and on, forcing him to pick up his head and gaze back out at the tree line. There was an uneasy feeling still circling about in his stomach, and it worsened whenever he looked down at the lines; and yet, somehow, he found himself looking down at them again. He waited, feeling the dizzineess welling up inside him, until it was too much and the sickness overwhelmed him, forcing his eyes upward.

Brian continued this little game, barely touching the drink which Jim had mixed in the bathroom for him. It wasn't the drink that was making Brian feel sick. It was an uneasy, restless feeling from deep within him that something was radically wrong, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what that something was. He knew it had something to do with his sensitivity, and the way he though and felt about things, but he also knew there was nothing he could do to change that. That was what the doctors had always told him to do: "Change your attitude, Brian. You're too sensitive. You think too much," they told him, but somehow Brian could never quite understand what they were getting at. After all, he had read in several places that human beings only use about twenty five percent of their brain's potential. The other seventy five percent went unused, wasted, as if it never existed. He often wondered how much, if any, of his brain he was really using, and whether or not he was fully living up to his potential in the eyes of God; but as many times as he had asked God about this, he had never been given an answer. Instead, he was always left with an immense sense of guilt, fearing hat he was not using his God-given talents to their fullest, and thus committing one of the worst sins. Waste. For Brian, it was a waste to merely sit through mass every Sunday morning at ten o'clock and then go home nursing a hangover to sit once again through a bacon and eggs breakfast before the Sunday afternoon football marathon. That wasn't good enough. It was in the Bible. Matthew, chapter five, verse forty-eight, Brian quoted to himself, 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." If Christ had died for all men, well then..........

Brian had worked it all out in his head, and there was no way around it. That had been one of the main reasons he had joined the seminary in the first place. The problem was that even after he had joined and things were in full swing, he still had the same uneasy, empty feeling that things weren't quite right, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not forget that restless feeling.

Brian slid lower in his seat, and gazed out at the whiteness of the horizon. The road was slightly elevated, and the land on both sides of it was flat, enabling him to look down out over the tops of the trees, as far as he could see. The green of the leaves looked dull and chalky in the humidity, and it seemed like they were driving through a slow, green desert plain. It almost looked as if he could step out of the window and walk over and across the green prairie to the edge of the world. His anticipation grew as he drew nearer to the edge, and he quickly reminded himself that it was not a prairie, and that they were trees, and that he would fall through them.

"Pssst," someone said from beside him. "Hey sonny. What you seein' out there?"

"Huh?" Brian said, turning to face the voice next to him. He looked down at the old man who was stretched across the aisle and leaning onto the seat beside him. His silvery, yellowish white hair was slicked back over the top of his head with some type of grease, but the back of it was long, and somewhat dryer. In some ways, the man didn't look all that old, but his eyes gave the appearance of a knowledge which could only have been acquired through long and hard years of living.

"I said, what you seein' out there?"

"Oh, nothing, I was just looking at the trees."

"Looks like you've got more'n yer mind 'n that."

Brian paused for a moment, looking into the old man's bright blue eyes. They were watery, but they held Brian's firmly, for as long as Brian could stand it and he had to look away. The man was dressed in a worn, short sleeved khaki shirt and matching pants.

"What's yer name?"


"Glad t' know yer, Brian," he said, extending his hand. "You can just call me the Captain, Brian." As Brian put his hand into the old man's, he was surprised at how strong his grip was.

"What're you captain of?" Brian asked as the blood came slowly back into his hand. He noticed that on the backs of the old man's forearms there were several long thin scabs of dried blood. There were more that had healed, leaving thin whitish marble-looking scars.

"The silver eagle. That's the name of my baby. We've done it all t'gether and she's never let me down."

"Is that the name of your truck or....?"

"No, no boy, it's a plane; you know, flyin'," he said, extending his arms out like wings and swaying gently form side to side. "I run a carryin' service up 'n down the coast. That's where I oughta be right now, Goddamn it. But no, instead I'm sitting here rottin' on this Goddamned bus." He sat back in his seat and reached down to his boot. Brian watched as he pulled his pant leg up and reached into the side of this boot, pulling out a thin, flat bottle. Brian could tell by the color that it was whiskey. The captain opened the top carefully and took a long, steady pull from the bottle. Brian sat staring, waiting for him to make a face or blow out, but he did not. Instead, he turned to Brian calmly and asked "Have some?"

Brian hesitated for a moment, but the captain reached over and put the bottle in his hand. He looked at it for a moment, and then lifted it to his lips. The whiskey smelled sharp and hard, and it made his stomach roll. Suddenly he was in church, with the clean, thin rimmed gold chalice to his lips, and the bitter taste of wine burning into the back of his throat. Brian blinked his eyes a few times, trying to get his bearings, but he was back on the bus again with the whiskey bottle against his lower lip and the captain staring intently at him. He lifted the bottom of the bottle, and looked down over his nose at the golden stream that flowed into him. He could feel the burn in his mouth and throat as he jerked the bottle down, exhaling sharply and tightly closing his eyes. Brian shuddered as the alcohol hit him, moving down through his chest and into his stomach. Almost instantly, he felt himself go limp all over, as a soothing rush of warmth spread through him.

The captain reached over and tapped Brian gently on the arm. Brian handed him the bottle, and he sat back and took another long pull. Again, there was no pause as he swallowed, and he passed the bottle back over to Brian. Brian took a deep breath, and lifted it to his lips again. The second drink hit him harder than the first, but it didn't taste as bad. It was beginning to make him feel good now, and he sat back comfortably in his seat. The captain put the cap back on the bottle and returned it to his boot. Brian looked carefully at the intricate patterns carved on them. He had never seen anything quite like them before. They were old, and dirty, but their leather had been finely decorated with delicate engravings and inlaid designs. There were long, thin triangles on the sides of them, which formed a circle, creating the illusion of motion. Brian watched it intently as it spun wildly in his head.

"Yep, I oughta be up there right now."

"Huh?" Brian said, looking up slowly.

"Flyin'. I oughta be flyin' right now, but I got too big a mouth. I guess that's it, I don't know. Anyway, I was supposed to be flyin' outta Harrisburg Pennsylvania down t' Tampa St. Pete with a whole load a stuff, but that's all gone t' hell now. See, I was all set t' go, when this Goddamn professional ass high class punk outta college tells me I ain't had my clearance. Says I ain' fit t' fly and he's got some young kid gonna fly my plane down t' Orangeburg and I've gotta take the bus down there t' meet him so's he can fly back up in another plane and I can finish up t' St. Pete. Well I'll be Goddamned if I'm gonna let anyone fly my plane, so when that Goddamned whiz kid walked over t' load her up, I floored 'im. Didn't get a chance t' do much after that though, on a count 'a as soon as he went down, the manager and the whole Goddamned crew was on me. Wasn't a damn thing he could do though. He's only got four planes in the company, and one of 'ems mine. Anyways, so now he says he knows I'm drunk, and says he's gonna put me on suspension, but one of them little yessirss taps him on the shoulder and reminds him that he ain't got no one else t' fly outta Orangeburg, so he tells me he's gonna call down there and check t' see if I'm drunk when I git there. If I am, then he says I'm gone. So I jes looks at 'im, and walks back t' the hangar. One 'a the little yessirs comes runnin' after me and tells me he's gotta take me t' the bus terminal so's he can buy the ticket. Ol' college boy figured I'd take the ticket money and spent it at a bar."

The captain reached down and pulled up his pant leg again. "Time for another," he said, opening the bottle. He handed it to Brian, and Brian took a quick swallow. He held it out at the captain, but the captain waved it away.

"Take another, an' I'll kill it." Brian swallowed again, and handed the bottle back. The captain took a long swallow, and finished the bottle, capping it, and tucking it down between the seats.

"So, here I am, just ridin' this bus till I get t' Orangeburg, and then I'm free again. What about you? Where you headed?"

"Not sure really. Probably Jacksonville."

"What's in Jacksonville?"

"I don't know, I've never been there."

"So what you goin' there for?"

"Well, it's kind of a long story. Let's just say I'm starting over."

"I get ya. Woman?"

"What?" "Woman. You leavin' a woman, or'd she leave you?"

"Not exactly, it's sort of...."

"Well, there's plen'y of em out there boy, so don't dwell on it. May not seem like it now, but another'll come along. What about yer friends up there?"


"Yer friends up there. The guy and the girl. They married?"

"No," Brian said quickly. "I mean, they're not my friends."

"Well, I seen you talkin' to em at the terminal, and it looked t' me like you was together."

"Well, we're not. I was just talking to them. That's all."

"That's okay by me. I ain' tryin' t' pry."

Brian tried to calm himself as he saw Jim get up and walk down the aisle. The captain watched as he came and took the seat next to Brian.

"What's up?" Jim asked smiling. Brian just sat there, stunned and not knowing what to do next. Jim turned toward the captain.

"Hi, my name's Jim."

"Jim? Glad t' see ya Jim," the captain said, grabbing Jim's hand and shaking it firmly.

"I saw you guys talking, so I figured I'd come back and join in. I mean, I been sittin' up there with the little woman all day, and you know how that can be."

"I sure do. I was just talkin' t' Brian here about 'em."

"Oh yeah?" Jim said, still smiling.

"The little woman?" Brian said under his breath to Jim, shaking his head as he did.

"Well, we've all got our problems," Jim said, sitting back.

"Ain't that the truth though," the captain said, slapping his knee sharply. He reached down again, and lifted his other pant leg, this time revealing a large bowie knife strapped to his boot. Brian and Jim both stared open mouthed at it, as the captain reached into the boot and pulled out another bottle.

"That's ol' faithful boys," he said slapping the knife. "Never know when I'll need her, but she's always there when I do and she don' ask no questions."

"Just like a good woman," Jim said grinning.

"Damn right," the captain said, nodding in agreement. He broke the seal on the bottle, and handed it to Jim.

"Have a drink, friend."

"Thanks," Jim said, taking the open bottle and raising it to his lips. "Here's to women. When they're good they're good, and when they're bad they're even better."

The captain doubled over, slapping both knees as he came back up. "You got it right there boy. You got that right."

Jim drank quickly from the bottle, wincing slightly as he handed it to Brian.

"No thanks."

"No? All right then, I'll just take yours for you," Jim said laughing. He raised the bottle to his lips again, and took another drink.

"Where you headed?" the captain asked.

"Not sure really, probably down to Jacksonville."

"Jacksonville eh? That sounds familiar," the captain said, leaning forward in his seat and looking over at Brian. Brian looked back, breaking slowly into a guilty grin. The captain smiled back, and they both broke into a laugh.

"What's going on?" Jim asked. When the captain had stopped laughing, he sat back in his seat and told Jim the story. Jim laughed nervously, handing the bottle to him frequently as they talked.

"So you boys think yer headed t' Jacksonville?"

"Yeah, it's beginning to look that way," said Jim.

"Well then, why the hell don't you just come along with me? I'm flyin' outta Orangeburg at ten-thirty and I'm going right over Jacksonville on m' way t' Tampa. I can drop you boys off 'n still make St. Pete by midnight."

"You fly?"

"Sure do. Got my plane waitin' for me in Orangeburg."

"Wow, I took aviation in high school. Would've gotten my permit if I hadn't missed the test."

"Well, if you've taken one test, you've taken em all. That's what I always say. You can go up with me an' I'll show you more'n you'll ever learn in any flight school."

"Great," Jim said energetically.

"Jim," Brian said out of the side of his mouth. "What're you doing?"

"I'm getting us off this bus, that's what I'm doing."

"He's right, Brian. I can get you where you're goin' in less than half the time it'd take you in this crate."

"Brian, this is a once in a lifetime chance. I haven't been up in a plane in years, never mind having the chance to fly!"

"Fly? We're having a hard enough time on the ground without trying to fly." Brian said, trying to keep his voice under control.

"Oh he'll be all right Brian. Besides, I'll be doing most of the work, and if I ain't, I'll be right there t' watch over 'im."

"I can't believe we're even talking about this, I mean...."

"C'mon Brian, this is a great opportunity. Besides, it'll be fun."

"I don't think risking our lives sounds like that much fun."

"Listen boy, I've been flyin' fer nearly thirty years and I ain't never been down once. Now if you don' think I can fly, then t' hell with ya. I don't need you t' tell me shit."

"Listen captain, he didn't mean anything by it. He's just a little squeamish sometimes. He'll go. We'll talk him into it. Just give him a few more hours on this bus."

"I don't care how long I have to stay on this bus, I'm not going up in any plane. That's it. Period."

"All right, all right. Listen, we've got a few more hours to decide anyway, so let's just loosen up and think about it for awhile. Okay?"

"I told you, I'm not flying."

"All right." Jim said, winking at the captain out of the corner of his eye. The captain smiled back, and leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes.

Jim returned to Kathi's seat and go the brown paper bag that he was using to hide the bottle of vodka he had bought in Richmond. He rolled the top of the bag a little, and then casually walked back down the aisle to the bathroom. In a few minutes, he appeared again, this time with three cans of orange soda. Jim handed one to Brian as he walked by, and then returned to Kathi's seat.

Brian stared out the window watching the dusk fill him with loneliness. Occasionally, he would turn from the window, and look up toward the middle of the bus at Kathi and Jim. They were laughing and talking animatedly, leaning close to one another and touching.

A young woman in front of them stood up. She waited in the aisle for a moment with her arm extended in front of her. Slowly, a younger girl climbed out of the seat and took her hand. As they shuffled down the aisle toward Brian, he noticed that the younger of the two was a Mongoloid. He watched her as she moved carefully between the seats, holding them as she went. The woman behind her held onto her shoulder, guiding her as she went. They were both dressed in clothes that didn't quite fit them, and their hair looked like it hadn't been washed in weeks. Brian's eyes caught the eyes of the second woman, and she smiled through her thick, brown rimmed glasses. Brian watched them as they moved slowly by. He tired to smile, but instead, he found himself looking quickly at the floor. The toes of the Mongoloid girl were sticking through her sneakers. Brian drew in a deep breath and looked back out the window at the setting sun. There were gaps between the clouds, splitting the sunlight into long, straight rays. The beauty of the clouds filled him with a great sense of sadness, and yet, there was something about that feeling that also made him feel good. He somehow knew that God was out behind those clouds somewhere, and that the rays were his way of letting people know that he was still around. Brian wondered why He had let the earth run on and on as it had. There were so many things that needed explaining, things he couldn't find reasons for. He wondered why God had created people like the two women who had just passed him. They lived such long, slow, painful lives, he thought, and on one really cares. He wished there was something he could do, and a feeling of great compassion overwhelmed him. Or maybe it was just pity. Sometimes he wasn't sure if he really knew the difference between the two. Thoughts circled in his brain, but he knew that there was nothing. He closed his eyes, and thought of Jesus, healing the multitudes and he pictured himself there. He stretched out his hands, and Jesus disappeared. Brian quickly restored the sight of a blind woman, and turned to touch a cripple. But then, there were too many, pressing in on him, and no where to turn. Brian touched one, and then another, but it was not happening. As the crowd closed in on him, he opened his eyes again.

The two women were walking back up the aisle now, and Brian turned toward them. No more, he thought. No more. He looked down at his orange soda, and wondered about the thoughts he was having, but he knew that they were not from drinking. They were the same naked, burning thoughts he had been feeling for years, whether he was drunk or sober, and there was nothing he could do to make them go away. He had tried that before. Brian turned back to the window. The tears were coming now, slowly at first, and then in streams from deep within the bottom of his soul. They came and came and came, until at last, he was empty. He pressed his face against the cool glass of the window, and cried out silently to the wilderness: "I am weary of crying, my throat is dried; my eyes fail, while I wait for my God."


The bus pulled slowly into the station at Orangeburg. For a minute, Brian thought they were backing out again, but then he realized that it was the bus next to them that was moving. Jim and Kathi followed the captain off the bus. He was carrying a small black briefcase. Brian stood up slowly and got his bag. Walking was a lot harder than it had been in Richmond.

Outside, it was dark and quiet. It was an uncomfortable silence, as if someone were watching them. Waiting for Brian to make a sound. He watched as Kathi and Jim followed the captain into the terminal. The captain walked over to the small row of wall lockers on the other side of the terminal. He took out a quarter, and put it into one of the slots, removing the key, and opening the door.

"Why don't you all put yer things in one of these here lockers while I go make a phone call."

Jim and Kathi began searching their pockets for change, but Brian remained motionless. He waited until the captain was out of sight.

"Listen, this has gone far enough. Now I don't know about you guys, but I'm not going anywhere with that guy."

"C'mon Brian, there's nothing to worry about. If he passes out, I can fly the plane. There's only three things you have to know. Altimeter, air speed, and artificial horizon. That's it. Three things. I just know I can fly. I know it."

Brian stared at him for a moment, and then turned toward Kathi. "Don't look at me Brian. I just don't care any more. I'm tired and I just can't put up with this bus thing anymore."

"All right then, we'll get a room for the night somewhere."

"I don't want to get a room, I just want to get to Jacksonville. That's all. I just want to stop all of this running and go to sleep in a place that isn't moving. A place that I know is my own."

Brian looked into her eyes for a moment, but Kathi glanced sideways. He looked at Jim, but Jim was searching the terminal.

"Here comes the captain," Jim said grinning.

"Let's go," the captain said as he walked back toward the doors on the other side of the terminal. Brian wondered where whey were headed, and why they had left their bags in the lockers, but the captain was walking so fast that he was soon too far ahead to ask. He opened the doors and walked out onto the sidewalk, with Jim and Kathi and Brian a few steps behind. Brian still couldn't believe he was following them. There was a police officer out in front of the bank, and the captain walked quickly over to him. It was Kathi who stopped first. Brian waited beside her. He couldn't quite make out what the captain was saying, but he thought he heard him mumbling something about it being impossible for there not to be any public bars in a place this big, or something like that. He was moving his arms wildly above his head, but Brian hardly noticed because he was too worried about what the policeman would do. Brian only heard the noise it made when the car hit the captain. He never even saw him stepping backwards into the street, he just heard the dull whump it made and then the locking of the brakes. He sprinted down the sidewalk and through the line of parked cars to where the captain lay. He was on his back, staring up at the sky, wide eyed and open mouthed. There was no blood anywhere.

The captain had been dead for a long, long time when the ambulance got there. Brian and Kathi and Jim watched from inside the terminal as the medics pulled the whited sheet over the captain's body. They turned, and sat down in silence to wait for the bus. It wasn't scheduled to leave for almost six hours, but still, no one spoke. Maybe Jacksonville would be the place, he thought. He sat with his face against the terminal window, staring past his reflection into the blackness of the street, and trying not to think of what it would be like.