The station sits almost on the corner of its block, its dusty blue paint unmistakable even in the shadows of the clouds that drift overhead this fading fall afternoon. It is one of the last of its kind – a station that operates with its original intention of being a functional terminal of this company’s line intact. A little worn around the edges, it stands as proud today as it did on its opening day, holding its place in both history and the hearts of the people of this town.
Oh, if these walls could talk – this particular station has been doing its duty since the late 1930’s, seeing soldiers off to war and seeing them welcomed home again with joy…a silent, benevolent witness to countless family reunions and farewells, welcoming folks home to warm embraces and seeing them off to new adventures. It would have tales to tell, I am certain, could these walls talk, as well as the locals that have counted this station as a gathering place for season after season.
Speaking of the locals, a small group of them sits out front on the sturdy blue metal benches, striking up conversations with the stray potential passenger or two that wanders up, waiting… for the next bus, for someone to get off that bus, who knows. The men (no women today it seems) chat with familiarity – it seems to the casual observer that they’ve known each other for some time, the laughter and bits of conversation that drift on the wind that of casual, comfortable-together old friends.
As last, a sleek, shiny behemoth of a bus glides into the station, seeming at first too big for this little stout soldier of a station, but it glides into its allotted parking space as slick as a flock of ducks gliding across a pond, with practiced ease, coming to a complete stop without bumping a thing at the curb. The driver hops off for a quick stretch of the legs while the small set of passengers for whom this is their ride get their things together. After a few minutes, the passengers and their belongings settle in for the trip. The driver pokes her head into the waiting area to make sure no one gets left behind, she boards after her charges, and they back out of the space, honking to anyone who might be coming down the street behind them that they’re moving out, and they’re off – out once again, heading for the next great adventure.
The locals drift away themselves, having seen off a relative or two, finished with catching up on the happenings of the day with their buddies, heading home to dinners, evening chores, grandchildren’s visits, even a quick nap. No one is sure how much longer they will be able to keep this part of their lives, because the station was recently sold, and the bus service to this location will discontinue. The soldier is set to retire. There are plans to restore it to its original glory and to use it in some manner.
But it won’t be the bus station anymore – except in the old timers’ memories and in the memories of the town it cared for so long.
Amanda Pugh is an adjunct professor of communications at Jackson State Community College in Jackson, TN. She has been writing for as long as she can remember, both short stories and poetry, and it’s one her favorite things to do besides drink coffee and teach. Her work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Tennessee’s Best Emerging Poets, Our Jackson Home, Down in the Dirt, Tuck Magazine, and Spilled Ink (the literary journal of Jackson State Community College).