Toby took note of the fools standing outside the bus’s entrance: one with a bird’s nest of black hair, the other with a tastefully-distressed baseball cap. While the untamed black knot of hair could be anyone, the hat was a sign his ecosystem of castoffs was about to be disturbed. Toby unleashed an eyeroll for the benefit of all.
Despite the chill of winter, the woman wore a pink, baby doll Cubs Tshirt and jean shorts that seemed to cinch the back fat in two opposing directions. But the odor told the full story. She smelled like a distillery fumigated with the perfume you find at a drugstone the day after Mother’s Day. After trying in vain to explain how fare cards work, the bus driver gave up and waved her aboard.
Her companion was a grinning, monocromatic mess. Despite the fact that it was 34 degrees out, he wore thick-soled flipflops with a leather thong – indicating he was a person of means. His spray-tanned legs disappeared into a pair of cargo shorts presumably sold as “a deep khaki.” A Cubs belt peaked out from under a Cubs shirt with the number 18 on it.
Baseball was one of the few things Toby appreciated sincerely. He immediately recognized the number as that of Moises Alou - who’d not played for the Cubs in 9 years. When the figure finished paying the bus driver, he turned and made his way to the seat next to the mess in the baby tee. The slow, loping gate was familiar.
Seated two rows in front of him, Toby heard pieces of muffled conversation punctuated by laughter. They were the picture of the fraternal sunniness that Toby loathed. Their laughter repeatedly piercing the monotony of the bus’ low hum. Toby tried headphones to drown out their merriment but it was no use. Their laughs cut right through his podcasts. Toby turned up the volume in his headphones but still the laughter prevailed.
In a rage, Toby stole a glance just in time to see one of his homeless cast offs joining in the laughter. The male warm weather idiot high fived the homeless man. “These fools, these warm weather fools! At least now they’ll catch whatever germs that homeless man’s carrying.”
Toby crossed his arms, closed his eyes and buried his head in chest. Just in time to hear the entire bus erupt in laughter.