Walking Beside Her
Stream of Consciousness Story
The smell assaulted her senses like a river of floating, twirling turds. “What? Where is that stink coming from?” the woman in the leather sandals asked.
For half a second she studied the soles of her shoes for the evidence and then her nose caught another whiff of the smell and turning in that direction where she spied a pair of
worn-to-nothing Mary Jane’s several steps ahead of her.
“What the fuck?” she almost hollered out to no one in particular but directly at the ragamuffin proudly strutting past the bus stop and directly in her line of vision and smell.
She caught herself before asking,” What’s wrong with you? Your whole ass is hanging out of that filthy skirt like the crack of dawn, For Christ sakes?”
She watched the hag as the right cheek and then the left cleared the raggedy, faded mini-jean skirt.
“Oh God, look away, look away!” is all she knew to think, to say or to do, so she resolutely turned from the sight. Peering down the street, she saw her bus approaching like a heavenly chariot.
The bus stopped in front of her and kneeled, allowing her to step aboard. Refusing to look back or to give any more thought to that awful woman,she slipped her transit card in the mechanical pension-eater and bid “Good Morning!” to the driver behind the glass booth not waiting for a response.
Her gaze turned towards the crowd, the tread worn- aisle and the other strap-hangers.
All the seats were occupied, even the ones behind the driver that were meant for the elderly and the disabled.
The seat nearest to the driver’s booth was being held captive by the dangling gold-plated chain and three tone suede sneakers of a teenager.
He sat halfway in the seat because of his humongous, bulging in all directions, backpack.
Oblivious to her, she watched him leer; mouth open and lower lip hanging as the young, bouncing butts entered and exited,
while she hung on as the bus jerked and shuddered with her bags knocking between her throbbing knees.
She wanted badly to scream at the wannabe gangster, “Get your bony ass out of my seat, Jackass!” but instead she restrained herself and glared.
Agreeing with each other, her thoughts and her aged head, bobbed with increasing annoyance.
Sighing, she kept her thoughts to herself, “No respect for older people, he’s another wild child loose on these evil streets with no job but plenty of time and things and no understanding of how they were obtained.
No varicose veins, no hurting hemorrhoids, no thoughts of anyone else but himself.
Finally she thought,” This is the way of the world for people today”
Disturbed by her vulgar thoughts concerning her foot up the young fellow’s body cavity,she tried to push him out of her mind but then that funky hag came back to her, so much so,
that she instinctively touched her nose as if she were still at the bus stop.
“What was that nut wearing?” she mused, “No drawers, no bra, no slip, no jewelry, no nothing on except a torn to tatters,
once beige mini skirt and a dull grey hoodie with shredded cuffs.”
The hoodie’s metal zipper was straining to contain her dark chocolate cleavage.
But there was nothing to compare to that sashaying flat, stink- bomb ass.
“Jesus, help that woman!” she commanded with a quick head twist. “The Devil is busy,Lord.
Why she’s a demoniac, Gadarene, all except there’s no tombs for her wandering-stink ass!”
And just like that, God questioned her with,” Why don’t you help her?”
“What?” shocked and looking around in disbelief, she arched her ancient furrowed brow and widened her glaucoma eyes,
she might not be quick of foot anymore but she was sure sharp of mind and tongue, so she rallied with,
“The Devil is a liar!
“Satan, you just stay your lying self out of my conversation!”
Then God asked, “Why do you always call on the name of my servant, Satan, whenever I command you to do my will, Viola Lee?
Was I only speaking to Peter when I commanded to feed my sheep?”
Hearing her name moved her but not too far, so she remarked spitefully under her breath,
“That heifer didn’t look hungry to me and from the size of her butt cheeks, she definitely don’t need more food!”
His voice seemed to be everywhere around her and she heard, “Comfort the feeble- minded, the fatherless, the widows and the prisoners.
“Man!” she signified to her shoes as her old head hung and she shuffled from right to left on her barking dogs.
“Of course that Jackass, wouldn’t give up the seat”, she thought.
Well, her exit came and she disembarked, hobbled up the library steps, where her senses encountered tantalizing aromas of scones, coffee, soup and sandwiches with people quietly chatting and laughing.
It all seemed to annoy her to no end just like the idiot on the bus and that awful floozy.
Everything reminded her of her own impoverished state of being, having no money, no friends and no nice things to comfort her.
A familiar anger overtook her and she spat at the floor, “Stupid! Stupid, that’s all the library do is make money off of poor people.”
“It’s terrible! Poor people like me can’t survive paying their stuffy, yuppie prices.” she said wanting someone to agree with her.
Lingering within her, though, was the unanswerable and completely frustrating questions that He asked her.
“Dang, can’t I have one day’s rest, Lord? Just let me sit on this hard bench for a minute and collect my mind,”
She murmured and spat out in confusion,
“I mean what do I do?
“I got nothing!”
“No money, nobody, no house and no nothing and no dam sense either.”
Shaking her head and running her hard worked palms throughout her thinning hair,she asked “You want me to do what?”
“She probably makes piles from fools like me.
Plus, you know, she’s sells that raggedy funk- bomb behind for a living.
How am I supposed to stop all that?”
And He spoke within her with,” “Don’t sit as her Moses or her judge instead tread righteously with her.
Give her something not gained by cleverness, greed or malice.
Stop seeing at her through your closed heart and mind.
I’ll lead you to her and instruct you with my right hand.
Remember, but by my Grace…”
It was that portioned verse that she’d heard all her life, that she’d read in church and had repeatedly thrown out at others.
“Dam!” she swore, “He sure knows how to hurt a saint.”
That verse struck and pricked her enlarged heart like a sliver of glass to a ready artery coating her mind with years of long gone bloody hurts.
She puffed out angry breaths and groaned at her knees’ squeaky throbbing and all the time wondering at His hard question and words which filled her mind with confusion to no complete end.
She knew thorough that His voice was true and trustworthy so she sort of resolved to wait and to listen.
Fermenting, she asked, “Lord, why you keep pushin’ on me about that crazy woman? Can’t you see? Didn’t you notice how devilishly she pranced around? Like she had gold behind her?”
There was in her mind, thoughts concerning the madness of the world and its evil course.
Viola laughed sarcastistically and said, “That’s right child, school the Almighty in the ways of the world!”
To Viola, the timing of things was off and she’d known a certain cruelty abounded.
She’d observed that even when a person was acting polite there was a feeling of craftiness behind their facade.
She spoke to herself but more so to Him, “Father, I for one, don’t know how to make things right, if the world was ever right.
His booming voice sounded again and she thought that everyone heard its loudness so she looked around at others for
confirmation but no one seemed disturbed or aware of anything She plopped down exhausted and stilled.
“All creation is mine and I hold all things within my reach.
You, like all men, don’t know your right from your left so choose who you will serve, the world or its Creator? Do my will, child or inherit the whirlwind!”He warned her.
She picked at her aching temple, wondering if she might be having a mental or physical breakdown.
“What to do, if she were really on the verge of a collapse?
Then a quick answer came to her with, “Ask Him for a sign, like Gideon, a tell.”
Both hands worked on massaging her forehead
“But what should I ask Him?” quizzing herself.
The answer came, “If before I leave this library, someone gives me something, anything then I’ll know it’s from Him.”
“No” she stopped,” that’s not right. It’s written thou shall not test thou God! So, what else can I do?”
She thought, “I must be tired because I am not thinking clearly”
She rose to her feet and turning to grab her emptied plastic dollar store bag, she swooned slightly.
“My pressure must be high or maybe I’m just hungry” when she heard someone call her name.
”Hey Viola, you alright?”
“It’s Wayne, you know, from the Book club on Tuesday’s, we haven’t seen you in quite some time.”
She stared at him while she tried to clear her mind.
He took hold of her arm at the elbow.
“Hey, let’s catch up. Let me get you to sit over here at a table.
Wait here, I’ll just get us a coffee and a scone.
Do you want milk in your coffee?”
She stared with her mouth agape, not saying a word but nodded her head at him.
When he returned he had two cups of steaming hot coffee, two pumpkin scones with butter, a large container of savory tomato soup, two soup spoons and an empty coffee cup which he poured her soup into.
She smiled while he arranged the wonderful lunch in front of her.
He asked her questions which she quickly answered with eyes on the steaming food.
He bantered on about the latest book the club was reading and how the teacher asked for her
and how others thought that she knew so much more about each book than the teacher.
All the while, she waited like a prowler for him to begin to eat.
She sat, nodded and waited for him but once he lifted the cup
she dove in.
It was as wonderful as she had imagined and she felt the throbbing slip away from her while he prattled on about Kathryn Stockett, Harper lee and Frannie Flagg like southern vestal goddesses.
She began to take deep breathes and her strengthen returned and it was then that she remembered to give thanks and to whisper a brief prayer for the food, a needed friend and
that He had send her a sign.
Sighing with satisfied relief she remarked, “Wayne, you don’t know how much I appreciate this that you have done for me.
I was almost gone, I mean I was famished and didn’t even know it.
Why, I believe I would have passed out if you hadn’t come to my rescue. Thank you so much for lunch.”
Wayne looked surprised and remarked, “Oh no Viola, it’s me that should be thanking you.
You always say something that sends everyone in the Book Club into laughing fits with your notions and light wit.
We love it when you come to club’s room and lighten things up.”
As she pinched together and munched on the last few buttery crumbs left, she savored Wayne’s unexpected kindnesses.
Then it occurred to her that she may have become a tad dry and somewhat ornery in her solitude and just a little selfish.
It came to her that she could help someone else and maybe she was more than able to make the journey back to the bus.
Prehaps she could do something for the crazy woman with the Lords’ guiding hand.
God had sent her help through a friend and have even renewed her hope.
She reflected that a walk in another person’s shoes for a change might not be too bad,after all.
Clearing her spot of the food and coffee, she thanked Wayne profusely while gathering her things and headed out the library facing her own demons.
She knew, once again that her life, her experiences and her faith was not vain because He had shown himself to her
and she hadn’t even completed the asking.
more by DEBRA BISHOP
Photograph by Kathy Hillacre