Timothy Learyís Dead
by William Michaelian

The sophisticated woman was not accustomed to riding the bus. Neither was her sophisticated husband, whose sophisticated tailor had allowed his sophisticated sense of humor to influence his work. Still, they trundled aboard. When they saw the bus driverís metal box with a narrow slot in it and his sign that read Exact Change Only, they were immediately insulted. What does this mean? the sophisticated woman said. Change? As in quarters? Before the driver could respond, the sophisticated womanís sophisticated husband calmly came to her support. With a deft movement seen only in the best restaurants and hotels, he produced a platinum credit card with pearl inlay. When the bus driver saw the sophisticated credit card, he took it and grinned. Thanks, buddy, he said. Then, much to the sophisticated coupleís horror, he dropped it through the slot.

A less than sophisticated argument ensued. The bus driver won. All right, he said. Sit down. I have a schedule to keep. To show he meant business, he let the bus lurch forward, sending the sophisticated woman and her sophisticated husband into each otherís arms. You realize we can sue you for this, the sophisticated husband said from the seat directly behind the bus driver. Have at it, the driver said. I own a 1968 Ford Galaxy and Iím in hock up to my eyebrows. To which the sophisticated husband replied, Very well, then. Iíll sue the city. I happen to have a very good attorney ó Nelson Carmichael, of Carmichael, Carmichael, and Carmichael. What was the name again? the bus driver said. Carmichael, the sophisticated husband said proudly. No, the bus driver said. I mean the other name. Carmichael? the sophisticated husband said. No, not that one, the bus driver said. The other one. Wasnít it Car something? Alfred, the sophisticated woman whispered to her sophisticated husband as she crawled out of his lap, I think heís pulling your leg. With great effort, she positioned herself in the seat beside him. The bus driver looked at her in his mirror. Hey, lady, he said. Donít look now, but I think your hairís on crooked. The sophisticated woman felt her wig. As she did, her face turned a classy shade of red one usually associates with the carpet on the sidewalk under the canopies of the swankiest clubs.

The bus rumbled on. At each stop, there were several smelly people waiting. Soon, the bus was so full that the sophisticated woman and her sophisticated husband were obliged to share their seat. Much to their chagrin, their new seat mate had dirty long hair and a moldy overcoat that showered them with lint. Thanks, dude, he said to the sophisticated husband when he squeezed in beside him. When he was rewarded with a look of utter disdain, he said, Whoa, dragging the word out for several seconds.

Little by little, the bus made its way downtown. People got on and people got off. The long-haired overcoat, though, didnít budge, even when a seat opened up across from them. The sophisticated woman and her sophisticated husband kept silent, gritting their cosmetically aligned and polished teeth. As the bus swayed from side to side, their co-passengerís hair dragged itself back and forth across their clothing, leaving a trail of suspicious residue. He was also musical. Timothy Learyís dead, he sang with his eyes closed. No, n-n-n-no, n-n-n-no, heís outside, looking in.

After hearing the same two lines repeated at least fifty times, the sophisticated man could stand it no longer. In a measured voice that indicated his good breeding, he said, If you donít stop singing immediately, young man, Timothy Leary isnít the only person whoís going to be dead. Much to his surprise, there was no response. Instead, the bus driver intervened. Iím afraid Iíll have to ask you not to bother the passengers, he said, using his mirror to make eye contact. Timothy Learyís dead, the man sitting next to them sang again. No, n-n-n-no, n-n-n-no, heís outside, looking in. Why should we tolerate this kind of abuse? the sophisticated man answered, raising his voice. The same damn reason I tolerate yours, the bus driver said. Or, to put it in laymanís terms, because youíre stuck. Well, I never, the sophisticated man said. The bus driver laughed. You convinced me of that long ago, he said. Now, sit tight. Weíre coming to your stop. Our stop? the sophisticated man cried. This isnít our stop. This is the insane asylum! Like I said, the bus driver said, pulling to the side of the road.

The door opened, admitting a rush of diesel-perfumed air. With great ceremony, the bus driver unlocked his change box. He took out the sophisticated manís sophisticated credit card. For the fun of it, he held it up and squinted. Huh, he said. Just as I thought. Expired. Then, for extra effect, he reached into his pocket and tossed several quarters into the box. Iíll let it go this time, he said. After all, Timothy Learyís dead.

The sophisticated woman and her sophisticated husband got off the bus. As the door gasped shut behind them, they realized they were both on the outside, looking in.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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