Strange Tales from the Midwestern Front: What You’re Missing If You’re Not Forced to Take the Bus in a Mid-Sized City in Michigan

They’re stepping off the curb, near the city courthouse. “72 hours from now we’ll be half an hour from getting married,” she says.

He says, “Holy shiza!” and she laughs.

She’s eighteen, just out of high school. She’s taking a gap year, to work. She says she doesn’t have any real callings or talents. She has a tattoo down her right forearm of a treble clef and a musical staff–she used to be in a band. Bass clarinet.

It’s the one that looks like a saxophone, she explains to the woman on the bus, who asked about the tattoos. I was in a band, she says, until my senior year. I was taking this cooking class so I stopped being in the band.

She is wearing a tent-like camo shirt over worn Pac Man shorts, and she shifts the change from her bus fare from pocket to pocket as she talks.

She takes after her uncle, she says, and you can tell she’s proud. Beaming. He used to be a chef.

Marin. We ate bugs together yesterday–she, crickets, and I silkworm pupae. Today we’re manning robots. She wants to name our team–the four of us; me, her, and the two robots–the Tigers. She must be a baseball fan, and a local.

We bond with our robots, but we later answer on the questionnaire that no, we did not think we and the robots shared similar sexual attitudes, ethnicities, or life goals. Even so, we admitted our affections.

Three bus drivers get onto the bus and file up to the top rows. They like ’em because you get to preside. One of them has two cars, just in case one breaks down; one of them is a 2002 Taurus with 186,000 miles on it, so he’s thinking about getting a new–new new car.

That’s because you don’t have kids, says one of the other drivers. Or a wife, or any of that shit. You can afford a new car!

I’m gonna ask her to marry me, says the Taurus owner. When I buy the new car.

Pre-nup? asks the other driver, silent until this point. ‘Cause I asked my wife for a post-nup once, and I was sleepin’ on the couch for a whole month!

She gonna ask you for a pre-nup, replies one of the others.

I’m asked to dinner. Then I’m texted a list of food items. They sound delicious and I can’t decide if this is an enticement or a mistake.

Sorry, the grocery list was for Brendan [her partner]! she says some time later.

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