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Kenny Orslow Shows Up On Time
About the Author: Susan Oleksiw's short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. She is the author of three series: The Mellingham series featuring Chief Joe Silva, the Anita Ray series set in South India, and the Felicity O'Brien series set in the Pioneer Valley.

Kenny Orslow trudged to the bus stop in front of the courthouse. The sidewalks were swept and hosed clean, and the flowering shrubs well trimmed. He felt out of place here. He pulled a slip of paper from his pants pocket and reread the scribbled information, again—Monday morning, June 5, 9:30, county bus. 

“Hey, mah man.” 

Kenny started at the sound of the familiar voice, croaked out a greeting. “Yo.” Toto LeClaire came out of the County House of Corrections, at Lanark, less than a year ago, and managed to stay out of trouble. Or, at least not get pulled in.

“You going up? Whadya get?”

“Six months.”

“Yeah? Dealing?”

“Nah. I just traded with my girl. But her mom got …” Kenny wiggled his shoulders as though the windbreaker tied around his neck was making him uncomfortable. It was, but that wasn’t the reason he was antsy. He was still pissed at Tiffany’s mom for turning him in. She didn’t turn in her daughter, just him. It wasn’t fair. He scored the Oxycontin only because Tiffany needed to replace the ones she stole from her mom’s purse. And now he was stuck out here on the sidewalk on what was going to be a blistering day with a windbreaker tied around his neck because Tiffany said it might be cold in an air-conditioned bus.

Toto gave him a friendly fist to his shoulder and told him to look up a couple of his pals who were for sure still there. Kenny said he would. He wasn’t sure about Toto, but he liked the idea of having contacts on the inside. He high-fived Toto and watched him strut down the sidewalk as he memorized the two names.

Kenny never expected to be on his way to Lanark; after all, he was just a backwater guy trying to get by. The biggest decision he’d had to make all week had been his clothes. The month had come in hot, the kind of heat that was supposed to arrive in July. That meant shorts and jerseys and sandals. But when he got out, in November or December, he wasn’t sure which, he’d only have the clothes he was wearing when he went in. His dad promised to bring a winter coat when he picked him up. Otherwise he’d be stepping down in front of the courthouse in shorts and sandals. He’d be cold. With his luck, it’d probably be snowing. 

Other men began to cluster near the bus stop sign. By 9:30, Kenny was one of six, and growing increasingly aware of his height (or lack of it) and weight (not much there either). When the navy blue bus pulled up, he took a deep breath and prepared himself.

A county officer climbed down and called out names. As each man answered, he checked him off on the clipboard. 

“Who are you?” he said to Kenny after the others had climbed aboard.

“Orslow, Kenneth.”

“This isn’t a regular bus, son. It’s private. For the county.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to report today, here.” He bounced his chin up and down to indicate the sidewalk, the bus stop sign, the courthouse behind them.

“No. You got it wrong. You’re not on the list. You must mean Wednesday, the next time we come around.” The man climbed back on, and the navy blue bus drove down the street, leaving Kenny on the sidewalk staring after it.

Kenny didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t what he’d anticipated at all. For the first time in his life he’d taken his dad’s advice and made preparations, showed up on time, and now he had nowhere to go. His girl’s mom changed the locks that morning. She threw his stuff into the dumpster, and told him to stay away when he got out. His dad rented a basement apartment from Kenny’s uncle and aunt, when he wasn’t on the road hauling. He drove off with a large rig yesterday.

Even worse, Kenny didn’t really have any friends, not the kind where you could show up and ask them to take you in. He scrounged up enough cash to pay Dodger for the pills, and now he was broke. That’s when he felt how hungry he was. He’d really been looking forward to lunch. Toto had told him the food wasn’t as bad as people said, and there was lots of it. He wanted to go over and cuss out his dad but he wasn’t there. 

“Last time I listen to him.” Kenny shoved his hands into his pockets and started walking. At least he could get away from the courthouse. It was so massive and heavy-looking he felt like it might topple over on him. He walked until he reached the old highway and after the usual effort, he managed to flag down a ride. Awhile later, he climbed down in West Woodbury.

This story appears in our FEB 2020 Issue
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