Roscoe got in the old bus, put the key in the ignition and slid his hands over the creamy white steering wheel. He had never driven a bus before. When he turned the key, the motor sprang to life and idled like a sewing machine. He felt an instant recognition between the bus and other V.W.'s he had owned. The connective thread of their linage felt so familiar, that apprehension left him with an exhale. The Wolfsburg crest on the wheel, and the low back seats all felt like home. He gently put it in gear and nudged it down the drive with a little gas. The bubbly sound of the motor and the smell of new paint, rubber and vinyl, made him smile as he looked around the inside of the bus.
It was unusually cool and he drove with his elbow out the window. He took at look at the sun rising behind him, in the small chrome rear view mirror. He rolled slowly into the small gravel lot by Chaires Cross Roads and parked the bus in the shade. He reached across to get a small bouquet of flowers and let her run as he got out. The bus was sat purring and glistening in the sun. He could smell the paint burning off the new muffler, and it reminded him of how V.W.'s smelled when they were new. He smiled as he walked around her. She was everything he'd hoped she'd be. The fresh white interior was perfect. He gently glided his fingers along the new chrome trim as he walked down the length of her. Above the left tail light was a tiny Lilly hand painted by a local pinstripe artist. He squatted and admired his reflection and the flower. It was a good day. He walked over to a weathered wooden cross and straightened it up as he gently pushed it back down into the earth. He pulled the grass and weeds away from it and set the flowers down.
When Gretna heard the bus pulling in, it triggered a flood of memories. The sound of the motor and the tires on gravel surprised her. When she first saw the old bus in it's original colors, she felt like a time machine had arrived to pick her up. Roscoe, in his knowing way, stopped in front of her and smiled, letting her take it in. He knew she had traveled a long way with this bus, and he assumed everyone grew attached to their cars as he did. She walked around it in wonder. She touched it, opening and closing it's doors as though she was seeing on old friend. Roscoe was so pleased with her reaction, he broke into a stuttered laugh, as the expressions of joy met her face, for the first time since he had met her.
"It is just a dream! I don't know how you did it but it is perfect. Roscoe, how on earth did you do this? It's just a dream!"
"I'm going to see Kerry, you want to go for a ride?"
Gretna didn't lock the door to her house. She didn't get her purse or her keys, she just stepped into the bus in a haze, and bounced involuntarily, in her seat. Out on old St. Augustine Road, all the colors seemed brighter to her. The fences, farms and the old growth of the road, all looked new. It was a bright day and the sun shot though sections of the trees, making striped shadows on the road before them. Roscoe turned the ivory nob on the radio and "My Girl" came through the little speaker in the dash. Gretna tapped her leg and looked out the window completely lost in a nostalgic trance. Roscoe watched how uninhibited she had become, and smiled at her innocent expression. They sailed down the old road in the bus, having sensations neither had felt in years.
They parked the car on an old loading ramp across from Cabo's restaurant and it seemed as though the entire Friday afternoon lunch crowd was transfixed at the sight of it. A few people came out and looked at it, each with a story about a bus or an old bug they had owned. Gretna just stood back and watched them walk around it. She simply could not take her eyes off of the the resurrected bus.
Inside Kerry brought out a plate of food to him. He was eating chips slowly and peering through the blinds. He was smiling slightly and he thanked her as she put the food down.
"It was you wasn't it?" She asked out of nowhere.
"I"m sorry?" He said, not understanding.
"It was you that left that medicine here for me. You come here every Friday and sit by yourself." She said leaning on the corner of the table. He looked up at her and waited. He never knew how people would react. She had always seemed tragic to him, but today she was secure and full of purpose, unafraid and brave in her movements.
"Well, I'll pick up your check today, Mr. Friday lunch special."
She spun and walked away and he was relieved. He continued to watch the man and lady by the bus and he recognized him. He'd seen him driving that old 56 bug to Cabo's. They came inside and he watched as Kerry sat them in the booth next to him and he leaned over as they settled in.
"66 thirteen window?" He asked Roscoe.
"You got it. It's my first drive since I restored her." Roscoe answered.
"I had a 71 bay window but I always wanted a late sixties split. Well, you did a great job, she looks like she just rolled off the showroom floor."
"This is Gretna, she was the owner of the bus before me, that's her daughter over there." Roscoe motioned towards Kerry and she walked over to them.
"Weren't you at the hospital when we were there?" Roscoe asked.
"Yes sir, I had to get a sonogram of my heart. I had some health issues back in August 2010. Every so often they like to poke at me to keep me thankful." He said and laughed at his own joke.
"What day in August?" Roscoe asked
"August twenty first, worst day of my life." He said, and his face showed the weight of it. He wished he hadn't said it. He wished he could not bring it up in conversation so much. He wished he could just let it go, but he couldn't it was part of who he was now. It had changed him forever, and the reminders seemed to find him all the time.
"That's the day I fell and broke my legs." Gretna said.
"It's my wedding anniversary and the day I lost my wife." Roscoe said with a solemn tone.
"It's my birthday and the day my husband died." Kerry added.
They all sat there looking at each other until finally he laughed and said;
"This kind of strange coincidental stuff has been happening to me lately. I spose there is a meaning in there somewhere. Now that Y'all freaked me out, I probably won't leave the house on the twenty first!"
They all laughed a little as the Friday lunch special guy got up, said his goodbyes, and walked out to his car. He paused to peek in to the bus, and headed back to work.
"Roscoe, I am glad you fixed it up. It's like you got all the bad memories off of it. Mama, I get off in a minute you want to ride home with me?" Kerry asked and Gretna nodded. Roscoe stood up, hugged Gretna and Kerry and made his way out to the bus. He started her up and waved as he drove off.
When Roscoe pulled up to the doctors office, his heart felt light. He had forgotten what happiness felt like and he had a satisfaction he had finished something for once. He had the feeling that had eluded him for years, like finally, all his work was done. He giggled as he watched the nurses stand and point at the old bus and even Doctor Reynolds stood, looked out the window and gave Roscoe a thumbs up. He came into the waiting room and the nurse was waiting in the open door with his chart.
"C'mon back Mr. Roscoe, we are ready for you."
He sat down on a chair next to an examining table and heard the familiar knock before the doctor entered.
"Well, ya finished another project I see. You are something else Mr. Roscoe." The Doctor turned and looked at Roscoe, with reverence and affection. He tapped his fingers on the counter and tried to compose himself.
"Well old friend I have your films." The doctor brought the images of Roscoe's brain up on the computer and highlighted the one with a spider like growth on the left side.
Roscoe, turned his hat in his hands but he felt no sadness. He felt like he was going on a long trip after the war. Like he did with Lilly in Germany, like the hard part was over. His faith was returning to him and he thought of Lilly for the first time since she had died, without sadness.
"Well here is the tumor. It's much bigger than before, like we knew it would be. You will probably start to notice some symptoms and a slow loss of faculties. Your speech may begin to slur over the next weeks. Are you feeling any discomfort?"
Roscoe shook his head and looked out the window. The colors seemed so bright out there. He was aware of every leaf and bird and the sun was so strong. He made little mental notes of how vivid his vision was, like he was seeing for the first time.
"No, I am fine" Roscoe said, still in a quiet awe of how calm and relaxed he was.
"I have some Morphine here and instructions for the nurse. Have you made arrangements with hospice?" The Doctor asked?
"Yes, yes, I have everything I need. I want to thank you for taking care of me this last four years Doc."
Roscoe left the office and headed for home. He was happy to be back in the bus and he took the long route out to Moccasin Gap. He drove along and sang along with the radio. Today had been a great day. He made his way through his gates and back onto the gravel drive. He parked the bus sideways by the front window so he could see her while he made dinner, listened to music, and shuffled in a little dance around the kitchen floor. He wouldn't be alone much longer.