#3: Bighead Tweet
It was a cold Sunday afternoon, just after church-time, morning church-time that is. He was out on the buses every day except Saturday—which was the crazy stupid day, when they didn’t run too good and all kind of people were out buying stuff and crowding up the seats with their fresh junk. During the week he worked at the library as a volunteer shelving books—and reading his share too.
He thought of Sunday as ‘free literature day.’ He had all the books he could read from the library, but it was nice to have some of your own. And since he lived on the SSI, indeed had done so all his life, as Mother had had him confirmed of being handicapped when he was just a kid, he had little money to spend. Mother was gone now and it was just him. The room in his group home cost most of his SSI and Mister Earl took most of the rest.
Fortunately his bus fare was paid for by the SSI and he always had his handicapped access badge to get him as many rides as he had the patience to sit for.
He knew they called him Bighead Tweet. He knew it also to be a belittling label. But he did not mind. It was, after all, accurate to a point. He did have a big head and he did do his ‘tweetie’ whistle when he read—though not on the bus, that being against MTA courtesy rules. It was a name he had carried since childhood, and he was long past that now; 35 years old to be exact. Strictly speaking, his life label was a fallacy. His head was not big from the reading, but because of the handicapping. The doctors had done a lot, he had not died, and his thoughts worked just fine. His speech, too, was nearly perfect. He just preferred to tweet, thank you very much.
His Bible always stayed at home. But, thanks to Mister Ted, he had his ‘mobile bible’, ‘My Daily Bread,’ published by the Confraternity Of The Precious Blood, being ‘A Summary of the Spiritual Life’, having been ‘Simplified and Arranged for Daily Reading, Reflection and Prayer’ by Anthony J. Paone S.J. way back in 1954, up in New York somewhere. For bookmarks he had his funeral cards for Mother and Aunt Belle, and the Memorare card from the Franciscan Friars.
He stood and tweeted as he read the
Memorare at the stop in front of the cheap market where they just stacked the stuff in boxes. He had been in there getting some orange juice for breakfast. The little African girl that normally stood at this stop with him and held his hand and read from her bible until the bus came, was running away down the street for some reason. She was waving her bible over her head, like she was swatting at a wasp or something.
That is weird it is almost winter time out. Who swats at bugs in November?
He had little time to consider the woman’s strange behavior as the bus pulled up and hissed before he even looked around. The nice white biker man who drove this bus on Sunday morning said,
“Good morning, sir” as he boarded and he smiled, “Good morning to you too, sir. Have a blessed day.”
He refused to sit in the handicapped seats up front. He didn’t feel handicapped. It was not like he could run like that little missionary girl from Africa, but he walked just fine. In fact, he was pretty darn strong—shelved more books than anyone at the library—could unload and load that entire reading rover in no time!
The one thing that he liked the handicapped seats for, especially on Sunday morning, was the free literature. This morning was no exception! He looked to his right and saw a J.T.C. comic, ‘Who Loves You?’ With a big crying eye on the cover of the little flip book. He snagged that, thank you very much!
On the next seat was another J.T.C. masterpiece ‘Last Rites’. He had one of these at home, but grabbed this anyway so he would have one to trade. His previous suspicion that these were laid down by the little African girl had been wrong, as she could not have today, obviously.
Then he looked across the aisle and saw two more. The first one was blue with a zombie on the front, titled ‘The Walking Dead’. He grabbed that with an effort that he guiltily equated with greed almost immediately.
He then looked up to the next comic even as the weathered hand of the old white drug addict reached out for it, and saw that it was a rare issue, about the Masons. The Masons had always intrigued him. He was so interested in how the evangelical graphic artist J.T.C. would deal with the Masons in his work. Then the old addict’s shaky hand paused, and his voice cracked, “Did you want this Tweet?”
Oh my, he knows me from somewhere. I wonder where.
Then he realized that he was being most unchristian, even snapping up volumes that he already had at home, and that people who had not yet accepted Jesus, like this man, were in far more need of this reading material than he was. Indeed, it was intended for them.
He looked the old white-haired man in his blotched and weathered face, his skin like pale parchment stretched over the gaunt frame of his skull, “No sir. That is yours. I have a copy at home, thank you very much. Have a blessed day sir.”
Bighead Tweet made his way to the back and sat down in his favorite spot, just up on the deck, over the rear door, where he could see the world roll by. Then he looked down and found himself to be blessed once again with a piece of free literature. He stowed his J.T.C. comics in his coat pocket—not the one where he kept his tissues, or the one where he kept his sinus spray, or the one where he kept his wallet; or the one where he kept his only key, lonely on its chain, but the secret pocket on the inside that you had to unzip the coat to get to.
He looked to the thin pamphlet on the seat next to him, and was pleased with the vibrant colors of what appeared to be Canadian scenery. The title at the top read ‘All Suffering Soon To End!’ in black lettering set against a cloud-streaked sky of blue. The background beneath the sky was thick with evergreen trees, amidst which was set a mansion; a modest mansion, a nice group home maybe. A beautiful cluster of autumn trees were to the right. Beneath those was a bright green tree, and before that sat a pretty blonde woman on a white horse. The grass in the middle ground was a pleasant yellow upon which grazed a female moose. In the foreground was a big bull moose.
Beneath the big moose were two people. The two people in the foreground, the people for whom a prophecy of peace and plenty seemed to be the promise of this painting, were a couple of light skinned black folks; the woman with long and very relaxed hair, smiling up into the sky as she kneeled before the flowerbed that bordered the cornucopia before her and her husband. Her shirt was yellow like the pasture. Her husband smiled evenly, and was dressed all in working-man blue, enjoying the reward of his labors. He sat before a stack of pumpkins, squash and bushel baskets of apples.
Wow the moose isn’t even jacking these folks up. I wonder if he represents God or is simply the metaphor for The Rapture.
A loud popping sound—no, a smack, as if a wet quarter was thrown against the bus and stuck— sounded next to him. He looked out the window and was greeted with an unsettling sight. A big ugly spider with eyes like a fly, but sparkling in the sun light, was stuck to the window looking at him. He had always been fascinated by bugs, had a collection still in his closet, pinned to a Styrofoam board. He noticed right away that this was not a spider, as it had six legs. The thing also seemed to have a mosquito tube for a mouth, below which flexed some nasty looking mandibles, and an extra sticky abdominal port; like a cross between a slug’s butt and an egg-laying sack. The insect was red, with black appendages, and multifaceted light refracting eyes.
If it had been summertime he would have opened the window and collected this little guy— stuck him in the baby food jar he carried around in his fanny pack for this purpose during the summer; maybe even raised this guy as a pet in his tank at home where he kept that praying mantis once until it multiplied so much he had to empty the tank lest it become the scene of some little insect cannibal apocalypse.
He was intrigued by the arachnid impersonating insect, and spoke to the thing that clutched at the glass as the bus rolled across Stemmer’s Run over the railroad tracks, “You are a strange looking fellow aren’t you? At least you don’t have a big head like me. What are you from New Zealand or something? Don’t your invasive kiwi hitching self know it’s too cold for a bug to be out and about?”
Just then he realized that some other folks were looking at him strangely. He became self conscious and stopped talking, just looking straight ahead. There was Mercedes to his left, the ghetto cashier, out on her two-hour trip across town to work, with that plastic flower in her hair. She stopped staring and turned her I-Pod back up and hummed along, looking ahead.
Mister Drug-head was standing up getting ready to offload right beneath him at the rear door. Fat Boy Burger Fryer, who worked at Five Guys and probably ate more than he sold, was also turning back around and minding his own business, back to the pictures on his smartphone.
Also, Miss Nurse, who was heading into the hospital for Second Shift, was just looking away from him as well, back to her paperback romance book.
Oldman Jones had also been eyeing him from halfway upfront. He just nodded respectfully and looked away, cradling his mop-handle in one hand and steadying the mop bucket between his feet as he looked out ahead at the upcoming shopping center.
Oldman Jones thinks you’re weird too. That hurts. Oldman Jones is like the hardest working dude in the world; his own man too, with his own floor cleaning business and all. Just stop talking to bugs, Bighead.
The not-so-pretty Hispanic chick was snoring behind him, on her way to wherever she worked or lived. The bus was much less crowded than normal, even for Sunday. Something at the stop ahead had gotten the attention of Oldman Jones and the driver—it was actually the entire intersection, all up in a commotion. Some people were running around behind the mall on the left, and the shopping center to the right also. Motorists were also running the red light ahead. Two cars even had their windshield wipers on, and there was not a drop of rain or snow in the sky, not even a cloud!
Mister Drug-head then took notice and shook his head, looking up at him, “Shoot Tweet, I wish I had some of whatever they are on!”
Then, as he rang the bell, and the bus lurched to a stop, he waved the Mason comic at him, “Thanks for the reading material Tweet. I’ll give it to you when I see you next—later.”
With that, Mister Drug-head stepped off the bus and Tweet felt bad on two counts: he had not yet learned the man’s name, having just referred to him mentally in the same negative sense that people referred to him, based on nothing but appearances; and for neglecting to say ‘Goodbye sir, have a blessed day’, as Mother had taught him all those many years ago.
He was feeling bad about not saying ‘good morning’ at least, and turned to look at Mister Drug-head and wave. Just then he heard a metallic skittering noise on his window and saw something red and white, about the size of a quarter—the spider-bug—fly off of the window and smack into Mister Drug-head’s face as he walked off reading the comic. The man attempted to swat the thing from his cheek with the comic and the thing just crawled onto his nose. The man then dropped the comic and grabbed at his nose and, and, and…
…Bighead Tweet had almost passed out from the sickening thing he had just seen. He even closed his eyes so that he did not see it all. His stomach flipped and he opened his eyes again, seeing Mister Drug-head kneeling on the sidewalk clawing at his face. This view was thankfully taken away by the progress of the bus. He could not forget though, the horrific image of that big red spider, with the white X on its back, sliding up into the man’s nose, even dragging its hind legs in behind it as the mass of its body formed a floating bubble that distorted the right side of the man’s nose as it burrowed up toward his eye—a bloodshot eye that bugged out in horror, apparently wishing that it was stoned out of its mind!
He mumbled under his breath, “Oh God.” and looked around. Nobody else seemed to be any wiser about poor Mister Drug-head, as they had eyes only for the chaos in the intersection. Cars were whizzing this way and that, heedless of the light. The bus had the right-of-way but the driver waited until these crazy people stopped driving through the intersection before he proceeded. Oldman Jones was all eyes, looking all around.
The bus made it across Route 40 and then banked up onto Route 7, which was curiously deserted. People should have been pouring down the street from the church up the road, which was so busy that police had to direct traffic there on Sunday. When they got to the Farm Store, some people were laid out by their cars at the gas pumps, as if dead or dying. One young dude was coughing up blood. An older white man in a windbreaker and ball cap crawled beneath his car. The pretty Indian girl was not at the bus stop as usual.
He heard someone blurt a loud question, and was surprised to realize it was him, “What is happening?”
Fat Boy Burger Fryer shouted, “Hugh, you talkin’ ta me Bighead?”
The Hispanic girl said something in Spanish.
Miss Nurse just looked at him like he was stupid, and then looked at Oldman Jones, who did answer him, “This is some kind a darned attack, Islamics droppin’ some shit on us. Iz Sunday, so they droppin’ some shit on us Christian folks. Looks like biologicals so I’m keepin’ my Ole ass indoors— nice drivin’ Mister Bus Driver!”
The bus driver’s voice cracked while the others all of a sudden looked out the windows this way and that, “Everybody stay calm, stay cool, and do not offload…until I talk to my dispatcher. This could be an emergency.”
Oldman Jones then shouted at Fat Boy Burger Fryer, “Hey boy, what you got on that crazy phone—can ya ged news?”
Fat Boy put up a finger, “I got you Oldman”, and began to scroll and tap on his phone—and then it died! Fat Boy was beside himself, “Oh hell no! I pay ova a hundred a month for this joint here!”
As much as he tapped, he could get no
reception. The ladies took out their phones and tried to make phone calls. Mercedes yelled, “Mine works, but cain’t nothin’ get through. Everybody in the world must be on they phone!”
Apparently Miss Nurse had the same results, and just shoved her phone angrily into her purse, “Oh I ain’t even goin’ ta be able to call ahead late— my ass is gettin’ wrote up fer sure!”
The bus turned onto Hospital Drive and then pulled over and stopped. There were no people or vehicles in sight. The driver, likewise, was able to make no contact with his supervisor. He stood and turned around, “Look, I can’t get through. I think we should just stay on the bus and maybe find someplace safe to park. I’m thinking of heading up to the college campus and idling on the lot. Is that okay with you all?”
Miss Nurse chirped, “Drop me off at the hospital?”
The man’s voice cracked again, “Of course Miss, as soon as we get to the bus shelter there…then we can pick up people too.”
Oldman Jones then bellowed as he looked around, “Alright folks, only stop is the bus shelter in front of the old emergency room and then up to the campus, got it?”
They all nodded their heads nervously as the bus started up, and something smacked into the windshield—two some things! Miss Nurse squealed and the driver turned on the wipers and the windshield cleaner, sweeping the windshield clear of the two red and white metallic bugs that had lighted on the windshield. Oldman Jones looked across the aisle at Miss Nurse, “Oh Girl, we got us some shit here!”
Tweet still had his ‘All Suffering Soon To End!’ pamphlet in his hand. He looked down at the idyllic scene on the cover and a chill went up his spine. He looked over and saw that Mercedes was eyeing him nervously, looking at the pamphlet in his hand. He wanted to say something comforting, but had always been kind of awkward in conversations. He tried nevertheless and held out the pamphlet for her to see, indicating the two black folks in the foreground with his big thumb, “According to this, people of color—at least some of us—are destined to survive the End Times.”
Mercedes looked at him in disgust, “Are you retarded yo? I don’ wanna read your bigheaded end-a-the-world shit—go away! Somebody busted a bad nut in yo mamma, boy.”
That was very hurtful.
Yes, but she is certainly upset. Pastor Akimbo always said that people would act badly when The Rapture came down.
He shrugged his big shoulders and arched his eyebrows down at Oldman Jones. “Sorry everybody; it’s just a pamphlet.”
Oldman Jones winked at him. “We’ll be fine son. We got us a good driver. You just be ready to help the ladies and such in case we gotta dismount.”
Mercedes snorted dismissively, “Speak fo youself Oldman. I was on the Southeastern Technical Track Team—leave yer ole slow ass in the dust—en this big dummy too!”
She then curled up and sulked, turning up the volume on her headset as she seemed to be trying to pretend that this horrible stuff was not going on around them. The rest of them were gawking wide eyed out the windows, as the few people seemingly about in this deserted world ran screaming and swatting toward buildings and vehicles that they never made it to.
When the bus banked left at the light in front of the emergency room an economy car plowed into the front end on the driver’s side. The bus driver just rolled over the hood and front tires of the car and dragged the thing underneath of the bus until it got ripped apart on the median strip. Then up ahead, there was a crazy man kicking a blonde female EMT to death behind a fire ambulance on the median. Everybody on the bus, even Mercedes, now stood up and watched.
The bus driver was now banking around the ambulance. The crazy man, some ethnic white dude in hospital scrubs, who had just murdered a female EMT in the middle of the street, was now over at the bus shelter heaving the big handicapped woman, the one who always held up the bus boarding with her walker, over his shoulder.
The man then stepped out in front of the bus and waved them down. The driver stopped and the man leaped on the bus with the hyperventilating woman panicking as she hung limply over his shoulder. He placed two little boxes on the fire extinguisher compartment and threw her down on the seat so hard that Oldman Jones had to jump up and catch her to keep her from falling into the aisle.
Miss Nurse was panicking, bouncing up and down in her seat, like she was trying to decide whether or not to get off the bus.
Fat Boy was looking this way and that, looking around, sniveling, and then looking this way and that again, his eyes wide and full of tears.
Then they saw the two homeless people at the bus stop being attacked by these big flying spiders. The homeless lady was running around screaming, a nest of them in her dirty hair. The homeless man tried to board and the crazy man in the hospital scrubs kicked him off onto the sidewalk. He then turned to the bus driver and threatened him not to let anyone on or off the bus.
This was all so surreal; especially since the violent man, who had just killed a woman and thrown another one down in front of them, kicked a homeless man to his doom, and had just threatened the big bus driver with death; was now yelling at them, pointing up the hill by the pavilion, barking through his mask, “All of you; look, look at that! That will be us if we get off this bus!”
Miss Nurse, Fat Boy and the Hispanic lady would have normally gotten off right here. They stayed put, looking around in fear and disgusted wonder from the safety of the bus.
There was a tense conversation now going on between the crazy man in the hospital scrubs and the big driver. But the rest of them still had their eyes glued to the terrible scene pointed out to them, of the woman on the stairs leading up to the pavilion. Bighead Tweet clutched his wrinkled pamphlet to his thick coat and looked on at the form of the nice-looking white-haired older lady in her blue dress and fur-lined jacket. She was squirming on the concrete stairs, which must have hurt terribly. Her mouth was open as if she was screaming but no sound came out. One hand was on her own throat, trying to claw into her own neck, blood running down her neck and fingers. Her other hand was literally tearing her cheek away from her mouth as she tried to make enough room to shove her hand into her petite mouth and down her throat to get at whatever was inside of her.
Bighead Tweet, and everyone else on the bus, by this time, knew what it was that was inside of her; because a half dozen of them were now sticking to the windows, looking in at them all. Apparently one greedy, gleaming-eyed, fat, spider bug had a fixation on each of them. The sunlight refracted off of a pencil eraser-sized set of eyes to his right, and he looked over his shoulder to see a bug that he no longer wanted in his collection; a bug that was looking at him like Fat Boy salivating over a burger he had purposely overcooked…