Road Killing: Planet Buzzkill Chapter 3

#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…  

Oh God! 

…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…

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