in our previous episode, jerry murphy has returned to chicago from a hitch in deep space, to discover that his uncle stan has been framed for murder - and is headed for the chair!
jerry stared up at the clock on the bus station wall. his mind was in a whirl.
he knew he had to say something. moe was looking up at him with his hound dog eyes, like a sinner looking up at a saint descended from heaven.
somebody bumped into jerry from behind. he hardly felt it.
it occurred to him he was in back in chicago, and he almost checked his pockets, then remembered he had everything, including his new papers and i d, safe in a money belt around his waist.
moe was tugging at his arm. “come on, let’s sit down somewhere. you look like you are going to faint.”
jerry wasn’t going to faint, but he did feel like sitting down.
he looked across the station. there was an old fashioned snack bar at the back wall, selling hot dogs and sandwiches and sodas. there was a girl behind the counter wearing a white paper hat.
looking at it brought back long ago memories of days at the ball park and the lake, of ferris wheels and cotton candy and shooting galleries - the first time he fired a shot at something and hit it - and the big ugly clown handing him a blue teddy bear for a prize...
“let’s go over there,” he told moe.
“no, i can’t sit on them stools, they make my back hurt.”
“there’s a place right outside, the dark and smoky bar. let’s go there.”
“can i get something to eat there? “
“sure, they’ll fix you something. especially if i ask them. i’m an old customer.”
“all right, let’s go, then.” jerry took a look around the bus station. as soon as i go out that door, he thought, i will really be back in chicago.
the dark and smoky bar seemed empty, but when jerry and moe took a booth near the door jerry thought he heard voices from a couple of the other booths in front of them.
there was no bartender in evidence. there was a big television screen - almost as big as the viewer on a space ship - but it was turned off.
a gray-haired waitress came over with a pencil and pad. she nodded at moe and said something jerry couldn’t make out.
moe pointed to jerry. “this is jerry. he’s just back from deep space.”
the waitress didn’t look impressed. “what will you have?
“think you can get jerry something from the kitchen? “
“sure,” the waitress looked at jerry. “what do you want?”
“whatever is quickest.”
“get you a ham sandwich. a burger or a cheeseburger if you want to wait.”
“a ham sandwich is good.”
“want anything on it?”
“nothing else? most people eat healthy these days - lettuce, tomato?”
“get you some ketchup - that’s got some vitamins.”
“mustard - lots of it.”
“and two dark drafts,” moe added.
jerry watched the waitress head to the back . “was her name ruby?”
“of course. what else would it be?”
jerry rubbed his eyes. “all right, tell me about stan. where he is now, in joliet?”
“nah, he’s in russia someplace. some part of russia - siberia or bulgaria or someplace. ”
“in russia? what’s he doing in russia?”
moe shrugged. “that’s the way it is these days. it’s one world. and they move people around, you know.”
jerry didn’t know but he just said, “so where is the governor - if you want to get him to stop the execution - still in springfield?”
“nah, in brazil someplace. that’s how they do it these days. spread everything around.” moe lowered his voice. “so that the workers and peasants can’t unite.”
jerry blinked. “brazil? so we have to get to brazil?”
“no, no, the governor is not the problem.” moe leaned forward. “the solution is right here, in chicago - over on the east side. we know packy miller’s boys framed stan - all we have to do is prove it.”
“in the next four hours.”
“exactly.” moe started to say more, but looked back over his shoulder at ruby the waitress approaching with the two drafts on a tray.
as ruby put the two glasses down, jerry asked her, “where can i get a pack of smokes?”
“there’s a machine beside the bar, over on the right, just before the back entrance.”
“is it still a quarter?”
ruby laughed. “a quarter? sonny, you have been in deep space. no, it’s forty cents.”
“forty cents!“ jerry had been warned that prices were up but had not really thought about it. he wondered how long his discharge pay would last.
“you’ll see a lot has changed, kid,” moe told him. “but don’t worry, i got these beers. and your sandwich.”
“yeah, thanks.” jerry stood up. “excuse me.” he headed for the back, because now he really needed a smoke.
as he passed one of the other booths he heard a voice behind him.
“are you following me, spaceboy?”
staring at him through a whirl of cigarette smoke was the bus driver - the knockout dame from the bus from spaceport.
and sitting across from her and looking up at jerry was delbert - the little guy on the bus who had wanted to show jerry a good time.
jerry just gawked at the bus driver, who was still in her uniform - a uniform that showed off every curve on her lush body.
delbert broke the awkward silence. “the kid don’t mean nothing. after all, we are just outside the station.” he laughed. “don’t mind merry, kid. she thinks every guy in the world is following her. and you can see why, ha ha!”
“right,” jerry mumbled. he turned and headed for the cigarette machine.
his hand trembled slightly as he put his forty cents into the machine and heard the pack of old golds thunk into the tray at the bottom.
what am i shaky about, he thought. i wasn’t this nervous when i was stranded on a leaky patrol craft two million miles from betelgeuse.
he put the cigarettes in his pocket and headed back to the booths.
he stopped when he got to the booth delbert and merry were sitting in.
“can i ask you a question?” he asked merry.
“you’re a bus driver, right?”
“a brilliant observation.”
delbert laughed, but jerry ignored him.
“so you must know the bus routes around here.”
merry shrugged. “a little. i mostly have the spaceport route.”
“what’s the quickest way to the east side?”
“quickest way?” she blew smoke at him. “you in a hurry?”
“yeah, a little bit.”
“a hurry for a good time?” delbert asked.
“no, strictly business.”
“if you are in a hurry,” merry answered. “you don’t want to take the bus. there is a cab stand down the street, on the corner of 77th. blue light cab. ask for terry and tell them merry sent you. it won’t cost much more than the bus.”
“thank you, “ jerry told her. “thank you very much.”
“glad to oblige.”
“come back later,” delbert said, “if you want a good time.”
“after your serious business,” merry added. she blew a smoke ring.