There is something wrong with waiting for the Sun-Tran bus number eleven at seven in the morning thought Charlie Jones as he dragged upon a Camel straight and adjusted the band on his watch. A couple of pigeons wandered over and he threw them each ample quantities of the three-day-old Allsups burrito buried in his coat pocket.
Jones was wearing stuff from his father's closet. There was something about that woolen cowboy-style suit jacket and the bolo tie—a turquoise and coral affair that depicted the Zuni Sun God—that made Charlie itchy and paranoid.
—Someone else wore this stuff around Burque thirty years ago and now it's my turn, he mumbled to the small birds.
The Lomas bus followed a wide path made from concrete and dinosaur juice and ended up on the edge of the mountains, a place nearby to Charlie's destination. On board, Jones read through his notes for the day. Once in a while, he looked out the window. The bus drove through places that used to be open range, filled with sage and snakes and the ruins of cars that never made it to Califas.
—So Tony y la familia settled in Barelas, a passenger across the aisle gravely intoned.
Charlie got out of the bus after it crossed Juan Tabo and walked the rest of the way to the high school. The place was mostly painted purple. There were also about three hundred or so depictions of lions—some sculptural—
—The school mascot left its spoor everywhere, Jones whispered reverently.
As Charlie marched through the administrator’s area on the way to his classroom, he was mistaken for a student by the new community resource officer, a man who had just moved to Burque from New Jersey—looking for something he just knew was hidden somewhere in the sprawling western lands. His name was Dwight.
Jones produced his faculty ID. He gave the old man a solemn pat on the back, thanking him for his vigilance and incomparable public service. The two men wandered away from the other satisfied and confident about their ability to communicate with individuals from outside their respective subcultures.
It was still early; Charlie stopped by the teacher's lounge. He had a Sony Walkman in his bag. Jones was about to activate side two of the new Radiohead album when Bob Baca, the biology teacher appeared. Bob began chatting about invertebrates in a very excited tone and then with no small amount of verbal craft segued loquaciously and nearly seamlessly into a diatribe about the wonders of religion.
—A single dude like you ought to give church a try, said the biology teacher, inducing a sense of mock frenzy in Charlie’s fingers, which were unable to flip the cassette tape over at that precise moment due to an overwhelming sense of ennui in the rest of his body.
He reached his room, unlocked the door and activated the switch on the wall. Lights fluttered to life and computers booted. Students began to wander in. One of them asked Charlie if it was true that he was a communist and let his summer school students read Chairman Mao's little red book last year. Charlie waved off the question and made sure he stood with his hand over heart when they played the Star Spangled banner over the intercom that morning.
Jones gave a lesson about how technology was influencing rock music. One of his students, Zach, jumped out of his seat near the end of the talk, and began belting out "Destination Anywhere," by Bon Jovi while gesturing madly at the students in the back of the room. After a couple of verses, he retreated—funky, outrageous and parade-style through the classroom door, never seen again.
During the scheduled lunch break, Charlie sat behind his desk and played Oregon Trail on the Apple IIe. Afterward he spent the afternoon discussing a relatively new thing called the world wide web with a group of final-year students who he believed were probably going to end up designing nuclear weapons or implementing carnivorous global marketing strategies.
On the way out to the bus stop at the end of the day, he nearly tripped over Bob Baca. Jones was looking down, trying to find the rewind button on his music player. Just as he slid awkwardly past Baca, the tape inside the machine reset itself. A recording of Thom Yorke's voice began telling all about a dystopian world—filled with crash survivors and characters right out of Shakespeare—that was just around the corner.
—Fitter, happier, more productive, the voice on recording said with the informative precision of machines.
Charlie cranked up the volume, flashed Baca the peace sign and crossed the street. He walked to the bench where a bus was always waiting and listened.