Cousin Fuzzy Meets “Whirlaway” by Poe Ballantine
At the Gallup, New Mexico, bus station, just for the heck of it, I asked the clerk behind the counter where the bus did not go. He was amused and I think somewhat intrigued when he realized I was seriously going into a ticket office and asking about places they did not go. He had a slow way of speaking and studied me as if he cared, as if my mother were a Polish émigré and I should not let her down, as if I might not get away with anonymity, as if the soul might be something you can’t just return like a nickel pop bottle. He said there were more places the bus didn’t go than where it did, but it was all up to me. He said I looked tired.
Since I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go yet, and I never ended up where I intended anyway, I bought a ticket to Springfield, Ohio, a place I’d passed through a few times that I liked the look of. I remembered the sign outside a Springfield residential motel advertising rates for $75 a week, and I thought I’d get a room there and a job cooking or cleaning toilets and finally write Whirlaway: The Great American Loony Bin, Horseplaying, and Record-Collecting Novel.
The destination on the rollsign above the windshield of my eastbound Greyhound read ALBUQUERQUE, a city I had just passed through a month before, though that didn’t bother me since long ago I had grown accustomed to traveling in circles and seeing the same places over and over, like the El Bambi Café in Beaver, Utah, at whose counter I have literally sat a hundred times on the eastbound and westbound circuit from Vegas and LA, and Grand Junction, CO, where buses get major service and cleaning after the long Rocky Mountain haul, and the glass depot door goes Crack! Crack! Crack! all day and night, year after year, and never gets fixed.
To read the entire essay, go to Powell’s Books.