Last Stop for Redemption and Salvation.
February 15, 2014
Several Years ago, I discovered that a long, winding bus ride through the South was not unlike living inside a novel. Old characters get off and new characters get on every time the bus stops. This is the story of my trip from Dallas to Atlanta. Part 5.
Memphis looms just ahead. The puffy lady with the bright-eyed little girl stirs as the glow of city street lights spins through the bus. They sit amidst a tattered cluster of paper dolls as they have for three days, all the way from Los Angeles.
It’s the puffy lady’s fifth journey in the past eighteen months.
Her daddy needs her.
Doctors amputated his left leg, and she came.
They took off his right leg, and she returned to his side.
Pneumonia gripped his lungs, and she was there to hold his hand.
A heart attack knocked him down, and she rode three days and nights to pray beside his bed.
The last word the puffy lady received told of his passing.
A funeral awaits her, but only if she and Greyhound can make it in time.
Three days seems like forever.
For her, it is.
“I just hope I can get there before they put him in the ground,” she says.
“When is the funeral?”
“Yesterday.” The puffy lady shrugs. “Maybe they waited for me.’
Maybe they should.
The bus eases into a bright new Greyhound depot, and Memphis, – all around it – is ablaze with electronic gossip that lights up the night.
Down the street, the Ramada Inn warns: “Your arms are too short to box with God.”
On the next corner, the Hotel Tennessee (Rates $12 and up, Stop and Come In) pales in a neon marquee that preaches: “If God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.”
A lot who come to Hotel Tennessee are looking for salvation.
Not all of them have come to pray.
Redemption is just a kiss away.
A kiss leads to temptation.
Temptation leads to a twenty-dollar bill.
And a twenty-dollar bill leads to salvation.
Just beyond the taxi cabs, the Ellwest Adult Film Theater boasts about having full-color individual viewing booths with movies for every taste. It has live exotic shows on thirty screens, or so it says, including sexy dancers for twenty-five cents apiece.
Or, for a quarter, you can “call-a-doll” and talk to the girl of your choice, and maybe even find temptation.
They’re all over at the Hotel Tennessee.
All for a price.
Love is extra.
Love is fleeting.
There are no guarantees on love.
Inside the depot – a clean, well-lighted place – Flat Feet is being chased by Pac Man.
The four-year-old is trying to figure out how to coax a sack of potato chips out of the vending machine without wasting a coin, which he doesn’t have.
Love Those Jugs is punching the Rolling Stones into a jukebox, She listens as they tell her it’s “No Use Crying.’
The curly-haired stranger is digging in the pockets of his faded jeans for a quarter so he can check out the shy blonde’s bio-rhythm.
Doesn’t know what it.
Thinks it might be something good.
He’s looking for a way to her heart.
He knows where it is.
Over there alongside temptation.
On the far side of redemption.
Begging for salvation.
But love at rates for $12 and up at the Hotel Tennessee is a little steep, and the bus won’t wait around forever.
He’ll settle for a bio-rhythm and wonders what it will get him, if anything. After all, the machine guarantees that it offers a road map to help them both on a safer, better, more meaningful, and productive life.
And the curly-haired stranger is definitely in search of a better life.
The shy blonde only wants to know “when to act and when to proceed with caution,” as the machine says, in case anybody tries to harass her or, God forbid, do even worse.
She’s fine with a little temptation.
She doesn’t need salvation.
The shy blonde was saved the night before she left home.