Dave drove the half-mile to his neighbourhood gym, every morning, every week, sure as the southern sun. He parked his Lexus in the corner spot, his spot essentially, slipped a reflective foil onto the dash and locked all the doors with a chirp.
From six fifteen until seven, Dave pounded the treadmill, first at a power-walk and then at a full run. His gym was up three floors and the treadmills faced a bank of windows. This afforded Dave a view of the hills on the outskirts of town, and this is where he trained his attention. Or tried to.
Beneath Dave’s rolling horizon, down on the main road opposite the parking lot, was a bus shelter. No larger than a room – half a room, three brick walls – it commanded his streetscape. It was, truly, a shelter and Dave knew the day of the week by its occupant.
Monday brought the man with the duty-free bag. See Buy Fly. Dave recognized the logo. Tuesday belonged to the woman with two shirts, one pink, one mottled brown. At some point during Dave’s workout, she’d exchange one shirt for the other and Dave would look away, check his progress on the treadmill’s timer, so as not to see her breasts hanging naked in the street.
With Wednesday came a younger man, nervous. He tossed down a cardboard slab, same as the others, yet he never sat, never slept. No, Wednesday patrolled his shelter with marked vigilance, back and forth, inside, out, as if to defend against Thursday and its attendant lodger.
The accident, as Dave later referred to it, happened on a Wednesday in May. Thin haze clung to the hills as he launched into his a.m. regime. Down on the street, a familiar torso, lank and jacketed, sloped against the far brick wall. The hands had been filed into front pockets, one red high-top crossed over the other, and the head, from Dave’s point of view, neatly severed by the corrugated roof. The young man waited as two sidewalk sweepers made their circuit, tapped stiff bristles at the edge of his cardboard and checked both corners of the shelter. When the cleaners shuffled on, Wednesday peeled himself from the wall, lit a cigarette and turned toward an oncoming bus. Dave took a swig from his water bottle.
The bus came in to a silent stop, and effaced both the man and the shelter with its dented siding and wan yellow paint: Golden Arrow, in tarnished script, The Bus for Us! Dave upped the speed on the treadmill and played out the rest of the scene. In a minute or two, the bus would pull away and Wednesday would be gone, swallowed, removed for another six days. And after a minute the bus did pull away, but the man in the shelter stayed behind.
Dave checked his time, his pace. The gym had blue-tinted windows, perpetual sunny sky, so Dave knew Wednesday couldn’t see him, probably didn’t even realize this row of treadmills looked down over the street. Even so, the young man seemed keyed to his direction this morning – and exceptionally jittery. He paced the length of the shelter and jerked his head from side to side, nothing unusual there. But every third or fourth jerk, he stopped and squinted straight up to the glass as if he could see Dave, as if Dave had his own sights fixed on Thursday in the shelter.
Dave pushed into a jog. Wednesday crushed his cigarette under a high-top, clenched his hands into fists and stretched out his fingers, clenched his hands and unfurled each finger. Some kind of warm-up. The timer flashed 28:43, less than seventeen minutes to go. Dave broke a sweat and squeezed another stream of water toward his mouth, missed a step, caught himself. He had to concentrate, on his breathing, on his heart rate. Fifteen minutes. Thirteen.
Now at a run, Dave watched the two red sneakers butt the cardboard, pry it up and stamp it back down. Searching, he’s searching for something. At twelve minutes, Wednesday emerged from the shelter, his head rigid and his eyes locked on the blue-sky pane. Dave flicked his gaze to the opposite side of the glass and considered, fleetingly, for the length of a single stride, if that solicitous tint might be bulletproof as well.
Ridiculous, and Dave would have smirked were it not for the young man slipping one arm through the open zip of his jacket, grasping something, and —
They had to cart him down all three flights. Dave sprained an ankle and shattered his elbow on the neighboring treadmill. A seizure perhaps; tests would tell. He’d run again in under a week, the medics reassured him, but Dave couldn’t drive, no, not for months.
The wheels of the gurney rattled through the parking lot. Dave raised his head as they passed his car and sun glinted from the windshield. Across the street, another bus pulled in front of the shelter. Golden Arrow, pointed straight downtown. The bus idled, waited. Dave could hear the engine now, he could smell the fumes.