Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Casey folded the hem of her wool coat across her lap as she took her seat on the powder-blue bench. The stained plastic walls of the bus hut insulated her from much of the nightly winds, though the chill of midnight still crept beneath her clothes and raised goosebumps on her flesh. A few feet away sat a woman, wide-eyed and appearing as though she'd been through the ringer a time or two. The woman offered her a polite smile before resuming her stare into the void.

"You ever see those old kung fu movies?" Casey inquired.

The woman looked over at her, confusion evident in her big, blue eyes.

"You know," Casey continued. "Where the young, aspiring acolyte carries pails of water strung up on a staff across his shoulders? He has to climb the steps of an old, moss-eaten temple in the depths of the jungle. And if he spills even a drop, he has to return to the well, fill his buckets again, and start all over?"

"Yeah, I think so," the woman nodded. "My son used to watch those, before he went to live with his father."

"That's sort of how I feel now," Casey admitted with a sigh.

"Too much weight on your shoulders, kitten?"

Casey nodded.

The woman searched through her purse for a moment before producing two bent, tattered cigarette sticks. She stuck one in her mouth before offering the other to Casey.

"I shouldn't," Casey said. Her eyes compulsively flicked to her stomach.

The woman nodded, knowingly. "You're with child."

"Just found out," Casey sighed again.

The woman shrugged. "Come on, Atlas, shrug a little. All that weight on your shoulders is bound to be worse for the little bun than anything these things can do. Besides, I smoked through all my pregnancies, all my little gippers turned out just fine."

Casey considered a moment before reluctantly accepting the cigarette.

"Where you headed?" the woman asked after lighting their smokes.

"Home," Casey said. "I think I'm going home."