How To See Savannah On Your Ass
and Riding The Number 14 Abercorn Bus
Savannah,Georgia, Part II
Okay, so where was I?Oh yeah, riding the Number 14 Abercorn.
It’s not as much fun riding the Number 14 Abercorn when you’re smoked on dope and moving about in agony. The first time I got on the bus with my arm in a sling, the damned driver stepped on the gas as I was depositing my quarters into his thingy and nearly knocked me into the pole thingy and center aisle. I could barely stand up as it was, no need for him to accelerate.
You would think that just about any dumb-ass driving a bus could see when someone gets on wearing a black sling around their shoulder when they‘ve got on a white t-shirt. Wouldn’t you? But as time went on, I notice the bus drivers mostly couldn’t give a shit about anything, knocking old ladies and gentlemen, cane and boot, wheel chair or crutches about with reckless abandon.
Most of the bus drivers drive like idiots. The fat ones eat while they drive, they rush from stop to stop, take a bite of fat and step on the gas agin. They are at a stop sign, right? The light turns green and they speed up to the next intersection like the devil is chasing them, and then stomp holy hell on those brakes knocking the poor and the helpless about without so much as a deep breath or an ‘are you okay, hun?’.
I learned quickly that you had better tell that bus driver that you’re an invalid and you need time to seat yourself, and then you had better make a mad dash to the first available seat and avoid the staring eyes, and plant yourself fast as you can because even after you tell the bus driver of your extraordinary injury, they still cannot comprehend what you have told them.
They must have brain like a sieve, and only process the words like: duh and uh.
And you better pray to sweet Jesus that they don’t talk to you because honestly? You can’t understand a word they say when the bus is still or even over the roar of that engine, slamming door or screeching brakes.
You a transfer out?”
Whay you say you’se goin’?
So, Y’all had better sit down quick like and shut the fuck up. Bus drivers tend to mumble because they’re thinking about their business and could care less about yours. Sometimes they’re eating a sandwich, who knows what. Must get pretty tiresome dealing with all those people, questions and their desires.
So, I am sitting on the bus, smiling because I’m hopped up on dope when a woman sitting across from me starts up a conversation. She’s a fifty-ish year old black lady with flowers I her hair, dressed modestly and she asks, where am I goin’t and I reply: Broke my shoulder, on my way to physical therapy when she screams: Ooh, ooh, ooh, honey chile, that soun’ awful. Jess awful! And she slaps her black hand down on her knee cap, snaps her neck up with a jerk and says:
I’m on my way to class at da co-mu-niky college, learnin’ me to be a doctor, I is gwoinah be ay …
N E U R O S U R G E O N
‘Yep, that’s what I’ma gwoinah be once I get my de and gree.’
So I relax a bit and I say excitedly: Oh! How wonderful! I just love the fact that older people are still going to college & getting degrees. I think it’s just great.
Her eyes widen at the word: older and she scrunches up her mouth and nose, eyes come together and she stares at me funny.
Then all at once she switches back to me and she says: What did you say happen wiff you? And I tell her about my shoulder surgery and how I now have a titanium humorous, replaced the ball in the socket, bone shattered & broke in half, snapped and exploded riding that damned Yamama scooter, car parked in the middle of the road, I didn’t see it until it was too late.
*curses that euphoric ride.
And she looks at me and she says:
What you say dat is?
And then it dawns on me, she isn’t going to be a
N E U R O S U R G E O N
She’s a…fifty one fifty.
A nut Ball.
A nut job.
A whack head and a bit
light in the brain.
So I figure who cares anyway, and I chat her up, engage her and we laugh, share some fun and laugh a lot. Only when she laughs, she can’t seem to stop laughing and she hoots and hollers, slaps her knees and stomps her feet like she’s never heard anything funnier in her entire life… even if it’s not really that funny. It doesn’t appear that she can stop laughing once she starts.
And she’s got her school tutor on her lap. And then I glance around the bus and I get a bit paranoid because I am sitting there, hopped up on dope, riding the Number Fourteen and I am the only white boy aboard (slightly tanned) wearing flowered lady’s shorts from Fresh Produce, (straight cut - metro sexual) white socks with flip flops, and a white t-shirt. I’m not really certain where my stop is and I don’t want to miss it and ride that damned bus all the way out, when I start to wonder
…when I catch the attention of another black lady dressed immaculately in traditional cloistered nuns' clothing: tunic, leather belt and cleric‘s collar. She did not wear a scapular or anything like that, however she had a bible in her hand and she held it up and blocked the face of the man to her left with it. She held it there for a long time, switching hands from time to time when the blood flow slowed, and then she pointed the bible at one or two other people on the bus and never removed her gaze, downward up to meet any face, except for a quick glance at where to point that Bible.
Not a wrinkle to her face, hair jet black appeared to be oiled, pulled back tightly in a bun, face a pretty rose, orange, autumn and ochre - clothing starched and ironed, shoes not a scuff. Pressed lips. The Book to match.
Not a stitch out of place, she reeked of perfection. The gold cross around her neck, near-blinding. Settled with The Lord.
The woman next to her looked at me, suppressed a giggle and then shrugged.
I smiled, and then made a face: clueless.
Then all at once the ’nun’ bolted upright with a jolt and held her bible to the ventilation system at the back of the bus, nervously glanced up and around her Word and as I quickly glanced to where she was pointing, saw what she saw.
It was running in and out of the ventilation system and Sister was using The good Book as shield, perhaps to ward off the evil, the devil or maybe she just hated cockroaches.
It was difficult to tell.
I saw her on the bus from time to time, and inquired about her. One woman told me she’s seen that cloistered woman walk into White Castle carrying that bible, walk up to the counter and shove a note at the employees that reads:
2 sliders cheese
And when she wants more of something, perhaps ketchup, she sends a note back their way, never speaking a word. Ketchup’s right there on the counter but she prefers to be served. Or perhaps:
‘Say, weren’t you on this same bus the other day ‘nd day b’fore that?’
One of the ladies inquires.
‘I remember you, the one carrying all them orchid plants, how on earth you got them home in one piece, I’ll never know, but they was real pretty.’
One time I went to sit down quickly before the driver could step on the gas and try to kill me and a lady screamed:
Don’t sit there!
And just before my ass dusted the seat, I shot up and looked around to where she was pointing. Someone had peed all over the bus seat.
I swear, you really have to be careful when riding those damned busses or you could sit in pee, shit, puke, candy, gum or who knows what.
And so little by little, I acquaint myself with the various characters on the Number Fourteen. I figure them to just be about the same as
me, perhaps wanting the same basic things in life, trying to remain quiet during their ride and get off at the desired stop. They’ll utter a quick hello or ignore you all completely. Some will engage. I like to talk to people that I meet when I am out and about in public, private at home.
I’m fine. Really, I am fine. When all of the sudden the man behind me says,
…taps on the back of my seat, kicks it a bit, whistles and blows. I ignore him hoping he’ll go away or disappear at the next stop.
Keeps it up until I can‘t stand it any longer. So I turn around suddenly and say:
But I say WHAT! So abruptly that even he is shocked that he nearly jumps out of his seat and I am embarrassed at my anger.
We’re both surprised and he says,
‘ is you a cop?’
..and I say, NO! I AM NOT A COP!
And he says, ‘is you sho you not wiff da po-lice, da gov-a-ment or da FB&Eye?
And I say again, no, I am not with the government, I‘m not a cop, and I would know if I was. But I’m not.And then I ask him, Why did you think I was a cop?
And he says, because the minute you got on the bus, everybody got quiet. So I said, yes, I seem to have that effect on people wherever I go and promptly got off with relief at the next stop.
Whew lawzy me and praise Jesus, that was close. I must be a magnet for the fifty one fifties.
One time I was waiting for the 14 in a location that had a lot of trees. If the bus driver doesn’t see you, you run the risk of being left for dead on the side of the road, praying another bus will come along but it doesn’t for over an hour. That happened to me once. I waited over and hour and twenty minutes for the bus that runs ever twenty minutes. So, I positioned myself between the trees so I could watch the traffic light change from red to green and back again. The minute it turned red, and the flow of traffic stalled, I would walk out into the middle of Abercorn where the speed limit is forty five, and stand there and see if I could stare down Abercorn and see if that damned bus wasn’t coming. When the light turned green again, I hopped back on the curb and waited for red. All of the sudden, five police squad cars pull up to inquire what I am doing, standing there in the middle of Abercorn in the forty five zone with a broken shoulder, pacing back and forth in the middle of the road like some god damned fifty one fifty.
I told them what I was up to, they chuckled a bit and left me alone. Said the neighbors reported some lunatic out walking around in circles, in the middle of the road.
I love to cook and so, I would often ride out to Fresh Market on the number 14 and return carrying some oddity:
A duck with scallions and plums for Peeking duck.
A turkey in need of corn bread, onions and celery. Maybe a jalapeno.
A goose for Pâté.
Enormous artichokes, mostly because I think they‘re pretty.
I started running into people I had met around town. By now we’ve sold our renovated condos and carriage house with the stunning courtyard and moved to a more upscale part of town, The East side. And before I broke my shoulder, I felt that I resembled Eva Gabor in Green Acres when she stood on her balcony and sang, ‘Darlin’ I love you but give me Park Avenue’. Only, I wasn’t wearing a marabou peignoir, I was wearing my underpants and t-shirt and an untied men’s bathrobe, king-size, in light-weight white cotton. A vision of loveliness… if only in my mind. Eva Gabor and I share a love of flowing robes and Yorkshire terriers. I’ve been known to toss our garbage out of our second floor flat, onto the garbage can down below on the street level, much in the way Eva threw her dirty pink dishes out of the window and onto that pitiful farmhouse lawn,
I mean dirt.
Savannah is known as the-most haunted city in America. So, if you’re into that, you would love the district. Story on every corner, haunted houses are common. Oh, and a place to park your you know what.
The corner of York & Bull Streets feature Wright Square. There is a chocolatier there, you have to stop there when you’re in town. The guys that own it are a bit snotty and gay, but the store is cute and the chocolates a bit pricey, but divine. I love gourmet chocolates, don‘t you? The desserts there are lovely, however the salads over-priced and marginal.
Wright Square is known as The Hanging Square. Or, it was. There were permanent gallows there where tourists now tread. Gallows where swift justice was served by those who were condemned. Justice being what it was, fair or naught.
Wright Square is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Alice Riley. She was the first woman hung there in Wright Square, an indentured servant who arrived in America in December 1733. She was sent to work for William Wise, along with her husband, Richard White. Mr. Wise was a horrible man to work for, and each day he ordered the two servants to bathe and groom him. In March 1734 Richard and Alice had all they could take. She was paying back the price of her passage to America, The New World by working for William Wise, the man to whom she was contracted. He was a wealthy but particularly cruel man who beat and bruised Alice daily. One night, while grooming Mr. Wise, Alice and her husband held his head down in a bucket of water until he drowned. I heard they hit him on the skull with a hammer. They fled the house, but were eventually caught while hiding out, on the Isle of Hope. They were sentenced to death. Alice watched her husband drop through the gallows, his neck snapped and his body began twitching and writhing. Alice screamed and began begging for mercy, shouting to all who was watching that she was with child. The local physician verified her claim and Alice was allowed to live, but only for eight more months. She was held in the Savannah City Jail until the time in which she delivered Richard Whites son, or some said it was the son of William Wise. In any event, she gave birth in the jail and then she was dragged back out and up the gallows and was hung there by the neck until she was pronounced dead. Some say she wailed and screamed while hanging from the gallows. Some witnesses have claimed to have seen a woman, to this day, in Wright Square, dressed in rags and wandering about looking for her lost and abandoned baby. But don’t ask me, I haven’t seen her and hope not to.
There now, I’ve told you all the good places to see, plan at least five days to see it all and ignore the rest. If you don’t listen to me, you’ll be sorry because I happen to be in the know.
Copyright: Steven Hough June 2011