Ticket (conclusion)

This is the third of three parts of my short story “Ticket”. If you haven’t done so, you might want to read part i and part ii before the conclusion.

 

The green window glass in the sliding door reflected Vaanadhi scribbling in a pocket notebook. This was Jackie’s last glimpse of that compartment, as she passed into a dark, bare corridor hardly wider than her shoulders.

Five paces, turn left; four paces, turn left again; three paces, and Jackie exited the passageway into a lamplit room. The first thing she saw was a great window that took up most of the wall about six feet ahead of her. Through the window she could see a sign for River Street.

Jackie pivoted ninety degrees to view the rest of this rectangular space. With the window now on her left, she looked across the room to a narrow built-in berth, neatly made up. To its right, a door opened onto a small, sparkling bathroom. The other two walls sported countertops littered with charts, receipts, and leather bound books.Throughout the main chamber, sturdy carpeting of harvest gold made walking and standing more comfortable.   And in the centre of the room stood a ship’s wheel.

Behind the wheel, an affable old fellow lounged  with a novel in a captain’s chair.  “Fine weather we’re having.” He wiped toast crumbs from his whiskers.

“Yes, it is. But my friend and I didn’t want to turn east.” Once more, Jackie had spoken without reserve. “Please tell me which bus we should take?”

“Well now, the schedules are a bit unpredictable. And never mind your friend,” the man continued brightly, “she’s already gone.”

Jackie was about to ask for clarification on that statement, when a sheaf of small papers on the nearest counter caught her eye. Bundled together with an oversized butterfly clip, they were the size of a human hand: bus tickets? The tickets were printed with a line for one’s name and a box for comments. On the top one, “Greg Lerner”, in block letters, prefaced the longhand testimonial: “Thank you so much! It was quite the ride.” Stamped in blue ink across the ticket was the word “Paid”.

“Hey, that’s — wait a minute! Sir, I didn’t get a ticket.”

“Passengers don’t receive one until they reach the end of the line. If you’d paid better attention to Vaanadhi’s latest book, you’d remember that.”

Jackie smiled with only one side of her mouth. “Too much administration work these days.” Then she looked the old man in the eye. “I need to get off the bus now.”

“And this is your stop.” In the wall opposite the window, a panel opened. As Jackie walked past the gentleman, he touched two fingers to the brim of his cap. “See you again!”

Jackie stood on the sidewalk watching the bus pull away. Then she crossed the street to the stone gates, entered the lane, and slipped through the open doorway of the crowded chapel. She found a seat just as Vaanadhi reached the front.

“I am honoured to be asked to say a few words today. When I was still an undergrad student, my advisor, Jackie — ah, there she is — urged me to take Dr. Lerner’s Classic Literature 101 course. I said I would follow her advice. A few years later I was writing a Master’s thesis under Dr. Lerner. And all this work because of my preposterous ambition to write novels!” Muted chuckles issued from the crowd. “Dr. Lerner offered to his students a mighty key — a Greek key, if you will — to unlocking the secrets of great literature. He imparted a love for symbolism and close analysis that has enriched both our reading and our writing immeasurably. We shall miss him.”

Vaanadhi closed her pocket notebook, strode down the aisle, and joined Jackie in her pew. “So, Jackie, you managed to get off at the right stop?”

“Yes,” Jackie whispered. “I prefer driving; that bus ride wasn’t an experience I’d want to repeat anytime soon. But at least I didn’t get a ticket.” She covered her mouth with her hand, and Vaanadhi coughed discreetly.

11 Responses to Ticket (conclusion)

  1. eyegillian says:

    Wow. This story has completely blown me away. Now I have to read it again, and pick up all the clues I dropped. Cool stuff. One of the best you’ve written, if not the best. Wow.

  2. lavenderbay says:

    Aww, thanks, Eyegillian! First you made coffee on this dark, rainy morning, and then you left such a nice compliment! Happy, happy, happy…

  3. themarvelousinnature says:

    Hoo boy, symbolism indeed. At the start I was thinking this is the weirdest thing you’ve written, but now reading the end and thinking about the beginning in a symbolic sense it’s less confusing. Am I to take it that the story is a metaphor on life (perhaps your life?). Was Dr. Lerner real?

  4. Gina says:

    I also got the idea Dr. Lerner was real. ??? I enjoyed the story immensely.

  5. lavenderbay says:

    Hi Themarvelousinnature,
    Hi Gina,
    I’ll answer you both at the same time, okay?
    I was blessed with several Dr. Lerners while working towards my Honours Bachelor’s degree in English Literature (the “honours” part means I took twenty single-semester literature courses instead of the usual fifteen) . These were the professors eager to point out the subtleties, everything from Classical or Biblical references to use of alliteration and assonance. They also encouraged my detective-style essays, in which I would answer a question (e.g. “Was Hamlet mad?”) by combing the text to draw out clues and build my case. I never used a secondary source if I wasn’t required to.
    I also had a Hebrew Bible professor, a well-loved man, who died suddenly in the middle of term. I attended the funeral and heard several testimonials similar to the one Vaanadhi gives in my story.
    Most of the rest of this definitely weird tale — up to and including the tickets-slash-comment cards — is the retelling of a very vivid dream I had last week. But as I hinted to Livingisdetail, I didn’t want to end the story with the tritest conclusion of all: “Gee, it was just a dream.”
    I’m glad you both enjoyed the story.

  6. Alyson Hill says:

    I totally thought the bus was going an analogy for death, but I didn’t see that coming at all! Was Hamlet mad, BTW? I’d love to read that essay too.

  7. lavenderbay says:

    Yeah, it kinda works, doesn’t it, Alyson? I’m glad you enjoyed it.
    I don’t keep old papers, but at least I can tell you that I decided Hamlet wasn’t mad. He was clever and depressed, and probably should have spent more Friday evenings with Ophelia and a six-pack of Carlsberg.

  8. lavenderbay says:

    No, Ophelia. “Hamlet and Shirley” reminds me of “Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter” from the movie Shakespeare in Love.

  9. livingisdetail says:

    Bravo, this is excellent !!There is so much to think over. I, too, thought she was on her way to another life but then you twisted it. Love the comforting details like the toast crumbs. I also like the uncomfortable details as well. There is something really haunting about a ships wheel inside a slick, modern bus. It is great that they haven’t upgraded to GPS just yet lol.

  10. lavenderbay says:

    Oooh, you’re right, Livingisdetail, a GPS doohickey would have leant a level of bathos that I wasn’t seeking. I’m so glad you liked the story.

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