Sneak Peek of "The Meeting Place"

E.L. Rhodes Order a signed copy of "Thr3e"



THE MEETING PLACE

By E.L. Rhodes  
Chapter 1  -  Viola
Her hand, small and petite, covered by the soft blue thick cotton glove gripped the metal pole as she stood still waiting impatiently.  The icy cold of the metal pole cut deeply and painfully, piercing through her glove like the blade of a razor-sharp knife.  She quickly removed her hand and wrapped her arm around her body.  Her other hand was wrapped firmly around the thick rope handle of the shopping tote bag which contained her precious items.  Barely moving, she stood as if she had already been frozen solid by old man winter himself.  Staring in the same direction for over twenty minutes, she wanted only to see just a glimpse of its nose peeking over the horizon.  Now swaying from side to side, she remained focused on its expected sight.  She was at its mercy.  The bitter cold made her seek its refuge and she was now longing to snuggle comfortably in its warm bosom.The cold wet bead of moisture crept slowly from the corner of her eye down the front of her face as the frigid wind forced its way through her layered garments chilling her small bones.  She wiped her face then tightly folded her arms together and tapped her feet against the cold pavement in an alternating succession. 

Finally, creeping slowly toward her from off in the distance was the vision of that which satisfied her desire.  Her anticipation grew stronger as it advanced nearer.  Now upon her, after slowly settling to a complete stop, the doors of the #4 bus opened.  It had just completed its run through Main Street.  The thin small woman hurried aboard. 

“Morning Vy!” Greeted the driver while looking out at her from under the brim of his hat.

The young woman quickly dug into the pocket of her coat.  Just as fast as she retrieved it from her pocket, she dropped the coins into the small oblong glass encased receptacle.  She then sashayed down the aisle without uttering a word.  As she maneuvered toward a seat, the heads of the other passengers turned and the faint whispers began.  She held firmly on to her bag while keeping her nose pointed toward the ceiling of the now moving transport.  Just as she was about to slide onto the blue vinyl bench seat, she turned and placed herself on display for the snobby and snide remarking spectators.

“Take a picture why don’t ya?”  She declared loudly.  She looked at all of them with her sassy but angry look then turned and faced the back of the bus.  She reached around to the bottom of her blue and gray plaid coat and not only did she pull up her coat, she raised her coat and dress high above her waist.  She bent over and smacked her bottom while yelling as loud as she could, “YOU ALL CAN JUST GO STRAIGHT TO HELL AND KISS THIS ON YOUR WAY DOWN!” 

The rude stares and snide remarks were what she had to contend with daily; ever since everyone in her small town of Emporia, Virginia found out that she had been impregnated by none other than Willy Sims.  Willy Sims, also known as the Honorable Reverend Sims, was the pastor of The Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Emporia.  This tidbit was the talk of the town and everyone has something to say about it.  Everywhere she turned the words whore, harlot, or home-wrecker was whispered from the lips of some self righteous sinner masquerading as a holy saint.

After adjusting her clothing, she placed her large bag on the seat and cautiously lowered herself down.  She grabbed onto the chrome bar that was attached to the seat directly in front of her before leaning back against the backrest.  The heat blew from the small holes along the bottom of the windows.  It wasn’t cozy, but just warm enough to help take the chill out of the air.  She folded her arms and closed her eyes.  She was tired; tired and cold.  If it wasn’t for her son who had taken ill with the flu, she would have never left the house.  He needed to be cared for and they were running out of food and medicine.  She would have walked to town if she had to for him.  

After resting her head and closing her eyes for a quick nap, her small pleasure was quickly interrupted.

“Vy!  Hey Vy!” The voice whispered.

She ignored the voice and continued with her resting.

“Viola!”  The voice whispered once again.

“What in the hell do you want?  Don’t you see me trying to get some rest?”

“Does Jessie know?”

“Does Jessie know what?”

“Does he know about the baby?  I mean, it being the Pastor’s and all.”

Without opening her eyes or turning her head, she answered.  “Why do you want to know about me and Jessie’s business?  So you can only have more rumors to spread around town about me?  I’ll tell you what, I’m gonna answer your question but only after I bust you in your big loud gossip tellin’ mouth so you can’t spread no more of your filth!”

A cold dead silence rushed throughout the bus cabin.  Viola piled all of her belongings snugly against the wall then rose from her seat and turned toward the woman who was now looking terrified.  She removed her high heeled shoes and balled up her hands into two little fists.  She stood up tall and erect then inched toward the back door of the bus.  Moments after, the vehicle slowed and then came to a stop. 

“Viola, now you settle down back there.  We’ll be havin’ none of that today.  You leave Miss Thelma alone.  Miss Thelma, you go on now, this here is your stop.  Leave her be Viola, you just leaver her be.  I won’t have to call the sheriff again will I?” Yelled the big husky bus driver from his seat.

With that, Viola relaxed her hands and lowered her head.  Thelma having realized the impact of the bus driver’s statement, noticed the affect that it had on Viola.  She slowly rose up from her seat all the while never taking her eyes off of Viola.  She inched between the angry little woman and the seat closest to the rear exit then hesitantly started down the steps to the double doors.

“Go on Miss. Thelma, she ain’t goin’ to harm you none.”  Once again the bus driver reassured the trembling woman.  Thelma reached for the long chrome handle of the doors and began to push.  As she turned to exit she looked back at Viola and produced a snobbish smirk over her face.  She turned up her nose then mumbled under her breath, “Just shameless.”

Viola’s hands once again returned to their balled position. As Thelma turned to lower herself down on the last step to exit, Viola quickly took hold of the shiny bar secured tightly to the back of the seat in front of the exit doors and the long vertical chrome pole that was located just at the top of the steps.  Bracing herself, Viola pulled herself off the floor and raised her foot.

“Viola no!” Yelled the bus driver.

The unsuspecting snobby Thelma looked over at the driver who had now risen from his seat.  He was waving his arms and gesturing like a policeman stopping traffic.  Just as Thelma began to turn toward Viola, she could feel the hard boney heel of the little woman’s small foot wedge between her shoulder blades.

“Nooooooooooo Viola!” Yelled the driver.

 It was too late and Thelma knew it.   Without warning the tiny woman delivered a powerful jolt to Thelma’s back.  The passengers could hear her yell out loudly as they watched her head whip back toward her shoulder blades.

“Iiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeemmmmmmmmm!” Thelma screamed.  Before she knew it, Thelma felt herself lifted up and out of both of her high heeled shoes then soaring through the air.  As her body began to crash through the rear double doors, her head wasn’t as lucky. During her short flight, her head was quickly greeted by the metal threshold just above the doors.  The top of her forehead scraped against the metal during her forced exit.  As she was spit from the exit-way every item in her handbag scattered through the air as the bag itself took flight.  Her knees made impact with the awaiting ground after which she slid about four feet across the cold pavement.  With her hands down by her sides, her nylons ripped down to her ankles, scratches across her forehead and shoeless, she swayed forward then slowly to the rear before slamming face first to the pavement.  As she lay on the cold concrete covered with earth she uttered the remaining half of her statement, “Sor-ry” then passed out.

“Now smirk at that you self-righteous hypocrite!  If it wasn’t so cold out there I’d come and whup you some more!”  Viola yelled as Thelma lay face down on the pavement.

Everyone on the bus rushed off to Thelma’s aid.

“Yal better get back on this bus for you all get left.  She’ll be alright.  I gotta get home so let’s get movin’.  I got a sick boy at home so come on now.  I said she’ll be alright.  She’ll have a headache and maybe a mild case of ‘next time I’ll just shut the hell up’ but other than that she’ll be alright, so let’s get goin’.” Viola said.

The crowd didn’t budge.  They ignored Viola as they continued assisting the young woman who was still sprawled out on the cold pavement.  The bus driver had even joined in with the revival of poor Thelma.

“Ben, now you get back on this bus so I can get home.  Anybody else who wants to stay can just get left!”  Viola screamed.

Still, everyone remained focused and tended to Thelma.  Angry and frustrated even more now, viola walked up to the driver’s seat and pulled the metal switch down to the “close” position.  The doors to the bus closed.  The group of passengers all rushed over to the door yelling for Viola to let them back on board.  Ben, the driver rushed through the crowd and began banging his hand against the glass of the door.

“Viola, now you open these doors, right now!”

Viola just sat quietly, looking around at all the different controls.  “You goin’ to take me home then?”  Viola asked calmly.

“If you open the door, sure.”  Ben replied.

Viola pushed the switch back to the “open” position.  As the doors began to open, Viola immediately pulled the switch back down and the doors re-closed.  She stood, while leaving the crowd standing in front of the door.  Thelma had managed to pull herself up and was now sitting on the freezing curb.  Viola walked across the aisle and lowered one of the windows.  She leaned her head out and yelled as loud as she could.  “Thelma, you’d better get your nosey ass up off that cold ground pretending to be more hurt than you really are before I come out there and turn that pretend into reality!  You’d better be up by the time I get there or else!”

Viola stared at the woman for a moment before closing the window.  Before she could make her way to the back door, Thelma jumped up and staggered as fast as she could down the sidewalk.  After slamming the window shut, Viola walked back over to the driver’s seat and once again pushed the switch to open the doors.  The driver and all of the angry passengers rushed back on to the warmth of the transport.  As they returned to their seats, Ben picked up the handset of his two-way-radio.  He looked back at Viola angrily as she slowly sashayed back to her seat still mumbling to herself.

“Viola, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to leave the bus!”

Viola, now lowering herself in her seat, calmly replied.  “Well, I guess I’m afraid that I’m gonna have to ask you to kiss my ass Ben.”

“Now Viola, don’t make me have to call the sheriff.  Come on now, let’s go!”

Viola slowly raised her head and continued to speak in her calm voice.  “Now Ben, why you wanna go and do that?  Aint no cause for you to call the Sheriff now is it?  You know that busy body Thelma was instigating me.  Now I don’t want no trouble Ben, but you know I aint scaret!  And besides, it’ll be pretty hard drivin’ this here bus with only one eye to see out of.  How many days will you have to take off from your job before your vision comes back, huh?  So ask yourself, is it really worth it?  Besides, you wouldn’t want me to call and tell Luke that you called the sheriff on his dearest and most favorite cousin now would you?  He’ll ram his foot so far up your ass your farts will smell like shoe leather for six weeks!”

Luke was Viola’s first cousin.  He, like Viola was as mean as a snake, maybe even meaner.  He was so mean that he once beat a man to near death just for touching his new car after Luke had just run him over.  That’s right, after he had hit the man with his car.  The young man was only crossing the street with his bag of groceries; Luke drove up and failed to stop at the stop sign at the intersection.  He struck the man and knocked him to the ground.  The poor guy’s groceries flew in every direction.  Luke remained in his car waiting for the man to collect himself and remove himself and all of his belongings from out of his path so that he could continue on his way.  He revved his engine as the man struggled to pull himself up from the ground.  Having become more agitated, Luke began yelling at the man to move while blowing his horn at him.

Spectators stood and watched but said nothing as the man helplessly tried to maneuver himself to an upright position.  No one said a word to Luke for they all knew how crazy he was.  Two of the male spectators finally walked over to assist the young man.  As they lifted him to his feet it appeared that the leg that was struck by Luke’s car was broken.  Not able to apply any pressure on the leg, the young man lost his balance and before either man could catch him, the young man placed his hand on the top of the hood of Luke’s new car in an effort to steady himself.  This infuriated Luke.

“Hey, get off the car!”  Luke shouted at the man.  He climbed out of his car and rushed around to where the young man stood wincing.

One of the spectators assisting the young man backed away slowly from the car while the other held firmly on to the young man’s arm for support.  Luke walked up and slapped the young man’s only crutch.  The Good Samaritan let go of the young man’s arm and held the side of his face.  He looked at the young man and said, “You’re on you own!” and then ran off.

Luke stepped closer to the young man who now was balancing himself on one leg.  Without saying a word, Luke slammed the young man to the ground and beat him for over five minutes.  When he was done, he walked back around to the driver side of his car, climbed in and sped off running over whatever groceries that remained in the brown paper sack.

Yes, Luke was crazy and none of the residents of Emporia wanted any dealings with him.  The only person that he had any respect for other than his father was Viola.  His father was just as mean as he was and as for Viola, well she was the only other person ever to have whipped him.  He never forgot when Viola laid into him.  She hurt him pretty bad.  That was when he, as she had put it, “took part of my virgin.”

Viola had injured Luke so intensely that he walked with a slight limp from that day forward.  Luke rained down havoc and hell on all of Emporia.  Nope, Ben wanted no part of Luke, not in this lifetime.  He wanted only to drive the bus for another day and he knew if Viola called her crazy cousin and told him that Ben had given her a hard time on the bus that Luke would come calling.   As Ben returned from his deep thought he could still hear Viola’s voice in the distance.

“How much money will you loose for not being able to work ‘cause you know Luke’s gonna tear your ass up?!  You’ll be walking around with a tin can and cane by the time he’s done with you.”  Viola then became silent as she slowly rose to her feet once more.  Once again her hands transformed into little tightly balled fists.  “Now why don’t you just put that radio back in that cradle Ben?”

Viola inched closer and closer to where the big burly man sat.  He slowly placed the handset of the radio back into the cradle and pulled the switch down to close the doors.  He looked at the little lady in frustration.  “You know, you’re more trouble than you’re worth.  I’ll be glad when Jessie gets back home.  Somebody needs to settle you down.”

“Well it won’t be you, so just drive FAT BOY!”