Red Leaf Travelling Blues
By Nathan Turowsky
Allowed by the conductor to get on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus despite not having enough money and being at the very edge of the PVTA service area at best, they settled down into two isolated seats at the very back, their heads resting against the cold metal behind them as they listened to the power train’s almost maternal hum. They went through the fields south of Bernardston and down the old streets of Greenfield. Past there, they crossed the big river at Turners Falls, where it fell over the power-dam in triple cataracts. South of Sunderland they got off and looked down past Amherst to the distant humps of the Holyoke Range. The hills north of the Quabbin were blazing with foliage to the east beneath the morning sun.
‘So what’s new with you?’ asked one of them casually, clapping her hand down on her friend’s shoulder.
Her friend cleared her throat and said ‘Not much. Not much.’
‘Oh, come on. I haven’t seen you in quite a while, you know, Mattie.’
Mattie nodded and blushed and looked shyly down at her girly little black shoes. ‘Well…’ she said, and seized up. She looked up a little—only a little. Ellie was short enough that Mattie needed only to change her gaze a tick upwards for her face to come into the top edge of her vision. It was a pretty face, firmly round with heavily-lidded grey eyes and unevenly cut auburn hair falling down to either side. Ellie had a big forehead, which years ago she had self-consciously covered with bangs. She didn’t do this any more. She looked better with the forehead visible, Mattie thought.