Vex in Silence

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing you concerning the incident that occurred on the day of April 28th between Sedona, Arizona, and Boulder, Colorado. I know I am in a lot of trouble, but I am sure if you hear my side of the story, my punishment won’t be as severe. I cannot go to prison.

It all started on a really sunny day on a Trailways bus in Sedona. As I walked onto the giant red bus, I couldn’t help but think it was like a cherry sarcophagus. A blast of sweetly scented air-conditioned air felt so great that I nearly forgot to hand the driver my ticket. He had a belly that hung over his belt like a blue water balloon. Like a robot, he ripped the yellow slip from the middle and handed me back the shell. I was the only one to get on at that stop.

I hiked my knapsack to the back of the bus. It was packed with people; old women with wigs and big plastic purses, lonely children shuttling between divorced parents, heavy set college girls, and a Native American family, all slowly leaned backwards as the bus accelerated. It was hard to walk gracefully, so I lurched as the driver shifted gears.

I noticed an empty aisle near the back and took it. I plopped into the seat and jammed my knapsack under the seat. The carpeted seats wore geometrical designs and had a little silver button to make the seats recline. As I reclined, I was very careful not to disturb the man in front of me. You know who he was, but I will describe him anyway. He had on a dark blue suit and shiny aviator-style sunglasses that accented his shiny bald head. His suit was a bit wrinkled, and he smelled of breath-mints.

I took the seat nearest the big tinted ‘emergency exit only’ window and pulled out my twentieth anniversary issue of County Music News. Before I got the feature article, I noticed my chewing gum had lost its flavor. I had stuck it in my mouth to keep my stomach from growling two hours earlier, but now, it was just making me hungrier, and it was bland, too.

Now look, normally, I would have just stuck the gum under my own seat, but my knapsack was there already. I didn’t want to make a mess, so I got up to throw it away in the bathroom at the back of the bus. So, I pinched the gum between my thumb and forefinger, like I was taking out a dip of chew, and rattled the bathroom door. The bus vibrated under my feet as I heard a soft voice say, “Occupied.” I went back to my seat to wait, staring at the twin reading lamps over my seat, pretending they were like the eyes of the aliens you see in those check stand newspapers in supermarkets.

Just as I was about to stick the gum under the seat of the bald guy in front of me, she came out. As the maroon door unlatched, I half expected another old lady holding a plastic purse to emerge; instead, a beautiful young woman with a black leather jacket draped over her hands and a face as smooth as milk stepped out. Her frame was large and tight, like a professional athlete’s, and on top of her Amazonian frame were hung balsam wood blonde curls the size of Coke cans; they were just calling out to my fingers to crunch like potato chips. Her eyes were narrow and pure azure. The big gold hoops in her ears glanced her black and red, horizontally striped, long sleeve shirt at the shoulders. She wore a silky pleated skirt across her lap. Her legs were bronzed, and the ends pressed into little leather high heels.

I wrapped my gum in a little scrap of paper to clear my head. I thought I would never have a snowball’s chance in hell with a woman like that. That is why I was shocked when she sat down next to me and crossed her legs toward me. It suddenly dawned on me why there was no one in this row; it was hers. We exchanged polite smiles, and I did everything to put her out of my mind. Whether I liked it or not, she absorbed all my attention through my peripheral vision, like a black hole swallows light. I picked up my magazine and pretended to read. She reached down and pulled some book from her purse, The Delta of Venus. I remember the name because it reminded me of her; she was really like some sort of Greek Goddess. That’s when I noticed she was wearing handcuffs.

She noticed me notice and flashed me a smile, silently pressing her index finger to her lips as if it were a secret only between us. With little else to do besides looking completely dumbfounded, I went back to pretending to read my magazine. She flipped her book open to a dog-eared page and re-crossed her legs.

I could feel my heart in my throat as I tried to imagine what the hell someone like her could have done to end up in handcuffs. Maybe, she was a prostitute, or maybe, she had robbed a bank? What if she had killed someone? Maybe, she was into some sort of kinky sex life, and her lover forgot the key after their most recent rendezvous?

Before I knew it, my mind wandered to her open book. I couldn’t believe what she was reading:

“Nearer, nearer,” I said.

“I want to teach you something,” said Millard. “Do you want to let me do it?”

He inserted his finger inside my sex. “Now, I want you to contract around my finger. There is a muscle down there that can be made to contract and expand around the penis. Try.”

I tried. His finger there was tantalizing. Since he was not moving it, I tried to move inside my womb, and I felt the muscle that he mentioned, weakly at first, opening and closing around the finger.”

Millard said, “Yes, like that. Do it stronger, stronger.”

What the hell! What kind of girl was this? I had to take another glance at her. I couldn’t read any further because her arm blocked the words. I found my gaze following her arm up past the tiny blonde hairs of her forearm to the patch of strawberry freckles shaped like a shark chasing a school of fish. My eyes leisurely climbed up over the bunched red and black fabric at her elbow only to realize that she had been watching me the entire time look over her shoulder and dissect her left arm. She grinned coquettishly and, with her shushing finger, fished around in my shirt pocket and pulled out my blue ball-point Bic pen.

She flipped the pages of her book to an empty page and scribbled silently, “My name is Miranda. What is yours?”

She handed me the book and Bic, and I scribbled back, “My name is Arthur. Why are we communicating like this?”

“See the guy sitting in front of us. I really don’t want him to hear us talking.”

I wrote back, “Did he put the handcuffs on you?”


I wrote back, “Well ma’am, I am sure he had plenty of reasons to do so. I really don’t think we should be talking.”

Immediately after she had read it, she began to scratch a note on the paper hurriedly, “Please, I’ve been on this bus for twelve hours already, and I am scared. The man in front of me is a pimp. Have you ever heard of human trafficking? I guess that is a fancy way of saying I was kidnapped and I have been whored out since a young age. I finally escaped, but he caught up to me and is taking me back.”

I didn’t know what to think. My head was spinning, and before I knew it, we stared at each other a little too long. She was so pretty and smelled like apples; then, she started to watch my mouth. I couldn’t help myself. Our lips touched, and I closed my eyes. She ran her tongue along the curve of my upper lip like she was tracing a picture. I dragged my fingertips lightly across the inside of her forearm at a leisurely cadency, until they hit the icy metal handcuffs like a roadblock.

Simultaneously, our heads struck together painfully, our teeth making a clicking noise as they knocked against each other. We must have made too much noise fooling around and woke up her pimp in front of us. He stood backward in his seat facing us. One of his hands gripped the collar of my shirt and the other clutched a handful of her big blond hair. I don’t know what it was—maybe, it was the way he handled her, or maybe, it was the way he was grabbing me—but the next thing I know I was watching myself pry his hand from my collar and jam it between the crack of the two seats that separated us from him. With his hand pinned like this, I punched my balled fist into his face until his hand released the fistful of hair. My hand was aching, and the blood from his lip and nose and my knuckles spattered onto my khaki slacks.

That’s when he reached for his gun. It was blue and shined like a dulled mirror. At first, I froze; then, my brain kicked in and told me to get it from him. He must have read my mind because we both paused to look at each other, then we both grabbed for the gun in his shoulder holster at the same time, he with his right hand and I with my left.

The way we both fumbled made it look like thumb wrestling. He got a hold of it first, but I bent his middle finger back until I felt it snap like a piece of PVS pipe. The gun tumbled to the grooved scarlet linoleum. We scrapped for what seemed like an eternity. His sunglasses were busted and clung to his face like the remnants of a smashed spider on a wall. As we struggled, I noticed Miranda standing squarely towards us in the aisle. Pop. The bald man crumpled over, and his blue suit began to soak up his blood in a spreading purple hue. I let go of my grip on him, and he deflated like a punctured balloon.

Meanwhile, the pot-bellied bus driver had lurched the bus over to the shoulder of the highway. Miranda rushed toward the front of the bus past the blue-collar faces in carpeted recliners and pointed the pistol at the driver. In a motion like she was starting a lawn mower, she grabbed the CB and ripped the curly chocolate colored cord from the dashboard of the bus.

She whispered something in the bus driver’s ear, and the bus lurched again, nearly knocking me down from the acceleration. The bus was silent for the next couple of hours. Until then, I never knew what my mother meant when she told me that there was always a vex in silence. The quiet sat on my chest like a 500-pound sack of potatoes. We drove for three more hours to Boulder, where we both got off after an awkward apology to the folks left onboard. The ground was solid and was covered with the long shadows of dusk. With one hand, she pointed the gun at the driver and, with the other, forcefully gestured for him to go. He nodded and closed the hydraulic bus door with a hssss.

As the Trailways bus dwindled into the distance, she turned to me, told me that was actually a DEA agent that she had shot, and that I was probably in as much trouble as she was now. My heart sank, and my stomach was sick at the same time. Then, she pointed the gun at me and ordered me to walk in the direction opposite to where she was going, or she would shoot me, too. All this has led me to write this letter. I know that I am an accessory to the murder of a federal agent, and I am happy to testify against her as soon as she is apprehended. I can tell you exactly what happened. I can give you an eye witness account. I can even tell you that her mouth tasted like cherry lifesavers. I will turn myself in once she is apprehended if you offer me some sort of deal, but not until that time.


Arturo Ernesto