a short story
by Austin Mitchell
“Hey guy do you know who you’re dealing with,” bus driver, Dally Grey, shouted and his hand dipped into his pocket.
“I’ve fired bigger guns than any you’ve fired, guy,” the other driver warned.
“Why don’t you guys drive properly on the road?” Dally insisted in asking.
Several passengers had come off the bus to remonstrate with both drivers. A woman, who looked liked the other driver’s wife, was trying to make peace too.
“Why don’t you go after the taxi driver? He was the one who was driving carelessly,” the pick-up driver hissed his teeth. He and the woman went to their vehicle and drove away.
Dally took his hand out of his pocket and watched the man drive away. He got back into his bus and drove off.
There was another incident in May Pen a couple of years before this. Dally was in a bar drinking when the other patrons started discussing politics. It was soon realized that he was the only one not supporting their party and they had sought to attack him. Dally had hastily pulled his gun and fired shots, one of which caught one of his attackers, killing him on the spot. Dally’s lawyer was able to prove that he had shot in self defense as some of his attackers were armed with a variety of weapons.
I was reflecting on these incidents as I sat in Reid’s bar, Downtown, Kingston. I had witnessed the first incident, but a friend told me about the second one.
Still there was another incident that Dally told us about. One night he was in a bar drinking with some men from the area. Into the bar walked one of his former classmates, an ex-policeman. Dally had to idea that the man was a marijuana dealer until he drove his bus through the area a few weeks later and stopped at the same bar. While drinking, some men came into the bar and accused him of setting the ex-policemen on them. Dally had introduced his friend to several of the men whom he knew were marijuana farmers. They had taken him to their fields after he promised to buy marijuana from them. The man had returned with his police friends and raided their farms.
Dally had to pull his gun and hastily leave the area with his bus.
I was just about to leave when into the bar walked Dally’s cousin and my long time friend Elroy Lobban.
“Elroy, it’s years I haven’t heard from you.”
“Brucey Morrison, it’s some forty years I haven’t hear anything about you too,” Elroy said.
Elroy looked gaunt, after all he was nearing sixty five year of age, a year older than I.
“So what are you drinking?” I asked him. I was drinking white rum and milk.
“I want a cold beer,” he told me and I shouted his order to the barmaid.
Both of us as young men worked on Misty Morning buses. That was back in the late fifties and sixties. I went to the United States in 1962 and Elroy had gone to England the previous year.
Dally, drove the one from Glengoffe to Kingston, a twenty one mile journey. I was a loader on that bus.
“Sometimes when I remember Mytle and Dally I really feel bad over what happen,” I said.
“When I look back, I really feel sad about the whole thing. I told my children about it because I feel that things could have turned out better,” Elroy said.
“You ever see Miguel or Sasha?” I asked him. Both Miguel and Sasha were the Grey’s children and would be grown adults now. They were also Elroy’s cousins.
“Miguel went to America and Sasha went to England. She lived with my sister, Vinette, for a couple of years, got married and she and her husband went to live in the States,” Elroy replied.
Elroy and I would exchange buses every Wednesday. We liked travelling these rural routes. Sometimes we’d jump off the bus and shake down a mango tree or pick oranges or cut sugar cane or pineapples but we were always up to one prank or another.
Myrtle would have our dinner ready by the time we reached her shop each evening. Dally would return with the bus to park at the shop before having his dinner at home, but we always had ours on the bus. Myrtle was friendly to all of us guys.
She would go into Kingston most Fridays to buy things for the shop.
I had that feeling that something was wrong between Dally and Myrtle. Both of them loved to party and go to the movies as well as outings. Myrtle made a lot of outings to all parts of the island and she normally got two busloads of people. Remembering her now, she was a beautiful woman. Her hair was long and black and she was tall and very graceful. At that time I thought she was around twenty seven years of age while Dally was maybe about thirty three or thereabouts and was of medium height and stockily built.
Myrtle’s parties were mostly dances and people would come from Kingston. I was at most of those dances. Both Dally and Myrtle would be dressed up with Dally in his three piece suit and Myrtle in her floor length dress. They would dance the night away and they seemed a happy couple.
Some Saturday evenings we would pick up Myrtle in Constant Spring or it could be Stony Hill or Golden Spring or Lawrence Tavern as it seemed she changed hairdressers often but whoever she used she always looked beautiful.
Somebody else would work for me on Sundays as I went to church, incidentally the same church as Myrtle. I can still her beautiful voice. Both of us although not on the church choir or members of the church were ardent church goers. I sometimes wondered how Myrtle managed to attend church so regularly and looking so fresh and radiant after partying practically the whole night. Dally never attended church as he had to drive the bus on Sundays.
The unraveling of Dally and Myrtle’s marriage might have started earlier, but I can remember being on Princess Street and hearing Oscar Chin, a local haberdasher, quarrelling.
“Look how long, Dally borrowed my van. Now I want to go and do some business and I don’t know when he’s coming back.”
“What happened, Mr. Chin?” I asked.
“I don’t know what happen to Dally. He was just in this big haste to reach country. I saw him talking to this woman and I know that it’s his wife he’s gone to check up on. He’s not getting my van to borrow again. He’d better drive his bus or borrow somebody else’s vehicle.”
It was four thirty before Dally returned and we were already loading the bus as we normally left Kingston by five o’clock and passengers were already in the bus.
“Everything’s all right, Dally?” I called out to him from atop the bus.
“Yes, Brucey,” he shouted back, but I could feel it in his voice that everything was not all right.
Based on what I knew, Dally had over fifteen years driving experience. I also knew he never let any of his personal problems affect his driving. But going home that evening I could feel it in his driving. He was dropping into so many potholes that he normally avoided and he put the bus in the wrong gear at least twice.
“Why was the shop never open today, Myrtle?” Dally asked her after he had parked the bus that evening.
“Who said it wasn’t open, of course it was. I had to go up to Rosetta’s house because she didn’t feel well. She sent Papa Son to call me.”
Rosetta lived in Goffe Road, about a mile and a half away and Dally had forgotten about her when he came home in the afternoon. She was an elder cousin of Myrtle, who suffered from epilesy.
“I heard that the shop was locked up the whole day so that’s why I have to ask you about it.”
“Phyllis came to town to tell you that it never opened. Why is that woman so inquisitive? If I leave the house, she has to tell you.” Myrtle ran over to Phyllis’ gate.
“Phyllis, why did you go to town to tell lies on me? I’m not watching you, so why don’t leave me alone?”
Phyllis came out into her yard.
“Yes, it was I who told Dally that the shop was locked up when I left to come to town. So what, it isn’t a lie, I’m telling on you. Why you came to my gate quarrelling with me for?”
“It’s ok, Phyllis, I leave you to time.” Myrtle said going back to her house.
“I leave you to your husband.”
Myrtle behaved as if she didn’t hear Phyllis but there was no love lost between the two women.
Dally didn’t say anything more to her. The shop was still open although no customers were there.
I knew that Myrtle felt Phyllis was carrying stories to Dally about her having a man called Alpheus Allen. Most times you would see him at the dances put on by Myrtle and Dally. He would also come on outings, but most times I saw him with other women. He was a tall athletic looking individual. He had a shop and bar about two miles away.
I don’t know if Dally was all that innocent for as a rule women seem to pursue bus drivers and he was no exception. There were times when particular women would seem to have seats up front and were always talking to him. Of course they didn’t do that when Myrtle was on the bus.
Sometimes women would come to call him and he would be gone with the bus and not return until he knew it was time for us to start loading. I knew that some of the girls who came in on the bus in the mornings to attend school in Kingston were friendly with Dally. I wasn’t envious of him over Myrtle or the fact that he was a bus driver and I a loader and the girls would fancy him over me because several of them told me that they liked me.
Dally had parked the bus one Saturday evening when I heard him and Myrtle quarrelling.
“Your man was here today. Don’t tell me a lie, Myrtle. Alpheus is your sweetheart, I’m sure of that. He comes to look for you when I’m gone to town?”
“Every man I talk to, you believe that I am along with them. So what if Alpheus was here? I have a shop, I’m sure you are not saying that if a man comes in and wants something to buy I’m not to sell him?”
“You aren’t telling me the truth but I will find out one day. I am moving out to live on my own. You can move him in now. That’s what you want do from a long time.”
“I’ve never wanted to live with any other man except you, Dally. But you listen to rumors that people spread on me. If you want to move, I’m not stopping you. All I ask is that you remember your two children. I can look after myself. But if you continue to listen to rumors you will never be able to live with a woman, much less a wife,” Myrtle said, but Dally hissed his teeth and came outside where I was sitting and talking to a girl, Clover Ennis.
Myrtle came after him and for a moment, both Clover and I and I suppose Elroy and his girl, Rema, thought that they were headed for a violent confrontation. It didn’t happen and by the next day he had moved out and was living in a district five miles away.
I suspected that Dally was living with a woman over there because I saw Barbara coming out of the house several times in the mornings to take the bus to Kingston. She was a girl I suspected was friendly with Dally. Several times after we had unloaded the bus, he had driven out of town with her.
“Alpheus is at Myrtle’s home every day now,” Phyllis told me as she met me on Princess Street one day.
“Are you sure about that? Because I wouldn’t go to Dally with that if I were you. You know how jealous he is and he might just go for his gun.”
“You know me, Brucey. I try to keep out of other people’s business. Dally is going to hear it from somebody else and anyhow I hear that he’s is living with Barbara Distant.”
We parted there and then, she going to buy some things for her household and I returning to the bus.
Elroy was sitting in the back of my bus and neither Dally nor any of the other loaders were aboard.
“I saw you talking to Phyllis. I don’t like that woman. She is always going to Dally with news about Myrtle.”
“She just told me that she’s finished with that.”
“Gossip is Phyllis’ middle name. I think she’s carrying news to both of them about each other.”
I opened my mouth but before I could reply I saw Dally and Barbara coming towards the bus.
Barbara worked at the popular Nathan store on King Street. I heard that her boyfriend had gone to the United States to look a divorce from his wife.
Then rumors started to fly that Alpheus was now living with Myrtle. Most of the times when the bus passed her house Myrtle would wave to us and I would wave back. I didn’t know if Dally was jealous, but I hope by now he would understand how Myrtle was with us guys.
About two months later I noticed that Barbara had stopped taking the bus. Phyllis told me that her boyfriend had returned and she had gone to live with him. Dally also moved from where he was living. He didn’t seemed upset by Barbara returning to her boyfriend.
Many people thought that Dally was moving closer to Myrtle since they now lived less than a mile apart.
Then the bus began stopping by Myrtle and Dally began having his meals there again. Finally Dally moved back home and was now living with Myrtle.
I overheard a conversation between Phyllis and a woman named Lesline Dallas. It was a Thurssday and I was lying down in the back of the bus. Both women had brought some things they had bought to put under their chosen seats before going for more goods and had apparently stopped to take a rest. They asked me to watch it for them.
“She’s still seeing Alpheus. I don’t know what Dally’s going to do with that woman,” Miss Lesline said.
“I keep far from both of them because I don’t want anybody to call my name.”
Dally and the conductor were at a bar on Princess Street and the other loaders about the place.
“Dally has his women too. I don’t know why he bothered to move back for. He and Barbara are still seeing each other as far as I know,” Lesline declared.
I didn’t know if this was true since. It was such a long time I hadn’t seen Barbara.
“He has other women. He has more than one woman that I know about right in town here,” Phyllis said.
Lesline didn’t reply and I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes again I saw that neither of them was in the bus.
Things were back to normal as Myrtle now had our dinner ready for us and Dally would return with the bus before he went to eat his dinner. I was glad because they made a good couple and I hoped that all their troubles were behind them now. Dally was now smiling again.
Parties began to be kept, outings were made. I never saw Alpheus nor even heard any mention of him. Phyllis kept her distance.
About six months later I was on Princess Street when I saw Elroy running towards me.
“Brucey, I just saw Dally drove off his bus and I heard him swearing.”
“What did you say, Elroy?”
“We have to find Cecil and go after Dally. He’s gone to the country to do something bad to Myrtle.”
But Cecil’s bus was not there and we understood that he had gone to Spanish Town Road to do some repairs on the bus.
It was agony for us because although we could drive we didn’t have a vehicle and Oscar Chin wouldn’t lend us his van. We knew better than to ask Roy Chuck or Willie Tenn to lend us their vehicles. So we had to wait until Cecil returned.
Finally, about an hour and a half later we saw Cecil’s bus returning.
“Why did Dally leave town so early?” Cecil asked.
“He’s gone with his bus down to his house,” I told him.
“Phyllis told him something about Myrtle,” Elroy said.
He told us to come aboard. The time was just around two o’clock and I doubted if the bus would return to Kingston for the passengers so they would have to look for other means of transportation.
We were coming up Slipe Road in no time.
All of us knew the potential disaster we could find when we got there.
“Why that woman, Phyllis, can’t keep her mouth shut and keep out of other people’s business?” Cecil lamented.
“I heard her talking to Miss Lesline and she was swearing that she isn’t getting in anymore mix up,” I said.
“That woman can’t keep her mouth shut and it’s going get her into trouble,” Cecil stated as we went up Half Way Tree Road.
Dally had probably a two hour start on us and would already be in Cassava River. I wondered where Phyllis was. I don’t know if Cecil and Dally would be able to return to Kingston. There were market trucks that people could take, especially if the had load and they heard what had happened to the buses.
Soon we were in Stony Hill and at Will’s bar we learned that Dally had passed with his bus a long time ago. We bought drinks and food, but had to eat and drink them on the bus.
At Lawrence Tavern we took up some people with Cecil warning them that the bus was only going as far as Cassava River and would be returning to Kingston. The bus negotiated a very dangerous corner and headed for where Dally and Myrtle lived.
At last we saw Dally’s bus. Cecil parked the bus behind it and we all got off and I heard crying and wailing and I saw a crowd of people gathered and my heart skipped a beat. A police jeep was parked nearby.
“What happen up here?” Cecil asked as a policeman barring him from going any further.
“It’s a murder suicide, Dally shot Myrtle and then shoot himself,” Constable Hamilton told us.
Elroy and I could only stare in disbelief. Our worst fears had been realized.
Sergeant Wilson and Corporal Matthews came out of the house.
“Cecil, you drove your bus come up here. But you are too late man, he saw Alpheus in the shop and shot after him, but he jumped through a window and broke both legs. Then he went in the house and shot Myrtle and then turned the gun on himself,” the Sergeant informed us.
“Sorry about that lads,” the Corporal said to me and Elroy. He knew how close we were to both Dally and Myrtle.
I was sorry that we weren’t allowed to see the bodies. I was even more sorry for seven year old Sasha and five year old Miguel. An ambulance came from the nearby clinic at another village, for the bodies and also for Alpheus, who had to be brought up from the gully on a stretcher. Elroy and one of his sisters stayed at the house that night, but Sasha and Miguel were taken by one of Myrtle’s aunt’s to her house in a nearby district.
I attended both Dally and Myrtle’s funeral. One of Myrtle’s sisters came to live there, run the shop and take care of the two children. Another man was recruited to drive Dally’s bus and was the driver when I left for the States. I said goodbye to Elroy and went to my car. I told him that I would soon pay him and his wife a visit to talk about the old times. The End.