birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Broken Travels with Tales

I used to take "The Dog" across the country (Greyhound Bus) for about $50 one way. I mean I'd get on the bus in San Francisco and my final destination would be New York City and in between would roll three thousand miles of stale air. This was when the folks in the back of the bus could smoke and, then there was the public toilet back there, too. I tried to sit near the front.

The Dog's clients were ordinary folks, nothing fancy, believe you me. I fit in, in the financial sense. I was usually broke. But, I was probably better educated than many on board- and healthier. Though it may sound like it, that's not a huge assumption. I sat next to a dying woman for about a thousand miles once. She'd finished her cancer treatments but was trying to go home to die. Her breath had a chemical odor, her hair was gone, she was thin and had yellow skin. We talked about her upcoming death for hours.

Another trip I made friends with a woman who boarded with her hair in pink sponge rollers for the long trip. She was on a journey to reconnect with her soldier boyfriend and wanted her hair to look "just perfect" so she planned to take the curlers out after the three days it would take us to arrive. She also wanted to arrive as thin as possible, so she brought no money for food. By Idaho, I was buying her soup and crackers.

It was always a treat to not have someone sitting next to me. The freedom and space to not have to watch your elbows or to cross your legs without bumping into a fellow passenger was a simple delight. One night, when I was enjoying such a luxury, we made a stop and a single man got on who looked pretty rough. I knew it as soon as I spotted the guy that he was heading to the empty seat next to me. When he sat down, his skunky odor was so strong that I kept my hand over my nose and mouth. A couple of hours later, I woke up with the two of us leaning into one another. Soon we both woke up and he told me about working on oil rigs, and I remember thinking that one can get used to any aroma.

Taking the bus had its day with me. It suited my rambling spirit and slim pocketbook. But, it grew old as I started to travel less and accumulate more money. I could afford to fly. Flying is so different than taking the dog. Back in the day when I bordered a bus, I looked at my fellow passengers as people on a journey with stories to tell. Flying is time traveling with strangers.

Inhabiting the Suit

Traversing the Sound