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The best thing about riding the bus is that every mile you travel is one mile closer to not having to ride the bus again – or maybe just not being in Utah.

Despite how that sounds, I really like the bus; how else would foul smelling vagrants like myself cross the country on less than a hundred bucks? My biggest problem is that my portable games were lost somewhere in the Vegas desert, forcing me to invent my own game.

The first thing the game would need to have was a certain level of complexity, as the trip to Chicago would take nearly two days. I decided that it should be a strategy game where the people on the left side of the bus were Napoleonic era soldiers, and the people on the right were the Blue Man Group performing the musical Cats, like in the poster for that new James Cameron movie – Avalon, I think. I then assigned each bus-rider a “power” value, determined by their class and modified by the estimated value of passing cars at the time they did something interesting. The more interesting the action, the bigger the modifier.

I was all ready for the battle royale when a fight erupted between a French Cavalier asking the bus driver where he could plug in his iPhone and a toothless Na’vi shaman in sweatpants scolding her three screaming children. Unfortunately, the game was cut short when it turned into a drinking game.

A few drinks later, a sudden stop woke me from my self-induced coma. We had arrived in Denver; a city that I believe was named after John Denver, the guy who played Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island. At the diner in the bus stop parking lot I attempted to order a Denver Omelet, to which the waitress rolled her eyes and told me they were fresh out of mountain lion meat. I settled for two pieces of burnt toast and lukewarm coffee. Feeling slighted, I got even by stealing a butter knife and several packets of ketchup.

When I returned to the bus, I found a young man sitting in the seat next to mine, typing furiously on a laptop. Would this complicate my plans to remain unconscious all the way home? Would he disapprove of Mr. Flask or, more importantly, would Mr. Flask disapprove of him of him?

“Hey,” I announced, hoping that my presence meant he’d stand up and let me sit down.

He grunted in greeting, but never took his eyes off the screen of the laptop. This was going to be awkward.
If you’ve never tried to cram your way into a seat with a person sitting in the way, then you cannot appreciate the gravity of the situation. Should one attempt to face the person blocking me and risk shoving my junk in his face? Or, should I turn around and almost certainly smack him in the head with my butt?

After putting myself in his position, I decided that “rear-first” was the way to go and got by with little drama. As expected, he moved instantly when my butt neared his face. That boded well for our partnership as row buddies.

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We sat in vaguely comfortable silence for a few hours until I had all the screaming children I could take. I asked my companion whether he’d like a drink, he agreed and twenty minutes later he was explaining the politics of his World of Warcraft guild to me.

“Okay, there’s three main tanks, and six main healers but two of them are resto druids and we all know they’re kind of fail,” he explained.

“That sounds difficult,” I intoned, sagely.

“You don’t know the half of it,” he took a swig from Mr. Flask. “Darwinius– that’s our main tank who’s been playing since beta, he just spazzed out over a loot drop in the Citadel and totally wiped the raid.”

“He wiped the raid?” My attention more focused on getting back Mr. Flask, but I liked the image his statement gave me. He spread insect poison across a surface with a paper towel? Interesting tactic. I made a mental note to attempt it on the roach problem I had back home. The thought made me incredibly thirsty.

I held my hand open towards Mr. Flask casually as if to say, “It’s my turn.” But his attention was focused elsewhere.

“Yea and that made Lazy – his name’s Lazyskillz and he’s one of our best healbots – quit and join Darkhearts.” He took another drink and I began to grow concerned whether I’d have enough alcohol to make it back to Illinois. As it was, I’d have to conserve just to be buzzed the whole way home.

I said, “Hey, about the booze,” before he cut me off.

“Then Lazy went into trade chat and started calling us noobs and telling lies about our DKP system only giving loots to officers,” he said and took another long draught from the flask.

Now, I really didn’t care what he was saying. My keen senses had told me that the gin was nearly gone and I was going to have to spend the rest of the trip sober. This was not going to happen. I reached for the flask less politely. His hand retracted and he continued talking about WoW.

“So Bubbles, that’s a ret pally named Bubbledin that joined the guild last month, he asks in guild chat if the DKP system is rigged and people start getting angry about the DKP and then people started calling each other names.” He continued to guard the flask despite my swift grabbing motions.

“Then Felsina – that’s our mage – told Bubbles that she’d been cybering with Lazy, and GC was full agro until Bubbles ragequit and took our best DPSers with him.” He finished the remaining contents of the flask.

“Will you stop vomiting up acronyms for one goddamned minute and give me back Mr. Flask?”

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He looked shocked. Trying to contain my anger, I motioned for the flask with an open palm. He tossed the flask into my lap and missed, hitting the floor. Perhaps it was seeing one of my prized possessions tossed aside so casually, the ricetarded lingo or the fact that I now had to remain sober for the rest of the trip. Perhaps his neglect was innocent, but something inside me snapped.

The next thing that happened surprised even me. I slapped his face the way a woman in a black and white movie would slap a man who had whispered some dirty suggestion in her ear. The result was a satisfying smack that left both of us stunned.

He countered with a very short range punch to my chest. If you’ve never fought with someone you’re sitting next to you like I have, say on an airplane or in church, let me just say that the experience might be best characterized as awkward. This meant that he was much too close for a punch to be effective.

“Lol, your DPS sucks,” his lips flapped meaninglessly.

I grabbed his skinny throat and squeezed. “I told you to stop talking!”

His eyes were still mocking me as I nearly strangled him. The bus stopped and I was vaguely aware that people were looking at us. I relaxed my grip, which proved to be my downfall, as the booze hog smacked me in the head with his laptop. I stood up to avoid another hit but lost balance and fell hard onto my side.

Landing in the aisle I felt something jutting into my stomach. I reached into the pocket to discover something wet. I removed my hand and found a red liquid. Was I dying? How had I come to such an end? The toothless woman screamed, “Blood!”

It sure didn’t have the consistency of blood – I tasted it. It was the ketchup I’d purloined from the diner earlier that day. I tried to make an assuring smile to my audience, when I made a huge mistake. I removed the pilfered knife and held it up as I was explaining what had happened, “It’s just…” The same woman cut me off, “He’s got a knife! Terrorist!”

Faster than you could say “Al-Qaeda” I was wrestled to the floor by four college-bound students. Despite my assertions to the contrary, they called me “towel-head” and “jihadist” until the Nebraska State Troopers were able to sort the mess out, and by sorting it out I mean that they threw me in jail.

I, of course, missed the bus and have yet another reason not to play WoW.

Marion Cox has a free subscription to the latest prison MMO and has lots of time to level his shank skills.

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