It Takes All Kinds
After twenty-six years in the Army, it was time for Alford Mayweather to call it a career and kick back. Plans included him and his wife, Gladys, to travel and see places that that didn’t involve a nearby military base. Yes, there had been a couple of three-year tours of duty in Germany and it had been nice to travel Europe, but the military was never far away or out of mind.
So when retirement came around, they were ready to travel—real travel. Not any of those long weekend jaunts here and there. At first, they did Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and took a couple of cruises. That was followed by several trips to visit children and grandchildren and extended stays on the Gulf of Mexico and in Phoenix—a month each.
When Alford was working, they had the money, but not the time. Now they had the time, but lacked the money. It was Gladys who returned to work first. This left Alford with a lot of time to himself to do projects around the house like getting that garage organized. After he completed those, Alford got bored and began thinking about getting a part-time job. Nothing much, just something to occupy his time, stimulate his brain and a little added income. At 48, age 66 and social security benefits were a long ways away.
That was when he saw the advertisement for drivers wanted at the Puget Sound Transit Authority—Alford thought it had a coolness about it. After a little research, Alford discovered one big drawback: driving a bus was doing the same route day-in and day-out. There would also be the occasional nut job acting out over having to pay a fare. Alford could live with both if hired. With accrued seniority he could bid for more desirable routes, and as for the crazies boarding, two 16-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan assured him he could handle any situation that came up.
One obvious downside that he saw was driving in the same direction each day and saying hello and goodbye to the same passengers. Not that Alford wasn’t a people person because he was—at least with the other gender. “It’s okay to look, just don’t touch,” he reminded himself.
He was on a piece of work for a driver who called in sick, when Alford saw her at the stop at 96th and South Tacoma Way—she stood tall, at least five-eleven. Light colored skin and wearing a wig. Not one of those cheap outfits. No, her tresses were like those adorned by disco diva Donna Summer back in the 70s and early 80s.
In her mid to late 30s, she wore deep red lip gloss, unlike that of a desperate woman, but red enough to make you wonder what the rest of her was like. However, what made him take notice was her right leg—she wore a prosthetic.
A normal person walking down the street wouldn’t notice such a thing, but not Alford—he had a thing for prosthetic legs and those who wore them. Call it a fetish or what have you, it didn’t matter to Alford. If it was a hang-up, so be it, it was his hang-up. Damn skippy, if attached to a woman the way this woman looked.
When she paid with a fare card, this told Alford that she rode a bus with some regularity. That further meant if he couldn’t get her name, there was at least one other driver who knew of her and could pass it along. Drivers talk and they like to share stories. Whoever adds the last exaggeration most of the time has told the best story, or biggest lie. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the drivers’ lounge or at a bus stop, relieving another driver, or being relieved; story-telling and bus drivers are synonymous with each other.
When she boarded, Alford smiled at her, and she returned the gesture. Through the rear-view mirror, he watched her walk down the aisle and take a seat near the rear door. During the next several stops, he would glance at his mirror and see what she was doing. Most of the time she just looked out the window or twisted a length of hair between her long slender fingers. Twice he thought he got busted peeking.
It was at the stop at south 19th Street and Cushman when he observed her bending over with her head just appearing above the top of the seat in front of her. He then noticed the male passenger across from her looking her way. Whatever she was doing had his full attention. Several stops later, she said something to him and he nodded his head in agreement. She said something else to him and he nodded his head again. Most of the time, passengers don’t meddle in other passenger’s business even if asked a question. You never know who you are talking to, if they have issues or not.
At the south 19th and Cedar bus stop, she rose, as did the male passenger across from her. Alford tried to see what she was up to, but passengers in the aisle getting off the bus blocked his view. What he did notice was she put her arm around the neck of the male passenger and hopped off the bus one step at a time with his help. What the hell was that all about? Alford craned his neck to see her on the sidewalk, but she had disappeared.
When Alford came to his layover and any remaining passengers had disembarked, they required him to walk down the aisleway and pick up any discarded items such as trash. At the seat where the lady had been sitting, he was little prepared for what he saw. Laying on the floor was her leg.
Those transit agency dispatchers who communicate with bus drivers on their run are very literal people and ask questions. In fact, a lot of questions, many of which make little sense to drivers. When you call Comm Center and tell the person on the other end that you just found a leg, expect questions to come your way and then some.
“What color is the leg? White or black?”
“Neither, mocha with bright red nail polish.”
“Was it a left or right leg?”
“Was it left on the seat or on the floor?”
“Describe the passenger.”
Alford described the passenger in great detail and then some. They then instructed him to bring the leg with him to the drivers’ lounge and deposit it in the lost and found box. The lost and found box resembles a mail box similar to what you find on urban street corners. Alford was also told to complete the requisite forms regarding estimated time of displacement and the bus route he was driving.
Now Alford was upset with himself for calling the leg in to begin with. The thought had crossed his mind to keep it for himself, but then he realized if somebody left a prosthetic leg on the bus, they damn sure would call it in to lost and found. From there it would be easy to trace it back to the bus Alford was driving.
As he walked across the bus lot, Alford had the leg tucked underneath his arm like you would a baguette. That drew the attention and a lot of strange looks from his fellow drivers. Many of whom laughed. Bus drivers see so much that they get to where nothing surprises them. However, somebody leaving a prosthetic leg on your bus is something you don’t see every day. In the drivers’ lounge, Alford attempted to deposit the leg in the lost and found box, but the leg was longer than the box was wide. When Alford walked away from it, the leg protruded through the opening. This drew even more laughter from co-workers and a lot of photos taken, some of which made it onto social media.
The employee who handles items left on the bus brought the leg to the Transit Security Office for safekeeping. Customers have left cell phones, laptops, bicycles, music instruments and even small children on the bus. To the best of anybody’s knowledge, this was the first time that anybody had left a leg.
Each bus has eight video cameras installed to record events that may occur on the bus. Upon review of the video by Security, they observed a woman in her mid to late thirties boarding the bus, taking a seat near the rear door and removing the leg. When she got to the bus stop where she wished to disembark, she pulled herself from her seat and with the help of another passenger, hobbled on out the rear door. The passenger showed no expression that anything was amiss.
According to policy, Alford completed a card that showed that he was the driver who had found the item. Included on the card was the bus route he was driving, date and the approximate time of occurrence. There was another check-off box that read, “If the item is not claimed in 30 days, do you wish to take possession of the item?” Alford checked the box.
There are a surprising number of people who possess a strong sexual attraction to amputees. The affliction, acrotomophilia, is a Greek word for “amputation love.” Alford was what you could describe as a textbook acrotomophile.
Over the course of the next several days, it was all Alford could do to not think about the leg. On the 31st day after the discovery of the leg on his bus, Alford went to the Customer Service kiosk and presented his claim stub. Minutes later the representative returned and Alford Mayweather found himself the owner of a prosthetic leg with toe nails glossed with cherry red polish. Glenda, the Customer Service Representative, wanted very much to ask Alford why he wanted the leg. Better yet, what he wanted to do with it?
That night after his wife fell asleep, Alford retrieved the leg from his car trunk, wrapped it in a moving quilt and stashed it in the corner of the shed where he kept his lawn equipment. The next day an attractive woman in her thirties approached Glenda in Customer Service and inquired if anybody had turned in a lost leg.
“Can you describe it?” asked Glenda.
“You’re kidding, right?” Glenda gave the woman her patented “I’m all business look.”
“I can tell you the toe nails are polished in high gloss cherry red polish,” she said with a wink and a change in the pitch of her voice. Glenda told the woman that a leg was turned in but was claimed by the bus driver who found it.
“Why in heaven’s name would he want to such a thing?” she asked.
“I don’t know. You need to ask him.”
“Can you give me the driver’s name and phone number?”
“We aren’t allowed to do that, but if you give me your name and phone number, I’ll contact him with your information.” She printed her name, Miss Courtney, in large flamboyant sweeping letters, including her phone number.“I will give this to him, Miss Courtney. I’m sure he’ll be happy that we have connected the leg with its owner.”
“Can you tell him I’ll be more than happy to compensate him for his thoughtfulness?”
“I’m sure he’d appreciate that.”
It was at about that time that Alford’s wife, Tina, wanted to surprise Alford and mow the lawn so he wouldn’t have to do it after he got off work. In the corner of the shed she saw something wrapped in a moving quilt, the kind that you rent from U-Haul. She grabbed the quilt and unwrapped it.
About a mile from his house, Alford’s cell rang to the tune of Michael Jackson’s, “Beat It.” It was Glenda.
“That lady came for her leg. Do you want to talk to her?”
“What did she say?”
“She said she wanted her leg back. What do you think she said?”
Alford still couldn’t figure out why the woman left the leg behind to begin with. She had to know something was amiss before he even pulled away from the stop—and to wait so long to claim it. What was that all about? He wrote the number on a scrap of paper as Glenda called out the digits and stashed it in his front pocket. When he hit the back door, his wife greeted him. She was holding the leg like it was a club.
“You wanna explain this leg before I thump your sorry ass with it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What my ass! What are you doing with this leg?”
“It’s not what it looks like.”
“What’s it supposed to look like?” Alford was tongue tied. “Well, I’m waiting,” she said.
“I don’t see shit.”
“I was safekeeping it.”
“Safekeeping for what, or who?”
“For its owner. She left it on my bus. If nobody claims it after 30 days, they get rid of it. They do that with everything. I couldn’t bear the thought that one of my customers out there trying to get around short one leg.”
“And you mean to tell me that some bitch got on your bus with two legs and got off with only one?” She got in his face. “You expect me to believe that shit?”
“I got the woman’s name and number right here.” He pulled the scrap of paper with the number on it from his shirt pocket and gave it to her.
“Miss Courtney? What kinda name is that? Miss Courtney.”
“Call her if you don’t believe me. She came in today to claim the leg. Customer Service called me and gave me her name and number. I was gonna call her when I got home. I got the name and number right before I walked in the door.” Alford could feel a bead of sweat working its way down the crack of his ass. “Hell, I’ll call her right now in front of you if it’ll make you feel any better.” A little reverse psychology, thought Alford. “And while we’re at it, you can call Glenda in Customer Service. She’ll vouch that I’m telling the truth.”
“You damn right I will!”
That was close, thought Alford. Glenda calling when she did couldn’t have played out any better than it did. Seconds later, Gladys handed Alford her cell phone.
“Make the call,” she said. Alford squinted at the scrap of paper and made the call.
“Hello.” The voice was huskier than Alford thought it would be.
“I’m Alford Mayweather, the bus driver who found your leg on my bus. How are you today?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“Give me that!” Gladys grabbed her phone out of his hand.
“Why are you leaving your leg on my husband’s bus?”
For the next two minutes his wife nodded her head up and down sprinkled with many “uh-huhs.” The kind like, “And you expect me to believe this shit you’re telling me?” As the conversation waned, he could see his wife cooling down. She handed the phone back to him.
“She or he wants to talk to you.”
“This is Alford.” Miss Courtney said that she was going to call his supervisor and recommend Alford for a commendation. Alford said that he would return the leg to Customer Service before he started his run the next day.
Alford looked at his wife. “Did she say, or he say, why it was left on the bus to begin with?”
“You pass it several times a day and give it no mind. The bus stop she got off at is right in front of a prosthetic device store. She was getting a new model leg that fit and attached better.”
“If that was the case, why didn’t she just walk in with both legs and leave the other there instead of on my bus?” asked Alford.
“Because she thought that you were staring at it when she boarded and mistook you for some freak with a thing for fake legs.”
Alford started laughing, joined by his wife. “Can you imagine? I’m telling you baby, it takes all kinds.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” said Gladys.
Stuart Baker Hawk is a Washington state resident, via Indiana, via all parts all over. His day job is in risk management and he is also an MFA candidate in creative writing at Mississippi University for Women. With his professional career ending in July 2021, he and his wife have committed to living in Portugal. He entertains thoughts of crafting words at an outside café on a cobblestone alley, sipping espresso on an early morn in Porto.