Pale Man

I missed my bus home from work. I watched it pull out of Mirabeau Park and Ride as I futilely jogged towards it, carrying my purse and my duffel of work-out clothes. The next one, I knew, came in 45 minutes. I took a seat on a rock at the stop. It was a little over freezing and a wind was blowing. I read my magazine, an article about Guillermo Del Toro, the director who creates monsters for his movies. Pan's Labyrinth is one of them.

In that movie, Del Toro had designed an ogre who sits at a table laden with delicious foods. Reminiscent of the myth of the Harpies, the food could not be eaten for the creature guarding it. The ogre had no eyes or eye sockets in its head, only a nose and mouth punctuated its pale taught skin. Its ribs protruded and its belly hung in loose folds -- a starving gluttony. The ogre's hands rest palms down on the table in front of it, and two eye balls sit on a plate before it.

After awhile I moved into the bus stop proper, a cube of glass with benches and a tin roof. It kept the wind out and helped to slow the chill that was seeping through my coat. When I had been there for about half an hour, a man approached walking a bicycle. He leaned his bike against the outside glass and walked in to take a seat on the bench across from mine. I could feel him looking at me while I hunched over my reading.

I hoped he wasn't some monster out there with me and the empty cars in the parking lot. I imagined the glass walls spattered with my blood, fire-engine red and sloshed like projectile house paint. The train conductors would look in horror as they chugged by on the tracks behind us.

"Hi." He said to me. I looked up and his nose was running down into his beard, his eyes were watery and red, the irises a blue/green.

He asked me if I was going to work, how old I was (20?), if I was married, and how long. He asked where I was from, how long I had been in Spokane, and if I watched politics.

He told me I was a very pretty young lady. He said he was on his way to alcohol school because he had gotten a DUI. He told me about Fox News.

We agreed that both teams in the Super Bowl weren't very likable. The commercials were only okay. He told me about his favorite one and when I explained mine he exploded with laughter. The cube walls rang with it.

When the child, Ofelia, eats a succulent grape from the table and then two. The ogre stirs. He turns over his hands revealing dark slits in his palms. He takes the eyes off of the plate and fits one into each slit. He presses the backs of his hands against his temples and the visage is complete: pale skin, red mouth, nostrils, eyes in his palms and his darkened fingers making an array of grotesque eyelashes.

I got on the 74, Valley Limited, and hustled towards a seat fenced in with quiet people reading their library books.

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