April 16th, 2019


LJ Idol Prize Fight: "Homecoming"

idol prize fight | week 20 | 1800 words
Nostos (a Greek literary theme in which an epic hero finally returns home after a long journey)


The Greyhound bus slowly approached the downtown depot that that was the last stop on Darryl Adams' long, tiring journey home. Darryl was sick of the whole thing—weird passengers, weird drivers, broken seats, broken air-conditioning, and the smell… God, that smell. Maybe he should have considered hitchhiking part of the way after all?

The trip sure hadn't been like that Simon & Garfunkel song he'd loved so much as a kid. More hellhound than greyhound, definitely. He'd seen casino buses at a couple of stops that had practically been gold-plated compared to what he'd been riding in. Casino buses! What was that all about?

If only he hadn't spent almost everything he had on plane tickets to get back into the country. Buses were all he could afford after that.

Darryl's parents wouldn't even be there to pick him up at the bus station. He'd been calling for weeks, but he hadn't been able to get a hold of them. They didn't believe in cell phones, and their answering machine didn't seem to be working. Typical.

There was probably a dead car sitting in their driveway right now…

He had expected more enthusiasm for his return, after being gone for six years. But it was possible they didn't even know he was coming.

When the bus stopped, Darryl grabbed his duffel bag and backpack, and hurried off toward the bathroom.

Ugh. It was better than the bus, but still disgusting. When he was finished, he washed his hands and face. Then he stripped off his shirt and stuffed it in the trash. He pulled a clean T-shirt out of his duffel bag, and put it on. Then he started walking.

The Diggity Dog Diner was two blocks from the bus station. Darryl had been dreaming about their Bacon Bonanza Burger for days, ever since his plane had landed at JFK.

A wino lurched out of a doorway as he left the bus station. "Spare some—"

"Joey?" Darryl said.

"Uh, yeah." The wino squinted at him. "Do I know ya?"

"Only since eighth grade! It's Darryl."

"Oh, yeah, Darryl. Huh." Joey scratched the back of his neck. "What're you doin' down here?"

"I came in on the bus. I just got back," Darryl said.

"Whoa. Were ya like, in jail or somethin'?"

Did he look that bad? "No," Darryl said. "I was volunteering overseas. In Colombia."

"Huh." Joey thought about that for a minute. "Why?"

Darryl blinked. "To see the world. Help make a difference. You know."

"Uh huh. So, ya got any—"

"Sure, sure." Darryl fished in his pocket and found some coins.

"Thanks, man." Joey shuffled off down the street.

Well, that was depressing…

Darryl walked over to the Diggity Dog, which looked a little more run-down than he remembered. He went inside and sat at a table next to the window.

A gum-chewing waitress came over and took out her order pad. "What do you want?" she asked.

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