Post-rush-hour crowd on the bus as I ride to a doctor's appointment. An Asian man in a toupee sits across from me, Ken-doll swoop to his bangs. He holds his mouth pursed as though keeping in a mouthful of vomit. Or pearls.
I'm knitting, listening to the women behind me.
Mature Woman #1: Di-vis-a-der-o.
Mature Woman #2: That's a major street, there.
MW #1: So she asked me, are you carrying flame retardant with you when you drive? I mean, the car was just a burned-out husk, sitting in the driveway.
MW #3: Tsk.
No, it isn't quite a tsk. It's a sound I recognize, I've heard it before. Kind of a tsschp.
MW #1: Boat's completely gone. It was an old wooden boat, in the driveway. Nothing left. SUV's a burned-out husk.
MW #3: Tsschp.
Now I recognize the sound. My grandfather used to make that sound when he was sucking on his dentures, slurping the loose dentures back up against his gums.
MW #1: The firemen had to yell at Bob to stop, he was spraying down my car with the garden hose when they got there. Get away from there, they said, it could explode.
I'm eight years old again, listening to Gramps play guitar, jazzed up with a wah-wah pedal my uncle designed, and Gramps' own flourishes.
MW #1: You know, my little car didn't get any better mileage than that SUV.
MW #2: What'd it get?
MW #1: (mumbling) 16
MW #3: Tsschp.
Gramps played a fancy guitar, singing and playing and sucking up his dentures. Natty in his dark suit and string tie.
MW #2: Your car's not so little.
MW #1: It is. Not full-size.
My stop already. As I step down to the doors, I look back at the women. They each have a variation of the practical Mature Woman haircut. One gray, one blond, one brunette.
They wear matching, red-white-and-blue American flag windbreakers. The brunette shakes her map of San Francisco open for the other two to see.