"What are you looking at, Wilson?" Jerry Stienmeuler jabbed his co-worker in the ribs with an elbow. "The bus is here."
Stanley Wilson was startled out of his reverie, and followed Jerry onto the bus. They found their usual seats, and he returned his dreamy gaze to the west.
"I was just wondering, Jerry."
"Oh? Wondering what, Stan?"
"What's out there." Stanley laid his head to the windshield and sighed wistfully.
"New Jersey, Stan, that's what's out there. Say... you feeling okay?"
"Yeah, never better, Jerry. It's just that... well, I watched a show about the Great Lakes last night, you know. And the night before that they did a piece on Arizona. They have a desert in Arizona, Jerry. Did you know? And cactus, or cacti, and mountains. And the Grand Canyon, Jerry, the Grand Canyon is in Arizona. And the crater from outer space that's a whole mile wide."
"Craters from outer space, Stan? What the hell are you talking about?" Jerry fluttered his morning paper open, and this was the last of the discussion.
He knew his friend well. Jerry would be in no mood for conversation for the rest of the day. Stanley stared out the window at the fleeing depths of night, and wished he were six years old again.
"What are you looking at, Wilson?" demanded Jerry at the end of the day. "The bus is here."
Stanley jumped and dropped his lunch box. Retrieving this, he followed his friend onto the bus. The crowd was heavier than usual. They had been a bit late. Jerry found an aisle seat, while Stanley was forced to take the seat directly behind him.
"I was just wondering, Jerry," he replied after some time, leaning forward to be heard above the roar of the motor.
"Oh? And what were you wondering, Stan?"
"I was just wondering what's out there, that's all."
"Out there, Stan? New Jersey. That's what's out there. You know that." Jerry half turned in his seat to get a good look at his friend. "What's eatin' you today?"
Stanley sighed leadenly, and leaned forward to cross his arms atop the seat back before him, his gaze steady on the brilliant crimson glow of the western skies and a setting sun. "Don't you ever get tired of it all, Jerry? All the concrete and the steel? All the people?"
Jerry tilted his head in thought. "Yeah, I guess so."
"What do you do about it?"
"I mean, do you go to the park, maybe pack some gear and head upstate for some fishing... what?"
"I dunno, Stan. I guess I go inside to watch the tube."
Stanley sighed. The clouds high above their heads caught the sun's light and shone with a multi-hued brilliance that reminded Stanley of the face of God. He was up there watching over everyone, Stanley believed. Just like a real, live Daddy watching over His babies. With infinite compassion and love. Hoping, as any father should hope, for His children's happiness.
"Yeah. Me, too." Stanley blew a long, hot sigh of frustration. "But it's not enough, any more. I want to SEE some of that, myself, Jerry. I want to GO to those places."
"Save your money. Take a trip."
"I can't afford it. Can you?"
"Hey, me and John D. Rockefeller," he joked, making a twist of the two forefingers of his right hand. "Anytime, anywhere, buddy."
"I want to go to Arizona, I think. Or maybe Texas. Definitely Texas." Stanley sat back and folded his hands in his lap. He knew his friend was no longer listening, but he said, "It's bigger than a lot of countries, you know, Texas," simply to have said it.
The elderly lady sitting next to him turned her head and pretended not to hear. She went stiff and resistant in the seat beside him. Stanley was beyond notice, however, as his eyes were fixed on the westerly skies and the face of God, as they roamed around the city.
"What's that you're looking at there, Stan?" wondered Jerry the following morning. "Come on, we're gonna miss the bus!"
"Texas," responded Stanley softly, as he let himself be pushed and pulled onto the commuter by the press of riders rushing in behind. He found a seat far away from Jerry, and passed the ride to work staring out the windows at the yet night bound west, wishing he were six years old again.
Later that day, he dialed order entry to discuss an errant XJ12 loss adjustment, which was missing its RT code and a legible SIL. Tamitha, down on the eleventh floor, answered.
"Reference oh-five-seven-alpha-zulu-seven-five-eight," he intoned officially, thumbing a postcard he had found in the shop downstairs. It was of the Dallas sky line. What was that tall round building, there, he wondered? Luxury apartments? A hotel? What?
"Tamitha repeated the requisition serial number, as she tapped it into her keyboard. "It's a standard XJ12. Loss adjustment, looks like. Flagged for a missing RT code and illegible SIL."
"Yeah, that's the one," he lifted the postcard higher to catch the light, and raised his smudged glasses to get a better look. "We have a tentative AWO on this and I need you to punch it on through for AP."