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Twenty-One

Twenty-One doesn’t go past Kenner Street. Sure, on the map the route appears to circle the block at Eighty-Second, but in fact it just stops a couple blocks away.

Not that there’s anyone in its seats by then to object.

It used to be the “bad part of town” was shorthand for the presence of poor or, specifically, black people. The idea seems quaint today. Twenty-One is a predator bus, no trifling machine: it disappears trucks and once ate a pack of thrashers. But each time it hauls up short at Eightieth, rattles, and executes a difficult turnabout.

Jenkins

When it’s healthy, Twenty-One grows decoys, dull-eyed swaying humanoid figures that attach to a seat and sigh. The bus prefers adults–they’re meatier–but Jenkins would like the occasional kid.

At night, Jenkins coaxes the bus’s belly open and hauls out the remains of the day’s catch. Twenty-One’s gastric juices leave them white and clean, along with whatever plastic they were carrying: buttons and credit cards, condoms, phones. He throws all that away.

When Twenty-One is bedded down, Jenkins will be in his room, making patterns. Knucklebones to tell the future. Ribs to sing in the wind.

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