Argyle Park Stories: ‘Paranormal Transit’
By: T. ("Trank") Will Izer
Saturday, 31st October 2009:

Sitting in the outdoor foyer of the chapel at the Argyle Park cemetery to avoid the worst of the bone-chilling north wind that blew
snow around the relatively open area of the property in gusts that would momentarily obfuscate the multitude of memorial markers set
into the ground, a fortyish man in a heavy overcoat worked to contact the Argyle Park Paratransit Service.
Gloves removed, Ted Pilton again punched in the telephone number for the ‘Bookings’ line of the APPS, hoping not to be placed on
hold by the APPS automated answering system, partly because the cost of sitting on hold was expensive when using a cell phone, but
mostly because he was freezing his ass off and wanted only his warm suite and a hot coffee to help shake the cold off.
Pilton managed to dial the number, but when he pushed the ‘Talk’ button on the keypad, the call was put on hold as soon as he
punched in the extension number.
“Oh, come on already!”  Ted Pilton had been trying to remain calm, remembering that he was sitting in a chapel foyer, but his patience
finally ran out after yet another automated request that he hold the line.  Ted Pilton groped through the pockets of his overcoat until
he found what he wanted: a lighter and a mashed package of cigarettes.
Lighting a cigarette that had a mild bend to the left, Ted inhaled deeply, and then performed a combined exhalation\inhalation, smoke
powering forcefully from his nostrils as he took another drag of fresh smoke deep into his lungs.  The hot tip of the cigarette glowed
an angry red-orange, but Pilton relaxed a little more as a result of the smoke, deciding to finish the cigarette before trying once again to
call the APPS and book a ride home.
Pilton, a widower, came to the cemetery to lay flowers at the headstone of his deceased wife; this was an annual ritual for him since his
wife\caregiver had passed away from a pedestrian accident a few years previous, leaving her wheelchair-bound husband to fend for
himself.  Usually, his bi-weekly homecare aide would drive Ted out to the cemetery, drop Pilton off for an hour, and return to take
Pilton back home after his annual visit was done.  This year, the aide was unable to take Pilton home as he usually did, but Pilton had
said that he would be fine, contacting the Argyle Park Paratransit Service to arrange a ride when he was done here.
‘Oh Ellie’ thought Pilton as he listened to the drone of taped music from the telephone ‘why did you go out that day?  We could have
lived until morning without a loaf of bread.’  Ted knew he was being petulant: his wife hadn’t been at fault when she died going out for
a loaf of bread; if she hadn’t steered around the cat (which later was found to be a stuffed plaything, discarded by a child who had
probably been called away to join friends or go inside for a meal), that was on the sidewalk outside of the market, she would never
have stepped off of the curb and been struck from behind by a car.
His thoughts were broken by the sound of the ‘Low Battery ’ signal from his phone only a moment before his call was disconnected.
“Grrr-eat!” muttered Ted in a poor imitation of the tiger from the cereal commercials on TV.  Now he’d wind up freezing unless he
could find another telephone.
Looking around as he snapped the cell phone closed and replaced it in his overcoat pocket, Ted could see no vehicles in either the
chapel parking area or circulating on the maintenance paths where a hearse would park for interment services for a deceased body.
Ted wheeled himself over to the entrance door of the chapel and extended a hand to the brass pull-handle.  Grasping the handle
firmly, he gave a solid tug: nothing.  The door was locked from the inside, and there was nothing by way of a doorbell: apparently door-
to-door salespeople didn’t make funeral chapels a priority on their sales routes.
Replacing the gloves he’d worn over his hands, Pilton tried knocking, but the result was the same and no one came from within the
chapel to see who might be knocking or to open the place up and offer Ted the use of a telephone so he could once again attempt to
book a bus ride home.
Ted now looked at the entrance stairs: only two steps to the ground level, but there was no way he could get back up here once he was
down, as there was no wheelchair ramp:  that settled the question; the shelter he currently had use of would be lost to him if he tried a
two-wheeled descent, and there were no guarantees that he wouldn’t end up laid out on the ground if he attempted it, given the wind
and lack of traction because of the drifting snow on the stairs.  His best option at that moment was to stay put and at least partially
sheltered from the elements.
Pushing himself behind a column on the lee side of the foyer to take advantage of the available shelter, Ted pondered the problem and
tried to come up with a solution; nothing of worth came to mind, even after two cigarettes and an hour of time.  At last, Ted realized
he might be in for a long wait: he hunched against the wind as best he could, his heavy overcoat bundled around him.  He gave the cell
phone one more shot, but the battery didn’t even last long enough to dial a full phone number.  Even the warning beeper sounded
sluggish.  Ted stored the phone once again, replaced the glove he’d removed to try the cell, and huddled against the wind and cold for
the wait.  As time passed, Ted began first to doze, and then drifted into a deeper sleep, the shadows growing long across the cemetery
grounds.

“Excuse me sir.  Are you Ted Pilton?”
Ted, his fingers aching and his face numbed from the cold, woke to find a man standing before him, a uniform with crest that showed
the Argyle Park Paratransit Service logo.  Beneath the crest sat a slightly tarnished nametag that read ‘Percy’.  Behind the man on the
snow-covered tarmac was an older model F-350: the paint job was that of the APPS, and the loading lift sat extended to receive
passengers.
“Yes, I’m Ted Pilton.”
The sky had grown to a deep shade of twilight darkness, but the warmer air coming from inside the bus was all that mattered at the
moment: Ted could feel its warming aura calling out to embrace him.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get to you sir; someone had pulled the main gate closed and it took me some time to move it enough
to get the bus through.  It was probably closed to keep the Halloween vandals from tipping over headstones.”  The driver smiled at
Ted.  “Shall we get you loaded up?”
Ted, in his chill-induced doze, could do little more than give a weak nod of his head, but the driver caught it and backed Ted’s
wheelchair onto the lift and secured the loading strap to prevent a roll-off as the lift drew up to the lip of the loading door.
Ted noted a stale smell as the lift locked flush against the lip of the door, like that of an old refrigerator, but paid it little attention: he
was just grateful that the bus was warm inside.  Ted noticed that his wheelchair occupied the last available space, the others occupied
by fellow passengers in a variety of mobility devices.
“Mr Pilton, you’ll be the first of my drop-offs tonight, so I’ll strap your chair in a position nearest the door.”  This said, the driver
knelt to place the tie-down straps that would secure the wheelchair in a stationary position while the bus was travelling.
As the driver worked the belts, Ted slid off a glove and pulled the price of a ride from his wallet.  Upon extending the fare toward the
driver, Percy shook his head and smiled once again.
“This ride is free, a courtesy trip to apologize for such an extended period of time.  We hope this is fair compensation.”  The driver
stood and returned to the outside of the bus and secured the lift doors and then took his seat behind the wheel.  After doing up his
own seatbelt, the driver put the bus in gear and they were rolling.
Traffic was light; Ted was home in twenty minutes time, he and his wheelchair parked in the living room before the TV and a warm
brandy in hand.  Ted had the cell phone sitting in its charger on the table by the door.
The brandy disappeared almost as fast as the remaining chill in his body.  Once gone, Ted yawned: the late news would have to be
forgone, beaten out by exhaustion.  Ted turned off the lights after setting the burglar alarm and went to bed.  He was asleep within
five minutes.

“Hello.   Argyle Park Paratransit Service, Aniston speaking.  How can I help you?”
Ted held a coffee and his first cigarette of the day, and replied into the speaker-phone that sat on the kitchen table.
“Hello Aniston.  This is Ted Pilton calling.  I just wanted to say ‘Thanks’ for the bus yesterday; it couldn’t have come at a better
moment.  If not for the trip, I’d probably still be out at the city cemetery.  By the way, I owe APPS the price of a trip: your driver didn’
t want to accept it, but I know fuel isn’t cheap and I’d like to pay for the ride.”
“What time was the pick-up?  I ask because we don’t have you on yesterday’s schedule, and from what I can see, there was no bus
dispatched to that location yesterday.”
“I’m not certain”, Ted replied.  “All I know is that the sun was pretty much down.”
“Well, can you give me the name of the driver, or the bus number?  Maybe I can find the trip that way.”
Ted thought a moment: he couldn’t recall the bus number, but he recalled the driver’s name.
“The driver was a fellow named Percy.”
“Mr Pilton, are you sure?” said Aniston.  “The only ‘Percy’ we have on file is in the Widow’s Pension records, and that driver has been
dead since…”  Aniston paused.  “He was killed in a weather-related traffic accident in November of ’94.  He and a busload of
passengers were killed on the Argyle Overpass.”
Ted thanked Aniston, hung up the speaker-phone, and went to his computer.  After accessing the ‘Obituaries’ section of the Argyle
Park Press online edition and entering November 1994 into the Search engine, he came across a link to a news story rather than an
obituary.  It read:

‘Freak’ Snowstorm Kills 9
02 November 1994
Dee Capslock,
Weekend News Editor

An unexpected weather system is being blamed for the deaths of nine people this weekend.
A wheelchair accessible bus went off the Argyle Overpass on Halloween Day (Saturday), landing on its roof and then rolling several
times before coming to rest in a culvert some twenty yards east of the overpass.
“All aboard were killed either upon initial impact or by the resulting rolling of the vehicle on the ground surface beneath the overpass,”
said the Medical Examiner’s office this morning.  “Because the majority of those on-board were using mobility devices (like
wheelchairs and battery-operated scooters), many of the dead were killed when the impact happened; the driver was found to have
died as the result of being crushed against the driver’s door by a scooter that forced the driver’s head through the window of the door,
slicing open a major artery in the neck.  We are continuing to investigate, but we have concluded that all of the deaths were certainly
accidental in nature.”
No charges are being laid in connection with the accident.  A Memorial Service open to the public will be held in the chapel of the city
cemetery on Wednesday.
Apparently ‘Paratransit’ had become ‘Paranormal Transit’.
Ted lit a cigarette and turned off the computer, his hands shaking slightly as he offered a silent ‘Thank You’ to his deceased wife.