Steve and Melissa did not save a penny for their big trip, but that didn’t matter. It was their wedding anniversary, so they were going to make it happen, and thanks to the fine people at Carver Mutual Bank they each carried a brand new, gold Visa card representing $12,500 worth of vacation fun at what Steve swore was a reasonable 14 percent.
“Did you see the look on the pussy’s face when I slapped that gold card down on the front desk?” Steve said. The couple stood side by side, inching toward the steps of the tour bus. “Tell me I can’t upgrade to a junior suite.”
“All he said was it’s an extra $50 a night,” Melissa said. She wore a shirt that read “PINK” in the kind of oversized, serifed font usually reserved for college sweatshirts. Neither the shirt nor her yoga pants were pink.
“That’s not all he said, that’s just what you heard,” said Steve. “What he didn’t say is what he really meant.” He handed their tickets to the driver and mounted the bus’s first step. “This thing have air conditioning? It’s hot as fuck here.”
“Yes, it’s air conditioned,” the driver said.
“What? Did you understand him, Mel?” Steve asked.
“He said the bus is air conditioned,” Melissa repeated.
“Jesus Christ, how did you figure that out? What kind of accent is that, anyway?”
“He just talks low,” Melissa said. “We should sit up front so we can hear him better.”
Each of the bus’s front rows were occupied by a single tourist. “Excuse me, would y’all mind sitting together so me and my husband can sit there?” Melissa asked the young man seated behind the driver’s seat. He wore Birkenstocks, shorts, and glasses with thick, black rims.
“Vee ist Americans. Sittin-zee togedder,” Steve shouted. The young man looked at Steve as if he asked a question, and then he stood and moved to the open seat across the aisle. “Donk-A,” Steve said.
The couple plopped themselves down, Steve landing so violently that he rammed his seat back into the knees of the passenger sitting behind them. “Goddamn it feels good to get out of the sun and sit down. I don’t know how the natives handle the heat. I can barely breathe,” Steve said, and then he took a big drag from his vape pen.
“Black cherry?” Melissa asked.
“Smells good, don’t it?” Steve said.
“I want to get a selfie for my Instagram. Get out the stick,” said Melissa.
“You don’t need that thing, just ask that Mexican kid getting on the bus to take our picture,” Steve said.
Melissa waved her hand and the young Latino smiled. She pointed to her iPhone and then to both her husband and herself, and then she pantomimed taking a photograph. The young man nodded and reached for her phone. “Say anniversary!” she said, and the couple did so before freezing their sunburned faces into paralyzed smiles.
The young man snapped their picture, checked the result, and handed Melissa her phone. “Gracias, amigo,” Steve said.
“No problem,” the young man said, and he patted Steve’s shoulder as he walked past.
“They are so nice here,” Melissa said.
“Don’t let them fool you. They just want your money,” Steve said. “You ever see that thing on Freedom Wars about tourist scams? Hold on, let me find it.” He fiddled with his phone for a few seconds and then held his phone where both Melissa and he could see the screen.
“Is that as loud as your phone goes? I can’t hear anything,” she said. Steve pushed the volume button a few times, and the phone’s tiny speaker filled the cramped bus with Joe Alexis’s trebly, red-faced outrage. Americans needed to watch out when traveling. Being American is like wearing a big target on your back. Everybody wants what Americans have, but they don’t want to work for it. The only way they can grab hold of the American dream is to steal it. Americans are–
“Hey, would you mind turning that down a little bit, please?” the passenger seated behind them asked.
Americans are targets for kidnapping and terrorism. Ransom. Rape. Americans are–
“Excuse me, would you please turn that down?” the passenger repeated.
“What’s your fucking problem, bro?” Steve said.
“No problem. I’m just trying to read.”
“This look like a fucking library?”
“If you could just turn it down a little–”
“You want to learn something, put down that book and listen to some real truth,” Steve said.
“Like that?” the passenger said.
“Fucking-A like that,” Steve said. “You sound like an American. This applies to you, too. Stop being a whiny bitch and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about staying safe when you’re traveling.”
“You know what? I think I’ll just find another seat,” the passenger said. He stood and entered the row of tourists slowly making their way down the center aisle.
“You do that, snowflake,” Steve said. Melissa slapped his arm and smiled, and the two went back to watching Joe Alexis’s apoplectic tourist tips. When the video finished, Steve returned his phone to its belt holster. He patted his chest. “Oh fuck,” he said. He patted his pants pockets. “Fuck. Goddammit.”
“What’s wrong?” Melissa asked.
“That wetback stole my sunglasses,” Steve said.
“That beaner you had take our picture. He stole my Oakleys. That’s just fucking great, Mel. Hope you like your picture. It cost us 125 bucks.”
“They’re on the back of your head,” Melissa said. Steve reached back and felt the sunglasses leaning upon his neck. Melissa grinned and rubbed his goatee like he was a silly puppy.
“Just be careful who you hand your phone to,” Steve said. He looked at the brochure for the bus tour the pussy at the hotel desk gave him. It was better than looking at Melissa’s stupid grin. She loved to tease him when he made mistakes. “Look how they spell gray, G-R-E-Y. Grey Land Tours.”
“I think that’s how the English spell it,” said Melissa.
“Well this ain’t England,” Steve said.
“It used to be, a long time ago,” she said.
“Well it isn’t now, and there’s no reason not to write G-R-A-Y the way it’s supposed to be. It’s elitism is what it is,” Steve said.
“I think it’s classy, like theatre with an R-E instead of an E-R,” Melissa said.
“That’s stupid, too,” Steve said. “Just write it in American. It’s the most popular language in the whole goddamned world.” He motioned to their fellow passengers. “I bet every one of these motherfuckers speaks American, even Klaus over there.”
“My name is Matthew,” Klaus muttered.
The line of people crowding the aisle dissipated. The bus driver climbed aboard and took his seat in front of Steve and Melissa. The doors closed with a loud hiss and the big bus’s diesel engine rattled to life. “Finally, some AC,” Steve said.
“Hey, everybody, my name is Jose and I’ll be both your driver and your tour guide today because Tanya, my regular partner, is having and adventure of her own today. She’s having a baby!” The passengers clapped for Tanya, but Steve didn’t. “On behalf of the missing Tanya, myself, and the whole Grey Land family I’d like to thank you for choosing us. Now let’s get this tour started. Who’s ready to see the homes of Hollywood’s biggest stars and legends?”
Melissa stood and waved her arms and whooped like she was at a concert. Steve retrieved his phone from his belt holster and mounted it to the couple’s selfie stick. If nobody else could see that was tough titties. They had the gold card.