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the website of Sean Patrick Doles

Miracle on Magazine Street

by Sean Patrick Doles

“God, if you exist, please, when I open up my eyes, let there be a bus coming.”

Resting his forearm across the weathered oak providing a temporary respite from the early summer sun, Web Crawford bowed his head and closed his eyes for one final test of faith. Though not yet 10 a.m., the air inside his wrinkled khakis was already growing moist, soiling his boxers and causing great unrest at the center of his adolescent male universe. Waiting once again for a bus that never seemed to come on time only served to make matters worse.

With equal measures of hope and fear, Web threw open his lids to survey the horizon.

No luck.

“Alright, maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough,” he conceded, turning his gaze upward. “Look, what’s say we make a deal? Remember last week when I jacked off in Grandma’s bathroom? Okay, both times. Yeah, look, I’m sorry about that. Really. Now, please, if you’re there, please send a bus down this street right…”


Still no dice.


Kicking the oak repeatedly, Web lost all concern for appearances or for potential retribution in the afterlife as rational thought regarding his words and actions ceased.

“You bastard!” Punching at the sky, he raised an angry fist to the heavens and screamed from the depths of his soul, though no audible sound escaped his lips. “You can just forget my ass, alright. Forget church. Forget confession. Forget it all, ‘cause I’m not buying it. You don’t exist.”

Reverting to an old trick from his not-so-distant childhood, Web plopped on the sidewalk and buried his face in his hands, whimpering woefully.

“I hate this! I cannot take it any longer!”

It didn’t matter what the reality of his situation was at this moment in time. It didn’t matter that Web was a typical middle-class kid with a good family, waiting for the bus so he could go swimming with his new friends at New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t legally drive, anyway. It didn’t matter that Mom had to work to help pay the bills, thereby limiting her role as his personal chauffer. No, at this moment in the universe, all that mattered to Web was that it was hot, and he was tired of waiting. And now, there was absolutely no hope of salvation, because God, obviously, did not exist.

Resigned to his sorry lot, Web peeked through his fingers still hoping this experiment in eco-friendliness was more than an exercise in futility. His perseverance was soon rewarded with a familiar aroma, and he slowly recognized it as proof that his efforts had not been in vain.


He put the equation together in his head: Diesel + Rumbling Sidewalk = Bus?

Invigorated with renewed optimism, he bolted upright, jerking his head left, then right to locate the source.


“Okay, okay,” he said, quickly jumping to his feet and gathering his backpack, “forget everything I just said. But you gotta’ stop playing with my head like that.”

As the bus rolled to a stop and Web boarded, his apology continued, growing more profuse as the shadow of guilt slowly clouded his conscience. He took his usual seat at the rear. Settling in for the bumpy ride, the embers of indignation in his gut continued to smolder.

“Why do you do this? I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. All these petty annoyances. I don’t get it. Why does life have to be so…so…inconvenient. I mean, if it’s gonna’ get worse than this, just let me know now and I’ll quit bitching. ‘Cause if this is the good part, holy shit, I can’t wait to see what kind of tricks you got up your sleeve.”

Ever the hustler, Web tried to maneuver for a deal. “Alright, look, I’ve done my part. I get good grades. I go to church. I listen to my parents. But for what? What’s the payoff?

“I got an idea. If I keep on holding up my end of the deal, how ’bout you lettin’ me in on your plans. I mean, it doesn’t have to be, like, right now, or even today…but sometime soon. Huh?”

Lurching to a halt, the steel horse bucked Web out of his trance. When he regained his faculties he knew his prayers had been answered. For, stepping onto this hallowed vessel was a vision of purity and goodness so fine and right you just knew there had to be a Divine Being.

A girl.

Not just any girl. A majestic young creature who, by Web’s best estimate, looked to be about his own age. One of those singular teenage beauties seen in the pages of Vogue or on MTV. But here riding lowly public transportation? Never.

Panic raced through Web’s body at the sight. His pulse suddenly leapt to a gallop and his mouth grew sandy. Not knowing exactly what to do with his hands but knowing he didn’t want to get caught staring, Web rifled through his bag searching for something, anything, that would help him look cool.


The dark lenses creating a veneer of confidence, Web stared blankly into the distance, seemingly aloof. Feeling the heat of his penetrating gaze, the girl lifted her head to meet his stare and instantly, her eyes dropped to the bus floor, an automatic response born of her own shyness and insecurity.

Oblivious to her stifling sense of vulnerability, Web chided himself for his arrogant pose, looking inward, as usual, to find the appropriate receptacle for his blame.

“Christ, Web, take the stupid glasses off. You look like an idiot.”

Stepping forward timidly, the girl found her way to a vacant seat. Web was just barely able to catch a glimpse of her full, plump lips hidden under the wave her long, brown hair. Just to appease his initial curiosity, he cast another furtive glance before she sat down five rows up. Only this time there were no dark lenses.

Their eyes met.

In that eternity Web saw clearly the innocence that tempered her powerful beauty. If she were not so naive, she would be devastating. But today, Web was in luck. So beautiful and so unaware. The best kind.

He began to feel ill.

It was a pain he knew well, the gut-wrenching pain of denial. Of knowing he would never bask in the warmth of her love. Or how she’d smile at him if he was The One, how she’d cock her head, looking up into his eyes and affectionately brushing aside a stray lock from his forehead. Of knowing he’d never feel the hunger in her stare, the yearning in her kiss, kisses reserved exclusively for him because he was The One. Web tried to shake her clear of his mind.

He fixed his eyes on the grooves of the center aisle flooring only to be drawn forward to a pair of perfectly shaped ankles dangling just below two full, round and equally magnificent calves belonging to a certain girl. Web knew calves and ankles. From his formative years in New Orleans Catholic schools, Web knew they were the gateway to the promised land, the tell-tale sign of a body blessed or trouble to come. Not even a knee-length plaid Dominican uniform skirt could hide the ugly secrets revealed by thick ankles and pasty calves. Yes, calves and ankles. And at this instant, Web knew he was looking at a pair that St. Peter himself would grant admission on their aesthetic merits alone.

Funny how at times like these Web always forgot about God.

With the grace of a swan, the girl bent down between her feet, fumbling in her backpack for a book. After lingering for an instant, she tilted slightly to her left and sent the book tumbling into the aisle. Calmly, she leaned out and swept it up. She had, somehow, managed to shift in her seat and throw a look back in Web’s direction without making it seem obvious.

Their eyes met again. Only this time, Web knew it wasn’t an accident.

“Wait a second, is that… is that a smile? Is she? She is. She’s smiling at me.”

The corners of her mouth drew back curling the petal of her lower lip ever so richly to reveal a gift of beauty so rare no money could buy. Given freely to Web. In a better world Web knew he would be able to speak to her.

“It’s clear that we were meant to be together,” he would say, “Forget your plans and come with me this afternoon and we’ll go strolling hand-in-hand through the French Quarter. And when the time is right, I will show you my true self and you will see how different I am from all the others, that I am The One.”

If this were a movie Web would have the courage to make his move. But early in life Web had been conditioned to expect the worst and be content with failure. Fear was his natural instinct. Fear was normal. Fear was comfortable. And given ample time to think about his situation, fear would no doubt work its way in and weave its spell. Still, Web was completely absorbed by the girl. Every ounce of his being was devoted to her at this instant. It was then that a new possibility occurred to Web.

The Chance.

At times like these Web’s inner dialogue ceased, the incessant chatter replaced by the vision of a golden path. And at that moment, the path led to a possibility, a Chance that was his for the taking.

Fighting to his feet despite wobbly knees, Web gathered his things and pushed off on his voyage like a soldier heading to battle. Pausing for an instant to find his balance, he made his way, step by step, toward the front of the bus in pursuit of his Chance.

Each step took on a monumental significance, as though wiping away each emotional wound and every slight, be it real or perceived, that had created the cocoon of fear that entrapped his heart and kept the real Web hidden from the world.

Beads of sweat had begun to roll down his chubby, dimpled cheeks by the time he reached her. Opening his mouth to speak, the raspy crackle of the bus driver interrupted his thought.

“Next stop, Jefferson Avenue.”

“Shit,” Web thought, “this is my stop.”

The bus ground to a halt and so, too, did Web.

By now he had come so far that victory was in sight. But he knew this time, intention meant nothing without follow-through.

Standing with his mouth open, Web lost power of speech and was on the verge of stammering. The impatient driver motioned to the open door and called to Web, “Son, I got a schedule to keep, now y’all gettin’ or stayin’?”

Web choked back the fear in his throat and looked straight into her brown eyes. They told him all he needed to know.

Web saw The Chance clearly before him. He took it.

“Do you mind if I sit with you?”

“Sure, I’ve got a ways to go” she said, with no attempt to conceal her delight.

Sliding into the open space beside her, a warm ray of light covered every inch of Web’s body and he knew he had found a piece of the puzzle. He was instantly at ease with her and felt safe in divulging his deepest secrets. This time around he knew he had won. Maybe even, for a second, he understood what love was.

“Do you believe in God?” he asked without the slightest hesitation.