Lina ramona Vitkauskas
The Transaction is Complete
The Virgin Mary was sitting in my bus seat,
smoking a Carlton Menthol, adjusting her lavender lapel. She
picked my seat on purpose. I thought she’d look in my
direction, you know, acknowledge she’d mistakenly snuggled
herself cozily into it with an awkward gesture, a wave of the
hand over the mouth like a kid who’d just spilled apple juice
all over the floor. Or maybe she would notice me panting and
hovering over her like a heaving mess with my Oleg Cassini
travel bag slung over my shoulder like I was carrying Vito’s
cousin Nicky inside. If anything, because she was the Virgin
Mary, maybe she’d at least sense my presence—at least.
But I had to sigh really hard. You know, like when your mom
tells you, "no, and that’s final," but you still
wince and your whole body slumps down and you go, "Awwww
maaa...." SIGH. Just like that. And to top it off,
she didn’t even flinch. She just kept reading the Bible
calmly, lightly tapping on the end of her cigarette into the
tiny silver mouth in the seat divider.
"Move it, lady... I gotta line back
here," he gruffed into the back of my neck and I could feel
the heat, smell the remnants of a beef sandwich with red sauce
and sweet pepper. It was making me horny. If anyone breathes on
my neck like that, it’s like a prickly light feather tickling
and it drives me bananas. But it was so pathetic for me to get
horny from this fat guy talking into my neck and just wrong that
I was getting wetter by the minute when I was just trying to get
my seat back from the mother of God.
"Did you hear me lady?"
It was like he was talking through me so she’d
notice. Maybe she’d finally look up from reading her Bible.
"Do you know who that is?" I heard
someone whisper behind the fat guy, but the driver interrupted.
"Ahhhh, people, what’s going on here?
What’s the hold up?"
I had to pipe in, but it came out quiet, like
a weak sparrow. "Well, she took my seat."
"People, people...what are we...in
She instantly looked up. But not even at me.
At the ceiling. At the sky.
"Just take the seat miss, " the
driver barked to me and some little kid echoed righteously with,
"You heard ‘em lady," Beef
Sandwich grunted, still making me tingle with the hotness of his
meaty-sweet breath with red sauce. It was bad enough I hadn’t
got my period yet, especially considering my farewell romp with
Louie a few weeks before. He was crazy-drunk that night,
stumbling into my bedroom and cutting me up with those damn
squirrel teeth, kissing me like I was a nut he wanted to crack.
I had to buy Carmex and smear it on my chin even.
I shoved my Oleg into the top compartment and
slouched into the aisle seat next to her. She smirked and kept
reading. She knew what she was doing, making me go through all
this trouble. I looked up, narrowing my eyes at Beef Sandwich.
"Thanks for nothing," I grumbled
under my breath. I didn’t care if he heard me or not. I just
got ripped off of my own seat and got all hot and horny
for nothing. Now it was just pissing me off more—me being
totally aroused and not even being able to sit by the window.
Beef Sandwich sidled by to the seat three rows
down and pushed his bag into my arm real hard as he brushed by.
As if I didn’t know it was on purpose.
"You really shouldn’t be so angry all
the time," she opened her tiny opal lips like fish.
"Oh my...do you know who that is?" I
heard the same lady say to Beef Sandwich three rows down.
"Shhhhh..." a deep voice said.
I opened my mouth to tell her off. Like if she
was all holy then why didn’t she just give up the seat instead
of smirking there like an sly old hag? I was gonna. But then she
said it again.
"You really, really shouldn’t be so
angry all the time." Her voice was very low and scratchy,
like she was trying to be sexy. She had put out her cigarette,
no longer looking for her son in the ceiling, eyes still not
moving to me at all. She was reading the Bible.
"Well, I’m sorry, Lauren Bacall,"
I grumbled softly. "But you weren’t eliminating any of
She smiled widely, her golden teeth
glistening, her eyes still averted to the text as if she were
reading our conversation. Her pantyhose were nude and her pumps
were white. What was she thinking representing and spreading the
Word looking like that? Her red hair was piled in soft mounds of
curls on top of her head, some wisps straying down the side of
her cheek. She had an old, embroidered handkerchief clutched in
the hand underneath the Bible. She kept on grinning like she
just ate me for breakfast.
"That’s not my job anyway," she
finally said softly, bringing her eyes to mine. One was
sapphire. The other—completely black, the entire pupil
enlarged, permanently blanketing the deep pool of color
underneath. Her skin was kissed with patches of olive, flax,
plum, raisin and bleach. I could feel her hand press down on
mine, folding them into my lap.
"Your nails are blue," was all I
could say. And they were. Neatly manicured ice chips swirled
with azure stain, something blue—like when you get married.
"Do you know who that is?" the lady
whispered again to two Amish women dressed in stiff, black
"Tickets, tickets," I saw the driver
out of the corner of my eye.
She covered my other hand with hers and I
faced her completely.
"See? Now you’re not so pissed off
anymore, are you?" She smiled wider.
I felt my wetness drying, the heat of standing
and sighing hard inside me slink off into a light, soothing
warmness. Yes, I guess I wasn’t pissed off anymore. But she
still took my seat.
"I know," she answered my thought
with her head cocked. "But you will need this
I pulled my ticket out as the driver
approached. I was still examining the differences in her eyes,
the black that suffocated the blue, invaded the white space,
feeling the softness of her skin.
"Are you blind?" I asked slowly,
following the movement of the dark orb.
Her voice was still smooth and even like milk.
"Only to some things. But I guess we all are."
Her grin was Chesire as she peered over my
head at the driver, breaking me away from the hypnotic draw of
her swirling, pinwheel spheres.
"Miss?" he asked me, tapping my
elbow lightly. "Tickets?"
I distractedly handed him my stub. She was
still looking at him and squeezing my hands in my lap, making me
"The transaction is complete," she
whispered and the driver shook his head knowingly, drifting to
the next row of tall, red seats, cutting crowns of heads like so
many bleeding halos.
This was just the type of cryptic junk I’d
expected if I was ever going to run into her. And perfect place,
too. I was wondering why all this time had gone by and she hadn’t
shown up on the scene. Why, all of a sudden, I had it written
all over my face that I was going to Florida to get away from
Louie, the nutcracker. Why she’d decided to be here, now, to
try and stop me or talk me into believing something. In anything
besides Louie. I guess you had to expect something crucial to
happen. I pulled my hands away from her slowly and adjusted my
bra underneath my sweater. The hotness had subsided for now, but
it was still lingering, lunging in and out, a wave of
titillation. I was about to get my period.
"You’re late anyway," she said
airily, lighting her next cigarette as the bus yanked away from
the station. "That’s why."
Now I turned to her sharply in sheer
exasperation. I was hearing enough of this. I stood up and I
didn’t care who on the bus heard. She took my seat and
now this? This was enough of the show.
"Okay," I sighed hard again.
"Okay…I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m pregnant
with the next Messiah, right? That Louie was really another son
of God all along and I blew it? That I should just go back to
Louie, huh?" I demanded, my voice wavering. The woman three
rows back by Beef Sandwich gasped in horror.
"Oh my Good Lord, do you know who
"Yes!" I spun around fiercely.
"Yes! We all know who it is!"
"But that’s not right to talk..."
the woman began, standing up with me.
"Ladies!" the driver screamed from
the front. "Sit the hell down!"
The Virgin Mary was just smiling, watching me
get angrier as my forehead began to bead with sweat. It was
getting warmer underneath everything—my jeans, my sweater.
"Jesus!" The driver threw up his
hands up. The Virgin Mary heard and looked up at the steel,
welded ceiling of the bus. At the sky. Her Bible was put away
now, her cigarette extinguished and she had closed her eyes,
raising her hands half-way above her head. A tiny gold butterfly
with teal wings dripped from her earlobe into her lap.
"Your earring fell." I curtly
She kept her eyes closed but put her arms
"But I suppose you already know that,
too," I finished and decided I wasn’t going to push it
anymore. Not with the woman by Beef Sandwich, not with the
Virgin Mary. I was still going to Florida, away from Louie, just
like I’d planned. Louie was screwing everything except me and
see how bad it got for a faithful girl that she gets hot from a
fat guy breathing on her on a smelly bus? I was so sick of him
anyway. Those damn teeth of his. My lips were always bleeding
and bit-up. And that Carmex really burned like hell.
"Nothing burns like that." She
finally said opening her eyes.
Just ignore her, I thought. She’ll keep
wanting to mystify you with that crap, but it was just like if
you were gonna give in to Louie again. And don’t you go back
to that liar. She’ll tell you you’re carrying his baby and
you’ve gotta go back—go back and make it right—forgive.
She’ll tell you not to make this trip to Florida. That it’s
nothing but trouble, and you won’t find what you’re looking
for down there. But don’t believe it. Start your life over
again, baby. Without that piss-head.
"You are pregnant, you know,
" she said flatly, lighting one of her overly-lengthy
Carltons. Must’ve been 120's. Why did mysterious people always
have to smoke long cigarettes anyway? Was it an unwritten rule
amongst religious icons, Communist spies, and movie stars?
She dragged graciously on her cigarette,
longingly, as if it’d been awhile since she felt the relief of
a hearty rush of nicotine swirling inside her. She wasn’t
going to offer any information.
"So, hey, what about all that crap they
say about second-hand smoke?" I asked, changing the
She rolled her eyes and flicked her wrist down
with disgust. "All a bunch of crap."
I wanted her to turn to me again so I could
see her eyes, but she didn’t. She ground out her cigarette,
this time on the floor with her tiny white pump, and looked out
the window. She was right about the bathroom. I needed it. I
started to get cramps and I had to pee real bad. Maybe I would
start bleeding today.
"Well, you were right about needing this
seat," Her expression was blank in the tinted reflection of
the one-way glass. "The bathroom is close, yes?" I
looked for a sign. Her face got real stony and rigid, still
fixated on the passing gray fields. She folded her hands in her
lap again and started to hum softly. John Denver. Louie’s
favorite.The blue in her nails began to fade to a soft, rose
"I just can’t tell sometimes," she
murmured between bars. "I just can’t tell."
"Can’t tell what?"
"Just stay there. Please don’t let him
go into the water." She went on. " 'For ofttimes he
falleth into the fire and ofttimes into the water.’"
"Who’s not suppposed to go in the
water?" Now I was sure she was pulling one of her stunts
again. Speaking in tongues and verse. Whatever.
"He can’t swim…poor little one…"
I balanced myself against the seat as the bus
rumbled underneath my feet, jostling me. The sharp pain in my
side stabbed me now, called me to relieve the pressure of my
"Now you’ll be able to sleep," she
whispered, bowing her head.
She was rolling her head in a hypnotic circle,
rocking back and forth gently. I thought maybe I should just ask
her. I thought maybe she’d at least appreciate my bluntness.
"So are you, like, stopping deaths right
now? Putting dying people at peace? Is that what this is? Are
you asking me to come back to you? Tell you I’m sorry I sinned
and all that? And did those kids really see you at Lourdes?
Fatima? What about that fat lady in Atlanta...?"
But now she was quiet. I clicked my tongue.
"Okay. All right. Fine. Do you want me to
go to confession? Is that what this is about?"
She stopped the humming, the head rolling, the
visionary out-loud premonitions. She stopped the praying. At
that moment, she looked at me with the black orb and the ocean,
the bleach and the flax dulling, the olive and plum and raisin
draining, the supple opal lips shriveling to crisp and chapped.
She looked smaller and more fragile, like she had shrunk, not
like the robust woman adjusting her cleavage into the lapel of
her lavender suit who smiled when she took my seat.
"Well?" I was sure I’d start to
"No, you don’t need to go
anymore," she croaked bleakly. But it sounded like she was
answering someone else’s question.
Lina ramona Vitkauskas recently received an
Honorable Mention in Story Magazine¹s Carson McCullers
Prize for "The Transaction is Complete", won the 1996 DES
Journal short prose competition, and has been
published in The Poet, SWING magazine, The
Outlet, and Milk magazine. She is a Chicago native,
Lithuanian bred, and is now playing in theatres near you.