A twist of fate happens on a Greyhound bus trip.
Ben always avoided airplanes. He suffered from serious earaches whenever he flew. That being considered, he'd purchased tickets for a Greyhound Express bus trip from New York City to Portland Oregon, his first boarding scheduled for October 15th at 6:10am. Ben liked the kind of folks who rode buses cause they were real people with interesting stories and missions, better than airplane passengers, and the train makes fewer stops, while the bus stops often, offering breaks at fast food joints and mini marts along the way.
Nobody would ever have guessed that Ben was a multi millionaire. He was scruffy looking and a little unkempt, with his long grey ponytail and four inch white beard. Most folks would have taken him for a homeless old man even though he was only forty eight. He showed advanced signs of aging from years of working on his dad's farm in Idaho ... too much sun and long exposures to excessive heat and cold had left him wrinkled and leathery, like an old alcoholic.
Ben moved to New York city at the age of nineteen to earn a degree in the performing arts, specifically, to achieve his dream of becoming a movie producer. He proved to be quite successful by the time he was thirty five, having produced six popular films, which earned him several Academy Awards and a flaming bank account.
He urgently needed to find someone special to fill the role of a female ex-con in his newest project, (The Heated). Over 40 actors had already auditioned for the part but he wasn't very happy with the choices sent by Smitty, (his casting director), so he thought to himself, "perhaps I'll find someone to fill the role during my trip". So many people who are down on their luck travel by bus, so he had little doubt that he could find someone willing to accept an all expenses paid trip to Portland to star in the un-cast role.
Ben would have to change buses eight times on the journey, which meant that he would have lots of exposure to many colorful people on a trip that long. As usual, he knew there was a good chance someone just released from prison would be traveling the bus. He'd met a few on other trips. They get released with a little bit of money, which they spent on a ticket that will get them to anywhere they think they can survive.
It was a chilly, overcast October day when He arrived at the station on eighth avenue sporting a pair of loose Levi's and grey Pepsi sweatshirt, topped off with a ragged up blue NYC ball cap.
Ben wanted to find an actor who was a bit outgoing, since that would be the type of character she would play. Out going and a little tough looking ... a gal who could handle herself in a brawl. That being the case, Ben knew he would be approaching women who might qualify for the role, initiating only a word or nod to try and reel them in to some expanded conversation, and although he didn't smoke, he knew the gal he was needing to find probably would, so he had a pack on hand just to make new friends with.
He was already at the second depot where he spoke briefly with two ladies, but they seemed a bit put out, and pretty much gave him the cold shoulder, after all, Ben was a bit unattractive.
He boarded the bus at the fourth depot in St. Paul, Minnesota, but his short layover made him miss a chance to hook two prospects that were heading out to their respective buses. One of them happened to be in line for the same bus he was traveling on, so he kept hoping for a chance to speak with her. She appeared to be around twenty sevenish, slender, with ice blue hair done in amateurish braided dreadlocks ... 1/3rd of it shaved to a crew on her left side. She had a two inch scar on the right side of her mouth which made her look like a brawler. Her green eyes gave the expression that she was always about to make a sarcastic remark, which was especially interesting to Ben as a possibly effective attribute for the role. A bloody tattoo of a spiked war hammer rested on her neck with an inscription beneath that read
Ben decided to sit a little behind this mysterious young woman in order to study her more. She sat down next to a rather athletic young black man. Within minutes she began laughing at him and poking fun at his exposed pink and black checkered boxing shorts. "Better watch your back, I'll rip those shorts right off your ass" (she said). He barked back at her saying "and I'll rip what's left of your dreads off girl"! She laughed and quickly replied: "great! I'm not liking this summer heat anyway. What's you're name asshole?"
"Debron (he said), what's yours?"
"That's tight Jasmine, can I call you Jazz?"
"Oh hell no, I hate Jazz music Debra", she said mockingly.
"Oooh, that was cold girl." (Debron replied), but I think you're okay for a punk ass Irish girl anyway," he said laughing.
"Fuck you Debra", Jasmine laughing.
Ben was sure that he should make a move on this prospect now. Jasmine's banter with Debron proved it. In just moments she had turned this stranger into a soul brother of sorts.
The bus driver pulled into a dimly lit truck stop to give the passengers a stretch and smoke break if they needed it. It was 3AM.
Ben got off with Jasmine, Debron and several other passengers to study his prospect even more.
"Gotta spare cig, (Jasmine asked), I ran out?"
"Ya but only if you promise to stop calling me Debra", Debron obliging her.
"So how long am I gonna have to put up with you?" Jasmine asked.
"Only two hundred more miles, till the next stop."
"Yea, it will be nice to get rid of you!" Jasmine laughed as he fake punched her arm.
"Where did this girl come from?" Ben thought to himself.
Ben happened to hear that Jasmine was heading to Seattle Washington, which was perfect since they would be riding on the same buses
together for a few days. Ben thought he knew how to make his pitch to Jasmine, which he would do very soon.
The next two hundred miles came and went very fast as Ben continued to listen in on the two new friends. When they parted it was
the same old thing as Jasmine tossed her almost empty can of Coke at Debron, fake acting as she cried out "Go ahead ... leave me all
alone to face this world, quitter!" He walked off while flashing her the love hand sign and smiling. "Call me some time after you grow
"BITCH", she replied, while scowling.
Ben approached her as she stood looking for a remnant of a cigarette butt in her bag. "Need a cig"? (He asked), as he handed her one.
"Thanks", she said. "Menthols eh?" She spoke, while staring at Ben with disgust. "Well I guess it's better than hitting this Greyhound exhaust.".
"What's your name shaved"? Ben asked, as if he didn't know. "I'm Ben."
Just then a young man from the bus walked up and asked the two if they had any spare change. "I'm going all the way to Seattle and I
ran out of food and cash ... haven't eaten in almost twenty hours."
Ben pulled out a hundred dollar bill and handed it to the nineteen year old who said his name was John. "Wow thanks", John said, "but
this is too much ... you'll be broke yourself"!
"No it's my pleasure John, there's more where that came from."
John ran swiftly toward a convenience store nearby to scrounge what he wanted from the shelves.
"That was pretty outrageous of you Ben", Jasmine said. "What are you, rich or somethin?"
"Well as a matter of fact I am. Ever heard of a guy named Ben Farenstone?"
"Wait a minute, you mean the guy who produced all of those suspense movies? Wada ya work for him?"
Ben pulled out his ID to show her while warning her to keep it quiet. "Shhh I don't want for everyone to know ... but I AM Ben."
"Fuck off", Jasmine said as she boldly slapped him ... "That's gotta be a fake." I mean why would a rich guy be riding a bus when he could be
flying first class on Virgin air?"
"That's easily explained Jasmine." Ben reaches in his wallet and hands her a five hundred dollar bill.
"Wait a minute (she said as her mouth dropped open), I'm not going down on you dude!"
"I promise, that's not what the money's for. It's payment for just listening to me about a job in a movie I'm currently working on. Jasmine, I need your help and if you're able to, It will be a win win for both of us. Just sit with me for the next two hours of the trip and I'll explain everything."
"Okay, but the first thing you're gonna have to do is prove you're the guy you're claiming to be."
"It's a deal, and if I'm not, you can keep the five hundred anyway," Ben replied.
"I'm keeping it regardless of who you are!!"
Ben sat beside Jasmine when they re-boarded after the 20 minute break. He opened up the contacts menu on his I phone and handed it to her. She scrolled through the list, seeing that many of his contacts were well known actors ... Hoffman, Kidder, Wahlberg.
"How do I know you didn't just put fake numbers in here to try and impress women Ben?"
"Well, do you think you'd recognize Hoffman's voice if you heard it?"
"I happen to know he's in Brazil shooting this month."
Ben pushed the speed dial for Dustin Hoffman's number and told Jasmine to answer it.
"Hello, this is Dustin, hows it going Ben?"
Jasmine stared at Ben "Ah hello, this isn't Ben, it's Jasmine."
Ben grabbed the phone away from her and put it up to his face, allowing her to listen in. "Hi Dustin, Jasmine's a prospect of mine who didn't believe that I knew you, so I'm calling just to prove it to her. Thanks for playing along. How's the shoot going in Brazil?"
"We're almost done Ben, which is great, cause it's just too damn hot down here ... what are you up to?"
"I'm on one of my bus trips, a long coast to coast trip to Portland, Oregon for my next production called "The Heated". Would you like to make a cameo appearance?"
"Thanks Ben, but I'm already hot, and it sounds like guns are involved, (laughing). I'm gonna take a few months off and visit St. Augustine again, but thanks for the offer."
"Okay pal, have a great trip, we'll talk again later."
"See you round bud."
"Okay Jasmine, convinced?"
"Yes, I recognized his voice."
"Good! So here's the gig ... I need someone to play the part of an ex-con in my next movie "The Heated" and I think you'd be the perfect person to fill the role."
"But I don't have any acting experience."
"If you're already the character type, you won't need much experience. The job only pays 70 grand, since you're a newcomer, but if the film gets an award you'll be up around the half a mill range for your next role."
"Damn, that's pretty rad Ben."
"The job will last about ten months and some of it will require a little stunt action ... running, and jumping out of windows onto airbags etc.."
"That sounds like fun, I've always wanted to do that!"
"So it's a deal then?"
"Well, I'm on my way to Seattle to take care of my grandma who has to have a hip replaced, so I guess it has to be a no unfortunately." Jasmine frowned and put her face in her hands.
"Suppose I were to hire a nurse to stay with her until the film were done?"
"You would do that for me?"
"Well I've interviewed forty two actors and haven't found one that would work, so you would be the one doing me a favor."
"Alright then, it's a deal ... as long as I can visit grams after her surgery."
"It's a deal Jasmine, I look forward to working with you!" Ben said with a fist bump.
When the bus stopped in Billings, Montana, Ben asked Jasmine for her ID. "I have to do some minor checking up on you just to be sure that you don't have any warrants out there. Nothing can screw up a shoot like having your star hauled off to jail in the middle of it."
Ben called his casting director (Smitty), to have him check out the information Jasmine had given him. There were a couple of sketchy guys in hooded sweatshirts hanging around in the depot. One of the passengers who was on the same bus for most of the trip, a young white male with a crew cut and a 5 inch scar on his head, met with the two hooded guys inside the depot. Jasmine said she had to go pee and took off toward the bathroom.
Meanwhile, Ben had some calls to make, one to the director of the film, to let him know that he'd found his actor.
One of the hooded guys ran out of the hall where the bathrooms were and out the front door followed by the other guy and the skin head who walked out rather slowly shaking their heads, saying "what's that guys problem?" Ben was trying to figure out what the heck was going on when suddenly he heard a woman screaming loudly from the bathroom hallway and knowing that Jasmine was in there, Ben ran as fast as he could to see what was up. The screams came from an older woman who was holding the door to the women's restroom open while crying.
Ben raced in. There was Jasmine, laying in a pool of her own blood and unresponsive as Ben shook her gently. It took him a minute to find her wound ... a slice to her abdomen. He yelled out "call 911, somebody please", as he checked her for vitals and put pressure on her wound.
The paramedics arrived in minutes, examining Jasmine who was regaining consciousness. "Jasmine, (Ben asked) can you tell me who did this?"
Some guy in a black hoody followed me in here and stabbed me, I think he took my bag.
"How bad is she?" Ben asked David, one of the paramedics.
"Well, she lost a fair amount of blood, but the wound doesn't look like it was that serious ... are you her father?"
"No, but she has nobody to help her except me ... I'm her boss. Okay if I ride along in the ambulance? I'm Ben."
"Sure thing Ben, what's your blood type?"
"Great, that's a universal type, lets get this girl some blood."
The medics loaded her onto a stretcher and into the rig. Ben grabbed her hand as she winced in pain. "It's okay Jasmine, I'm gonna take care of everything. Don't worry." Ben said, as the medic began the transfusion.
At the hospital, Ben had to claim that he was Jasmine's father in order to be with her in her room, since there was a "family only" rule in place for ICU patients. A police officer visited them shortly after Jasmine was made comfortable, asking if she remembered anything that might help?
"I remember the guy who stabbed me talking to that guy with the scar on his head. A passenger on the bus we were on."
Ben suddenly remembered ... "Ya, he was standing near us when I gave Jasmine some money. $500 bucks to be exact. He had a crew cut."
"What was supposed to be your next destination?" (Asked the officer).
"Helena." (Ben replied).
"Good, we'll have him picked up there for questioning."
Ben sat with Jasmine all night until 1PM the next day when she awoke from a long sedated sleep.
"So it looks like your hooded attacker was informed about the $500.00 I gave you and followed you into the bathroom. He must have agreed to split the money with the skin head later. The police have both of them in custody and are looking for the third punk. Oh, and if anybody asks ... I'm your dad, otherwise, I can't be allowed in here."
"Okay pops." Jasmine said sarcastically, while forcing a smile.
Dr. Lemott entered the hospital room to check on his patient. "Hi Jasmine, (he said while looking at her chart), I'm Dr. Lemott ... can I have a look at your wound?"
"Am I gonna die doc?", Jasmine asked, while the doctor examined her.
"Thankfully, NO ... but you would have if it weren't for your dad here. I understand he kept you from bleeding out. We gave you some new blood and around fifty stitches, so you should be out of here in a couple of days."
"Thanks Doctor. ", Jasmine said, as the doctor left the room.
"And thanks for saving my life DAD!" (Chuckling) "Does this mean I'm unemployed Ben?"
"No, you're not getting out of work from this little scratch my dear!"
After Jasmine finished her lunch, her nurse gave her another sedative. She dozed off again about 30 minutes later
The hospital room's phone rang so Ben picked it up to let Jasmine rest.
"Hello, this is Ben."
"Hello, is Jasmine available?"
"Well they gave her a sleeping pill and she's napping now, can I take a message?"
"Is she okay?" This is her mother, Trina. The police called me and said she'd been injured."
"She's expected to make a full recovery."
"Who is this?"
"Ben, Ben Farenstone." Hey, your voice sounds familiar, is this my Trina from college?"
"B B Ben ( Trina stutters), I'll have to call you back. Bye"
Just then Ben's cell vibrates ... Hello?
"Hi Ben, Smitty calling back with some news."
"I did the background check on Jasmine who had nothing show up as far as warrants. She spent some time behind bars for petty thefts, got caught with some weed twice, but seems to check out fine otherwise. Something pretty interesting did turn up though ... Remember that short affair you had with that props gal in college named Trina?"
"Ya, what about it?"
"Well It turns out she had a daughter that she gave up for adoption that was given the name "Jasmine" and as it turns out, she is your new actor."
Ben's eyes widened as he gazed at Jasmine asleep.
"Yup, you're hearing right Ben, Smitty continued ... Jasmine could be your daughter."
Ben dropped the phone, his eyes welling up with tears as he grabbed for a box of tissues.
"What's a matter Ben, Jasmine asked, after being awakened, Oh no, I AM GONNA DIE huh?"
"No no honey, it's not that. I have something incredible that I just learned so brace yourself ... I just found out that I may really be your dad!"
Jasmine's free hand covered her mouth as she replied "SHUT UP! This can't be true! How can a complete stranger that I meet on a Greyhound bus, turn out to be my lifelong missing father? It's just too bizarre!"
"Well many years ago, I met your mom, Trina when she was a prop builder in college. We fell in love, but one day she just vanished, leaving me a note that simply said....
"I'm sorry Ben, I've taken a job in LA cause I know that I will only be a hindrance to your success, so this is goodbye, please don't try to contact me. It's just not meant to be. I will never forget you,,, Trina."
"I never knew that I might have a daughter out there ... your mom never said a word about being pregnant."
Ben leaned over to gently hug Jasmine. "I never married ... never wanted to be hurt like that again, your mom was my best friend."
"It's okay Ben, you saved my life ... but if you are my dad you sure as hell better spoil the crap out of me!"
The two of them got to know each other quite a bit during the next two days, laughing and crying ... bonding. Trina showed up the day Jasmine was released and told Ben that she really was his daughter. She had never married either and was happy to reunite with Ben again after all those years. Ben asked if he could call Trina when they parted and she replied, "I think this is the way the Universe works things out. I'd be a fool to say no Ben."
Fifteen months later ... A reporter is heard speaking on TV,"The Heated ... the new blockbuster spring hit, is breaking new records at the box office this weekend and rumor has it that the film's star, Jasmine Farenstone has already been cast for a new movie to be released in the fall of next year, and expects to be paid a whopping 3.5 million dollars for the role.