I first heard this story a few years ago from a girl I had met in New York's Greenwich Village. Probably the story is one of those mysterious bits of folklore that reappear every few year, to be told anew in one form or another. However, I still like to think that it really did happen, somewhere, sometime.
They were going to Fort Lauderdale -- three boys and three girls -- and when they boarded the bus, they were carrying sandwiches and wine in paper bags, dreaming of golden beaches and sea tides as the gray, cold spring of Now York vanished behind them.
As the bus passed through New Jersey, they began to notice Vingo. He sat in front of them, dressed in a plain, ill-fitting suit, never moving, his dusty face masking his age. He kept chewing the inside of his lip a lot, frozen into complete silence.
Deep into the night, outside Washington, the bus pulled into Howard Johnson's, and everybody got off except Vingo. He sat rooted in his seat, and the young people began to wonder about him, trying to imagine his life: perhaps he was a sea captain, a runaway from his wife, an old soldier going home. When they went back to the bus, one of the girls sat beside him and introduced herself.
"We're going to Florida," she said brightly. "I hear it's really beautiful."
"It is," he said quietly, as if remembering something he had tried to forget.
"Want some wine?" she said. He smiled and took a swig from the bottle. He thanked her and retreated again into his silence. After a while, she went back to the others, and Vingo nodded in sleep.
In the morning, they awoke outside another Howard Johnson's, and this time Vingo went in. The girl insisted that he join them. He seemed very shy, and ordered black coffee and smoked nervously as the young people chattered about sleeping on beaches. When they returned to the bus, the girl sat with Vingo again, and after a while, slowly and painfully, he began go tell his story. He had been in jail in New York for the past four years, and now he was going home.
"Are you married?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?" she said.
"Well, when I was in jail I wrote to my wife," he said. "I told her that I was going to be away a long time, and that if she couldn't stand it, if the kids kept askin' questions, if it hurt her too much, well, she could jus forget me. I'd understand. Get a new guy , I said -- she's a wonderful woman, really something -- and forget about me. I told her she didn't have to write me. And she didn't. Not for three and a half years."
"And you're going home now, not knowing?"
"Yeah," he said shyly. "Well, last week, when I was sure the parole was coming through, I wrote the again. We used to live in Brunswick, just Before Jacksonville, and there's a big oak tree just as you come into town, I told her that if she didn't have a new guy and if she'd take me back, she should put a yellow handkerchief on the tree, and I'd get off and come home. If she didn't want me, forget it -- no handkerchief, and I'd go on through."
"Wow," the girl exclaimed. "Wow."
She told the others, and soon all of them were in it, caught up in the approach of Brunswick, looking at the pictures Vingo showed them of his wife and three children -- the woman handsome in a plain way, the children still unformed in the much-handled snapshots.
Now they were 20 miles from Brunswick, and the young people took over window seats on the right side, waiting for the approach of the great oak tree. Vingo stopped looking, tightening his face, as id fortifying himself against still another disappointment.
Then Brunswick was 10 miles, and then five. Then, suddenly, all of the young people were up out of their seats, screaming and shouting and crying, doing small dances of joy. All except Vingo.
Vingo sat there stunned, looking at the oak tree. It was covered with yellow handkerchiefs -- 20 of them, 30 of them, maybe hundreds, a tree that stood like a banner of welcome billowing in the wind. As the young people shouted, the old con slowly rose from his seat and made his way to the front of the bus to go home.
a. strange 神密的
vi. appear again after an absence 再（出）现
ad. in a new or different way; again 重新；再
ad. at some uncertain or unstated time 某个时候
a. covered with dust 满是灰尘的
vt. hide 遮盖；掩盖
v. (cause to) be fixed and unmoving （使）生根；（使）固定
n. a person that has left home or escaped 逃跑者，出逃者
ad. in a bright manner, cheerfully 欢快地，高兴地
n. a long and large drink 痛饮
vi. go back; withdraw 退缩；退却，撤退
vi. talk fast and noisily about sth. unimportant 喋喋不休
ad. in great discomfort 痛苦地
n. prison 监狱
n. (AmE sl.) man; fellow 人；家伙
ad. (AmE) yes
n. conditional release from prison 假释
interj. an expression of surprise 哇，呀
vt. Cry out suddenly because of surprise, anger, pain, etc. 惊叫，叫喊说
n. coming near or nearer 接近，临近
a. immature 发育未全的
vt. touch, feel or use (sth) with the hand(s) 触，摸，抚弄
v. make strong （使）变紧；（使）绷紧
vt. shock or surprise 增强；给...以勇气
n. flag 旗，旗帜
vi. wave （波浪）翻腾；波浪般起伏
n. convict 囚犯
PHRASES & EXPRSSIONS
wish for ardently 向往，渴望
enter, arrive at （车等）驶入；到达
agree to receive sb. whom one has dismissed 允许...回来，接受
arrive as expected 如所预料地到来
be caught up in
be very interested in 对...入迷
make one's way
move along 去，前往