Here’s a flash-fiction we wrote some time ago. It’s topical, so posting it here. Feel free to share it.
by Bishop & Fuller
I sometimes take the bus to and from my work in the city—San Francisco to Santa Rosa, GGT 101—which stops in San Rafael to change drivers. It’s a two-hour trip, but I like the chance to read: I watch the digital crawler as it repeats upcoming stops—San Pedro Rd., Ignacio Blvd.—or the warning signs along the way—Work Zone, Road May Flood, Lane Blocked. There are always little incidents: a dump truck blazing past on the shoulder or traffic cones careening across the freeway. Always something.
Coming home late Thursday, early fall, Bus #1514 pulled into the San Rafael Bus Pad, disgorged its passengers and the driver, a short brownish man who looked very tired. He had reason to. Just past San Anselmo, a stringy young guy had come down the aisle to complain the bus was going the wrong way. “I’m heading to San Jose,” he said.
“Wrong bus. We go to Santa Rosa.”
The driver explained that he couldn’t leave off passengers on the freeway. “Black shitfucker!” the young man screamed, and variants of that sentiment. The driver pulled onto the shoulder, opened the door, pointed. The young man descended into an unscheduled future.
It broke the boredom of the trip, but I wouldn’t tell my wife about it. The kid might have had a gun. I wondered how many passengers would go out and arm themselves. I wondered if I would. When the bus pulled into San Rafael, the driver was quickly gone. We all sat waiting.
Ten minutes later, an eight- or nine-year-old boy climbed the steps of the bus and wedged himself in at the wheel. I empathized with his mom or dad: how embarrassing to lose track of your kid and undergo the accusing stares. And the little boy, frankly, was obese. Had they allowed him to overindulge, or did they grieve at his glandular state? And would my own two kids ever sit in a bus driver’s seat? I’d never told them not to. So many things to tell them not to do.
I noticed then that the boy was dressed in brown and carried a bus driver’s cap. He was not an attractive child. His deathly pale skin was sunburnt. His tiny black eyes bulged out of his face like a roly-poly rat. His fingers were little pig sausages. When he put on his hat, his face bore infinite sadness.
New passengers came up the steps, flashed their cards or slotted their cash in the cash machine. I looked out the window for the parents. I looked for the actual driver. Yet this boy wore the brown uniform and billed hat. He appeared to be fully authorized. I looked to the other passengers.
The door swung shut. The child had pushed a lever and was starting the bus. The engine growled. No way could his feet reach the pedals, yet they reached the vital one. No one seemed concerned. A grayed lady touched the screen of her smart phone. A young Asian man in red tennis shoes blasted music through his head. An old hook-beaked man read a prescription bottle. A perk-nosed brunette shut her eyes, waiting for life to pass. The bus coughed, grumbled, juddered, and heaved its massive buttocks into the twilight.
No problem on the freeway at first. We passed shopping centers without incident, dealerships, rolling hills, a billboard urging us to Unite for a Drug-free World. And then we picked up speed. The child was standing upright behind the wheel. At the exits we ran stop signs, crashed through a Lane Blocked barrier. We swerved into the Petaluma Bus Pad and swerved out again. And then somehow we crossed into the oncoming lanes, headlights looming at us, veering off to the right or the left. Our hurtling bulk claimed right-of-way. The fat boy giggled.
Redwood Boulevard and Olive Avenue, Detour, Shoulder Work, Graton Resort & Casino, Bella Cox for Congress. Other drivers saw our madness a mile away and skidded into a ditch. A wheelchair broke loose from Wheelchair Securement, a spindly black woman spinning down the aisle emitting shrill parrot shrieks. A burly man flopped into her lap to stop her, but a wiry young woman pummeled his head. We roared over an underpass, under an overpass. The dotted lines blended, multiplied. There were dozens of lanes, and we were in them all. The boy steered one-handed and blew a bubble.
There comes a point in utter terror when the shuddering stops, when you know you’re in as deep as there is to go. It’s that pioneer tale I hated: the family caught in the blizzard. They kill their horse, cut it open, crawl into its warm guts and blood. The heart’s warmth fails against the ice wind, but they cling together.
We’re not heading to Santa Rosa. A streak of incidents—careening off a guardrail, side-swipes, two cyclists taken out, other near-misses—make me wonder if the cops are on the way, or why not? I pray that someone might stop him, hold him, take him home. He’d been flashing the headlights on and off, but now, near midnight, he must be gunning us up past ninety in total dark. At times a passenger screams but to no effect. I begin to wonder where I am. My wife must be calling friends. I wait for the bus to run out of gas or crash into a culvert, but it only howls faster and faster into the night.