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by Goatfoam 

Posted: 09 December 2004
Word Count: 2718
Summary: A mostly-fictitious story about the lengths some people will go to in order to break up the monotomy of travelling by bus.

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Itís Monday evening. Iím on the bus home. Iím just winding down from work, and Iím tired and grumpy. Being on the bus does nothing to remedy my state of mind. I zone out. I daydream. But I never close my eyes.

Today itís my turn to stand. I hate finishing work at rush hour; there are never any seats left on the bus and it takes ages just to leave the city centre. So Iím fighting for balance, there are hardly any handholds, and the people are crammed in like proverbial sardines. My mood slips further.

ďThe Flight of the ValkyriesĒ is suddenly electronically raped twenty minutes into my journey. Iím no fan of classical music, but ring-tones should be monitored. Itís almost enough to cause me flashbacks to ĎNam. Not that I was ever there; Iím English and far too young. I just saw a little on TV.

ďHELLO?Ē Jesus. Just fucking die, will you? I donít even turn to look - there isnít any point. I can paint a pretty accurate picture of the perpetrator just by listening to the predictable conversation heís about to have.

I wait for the obvious before allowing my mind to touch the canvas.

ďIíM ON THE BUS!Ē There it is. I start to paint. Heís mid-twenties, short dark hair, beer belly Ė but clean shaven. He wears a suit bought straight off the rack, and he works in a shitty job that he pretends to like. Then he goes home alone, to his empty house, and masturbates furiously all night over his extensive Baywatch collection before cleaning up the mess with a pair of knickers left there accidentally by an ex girlfriend.


His family think heís successful, but theyíve never seen his scummy little flat in the west side. He goes out once a week, drinks too much, falls over on the way home. Never lucky. Always burned out. Always trying to impress, but lacking the means.

ďThe Flight of the ValkyriesĒ is resumed in those annoying electronic tones. I turn around slowly, just in time to see the guy, an exact copy of the image in my head, press the button to take the call.

He isnít quick enough. I reach out, snatch the phone from his clammy hand, and let it drop to the floor. I lift my foot and bring it down forcefully. Thereís a satisfying crunch.

ďOi!Ē Heís scared. I can see that heís scared. Iím glad that heís scared. It just fuels my fire. I give him a moments more glaring notice before I turn back to face the front, casual, controlled. Calculated.

ďSORRY! MUST HAVE LOST YOU THERE!Ē I blink. My stop is finally here. I egress without looking at my momentary nemesis. I donít need to; his greasy visage is already burned into my retina.

Buses, in general, are a good idea. Iím the first person to admit this. They get people from A to B relatively quickly, thanks to bus lanes, and it can sometimes actually be quite satisfying to go straight past the social elite (or, those who own their own cars) who must sit frustrated at the wheel and watch me go past.

But, to be honest, after almost five years of getting on the fucking thing every day, there and back, along the same fucking route, wellÖ it works up a different kind of frustration. Itís not so much the bus; buses can be changed. They could put individual, private compartments in them, for instance. Or they may provide passengers with mind-altering psychic messages that lull them into semi-consciousness until their stop is close by. Neither is very likely to happen but both, to me, are nice thoughts.

No, itís not the bus. Itís the fucking passengers. Iíve seen every kind of passenger there is. And itís not just the dullness of the whole routine that pisses me off; the fact that I am on a bus with fifteen, twenty other people who all fit into a specific category Ė of which I count a total of twenty-seven. No, that would be ignorant of me, not to mention hypocritical (I mean, I must conform to one of those stereotypes by that way of thinking, surely?). Itís the fact that the people are, truly, twats. All of them. I canít stand a single one of them. Even people I know Ė donít fucking talk to me on the bus. I hate it. I hate you when youíre on it.

Itís Tuesday afternoon. Iím on the bus to see my girlfriend. Itís my day off and Iíd rather spend it in bed. Being on the bus only makes this worse. I zone out. I daydream. But I never close my eyes.

The bus is half empty today. A welcome fact. My seat is the third from the back, on the left hand side, with another seat directly opposite. My feet are up. My rucksack is by my side, the strap wrapped around my forearm. There is nothing of value in there, but itís a good bag. Itís mine.

As soon as they get on I know that any hope of a peaceful ride is about to be shattered. There are three of them, fourteen years old at a guess, and they should be in school. They are wearing tracksuit bottoms, dark hooded-sweaters with the hoods pulled up over their heads despite the fact that the day is a mild one. They sit behind me, on the back seat.

ďNah man, Iím fuckiní telliní ya, she was beiní well noisy yo! Thought she was gonna wake my mam up innit!Ē One of those annoying laughs, the kind you really hope are forced, because to be afflicted with a laugh like that would make me want to slash my wrists. It sounds reminiscent of a machine gun. Fucking awful.

I sit and bristle, quiet and on edge, and wait for them to say something to me.

ďYour mam was probably watchiní innit!Ē Different individual, same fucking laugh.

ďNah mate, it was your mam who was watchiní innit, she was sat in the corner flickiní her bean yo!Ē My bristles begin to bristle. I seethe; hatred and agitation flowing freely from every pore in my body. I zone out. I daydream. But I never close my eyes.

Suddenly my thoughts are crushed. One of them has my bag; heís confused as to how itís still attached to me and, for a moment, so am I. But I think quicker than he does.

The surprise in his eyes as I stand and spin to face him is almost enough to satisfy me. But then I have his throat in my grip, squeezing for an instant before pushing out with all my strength. The back of his head makes a sickening crunch on the pole behind him, and then he drops, eyes glassy. One down.

ďNice try, dickhead,Ē I hiss, looking up at the other two. They know that their only exit is through me. I have almost ten years on them. A foot in height. Theyíre scared. And Iím glad theyíre scared. ďCome on then.Ē I keep my voice low.

ďNah mate, we ainít doiní nothiní, it was him yo!Ē

ďYouíre not fuckiní black, you little prick, why are you talkiní like that?Ē The scene reminds me of school - years ago now - but this time Iím in full control of the situation. They can do nothing. They donít even get up from their seats. They donít even reply.

ďI fucked your mam last night innit yo!Ē For a moment Iím confused. Iím sat with my feet up, facing forward, and the three kids are moving past me to get off the bus. None of them make a move to touch my bag.

My dad happened to be a bus driver. I never knew the man. He died before I was born, so my Ďconditioní canít be attributed to that fact. Iíve seen a medal of his, in my motherís room, locked away in a box. Yes, he got a medal for driving a bus. Well, why not? These people are fucking heroes! I donít have to speak to the people sharing the journey with me, and I donít have to do it for eight hours a day, either. If I did, that would be it. ĎGo Postalí? It would be a fucking blood bath. Iíd give myself two weeks, tops, before I snap.

And yet there are bus drivers, like my dad probably (though I never really asked about his job, all I know is that he got a medal for it), who do this for years. Decades, even. And for what? The money? Ha! I made more than that at McDonalds, Iíll bet! Maybe theyíre masochists, or just people like me, who end up spending so much time on the fucking thing that they figure, hey, why not earn a living doing it? Well fuck that.

Itís Thursday night. Iím on the bus on my way to a nightclub. Iím glad to be going out. Iím ready to vent my aggressions to some decent music. The bus prepares me in a way that only the bus can. I zone out. I daydream. But I never close my eyes.

Once again, itís mercifully half empty. Iím sitting on the second seat from the back, on the right. Iím already picking my targets.

The man in front of me is black, well built, with a shaved head. I didnít get a good view of his features on the walk up the aisle, but heís sitting quietly anyway. No need to fuck with him. The man across the aisle from him is white, skinny, dirty looking. He has the look of a backpacker about him, only he has no bag. Again, nothing. No point. I spend ten minutes at a loss.

I know before they even get on. The bus slows down to stop, and I can already see them. Iím already painting a picture. Three girls, dressed up. I hazard a guess at sixteen, though they could pass for twenty. They enter the bus, pay their fare, and I already know that thereís going to be problems.

Here we have three college girls, going out for the night just like me, except instead of venting aggression theyíre probably out to vent some sexual frustration. Theyíre half staggering as they move up the aisle, heading for the seat behind me, and I know theyíve been drinking. Not bad looking, but the language that leaves their dirty, slutty little mouths offsets any attraction I might have had. One or two of them may have a boyfriend. I pity the fools.

My canvas complete, I begin to look for a context, but my train of thought is shattered.

ďYou alright darliní? You wanna sit up here with me?Ē Her voice is loud, annoying, uncalled for, and her speech is definitely slurred. I turn to look. She probably expects me to wither before her, perhaps go red. But she doesnít know as much about me as I know about her. She has no canvas, no reference to constantly check and tweak.

ďIíve got a better view from here,Ē I reply, just as loud as her. Just as confident. The girl sitting next to her opens her legs and I catch a glimpse of black underwear, making a point to let my gaze rest there for a moment, unabashed.

ďWhere you goiní tonight, love?Ē She speaks like sheís years older, but I can tell sheís got nothing on me. She hasnít seen the shit Iíve seen, or been through what I have. Iíve been getting this bus every day for four years now, and Iíve seen it all. There are no surprises anymore. She has nothing on me in terms of experience, and Iím not about to back down from a bunch of sixteen year old slags.

ďJust out with a few of my mates.Ē Unless I get a better offer, I add mentally.

ďYou should come with us!Ē Itís like a fucking chorus.

ďWhere you going?Ē Nowhere classy, I know. Not these dirty whores. No way.

ďJust the pub.Ē

ďYouíre meeting Simon you slag!Ē the girl with the dynamic legs screams, before looking back to me. ďItís right though, Iíll look after you sweetheart!Ē I hate black underwear. I zone out. I daydream. But I never close my eyes.

ďSounds like a plan,Ē I say. And why not?

Now Iím behind the Old Pint Pot, next to Manchester Ship Canal. Sheís on her knees, her head bobbing up and down. My hand is in her hair, gripping, pulling, guiding her motion. The other holds a bottle of Carlsberg, raising it to my lips periodically to take a sip. My final mouthful comes at the same time hers does, and then Iím pulling her head back, smashing the bottle on the wall beside me, raking the shattered remnants across her throat. And now sheís in the canal, floating down river. Head down. Spread-eagle.

ďYou know where we are if you change your mind!Ē She shouts from the front of the bus. I nod in response, my thoughts still down at the Canal.

And this doesnít scare me. It doesnít make me wonder if Iím alright in the head at all. Why is this? Any sane person would seek psychiatric help instantly, right? Wrong. Iím sane. Iím a pretty normal guy, I get on with my friends and the girls seem to like me. Iím not particularly into grizzly movies, and my taste in music is far from the extreme. So then why am I suddenly fantasizing about some poor girl who tried to chat me up?

It might be because once Iím off that bus, and my mood has lifted, I donít recall any of it. I usually spend thirty minutes on it, thirty minutes made up of thought and irritation and possibly a small degree of paranoia. But it goes by like two seconds because every journey ends in such an exciting way that I forget all about the build-up. I take it for granted, and itís a part of me. I donít mean part of me like my arm, or my partner. Itís more like a cancer. Itís eating away at me, slowly and painfully, and the only way to remove it isÖ what? Get driving lessons?

Itís Friday afternoon. Iím on the bus home from work. Iím coming home early. My head hurts. Iím hung over. The bus is laughing at me. I zone out. I daydream. But I never close my eyes.

Iím not interested in the people surrounding me. My canvas is blank today. I just want to be at home, in bed, with some painkillers and my TV. This mood seems prevalent throughout my immediate peers. Nobody is speaking. Nobody cares.

Nobody screams when the truck slams into the side of our transport, killing those in the direct path instantly and throwing the survivors around inside the enclosed space. Glass is everywhere, flying through our lives like a deadly blizzard, lacerating and puncturing anything in the way.

We stop skidding along the tarmac three stops from my house. It just got colder. I blink the blood out of my eyes and survey the scene. People are so sickly twisted around the poles that thereís no way in Hell that they can be alive, their eyes open and staring, rivulets of blood trickling from their gaping mouths.

One girl lies with her head resting on the ruined window, her life slowly pulsing from her equally ruined throat to form a pool around her. Somebody else has hit the back of his head and is lying unconscious by my feet; face down in the broken glass and a spreading lake of red.

I stand slowly, calmly, deliberate in my actions. I move towards the front of the bus, ignoring the bodies, parts of bodies, that Iím stepping on. The door is hanging off and I have no problem getting out into the sunlight. People are crowding round the carnage, and Iím ignoring them, walking the last half a mile or so to my house. To my bed. To my painkillers. To my TV.

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Comments by other Members

Jubbly at 15:13 on 11 December 2004  Report this post
Hey Goatforam, there is some really gorgeous writing here, very vivid and full of anger just streaming off the page. The last third seems like a very different piece from the beginning. I like that, it's intriguing and the shift from commuter monotony to life and death is seamless.

Just checking, with the line The Flight of the ValkyriesĒ is suddenly electronically raped twenty minutes into my journey. Do you mean 'rapped', or am I being incredibly thick here?

I liked the fact his father was a bus driver, I don't know why but his dad came across as a lot older than his friends father's, making him a bit of a misfit. Just a thought.

Is this staying a short story or do you have plans for something longer?

Well done and I look forward to reading more of your work.


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