Stranger Than Fiction

Bus ride home. An ordinary route going through fairly safe neighborhoods. The 7. Kids sitting in the front seats laughing. Me reading book as usual.

Long-haired man with smoky colored hair, flannel shirt. Suddenly, there’s a pungent smell. Man has crack pipe, smoking it. Smiles at adjacent kids and offers pipe. “Hey, you kids wants some?” Mothers horrified. Fantastic shouting. Demands for crackhead to get off bus. “Driver, this man is doing drugs!” Bus packed, tired people at end of workweek provoked with fury. Lacking tar and feather, they let man loose. Not even a third of the way through ride.

Me, back to book. Interrupted by strange moisture against my left hand. Look to left. Solar plexus tightens. One of those dogs popping its head out of the bag. I meet its gaze and it starts barking loudly. A little thing full of piss and vinegar. Owner placates it with hand. The dog likes to be scratched behind the ears. I get the sense that it’s spoiled to death at home, even when it pisses on the carpet in a moment of weakness.

Me, book now fully out of the question. Now hypervigilant. Waiting for bus to explode. What Fellini film am I in?

Man gets on dressed in bright clown bowtie, denim jacket, white pants with stains, in short a fashion statement, standing up without holding onto the rail, actually arching his back back as the bus moves uphill. Does he know the Alexander technique? How the hell does he manage this while the bus is in motion?

Dog looks at me as if nothing happened, stretching head out of bag, tongue dangling to lick my hand again, which is no longer there seeing as how I’m no longer holding a book. In fact, my arms are crossed. Dog cants his head and, to me, it looks likely that he might have a second head.

Couple get on board. There’s three stops to go. Man is early twenties, dressed in what looks like a cheap Brook Brothers suit, hasn’t yet learned how to tie a necktie properly. Woman is considerably older, perhaps forty-seven, makeup caked over her face. They start making out like teenagers. Woman actually reaches for man’s crotch and starts petting his cock beneath his trousers. The kids, thankfully, are gone.

Arrive home. Lock the door. Push chair against it just to be sure. Maybe it’s a night in for me after all.


  1. This is a wonderful bus story. There are, sadly, not enough stories that take place on buses, ones like Hisaye Yamamoto’s “Wilshire Bus” or Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything that Rises Must Converge.” Why are there no bus story anthologies?

  2. Hey man, I was just trying to get in the holiday spirit. I had to walk home in the rain. That’s gratitude for you.

  3. Neat testiment to subscribing enough in a measure of realism (look who is convinced here, e.g.) to your own Felliniesque (sp) dream. I’d spend more time on this. For instance, I would like to see the children as clearly as I can see the dog. Seems two heads could ring truer if two little human faces appeared–maybe in a bus mirror.


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