I had been waiting for Jenny to pick me up for school for well over 20 minutes when she finally called me."Sorry, but my car won't start. You'll have to get another ride.""Jenny! The school bus already went by and my parents left for work. You know I can't walk umpteen miles to school and make it on time!""Sorry. My mom says she can take me, but you know she doesn't like you. There's nothing I can do.""Fine. I'll see you at school - eventually," I said as I hung up the phone. Thanks to my handy iPhone I was not without Internet access. I found a city bus route that would help me to be less late to school. It would not, however, help me to arrive at school dry. It started to rain as I walked the 2 miles to the shelter-less bus stop.I watched car after SUV after truck pass as I waited. 7:02 am, 7:08 am... There was no way I would make it to class by 7:20. I was lucky Jenny and I had planned to leave early for school so we could get breakfast along the way. Of course, that didn't help my growling stomach now. Finally, I saw the bus approaching from the distance. I guess I couldn't hear it through all the rain and all my growing anger and impatience. No...even now that I could make out the scrolling message across the front of the bus, I couldn't hear its machinery. 'Departures' seemed a little generic for a destination, but as long as I didn't get taken to the airport, I didn't mind.The bus pulled up along side of the sidewalk and the door opened. No one got out. Peering in, I saw that the bus driver was alone."One seat left," the bus driver said. "It's yours if you want it." I glanced at all of the empty seats and gave the driver a questioning look. "One seat. That's all anyone needs. Want yours? Or do you want me to pick you up the next time around?"The parts of me that were in the bus, my head and one of my arms, no longer felt damp and cold. The rest of my body tingled. I began to think that maybe walking to school was a good idea after all. I hesitated and then asked, "When will you be back this way again?"The bus driver smiled and began to close the door. "When you're ready."I found myself back out in the rain, water soaking through my shoes. The city bus was still making its gradual approach in the distance. 'Chesapeake Bay' scrolled across its message board. The familiar sounds and smells of the bus swelled around me.When the doors opened I asked to be taken to the hospital. I didn't know what was going on, but I was going to find out.***Hm. I might try something short next time!
Ralph Cramden would roll over in his grave.For thirty-one years, Altimio Cortez has maneuvered the number 12 shuttle up Michigan Avenue; a continuous loop, twenty six times a night. It wasn't bad in the beginning, but of late the changes in the neighborhood were finding a way to beat the man into obsolescence.The kids today were punks: skaters, gangbangers and wannabes. Disrespectful and vulgar. The seniors were afraid to venture out into this dingy wormhole section of the city.Fillmore Avenue. A young man, dirty, torn jeans, greasy hair; his eyes glazed and vacant, waves an aimless arm to hail a ride. Fumbling for his change, he pays his transfer and heaps himself into the nearest seat. Reeking of vomit, Altimio has to open his window.Next stop: Lathrop. A petite young black mother, child in tow, waits patiently for the number 12. Altimio smiles at the irony of her beauty in this absolutely tragic neighborhood. She steps forward as three grotesque faces press against the windows wildly. She grabs her son demurely and reneges. Cortez glares into his rear view mirror. On Walden, the three bandanna headed degenerates crowd the rear door to disembark. Altimio watches their activity on the platform, clearly hearing the rattle of the metal pellets inside the spray cans they carried. He shoved the gear shift into neutral and leaned out to view the side of his bus. "F-U-C-E-R-S", Cortez mouthed the letters. "LEARN TO SPELL, YOU SHITS" he absently yelled with only a rusted lamp post around to hear his tirade.This human freight train which Altimio Cortez engineered with dedication came to a screeching halt on the corner of William Street, perfectly framing the six foot, ten inch, 270 pound gargantuan in the window. Bedecked in camouflage from head to toe, fogging the glass with his every exhalation. The door hisses open. "One seat left," the bus driver said. "It's yours if you want it." And with that, Altimio Cortez tossed the man his keys and walked off into the misty night.