Thought I'd try a short story today.
hope you enjoy it. Kate
It was a very hot, dry day. It was so hot, that the
road tar bubbled and hissed like a slimy black cauldron.
You could smell the acrid odour like a strong ‘whiff’
from the cheap rubber-soles of the people walking along. The soles, gradually melting
on the scorching pavement.
You could have boiled mercury on it.
Looking down the street, Tilly could see a blue haze
shimmering in a dip in the road, like a pool of smoky water. In this built up inner
city area of concrete and bricks – there was no shade to be had at all.
Tilly had been sent out in to this urban desert and
told not to come back until ‘tea-time’ by Mum so she could take advantage of
the good weather by washing the bed sheets and blankets in the tin bath in the
tiny yard at the back of their ‘house’ - as were most of the other women in the
The ‘swinging’ ‘60’s it was not. Not here anyway.
Any form of domestic emancipation didn’t arrive in
this slum clearance area and for the ‘not so well off’ until much later.
The only thing good about the ‘60’s for most women
was the contraceptive pill. Being able to decide NOT to have 11 kids by the
time you were forty was the main benefit.
Tilly had tried to help her mum, but being a scrawny
six year old, she couldn’t lift the heavy, sopping-wet blankets and tended just
to get soaking wet.
She had already been banned from using the clothes mangle
after an incident where she had gotten tangled up in the washing as she was
pushing it through the mangle and got her hand trapped.
Dad had to dismantle the mangle and then put it back
together again – accompanied by a lot of ‘colloquial Anglo-Saxon’ and
frustrated shouting and the flinging down of screwdrivers.
This day, Tilly was bored. She sat on the edge of
the road kerb, watching the tar bubble up and burst like an evil witch’s brew -
when she spied an old ice-lolly stick. With a cry of glee, she grabbed the
stick and began to pop the tar bubbles with it.
She stared at the road surface intently. Watching
the tar like a Kingfisher, waiting for the bubbles to rise to the surface – a
signal to the watching ‘bird’ that a fish was ready to be plucked from the
She was focused totally, oblivious to the traffic
(not that there was much traffic where she lived as not many people had cars)
Pop, pop, pop….wait… wait… pop, pop. The smell of
the tar rising from the road surface invading her nostrils. The stick getting ever
stickier as she popped the tar bubbles to her heart’s content. She had a
After a while, she didn’t know how long - a voice
pulled Tilly from her trance.
A cheerful little old lady (not that much taller
than Tilly to be honest) had tapped her lightly on the shoulder. She recognised
her as one of the neighbours, but couldn’t remember the lady’s name.
She was trying to coax Tilly away from the road,
asking her to come in for a cup of tea.
Tilly had been told about ‘strangers’, so very
firmly, but politely said ‘No Thank You Missus’ and went back to her self-set
The lady went back into her house, but then a few
minutes later came out with a piece of cake wrapped in a serviette. Cake!! ‘Wow,
now we’re talking!’ Thought Tilly.
She had been warned about ‘strangers’, but not about
little old ladies bearing cake.
Tilly got up from the kerb, wiped her sticky hands
down her frock and gratefully accepted the offering. The lady told her she was
giving her the cake on the understanding that she stopped popping the tar
outside the house.
With a mouthful of cake, she nodded in agreement and
the lady went back indoors whilst she woofed the rest of the cake down before anyone
could change their minds.
Tilly then moved further down the road and started
to pop the tar bubbles again.
Tilly didn’t realise that she was causing the poor
old dear anguish and that she had been trying to get her out of the road and
out of harm’s way. She had thought the lady just didn’t want her to pop the tar
outside her house (she came under the
classification of someone who ‘scrubbed the doorstep’ and ‘polished the door
brasses’ and had ‘Dolly Doilies’ over the toilet tissue rolls for Tilly).
The lady’s net curtains kept ‘twitching’ (obviously
checking Tilly was ok) but she felt like she was being spied on.
After about 5 minutes, the lady came out of her
house and walked briskly down the road. Tilly was disappointed there was no
more cake on offer.
Then out of the corner of her eye, she spotted her mum
hurtling towards her with a face like thunder, wisps of wet blond hair sticking
out of the sides of her hastily scraped into place hair bun.
Tilly’s mind raced ahead, trying to give reason to
her mum’s demeanour.‘What have I done?
What have I done?’ but she couldn’t think. She jumped up off the kerb.
Mum rushed up and grabbed the top of Tilly’s arm tightly,
her fingernails digging in and dragged her towards home, with Tilly shouting ‘What’s
up Mum? What’ve I done? Mum! What’s wrong??’
Frog-marched along the pavement her mum hissing in
her ear ‘Shut up! You’re making a show of me – wait til I get you home, you’re
Tilly was unceremoniously thrown through the front
door into the hallway and she fell against the bottom stair, slightly winded.
Mum slammed the front door and screamed in Tilly’s
face ‘OH MY GOD!!– The SHAME of it! Embarrassing me like that!!’
‘Like what Mum?’ Still not knowing what she had done
and totally confused.
‘You know full well what you did, you little madam!’
– Tilly was totally perplexed - ‘No, I don’t’ – What did I do mum? Tell me!’
always annoys me the way adults assume that kids know when they have done
something they shouldn’t have. How many times did someone say to you when you
were a kid ‘You know what you have done – you’re just playing dumb to get out
of trouble/trying to denying all knowledge of what you have done / being
‘hard-faced’ or cheeky – when you genuinely did not have a clue what you had
done because you were daydreaming and had the memory of an absent-minded
‘YOU’ Mum’s accusing finger of fate pointed directly
in Tilly’s face – ‘Were playing in the road! Do you know how dangerous that is? Mrs McAleavey was having kittens watching you in case you got run
over!’ She paused for breath ‘She was so worried, she came and got me! You took
cake from her! How many times have you been told you not to accept things from
people? Look at the state of me! I’m in the middle of doing the washing! I’m
soaking wet, my hair’s all over the place and I don’t even have my lippy on. I didn’t
know where to put myself!!’
(Mum didn’t go outside the door without her hair and
make-up done - ever).
‘Get up those stairs to bed and stay there until
your Dad gets home! Just wait ‘til I tell him what you’ve done today – you’re
going to get a hiding!!’
Tilly ran up the stairs as if the devil himself was
after her, ran into the bedroom and slammed the door.
She wracked her boiled brains as to how bad in
trouble she was. Then it hit her – in the road - tar bubbles – neighbour – cake
– mum – washing – no makeup!!
‘Oh god – I’m in big trouble. Dad is going to kill
me – or worse – leave me alive after the belting I’m going to get’. Thought
She jumped off the big iron bed and pushed it
against the door with all her strength and then jumped back on it. She sat
there like a marooned sailor protecting his patch of land.
‘Dad will have to break the door down to get in.
Although, I wouldn’t put it passed him, but he might be too tired to hit me
after that’ she thought glumly.
Tilly sat on the bed terrified.
The day went from light to dark, then darker still –
Mum didn’t come and check on her and no sign of Dad yet, so she got into bed
dinner-less and her empty stomach doing summersaults.
She didn’t waste her energy on crying as she knew it
would just made her thirsty and tired. She may need all of her strength later.
Then, the front door slammed open and Tilly listened
intently as Dad fell sideways through the doorway, sliding along the wall.
He was well drunk! The smell of beer, cigarette smoke
and a chip shop supper wafted under her bedroom door. She felt so hungry she
nearly opened it.
Nearly – but she wasn’t so hungry that she would
chance getting a beating for it.
There was a bit of an altercation between her mum
‘Where’ve you been? Where did you get the money to
get that drunk? Shouted mum. He’d obviously blown his wages again thought Tilly.
Dad roared back ‘I can do what the fuck I want! It’s
my money – Do you want some fucking chips or not? Get the kettle on and some
bread buttered and shut the fuck up’.
You know – the usual Friday night chitchat.
Mum knew not to argue back as arguing back was like
cigarette smoking – it could seriously damage her health – but immediately.
Tilly heard her moving around in the kitchen.
She breathed a sigh of relief. It meant Mum was now
too mad at Dad to tell him what she had been up to and Dad was too drunk to do
anything about it anyway.
By tomorrow, they would have both forgotten and it
was an unwritten rule that if she couldn’t be punished on the actual day she
had done something, then it was left unpunished.
She didn’t know why this rule was in place, but tonight
she was really glad it was.
A wave of calmness came over Tilly as her little
body relaxed and most of the visible tension fell away. She got up out of bed and
crept to the curtain-less window and perched her elbows on the window ledge.
She traced star patterns cross the sky with her finger.
She loved looking at the stars.
They always made her feel safe. She felt that the
stars twinkled just for her to say hello and to smile at her and say
‘everything’s okay’. She took great comfort from that.
A clear crescent Moon smiled its lob-sided smile. Tilly
smiled back and sighed heavily. She couldn’t move the bed away from the door now
as the noise would have brought some unwanted attention.
She made a mental note to herself to move the bed
away from the bedroom door early next morning.
She said good night to the stars, blew them a kiss
and got back into bed.
She snuggled under the candy-striped blankets, wrapping
them around her like a protective cocoon. Then telling her grumbling stomach to
shut up, she gradually fell asleep.
She dreamt of a starry night and the sea. A huge
galleon in full sail taking her away across the waves to somewhere quiet, green
and full of trees to sit under and not a tar bubble in sight.
As it's nearly Halloween, I thought I would try a scary story.
This is actually based on a poem I wrote about a recurring nightmare. I hope you like it. It's 1691 words - which, if you turn upside down is - 1691! Hope you're Halloween is 'spooktacular' (so sorry, I really couldn't resist that one! - I'll get my coat :0))
Dusty Bones – The
It’s midnight, on All Hallows Eve and I am already in bed.
It had been a disaster of a Halloween party. Chase had turned
up already very drunk and preceded to puke up over the finger buffet and kind
of killed the party mood in one fell swoop.
I threw Chase out and Jake offered to take him home to keep
him out of trouble. Chase shouting back to me as I slammed the door ‘Sorry
Ginny, really sorry. GINNY!‘
The others sloped off to Murphy’s Bar for a ‘lock in’, but I
really didn’t feel like going. So I cleared up the mess (swearing under my
breath ‘Chase you will pay for this, you jerk’) and went to bed early.
The red neon numbers of the digital clock showed -11.59 - then ‘blinked’
and changed to -00.00-.
Sleepily, I registered the change – two pairs if red hollow
eyes stare from the black clock face at me for exactly a minute and then they ‘blinked’ to show -00.01-.
I rolled over on to my side.
The weather outside had taken a turn for the worst. I could
hear the rain batter the windows with its hundreds of tiny fists, demanding
entry out of the cold outside.
The wind kicked over the pumpkin lanterns and trashed the
plastic bat decorations from around the front door onto the porch floor. It grabbed
huge handfuls of the larger icy droplets and lashed them against the sides and
roof of the house.
They clattered like tiny bits of gravel or shale thrown
against a wooden shack. It growled down the chimney like a disgruntled ex –
trying to demand my attention with his ‘listen to me, listen to me’ moans and shrieks!
The wind, angry at being unable to rouse me from my bed,
turned on the lonely weeping willow that still stands in the garden at the
front of the house, whipping him around and twisting his branches like a pretzel
before allowing him to uncoil and return back to his normal hunched state.
The willow threw his wind-beaten arms downwards as if trying
to grab the earth to hold himself to the ground.
I am lying folded up inside the duvet of my bed, like the
lemon filling in a meringue. To my sleepy eyes, the shadows of the room billowed
and waved like dark muslin voiles in a breeze.
I suddenly realise in my semiconscious state that a dark
shape is emerging on my right - someone is leaning over me – looming in the
It flits through my befuddled mind not to be silly - that
no-one is here.
I close my eyes and think ‘I’m in my bed cosy and warm. It’s
the trick of the shadows and my imagination is running wild because of the date
and a few drinks’.
I chuckle and whisper ‘Stupid’ to myself and pull the duvet
further up and over my nose.
Again, I feel a presence loom over me again - leaning to
stare? No, it feels like it’s studying me.
It has an aloofness about it – a bug collector pinning their
new find to the pegboard for the curious to look at.
The light suddenly brightens in the room and I realise I am
NOT in my bed.
A thick box-shaped glass case surrounds me on all sides and
above me as well. A soft glow ceiling light shines down, straight in my face,
as if to highlight my features.
I am still me, I think, curled up in my usual foetal
sleeping position – No longer snuggled up in my bed, but lying on a large
beanbag cushion, draped in candy-stripe blankets. I also appear to be
surrounded by paraphernalia from across the decades of the 20th
Century, like grave offerings.
For some reason, my hair has been pulled into a high
ponytail and I appear to be dressed in a pink jogging suit and matching
sneakers that I wouldn’t be seen dead in normally!
Seen dead in…
I find that I can’t move any part of my body.My head is resting on the crook of my right
arm – my face positioned so it’s looking up through the right hand side of the
Another figure looms over me again, then fades.
Suddenly, my senses return to me and in my shock and
complete creeping, skin crawling horror, I realise that I’m an exhibit in a
On display like a gassed butterfly or formaldehyde-soaked
Panic takes over my mind, I try again to move, but I can’t,
not a single inch.
I try to shout, but I can feel years of dust coating the
back of my desiccated throat and not even a death rattle can be raised.
I try to move my fingers, but see that they are withered and
the colour of old leather. The tips of the finger bones, finger nails still
intact, showing through the shrivelled-back skin.
I want to cry, but there is nothing there, apart from maybe
a residue of salt in the tear ducts.
Trapped – my spirit alive and well, but residing in my seemingly
very long-dead carcass. The panic rolls into despair and grinding horror. Is
this a room in Hell perhaps?
A pile of dusty bones and skin, preserved like beef jerky
and dressed as people of the future might think ‘we’ in the ‘past’ dressed.
To be put on display, gawped at and prodded in the name of
science from ‘9 to 5’ every weekday except weekends and high holidays.
Another shadowy figure materializes in my short field of
vision and finally comes in to focus.
She is a beautiful middle aged woman with long, straight
silver-grey hair, parted in the middle. A proud, strong face, full of character
- of First People decent maybe.
She is wearing a plain straight buckskin coloured dress with
a black beaded belt with little flecks of Lapis Lazuli and a black owl pendant hung
around her neck, resting on her chest.
She looks me straight in the eyes with such pity and ‘knowing’
as if she can see that I am still here, even in this mummified state.
She is holding a large, hard-backed book which has faded,
red leather triangular corners and spine, with a mottled front. It looks like
books from centuries ago, but oddly it has no ‘title’ or author’s name anywhere
She opens the book and is trying to show me some of the pages,
trying to communicate something to me – a way back perhaps, an escape from this
dried meat and fabric prison, a way to release my soul from this entrapment and
But she is suddenly and unceremoniously shoved aside by a
large meat fisted troglodyte and his brood– who really should be under this
glass case instead of me.
She tries again to position herself next to me, still
holding the book open.
I am using what little there is of my sight to claw any
information from the open page as I can, frustratingly, it’s not in a language
I can understand but the illustrations look like depictions from the Egyptian
‘Book of the Dead’ I had studied whilst at college.
To my total and utter soul crushing shock, she is moved on
by a museum official and advised that her ‘time is up’ and to move along to the
next exhibit. She fades away from my sight, her sorrowful face blending back
into the darkness out of the reach of my poor vison.
The troglodyte takes a quick glance at the flotsam and
jetsam in the case with me, not even glancing in my direction and then moves
on, shouting for his brood to follow him.
But one of his charges, a young teenage girl, stops to take
a closer look at the ‘funny mummy’
She stares into my
face – she the ‘observer’, expecting me to be the ‘observed’.
A moment flits by – she frowns in disbelief at what she sees
as we stare straight into each other’s eyes.
She sees the observed is now the observer and she stands,
silently agog for a moment.
Comprehension dawns across her face - she becomes wide eyed
with terror and dreadful surprise.
Backing away from the glass case, she puts one hand over her
mouth, the other hand pointing towards me. The rest of the brood crowds around
her wondering what the problem is.
Their faces follow to where her outstretched hand is
pointing and turn towards me - quickly moving from denial to open mouthed horror
of the fact that they can all see two very much alive eyes staring out and
looking directly at them from the dried out cadaver in front of them.
I see their ‘about to scream’ faces as they all point
towards me ‘AAARRRGGHHH…………
And that’s when I found myself sitting bolt upright and
shivering in my bed. The meringue duvet in lumpy submission on the bedroom
floor. I grab it back and swathe myself in it like a life jacket. My ears
catching the last remnant of the scream and with shock I realise - that it’s me
God knows what they saw – For I feel they were real people,
and that it wasn’t a dream, but a vision maybe? Or even some sort of ‘time
slip’? Did they see a mummified skull screaming back at them, eyes bulging in
Or just the skin shredding terror of realising they were
being observed by a preserved corpse at a local museum.
Who was the grey lady and what was she trying to tell me?
Is this a glimpse of a possible future for me?
To end up as dusty bones in a glass cabinet, kept in a
gloomy annex of some obscure provincial museum.
No ‘dust to dust, ashes to ashes’ for me, but an unnamed
relic with just a sticker on the side of the glass box stating:
‘White, Female, Homo Sapien
Sapien – 21st Century’
I know people say 'keep blog entries short', ' keep it snappy', 'don't wear out the reader', 'short, sharp & shocking' is what you want to go for.
But sometimes, don't you want a little peek at something that's not zingy and mind blowing?
A gently rolling, monolog that may not rock your world, but is comfortable and goes well with a cup of tea and a plate of cookies.
This is one of my 'cup of tea' stories. I really hope you enjoy it.
A Bus Journey Home It’s 31st October - Halloween. The start of a long day commences with the shrill alarm clock screeching in my ear at 6.30 am. Makes mental note to change that setting from ‘shrill’ to ‘buzz’. I can’t have the alarm set to ‘music mode’ as my brain rejects music as a ‘wake-up’ call and tends to make it part of whatever dream I am having at the time. Instead of rousing me gently from my sleep, it floats me away into a REM state.
I drag my dead weight of a body out from under the duvet. I want to sink back in and stay there, but I reluctantly have to peel myself away from the fluffy cotton cocoon. My fingers push through unruly bed hair, getting tangled in the ginger filaments explosion that is my ‘crowning glory’.
Tweaking the blinds, I see it’s still pitch black outside. Going to work and getting home in the darkness with only beige walls in between - all the colour feels washed out of my life. I can feel my body’s Vitamin A, D and E evaporating through my skin as I stand under the florescent bathroom light brushing my teeth.
The bathroom mirror (I hate mirrors) shows my ‘winter’ skin that is pallid and dry. The subcutaneous fat layer however, is doing really well. Jowls and waistline getting thicker and thicker. Fat stockpiled over the last few months through comfort eating (consisting mainly of chocolate, creamy curries and more chocolate).
It was a trudge to get to work today, but the journey’s mood was elevated somewhat by a pleasant encounter with a co-worker. We used code and nicknames so no-one would know what or who we were talking about like a pair of school kids. The bus route has been diverted to accommodate the only growth industry there seems to be in this city - road works.
I swear that the city councils and utility companies wait until the most inconvenient times to dig up road surfaces. I reckon there are even joint committee meetings to decide which roads would be the most disruptive to dig up and bring the road system of the city to a standstill.
The day is relentlessly busy. Churning out paperwork, emails and phone calls ('smile when you speak – people can hear it' phone sticker). Not exactly physically strenuous but wearing a person out mentally through alternating sheer boredom and brain-crushing stress. Repetitive, constant, mind – numbingly boring interspersed with frequent periods of manic busy-ness.
What happened to the ‘paperless office’ we were promised in the 1980’s? They can make fabric invisible, regrow damaged spines and find water on Mars, but the paperless office eludes even the most inventive of minds.
Anyway after 10 hours of emails, phone calls, printer disassembly and reassembly, calls to the I.T. Department (surely one of the levels of Hell and/or Purgatory depending on what end of the phone you are on) ‘Can I have those reports in 15 minutes for a meeting I didn’t tell you about’, ‘smile like you mean it’ all day, I was bone-tired. If I had a sleeping bag, I would just curl up under the desk for the night.
I leave work - it's dark. I drag my protesting bulk through the shivery darkness to the bus stop for the return journey.
Waited – no bus Waited – no bus Waited – no bus.
There is supposed to be a bus every 15 minutes, but I have been waiting over an hour by this time. Cold is seeping into my bones and ligaments. The timetable seem to be of no use at all except maybe as something to read or to burn to keep warm by.
Sometimes you get to the point when you have been waiting so long that you start thinking - ‘Are they running? What if there’s been an accident?’ ‘Should I walk or wait a bit longer?’ and you dither for a bit longer, then you decide – stuff it, walking it is.
So, I walk down towards the bus stop outside the supermarket, opposite the pub, where I can still get my normal bus if it turns up, but I can also get an alternative bus. It has a more meandering route and takes longer, but if that turned up first I’ll be happy to get on it. At least I would be out the now biting cold.
Of course, 'Murphy’s Law' comes in to play and half way between bus stops, my (empty) bus sails right passed me. Thumbing its invisible nose, miming ‘nyaw nyaw nyaw’ at me from its rear window.Expletives abounded under my breath as I continue trudging down the road mentally kicking myself.
When I finally get there, a paper sign shoved in a clear plastic bag has been hastily duct-taped to the bus stop post – ‘This bus stop is closed until further notice -please go to next bus stop. Apologies blah, blah more road works blah, blah, blah’ I sigh heavily, wondering how long it is going to take me to get home. I don’t have enough money to get a taxi, so completely fed up and with much teeth chattering, I walk on. A small but gnarly looking group are standing around it made up of very agitated people. I could hear them muttering as I approached, turning from bus-waiting customers to a possible lynch mob for the next poor bus driver.
A frail looking guy, unsteadily weaves in and out of the people, mumbling to them in turn and being ignored or told to clear off in no uncertain terms. English is a great 'universal swearing' language - Anglo Saxon must have been a very lusty, boisterous language I think. ‘I am livid! Positively livid! First the car, now the bus, might jump a taxi – yer, yer okay - Laters’ says the bald guy into his mobile phone. ’This is doin’ my head in.’ . he throws the mobile phone into his leather jacket pocket and seethes quietly.
He has the appearance of a tough nut from a London ‘bad boys’ TV show – shaved head, ‘tan-tastiqued’ to well-done barbecue sausage level. Wearing the ‘uniform’ of a black leather jacket, black open collar shirt, black chinos and ‘polished to a glow’ black shoes. Adding to this ensemble is a thick gold neck chain (which could probably pay for a student nurse’s tuition and accommodation fees for a year), a sovereign ring and big ‘divers’ watch – cushty! Why do they want a ‘divers’ watch? Is that in case they go to ‘sleep with the fishes’ and need to see how many feet underwater they are and an illuminous dial to count down their last seconds at the bottom of the boating lake?
The nearest he’ll ever get to use it is at the gym when he’s power swimming his way up and down the pool, trying to impress some emaciated, micro-bikinied, ‘tansational’ female. She, lounging at the side with an expresso and a fashion magazine, (not in the pool of course – can’t look ‘cool’ with chlorine soaked hair)
A couple of girls in their very early twenties, or maybe younger (I can’t tell sometimes) totter up, adding to the throng.
She drags a small ‘hot pink’ coloured case on wheels behind her, looking worried to death. She clutches hold of the long handle as if the case has the Hope diamond inside. I assume it holds her Halloween outfit.
Her friend, who makes it clear during their conversation that she thinks dressing up for Halloween is ‘naff’, is diametrically opposed in look. Dressed in black and silver leopard skin print shorts over thick black tights, black suede pointy shoes with big silver and purple buckles, a black boob tube with a ‘kidney freezer’ black Bolero styled leather jacket over the top. Her eyes are thickly lined with kohl. On her head was a ‘fro-styled wig which seemed at odds with the post punk outfit she wore, but each to their own. At least she was looking forward to their up and coming night out, unlike her worried friend. They are so different I wonder how they became friends.
‘Blondie’ was having a mini crisis over whether she had brought enough makeup, or the right outfits (she had brought several in case someone had the same) - if ‘Mike’ was going to turn up, she felt sick, she didn’t want to go - no have to go in case ‘Mike’ is there babble, babble, fret, fret.
Her friend just rolled her eyes in a total ‘OMG I couldn’t give a flying fig’ look that only close friends can give each other without causing offence and tells her to ‘chillax’. There’ll be tears before bedtime I’m sure of that.
Finally the bus arrives. Why do people always shout at the bus driver if the bus is late? ’Do you know how long I’ve been waiting? (As if he/she will know) ‘Where’ve you been?’ (Like the driver is some errant school kid or wandering spouse) ‘What happened to the missing buses?’ I’m sure the driver would like to say something sarcastic like ‘They were abducted by aliens on the by-pass madam’ but they don’t because they have a *mortgage to pay.
I’ve always thought of this as odd. After all - this driver turned up, they are doing their job. Shouldn’t they be shouting at the bus company instead? Filling in a ‘How can we improve our service’ form or ringing Customer Services will do more than giving the besieged driver a rollicking.
There were plenty of grumblings at the bus driver of: ‘This bus service is dreadful! Been waiting hours!’ And then: ‘Does this bus go to the city centre?’ asks a slightly inebriated young woman shushing her boyfriend as she spoke to the driver.
‘You need the stop on the opposite side of the road love’ said the driver. ‘Crap’ replied the girl, pulling her boyfriend off the bus.
A muffled ‘Told you, you never listen to me, I think we should go home. Please let’s go home’ from the boyfriend as she pulls him with her as they try to cross in front of the bus. ‘Can I get on with this?’ The driver is proffered an out of date train ticket held by a giggling, very slightly built, but staggeringly drunk man, as he holds himself up by holding on to the door frame. It's the guy from earlier.
He has come to the end of his Halloween night early (probably run out of money) his skin has a slight tinge of yellow and I think he looks a lot older than he actually is. The driver lets him board the bus, saying to him: ‘Okay, get on, but behave yourself. No bothering the rest of the passengers or throwing up’ for which the drunk is as pleased as a kid in a sweet shop.
‘Thanks mate, thank ve’mush’ he slurred, giggling. He thinks, in his inebriated state, that he has tricked the driver with the out of date rail ticket. The driver however, lets him board because it's safer than the guy weaving in and out of the busy road traffic asking people for bus fare (as he had been doing before the bus arrived).
We all eventually get on the bus and settle down for the journey. The drunk chuckling and talking to himself at the front of the bus.
A current of warm air permeated around my legs from the heating system, thawing them slightly. Bliss. I was sitting near the two young girls listening to the chunnerings of ‘Blondie’ - still panicking over her outfit – more eye rolling from her kohl-eyed friend.
Suddenly -‘BANG, BANG, BANG’!!
A few teenagers were throwing raw eggs at the bus, splattering egg yolk and shell all over the windscreen. A bit late for ‘Mizzy Night’ I thought. Everyone jumps with shock, but the bus driver doesn’t even flinch (kudos to the driver by the way) and just turns on the screen wash and wipers to clean off the mess as if it was all in a day’s work. He doesn’t even glance at the teenagers, but drives on shaking his head slightly.
The bus trundles on and I start to see children walking along the pavement as we weave our way slowly through the traffic.
They’re all dressed as ghosts, ghouls, vampires and witches, holding on tightly to their ‘trick or treat’ mini plastic buckets. They are followed closely by their Mums or older siblings - some of them getting in to the Halloween spirit and dressing up also.
Through the open window I can hear the squeals of joy from the children as they pirouette and dance and chase each other down the road, swinging their little buckets in their hands. Is there anything so joyous to watch as children enjoying themselves with such abandon?
We next stop further along the route at the cinema complex. I, Blondie, her kohl-eyed friend and ‘tantasique’ guy alighted from the bus. I have come to like ‘Blondie’ and ‘Kohl-eyed’ and now feel a bit sad I will never know if ‘Mike’ ever did turn up. They carry on their way, whilst I walk over the crossroads to get the connecting bus home.
Disgruntled people at the new bus stop as well – ‘What has happened to the bus service today’? I think to myself. ‘Been waiting 20 minutes already’, ‘It’s bloody freezing’ etc. going on. I move to the back of the bus stop trying to shield myself from the wind when a bus pulls up and most people get on.
Unfortunately – it’s not my bus. I'm envious of the passengers, warmly going on their way. I and a couple of teenagers are left behind. A boy and a girl - who obviously feel very awkward, dressed for Halloween as a skeleton and a witch – shop bought costumes, but none the worse for that. I guess from the icy atmosphere between them, (which is nothing to do with the weather) that this is a regretted first date or an ‘about to break up’ date.
I then notice there is also a guy dressed as an ‘old time’ entertainer. He has an expertly coiffured black moustache, he wears a gold coloured waistcoat, a white shirt with rolled up sleeves and black suit trousers. He has on a black bowler hat with a ‘key board’ motif around the middle – his bus pass sticking out of the hat band. I half expected him to have a bow tie that lights up, but no (unless he’s taken it off).
He's leaning against the bus stop. Maybe he had finished a party early or was gearing himself up for a later gig. He has a half empty bottle of Lucozade precariously dangling out of his trouser pocket and a battered sports bag with all of his accoutrements in, lying next to him on the floor.
Out of the blue - he started singing ‘oh what a crap public service’ to the tune of ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ loudly to us, but stopped and fell into a sulk when he saw he had no audience as we fastidiously avoiding any eye contact with him.
By this time, I just want to get home, I've had enough ‘quirky characters’ for one day. My bus finally arrives and everyone piles on, glad to be out of the now frosty air.
The ’entertainer’ plonks himself in the seat In front of me, resigned to his anonymity. He pulls the bottle of Lucozade from his pocket and takes a slug of the contents. Whatever is in that bottle is definitely NOT Lucozade! The smell was overpowering! I think it probably could be used to dull the shine on chrome!
I feel a bit sorry for him now. I imagined that he had a gig earlier and got himself drunk when it hadn’t gone too well. He had been ready to ‘cheer up’ the captive audience at the bus stop to build a bit of self-esteem, or maybe a bit of camaraderie - but no-one had been interested. (lets face it - it's flipping Winter & its NOT Wimbledon in the rain!) The bus pootles off on its way into the icy darkness. I settle down and go to ‘switched off’ brain mode. Suddenly, there is a loud heavy ‘thud’ on the window next to me. I look out and some guy dressed as ‘The Scream’ from that horror movie has thumped the window with his fake rubber hands and put his masked face right up to the window to try and scare me.
Unfortunately for him, I am too tired and jaded by this time, I couldn’t have cared less if it had been the real ‘Scream’ at the window. So I just stare at him with a ‘meh’ look on my face.
He is not happy with this reaction and starts churning himself up on the pavement for a second launch at the window. I just look him straight in his mask and yawn, giving him the ‘two fingered nose scratch salute’ as the bus picked up some speed, leaving him running alongside the bus for a few yards, impotent.
The ‘entertainer’ alights outside an off licence and with a slight swaying, - two steps forward, one step back - he makes his way towards the door to obtain a refill and an early night (I hope).
I eventually get to my stop with no further shenanigans and walk the last few hundred yards home.
Key in the lock, close door, coat off, shoes off, throwing my bag into the corner of the hallway. I go straight to the kitchen. I am met by a sink full of dishes, bowls and pans still there from the night before. Three pairs of muddy footie boots strewn on the floor. A pile of clothes stacked up next to the washing machine.
‘Lovely! Welcome home’ I say to myself. The house is empty as everyone is out. A note left under the fridge magnet says ‘Don’t make tea for us. Gone for Chinese with the lads, love you’ I throw a pasta ready meal into the microwave. Then after changing into my ‘slobs’, pour myself a glass of white wine - gulping down half whilst waiting Impatiently for the microwave. I swear if we had teleportation, someone would still press the ‘start’ button several times as it wouldn’t be fast enough.
The microwave ‘pings’ I burn myself (again) peeling the cover off the meal.I top up my wine glass. Can’t be bothered pouring the meal out on to a ‘proper plate’ so I grab the oven glove to rest the very hot microwaved meal bowl on and flop in front of the TV.
I grab the remote and press ‘on’ to find a Halloween episode of ‘Futurama’ showing. I raise my wine glass to the TV ‘Happy Halloween guys’ I say and snuggle down with my big soft dressing gown wrapped around me and - vegetate.