On a day which began like so many others, Sarah hit the snooze function three times, which was one time too many and once again she cursed herself and thought about writing a post it note to remind herself to set the alarm earlier but then remembered how late she was and raced to the bathroom. She did not write that reminder, just like every other day that she didn’t write the reminder. She whipped around her small apartment gathering bits and pieces: a diary, lipstick, mints. The usual. She flung some cat food into a shiny silver bowl and grabbed a wad of keys from beneath a pile of (dirty?) clothes.

A first time observer of Sarah’s morning habits might feel her rush. They might observe that very desperate feeling in the very pit of the stomach. They may be silently but forcefully cheering Sarah on in her plight to make it to the bus stop on time. They would surely feel that Sarah surely had these same feelings rumbling around her own intestine. Sarah, however, was not simmering among thoughts of bus timetables. Her mind was light-years away, in a warehouse somewhere unloading the day’s shipments. Of course, this is simply the way Sarah begins all her days.

As she slammed her blue door behind her she charged towards the apartment’s main door and pushed through it roughly. Her feet moved swiftly, well acquainted with the route and speed required en route. Mr. Lansdon, from downstairs, called out to her “Morning love!", “Hey Mr. Lansdon. How’s the spinach coming along?” Sarah panted in response. Mr. Lansdon was a keen gardener and had an award winning veggie patch. He winked and was calling out a reply to her question but Sarah’s mind was drowning it out with questions as to where someone got their veggie patch examined. Were they marked? Sarah was still thinking about the marking criterion for vegetables when she spotted her bus in the distance. 100 metres from the stop she breathed a sigh of relief she didn’t realise she’d been holding. Her steps slowed on cue and her hand followed routine, reaching into her handbag for her bus pass. Eyes peering into her bag, her walk now reduced to an amble and since George would have by now seen her, she did not notice the buses hasty onset. Just as she retrieved her pass and emerged smiling from her bag the bus sped past with just enough time for her to see that the driver was not in fact, George.

Sarah stood still, turning her bus pass aimlessly in her hand. Her mouth hung open feeling dry and uncomfortable and her ears rang with a nasty squeal. She looked down at the pass and up again at the spot where the bus should be and then into her handbag, as though she felt an answer may lie within the biscuit crumbs and loose change there. A man approached and Sarah peered at him through glazed eyes as though she didn’t even see the man with the ripped shirt who clutched a jangling set of keys in his hand.

Clive had watched this flighty woman arrive exactly fifty metres in front of the bus stop for five years now. He had first noticed her that day, so many years ago, because he had nearly slammed her in his car while she had merely carried on her journey seemingly oblivious to the near disaster. He had sat stock still, eyes stinging and head throbbing while she arrived, for the first time, 50 metres ahead of the bus and jumped on, appearing to already know the bus driver. Since that time Clive had seen Sarah each day when he left for work. He had seen her the day his wife had left. The morning when his brother had called from jail; “It’s nothing bro, I just had a little mix up with a girl. No, I thought…well yeah I knew she was a hooker but I wasn’t going to pay!” The day he was fired from the bank he had seen her, and again the morning after when he had woken up by the neighbour’s hose, on the neighbour’s driveway, naked but for an arbitrary sock and the world’s worst tequila shaped hangover. Not on any of those days had Sarah noticed him. Not even on tequila day. He didn’t know her name. He didn’t really care what her name was; he was just intrigued by her aloofness. Now he stood staring straight at her, wearing the same clothes he’d had on since Tuesday and smelling of both kinds of grass. “Miss?” Nothing. “Miss…?” Time passed. Maybe minutes, maybe half an hour. Neither stirred. “Did yer miss yer bus lady?” Sarah stared blankly at Clive for a moment as if seeing him there for the first time. She vocalised a guttural noise for a second and then retreated a little from the bemused man. “I…um I…did” Sarah pushed the words from her lips and shook with the effort of producing them. Normally by now she was two stops from the one where she got off, from the back doors, like always. She would walk the length of the block and then turn at the Vietnamese bakery on the corner. “Do you need help Miss?” Clive’s perseverance pulled her coarsely from her neurotic daydream and launched her back into her messy reality. “I don’t know”, she answered truthfully. Clive looked at her deeply for just a second longer and offered to walk her to another stop as this route did not have another bus coming for at least an hour, maybe more. As he searched the oncoming traffic for a break to cross the road he took her elbow lightly. Sarah screamed loudly and shoved Clive from her arm. Clive yelped and turned to meet Sarah’s searing red face. Sarah glowered at Clive, still not looking into his eyes and scuttled across the road, as if she had those blinkers on her face that they put on horses. She didn’t look and she stepped straight out in front of oncoming traffic, just like she did that time he had almost killed her. He’d had a nice car then. With a leather interior. Rubbing his arm Clive staggered after her, confused and slightly dazed with a languid smile spreading over his face.

“I want to tell you a story Miss.” Sarah kept on putting one foot in front of the other, acutely terrified in the unfamiliar territory. “Miss, can I tell you a story?” Sarah looked up startled and stopped. She looked around as if she had just stepped into Narnia. “Yes, ok. That’s ok”. As she spoke the words she knew it was her own mouth that produced them and yet she felt as though they were a magical language, one she didn’t know how to speak, curiously she rolled the sounds around on her tongue. Clive wanted to tell Sarah the story of Butch, a grouchy Rottweiler from his childhood. Lately he’d been thinking about Butch and he felt this girl would benefit from Butch’s lewdly existential teachings. “This is the story of Butch. This day was like every other day, yeah…” Sarah jerked her head up in interest, “Something wrong?”, “No, go on…” Sarah whispered in response. “Butch was wandering down to this bus stop right here, this is where I grew up see right around that corner…yeah, no the next one…yeah. Like he did every day while we kids waited for the bus. At that stop up ahead…where we’re going. He came and plopped his matted body down in front of some people and my sister kept saying he had a strange look in his eyes and he stank. But Butch always stank. She said he smelled different though, real sweaty. Butch stretched himself from side to side and sniffed. He yawned and stared menacingly at us three kids; me, and my best friend Ralph and my sister Jamie, while we sat on our backpacks. In the distance, if you strained, you could hear a magpie squawking a warning bell to us. That damn bird must have known! Butch’s dangly tongue creeped from his dripping mouth and made its way for his lower bits. The air was hanging around as, everybody stared at fuckin Butch’s – whoops ‘scuse that French Miss – tongue. Butch shuddered all of a sudden, really loud, as his tongue was sliverin’ every which way. With a final slurp he shot us all a real eerie look and then: all this thick white dog jizz – all over us!” Sarah blinked. Clive beamed at her. She blinked again. Clive glaced warily into her eyes and then let his glazed face pull toward the street. She turned her face up towards his and let out a friendly snort. He jolted and smiled. She laughed honestly and without reservation. The pair laughed the whole way down the street. “Well, here’s the stop Miss.” Clive declared abruptly. “Oh…”, “Say Miss, there’s probably not gonna be a bus for a little while yet. Do you want to sit with me a while?” And Sarah looked, stared, at this forlorn stranger whose shirt was ripped and who smelled vaguely of her childhood in the hazy commune and said “Yes”.



Joined April 2009

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