Beta: Platnium Rose Lady

The Wheels On The Bus (Go Round and Round)

Jeremy Alkins combed nervous fingers through his blonde hair and hugged his coat to his body tighter. He cursed again his license suspension as he walked out the front door of the Diner where he worked. Kicking at the ground as he ambled, he grumbled bitterly about the long walk home that he used to make in a short drive. He looked up in time to see the crooked bus stop on the street corner he had almost walked into.

He hadn't remembered there being a stop before. Curiously, he edged closer to inspect the sign on the post that shared a map of all the route's stops. He smiled when he saw that the bus would drive down Parkin's Avenue to his house. When he noticed too, that the bus was going to arrive shortly he thanked his lucky stars.

Jeremy sighed. The last month hadn't been easy; his luck had gone from perpetually bad to even worse. He had the distinct feeling that his boss was going to fire him soon, and he still had money for Court fees to pay off. But at least now, he had found a better way to get home than walking. As he rummaged around his pockets for change, he felt his luck changing.

He brushed his thoughts aside as the bus appeared.

The tall square bus careened down the road, screeching like a banshee, with sparks flying from its wheels.

Jeremy bit his lip as it made a sudden stop in front of him. A single peeling add for Sharon Tour Services was ripped across the bus' side. He couldn't make any other judgments about the bus; the windows were caked in grime.

As his mind began to recalculate the hasty decision to take the bus Jeremy noticed the people in the alley behind him. There was either a drug deal going down or a mugging. Squaring his shoulders, he set his mind back towards the bus. Jeremy looked up at the bus as the doors creaked open.

Not a single soul got off as Jeremy got on and deposited his fare.

The seats smelled of mold and had weird stains beaten in across the hideous pattern. He sat down and swallowed back his nervousness. Jeremy rolled his eyes when he saw there was already one passenger on the bus, sitting quietly by the window in the opposing chair.

The bus driver looked back. "All aboard?"

"With bells on." Jeremy muttered darkly as he looked around and noticed the other passenger.

The man in the grey shirt and dark jeans turned to look at Jeremy. He smiled sadly. "Well, you must be Jeremy."

"What gave it away?" Jeremy said with disdain to hide his surprise.

"The sarcasm." The man said. "They told me, even in court, this guy was serious business."

The bus began to move forward as the mysterious passenger leaned across the isle. "You know, I've ridden this bus before."

"Good for you." Jeremy rolled his eyes. "I don't care."

He laughed, a cold and hallow sound, and rubbed his hands together. "Right. I think I said the same thing on my first ride too. Don't matter, you'll get it later."

Jeremy turned away and wished again he'd remembered his music player. "You already know how the story ends," the chattering passenger continued, "It's time you met the characters."

"Are you, like, some kind of novelist?" Jeremy raised one eyebrow as he looked at the young man.

"Well, I do play out stories."

"Great. An actor." Jeremy rolled his eyes. "You know buddy, you really should just stay on stage."

The man started to protest but the bus driver called out- "This is your stop!"

Jeremy stood up but the actor gestured at him to sit down. "No, no, kid. You've got a while to go before you end up like me."

Jeremy let out a sigh of relief as the strange man left.

The second passenger had hailed the bus from a block away. As the driver neared, Jeremy watched the tall slender man tuck his paper under his elbow and straighten his neck. When the bus stopped long enough for him to board, Jeremy couldn't help but stare at the strangers disjointed movements or the bruises that decorated his arms.

"Name's Eric." The man said in a thick cockney accent sitting across from Jeremy.

"What?" Jeremy gasped as he stared at Erik.

"If you're gonna leer at me like we just broke up, at least pretend to know my name, okay?" Erik rolled his eyes as he pulled out his paper. "People these days." He muttered darkly.

Jeremy tried to discreetly avoid being caught starring at Eric. It was hard not to notice Eric's bloody cut over his right eye, the black ring around his left eye, or the way his hair was flattened on one side of head. Erik held the paper up, reading the articles intently. Jeremy saw that Erik's knuckles were bloody and raw, coated in a fine layer of broken glass.

Jeremy shook himself and instead tried to read the paper's headline. Driver of Fatal Car Accident Lives Long Enough to Apologize. Erik folded his paper and looked at Jeremy. "What the matter? Ain't nobody taught you manners?"

The bus driver laughed.

"Oh shuttup Steve." Erik snapped.

"Sorry." Jeremy mumbled.

The bus driver continued to laugh to himself.

"Here" Erik shoved the paper at him. "You can read it. Nothing but trash. The driver didn't mean it."

"Who?" Jeremy took the paper.

Eric jabbed his finger at the headline. "Him." He hissed in a low tone. "He just wanted people to think better of him even if he was such a tremendous fuck up."

Jeremy tugged at his collar and looked away. "I bet he meant it."

"If the bastard had meant it he wouldn't have gone about driving like an idiot." Eric rolled his eyes. "Or he would have at least had the decency to die right away instead of hanging on. Not fair those other blokes had to die 'cause of his recklessness. What makes him so lucky?"

"Maybe he-" Jeremy stammered as he looked at the paper, briefly scanning the article. "Look, it says here—he had a girl friend. Maybe he wanted to make things right in his life."

Erik ripped the paper from his hands. "Yeah? And? Car he hit was a family of four—that's kids man. Bet the father never got to say goodbye. Their life ain't gonna be right."

Jeremy started to protest but the bus driver spoke up. "Eric, it's your stop."

"Bloody hell, already?" Erik rolled his eyes and stood up. "I ain't even got to finish my paper."

The bus driver opened the door for him. "You can read it again tomorrow tonight."

Jeremy looked at the seat. "Erik!" he called. "You left your paper here!"

Erik, with one foot out the door, turned around. "Naw. You keep it." He tilted his head to the side as he shot a curios gaze at Jeremy, and accidentally reopened the wound in his neck to expose the vertebrae. "Maybe you'll learn something."

Erik left as Jeremy looked at the paper dumbfounded.

It was dated nearly three years ago, as Jeremy read horrified he saw that the driver responsible was an Andrew Eriks who had died in the ICU from a spinal injury. Jeremy threw the paper down.

"I think this is my stop." Jeremy called out as he looked out at the unfamiliar landscape.

The bus driver looked up at him through the mirror. He winked. "No, you'll know when you get there."

Jeremy pulled out his cell phone. The technological marvel of communication would not contact him with the outside world. He looked up as the bus came to a stop light. A block a head under one of the street lights was a little girl brooding by herself. The bus driver shook his head.

"You know her?" Jeremy asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.

"In a way." The bus driver said as he approached her. He cranked the door open slowly. "You do too."

Before Jeremy could comment, she came on. The little girl walked onto the bus clutching tightly the string to her red balloon. Its helium was wearing down and bobbed sadly with every movement. Her knee length purple dress was singed and dark. She took her seat next to Jeremy silently.

He found new interest for the newspaper held in his hand, rereading the same words over, trying to avoid any contact. Slowly, she turned her head to look up at him. "You wanna see something?"

Before he could protest, she was using her free hand to brush back the shoulder of dress to expose a small patch of skin.

Jeremy looked down at her. By her collar bone was a red purple bruise that, he presumed, traveled diagonally downward under her dress. She straightened her outfit and sniffed, "It goes all the way across my tummy."

Jeremy touched his own chest where he had the same long diagonal bruise across his torso. The dark purples and browns with molted yellow spoke damning volumes of his crime.

The little girl held onto her red balloon and continued to glare at him. "It's my birthday tomorrow."

Jeremy stared at her mutely as blood slowly trickled from her hair down her shoulders. "Mummy says I can get anything I want."

She jumped down off the seat and glared at Jeremy. "I wanted to see my birthday."

"Look, I'm sorry." Jeremy said slowly in a hoarse whisper. "But it was an accident. My head lights were broken, the road was slippery…"

She shook her head at him disdainfully.

"What more do you want?" He yelled at her. "I went to court. I paid my dues. Hell, I can't hardly keep a job anymore and I'm down to using public transportation!"

"Hey!" The bus driver guffawed.

"Focus on your driving!" Jeremy snapped. "I want to go home!"

The girl rolled her eyes. "It's always about you, isn't it? Figures."

She stooped and sniffed. "Let me off Stephen."

The bus driver gave a weary sigh and pressed the break. As he opened the door he waved. "Have a happy birthday Veronica."

"Fuck off." She said with a mockingly sweet smile as the doors shut.

"What is this?" Jeremy wondered aloud as the wheels started to move again.

"You never get used to it." Steve said as he spun the steering wheel. "You think you can. You get in. You go for a ride- talk to a few passengers. But you really can't. Especially when you have to deal with tough cases like you."

"Me?" Jeremy gasped. "What did I do?"

The bus driver hit the gas pedal angrily. "What do you think you did?"

"I-I-I…" Jeremy bit his lip. "I hit a car. I … I didn't mean to…"

"That's not the point though, is it?" The bus driver kept talking as he glared at his gauges. Some of them threatened to fail as he jabbed at them with his fat fingers.

"Look, it's not like this is a picnic for me!" Jeremy said angrily. "I broke my wrist, I broke my--"

"You broke a family. You broke the rules." The bus driver said seriously as he turned onto the side streets.

Jeremy opened his mouth to protest, but he thought about Eric's nonchalance admittance. Veronica's bitterness. "Yeah, I guess I did." He sighed sadly.

"Not really fair you got to walk away." The bus driver remarked casually, almost to himself.

"Well that's just the way things worked out! Nothing's fair," Jeremy defended. "and that's life."

"Not anymore." The bus driver said coldly as he approached the tunnel.

Jeremy looked up and out the window. "What's going on? I just want to go home…"

"You are." The bus driver said, spinning the wheel sharply.

The bus driver took his hands off the wheel and laid his palms behind his head as he relaxed. He began to whistle some haunting melody as Jeremy watched with panic the spinning of steering column.

He looked around and spotted the emergency break at the edge of the bus driver's seat. He reached for it and tugged on it.

The bus reacted almost immediately, groaning as its wheels stopped full gear.

The bus driver looked down at him. "Good for you. You can control yourself. That's a nice change."

Jeremy glared at him. The bus driver pointed at the two small dots of light that were growing closer. "But as you know, you can't control everyone."

Jeremy looked from oncoming head lights to the bus driver. "Let me off!"

The bus driver laughed.

Jeremy looked from the pot bellied bus driver to the lights that were as wide as saucers. He took a deep breath as the Delivery truck collided with the bus. He was all too familiar with the sensation as time slowed down and he watched each detail. The twisted lover's embrace of metal was a fiery destruction of shrieking joints. The glass shards of the front wind shield broke across his body.

The pain brought sudden clarity.

He smiled softly as blackness overcame his vision. It felt like he was falling forever into darkness before he landed home.

The blood stained seats were rusty and creaked when weight gently fell on to them. The yellow pull cord was frayed from to many frantic tugs. The handles for standing passengers were always cold to the touch, and the metal seemed to bite at hands. The wheels on the bus where worn and caked in sludge from it's all too frequent journeys down dark and twisted roads as it went round and round.

Jeremy settled himself onto the passenger seat of his new found home and waited to see who wanted to catch a ride tonight.

...the end....