Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
City Bus 352
I am sitting in one of the passenger seats of city bus 352 looking at the interior of the ruined vehicle. Presently, it is the home of rodents and insects. Before that, homeless people used it to escape bad weather, even though all the windows were broken out. Fifty years ago, it was carrying passengers around the city.
Sometimes I come here to reflect on what happened that day. I rise from the seat and brush the dust off my pants. The floor in front of me has partially caved in so I exit through the passenger door in the middle of the bus.
Outside, the grass grew so tall it has fallen over, partially burying whatever may have been lying on the ground. After a few steps, I linger, staring into the blue eyes of a child’s doll. An image invades my mind of a young mother climbing aboard the bus holding a small child who was clutching this very doll.
Along with that mental image, a children’s song begins to play in my head. I try to stop it but the music and lyrics are relentless. The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town.
Shoes lie buried in the tangled grass. The dolls and shoes are reminders of what happened here and to whom. At the front of the bus, a tree has grown around the bumper. It’s been that long.
I leave the wreck behind for a moment and walk toward the street. The summer sun beats down on my bare head. Sweat from my forehead runs into my eyes. I blink them away. My mind continues to drag out the old memories against my will and shows me that night long ago during an ice storm. The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.
The street is covered with glare ice. The driver applies the brakes, but the bus picks up speed as it slides out of control. The bus, full of passengers, slides across the lanes of traffic. Cars and trucks bounce off each other like pinballs. The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep.
Lighter weight vehicles slide off the street and stop, but the heavy bus has too much momentum. The tires leave the pavement, and the driver cries out to God. The bus tips and rolls, and rolls, and rolls. The people on the bus go up and down, up and down, up and down. I scream for the song to stop but I can’t stop the song any more than the driver could have stopped the bus. People are flying around in every possible, horrific position. Upside down, sideways, young mothers, children, old ladies, babies are tossed like rag dolls. All who needed the bus were betrayed, not by the bus, but by one man—the driver.
The bus comes to rest just outside the treeline of the woods, sitting upright. Some of the little ones are crying, but not nearly enough of them. Shattered glass covers everyone and everything like glitter mocking the horror of the scene. A cold wind blows through carrying with it the smell of diesel.
Misery and mayhem surround me. Moans and screams enter my head where they will remain for eternity. I climb back into the bus and make my way to the front. I turn around and face the devastation. I am sorry, so very sorry.
I slide into my driver’s seat and try to fall asleep, my only respite from the screams, cries, and the song.
I open my eyes. I’m in a wheelchair. A woman dressed in white wipes up something on the table in front of me.
“No need to apologize, Charlie. It’s just a little spilled milk.”
Her name badge dangles in front of my face while she works. My name is Rhonda, RN. And below that, Northwood Asylum.
“I know how to cheer you up,” said Rhonda. “Let’s sing your favorite song together. How does it go? Oh, I remember. Ready? The wheels on the bus go round and round…”
© 2016 Chris Mills