The Greyhound Bus

The Exercise: Write a scene that begins on a Greyhound bus heading west through the Mojave desert. There is nothing except cacti as far as the eye can see in any direction. In the middle of this flat, barren land is an intersection. The bus stops. A rider gets off.


You Need to Return to Your Seat

I notice in the rearview mirror a teenage boy with a backpack walking up the aisle. 

When he arrives at the front of the bus, he leans over and says, “Excuse me, Sir, I need to ask a favor.”

I don’t respond. Instead, I point at the sign above my head.

I watch as his eyes follow my hand. After studying the sign, he looks down and notices the white line is one foot behind him. He takes a step back. “Sir, I understand I am not supposed to talk to you, but it’s important.”

What is it with this kid? “Son, you need to return to your seat. Federal regulations do not allow me to converse with passengers while operating this vehicle.” That ought to shut him up.

I glance up to see if he’s got the message. When he doesn’t move, I again tap the sign above my head. I hear a sniffle. The young man wipes his nose as tears streak down his cheeks. What the hell?

“Sir, I need you to stop the bus at County Road 53. Please, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t real important.”

I’m fuming now as I grind my teeth. “Look, kid, we’re in the middle of the Mohave Desert. It’s at least 110 degrees this morning. There’s no way I’m stopping this bus until we reach Las Vegas. Now, I’m not going to ask you again. Return to your seat.”

The boy leans forward and stares at the highway ahead. He then reaches into his front pocket and pulls something out.

“Sir, County Road 53 is right up there.” His hand extends out and I see a handful of dollar bills. “Here is twenty dollars. It’s all I have. It’s yours–just please–stop the bus. I promise it won’t take more than two or three minutes.”

Two elderly women sitting right behind me begin to chant, “Stop the bus. Stop the bus.” Several more passengers take up the chant.

“Okay–okay,” I growl, “I’m stopping the bus.” When I hear applause, I shake my head.

At the intersection, I pull onto the shoulder. “What the hell are you going to do out there, kid? There’s nothing but cactus, Gila monsters and sidewinders for the next hundred miles in every direction.”

He doesn’t reply. As I open the door, the boiling heat swarms into the bus. I snap the door shut as soon as he steps out. A dozen or so passengers on the left side stand up and lean across the aisle to see what the young man is doing.

When the boy steps into the ditch, he stumbles as the sand surrounds his shoes and threatens to suck him under. The boy collapses to his knees and one of the women behind me murmurs, “Oh my God.”

He slips his backpack off, unzips it, and pulls out two pieces of wood, a spool of wire, and a green and white wrapped object I couldn’t identify.

I watch as he fiddles with something in front of him. When the young man bows his head, another passenger whispers, “I think he’s praying.”

The boy stands up and returns to the bus. He empties sand from his shoes before climbing onboard. “Thank you, Sir. We can go now.”

I stare at the pink polka dot cross stuck in the sand. A bouquet of crumpled daisies rests against it. I mouth the words painted on the cross. “Sis – LUVU Forever.”  Three red hearts follow the message.

The young man’s tear stained face reflects pain and torment as he walks down the aisle. Sinking into his seat, he mumbles to no one in particular, “Sis was on her way to school last weekend …” Before he can finish, the seat seems to swallow him up.

Out of the silence, a raspy voice mutters, “A drunk driver plowed into her car.”

I sit there for several minutes staring at the cross. I wipe my eyes and somehow manage to say, “Next stop-Las Vegas.

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