Anywho, I'm excited to share this short story with you. Like This Is London, I wrote this story for my creative writing class. I got surprisingly good reviews on it, and received the best compliment ever. One of the guys in my class - who was actually a creative writing major and was a very strong writer - told me I "had an eye for violence." Winning!
This is inspired by all the times I've waited at a bus stop with only a few other strangers around, and the couple of times a group of obnoxious ne'er-do-wells came along. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave feedback. (Oh, and the main character's a dude.)
Happy Reading! =)
I heard them before I saw them.
It was a late Thursday night and I had just drug myself out of my office and down to the bus stop. I must have looked like a zombie the way my shoulders drooped and my feet barely lifted off the ground as I walked into the covered bus stop. I plopped down on the long bench that ran the length of the structure and leaned back against the scratched plexi-glass. I was far too exhausted to support my weight at this point and didn’t mind sitting in an awkward, somewhat uncomfortable position. All I cared about was going home and going to sleep.
This normally busy street was completely empty now. All the store windows were black, their signs turned off, all traces of life snuffed out. I looked up and down the street. Nothing. No one. It was just me and the street lamps posted every 30 feet. There was a soft rustling as a discarded newspaper flapped in the breeze. Other than that, silence.
I let my head rest against the glass wall with a thud. If it hadn’t been for Beth I’d probably still be slaving away at my desk, working on that stupid proposal. It had been so quiet in the office that when the phone rang I quite literally jumped out of my seat, sending my rolly chair crashing into the wall.
“Yeah, what? I mean…This is Daniel.”
“You’re still at work?”
I instantly recognized Beth’s voice. She was known as Beth-In-Sales around my department, but I had recently started thinking of her as just Beth.
“Uh, yeah. I’m burning the oil, as they say.”
“Do you even know what time it is?”
I glanced at the lower right hand corner of my monitor. . Later than I had thought.
“I figured you might still be there. That’s why I called. You know, the busses don’t run all night. You weren’t planning on sleeping up there, were you Danny?”
About three weeks ago Beth and I had started going for drinks after work. Purely as a casual, friendship building thing. After the first week she started calling me Danny. I liked that, a lot.
“Yeah… Yeah, thanks Beth. Where would I be without you?”
“I wonder that myself.” She had sounded like she was smiling on the other end of the line.
A soft tap, tap, tap of someone walking caught my attention. A girl, probably in her late teens, walked up to the bus stop and sat at the far end of the bench. She was wearing a white collared shirt and an ugly, brown, knee-length skirt. Her hair was pulled back in a bun on top of her head. She had one of those oversized purse-bags on her shoulder, like the ones I used to see girls at my university carrying books in. The girl rummaged around in the bag, pulled out a book and then let the bag slide down her arm to the ground. It made a flat crunch when it landed. Something glistened on one of the straps, catching my eye. It was a little gold name tag. I was too tired to try and make the name out. I glanced up at the girl. She must have just gotten off work at a restaurant or something.
I didn’t want her to notice me staring so I turned the other direction. Best to act as though she wasn’t even there. That’s what strangers do at bus stops – not acknowledge each other’s existence.
I started reading the graffiti on the glass for entertainment. It was the usual illegible lettering and obscenities one finds on public property. Someone had felt the need to etch a penis into the glass. Next to it was the romantic admonition Tina Luvs Mike.
My thoughts turned back to Beth.
Earlier this afternoon I had known I would have to work late and wouldn’t be able to go out with Beth. I had stopped in the men’s room on my way to her office, just to make sure I looked presentable. I looked at my reflection and wondered what a girl like Beth could see in me. A round face, small dark eyes, slightly irregular nose. I ran my hand through my short, reddish hair, straitened my tie and continued on with my mission.
I rapped on the wall outside of Beth’s office before poking my head through the open door. Beth was at her desk, studying the computer screen with one had on the mouse. She glanced over and big smile lit up her face when she saw me.
“Hey Danny, what you brings you here?” She asked cheerfully. Her blond hair was perfectly styled as usual and she was wearing a pretty, red blouse. The first button of the blouse was unfastened showing just a hint of pale skin and a shiny necklace.
“Hi Beth,” I said as I took a few uncertain steps inside her office. She hadn’t invited me in but I felt stupid just hanging out in the doorway. “I just wanted to let you know that, uh, I’m working on this big proposal and it’s just taking forever to do so I’m gonna have to work late tonight. So, I can’t go out tonight.”
I watched carefully as Beth’s smile fell and she looked down at her desk. Was she disappointed?
“Well, duty calls. I understand,” she said. “I’ll let you make it up to me tomorrow.”
That’s when I heard them. Loud voices bouncing off of the buildings and reverberating down the empty street. My chest tightened and I hoped there wouldn’t be trouble.
I looked to where the shouts were coming from; the girl had turned towards them too. Several yards away 3 men stumbled down the street, laughing and pushing each other. The girl turned back to her book looking unconcerned and unimpressed. I glanced up and down the street again. Still no signs of the bus.I watched from the corner of my eye as the guys drew closer, still shouting and laughing. Keep on moving, I thought. If they started causing a problem with the girl I would have to do something. Everything about my southern culture and the way I had been raised dictated that I must. Even if it meant putting myself in harm’s way, I would have to stand up. Be a man, as my father would say. But I was so tired I could barely hold my eyes open and I had never actually hit anyone before. Please keep moving.
Click here to go to Part 2