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Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Bus Stop as Society's Microcosm

Having grown up in a series of trailers parks, I can tell you that one way to judge an area is by its children. The following is one in a number of short stories I'm writing centered around the bus stop.

FYI: Tammy, Rita, and I are all 12 years old in this story.



It’s really cold this morning. You know it’s cold when Tammy’s hair freezes.

Tammy, the prettiest girl in the court, washes her hair every morning before school, the better to emphasize the gleaming blue-black drape of it, the way the light plays off hair hanging well below her waist; and because she won’t wear a hat, her hair freezes in the six-block walk to the bus stop.

A hat just isn't cool.

“Your hair is frozen,” Rita observes.

Rita lives in the big double-wide on the corner lot. Their yard is never empty of kids. Their driveway never has less than three cars in it, four if you include the Mustang on blocks back next to the shed.

Rita's whole family seems to be made up of boys. Even the girls are boys. Every single one of them is box-shaped and sturdy. That family isn't built for speed; it is built to crush.

Tammy scowls at Rita. The two of them are oil and water; and if Tammy had a brother, I’m sure she would’ve had him attempt to beat Rita up by now.

“Yeah, my hair's frozen. No shit, Sherlock,” Tammy says.

“Howdja like me to break it off at the roots?” Rita asks, pleasantly. She could just as easily be asking “howdja like a three-day weekend” or “howdja like half a pizza”?

Tammy steps behind me, uses me as a shield. “Go ahead,” she says, holding my shoulders. “Try it, Lard-O.”

Lard-O is a misnomer. Rita isn’t fat. She's as solid as a tree trunk and moves just slightly faster than one as she grabs the front of my coat with one hand and takes a swing for Tammy’s head with the other.

She misses Tammy’s head but manages to connect with her collar. She does not let it go.

“Hey!” I shout, angrily.

“Stand still,” Rita advises.

“LINDSEY!”, Tammy screams for her older sister. Lindsey, however, is a good block away, and seeing what is going on she continues her slow walk to the bus stop.

Lindsey and Tammy don't really like each other.

Rita lets go of me. Holding Tammy’s coat at the throat with her right hand, she casually licks her left thumb and smears it across Tammy’s forehead, then shoves her, hard, backwards. Tammy falls heavily to the street and jumps up, twisting, checking for possible damage to her white painter’s pants.

The brownish semi-frozen sludge of snow and salt has ruined them.

“I’m gonna get you!" Tammy screams. "I’m gonna get you!”

Rita shrugs; and Tammy runs home, crying.

Rita looks at me. “Washing your hair in the morning is stupid,” she challenges.

“You’re right about that,” I say.

I crane my neck, looking up the block. The bus should be here any minute now...

25 comments:

Eva Gallant said...

A great tale of kid behavior!

vanilla said...

...a tale obviously set before the do-gooders and nanny-staters intervened to subvert childhood.

Hey, if you've never been beat up, you've never been beat up.

Shelly said...

What a great story- loved the way you told it!

Leenie said...

When it comes to kid life you nailed it, Pearl. (Wonder if I still have that pair of painter pants stashed underneath my 501's.)

Leenie said...

Okay that sounds weird. I'm not wearing my old 501's. They're stashed in a box in the attic.

Macy said...

My guess is that Rita's a pillar of the PTA now, whilst Tammy was last heard of heading for the city...

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Kids....that's all I gotta say....Kids!!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a vivid tale! I love it, Pearl! And it's a great idea to write stories about happenings at bus stops! Like you, I took a commuter bus to work the last five years before retirement and, oh, the characters! The stories! The friendships! I'll look forward to seeing more of your inimitable tales!

jenny_o said...

So the role of buses in your writing started waaaay back, eh?

"Even the girls were boys." Yep. I knew a Rita. *shiver*

Looking forward to more bus stop stories!

jabblog said...

The trials and tribulations of childhood - glad I'm not there any more.

Bodacious Boomer said...

Jeez-just how cold was it?

The Elephant's Child said...

Yes!!! Right on the money. Who would be a kid again? Great story. Thanks.

River said...

Frozen hair = extra shine. We all know how ice sparkles in the sunlight...

Great story and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Gigi said...

I love this story. Yeah, we've all known a Rita or two....and yeah, most of would never welcome the chance to go back to being a kid again.

Linda Myers said...

Great idea - bus stop short stories.

Sandra said...

This is terrific Pearl! It's so obvious you're a writer. Your words flow. Your words are so descriptive I can see the scene as though I was watching it on tv. But, my comment: Poor Tammy. She just wants to have Perth smelling hair, is that so bad!

Jocelyn said...

I like these little glimpses into the heartwarming tales that just might have formed you into the compassionate adult you now are.

Plus, I like the part about white painter pants.

Tempo said...

...and she's probably still freaked out about that today..
It's odd how we pick up on tiny indiscretions done to us as kids and hold them aloft as if they were earth shattering experiences..No wonder we're all so damn twisted.

Sioux said...

Aah, painter's pants. I almost forgot about them.

I keep trying to get dodgeball revived, since it teaches more lessons than many classrooms do, but my efforts are all in vain. So it's nice to know that bus stops and walks to school have stepped up to the plate...

Pat Tillett said...

This was great Pearl! Isn't childhood just great? I have a couple of bus stop stories also. I hadn't thought about them in years. Thanks for the inspiration.

Daisy said...

Makes me want to start taking the bus for the entertainment value.

Lynn said...

"Even the girls are boys." VERY descriptive.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I remember those fights like they happened yesterday.

Pat said...

I had a Rita called Doris with ultra muscular legs. I wasn't in her orbit for long but it taught me to use my mouth as a defence weapon.

dogimo said...

Pearl? You literatured the crap out of that. I'd like to see a book from you with Rita as the protagonist. I realize that might be a stretch, empathy-wise.

Oooh, you're doing other stories centered around the bus stop? Are you doing the one with the gnats?

My hair used to freeze, sometimes.