Flash Fiction: The Year She Lived on the Bus by Margaret Adams

SAMSUNGIn 2016, she lived on the bus. It was an odd year, despite the predictable paths her home carved through the city, always late for the rush-hour stops on the west side and often early at the beginning of the route, occasionally missing traffic lights on purpose. The temperature was better regulated than she could remember it ever being in any of her prior homes, except on those days when she sat too close to the middle doors, which would bring in a flash of the outside world when they opened and floods of air that gusted whenever more than six people were boarding or exiting at a time. She was always in motion and yet she stayed within the same thirty-six rows of seats, holding still while landmarks rocketed by.

By the eighth month of her residence on the bus, she had begun to figure that something was wrong and think that maybe she should find a new place to live. But deceleration, as she had begun to imagine it, felt like both solution and requisite for finding solution. Instead she was lulled by the steady thrum of the bus’s engine as it traced the roadways, the jouncing rattle of the glass window cool against her forehead. Weeks flicked by with the bus stops.

When at last she packed up her things—she had spread over several seats in the back row by then, claiming extra square footage for her coffee maker and her books—and began to consider cross-streets with an eye towards picking her egress, the bus, sensing her disloyalty, rebelled. It blew past some stops altogether, or opened and closed the doors for a fraction of the necessary time, leaving would-be passengers stranded and indignant. She had visions of the bus crashing, running out of gas, of having to kick out the emergency exit before disappearing into a downtown crowd. In the end, though, it came down to this: her hanging on to the stop cord, her whole weight suspended, not sure if she was struggling to force the bus to halt or refusing to let it go.

When the bus wheezed to a stop at last, she released the handholds and tripped down the steps outside. The doors hissed shut behind her, with no more fanfare or finality than they’d had for any other passenger who had come and gone in the last year. It heaved itself off of the curb with an asthmatic whine and continued its arc around the city. Gone.

She stood. She waited, for a moment, but nothing around her shifted. She realized that to find her next home, she would have to move herself. She hefted her backpack, and walked.

Margaret Adams lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Pinch Journal, The Bellingham Review, The Baltimore Review, The Delmarva Review, and The Portland Review, among other publications. Find her at www.margaret-adams.com.

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