It would be simple, they thought.
And it should’ve been.
It is, after all, much easier to sneak in somewhere when you’re short. And at age nine, they were well below the standard line of sight.
It’ll be no problem, they decided.
It wasn’t as though they had many transportation options. Bikes only got you so far. And, given the several inches of snow on the ground, bikes were ill-advised.
And so… the bus. The bus, they were well aware, cost money to ride. Money that they were not currently in possession of.
So, really, if you think about it, they had no choice.
It would be easy, they told each other. Simply climb on with the crowd and hide in the back. The driver wouldn’t notice.
And it worked, sort of.
The climbing on the bus part worked, anyway.
The hiding in the back part, not so much.
They knew, as soon as they’d settled into the uncomfortable plastic seats in the back row.
“She’s watching us,” he whispered, feeling the bus driver’s heavy gaze focused on them like a heat lamp. He could feel himself frying, crisping under her gaze like a tater tot.
“No, she’s not,” his friend whispered back. “Of course she’s not…. You’re imagining it…….”
His eyes grew wide.
“No….you’re right…. She’s watching us.”
“Whatarewegonnnado?” He forced himself to take a deep breath. “WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?”
“She’s gonnna kick us off,” came the doleful reply, as though being kicked off was equivalent to a death sentence, or at least having ones’ toys taken away. “She’s gonna kick us off and we’re gonna have to walk home.”
But to the surprise of the two small whispering humans tucked into the back row, she did not.
At every stop, they feared the voice would ring out, calling them to the front of the bus, to face the inimitable wrath of the driver, whose burning glare they sensed through the mirror. That fiery gaze would, they felt, find them wherever they hid. They briefly considered ducking, hiding under the seats. But the gaze would follow them, they knew. And the sticky, disgusting, slush-stained floor was an excellent deterrent.
They had five stops left. Then four.
They held their breath.
Would it happen? Would it really? It is possible that they, inexperienced thieves though they were, would escape this petty crime unscathed?
Was it possible she wasn’t even looking at them? Were they imagining it?
Finally, their stop arrived. With bated breath, they got up, preparing to walk out of the bus as though they’d done nothing wrong.
One foot in the aisle. Then both.
Was it possible?
One step forward and…..
“Hey! You two. Come up here.”
This was it. They were doomed. It was not possible that she’d been talking to anyone else. Slowly, they slunk towards the front of the bus, approaching their doom.
They were not certain exactly what would happen. Perhaps policemen would be involved. They imagined being dragged before their parents in hand cuffs and too-large black-and-white striped convict gear. They imagined their mothers with tear-streaked, mascara-striped faces, weeping at the woe that had befallen them… for how could their children, their own flesh-and-blood, commit such a crime?
Heads down, one foot in front of the other, they moved down the narrow aisle to the front of the bus.
“You two,” she said, irately, glaring at them both.
They wouldn’t have been surprised if flame had spurted from her nostrils, and the weight of her gaze felt a million times heavier here, up close, than it had all the way at the back of the bus.
“You two,” she repeated. “I’ll let it go this time, but don’t do it again, understand?”
Unable to muster words, they nodded enthusiastically, which is to say that they nodded so hard it looked like their heads were going to fly off.
Safely off of the bus, they looked at each other.
“We did it,” said the braver of them. “We got away with it.”
Because sometimes, dear reader, very rarely, things actually do turn out the way you want them to.
Bus stop, compliance, deceive.
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