The Bus Stop Regulars (and the hundred year old boy)

The Bus Stop Regulars

The bus stop stands on Bramble Hill, an ordinary suburban street. It is a simple bus stop, just a pole with a sign atop rising from the cracked paving slabs. There’s no shelter from the rain or bench to sit on. The bus stop regulars queue leaving the obligatory 90 cm of space between themselves. Every morning they occupy this space, not knowing one another, occasionally throwing out a comment about the weather.

Harry Crabtree, 65, mack on, paper under arm visits the library for his on-going genealogy research project.

Maureen Sandfield, 59, pencil skirt, carefully made up works at Marks & Spencers. She lives with her son, his girlfriend and their baby.

Mel Harris 19, trainee nurse. Clear skin, bulging handbag, hair tied back tightly. Smokes menthol cigarettes.

Graham Downes. 24, insurance salesman. Trendy suit and duffel coat. Clean cut.

Harry arrives first. He is unfailingly punctual. The bus is due at 9:15. It is 9:08. As he walks the wind catches his long mack and yellow leaves scuttle at his feet like fleeing animals. He seems to walk on borrowed authority. It has been raining all night and rainbow oil puddles have collected in the gutter. Harry takes his paper from under his arm and stops. A headline has caught his attention.

“The Hundred Year old boy’s Remains found in Bluebell Woods.”

It had a familiar ring to it, a lost boy. It felt as if he knew this story somewhere deep inside of him. Harry read on.

Barney, the dog dug up a human radius bone in bluebell woods. The Dog’s owner, Simon Barrett, 36, GP managed to prize it away from him and took it to the police station.

Reading on Harry feels his heart quicken, lurch and tighten. The words on the page bounce then blur. An invisible hand bears down on his chest, reaching in and squeezing. Harry drops the paper and takes a step back from the curb. A passing lorry sends splashes of grey water over his brogues. The hand’s clutch is becoming unbearable. Pain shoots to his neck and shoulders. Harry reaches for his tie to loosen it. The scene of the bus stop, the road, the lady from M & S arriving takes on the distant surreal quality of a dream. Sounds slow down and echo, deafening him. The lady speeds towards him, heels clattering, just before the world slips away from view.

Maureen is deep in thought as she arrives at the bus stop considering her son’s lack of will to find a job, feeling resentful that she must work over time to help him and his girlfriend with finances for their baby. As she approaches she sees the man swaying, fumbling at his collar. Instantly she knows this is wrong. Colour visibly drains away and a waxy sheen clings to his skin. His jaw is clenched like a ventriloquist’s dummy.

Instinct urges her toward him as his swaying increases, his eyes roll back and she realises that he is about to topple. She runs and tries to catch him but the direction of the fall is too unpredictable. She just manages to catch his neck and shoulders as he drops trapping her hand beneath his head on the tarmac.

“Mr….Mr…”

She realises that she doesn’t know his name. She is on her hands and knees with a man’s head beneath her hand and she doesn’t know his name or what to do. The hair on his head is wet. She looks around urgently for help. The young woman is arriving now

“Help! He’s collapsed”

The woman joins Maureen on the ground. She checks the man’s pulse, it is weak. His breathing is shallow.

“Ok, we need to turn him over, put him in the recovery position. You keep his head steady, I’ll do the rest.”

Maureen feels relieved she can do something useful, it reminds her of handling a baby.

The woman swings herself around to the man’s hip, reaches under him.

“Ready?”

Maureen nods her assent. The young woman manoeuvres her knees under the man’s hips and with practised efficiency hoists him on to his front. Maureen cradles the head as the body’s dead weight flips over.

The younger woman arranges his left arm and right leg at ninety degrees to his body.

Suddenly there is the young man.

“I saw it all, called an ambulance”

The four of them are all there, Harry on the ground and the three of them around him, daily in their familiarity, but strangers knitted together by this event.

The bus arrives. Faces stare out of windows.

“Is there anything I can do?” The driver shouts through the opening doors.

“He just went down” Maureen hears her voice quiver.

The young woman checks his breathing.

“He’s stopped breathing. I’m going to have to do resuscitation. We need to get him on his back.”

The three of them haul him on to his back, Maureen taking care of his head.

The girl thrusts his head right back and sticks her finger into his mouth. She pinches his nose and puts her mouth to his and breathes in to it. Then she goes to his chest, places one hand over the other, pumps five times.

“Can someone take over the pumping for me? I’m going to breathe then you pump here, like this.”

The girl breathes into his mouth again and demonstrates.

Maureen and the young man eye each other. A flash of hesitation passes between them.

The young man nods and places his hand over the man’s chest.

One breath, five pumps.

Harry splutters and the wail of a siren fills the air.

The first moment that he came to in hospital “The Hundred year old boy” was in his mind. It felt familiar, hundred year old boy, hundred year old boy. He looked around the room. He wasn’t alone, in the bed next to him was an old boy, in his late seventies, eighties he reckoned. He was connected up to a drip and a drain. He looked sick and tired.

“Its not as bad as it looks” said the old boy chuckling, feigning mirth.

It looked bad.

Harry looked down at himself, the tubes coming out of his own arm and into a drip stand and a drain and he saw the funny side.

“No, not so bad”

The two men held each other’s gaze for a moment and then Harry turned over on his side and faced the wall. That was enough for one day.

The End

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