Friday, September 23, 2016

Making Friends

                “Is it over yet,” asked Jenny. The bus driver looked back at her in the rear-view mirror and shrugged. Jenny slumped back into her bus seat and frowned. The train passing in front of the bus just kept going.  The roar of the train cars and the tickity-tackity sound of the steel wheels over the steel rails seemed endless. The noise cut through the quiet train crossing stop and echoed across the hills and fields in all directions.

                Jenny was alone on the bus as she was the last to be dropped off after school. Her family’s farm was just on the edge of the county and it always took forever to get to and from school; especially when a train came through. She looked up and out the front bus windows to see the train continue to roll by. She figured it had to be three miles long at this point. She wasn’t very good at math yet so she wasn’t sure. They really hadn’t gotten to that part in her textbook yet. But it felt like three miles so that seemed right to her.

                “How long do you think this train is,” asked Jenny. The bus driver shrugged in the rear-view mirror. He was rapping his fingers on the steering wheel in time with the train’s noise. He kept looking straight ahead at the blur of the passing train. He was mesmerized.

                “Do you think it’ll be much longer? Can you see the end,” asked Jenny. The driver looked at Jenny in the mirror and shrugged again.

                “You don’t talk much do you,” asked Jenny. She sat back in her seat and folded her arms over her chest. She frowned and wondered how much longer it could be and why this bus driver wouldn’t talk to her. She missed Ms. Stephen’s who used to drive the bus. Ms. Stephen’s had a stroke a month ago and now she can’t drive at all. Jenny’s mother said they would try and visit Ms. Stephen’s but they hadn’t gotten around to it. Jenny wondered why her mother always would say they would do something and then they never would. It was like the time they were going to move closer to town but then they didn’t.

                The train slowed down on the tracks and was now crawling along. The constant noise dimmed and the intervals between the tickity and the tackity slowed. Jenny got out of her seat and moved up toward the front bus seat, where the cool girls sat normally, to the right of the bus driver. She sat down and sighed loudly.

                The bus driver, noticing the slowing train, seemed to come out of a hypnotic trance and he turned to look at Jenny for the first time, instead of in the mirror.  Jenny looked back at him and smiled. He didn’t smile back. He turned his head and looked back through the windshield and at the slow moving train.

                “You’re not really friendly are you,” asked Jenny. “Ms. Stephen’s was very friendly. She had this job before you but she had a stroke and can’t drive anymore. I heard that if you have a stroke you go all sort of gooey in your brain and your face sags like this,” said Jenny as she pulled down on the left side of her face to make it appear droopy.

                The bus driver looked back at Jenny and the droopy face she was attempting to make. He looked at her with squinted eyes and then turned back toward the front. Jenny let her face relax and she brushed an errant long brown hair off her forehead. She sighed loudly.

                The train crunched and groaned as it appeared to pick up speed. The tickity tackity sounds sped up over the noises of the creaking and grumbling train cars. The bus driver looked down to his left and thought he could see the caboose.  He gripped the steering wheel in anticipation. Jenny was leaning forward in her seat to see out the left side windows. She could see the end approaching as well.

                “Finally! It’s finally almost over,” she said. She went back to her original seat in the middle of the bus and grabbed her backpack and returned to the front of the bus; to the cool girl seat.  The dinging caboose passed in front of the bus and then traveled toward the horizon. The red and white train crossing arm rose and the driver put the bus in gear. The bus rolled forward over the bumpy tracks and down the two lane road.

                “That was probably the longest train ever! I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait so long. I bet you’re glad that train is done. I bet you have a family you want to get home to too. I bet you have a nice family. Do you have a family? That’s okay if you don’t answer. It’s probably private. I just have a lot of questions about stuff. At least that’s what my mother says about me. Always asking questions, she says about me,” said Jenny.

                The driver looked over and Jenny and nodded. Jenny was surprised he was listening. Ms. Stephen’s was nice but she didn’t really listen to anyone as she drove. She used to yell to stop talking to her while she was driving.  It was so mean but it was probably for safety’s sake or something. Jenny smiled and put her backpack on over her shoulders. The bus pulled up in front of her family’s mailboxes and the door opened. Jenny hopped up from the cool girl seat and stood next to the driver. He looked down at her.

                “Thanks for being nice and listening to me. I’ll see you on Monday,” said Jenny as she turned and climbed the stairs off and onto the driveway of her family’s farm. She turned down the road and waved at the bus driver.

                He lifted his hand and waved back, “Adios Niñita”. 

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