Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Bus Story: AM Version

Yes, it’s time to ride the bus again.

When I rode the bus to work in the mornings, I shared it with 7 or 8 people who worked at a sheltered workshop. They had cognitive or emotional difficulties. Some of them remained in the sheltered workshops and others were able to get jobs in the community.

My favorite of these passengers was Stan. Stan was the embodiment of ebullience.

His conversation was filled with stories of outings with his family and on his own. His favorite weekly ritual was a bus trip to the local mall where he had lunch. I was never sure what he ate as an entree, but dessert was always a do-it-yourself sundae and 6 cups of coffee.

One morning Stan got on the bus and sat next to me.

“This weekend I made up six new words.”

“And definitions?” I asked.

The light in his eyes dimmed and he was speechless. I felt wretched.

“Well, it must take a quite a while to come up with definitions,” I offered.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. And joy unrestrained was restored.

Stan had a relationship of sorts with Liz, another workshop client. Liz was taciturn. She said little and she spoke only to Stan.

“Tea bag!” she bellowed one morning.

I was so startled that the novel I was reading was suddenly airborne and it was only with great luck that I caught it before it hit the floor.

I looked across the aisle to see Stan silently giving Liz a teabag. Liz was also silent and moved to the back of the bus. Every morning Liz would demand her teabag and Stan would supply it. This little ritual occurred morning after morning.

At one point I had flu for a few days and so missed work. When I returned to the bus things had changed. Stan seemed downcast. He did not so much as nod a greeting.

Liz got on the bus at her stop.

“Tea bag.”

Stan stared at his lap.

“Tea bag. Tea bag. Tea bag. Tea bag. TEA BAG!”

Stan stared at his lap.

Liz finally gave up and moved to her seat toward the back of the bus. When the bus stopped at the workshop, Stan was off in a flash.

“I missed something,” I said to Jim, the bus driver.

“Well, it goes something like this. Stan told me that Liz stole his wallet and wasn’t even especially subtle about it. She denied she stole it and that’s where things stand. And you know how Stan is. He just believes the best of everybody, even Liz.”

“And you think he’s wrong.”

“I think he’s lucky she didn’t cut out his heart and eat it as a snack.”

The next day, having grown immune to the morning drama, I returned to reading my novel. Stan bounded onto the bus.

“Good morning!” he said.

When Liz got on the bus, she went right to Stan.

“Tea bag.”

Stan handed over the tea bag and Liz moved to the back of the bus.

After they got off the bus, I turned to Jim.

“So what do you think changed?” I asked.

“Oh, Steph, Stan isn’t like you and me. He forgives.”

©  2014 Stephanie Patterson


  1. Wow, what a perfectly brief and wonderful story. Really makes you think.

  2. Great short story, Steph. Never saw the great last line coming! Bob

  3. Thank you both.