at the bus stop

Her shoes slapped the concrete faster and faster. Chest heaving, Jane tried to yell for someone to hold the door, but her voice did not come quickly enough.

She slowed to a walk and tried to avoid inhaling the cloud of exhaust the bus left behind. Coughing, she sat down on the bench and tried to catch her breath.

“That’s why I don’t bother running.”

Jane turned to find a girl in skinny jeans and a gray, plaid shirt plopping down onto the bench next to her, a bright smile across her face.

“I had to try,” Jane sighed, “who knows when the next bus will come.”

“Whenever I miss a bus, I figure there’s a good reason,” the girl leaned back and lit a cigarette, offering the pack to Jane. “It won’t help the exhaust, but it might calm you down a bit. Nothing we can do now but wait.”

“Thanks.” Jane took the offer despite having promised her friends she would quit just the night before. “I’m going to be so late.”

“There’s no use lamenting that. Between stress and the cigarette you’ll give yourself a heart attack.”

You’re smoking.” Jane raised an eyebrow at the girl. She wondered how they looked, a forty-year-old woman sitting and smoking with a girl who couldn’t have been older than twenty. Her black pant suit itched against her legs, hot from the sun.

The girl smiled again, exhaled two long gray streams through her nose, “I’m not stressed out. I don’t have to be anywhere for another two hours.”

“That’s crazy. We should be able to trust the timetables.”

“True, but the reality is we can’t. We can only adapt to the circumstances.”

“Or get a car,” Jane said wryly.

“Sure,” the girl shrugged, “but then we wouldn’t have met.” She winked at Jane slyly and put out her hand, “I’m Taylor.”

“Jane,” she replied, vaguely confused, “nice to meet you.”

The girl squeezed Jane’s hand warmly.

I guess I was meant to be hit on by a twenty-year-old girl today. Better than in a bar, I suppose.

4 thoughts on “at the bus stop

  1. * Story:
    – Was there a beginning, middle, and end?
    Yes.

    – What do you think this story is about?
    It’s about NARINDA HITTING ON A WOMAN AT THE BUS STOP! No, just kiddin’. Hehe. I think it’s about reliance and old habits. With the bus stop time and cigarettes, it’s this toying of old habits sticking around and revealing how much beauty can come out of them.

    * Situation:
    – Were the events of the story conveyed to the reader in a believable way?
    Yes, very much so. Because of this piece being dialogue based, a whole lot of personality comes out of their interactions. I think it extends beyond fictional “believable” and enters the realm of reality – I can imagine that happening right about now irl.

    * Characters:
    – Do you believe the decisions that the characters make?
    Yes. There was nothing about their decisions that made it unbelievable. Everything flowed well – both structurally and logically.

    – What behavior seems particularly resonant? How does that behavior represent the characters’ personalities?
    I think the younger woman Jane meets is a bit a cliché – very wise beyond her years but pretentiously so. Maybe a display of more personality other than the wisdom?

    – Are there questions about the characters that still need to be answered?
    More of a ponder – I wonder where they’re headed.

    – What do we want to know about the characters that we’re not being shown or told?
    I think I’d like to see more of what Jane is like – her personality only comes through in responses to this other twenty year old, which is interesting.

    – Is there anything in the characters that seems inconsistent?
    The disconnect of Jane coughing at the bus exhaust and then smoking comes to mind.

    * Point of View:
    – Is the point of view consistent?
    Yes.

    – Are we getting enough of the viewpoint character’s consciousness?
    Not as much as I’d like to see, but that’s just my opinion. Jane seems like a very complex woman…

    * Writer Voice
    – Is the writer writing with an original voice?
    Yes. It’s very flirtatious, the dialogue.

    – Is it consistent?
    Yes.

    * Motif:
    – What image in the story seems particularly vivid?
    “…exhaled two long gray streams through her nose” – it’s so seductive and enigmatic.

    * Concision:
    – Is there anything here that can be excluded?
    I think it would be neat to see how the piece would be interpreted differently if the last line wasn’t there.

    – Is there anything in the story that needs further amplification?
    Can’t think of anything; I like that this piece is very concise yet communicates so much.

  2. As odd as this may sound, they seem like a cute couple. It makes me wonder about their conversation for the next couple hours. It could be very awkward or very invigorating… or a little of both, most likely.

    That being said, the characters here completely win the story. The narration is from the point of view of Jane and I think most readers can relate to her distress, but we could also learn more about her as well. Then, we have to think: would that help the story any if we knew where Jane worked or if she was married? The story is more about two clashing philosophies meeting at a bus stop and having a chat. Still, I feel that Jane is the character that is lacking a little (Taylor is just awesome, btw). I assume since her shoes are clacking, she might be wearing platforms or heels or something? As a 40-year-old, how would it feel to sprint after a bus? You have that she’s uncomfortable sweating in her pant suit, which is a great image, but is she in pain while she’s catching her breath? You have some great details but you could touch up on them a little bit to amplify the effect.

    “Whenever I miss a bus, I figure there’s a good reason” is the best line I’ve come across in a while. And I mean that in terms of both hitting on someone and in writing. It basically transforms the mood of the story and the plot in the reader’s mind, all in just one sentence.

    You may want to consider adding some detail to their surroundings. I guess you could leave that up to the reader, but sometimes I picture them being amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, but most times I see them outside of the city, maybe in some dusty road or tourist trap. But that’s more for a private effect. It’s more likely that they are just leaving for work in the morning (or at least Jane is; it’s never clear whether Taylor actually has anywhere to go, though I assume she does and is not worrying about it) and they are surrounded by people. But I’m not sure I like that interpretation. It makes the story too noisy in my head… ah, but maybe that’s just my deal. Thought I’d share, though.

  3. this story begs some quextions for me. which, i suppose, is what flash fiction is about. axing quextions.

    i agree with an earlier comment that there seems to be some pretension within the wise comments of taylor, to jane. taylor seems to speak from a position of freedom, whereby she has two hour windows between commitments. or can afford two hour windows, whereas jane may have come from one job and is going to another. maybe had to drop off a kid for babysitting. maybe the stress wasn’t from missing the bus, but the straw breaking the camel’s back. maybe she had to take her mother to elderly care. maybe she couldn’t possibly budget an extra hour for her commute and was counting on the bus being on time – realistically or not. or, maybe she was irresponsible and woke up late.

    i’m also left curious as to why it’s better to be hit on at a bus stop than a bar?

  4. I ALSO think it’s about Narinda hitting on someone at the bus stop…jk.

    Taylor seems to be more developed as a character than Jane. I also agree that there seems to be no context about why she has two hours to spare and Jane is so stressed, except that L.A. public transport can be annoyingly slow. I wonder whether or not they’ll keep in touch after meeting and chatting, and what these future encounters will be like.

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