The roar of the city was amplified when the pneumatic door cracked open. Wind rushed onto the humid bus. Morgan hesitated a moment at the steps, pulling her coat around her shoulders, until the driver, buffeted by the gale howling through the open door, snapped at her to get off. Surprised by his ferocity, she stumbled, and for an instant was bathed in a wave of pure fear, but she caught herself, and kept her balance as the bus peeled away. She glanced around the desolate, unfamiliar street. In front of a shuttered 24-hour laundromat, an old man with a heavy beard, protected from the wind by the canvas tarpaulin of his hot-dog stand, smiled at her.
On a sunny day in mid-September, Morgan Deckler stepped off the 119 eastbound Fountain Hill bus in Santa Clara, California. She thanked the driver for his service, and he responded with a friendly, if non-committal, wave of one hand. He kept the other firmly on the wheel at 10 o’clock, though the bus was not in motion. Morgan took two easy steps down the bus’s stairs, but the third, onto the pavement of Lexville Street, went awry, and she twisted her right ankle – luckily not to the point of injury. Blushing, she glanced around, and caught the gaze of Lloyd deMaranzo, on his shift’s sixth hour manning Baba’s Best Hot-dogs, on the corner of Lexville and Fourth. He saw her, too, and smiled.
Scowling, Morgan banged at the door as the bus slowed. When it squealed to a halt she muttered “finally,” and took the stairs two at a time, but misjuged it and slipped. She let out a guttural snarl of exasperation and fury, then spotted a hot-dog guy across the street. He’d clearly seen it all. When he smiled at her, with a guileless, innocent smile, full of compassionate fellow-feeling, she swallowed the curse on her lips, and smiled back.
Night, the bus stops. Morgan’s impatient to be home, to be off the cold, indifferent streets, for a few hours at least. The driver doesn’t look at her, just pulls a lever so the door squeals open. She stemps down and tumbles, catches herself with no time to spare, barely keeps her feet. Salt all over the pavement as protection against ice but it’s dangerous underfoot all the same. She gets her balance, looks around. An old hot-dog man across the way has seen the whole thing. Her eyebrows furrow, she looks away, doesn’t see his warm smile before she’s on her way again.
So this Morgan chick’s getting off the bus, right, just like any other time in this sprawling town, except this time she’s going further east than she ever has before – reason doesn’t matter. No time to get into it even if it did, really – and so she’s getting off this bus, taking the steps too quickly, and she slips, right, like right off the steps onto the ground, and the driver, he’s oblivious, he just closes the door and off he goes, but she’s doing this, like, jazz dance, trying to keep her balance, musta been like thirty seconds, and when she’s finally got it, she looks around herself to see if anybody’s seen it, and there’s no one there except for that old hot-dog dude who’s always out front of the Laundromax – he’s got this huge, like, unkempt beard – and he sees her, too, he’s seen the whole thing, so she blushes, embarrassed and all, but the hot-dog guy’s just smilin’ at her, and so she smiles back. It was, like, beautiful.
an exercise incited by Sharon English.