by William Michaelian
Let me tell you, that’s a day I’ll never forget. I was standing at the bus stop, when a guy walked up pushing a shopping cart full of empty cans and bottles. When the bus came, the driver lowered the wheelchair lift and the guy pushed the cart into the bus. Then I got on.
Within a few seconds, the whole bus smelled like a brewery. Since I was sitting near the front, I asked the bus driver why he let the guy bring his filthy cans and bottles onto the bus. The driver shrugged and said, “If I don’t, he won’t be able to get the deposit and pay me back.”
“Pay you back?” I said. “For what? His bus fare?”
And the bus driver said, “No, for killing his wife.”
As we continued up the road, I thought this over. The guy had maybe five or six dollars’ worth of cans and bottles in the cart. That was certainly a lot less than anyone would charge for killing a man’s wife. So I said to the bus driver, “How much did you charge, if I may ask?”
“Thirty-seven thousand dollars,” the bus driver said.
“And how much have you received so far?” I said.
“Twelve dollars and thirty-five cents,” the bus driver said.
“And what about the police?” I said. “Haven’t they found out about it?”
The bus driver looked at me and shook his head.
I asked him why.
He said, “Because they don’t know she’s dead.”
When I asked him how that was possible, he pointed to a seat near the back. “There she is,” he said. “Riding next to her husband.”
I looked. Sure enough, a dead woman was propped up in the seat, riding next to the guy who had brought on the empty cans and bottles. The odd thing was, both of them seemed quite happy. I was about to ask the driver how long he expected to get away with such an arrangement when he suddenly slammed on the brakes to avoid an accident. This sent the dead woman, her husband, and the cans and bottles flying into the aisle. When they saw her, the other riders screamed. “She’s dead,” one of them exclaimed.
“Great,” I said. “Now you’ve done it. The perfect crime, foiled.”
But the bus driver was one cool customer. He calmly pulled to the side of the road and stopped, then told everyone to sit down and relax. After that, he scooped up the dead woman and put her back on her seat. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said. “Are you all right?” From behind, the dead woman’s husband tugged at her hair to make her look like she was nodding. “Good,” the bus driver said. “If you need anything, just let me know.” Then he went back to his seat and started driving again.
The next stop was mine. By that time, I was more than happy to get off. When I was on the bottom step, the driver called after me, “Have a nice day,” as if nothing had ever happened. But, you know what? I didn’t. And to this day, I’ve never ridden the bus again.
William Michaelian’s newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelian’s other books and links to this site’s other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.