Thursday

straight off the bus

It was a summery sort of day and the sun hung high in the sky all big and bright and yellow. The sky was nice too; it was blue like it only ever seems to be in movies. It was a perfect day. The windows on the bus were all open which was good because it let in a breeze. I am pretty sure it would have been really hot without that breeze and I liked the way it ruffled my hair. The bus was only about half full which was fine because it had my favourite people on it and for this perfect day as far as I was concerned that which made me happy was all that mattered. Eight of us, plus the driver, plus Jim and Annie, that makes eleven. Eleven people on the bus. I count it out with my fingers, tap one, tap two, tap three to eleven and then when I am done I do it again. I like to count, tap one, tap two, tap three and so on. Annie sees me counting and makes a little frown so I hide my hands beneath my bag and tap a little softer. I smile to Annie and Annie smiles back. I like it better when she smiles than when she frowns.

Secretly under my bag I keep counting to eleven but it starts to upset me as eleven really isn’t a good number. The more I think about it the more upset I get. Nothing divides into eleven, ten would be better because there is a zero. It is a good round nice number. Twelve would be ok too, two sixes or three fours or four threes even. What good is eleven? Eleven is no good that’s what. My head starts to hurt and I am breathing really fast I’m making little noises and all the time counting to eleven because I can’t stop even though I want to. Eleven is a bad number to count to.

I shout when Annie comes and puts her hand on my shoulder. I don’t shout a word because of all the elevens in my head it’s more like a noise, a noise like an animal would make, this upsets me enough to make me cry. Annie tells me to shush now and I sob incomprehensibly as I try to explain about the elevens. My crying starts to make one or two of my friends get upset too. Annie keeps telling me to shush and she takes both of my hands and I can’t count anymore. I see her nod to Jim and Jim starts searching inside one of the bags and I think I know what he is looking for so I try to calm down. Not counting stops the elevens which makes it a lot easier. I explain to Annie about the elevens and she says I should try to count something else. I told her my scarf that I was knitting was exactly eighty stitches across and was in my bag so maybe I would do that for a while. Jim leaves his bag alone now I have calmed down and I pick up the knitting and start but it’s no good. I am still counting elevens and I know my scarf will be ruined.

There is Georgie, she is number one and she had had her hair plaited for today. It looks a little tight and Georgie looks a little tired. Susan is number two, I upset Susan with my crying and Annie is consoling her now. Susan always wears a yellow and white checked pinafore I don’t know why. Bridgette is number three and she has very thick glasses on because her eyesight is very poor. Bridgette, who is number three, likes to read even though they have told her it makes her eyes worse. Bridgette is reading a very old copy of Wuthering Heights that her mother gave her. It is her favourite. Grace is number four and wears a new scarf around her head, it is orange and brown and silk and suits her very much. Grace has darker skin than the rest of us and once told me that autumn colours look best on her. Caroline is number five and you must never shorten her name. She doesn’t like it very much and starts to shout very loudly. Otherwise she is very nice. Joanne is number six and has a very interesting accent. I’m sure it is Spanish but she won’t tell anyone where she is from. Joanne has crazy black hair which she loves very much. Joanne’s biggest fear is that she will get Cancer and lose her hair; it keeps her up some nights. Number seven is Marie and Marie is not her real name her real name is Gertrude. Marie is her middle name but she is right to keep Marie. I think Gertrude is a terribly ugly name and Marie isn’t ugly enough to be a Gertrude.

Number eight is me and I am knitting elevens.

Number nine is Annie and I do like Annie even when she is stern sometimes. I know Annie is only ever stern because she has to be. I even like her although I think she is probably a lesbian and a very plain one at that. Number ten is Jim and Jim is very nice too. Half of the girls fancy him but I don’t very much. His hair is too greasy and I think his eyes are a little close together, plus, one opens a little bit less than the other and sometimes this upsets me. But Jim is very funny and very gentle. Everyone likes Jim and I think half the girls fancy him more because he is a nice person than anything.

Number eleven is the bus driver and I don’t know him but I hate him. It’s not personal really, he’s number eleven and the elevens are making my head hurt which isn’t fair because this was supposed to be a perfect day. Number eleven is the bus driver and he doesn’t have any hair, his scalp is shiny and his eyebrows are long. Number eleven is the bus driver and his blue shirt sleeves are rolled up and he has vulgar tattoos on his arms. Number eleven is the bus driver and I really, really, hate him.

There was supposed to be twenty. Annie and Jim, the bus driver, us eight and nine others but the other nine were bad and they lost all their rights. The other nine are always bad and if they had come with us they would have surely made trouble anyway. Maybe it would have been ok though because then there would be twenty and I can tap out five fours on my fingers very nicely indeed. The others aren’t going to ruin my day but the elevens might. My scarf has narrowed out now because I am knitting elevens.

We arrive at the farm park and the bus stops under the biggest tree I have ever seen. I ask Annie what type of tree it is and she tells me it is an oak. I tell her it must be at least a hundred and Annie laughs. It’s ok though because I don’t think she is laughing at me. We all get off the bus and Jim and Annie split us into two groups of four. I could tap out twos and fours but my head is full of elevens. We are them paired off and made to hold hands. In my group is Number two Susan who is holding hands with Number seven Marie. Then there is me, Number eight, and I am holding hands with Number four who is Grace. We are to go with Jim today. Jim buys us some special feed for the little animals and we laugh as their rough tongues tickle our hands. We then go to see the owls which I love. I like the feathers and I like the way their heads turn. Grace doesn’t like the owls so much but she hardly complains. I doubt the other group will get to come see the owls as Joanne is fiercely afraid of feathers. The owls nearly make me forget the elevens.

Lunchtime arrives faster than you would believe and we go to a pretty picnic area to have the lunches that we were allowed to make ourselves. I find my lunch box in my bag but my bottle of apple and blackcurrant squash isn’t there. I empty my bag, then put everything back in, then empty it again but it still isn’t there. Annie comes over to ask me if everything is ok and I tell her my squash is gone from my bag. I am a little upset about this. Annie tells me I probably left it on the bus. She points behind the picnic tables to the big tree where the bus is and says I can go look for it as long as I stay in sight.

This is important.
It shows she trusts me.

I gather up my big cloth bag and run over to the bus but as I am about to get on the loathsome horrible bus driver steps out. He grins at me and I see one of his teeth is gold and he offers me one of the cigarettes he has in his vile sweaty hand. I look down and shake my head and try to push past him to get on the bus. He laughs and I think he’s laughing at me so I run up the bus steps to my seat. My bottle is there and I hold it tightly while I try to breathe but the eleven is in my head and I’m breathing faster. I hold my bottle and look out the bus windows I can see the number eleven I can see the bus driver sat on the steps smoking his repulsive cigarette. I drop my bottle and the elevens threaten to come bursting out of my ears. Tap one, tap two, tap three.. I try to remember what Annie said about calming down and put my hands in my bag.

I am not really surprised at what I pull out.
Annie will be mad.

When my breathing is normal again I look to see if number eleven is still chimney stacking his gold tooth tinged smoke. He is and the white billows over his shiny head but he is nearly finished so I can get off the bus. I move down to the front with my hands in my bag and shuffle about until he is ready to move and let me by. His gold grin as I step past and the smell of nicotine and sweat don’t bother me as much as they usually would. Number eleven nods his head a little as I move past him and he turns to get back on the bus. I pull my knitting needle straight out the bag and push it hard into his temple. It sticks out like a strange horn. I used to be a doctor once I know where it needs to go. Number eleven looks surprised but he doesn’t have a lot of time to figure out what happened. Number eleven shudders as he falls down and he coughs up a bit of blood. Number eleven stops breathing. I can hear Annie and Jim shouting and running and that’s ok. Ten is a much nicer number than eleven. Tap one, tap two, tap three….

Saturday

stream of consciousness - nanowrimo chapter three

I haven’t had a lot of sleep recently so am more than a little surprised to wake up on the sofa after a brief doze. Someone has kindly removed the coffee mug from my hands to save me from spilling it all over myself. I see the blue and white mug resting on the heavy wooden coffee table. My first thought is that there is no coaster, this might ruin the table. I fight back an overwhelming urge to laugh at the futility of this concern. I fear if I start laughing I may never stop and this would make me no better than those who run the streets. I reach for the coffee but it has gone cold. I head to the kitchen to refresh myself. It’s important to stay as awake as possible. We used to do it in shifts with people resting and people watching but we got lonely. We decided it was better to stay together. Maybe it’s better to not die alone. I’m new at this. The coffee machine gurgles and splutters as a fresh batch is made. We have tinned food salvaged from what was left of a supermarket near where I used to live. Lots of packets of freeze dried coffee pile the work surfaces and endless packets of cigarettes. I think the end of the world would probably be unbearable without something to smoke. The coffee machine gurgles and I turn out the lights so I can peek out of the blinds to see the street. I know what I’ll see but I do like to look. The street is empty and dark, a sole street light on the other side of the roundabout remains intact. Puddles of liquid dot the roads. It could be rain; it could be blood or other human secretary fluids I can’t tell from here. This is a very busy road; it’s weird to see it so empty. Well, it was weird at fist. I’ve grown used to the calm and the quiet now. I think a part of me embraces it. The coffee machine gurgles one last time before sighing out the hiss that tells me the coffee is ready. I drop the blind back down over the sash window and switch on the light. I pour my mug and the mugs of those I hold dearest. Plain black, no milk. We couldn’t find any milk, this bothers me less than the others I think because I never took milk anyway. The mugs go onto a tray and the tray I carry back to the sofas and place on the coffee table. Hands reach for the drinks and we continue our silent patient vigil.