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A story about the 15

October 6, 2016

A short Salzburg  Story about the enigmatic number 15 bus which is now the 27  or is it the 21? 

One Friday afternoon, I was running home from school so fast that I tripped up on the curb and twisted my ankle.

“Enjoy your trip?” came a voice from behind me and a big arm in a pink plaster cast helped me to my feet.

“Ha ha, very funny,” I thought hopping madly along the pavement.

I still managed a gritted smile and to say thank-you.

I saw the number fifteen bus at the bus stop and, deciding the pain in my jilted joint was too much to bear, I climbed onto it and hauled myself onto the back seat.

“How strange,” I thought,” the engine is running but there’s no driver.”

It was then I espied a small felt hat with spikey grey hair sticking out the sides.  The owner of the hat was so small that she (it was a ladies’ hat, although I know that does not mean anything, but well I was just trying to assess the situation) was completely hidden from view. I presumed she had a dog as I could hear snuffling noises from behind the seat.  Or may be she had a cold.  I was not sure.

“Hello ?” I called from the back of the bus.

The hat swung round and was followed by two black hairy ears which popped up from behind the seat.  It reminded me a bit of our toaster, although our toast is not usually as hairy or as black as those ears were. But sometimes it is.

I could just see two pairs of eyes watching me from behind the seat so I asked if they knew the whereabouts of the driver.

“Do you know where the driver is?” I enquired.

“Woof,” said the dog.  Or may be it was the old lady. I was not sure.

“Do you think he will come back soon?” I continued.

“I blooming well hope so,” came a grumpy reply.

“If that driver does not come in thirty seconds I am going to drive the thing myself…”

I counted thirty and looked up again.  Sure enough, the hat moved.  Two legs appeared from behind the seat and a little old lady  (I had been right about the hat) jumped out and made her way to the front of the bus. The dog followed, wagging his tail in anticipation.

“Now then, I haven’t driven one of these things since the war.  I hope I can still do it – it can’t be so different today. Right – clutch, gears, handbrake, indicator…..anything coming ?”

“Woof.”

“Well, off we go then.”

I am too young to remember if buses are the same today as they were during the war.

I presume they are not because the little old lady started off at such a speed that we soon seemed to be out of control. We were actually on two wheels as we went around the corner.

I heard a lot of swearing and barking coming from the front of the bus, but I could not make out what exactly was being said. We were roaring towards the other side of town at this point. We hurtled, swerved and zig-zagged through town followed by angry shouts and raised fists.  I am glad I was not on my bike that day because I think it must have been quite frightening for those who were.

The lady asked me if I was alright and I replied that I was fine.

She then asked me if I would mind stopping off at the graveyard and I replied I did not mind at all.

We finally screeched to a halt at the graveyard.

“Are you coming with me?” asked the lady.

“Will you be long ?” I replied.

“Not as long as the rest of’ em lying around here…” she hoped.

“I just want to visit a friend,” she continued.

“O.K.”I said.

 

We found the friend’s grave quite quickly. It was old and covered in green moss.  On it was engraved the name “Lily Lane” and then some dates when she fell asleep.  I knew that was just a nicer way of saying she had died.

The graveyard was a very peaceful place to rest but there was no time for that.

Out of her basket, my friend took a tiny Christmas tree and a trowel and started to dig a hole at the foot of the grave. She planted the tree and put a small silver star on the top of it.

“Merry Christmas , Lily, sweetheart.” she said in a quiet, grave tone and her lips rested, momentarily  warming the headstone.

I kept quiet for that while.

Before we left, I was given a bag of crumbs and we scattered them all around Lily Lane’s grave.  Scarcely had the crumbs hit the ground, the birds came to feast.  They squabbled and chirruped and squeaked with delight (or perhaps it was greed) and we watched them for a while as they performed their Christmas symphony for Lily.

Finally it was time to leave.

“Can I drop you off anywhere?”

I named the nearest stop to my house and we drove there.

“I hope it was no trouble for you,” I said.

It obviously was no trouble.  Indeed, the old lady was in gear.

 

I loved her for that.

 

I jumped off the bus and waved good-bye until it was out of sight.

I often wonder who that lady was… and if she ever took the number fifteen bus again.

 

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