The usual suspects had boarded the bus: the elderly woman with her Bible and her big purse and her long dark stockings; the brush cut boy with his skateboard; the gaggle of giggling schoolgirls, all prepped out for the mall; the morose man with the day-old beard and dirty jeans; and the shy teenager girl who got on and sat apart from every one else.
And one other guy – a new rider – got on the bus.
At first, he wasn’t noticed at all. Various riders had their earphones on, and were rocking out to whatever Lady Gaga song had caught their attention. The giggling girls were just where you’d expect them to be: sitting at the back of the bus, whispering and laughing with each other. The old woman was just sitting there, prim as could be, face forward and feet together. The very picture of studious grace, unflappable.
Even though there were plenty of empty seats on the air-conditioned bus, the new guy had elected not to sit at all.
Instead, he stood there, eyes bugged out as he stared at the rest of the passengers.
The old woman noticed him first. Hard not to, really. He was middle-aged at best, yet he sported a younger style: he wore a wife-beater t-shirt, and bright yellow shorts, no socks and tennis shoes. When he scratched his face, she realized he had a tattoo of an anchor on his arm. As he whipped his head around, alternating between watching the road ahead, and checking out the passengers, she saw his blonde mullet doing its level best to keep up with his head. The corners of the old lady’s mouth threatened to break out into a grin, but she kept it firmly in check. She recalled her mother’s words so many years ago. “Eunice, we don’t know why people look the way they do. There’s always a reason, though we may not always know what that is.” She recalled her mother taking a deep drag of her cigarette, and then raising her head before expelling the smoke. “So don’t let me catch you making fun of them.” She paused, then continued. “Maybe you look funny to someone – would you want them laughing at you?”
She surely would not. So she kept her mien as neutral as could be.
She watched as mullet man stared at the passengers, then took a deep breath and roared “I WIN!!!”
She cocked her head to the side, looking at him more closely.
“YOU DON’T DIS ME!” he shouted.
The girls at the back erupted into giggles.
“STOP LAUGHING!! IT’S NOT FUNNY” The man’s face twisted into wrinkles and red red rage.
“I’LL KILL YOU IF YOU DON’T STOP”
The woman watched as the bus driver glanced back. Everyone could feel the bus slowing down.
The mullet man whipped his head back to the driver. “DON’T STOP DRIVING, MAN. I GOT PLACES TO BE.”
“I SAID DON’T STOP. KEEP GOING.”
“YOU WANNA DIE TOO, MAN?”
The bus went back to normal speed, while the bus driver said nothing.
“I ASKED YOU A QUESTION, MAN!”
“No sir. I don’t want to die.”
“GOOD. ‘CAUSE I WON AND I NEED TO GO CELEBRATE.”
The girls at the back had stopped giggling at this point, and were now staring at the man.
In fact, everyone was staring at him. He had won everyone’s attention.
The old lady had had enough. She stood up and began walking toward him.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, GRANDMA?”
“Young man. I think you’ve scared us enough. Please sit down and be quiet.”
His eyes bugged out even more. “WHAT?”
“You heard me, sir. Sit down and stop scaring everyone.”
“YOU WANNA DIE, OLD HAG?”
She put her frail hand on his arm. “Oh I suppose I’ll die eventually. But not today.”
“SAYS WHO?” – and with that, he raised his other hand into a fist and swung at her.
She ducked and grabbed his pinky finger and twisted it hard. He shrieked in disbelief, as she quickly got into his instep and levered him over her hip and onto the ground. She then stomped on his crotch, and he doubled over in pain.
No one had any idea what she had in her oversized purse. Whatever it was, the passengers all realized it must have been heavy because when she clocked him with it, he passed out cold.
The stunned passengers stared in disbelief as the bus pulled to the side of the road. Shortly, they could hear the sound of the driver calling dispatch and asking for police assistance.
The young skateboarder broke the silence with a grin. “Way to go, lady!!”
Even the morose dirty man smiled. “What made you go up against him like that?”
The old woman frowned. “Well, I suppose it’s like the Good Book says. ‘The Lord helps those who helps themselves.'”
The shy teen cleared her throat. “Excuse me, ma’am, but, um, if you mean the Bible – it doesn’t say that at all.”
The girl looked at the suddenly frowning other passengers. “Well, it doesn’t! People think it does and they all say it, but it’s not in there.”
The old lady sat down with a heavy sigh. “It doesn’t?”
The old lady shrugged. “Well it should.”