|Photograph by Flora Michèle Marin|
People file onto the bus, filter into the back. One man sticks his head in the door and asks the driver if it is the Rapid.
She says, “No, this is the local.”
“Good,” the man says. “I want the local.” He boards the bus. He wears a white T-shirt and jeans, designer sunglasses, a small backpack slung over his right shoulder.
Some others get on. A student. A woman wearing the baseball cap and polo shirt of a fast food restaurant worker. A man in a pinstriped suit carrying a leather satchel.
“Downtown Santa Monica?” the man in the suit asks.
The driver nods, “Mm-hm.”
Another man gets on. His clothes are filthy, his hair matted. He carries an overstuffed tote bag. Coming out of the top of the tote bag is an old mattress pad with wooly white fibers sticking up every which way.
“Can I just put a little something in the fare box?” he asks the driver. He extends his open hand: scuffed nickel, bent dime.
“Mm-mm,” the driver shakes her head.
“All you have to say is, ‘no,’” the man says, backing off the bus.
Two women get on around him. They carry small suitcases and chat in Mandarin. The driver leans around the women.
“I did say ‘no,’” she says.
“No you didn’t,” the man says over his shoulder. “You said, ‘Mm-mm.’”
The two women pay their fares and find seats, chatting all the while. The driver raises her voice out the door.
“Same thing, though,” she says. “You understood me.”
The man shakes his head, and carries his tote bag over to a bench to sit and wait for the next bus, hoping for a “yes,” or at least a properly uttered “no.”
Jeff Nazzaro lived in Japan for twelve years and now makes his home in Southern California. His flash fiction has appeared in several publications, including BareBack, and is forthcoming in Dogzplot and Fear of Monkeys.