Hello to all my new fans, and thanks for the comments.
This is something I wrote may years ago, but not as long ago as the subject matter. FYI the copper coins were old pennies, and that a/ dtaes the story, and b/ dates me even further. Yikes I’m old.
The little Boy stood at the bus-stop. In one hand he clutched the fare for the journey; the four big copper coins were warm from his grasp. Safely zipped into a pocket of his coat was the fare for the return. This was the first time he had been allowed to take a bus on his own, and he was very excited – and just a bit scared.
He’d done this journey dozens of times with his mum, but he was still fretting. He knew the bus would be full at this time of the day. What if he simply couldn’t get on, if the bus was too crowded? If he got on, he was worried that he’d miss the landmark that would tell him his stop was coming up. Also he was very small. What happened if he couldn’t get through the rush hour crowd, just couldn’t get off? He hoped to get a seat near the rear platform. But all in all the worries were outweighed by the pleasure of feeling grown up. Not an adult, but grown up enough to travel on his own, and pay his own fare to the conductor, and get off at his stop.
Little did he know, but his mum was at home having the same misgivings, although sharing the same pride that he was now out on his own. He was a sensible child, if sometimes a bit of a dreamer; she knew he was to be trusted. So she had carefully counted out the bus fare, repeated endlessly the name of the stop he needed, told him to ask the conductor for help if he got scared or lost, waved him off, and fought back the tears as she watched her little boy disappear down the road into his big new world. And now she worried.
She needn’t have. As the Boy anxiously scanned the road for any sign of the bus, he became aware of someone behind him. ‘Hello,’ said a voice.
He turned. The voice belonged to a friend of his mum, and mother of one of his playmates.
‘Where are you going?’ asked the friend.
‘Into town,’ he replied proudly.
‘Well so am I. You can come with me.’
His heart sank. What could he say? He couldn’t really tell her he wanted to be on his own. That would be rude, he could see that, and his mum had some pretty strong views on rudeness. But he didn’t want to go on the bus with her. How could he tell her that he wanted to do this on his own, get where he needed to be without help, to feel brave, to feel grown up?
The bus arrived, and he stood back to let the friend get on before him as he had been taught. She got on, found a seat, and patted the one next to her, smiling at him. Reluctantly he sat down. As the conductor came round he proffered his fare, but the friend said ‘One and a half to town, please,’ and paid for him. He put his money away.
He hadn’t wanted that at all. He’d wanted to pay for himself, tell the conductor where he was going and give him the money. Why didn’t she simply see that? Adults could be very dense at times.
The friend chatted to him, and he did his best to be polite, and to hide his bitter disappointment. They talked about his school, his family, about the daughter with whom he often played. They arrived at their stop, and the friend shepherded him carefully through the throng. They got off the bus together, and went their separate ways.
On the journey home, he did it all himself. But it wasn’t the same. It just wasn’t the same.