Here’s the first installment of what I’m calling Stories in Motion. They’re nuggets of fiction written on the San Francisco Muni. Don’t worry, not every story is about a bus.
Stories in Motion
“A Dog’s Antiquity”
There it sat, the Muni Ticket. Had been placed, if not misplaced, at the foot of the third-to-last row. The only row that was turned, watching what would follow and unfold behind the bus. It was a bygone medium, and felt jealous of the air around her. The air that had at some point begun to harbor everyone’s secrets. (Their promises still wore masks of being coded, hoping never to suggest translation.) The Ticket had been forgotten by a child, like so many items of old –and of new for that matter. The named Grace had been reared in a culture that was long void of meaningful pieces of paper. Her carelessness bedfellow-ed the ruckus of a driver who was on his second-to-last route of a day that shadowed a particular punctuation, and he was speeding to end that sentence with a period. These two drawings had ushered three dimensions of loss: first Grace’s footing, then her grasp, and finally a reason to care. All of which brought a Ticket to a floor.
This was where a man named James later sat, when the perpetrators of the Ticket’s existence had stepped into a different deck’s shuffle, with his dog, Ashley; named after cremated remains that impersonated her fur’s tint. James saw the Muni Ticket, lost on the floor, not even notable enough to be stepped on, and it steadied the pulse of a long-dead memory.
He had used Muni Tickets when he first moved to San Francisco. Transfers one could buy at some of the island stops to avoid the stage fright of feeding a machine beneath the speeding glare of a driver and his Balance Beam Standers who searched for distraction long before it was provided by their palm. A swaying body of faces, fragmented sentences and each with its own volume of personality. He would buy his ticket in peace, like the one now at his feet, and it provided him a cloak to his favorite chore at the time: to hide a bag of Ashley’s poop, back when she had a young and ample digestive track. He’d hide it in his backpack as he boarded, then, just before stepping off the bus, he’d slip it anywhere he could where it wouldn’t be noticed. At least with the eye. He loved the thought of each and every person taking the time to inventory their co-passengers and trying to decide who farted; or sharted, depending on their vicinity to the bag. He figured it would help make the ride pass more quickly for them, as they played their game of Who-Done-It. He did it as a favor to others, in the same vein as those who played loud music that they assumed everyone else loved as much as they did.
Now he sat and, thinking of those times, he looked down at Ashley. She was an old-timer now, long retired from most doggish pastimes. But hey, he thought, anyone alive isn’t too old to live. He reached into his backpack and got out Ashley’s Greenies. Her favorite snack that also gave her the farts. Maybe because they were intended for cats, so they felt vengeful whenever they their use felt ill-intended. James reached down to her alerted nose and fed her three of them, a typical day’s entire ration. Then he sat back and didn’t even have to wait three stops before Ashely backfired. Soon the whole bus’s population had words in their eyes, all bemoaning the taste in their noses. And to James’s delight, bounding from person to person, with silent pleads of mercy. No one even glanced at Ashely though, and James felt how he used to when he’d play with his Ouija Board: the quiet drawl of unmentionables. He decided to let the speeches mingle and pulled the chord.
As he and Ashley stepped off, they passed Grace and her mom, returning to the bus after seeing the dentist. Mom had gotten Grace a new transfer because she had no way of realizing the impact of the one that had been lost. But she was about to find out.