(image via Pixabay)
It was a couple of years ago now, in Autumn.
I’d just finished grocery shopping, and I had to take the last bus home. This was a daunting thought– that bus was driven by the driver I always avoided, the one I privately called “The Nazi” and my husband called “Old Scratch.” He was a pasty-white man with a gruff voice, a shaved head and a pair of reflective sunglasses; in the early mornings, he always blasted the most appallingly misogynistic morning show in the Ohio Valley, the one with three gruff-voiced men making overt rape jokes, on the radio for the whole bus to hear. He liked to banter with the other passengers about how insanitary the Muslims in the Middle East were– how they wiped with their bare hands after using the toilet, and trafficked their daughters in exchange for goats; how they would bring diseases here and stink up the bus if we let them come as refugees.
Old Scratch liked to snarl at me when I boarded the bus. He found fault with the number of bags I was carrying or the way I walked my daughter up the steps. He liked to drive past my stop now and then, claiming he couldn’t stop at this or that designated corner for no reason. Sometimes he would say “you’ve got the wrong bus” and drive away without letting me board, for no other reason than to teach me humility. Once or twice, when I took another bus, I heard him on the radio with the driver calling me “that girl with the baby” even though I’m in my thirties. I was repulsed by Old Scratch.
There are only two buses on each of the routes here in this small town, so I usually planned my day to avoid Old Scratch, but it wasn’t possible this time. I saw his bus had already arrived outside Wal Mart– it was pulled over into the fire lane with the blinkers on, and he was outside, his sunglasses off, smoking a cigarette. He looked almost human without his glasses.
“Is the bus going to be leaving?” I asked in a polite whisper as I approached. I wondered if it was broken down, and if I’d have to walk three miles.
“I’m the last one.” He looked shaken, terrified– decidedly human, for the first time. His eyes were bright blue.
I boarded the bus.
Old Scratch got in the driver’s seat and put the bus into gear.
I was the only passenger– it was just me and Old Scratch, rumbling across the parking lot.
“I had to call the paramedics.”