augury doggerel

Tuesday, October 29, 2002


On the bus in a traffic jam in the rain and dark, waiting to go home, sitting in the only seats that look back on to the rest of the passengers, like facing the wrong way at the movies. The only empty seat is next to me. No one else likes these seats, where you watch and are watched.

At the next stop, the old man with the little dog and the bag of breadcrumbs gets on and asks me if he and his dog won't get in the way. I ask him to please have a seat. He holds his dog on his lap. There is no conversation. He talks and his wet-eyed dog and I listen.

It's raining hard and traffic is almost stopped. The man talks about a flood a long time ago, about coming home to pots floating in the kitchen, cows gone, his grandmother telling him it had all happened in twenty minutes, everything become a river. He exudes the smell of turkey stuffing, of holiday feasts, and it's not the bread in the bag.

Pretty girls get on, sit and laugh for two or three stops, and get off again. They don't like the rain on their hair. Gum cracking is in style among schoolgirls now, and there are always a couple of them on the bus enjoying the attention their annoyance brings. A tall skinhead with a vaguely swasticular patch on his jacket gets on, doesn't punch a ticket, rides one stop, gets off.

The man tells me about what wasn't here before as we pass backwards through what is here now. These stores, this suburb, that one, all were fields and trees out past the city. I ask him about his dog. He says his dog is a stray he found on his walks. His dog is old too, and I catch myself wondering whether it would be worse for the man or his dog to die first.

When we get to the stop near the pond where the runoff from the hills collects ducks, I remind him that it's his stop. The two get off at the same place almost every day. We say goodbye, and he and his dog climb down the bus steps. It's still raining but the ducks are hungry.


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