Sinking

Sinking

A Story by Ken C.
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An old bus driver is haunted by his past and makes a sad decision.

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The center of his universe and his ultimate curse: The girl in the red jacket.

The long brown hair, her silver charm bracelet… and the curious way she crunched up her face against the morning sun when she looked up from her iPod.

She rode the bus every morning. Always with a Starbucks cup and a muffin. Whenever Frank stopped, or he saw that he was okay to go a while without looking, he stole glances at her in the rearview mirror.

He pulled up to the stop next to the Rite Aid. The doors opened with a hiss, and Frank snuck another look at the girl in the red jacket. He also caught a look at his own wrinkled old face… how pathetic it was. Frank faced the kid who was boarding. He was digging through his jeans for the fare.

“No charge today,” Frank mumbled.

“Really? Cool.” He went to the back and sat.

Frank closed the doors. Next stop. Next stop was the last one for today. He absently fingered his backpack that lay next to him, making sure the little baggie with the pills was still there… the plan still in place.


It all fell apart eight months ago.

Planted in her little rolly-chair, like a pretty statue answering phones, Tiffany began throwing him glances when he walked by her. She was a pretty young thang, often reminding the office that she was only there temporarily; every time she got something wrong, she’d blush and say, with the slightest of smiles, “Sorry… I’m only a temp, you know.”

Frank began to casually fantasize about her, reminding himself how silly it was, but still walking by her desk more and more often to go to the bathroom, or to get coffee, or borrow a pen.

Eight months ago, Tiffany asked him if he was going to the Christmas party. So casual. She would be there, she told him.

“Of course, I will.” he said.

He sent Martha a text message to ask if she wanted to go.

“Will Mark be there?” she replied.

She thought Mark was weird. She wanted nothing to do with him ever since a rumor surfaced that he was a drug dealer. Frank hesitated. Mark probably wouldn’t come, but…

“Yep,” he texted.

The next hours went by so fast. The workday seemed to end much earlier than usual and soon everyone had migrated downstairs. Frank remembered talking with Tiffany by the punch, feeling good, feeling a little bit drunk… She touched him in a certain spot, she lead him to another certain spot, a secret little spot, and they quickly made love like teenagers underneath the stadium.

Then Frank called Martha for a ride.

She pulled up in front of the building. He got in, shivering… and then...

“How was it?” she said.

He must have been more drunk than he’d realized, because he immediately answered, “The sex? Great!”

The ride home was followed by several days of fighting, during which Martha called in to work and told his boss about Frank’s and Tiffany’s relations the night of the Christmas party. With Martha left wanting a divorce, Frank reluctantly moved out.

The day after he moved his things out of Martha’s house, Frank went to work as usual, the normal fake smile absent. In the middle of the workday, he received an email notifying him of his termination.

So that was it. Not a little meeting, not even with the boss’s office right there, not a phone call, not even a letter sent to his home. An email, a fateful email that probably took two minutes to type, sent to his work email address. The official You Have Nothing Left email.

Frank immediately stood up and walked out of the building. Then he returned, sent a quick F**k You Too email back, and left again, for good this time, leaving all of his things behind.

He eventually found a cheap apartment. Finding another job was not so easy; apparently, the fatal phone call his wife had made carried enough momentum to effectively spread a bad reputation about him, reducing the value of his college degree and previous work experience to practically nothing. Once Frank realized this (and finally accepted it), he found a job driving a bus. And then he thought he might be okay.

He could comfortably pay his rent on time; he could still afford to buy that fancy coffee he’d gotten so used to. He adjusted to the nature of his new job, and eventually came to think that it might suit him just fine. But then he got transferred to another route. The new route required that he get up at 4:00AM to be on time, which wasn’t especially good, and that he pick up the girl in the red jacket every morning at 6:08AM. Which was not especially good at all.

The worst thing about the woman in the red jacket, besides acting exactly like Martha, was that she looked like a perfect hybrid between Martha and Tiffany. It was like they had both come back to haunt him. And the charm bracelet… it had a little chrome house on it. At the right distance, and with a tiny bit of imagination, it looked a lot like the house Martha kicked him out of.

It didn’t bother Frank at first; he only thought it was weird, and after a couple of days he began to ignore her. He knew that he was over Martha and Tiffany. He was leading a brand new life now. And it wasn’t as if Martha or Tiffany had actually come back to haunt him. But the woman in the red jacket returned every morning to ride his bus. Every day, for two weeks, including weekends, because Trudy was on maternity leave. It was enough to drive him crazy. And it had.

Why did i sleep with her, well i never really “slept” with her, haha, why did i ever f**k her, why did i open my drunk mouth why did i go to the party in the first place, why didn’t i just stay home, she probably stayed there another two weeks, why didn’t i just not do it, why did i keep walking past her desk...

When Frank was young, he thought only a fool would kill himself. It was selfish, he thought. It was the most disrespectful thing someone could do to the people who loved him. People who cheated on their wives must just be retarded, as well as those who could not keep a simple job and ended up with nothing to live for.

Next stop. The last stop. He reached up and flipped on the GARAGE light as he opened the doors.

“Everyone out,” he said into the mic.

The mass of passengers in the rearview mirror hesitated.

“Sorry. Uh. The engine light came on, and policy says I have to return the bus to the garage.”

Confused passengers filled the aisle, formed a single file line, and stepped out one by one. Frank pulled the lever that controlled the doors and drove.


It began to rain after about an hour. He was almost there… the closest lake he could think of that would give him some privacy. Cupid Lake.

Frank rolled into the campground as quietly as he could. The last thing he needed was some hero trying to save him.

Ah, here. At the top of a long, steep slope, Frank stopped the bus and nervously adjusted his hat. Here, no one would judge him. Not for a long time. Everyone would focus on the weirdness of the whole thing; no one would notice the drugs at first, no one would know who he was or even why he was there; the fact of his suicide would not be realized until the mechanics of his death had been sorted out.

Frank twisted in his seat and peered behind him. Five dozen empty seats looked back at him. He reached down and gathered the supplies he brought along in his backpack. A bottle of water with a label that portrayed a tranquil landscape with a clear river running through the land; a small transparent sandwich bag with three funny little pills inside.

He got them from Mark. Frank didn’t know the first thing about drugs; luckily, Mark was just dim enough to know what Frank meant when he asked for “Some serious s**t.”

Mark smiled and chuckled. “All-riiiite, Frankie! Gonna do a little partying tonight, eh?” He lead Frank out to his car. “These what you’re looking for?” Mark said, holding up a small orange semi-transparent container.

Frank had no idea what it was, but he said, “No, no. I’m talking about the serious s**t.”

Mark hesitated, and for a frightening moment Frank thought he had been too vague. Then a stupid smile broke across Mark’s face.

“Ooooh! You mean the real s**t. Damn, Frank!”

Then he gave him these three little funny colored pills.

Mark’s warning to only take one echoed in his mind as he emptied the bag into his palm. He flipped them all into his mouth and let his tongue absorb the bitter taste. He unscrewed the cap on the bottle of water and drank half of it.

In the movies, whenever someone wanted to ditch a car in a body of water, they put it in neutral. Frank saw no reason for this; he had never put a vehicle into neutral his whole life. Instead, he put it in drive. He dug into his backpack. Bending over caused his head to feel like it was being filled with helium. Frank took out the final object: a hefty brick. He knelt down and gently placed the brick on the gas pedal. The bus lurched forward, sending random colors into his vision. He struggled to stand. Frank leaned on a lever and the doors opened.

HISS… chuck.

That was okay. It would probably make it faster. Frank walked as slowly as he could to a seat in the middle of the bus and sat. Trees moved past him and he felt gravity begin to turn sideways. He closed his eyes, trying not to let panic creep into his foggy mind, bracing for impact. Hopefully he would be unconscious before his survival instincts kicked in.

He felt the seat beneath him gain speed, and he gripped the sides. Soon the slope leveled out and Frank took a deep breath. Suddenly the bus hit the water. It was like he’d been thrown into a brick wall. He yelped in surprise. Water gushed in through the doors.

Already, even with the beginnings of fatigue weighing down his mind, he wanted to get up from his seat and run, but he made himself stay seated. Soon he wouldn’t even be aware what was happening. All he had to do was wait.

“WHAT! F**K! MAN, WHAT THE F**K!”

Frank jumped up and turned, almost falling right back down again.

A hallucination. It had to be. A man in a dirty baseball cap, running between seats and yelling. A needle rolled across the floor.

“F**K, DUDE! AW S**T, MAN!”

The man suddenly noticed Frank standing there and stumbled toward him. He clutched at his shirt. His bloodshot eyes bulged with panic.

He said, very, very quietly, “Dude. You-you know the way outta here, huh? You gonna get me outta here?”

“Oh, no,” said Frank. The words floated out of his mouth like balloon animals with a mind of their own. “Oh, no, no, way! You aren’t supposed to happen here. You aren’t part of the plan, man! I’m gonna die soon!”

The man’s eyes widened. “Oh, s**t, man! Holy crap!” He looked around at the rising water. It was nearly up past their knees already, and the doors were letting in more water every second.

“Don’t die, man. Okay?” said Frank. “Do me one last favor, okay? Get yourself out of here.”

“How, dude? From where? It’s all windows now. How the hell did I get in here?” He began to frantically look between the seats, which were almost completely submerged.

Frank held his head. It felt like it had gained forty pounds. His eyelids began to droop, and he could feel his consciousness begin to slip away.

The water was waist high now. It was cold.

Running out of time, thought Frank.

“Here,” said Frank. “Get out.” He grabbed the last passenger with all the strength he had and pushed him toward the door.

The man started flailing his arms around. “What- GET YOUR HANDS OFFA ME!” 

Frank struggled to fight him. His bones felt like thin straws.

“I’m just… I’m just trying to…”

He was so close to the door. Like the current of a river coming through every crack… gallons of water being thrown at his legs… holding onto the man, trying to push him out… the colors in his vision… blackness eating at his mind… taking over… the strength being sucked from him…  the struggling man in his hands… so tired… the regret… 

His knees collapsed, bringing the water up to his lips. 

The blackness… taking over…

© 2010 Ken C.


Author's Note

Ken C.
I spent some time on this one... maybe too much. I'm really paranoid that I summarize too much in the first half. Am I imagining this, or what?

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Featured Review

This is REALLY good. However, I do agree with you. I think you did summarize a bit much in the beginning. Not horribly so, but I think you need a better introduction as to who Martha is. It took me a minute to connect the pieces there. Also, were they happy? Were they already having problems and him sleeping with the girl was just the last straw? And who is Mark? The rest of it after that was really good. I hope you'll continue it.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Great story! I don't feel that you summarized too much at all. One thing that you do really well, that I struggle with, is maintain a consitent voice throughout the piece. It feels like Frank talking all along. Sometimes when I re-read my own work, I get the feeling that the writer (me) is competing with the narrator to tell the tale. There is none of that here...it's very smooth.
I thought, at first, that the bus driver intended to do something awful to the lady in the red jacket. If it was your intention to lead me in that direction and then change it up, you accomplished it perfectly. I disliked the character at first, but by the end felt terrible for him. Your development of him was masterful.
I do have a couple of suggestions that might make it read a little more fluidly:
1) I just didn’t like the bad reputation line ‘cause you didn’t continue the great analogy of accusations having momentum. I might have done something like this. - He eventually found a cheap apartment. Finding another job was not so easy; apparently, the fatal phone call his wife had made carried enough momentum to precede his arrival at interview after interview, reducing the value of his college degree and previous work experience to practically nothing. Once Frank realized this (and finally accepted it), he found a job driving a bus. And then he thought he might be okay.
2) I would have liked some description of Frank’s initial reaction to the drugs he ingested. Anyone who’s done drugs (like me) will be wondering how long it took for the “serious s**t” to begin affecting him. It could have been a simple statement like The bus lurched forward, and starbursts of vivid color exploded in his field of view. Mark hadn’t been joking. He’d really given him the good stuff…
3) A needle rolled across the floor This confused me for a moment. I think you were implying that the guy with the dirty cap was a junkie who’d passed out in one of the seats. How about an empty syringe with caramelized goo clinging to the inside of its plastic cylinder rolled in a lazy arch on the rubberized floor. My drugged mind imagined it sought the same fate as I after being shared by one junkie too many. Too wordy maybe…but I think it would be good to indicate how that guy ended up on the bus without directly informing the reader.
I really love what you’ve created here. My comments are merely meant to show which spots left me craving more description. It may have been your intention to leave me craving more. Make no mistake, I think it’s wonderful just as you’ve posted it. So much though that I was inspired to write a lengthy review.
Thanks for your help with my story.


Posted 10 Years Ago


Yeah i agree too much summarize but its not horrible....I loved it! it took me a couple lines to figure out who Martha was but apart from that really really good i hope there's a next part!

Posted 10 Years Ago


This is REALLY good. However, I do agree with you. I think you did summarize a bit much in the beginning. Not horribly so, but I think you need a better introduction as to who Martha is. It took me a minute to connect the pieces there. Also, were they happy? Were they already having problems and him sleeping with the girl was just the last straw? And who is Mark? The rest of it after that was really good. I hope you'll continue it.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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533 Views
3 Reviews
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Added on April 9, 2010
Last Updated on April 12, 2010
Tags: depressing, cliff, hanger, kill, suicide, bus, road, lady, love, job, drugs, third, person

Author

Ken C.
Ken C.

Beaverton, OR



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The Wheels The Wheels

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