Heaven’s just a bus ride away.

A story. Fiction. Yeah, fiction.


I

With steady hands, Greta gripped her lunch tray, and through the crowds of jerkoff jocks and bimbo clones, pimply nerds and green-haired freaks, she marched to her empty table in the cafeteria. They were no more to her than noise. She laid down the tray and took a pad of paper out of her bag. In between dripping mouthfuls of spaghetti, she wrote what appeared to be a diary.

The bell rang—time for English. She headed to the trashcan with her leftovers, and stopped. The most handsome man she had ever seen in her life had entered the cafeteria as if he had heard her prayers. Students were leaving, but she couldn’t move, couldn’t even move her eyes. The man pulled a trashcan over to a table and began to sweep in all the abandoned garbage.

She had an idea. She waited.

He stopped when he got near her. “What are you doing? You need to get to class—”

Greta’s tray jumped in the air and flipped over, slopping her with tomato sauce as the tray and its contents landed on the floor.

“Oh! Look what I’ve done! I’m so sorry!”

The custodian rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on!”

She stood there looking at him, mouth hanging a little open.

“Look, just go to class! I’ll clean it up, just go!”

“But mister, look at my blouse, it’s covered in sauce…”

“I’m not doing your laundry! Go to class!”

“Alright, mister…”

She had to stop at the bathroom to blot off as much sauce as she could. By the time she reached the classroom door, it was already locked. She knocked and looked through the narrow window. The teacher’s head snapped to the side and looked at her with its glasses. The teacher stomped over in a rage and tore open the door.

“You’re late, Greta!” She saw the blouse. “And what is this? This is how you show up to class, in this filthy shirt? You think this is funny? Go sit down! And if you want to dilly-dally after lunch and make a mess of yourself, you can do it after school during detention!”

Therefore, later that afternoon, Greta sat at her desk, sucking her eraser. She could hear other students outside the classroom, laughing and slamming their lockers, getting ready to leave. She thought for a minute, and held her pencil to the paper. The voices were fading. She knew Mrs. Worthington would be coming back any minute, but… Greta got up and lowered the blinds herself. The man might think the room was empty and—

Seated once again, she bent her head and wrote something quickly, but the door opened and the words “Miss Greta?” broke the silence. Greta tried to snatch her paper off the desk, but in her panic it slid onto the floor towards Mrs. Worthington.

“Well, so what have you got?” the eyeglasses with the shiny red bulbous nose asked Greta.

“I… I didn’t quite finish.”

Mrs. Worthington made one stride and picked up the paper, looked it over, and inhaled furiously.

“You filthy-minded girl! You wrote something like this? And about the—!”

The glasses faced her, glinting eyelessly in the dusky classroom. “This is the last straw with you. You’ll have two weeks of detention, and I’m sending this home to your mother. You’ll return it tomorrow morning with her signature.”

Greta nodded and took back her paper. She watched the teacher as she smoothed out a crease that Mrs. Worthington had made and laid it with care into her notepad.

Mrs. Worthington watched her, holding her chalkboard eraser like a club.

Greta slowly slid the notepad into her backpack and zipped it up without taking her eyes from Mrs. Worthington’s. She strolled out of the classroom without a further glance.

She checked the hallways before leaving.  It was still sunny outside. She bent down to pull up one of her kneesocks, and watched some couples lounging on the edge of the curb. She walked home.

II

September 4, 19—

I wanted to tell you all about my new job. I’ve been working here for about a month now. Listen to how exciting it is.

I take the files and I slide the drawer shut. I take them to my desk, I lay them down by my computer, and I get up and put them back in the drawer an hour later.

There are some other women, they’re typing, answering phones, walking across the room to show a file to someone else. The one next to me has to type everything all over again because the dimwit lost the disk.

They’re all frumps, anyway, every last one of them. I don’t worry about them at all, and even if I had a reason to worry—which I don’t—it doesn’t matter because the men here are nothing to write home about. Two deficient specimens work in here with me. The senior managers only got promoted because of their old age and sexism. And we all know why the female ones got promoted. Sad.

My boss is a big, fat woman with grey hair who reminds me of my high school English teacher. Talk about having nothing to worry about. I shudder to think who was so desperate as to promote HER.

October 7, 19—

It’s evening and I’m riding the bus home. I’m looking out the window, and I wonder, what if my soulmate is walking on the sidewalk right now? What if he gets on the bus? Will he sit next to me or will I have to get up and move myself?

October 21, 19—

Imagine my delight when I walk into work yesterday just to see that old battle-axe packing up her things. I had no idea that she had retired and hired a replacement. I can’t wait to see who that’s going to be if she hires according to her own personal taste. Barf.

October 22, 19—

I want to prolong telling you this so I can enjoy it but I can’t wait.

I come in today expecting a battle-axe worse than the one before and instead I see a man sitting there surrounded by boxes.

And I’m not even kidding when I tell you that this man is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in my life. 

I just stood there and I couldn’t even speak until he said hello. And honestly, he seemed happy to meet me.

We made eye contact for a moment and then he said to me, “Miss Greta, I believe your work is waiting for you. Please check in with me by the end of the day and show me what you finished.”

He wanted to see again. I think he looked a little intrigued, quite honestly.

I could barely focus for the rest of the day. My mind felt like a beehive with a hundred bees buzzing around the same juicy nectar in my head.

October 27, 19—

I looked him up in the white pages and he lives in Green Hills off the main avenue. I left work early the other day and took the bus down to the nearest stop and walked the rest of the way. His house is gray with a stone façade, and two stories. He has a huge lawn and the walkway to the front door is lined with flowers. The entire property seems to be surrounded by hedges. A lot of money went into this landscaping. It looks like a castle, in need of a princess.

November 6, 19—

He was eating lunch alone in his office. I felt weird about interrupting him, but after the other day, I didn’t see why he’d mind. I had been coming down the stairs and he was walking past them, and our eyes met. I know I’m not mistaken in what I saw in them. So anyway. I went in the office on some pretext and just casually changed the topic to him. I asked him if he believed we live on after death and he said he didn’t really know. But he had this heartbreaking faraway look in eyes when he looked away and then back again at me. This moment transcended everything.

November 15, 19—

For some reason, he seems so distracted lately. I feel like no one else notices but honestly, I’d rather it be that way so I can be the one to comfort him. I come in early, I stay late, I wear makeup, and I try to time my lunch at the same time as his. He seems to like lettuce on his sandwiches.

I try not to worry though. I think it’s only because he’s so thoughtful and preoccupied. I keep going back in my mind to that day when I asked him about life after death. Is he lonely? He never mentions a wife. And frankly, I don’t really care if he does, because she obviously doesn’t do her job very well.  

When I opened the door of his office to say goodbye, like I do every evening, he was sitting there with his head on his hand. I could have leaped into his arms right then and there.

November 19, 19—

I think I might have plucked my eyebrows a little too much. Oops. But it’s okay. I know how to work with it.

November 23, 19—

His chair smells as good as I thought it would.

December 5, 19—

I can’t believe this. It’s raining and I’ve been sitting here at the bus stop for two hours now but I can’t bring myself to get on so I’m writing to you right now in the hopes that maybe I can figure this out because I don’t understand what happened today because we’ve been getting so close and honestly everything seemed to be getting closer to the one thing I’ve always wanted my whole life but I think that it happened too fast and his feelings got too intense for him and I wanted to talk about it but so many people were around us and I know they were listening from outside the room and I’m just going to get on the next bus now, bye.

III

Only a month and a half after his arrival, Greta’s new boss called her into his office. She stood up, pushed in her chair and pretended not to notice all the other women glaring at her from under their corrugated foreheads.

He was holding open the door and she entered, heart pounding. She stroked her hair and patted down her dress. He shut the door and gestured to the chair in front of his desk. She pulled it up close and leaned forward when he sat down across from her. Her hour had come.

He sighed and folded his hands. “Greta, I did not want to have this conversation with you, but I am forced to let you go. Your behavior has become increasingly inappropriate for the workplace. It’s very difficult for me to have to personally deal with this matter, having been on the receiving end of it, but it’s got to be done, since I’m your direct supervisor. I ask kindly that you go and pack your things and leave right away.” He paused and squeezed his hands. “And perhaps you should consider seeking help for whatever it is that seems to be disturbing you.”

She took leave of him, gathered up her things, and headed for the bus stop.

She rode slumped over with her face against the dirty window. Not only had she never felt this alone, but she felt panicked and cornered. At the fourth stop, Greta lifted her eyes—a young man had boarded. As though it were in a dream, she watched him walk down the aisle and sit down next to her without a word. He reminded her strongly of her boss, and she felt a deep, visceral pain in her chest. The man took out a book.

The bus rattled on, like it always did, over every crater.

After a few moments, Greta spoke.

“Hi,” she said, chin down. 

Glancing quickly—“Hello.”

“What are you reading, sir?”

“Uh, a book?”

It was too much for her that night. Not after what happened that day. Her loneliness was reaching the breaking point. She said nothing.

After riding in silence for a while, she had an idea. She slowly and carefully lowered her cheek to the man’s shoulder and rested it there.

“Weirdo…” he muttered, shrugged her off, and moved to a seat across the aisle.

She flew up, stung but exhilarated. “‘Weirdo’? Did you say I’m a weirdo? Well, maybe, sir, I am! But you call me a weirdo, while you sit here, reading a book on a bus, oblivious to the world around you and all the joys and pains it has to offer! I open my eyes and all I see and feel is the pain, while you could stretch out your arms and embrace the joy anytime you wanted to! But I shall continue to love anyway! And such a love as mine defies the expectations of your sordid throw-away-society, defies your society which doesn’t believe in true love, but only the use and abuse of other human beings! Such a love as mine—”

“Lady, will you sit down already!” the bus driver moaned.

“No! I will not sit down! Frankly I am tired of sitting down! I am tired of holding in my feelings! I’m sick and tired of hiding my feelings behind a plastic mask like the rest of all you robots! I’m not playing along anymore! I have a right to be loved! And I have the right to express my love without being forced to suffocate myself into silence—”

The driver stood, pulled up his pants, and faced her directly. “Get off the bus or I’m calling the police!”

Greta got off the bus and started running.

IV

She ran up the wet lawn and began to pound on his door. She was screaming.

“I love you! Open the door!” She kept pounding. “Open the door!”

The door opened and her boss appeared with a white face. “What the hell? Greta? What is going on? Are you insane—?”

“I love you! I love you forever and ever! And I know you love me back!”

Without taking his eyes off of her, he yelled, “Honey, call the police!” A figure disappeared from the hallway behind him.

“Who was that? A whore? Who was it, goddammit?”

“That’s my wife, you freak of nature! Don’t you dare! Get away from me—!” He stepped backwards and shoved her away as she tried to throw her arms around him. She threw off her coat and started to maniacally unbutton her blouse.

“You love me! Admit it! I love you so much I’d kill—”

Everything was suddenly drenched in strobing red and blue lights. The two officers took long steps over the lawn.

“Officers! This woman’s a psycho! Arrest her! She’s insane! And she’s threatening violence!”

“No!” Greta screamed. “He loves me! We’re going to heaven tonight! It’s that whore—she won’t let him!—I’m gonna kill her—!”

“Alright, miss, put your coat on and come with me, I’ve got a few questions…” He handcuffed her and dragged her across the lawn, while the other officer remained with her boss to take the report.

From the back of the squad car, through tears or rain, Greta watched her boss bend his head toward the officer. The whore came out in slippers, wrapping her satin robe around herself.

THE END.

38 thoughts on “Heaven’s just a bus ride away.

  1. Well, using two in a manner that are now forever incongruously joined as a heretofore unknown adverb-ly absurdity I suppose it’s justified. Heretofore is in deference to therefore. One anachronism to another, you know? I was waiting for “Suddenly all hell broke loose” for the cops’ arrival🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. You finally told a story here. A good one at that.

    Your subtle inference in the assumed reciprocal feelings from the boss was well done. You needn’t hide the dated year in your entries. PH’s near-favorite word, epistolary, is a fine way to tell such a tale — so, commit to it. I hope you had fun writing it. This one sounded cathartic.

    Tuck it away, come back to it in a month and maybe touch it up.
    One down, hundreds to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your fiction is what initially drew me to your blog, and it’s great to see you back into the groove again. The support you’ve gotten for this piece is just a testament of how much skill you have in the craft. Please keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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