The No. 53 bus shunted along as a young boy crouched on all fours, sifting through a pile of crumpled tickets, with tears leaking from his eyes. Rod the bus driver watched him with a rush of satisfaction.
‘Have you found it yet?’ he called out. ‘Can’t stay on without your ticket – shouldn’t have thrown it in the bin, should you?’
‘But you saw me buy one!’ the young boy piped up.
‘Doesn’t matter. Could lose my job if an inspector comes on,’ Rod retorted. ‘Now find your bloody ticket or get off my bus.’
Making the young boy search for his discarded ticket gave Rod an untold amount of enjoyment. He drove along and whistled to himself, ignoring the general sense of hostility that radiated from some of his passengers. New people coming on to the bus were baffled at the sight of the young boy sniffling beside the ticket bin.
Eventually, the young lad presented him with a crumpled ticket, confident that he had found the right one. Rod snatched it from his hand and examined it at great length. ‘That’s not it – you got on three minutes after this –’
‘Oh, for God’s sake – you cruel man!’ someone exclaimed. An elderly woman shuffled up to Rod’s cabin and glowered at him as she reached into her purse. ‘I’ll get him a new one – you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.’
Rod took the money from her, annoyed that she had brought an end to his fun. As she went to sit down, followed by the young boy, Rod sped up the bus so that they both stumbled. To his delight, the old woman lost her footing and fell over.
A few minutes later, a spotty teenager stepped onto the bus with an out-of-date bus pass. Rod swiped it from the boy’s unsuspecting hands. ‘Aha! This is two days out of date!’
‘I was on my way to renew it –’
‘Yeah – likely story,’ said Rod, as he pocketed the confiscated pass. ‘You know, it’s folk like you that are the scourge of our society. These bus passes put food on my family’s table, you know.’
The spotty teenager was horrified. ‘Honestly, I was going to –’
‘Clear off!’ Rod yelled. ‘You’re a criminal and nothing less!’
The teenager cursed and slunk away. Rod shook his head and put his foot down on the accelerator, grumbling to himself as he drove off.
Later on that day, Rod’s bus was caught in terrible traffic and his mood blackened considerably. He ended up beeping his horn at every red light, as if each one was deliberately trying to ruin his day.
‘Bloody traffic,’ he grumbled. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed – shouldn’t be legal!’
He then encountered a very unwelcome sight in Harris Street’s bus bay. To his utmost horror, he saw that a taxi was parked there.
‘I don’t believe this,’ he muttered, slowing down the bus as he approached the bay. He hammered his horn, but the taxi did not move.
‘Get out the way!’
The taxi driver was busy helping someone take their shopping out of his boot. He completely ignored Rod’s demands.
Rod gritted his teeth and snarled. His hands gripped the steering wheel and red hot anger rose within him. He hated it when people got in his way.
‘Right,’ he growled. ‘I’ve had it!’
Leaping out of his cockpit, he marched over to the taxi driver and gestured at the troublesome vehicle with animated exasperation.
‘Can’t park here, you idiot! What the hell are you playing at?’
The taxi driver chuckled. ‘All right, baldie. Calm down.’
‘I beg your pardon?’ Rod fumed. He took a step closer to the taxi driver and puffed up his chest, but the taxi driver was at least a foot taller than him. ‘You’d better move, or else I’ll – I’ll smash your bloody face in!’
To Rod’s bemusement, half of his passengers were clearly laughing at him. The taxi driver shared in their humour.
‘Get out my hair, baldie. No need to cause a kerfuffle – I’ll get moving now.’
‘Yeah, you better had do!’
The taxi driver threw back his head and guffawed, not in the least bit threatened by Rod. He cooly climbed into his taxi and cruised out of the bus bay, leaving Rod as red as a lobster.
After that, every little thing irritated Rod and he drove like an absolute lunatic. His passengers held on for dear life as the bus thundered along, fuelled by his uncontrollable rage.
‘Sorry about this,’ he called out to his passengers. ‘I’m doing this for your safety – there’s some right idiots on the road!’
A large car cut in front of him and he beeped his horn. He caught up with the vehicle at some traffic lights and wound down his window, shouting down to a mother and her two startled children.
‘You silly cow! Are you crazy? Do you realise you’ve just endangered the lives of my passengers?’
‘And do you realise that you’re upsetting my children?’ the woman retorted.
Rod was so outraged that he slammed down on the accelerator and drove straight through a red light, going well beyond the speed limit. Some of his passengers began to scream.
‘Oy – can you slow down a bit, mate?’
‘Excuse me, driver – you’re going too fast!’
Rod slammed on the brakes and brought the bus to an abrupt halt. ‘Everyone get off! I’ve had enough!’
The shocked passengers took a moment to register. Slowly, they began to stand up and exit the bus. Most of them were a delicate shade of green.
‘I’m suing for whiplash,’ a frail old woman complained.
‘Yeah, you do that, love.’
Once all the passengers had disembarked, Rod continued on his way, driving aimlessly around the streets of his dull town. He caught the eye of several people who were clearly confused as to why the No. 53 had gone rogue.
Before long, Rod realised that he was being pursued by two police cars. They indicated for him to pull over the vehicle, but Rod was too afraid to do so.
‘What do they want?’ he cried. ‘I haven’t done owt wrong, have I?’
As he sped up the bus, he pondered bitterly over the day’s events. It seemed that everyone had been out to get him.
Loud sirens pierced his thoughts. ‘Christ, I can’t have any peace!’
Rod was driving so fast that he did not have time to slow down at the upcoming roundabout and hurtled straight across the grassy island. He heard cars screech and collide in his wake, yet the police cars still pursued him. Up above, a helicopter joined the hunt.
‘What the devil will Shirley think of me?’ Rod wondered, giving some thought to his wife. A grim smile crept across his face. ‘She won’t be best pleased, the silly old –’
Something splattered across the windscreen. Rod yelped, fumbling with the steering wheel as he tried to see through the explosion of white feathers. He slammed on the brakes and attempted to regain control of his vehicle, but it crashed through a hedgerow and capsized, skidding through a ploughed field and spewing up great clods of earth, finally coming to a jerky halt.
When Rod came to his senses, he realised that he was in the middle of a potato field. His body ached all over and he tried to climb out of his overturned cockpit, but he could not find the strength to lift himself out. His concentration was shattered by the shrill sound of approaching police sirens.
Several patrol cars raced onto the field and circled around the capsized bus. The police officers sprang forth from their vehicles and approached with great caution, but they soon realised that Rod posed no threat. To Rod’s embarrassment, they tried and failed to extricate him from the bus, and eventually had to summon the fire brigade. Once he had been hoisted out, he was handcuffed by a stony-faced policeman.
‘It’s been a terrible day, officers – you’ve got to believe me –’
‘Save it for the station, sir. You’ve got a lot to answer for.’
And so Rod ended up in prison for dangerous driving and also had his license revoked. He often grumbled to the other inmates about how his passengers and fellow motorists had pushed him to one moment of madness, but never – not for one second – did he think that he was to blame for any of it.