Catching the Bus by Laila Miller

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

metal plate bus stop sign on sign post, Braille spelling beneath

My brother took the school bus once. It was after he’d quit school, on a Monday in May when his Galaxie 500 wouldn’t start, and his Chev was in pieces waiting for parts, and my sister and I had killed the battery on his white convertible rolling and unrolling the power windows, pretending we could fly. We all boarded the bus in the gravel dust, and he said hello to Ron the bus driver while the air brakes went pfft, and Ron said hi back and pointed to the front seat beside the Grade Ones. From the third row I heard them talk about the spring seeding and the rock crusher and the new machine shop and Ron sometimes looked at my brother and not at the road and I wondered why they were friendly because they weren’t when he went to school. My stomach growled, and did my brother remember we hadn’t had breakfast because he was under the Galaxie and the wrenches I gave him were wrong and he shouted swear words over the top of clanging the wrong wrenches and I didn’t know what to do so I kept offering up sizes. The bus stopped in front of the school pfft and I wanted him to say something so I would look important in front of everyone, but he headed off toward Main Street, hunched in his jean jacket. The bus dropped the rest of us home at ten to four and the Galaxie was gone, and I walked straight past the empty spot on the grass where it would’ve been, pretending I didn’t notice, like I didn’t notice it was still missing when we baled the summer hay, and when my birthday came in September after Grade Four started. Ron asked where it was, and we shrugged, and I thought maybe Ron wanted to buy it, but he said only my brother could make it run. The next time we saw it was nearly Hallowe’en, in the driveway with its hood up, and I skidded off the bus and checked underneath, but he wasn’t there, he was in the kitchen, and he said he was getting married, and we all wondered who it was. Mom slammed the cupboard door but mostly I thought it would be okay because he would live in town, and he would buy a new car, one that worked, and I could visit, sometimes. It’ll be a Buick, he said, and his eyes smiled sapphire, and I was glad he knew what I was thinking.

Meet the Contributor

Laila MillerLaila Miller was born and raised in rural Alberta, Canada, with five older siblings. She has been an environmental scientist for 25 years. In her spare time, she writes short fiction and creative nonfiction about bougainvillea and sea urchins and turnips, and sometimes about people who don’t get along. Her work can be found in Flash Frontier, FlashFlood, AntipodeanSF and elsewhere. She lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and son.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Daniel Lobo

  2 comments for “Catching the Bus by Laila Miller

  1. I love the breathlessness of this story–its tempo–the way it lingers for just a moment and in the next leaps across time. Reading it a few times, I tried to figure out how Ms. Miller created this breathlessness and came away with one word she uses twice: Pfft. The tempo of the syntax is driven by cars and a bus, Miller’s non human protagonists. This is without a doubt my favorite coming of age story!

    If coming of age in my home country of West Germany took place by way of bikes and street cars and trains, in rural North America childhood was ended by (and in) private cars. (The song about American Pie, the Chevy & the Levy tells a tragic story about it.)

    In many ways the condition of the Chevy Galaxy works like a metaphor for the kid’s feelings about his relationship to his older brother. It’s broken and needs repair; it disappears entirely; reappears and needs fixing again; till finally, it will be replaced by a dream car, a new Buick. This promise of a closer relationship is in the boy’s imagination, a vision that he sees in the future; a dream of a relationship with his grown up, soon to be married, brother that actually works.

    But such a mechanical summary does no justice to the lyrical way Ms. Miller tells a story about a boy’s longing for closeness to his older brother. This is a fabulously crafted story and I can’t wait to read other stories by Ms. Miller.

Share a Comment