by Gill James
chocolate milk shake
The wind blew and made Callum's ears tingle.
"Don't you worry, my sweetheart,the bus will soon be here." Nana pulled at his hat, almost covering his eyes. "Now that will keep your ears warm." Yes that was fine but it would be better if he could see as well. When he thought she wasn't looking he pushed his hat up again.
Then his heart skipped a little beat. Here it came. It was a yellow one. He liked the yellow ones. They were a bit friendlier. They were smaller inside and it felt so nice; everybody looked at the yellow bus when it made its way through town and some people waved.
"Now you hold tight until we've sat down." Nan grabbed his hand. She actually held it a bit too tight. Perhaps she was frightened of falling down. Well that was all right. He was a big boy now. He would take care of his Nana.
They found a seat right next to the window.
"Now don't you go to sleep," said Nana. "Your mum will be so cross with me if you do because you won't sleep tonight then."
The bus set off. "Here we go," said Nana.
Callum looked out of the window. He didn't know what to say to Nana and she didn't seem to know what to say to him.
She took her phone out of her bag. "I'm just going to call your Uncle Tom. You just nudge me if you want anything. And you carry on looking out of the window so that you don't feel sick."
He didn't feel sick did he? He'd grown out of that hadn't he? He wished she hadn't mentioned it, though. Did he feel sick? It would be horrible if he was sick on the bus. He looked out of the window. A lady with a baby in a pushchair waved at him. He waved back.
He heard a click from Nana's phone as Uncle Tom answered it.
"Hiya," he heard Nana say. "Have you heard anything?"
Uncle Tom mumbled something.
"Well what did the solicitor say?"
His uncle growled something. Callum wondered what a solicitor was.
"Will she? That's not fair, is it?"
There was more growling.
"Well, you'll just have to tell her. You show her who's boss."
Nana pressed the button on her phone and it went beep. She shook her head. "Your Auntie Sally is a silly cow."
Callum frowned. What did Nana mean? Auntie Sally didn't look like a cow at all. She was really pretty. Mind you, he liked cows as well. They had nice eyes.
Nana turned round and started talking to another lady on the bus.
It was warm on the bus and Callum's eyelids began to droop. He dreamt a little bit about Auntie Sally riding a cow that that jumped over the moon.
Callum woke up
"You'll have to pay mate." Those were the first words that Callum heard. He stood up so that he could see what was going on at the front of the bus. A man had got on with a little brown and black dog.
"But I didn't have to last week. I ain't got no money."
"Well you can travel on your pass but that animal can't. Driver's discretion, innit?"
Callum wondered what "discretion" meant and turned to Nana to ask her. But she was frowning and concentrating. Better not disturb her.
"It's all right, I'll pay for him," said a lady with a black face. She was getting on the bus behind the man and the dog.
The bus driver didn't say anything but just took the money and handed a ticket to the man.
The man turned round and smiled at the lady. "Thank you."
As they walked up the bus to find a seat the dog stopped and sniffed at Callum. He was all wriggly and waggly.
Callum giggled. "What's his name, Mister?"
Callum tickled Carter's ears. The little dog went even more wriggly.
Nana shook her head. "They don't like animals like we do."
That didn't make sense. The black lady had paid for the dog so she must like animals. Anyway, the bus driver wasn't black. He was sort of pale brown.
Nana sighed. "And he'll have to pay again on the way home. I bet he hasn't thought of that. Let's hope he gets a white bus driver who likes dogs."
Callum had an idea. He wobbled Nana's arm. She turned to look at him "Can I give the man my pocket money for the dog's bus fare?"
"Oh sweetheart." She slapped a big sloppy kiss on his forehead. "I don't think you've got enough." She fumbled in her purse and took out a few coins. She walked down the bus and gave it to the man. "Here. Just to make sure you can get him home again."
The man went bright red and he pulled at his fringe. "Thank you ma'am. That's very kind."
As she came back to her seat, her phone went off. "It's your mum. I wonder what she wants."
Callum could hear his mum's voice growling in the background. She sounded a bit angry. She wasn't letting Nana speak.
He kept turning round to look at the dog, but the little animal was fast asleep now. All he could do was look out of the window. That was one nice thing about the yellow bus, though. The windows were deeper and you could see more.
Starkies' wood looked interesting. Perhaps the little dog would like to run around in there. Then the bus pulled over to the side to let a big red fire engine go past. Its lights were flashing and its sirens were screaming. How exciting. He thought perhaps he'd like to be a fireman when he grew up. Fancy driving through the traffic like that and then being brave and rescuing people from a fire. When the bus stopped at Holy Cross a lot of big boys and girls got off. That would be him one day. Going to school in a smart uniform.
Still Nana was listening to his mum. She was going on and on today.
"Now just a minute, our Ellen," said Nan suddenly. "You can give up that idea right away, me lass. Of course I'll have Callum. You don't want him to go to strangers. " She put her arm round Callum. "Him and me get on just fine. You won't need to pay me. Well perhaps just a few expenses, now and then, like when I have to pay dogs' bus fares."
Mum growled again.
"Long story. I'll tell you this afternoon. See ya later."
She pressed the button on her phone that made it beep. "You mum's a silly cow as well. I don't know, I could bang their heads together. Her and your Auntie Sally. A right pair of silly moos."
"Why was she going on? Have I been naughty?"
Nana gave him another sloppy kiss. "No my lover. She was excited. She's only gone and got herself a right snazzy job. And Ive said I'll look after you while she's at work. Eh, we'll have some fun won't we?"
Callum wasn't sure. He liked Nana but she was a bit too fussy sometimes. And there were too many of them sloppy kisses.
She poked him in the ribs. "And you know what? She'll now be able to take you on a nice seaside holiday. She's invited me as well."
That would be all right, he supposed. "Where will we go?"
"Oh I dunno. Scarborough. Blackpool. May even abroad. Benidorm or Ibiza. At least we'd get good weather there."
The bus turned into the bus station. People started standing up and gathering their things together.
Nana shook her head. "I don't know why they don't wait unit it stops. One day one of them will have a nasty fall."
When the bus stopped she grabbed Callum's hand. He wriggled. She was squeezing it a bit too hard.
The man with the dog was talking to the black lady.
"I'm taking him for his jabs and to get him the once over. Make sure he's all right, like."
The lady bent down and patted Carter. "He looks fit enough to me. You're a lovely little thing, aren't you?"
"Thank you so much. You've been so kind." The man then turned to Nana and Callum. "And you ma'am."
Carter jumped up at Callum. Callum wriggled his hand out of Nana's and patted the little dog.
"Come on, then you," said the man. "We'd best get going or we'll miss our appointment."
"Right then," said Nana. "How about we go and get a nice ice cream? Celebrate your mum's good news." She frowned. "Only you'd best wash your hands first after playing with that dog. You don't know where he's been."
Callum nodded. That would be all right. Well, after they'd got the hand-washing out of the way.
The hand-washing turned out to be not too bad in the end. There were some new taps that made the water tickle. And there was a super new machine that dried your hands in seconds. Callum pretended he was from another planet where you didn't have to use soap and water but everything was done by a laser-beam.
"Let's go and get that ice-cream, shall we?" said Nana.
Already he was trying to decide whether he'd have chocolaty one or a creamy yellow and pink one. Perhaps he's be allowed a chocolate milk shake as well.
Oh yes, the yellow bus had been magic again. The fire engine. Being able to see right into Starkies' wood. And that little dog. Never mind mum's news. The thought of Mum and Auntie Sally turning into cows, silly ones at that, made him want to giggle. These exciting things always seemed to happen on the yellow bus.
"Nana, do you think we'll go back as well on the yellow bus?"
"I've no idea, my lover. Perhaps we will. Perhaps we won't."
"And do you think Carter will be on it?"
Nan shrugged. "Perhaps if he is and the driver don't charge, I might get my money back."
"Anyhow, it's good about your mum, in't it? Perhaps we'll go to the travel shop and get some brochures."
Yeah, it was all good. And it would be fantastic if they got the yellow bus home.
About the author
Gill is the main editor of CafeLit. She has several stories on site and in The Best of CafeLit collections. Her second single auhtor collection is coming ut soon. She has recently taken to traveling on the local bus and find this a great inspiration for short stories.