Claps of thunder, flaps of weather, flaps of leather, at the end of my tether. I sang to myself – out of the blue, without rhyme or reason: well, there was some sort of rhyme, but you know what I mean – as I sat on the top of the double-decker bus. I sat at the front, pretending that I was driving, holding the window safety-bar and pushing it in one direction or another but, I guess, I imagined it was a tiller of a canal-boat, because I pushed it to the left for the bus to turn right and pushed it to the right for the bus to turn left. Claps of thunder, flaps of weather, flaps of weather, at the end of my tether. Suddenly, the bus...
Before I tell you exactly what happened, let me reminiss for a while. On top of most buses in those olden days, there were signs saying things like “no spitting”, “no standing” etc. and on the back of each seat below a five-inch metal ratchment there was a sign saying “stubber”, although it acted both as a stubber and a serrated surface for red-headed lucifers. In view of that, you can assume there were no “no smoking” signs...
Also, there was a circular mirror-thing or porthole in the top right hand corner at the front. I often wondered what that was. Invariably, there were other passengers upstairs. Like today. I turned and flapped my tongue at them. I didn’t spit, though. I definitely didn’t spit, m’lord.
There was one particular man toward the back who bent forward in his seat and seemed to be rubbing the front of his forehead quite fast along the seat-back that was in front of him. Back and forth, it went. Flaps of this, flaps of that.
A few minutes later, I sensed something had happened behind me as I momentarily took my eye off the road ahead to check what that something was. A hubbub that was worthy of its name even though there was only one person who made this hubbub. The man’s head had burst into flame.
I pointed to a sign close to the ‘no spitting’ one. “No butting”, I read aloud offishushly. No butting, no cutting, no grubbing, no rubbing.
Meantime, the side of the bus had scraped sickeningly along the side of a warehouse wall. I blamed myself. But blame was irrelevant really. Blame is often a waste ‘in extreemiss’...
I thought of a demon barber stropping his blade along my tongue. And a train window that had a leather tongue inside. At least a train needn’t be driven by passengers. Trains had a man at the front to do that, a man with a huge face covering the whole front boiler. The last thing I think I thought was the circular mirror-thing in the top right hand corner of the bus's top-deck – with a single huge blinking eye filling it. Beady beady, greedy, greedy.
Suddenly, the sparks milling through the open side-window caught me alight. A pity I couldn’t spit on myself.
Epilogue: Heaven and Hell are situated on the same floor, not Heaven above and Hell below, as many seem to believe. So, for one of them you need to turn left to reach, the other right. But I did not know which was which. I hoped to strike lucky.
written today and first published above