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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2280469
Is he a stranger or a stalker?
The Stranger on the Bus
WC 287

My appointment was for 2:00 p.m. I dreaded it, but this had to be resolved.

“What's in the vase?”

The voice came from the other side of the bus. This stranger had no respect for boundaries.

“Excuse me?”

“I was just making conversation. Sorry to intrude, ma’am.”

He seemed sincere. I smiled politely and nodded in acknowledgement as the bus chugged along.

“Now I'm really curious.”

“My husband, if you must know.”

“In a vase?”

“It's an urn!”

“What are you doing alone on a city bus with an urn holding your husband’s ashes sitting on your lap? Where's your family?”

“Excuse me?”

I was about to pull the emergency cord, when the driver said, “Ma'am, the Mt. Auburn Cemetery stop is coming up.”

As soon as the bus screeched to a halt, I hurried off and started walking toward the office. I heard the bus rattle away and instinctively looked back. My stalker was walking toward me through the blackish exhaust.

I quickened my pace.

“Look, ma'am, I've just checked my calendar, and I don't have to be back in the office until 4:00. I could go with you if you’d like, so you wouldn't have to be alone,” he said as he caught up with me.

“Why would you do that for a complete stranger?”

I stopped to face him.

“When my Beth passed, I sat on a bus with a cardboard box holding my wife’s ashes on my lap,” he said, his voice cracking. “I had no one to comfort me. I never felt so alone.”

“I'm so sorry,” I said as my eyes welled up.

“Ma’am, it’s almost 2:00. Shall we?”

He gently took hold of my arm and guided my husband and me toward the cemetery office.

If not for the kindness of strangers…
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