Tom and Bo caught the twenty past ten 18 double decker bus from Manchester city centre to Langley. Tom paid for his ticket with a handful of loose change and Bo got on for free. The bus driver nodded and they walked to the back of the bus. Tom shrugged off his small back bag and sat down on the long back seat. He shuffled along to be against the window then lift Bo into his lap.
The small west highland terrier panted loudly and cast his eyes around the other passengers. Tom placed his bag on the floor and joined Bo in looking around as the bus pulled off. On the other side of the back seat a teenager was listening to some music on his phone. Tom eyed him up and decided that the boy had been at work and was probably on his way home.
Opposite him, a large lady dressed in a nurse’s uniform was reading a romance novel. Tom saw the title from around her fingers: Love In The Slums and under the words was a scruffy looking young woman in a flowing red dress. The nurse seemed engrossed in the book and Tom decided that she must have had a hard day and wanted nothing more than to switch off.
Bo licked the back of Tom’s hand and yipped. Tom stroked Bo’s slightly knotted fur and held the dog close. Leaning down, Tom unzipped his bag and rummaged around inside it. He felt each object twice, before he pulled out the packet of dog treats. Bo yapped excitedly and thumbed his stubby tail against Tom’s chest. Tom tore into the packet and juggling Bo, placed a few treats in his hand and give them to the dog.
Tom placed the treats back in his bag whilst Bo licked his fingers. Tom patted him a few times and then Bo yawed loudly and lay down across Tom’s lap. As his dog settled down, Tom looked further down the bus. Sitting behind the nurse was a business man who was playing a game on a black hand computer device. Opposite him and a seat down, two young teenage girls were sat talking. Their voices were not quiet and Tom could hear them, but it took him a few minutes to figure out that they were talking about ex-boyfriends.
A seat ahead of them was a middle-aged man, who appeared to be sleeping. He had his head pressed to the window and his arms folded over his chest. He was wearing a large coat, so Tom couldn’t be sure if the man was coming or going to work or to someplace else. The seat before him was empty and then there was a woman eating a salad. Tom could only see the back of her head as it moved in time with her eating, but he remembered spotting her as he’d gotten on.
Tom looked down to the first chair which was just behind the staircase. He could see the reflection of the protective glass that there was an old woman with her shopping bags sitting there. The seat opposite her was empty, but there was a pram in the wheelchair/pram space and a weary looking mother sitting on the fold down chair beside it. She was rocking the pram and talking to two children, who had taken the seat next to her. Tom couldn’t hear what she was saying, but by her expression she didn’t seem happy. Behind the children, a very skinny man in his mid-twenties was staring out of the window.
Stroking Bo, Tom glanced down at the now sleeping dog, before looking up and out of the window as the bus pulled up to a stop. The doors slide open and a very large African woman in a long skirt and headdress, clattered on with a suitcase. Tom watched her pay and then move to the empty seat beside the bag rack. The doors hissed close. The woman fought with her suitcase as she tried to shove it on to the chair.
Tom shook his head then caught himself. Tugging the top of his coat closed as he felt a drafted of air hitting him, Tom glanced at the woman and saw that she had succeed in putting her suitcase in the chair against the window and had now sat down next to it. He give Bo a quick hug, then turned to the window and watched buildings and cars coming out of the darkness. He liked studying the people on the bus. Sometimes he would make up stories or play games with them in his head. Tonight, though he wasn’t in the mood. He was too tried and slightly annoyed that he hadn’t been able to get everything on his shopping list. It was all online these days, he tutted to himself in his head.
Bo shifted slightly in his arms and Tom grinned down at him. He could feel his lap and upper legs getting warmer and the pain fading from his knackered knee. A dog is the best hot water bottle. Tom’s head swung back to the teenager and the nurse. Without really thinking about it, he began to wonder what their lives were like. Did they have nice homes? What had they been doing today? Was Love In The Slums actually a good book?
Tom reflected on this and began to wonder about the other passengers too. Soon the bus approached his stop and Tom had to nudge Bo awake. The dog yawed loudly and straight himself out. Tom lowered him to the floor and collected his bag. He pressed the bell button and stood up gingerly. Slowly and with Bo trailing after him, Tom walked to the front of the bus. Many of the seats were now empty and Tom wondered what time the driver finished work at.
The bus came to a stop and the doors opened. Thanking the driver, Tom stepped down and turned to make sure Bo had jumped off too. Then together, they walked down their street and towards their small house.