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Bus Story: Fairly Far Away

May 15, 2014

She is lost. Hesitantly, she climbs aboard, her face in an expression that befits someone going to the gas chamber more than riding a downtown commuter line. The drivers nods to the card reader and the cash box for her to pay her fare, and confusion flashes in her eyes, and mixes with the already-present fear. For a moment, I imagine she might bolt out of the door, but she steels herself, holds out her hand and, as she mutters to herself, coins seem to spill from her fingers into the till. That hurdle conquered, she slowly makes her way down the aisle, looking left and right, and her breathing takes on a slightly panicked edge. As she comes nearer to my seat, I see her clothes are hand-sewn and from a sturdy, but unfamiliar homespun wool. Under a layer of grayish dust, she is quite fair, with lovely, but sooty, golden hair. Deciding between sitting next to a sleepy hoodied teen who can barely keep his head upright or a woman scribbling notes in the margins of a romance novel from the library, she chooses the now snoring teen and sits down with a resigned sigh. She reaches into a small satchel and pulls out an empty water bottle and stares at it, as if just now remembering that it was lacking contents. Then I see her adjust something that is tucked up one sleeve, and a slight glow emanates from the folds of cloth. She mutters again, the phrase sounding vaguely familiar, and, quite remarkably, the water bottle fills itself with clear water, cool enough to cause condensation on the sides. As she drinks deeply, the teen next to her suddenly jerks awake as his phone shrieks a baleful ringtone. He answers it, sullenly, and begins an exhausting and loud discussion about shoes, music, abscesses, and Shia LaBeouf. The travel weary woman winces and flinches at his topics and language, and when he shows no sign of finishing, she again reaches up her sleeve. This time I can see a thin rod, with a glow at one end. She mutters again and the teen at once hangs up and falls asleep. In a flash, I recognize the phrase she keeps muttering. “Bippity-Boppity-Boo.” I look closer at her loveliness hidden under a layer of grime and recognition dawns. Oh Cinderella, where is your Fairy Godmother, and why do you have her wand?

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