Detritus – On the night bus – 8

This is not a job for the fussy, the squeamish, Lee nods to himself, satisfied that he has managed to use todays’ googled word – squeamish

fastidious or dainty.

easily shocked by anything slightly immodest; prudish.

excessively particular or scrupulous as to the moral aspect of things.

easily nauseated or disgusted: to get squeamish at the sight of blood.

nice and early in the day.
Sometimes, if the word is especially tricky or complicated it take hours to find a sentence to drop the word into. If it gets to 9, 10, o clock at night, he can start to panic, wonder if he’s going to make it.

But today, 9.17 am, shift finished at the bus depot, full english in front of him and he’s used the word in a soliloquy, so there’s no chance of coming across as a complete ponce in front of the other guys.


noun, plural so·lil·o·quies.
an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character’s innermost thoughts): Hamlet’s soliloquy begins with “To be or not to be.”

the act of talking while or as if alone.


He slices into the egg, watches the yolk split and he’s reminded of a Jackson Pollock painting, all that red and yellow, drips and splashes.

People, he considers, spearing a bit of sausage onto his fork and dipping it into the egg, tomato combo, people think that anyone who does his job must be a bit thick, a muppet, not much going for them, but the truth is quite different, there’s more to his team than meets the eye.

For a start off, there’s himself – new word every day, Sky Arts, although obviously not if there’s an important match on, books, real ones, not just Andy McNab or the bloke who writes about the Holy Grail and stuff.

And then there’s Mohammed, of course his real name’s not Mohammed, he’s a convert, used to be Stevo, Hassan, who was at school with him, says Stevo was an ugly f***er back in the day , Hassan reckons he’s only converted so that he’s guaranteed a wife, maybe even two.
But, Stevo/Mohammed takes it pretty seriously, got a little prayer mat he rolls out and everything and mostly no-body laughs, much.

Lee thinks about the rest of the team ,the night bus cleaning and maintenance crew, there’s Hassan, working this job and then straight off to his cousin brothers’ factory for another 10 hours, sometimes he falls asleep on the back seat of the no 43, but no-body says anything.
Gay Martin, Gaybo, Lee’s not actually sure if Martin is gay, but once he asked if the caff served herbal tea, so there’s a bit of doubt there, but Martin has other stuff going on, always got head phones on, one day Lee overheard, expected it to be music, but it was some bird speaking, sounded like Italian, Spanish, Lee doesn’t really know what to make of it and then there’s the twins, Peto & Tibor, identical, self contained, Tibor the smarter, the leader, the one who’s learnt a bit of english, does the talking for both of them. They’ve got other stuff going on, always on their phones, guttural language, even when its whispered.

(of a speech sound) Produced in the throat; harsh-sounding.
A guttural consonant (e.g., k, g) or other speech sound.

Lee sits back, sighs, looks down at the carnage on his plate, full English devoured, he leans across, picks up a piece of toast and applies a thick coating of marmalade, lovely.

So, that’s the team


and every night, they get to the depot, 2am and wait for the night buses to come in, bit of banter with the drivers and then clean team on board, they have 10, 15 mins max to turn the buses round, ready for the day shift, which is where the not squeamish comes in, no time to hang about.

People always leave stuff on buses, but the night buses, they’re something else, there’s the obvious, vomit and worse, bags, shoes, coats, underwear, of course and sometimes weirdly random stuff

Made, done, happening, or chosen without method or conscious decision: “a random sample of 100 households”.
Governed by or involving equal chances for each item.
fortuitous – haphazard – accidental – chance – incidental

a sewing machine, bag of wool, a photo album.

Of course, they’re meant to hand in the valuable stuff, phones, lap tops, money and usually the driver has got there before them, grabbed anything tasty, but if you’re not proud and don’t mind grubbing around, you can find a lot of loose change and on minimum wage, well it all helps.

Lee has paid for today’s breakfast from the coinage off the Brent Cross bus, it being free has made it even more tasty and he sits back, checks his watch, plenty of time and orders another tea, cos what he’s really doing is pulling together the story of Detritus, giving it a proper shape in his head, considering writing it down when he gets home.

It was December, proper cold and there is no-where colder than a bus depot at 5 am in the middle of December. Everyone is busy, it’s a heads down, get through the work sort of shift and then Hassan shouts to Lee from the Tooting Broadway bus, says there’s something on the back seat, something making a noise.

They’ve never had a baby on the bus, but it’s not completely impossible and Lee has a pretty good idea of exactly how much hassle that would be, so he shoots off the Balham bus and heads over to see what’s occurring and as he walks over, he can’t help thinking that this may be the only chance in his life to use the word foundling in conversation

An infant abandoned by its parents and cared for by others.

Hassan is standing half-way down the bus, black bin liner in hand, he points to the back seat and they both stand, listening carefully and then they hear it, a faint mewing sound and a scratching, scraping.
Hassan manages to put himself behind Lee and they walk down the aisle as the mewing, crying become louder. Lee does not want this to be a baby, does not want to be stuck at work for hours, does not want to talk to police, social workers, shift supervisor, mostly he does want to think about the kind of person who leave a baby on a bus in the middle of winter.

There is a canvas holdall, brown, bit battered, in the far corner of the long back seat and the noise is coming from inside, Lee takes a deep breath, bends down towards the bag and unzips it, praying as a hard as he can to a god he doesn’t believe in, that this is not going to go as horribly wrong as a shift can.

A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena;…
Of or relating to agnostics or agnosticism.
nescient – know-nothing

He actually laughs out loud, laughs with relief when the face that looks up at him is not the bluing shape of a freezing new born baby, but black, furry, a kitten, 6 or 7 weeks old.
He hears Hassan behind him breathe out, an expression of relief and realizes that he has been holding his breath too.

And after the shift, when the congregate for a smoke and a cuppa, Lee brings the kitten, still in the holdall, the guys look, ask him what he’s going to do with it, Peto strokes it with one careful finger
“cat” he says, surprising them all and Lee finds that somehow he has agreed with himself to take the kitten home.

“what are you gonna call it?” asks Stevo/Mohammed and Lee has one of his finest moments, he looks at the guys, all of them clustered around the little cat.
“Detritus” he says ” I’m gonna call it Detritus”.

Waste or debris of any kind.
Gravel, sand, silt, or other material produced by erosion.

Lee smiles to himself, the story is good one, neat, some pretty high impact vocabulary and a happy ending, it’s worth writing it down, he leans back and wonders if he justify ordering another round of toast.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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