The Long and Winding Road – on the nightbus – 19

The problem really is, that Dell is a romantic, a hopeless romantic

And make no mistake, this will be a tale of romance, of unrequited love, fair maidens, quests and dragons slayed.

Dell has the heart and soul of a fearless knight, he is, within the limitations of the 21st century, chivalry personified and he dreams of love, true, enduring love, love that will lift him up, up where he belongs.

This story starts on a wet Monday night, the sort of night when you bend your body into your clothes, hunch down to keep out the cold and the dark and the rain and Dell is driving the Crouch End Circular and it’s midnight and the rain is keeping people off the streets, so it’s quiet, Dell, loosing a battle with short sight and worn out wiper blades is peering into the dark, looking out for ninja stylee cyclists, freewheeling pedestrians, motorists whose indicators have been fitted as optional extras.

Same old, same old.

And then, he sees her, the love of his life, the woman he is going to marry and he nearly ploughs the bus in to the back of badly illuminated skip, but manages to slam the brakes on, just in time and ignoring the cursing and the muttering from the passengers, he sits and he stares, while she stands on the pavement, waiting, for something, someone.

Dell has never understood the word breath taking before, but now, looking at this woman, he is struggling to breathe, is almost panting.

She is beyond beautiful.

Tall, of course
Slim, of course
Long blond hair, well of course.

But this is far more than beauty, this is about connection, this is about fate and then she looks up, looks directly at him and he feels an actual jolt of energy.

And then, the car, black, some souped up shit comes screeching round the corner, brakes slam hard and voice shouts
“Get in the F*****car, we’re going to be f*****late” and she does, just like that.

The boom box beat of the overdubbed base kicks in so loudly that Dell can feel it in his fillings and so he is holding his jaw as the car and the thump, thump base and the love of his life, drive up the road, kangaroo over a speed bump and vanish.

Just like that.

And then he becomes aware that the mutterings behind him are getting louder, more insistent and so, he inches past the skip and heads onward on his nightly circular route.

But he cannot stop thinking about her and later in sweaty, confused and tangled dreams he is rescuing her again and again and again and when he wakes up, her face is the first thing he thinks of.

All day he finds himself thinking about her and for the first time ever, he is actually keen to get to work, arrives early, spruced up, ready to go, ready for a quest.
He is sure that he will see her, cannot allow the logic of geography to get in his way, cannot even consider that she is far away locked up in some tower block and so, when at midnight,

Well it had to be midnight, this is a fairy story after all,

he sees her, standing in exactly the same place, he’s not surprised, he can recognise the hand of fate when he sees it.
She is even more beautiful than he remembers, hair up this time, but beginning to escape, little tendrils falling around her face, but this time she’s not alone.

Did I mention that this story has an ogre, an urban ogre, all sweat and swagger and expensive ogre jeans, pulled down to show off his hairy orgre ass and an ogre baseball cap to cover up his greasy ogre hair.

The ogre, the driver of the souped up ogre car is standing beside her and he’s jabbing the air with his grubby ogre fingers and every time he jabs, she shrinks back into herself.

Dell lets the engine idle, pats the steering wheel, watches the ogre, watches the princess, ignores the shouts and cat calls from passengers and knows that he must act.

But, he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t have a plan and so, sighing, almost sobbing, he puts the bus back into gear and heads off into the night.

And so it goes on, night after night, the gentle knight sees the princess, understands the cruelty of the ogre, watches her diminish under his barrage of orgre attacks.

Sometimes, she seems to see Dell, looks straight at him, he feels the appeal in her eyes, knows that time is running out, that soon the ogre will take her away, lock her up, chain her with cruel words and poverty and the limist of four grubby walls.

The fairy story is coming to a climax, the happy ending seems far away and all hope is lost.
Come the hour, come the hero.

And then one day, while Dell tries to sleep, while the noise of neighbours seeps through paper thin walls and the duvet knots around him like brambles,

Because it’s not just princesses who get locked in towers,

Dell dreams and in his dream comes the solution and when he wakes, he knows exactly what to do.

He knows this action will change his life forever, that he will be a knight both bold and true and that he will, tonight, finally rescue the princess from the evil ogre.

He gets to work early and while he makes chat with the other drivers, his heart is pounding with love and the rightness of his action.

Into the cab,strokes the wheel, feels the power and drives away. He needs to get his timing right and because this is a fairy story, he does.
At 11.30, the end of one Crouch End loop, pasengers dis-gorged, ready to start again and then with a shaking hand, he presses the button, changes the destination display to read
“Sorry, I’m not in service” and drives towards his princess and her salvation.

And of course, remember, it’s a story, there she is

with the ogre, on the ogre pavement, next to the stinking ogre takeway, beside the over-heated ogre car and the ogre is angry.
His ogre voice is raining ogre spite onto her beautiful head and Dell sits up, breathes deeply and hits the horn

The princess looks up, the ogre looks up, red, piggy ogre eyes trying to make sense of the scene.
Dell pulls up beside her, hits the door over-ride button and shouts
“Get in, Ive come to rescue you”

And because this is a fairy story, she doesn’t look blank or ask stupid questions or tell him to F off and mind his own business, she leaps forward and with one bound, she is on the bus and Dell tries to close the doors, but the Ogre is there, scabby ogre hand scrabbling with the handle and Dell is driving as fast as he can, banging the door close control and the ogre is hanging on, by an ogre nail and the bus is going faster and faster and finally, the ogre’s stumpy, hairy ogre legs cannot go on another minute and he fall into the gutter and his gutteral screams of ogre anger can be heard as the bus moves away.

And because this is a fairy story, the princess and the brave knight look at eachother and fall in love, immediately and forever and Dell drives the bus, though the back streets of unfashionable corners of suburban London and they hold hands and smile.

And because this is a fairy story, you’re not allowed to ask what happened next.

Did Dell lose his job?
Did the princess turn out to have a crack cocaine problem?
Did the Ogre promise to change and lure her back to their tower block prison?

Because what happend next was……………….

They lived happily ever after.

What else did you expect?


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

3 responses to “The Long and Winding Road – on the nightbus – 19

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