by Jennifer Walmsley
‘Do you mind?’ Jade looked at the speaker; a middle aged woman with a disgruntled expression.
‘Mind what?’ Jade asked then turned to face the window.
‘It’s not really appropriate, is it?’ Those pompous tones had Jade’s toes curling inside her trainers.
‘A.P.P.R.O.P.R.I.A.T.E.’ Jade spelt out the word. ‘Three p’s. So I’ll use three to tell you to piss, piss, piss off.’
‘I’ll get the driver to stop this bus.’ The woman stood.
‘It’s a long way for you to walk from here to the next village,’ Jade told her.
A red face glared at her. ‘Not me! You!’
‘Call him then.’ Jade slouched back in her seat.
‘Driver! Driver!’ The woman’s strident voice had all five passengers turning in their seats.
Jade jabbed a finger, pointing to the side of her head and mouthed to them, ‘Mad. Bonkers.’
The bus stopped and the driver got out from his cab. ‘Now what’s going on, Mrs. Pettigrew?’
‘This girl’s broken the rules,’ came an irate reply.
‘What rule is that?’ he asked in a calm voice.
‘No pets allowed on the bus, apart from guide dogs.’ Mrs. Pettigrew indicated a stiff permed head in Jade’s direction. ‘There is a parrot on this girl’s shoulder.’
‘But it’s stuffed,’ said the driver.
Jade smirked at her accuser. ‘And you’re wearing a bleedin’ fox fur draped around your scrawny neck.’
‘It’s an item of clothing,’ Mrs. Pettigrew argued back.
‘Poor bugger,’ Jade said. ‘Imagine having to hang around that miserable biddy all day long.’
Titters rose to laughter amongst the other passengers. The woman fumed but sat down, muttering, ‘I’m ringing your head of department when I get home, Mr. Driver.’
‘Fred Esker’s my name,’ the driver said. ‘Now Mrs. Pettigrew, I’d like to get on. When I return to the depot, I’ll write out your complaint in duplicate myself to add to all the other complaints you’ve banged on about since I started driving this route, around three years ago.’
Once they set off again, everyone, apart from Mrs. Pettigrew, let out unified sighs of relief and, when they reached Pennington village, Mrs. Pettigrew got to her feet. The bus came to a stop and she sidled down the aisle, huffing and puffing. Following her indignant progress, Jade noticed a fox’s head dangling over the woman’s back. Saw it wink at her three times.
Jade winked back and her stuffed parrot screeched, ‘Who’s a pretty boy then?’
The fox, as if opening its mouth in reply, shut it again and shook its bedraggled, camphor smelling head.
Jennifer Walmsley was born and brought up in Wales, and has had short stories published in both women’s and Welsh literary magazines.