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Andrea Zanin | Driver

It’s an ordinary day. Grootbaas, that’s what they call him at the terminal, ambles indifferently towards the start of his shift. His neck hangs over his feet, observing invisible footprints. Everywhere and nowhere. He kicks aimlessly at a small stone stranded in his path, raising his head to follow its trajectory.

His gaze veers left.

He doesn’t see science and serendipity intersect as the stone klaps the side of the bus, chipping paint into the breeze.

Instead, Grootbaas sees himself.

Accosted by his own reflection.

The grime-infused glass in the door of the bus distorts his tallness, his whiteness. Not his oldness. This remains intact. Deep furrows in his brow conjure black shadows across his face. His wife is always telling him not to frown and now his own face accuses him. So, he frowns more—like a petulant child squishing and squinting in petty retaliation. The shadows grow longer, darker. He draws closer to the other, daring the fissured wraith in front of him. “Soek jy?” It doesn’t take much. A bony hand reaches through the glass. Grootbaas jumps, stumbling backwards, hoping to avoid the poke that will cause him to topple. Barely stable. He has no choice. He punches through the door and clambers into the driver’s seat, starting the engine before thought can intervene.

The bus lurches forward, and then, gathering its thoughts, creeps slowly out. Easy does it. Left onto Bree Street. Right onto Mooi. Stopping and starting, onloading and offloading. Market Straat, the Jeppe Taxi rank and then Roberts Avenue. The Johannesburg business district opens up to great Oaks and Jacaranda trees. Finally, Grootbaas breathes.

Ahead, a little girl holds a lady’s hand.

“Joanna, it’s very far to walk.”

“That’s only because you have little legs, Katie. But yes, it is very far. See my big belly? Eish!”

“Remember when you used to carry me on your back, Joanna? I liked that.”

“Now you are too big and I am also too big.”

“Joanna, will you carry…”

“Katie, look! A bus? What do you think?”

“Yes Joanna! Yes yes YES!”

Joanna tightens her grip around the little girl’s hand, and quickens her pace; lifting her free arm to hail the driver.

Grootbaas sees a little girl holding a lady’s hand. Instinctively he slows down. The little girl is dressed in a yellow summer dress, her curly brown hair tied up in bouncy pigtails. His gaze shifts to the black fingers clasping hers.

A bony hand reaches through the glass.

Grootbaas pushes down on the accelerator.

“Joanna, why are we running?”

He doesn’t have to stop. Why should he? So what if she’s pregnant. This might be the new South Africa but he is still the driver.

“Joanna, the bus did not stop. Why did the bus not stop?”

The lady wipes the anger from her eyes and looks down at the sweat-stained cheeks of the little girl. 

“Soon, Katie. Soon the bus will stop.”

All it takes is a poke.


Image: Bill Shortridge Pixabay modified

Andrea Zanin
Andrea Zaninhttp://www.ourfiresidestories.com
Andrea Zanin is an 'all over the place' producer of content and stories. An expat South African living in London, with a passion for tales from her homeland, found on ourfiresidestories.com

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