So, there’s this corner right by my house. It’s all overgrown with pecan trees and pokeberries, and it has a bus stop. Had a bus stop. The sign fell down, but it’s still a designated stop.
I kinda liked that about it. Like it’s a secret only a few people know about. A ghost stop.
Frank, the guy who drives the 92, always swings by to pick me up. I can bike to just about anywhere but the specialty store where I get my gear. So I go out there at promptly 9:25. Frank stops and lets me on. I get whatever I need done and I wait at the city stop by 11:45. Frank drives that time, too, so he brings me home again. Kinda like my own bus service.
Frank and me got on really well. I liked to joke, and he liked me better than the riffraff that he normally toted from the train station to downtown. I liked to think we had a pretty good thing going. So I never really tried to get on the bus when other drivers were operating.
Flash to two months ago.
I have this special thing on my right pedal because my foot’s all messed up. Childhood accident. Well it went out right as I got home from work. This was the middle of the week, so I had work the next morning and couldn’t go on the 9:25 bus with my buddy.
It was five in the evening. The store closed at six. I had a decision to make and I made it.
I was already rehearsing what I would say to the driver as the silver bus careened around the corner. I don’t remember what it was. Maybe it was a joke to test the waters. Maybe it was an apology. All I could think of as that bus turned and didn’t correct itself in time was that I had work in the morning, and they wouldn’t have time to find a replacement.
I woke up in the hospital.
That’s not entirely true. I woke up in the ditch first. Everything was black, so I thought I was dead. I passed out again.
I had fallen in a weedy area, so no one saw my body for a few hours. It turned out to be the old German guy who always walks his dog past my place n the evening. He called the ambulance while his excited papillon nibbled my fingers.
When I woke up, they explained to me that I’d had a bad accident. I said I knew. A bus hit me.
The two guys who broke the news(I think one was an insurance rep) looked at each other.
They said I had bruises from the impact. Where I had hit the bricks and bounced. Where I had landed. But the wounds I had were inconsistent with a car grille impact.
I said I didn’t want to sue anyone. A bus had hit me. I was waiting at the stop and the stupid thing turned to wide and went too fast.
The guy I thought might be the rep cleared his throat. There was no stop on that corner.
No pole, I said, but there was still a stop.
More exchanged looks. The rep rose first, tucked a card in my pocket.
We’ll talk when you’re feeling better, he said.
Later, a nurse popped her head in and asked if I felt well enough to take a call. Well, at least one of my hands was okay, so I agreed and she wheeled in this old cord-phone.
Man oh man, I am so sorry were the first words on the line. It was Frank.
He said I should have told him I was going out. He would have driven in his old truck to pick me up.
You are the high point of my day, he told me, if it wasn’t for you, I’d probably go nuts on the job.
He begged me not to say anything about the stop.
I asked why.
The line crackled. It was probably just the old cord, but it made me feel like someone was listening in.
He said that nobody was supposed to know about the stop. Yes, legally, there had to be a stop every X-amount of feet in the city, but the bus line told drivers never to stop at that corner. He had taken a huge risk even picking me up, but he liked me and didn’t care.
I asked him why all the secrecy.
He paused again. I could hear TV on his end, some king of boxing match.
He said that the stop had been taken out the same way I had. He sounded apologetic. But the same thing had happened. A driver, too much of a hurry, a turn not corrected, and the pole was bye-bye.
Why didn’t they just build another one?
He paused again. It was getting annoying, like he was teasing me, but the poor guy probably didn’t even realize he was doing it.
They did, he said.
And again, after that one got knocked down.
And another one after that.
And another one after that.
Did I get it?
So it’s a bad traffic spot, I said, so what? Why not just put it further back from the road or something?
Because that wouldn’t have stopped the driver, he said.
The same driver, every time? Why didn’t they just fire him?
Frank was quiet again. I’d have thought he hung up, but I could still hear the match in the background.
He died, Frank said. He died in that first crash. He took all the passengers with him.
But even after he died, the sign would get knocked down. The same time, every day, by a bus that no one could find afterwards. That was why they called it the ghost stop.