Bus Tales #2 – Charity

Thanks to WoTW for this great prompt.  This piece start out so small and then grew and grew.  I hope you enjoy it.  😊


The bus moved slowly through traffic, the engine idling at the first set of lights.

“Turn the bloody air con on, Drive,” came a call from the back, “bloody roasting in ‘ere.”

The driver rolled his eyes and flicked a switch.  He hated match days.  This was his third and last trip after the game and he had a curry to collect on his way home.

The bus was half full of Cherry and Whites grumbling about gifting Bath the win.  Personally he wasn’t a fan of egg chasing he liked football not the scramble of rugby.  He turned the volume up on the radio so he could listen to 5 Live and the fan’s reactions to the day’s footy.

“Bloody defence,” Rob shook his head and took a Butter Mint from the packet Barb was offering wordlessly.

They weren’t his favourite, to be honest he didn’t really like them but Barb did and forty-five years of marriage had taught him to put up with the Butter Mints of life.

Barb turned to offer one to Ken and Joyce who were sat on the two seats behind.  “Always get match day mints from Marks and Sparks,” she said as Joyce delved into the packet.

They knew this, of course, after coming to the rugby together for twenty years; they shared a look.  Ken smiled, he and Joyce had been together for almost all those twenty years, this was their second time around and although she could drive him up the wall some days, most days she made him smile.

“I like the soft caramels they do.” Joyce examined the unwrapped mint. “Oh, and they also do them diet sweets too.”  It was a suggestion offered in a comment.

“Sugar free,” Ken corrected taking a Butter Mint and sharing a glance with Rob.

“That’s right, sugar free.”  Joyce nodded as she popped the sweet in her mouth.

“I wonder what they use instead of sugar,” Barb pondered putting the packet back in her Glorious Gloucester bag.

“It’ll be some chemical stuff, manmade,” Rob answered. “You know, what’s in all that diet crap.”

“Rob don’t like anything diet,” Barb explained with a shake of her head.

“It’s not that, Barb, you know where you are with sugar, it comes from sugar cane…”

“And sugar beet,” Joyce added testing the mint to see if it was ready for a quick chew as her back teeth had been playing up but she wasn’t ready to go to the dentist yet.

Rob sighed. “Yes and sugar beet but it’s natural like, not like some bloody synthesised rubbish that someone come up with in a lab.  And you know what most things in labs start off as?”

The others shook their heads; Barb chewed her lip.  “Bloody chemical weapons, that’s what!  I bet that Sweetylow shit started out as some form of poison.”  He crossed his arms over his chest and chewed on his mint.

“Wasn’t a very good poison was it, love, I mean, lots of people use Sweetylow in their tea.” Barb placed a reassuring hand on his leg and give it a quick squeeze.

“Well obviously they didn’t get the formula right, did they?  But that’s how most of this stuff starts.”

“I use Sweetylow,” Joyce said a little concerned. “It’s recommended by my slimming club.  Surely they wouldn’t recommend it if it were poisonous.”  She shifted in her seat.

Ken smiled to himself trying to half listen to the irate West Ham fan on the radio.

Rob exhaled.  “No it’s not poisonous now,” he explained with open hands.

“But it was once..?” Joyce looked between Ken and Rob for clarification.

“No, Joyce, it were going to be,” Barb tried to clear up the confusion.

“Well, I don’t understand the point of that, people wouldn’t buy it if it killed you and surely families would sue, people sue for all sorts now.”

“There goes their profit margin,” Ken added with a smile.

“There’s that woman, in the paper, who’s suing the council because she went and got attacked by a seagull,” Barb pointed out.

“Where’s that, Barb?”  Ken asked, quickly swallowing his mint.  God, he hated Butter Mints.

“Somewhere in Scotland.”

Ken nodded as if he knew.  “Thought it might be from around here, there’s enough of the buggers in the town centre.”

“Did you know they use a bloke with a hawk, they do, to get rid of them?  Saw it in the Journal, remember, Ken, I told you.”  Joyce nudge her husband.

Ken tried to recall the conversation.

“What, in the town centre, surely that’s dangerous?”  Barb was slightly dismayed thinking of a dog fight in the air above all the shoppers.  Or should that be bird fight?

“For the seagull,” Ken added.

Nope, he could not remember the seagull conversation.   He remembered one about Marmite being the most confiscated item at UK airports, until they made the jars smaller and that daddy longlegs have penises, but no, no seagull story.

“Big buggers mind, gulls, nasty too, they ain’t got no fear, take the chips from your hand they will,” Rob muttered remembering the altercation he had  last year when one swooped in and nabbed part of his sausage roll.  He’d still ate it, though, it had cost him almost two pound he wasn’t going to let good money go to waste.

“Blooming gulls,” Barb griped.  Rob nodded.

The bus jerked to a stop at a junction and a moped whined passed.  “Woah, Drive,” someone shouted as an orange rolled along the aisle.

Joyce turned her attention to the line of shops at the window.  “Look at that, Ken, in the Sally Army window, a kaftan!”

She tapped on the glass with her finger. “Do you remember that one your mum had?”

Ken grinned.  “I haven’t thought of it for ages.”  They shared a smile.

“Go on,” Joyce encouraged, “tell Barb and Rob.”

The other couple looked on expectantly.  Ken cleared his throat.  “Well, it was back in the early Seventies-”

“I thought it was earlier than that?”  Joyce questioned.

“No, love, I was at tech in Hereford so it was definitely early seventies.”  He took a drink from his water bottle mindful of the no food or drink sign on the driver’s cab.

He leant forward.  “Well, me mum went and got herself a kaftan this was when the only people wearing them were Demis Roussos and a few space out, old, hippies but nobody down our street was.”

Rob and Barb broke out into a chorus of high pitched.  “Ever and ever, forever and ever you’ll be the one.” People turned and stared; they stopped with a giggle.

“I thought it was Dennis, Dennis Roussos?”  Joyce finished her Butter Mint and took a swig from Ken’s water.  She hated the taste they left in her mouth.

“No, it’s definitely Demis, he was Greek,” Ken explained.

“Oh,” Joyce marvelled, “maybe it’s Greek for Dennis, then.”

“Maybe.”  Ken squeezed her hand gently.

 “Anyhow,” he continued, “this kaftan was made from polyester and it was black with bright geometric lines on in yellow and orange. She wore it most of the time like a house coat.”

Joyce shook her head. “Ken’s old school he means dressing gown.”

The others smiled.

“Mum was always wearing the damn thing,” Ken continued, “and it’s not like I’m the fashion police or anything it’s just the blooming thing was always statically charged.  Every time you made contact with her you’d get a shock like a bloody crack of a whip.  My kids used to call her Nanny Static.”

They laughed collectively.  “She was wearing it when I first met her, you remember, Ken, after that darts match at the Whistle.”

“I didn’t know you played darts, Joyce,” Barb remarked before sneezing into a ready prepared tissue.  “Blooming hay fever,” she said as an apology.

“Bless you,” Joyce offered.

“No,” she carried on, “only went ‘cos I fancied the socks off Ken and it was the only pub, back then, that you could buy a decent white wine spritzer.”

“They did a reasonable chicken in a basket as well,” Barb recalled.

“With a sizeable portion of chips.”  Rob tapped his stomach and winked; Barb nudged him.

As if on cue Rob’s stomach gave a high pitched whine which seemed slightly abnormal coming from an ample amount of belly fat.  Barb rummaged through her bag again for the Butter Mints.

Ken took another sip of water.  “Not even mum’s dreaded twin tub could kill that bloody kaftan even though it took no prisoners with the rest of our clothes.  She use to boil everything,” he explained, “it was like winning the lottery if your t-shirt came out the same size as when it went in.”

“Oh, I loved my twin tub, remember love, your mum gave me her old one when we first got married,” Barb reminisced offering Rob a mint.

He shook his head. “Me dad bought her a new Zannukey one for her fiftieth so they gave us their old Hot Point.”

“Four wash cycles the thing had.”  Barb made four with her fingers with her hand while offering the mints; it was no mean feat.   “And they could be up to 12 minutes long.”

Rob laughed.  “Bloody thing was possessed, used to try and make its way out the door on a spin cycle.   And the noise, like a bloody jet engine, used to wake me up when I worked shifts.”

Both Joyce and Ken refused the proffered mints.

“What happened to that kaftan, Ken?”  Barb asked.

“Well, when mum passed we found it pride of place in her wardrobe.”

“He was thinking of keeping it, sentimental old sod,” Joyce piped up.

“But we didn’t,” Ken stressed. “We packed it up and gave it to charity, in one of them bags you leave at the end of the drive.”

“Which one were that, Ken?”  Barb enquired.

“Christ, Barb, it were ten year ago his mother passed, how do you expected him to remember that!”  Rob said a little harshly.  Barb snorted and rolled the packet of mints up noisily.

“We used to joke that we half expected to see someone round town dressed in it,” Joyce added quickly looking at Ken.

He smiled.  “To be honest we didn’t really think anything else about it until Prince Charles-“

“Prince Charles?”  This piqued Barb’s interest.

“Yeah, when him and Camilla went on a trip to Africa.  I remember we were watching the news having our tea-“

“Fish, chips and mushy peas,” Joyce confirmed with a confident nod.  “From the chippy by the school, not by Tesco.”

“We always go there,” Barb remarked, “the portions are bigger.”  She gestured toward Rob’s stomach.

“Anyhow,” Ken said a little louder than he meant to, “Joyce likes to follow the royals so we watched the news story and what do you think one of the residents of the township he visited was wearing..?”

“No!”  Joyce cried placing her hands over her mouth in disbelief.

“Yep, me mum’s kaftan.   There it was in glorious technicolour on our flat screen TV, we couldn’t believe it, bloody gave him a shock too, when he shook her hand, we could tell by the look on his face.”

The all laughed.

Barb placed the packet of Butter Mints back in the hessian bag.  They’ll do for next time she thought looking out the window.  She couldn’t stand them herself but everyone else seemed to enjoy them.

Bird poo brazenly targeted the window with a loud slap.  “Blooming seagulls,” Barb grumbled gathering her stuff together.

The all agreed as the bus drew into the stop before theirs.

Copyright ©RMC June 2018.



7 thoughts on “Bus Tales #2 – Charity

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