28.12.10

Tom

Short Story


He would sit there at the bus stop, silently, day in - day out. His bent head and still body displaying a sense of withdrawal from all activity surrounding him. Even if someone were to speak to him, he would not respond, even look, or seem to care. He would just sit there in his own little world and perhaps dream of a time when things were different.

Perhaps he would dream of a time when his now tattered coat and shaggy hair were clean and well kept. Perhaps he would dream of a time when he had nutritious meals lovingly prepared for him and he would sit by a warm cozy fire on cold winter nights, feeling safe and loved.

Most people at the bus stop would accept his presence with slight regard. Of course, some people would turn their noses up at him and turn away as if even the sight of him were offensive. Children on the other hand did not find him uncomfortable to be around, as others did. A smile from a child was overlooked but tiny fingers stretched out to offer comfort were quickly scolded.

No one knew his name and few would care anyway, except the regular bus driver, Jack, who had silently named him, Tom. Jack had been driving the same bus run for over a year now and wouldn’t have been able to say exactly when he first noticed Tom. Tom had just appeared sitting at the bus shelter one day and he was always there after that.

One especially bitter cold morning however, Jack noticed that Tom was not there. ‘Probably even too cold for you, old fellow,’ Jack muttered to himself. 

If it hadn’t been for a child called Sarah, Jack would probably have never seen Tom again. The very next day Jack pulled up to let a passenger off when Sarah ran down the steps and out the door before anyone, except her grandmother, could respond. 

‘Sarah, Sarah, come back here now. You know I can’t run after you,’ Sarah’s grandmother yelled in fright. 

Without hesitation Jack shut the engine down and jumped down the stairs after Sarah, for Jack took pride in looking after his passengers. As Jack came running around the bus shelter hot in pursuit of Sarah he almost ran straight into her as she was kneeling on the ground. 

‘Ok, time to get back on the bus young lady’ Jack tried to say as sternly as he could. 

But Sarah didn’t move and Jack moved to the side to see what was hidden from his view.

‘Oh, old fellow, so this is where you got to, hey?’ Jack whispered to himself when he saw the stone-like body of Tom before his eyes.

‘Is he – alive?’ Sarah asked with a tremble in her voice?

Jack didn’t like the thought of upsetting Sarah but he also knew that she deserved to know the truth, and the truth was that Tom was no longer going to be the familiar sight in the bus shelter any more.

Jack bent and scooped Tom up in his arms and took him around to the bus shelter where he laid him gently on the seat. He would come back after his shift and take him home to bury in his back yard under the old apple tree. At lease he would now have a home.


By now Sarah understood that Tom had died, and taking Jack’s hand, she returned to the bus, to her grandmother's obvious relief.

‘Poor old tom cat,’ thought Jack. ‘I guess I won’t be the only one who will miss you.’

***

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.