The heat that Thursday afternoon was nigh unbearable. Sitting on the uncomfy, wooden bench, Jimmy Landrum watched the sunlight glint in the glass walls of the bus stop. He was a pale, unattractive man in his late twenties, waiting for the bus that should come in five minutes to take him back home. He glanced at his watch again - five and a half minutes left – and wiped the sticky sweat off his forehead.
Later on, when he thought back at the events of that unusually hot afternoon, he realized it was as if the weather tried to warn him. As if it was telling him to go sit somewhere else (preferably in the shadow), so he wouldn't encounter that strange man. Sadly, Jimmy didn't quite understand the warning and remained seated on the bench in the glass-shed.
The street was strangely deserted. Jimmy suspected this was because of the football match on TV, the one everybody had been talking about for the last few days. Jimmy hadn't been able to join the conversation – he didn't even know what teams were playing.
The guy had spent the last half hour being interviewed for a job in the building across the street. It was the editorial office for the local newspaper, where Jimmy had applied for work as a cartoonist. However, the paper already had a decent cartoonist and they hadn't been too impressed with Jimmy's mediocre drawing style or the dull sense of humor pervading his strips.
"Oh well, at least I tried," Jimmy mused, loosening the dark blue tie he had rented for the occasion. He checked his watch again – four minutes left – and watched a ladybird crawling around aimlessly on the cracked sidewalk.
That's when the strange man arrived. He came down the sidewalk to Jimmy's left, sitting relaxed in a noiseless grey wheelchair. The ladybird managed to fly off just before the wheels rolled by. The man rolled towards the bus stop and parked in front of the bench, to Jimmy's left.
The stranger was a tall, white guy with brown eyes. He looked 65-70 years old and wore a chequered shirt tucked into a blue pair of jeans. His grey hair was slowly, but surely turning white. His legs looked intact, so Jimmy figured they had to be paralysed somehow.
"Hello," the paralytic said with a friendly voice that reminded Jimmy of his late grandfather.
"Uh, hi," Jimmy said, feeling a little ackward. He had always been a somewhat shy person.
"Lovely weather today," the elderly man remarked.
"Yeah." Jimmy pondered how this guy was going to get on the bus when it came, what with sitting in a wheelchair and all …
"Why aren't you at home watching the big match?"
"Er … I'm not too interested in sports," Jimmy admitted.
"Of course," the man in the wheelchair nodded. A motorcycle roared by on the road while he added: "That's why the other boys used to beat you up in school, right?"
"What?" Jimmy said. "I couldn't hear you …"
"Oh, nothing. Is that the newspaper office building over there?" the man pointed to the editorial office across the road. "I haven't been in this town for a while, so I'm not sure …"
"Yeah, that's the newspaper headquarters," Jimmy confirmed. "I was just there for a job interview."
"Really? You're a journalist?"
Jimmy shook his head. "No, I want to be a cartoonist."
"You 'want to be' … So I guess you didn't get the job?"
"No, they already have a cartoonist."
A few noisy cars drove by, drowning the elderly man's voice: "And they said you're about as talented as a pile of shit, didn't they?"
"What did you say?" Jimmy leaned forward. "I didn't hear that 'cause of those damn cars …"
"I said: they didn't like your comics, did they?"
"No, they weren't interested." Jimmy bit his upper lip and checked his watch again. Three and a half minutes left. Time seemed to have slowed down to a snail's pace …
"Nice watch," the man in the wheelchair said.
"Thanks," Jimmy smiled.
"You stole it when you were sixteen, didn't you?"
The smile vanished from Jimmy's face in the blink of an eye, leaving no traces of happiness behind as his complexion turned even more pale than before. "What did you just say?"
"You stole that watch," the man patiently repeated. "When your dad found out, he beat you up real good, didn't he? But you still kept that fancy little watch. You hid it under your bed and didn't take it out until today, because you thought it would make you look more professional and organized for your big, fancy job interview …"
"How the hell do you know that?" The shock in Jimmy's voice seemed to transform into confused anger during that one sentence.
"Too bad they still didn't hire you, eh?" A malicious grin grew wider and wider on the elderly man's face. "But they were right. Even some six-year-old kid could draw better than you!"
"Shut up! How the fuck do you know they said that?!"
The man ignored Jimmy's queries and continued his monologue: "Speaking of six-year-olds, you were that age when your dad hit you for the first time. How did it feel, Mr. Jimmy Landrum? How did it feel when your own father punched you in the face?"
"Shut up! Shut the hell up!" Jimmy rose from the bench.
But the man in the wheelchair wasn't finished: "And throughout your childhood and teenage years, you swore you'd move out someday. Well, you're 29 now, and still living with your parents. In fact, you're about to take a bus home to the miserable old wrecks – you don't even have your own car!" Suddenly, the man's voice changed into the scornful voice of Jimmy's father: "You're nothing but a pathetic, worthless loser…"
"Fuck you!" Jimmy easily pushed the man out of his wheelchair and watched him fall to the ground. The guy's head banged into the hot sidewalk and bright red blood stained the grey flagstones. But he kept talking, now with the voice of the newspaper editor: "To put it bluntly, Mr. Landrum, you're about as talented as a pile of shit. We simply don't need …"
Jimmy rammed his foot into the man's stomach and kicked his head repeatedly. The scarlet pool on the sidewalk quickly spread out.
"So you don't like football, huh? Fucking faggot."
"Mommy can't play with you now, Jimmy, mommy has to find her pills …"
"And if you EVER steal something again, I swear I'm going to cut your hands off!"
"SHUT – THE FUCK – UP!"
Jay Fairbanks had been a bus driver for five years and liked his job. It did get a little tedious, but at least it was more exciting than sitting at a desk, doing piles of paper work all day long. And if you worked in some dull office, you would probably never see anything like the scene Jay witnessed through the windshield as he drove up to a certain bus stop on this unbearably hot Thursday afternoon. An elderly man lay on the sidewalk next to an empty wheelchair. A pool of blood had poured out from his head and a young, angry-looking guy was beating up the defenceless old man. "Shit! Somebody call an ambulance!" Jay yelled to the passengers as he parked at the scene and bolted out of the bus. A few passengers intent on playing heroes as well followed suit. Jimmy screamed and struggled to escape as they dragged him away from the guy on the sidewalk.
"Don't worry, you're safe. There should be an ambulance and some police here any minute," Jay told the injured man as he opened the bus' first aid kit and pulled out some bandages to stop the bleeding.
"I … I don't understand what happened," the man replied. "We were just sitting there at the bus stop, talking about the weather and the football match … Then he started yelling and pushed me out of my chair. W-what did I do?"
"Don't listen to him!" Jimmy shouted. "He -"
One of the passengers swiftly knocked Jimmy unconscious. "Thanks. That should keep him quiet until the police gets here," Jay said, then adressed the man lying on the sidewalk: "I can't understand why someone would do that either … I guess some people are just really screwed up. You never know who you can trust."
The ladybird that had flown off earlier landed on the sidewalk next to Jimmy's limp feet.
The ambulance and police car arrived five minutes later to pick up the injured man and Jimmy, respectively. The elderly man died in the hospital on a rainy afternoon three days later. The doctors didn't find any papers on him, and no relatives or friends showed up. The man was never identified.
A/N: I got the inspiration for this Twilight Zone-esque weirdness while waiting for the bus on a hot, eerily abandoned street. No one else came to wait for the bus, and Jimmy and I have little in common (thankfully), but there was a ladybird there … I knew the story wouldn't make any sense, but the damn thing wouldn't leave me alone, so I ended up writing it anyway. The mysterious ways of the muse, huh? –E.P.O.