Note: Written for the Review Game's August Writing Challenge Contest. Check out the other entries and vote for your favorites from the 8th to 14th. The prompt this month was "I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth" - William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

A Matter of Perspective

A young woman sits on a bus.

The old man in the seat across from her saw her limp onto the bus, tear-tracks on her face and eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. He buried his face in the Sports section and hid her problems with newsprint. No matter how he sits, he can't seem to block her vibrant pink shoes from view, and the dark splotches of filth offend him. He moves to the seat in front of her.

The mother in the back seat, three rows behind the woman, juggles a diaper bag, a toddler, and 3-month old. She smells something bad when the woman steps on the bus and sniffs her children; not her problem. Her son runs back to their seat and points at the woman who handed him a ragged doll. It's not his toy so she makes him give it back. He cries and the mother forgets all about the others on the bus.

A teen couple sits in the front seat. They see nothing but each other and their fantasies of sexual satisfaction, temporarily sated in heavy petting and gratuitous makeout sessions when the bus stops and more passengers get on. They've seen this all before.

A young man gets on the bus. He sees dozens of empty seats, the old man, the mother, the teens, and the young woman with dirty pink shoes and the body of a super model; he sits down beside her. "Mind if I sit here? How are you today? If you don't mind me asking, are you a model? You should be. Come on, I'm just trying to be nice here. You could at least say hello. Really, bitch? No wonder no one wanted to sit with you." He grunts his disgust and finds a new seat.

The bus stops. The driver sees the young woman stand to leave but an old woman gets on first.

The old woman sees the young woman with her pained slump and tearful eyes and stops in the aisle. "Are you alright?" The old woman reaches out a hand but the young woman pulls away and huddles out of reach. "Can I help with anything?"

The young woman sighs and the old man looks over his paper at the sound like a death rattle. He shivers over half-formed thoughts and wild fear of his impending end and exits the bus two stops early.

The mother hears the young woman say, "My daughter ran away and I can't find her. I ran after her and I thought she'd be on this bus, but she's gone. I've looked everywhere." She sees the ragged doll in a new light, and inspects it with renewed interest. Dark liquid streaks her hands and she drops it to the floor, alarmed.

The old woman stands aside to give the young woman the aisle, pity on her face. She spots blood on the now-vacant seat and turns to offer help, but the young woman has already stepped off the bus. "That woman was injured!" she tells the bus driver.

The bus driver shrugs and watches as the young woman passes in front of his bus, oblivious to the traffic, and vanishes under the wheels of an SUV. He hears the old woman gasp and feels her hand tighten on his shoulder, but he urges her to go sit down. He sees nothing unusual.

The teen couple break apart as the old woman knocks into one's foot. She looks stunned and one jokes, "What's the matter, Grandma? You look like you've seen a ghost." When their stop comes up, the teen girl picks up her doll and waves to the bus driver like she has for ten years. "I won't be on tomorrow. Tell mom I said hi!"