280 Stops

A novella for the Internet about the 11 bus.

- one -

Fryda Grudziński

Outward appearance

Obscured by a security screen, this wiry young woman seems embedded, as though cyborg, in the fabric of her 11 bus.

Inside information

Fryda moved to the UK six months ago. Fluent in four languages and with a PhD in linguistics, at any given time she's the most qualified person on this bus. She is paid £10.90 per hour.

What she is doing or thinking

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. She had a romantic notion that as a bus driver she'd be at the heart of the community, a useful citizen, and a welcome constant in people's lives. She even thought she'd make friends. It's not like that: the bus is set up to keep her separate from passengers; shifts are organised to keep her from ever doing the same pickups.

She thinks she recognises an angry girl but can't place her outfit. Other than that all the fares are just punctuation in the day, interruptions from her thoughts.

Few people complete an entire circuit of this route. That's one privilege this job affords her. She drives and thinks - about time, place and language. She drives through terracotta Greens and bricked up Heaths, picking apart place names to understand their pasts. She wonders if any of her passengers see the history in all of this language or if all they hear are syllables, all they see are icons where she sees symbols and hears indices of rural pasts and pastures.

She's yet to read a book on Birmingham's history - the 11 tells the story well enough. On Sunday she's going to see if she can find a Castle in Bromwich.