280 Stops

A novella for the Internet about the 11 bus.

- two -

Mr Francis Knightlow

Outward appearance

Francis Knightlow is a 55 year old Haitan gentleman: lean, still keenly handsome, sartorially immaculate. A neatly styled moustache and silvering beard. Seated at the back of the lower deck, he clutches this month's Prospect magazine. His gaze is intent but directed solely outside.

Inside information

He has lived in Winson Green for 22 years. It is early morning, but Francis isn't travelling to work. He last worked in 2001 as a bus driver, but not on this route. On his last day on that job, he hit and killed an elderly Indian man at a Puffin crossing on Moor Street.

Francis had maintained his speed around the corner as the man scurried briskly across the road - against the lights. Both men misjudged their trajectory and a last-second blast of his horn wasn't enough to avoid a strike. Death was instantaneous. Francis radioed to report the accident, though the police called it a "collision".

What they are doing or thinking

Francis catches the 11c each morning and disembarks several stops later. He then waits for the next bus to arrive, or the one after that if he recognises the driver. Then the next. This morning he finds a small, silver key on his seat for "Studio K". His thoughts cycle through the events and consequences of that day. From the window he watches the subtle patterns of people's daily movements and the appalling risks they take in traffic. This morning he watches a young woman clamber a guard rail, hoist over an infant and then run into the road to catch her bus.

As Francis alights he returns the lost key to the driver.