mmerriam: (Default)

Originally published at Michael Merriam. Please leave any comments there.

I enter Uptown Transit Station and discover what appears to be a homeless couple having sex on–and wrapped up in–a pile of old coats and rags on the floor of the transit center. Nearby is a large backpack, a pair of bags from a local fast food place, and a pair of heavy boots. Another backpack is under the woman’s head, like a pillow.

They look to be in their late twenties or early thirties and what little I can see of them looks like they could both use a shower. They both have ragged, uncombed greasy hair on their heads. The beard on his thin face is long and scraggly. Her face is round and pale. While they are completely covered by the coats and rags and bits of old blankets, he is obviously between her legs, thrusting and grunting softly. She is silent, her knees raised, eyes closed. There is a smile on her lightly flushed face.

Startled, I look away. They are, after all, having a private moment, even if it is in a public place. I join the rest of the transit users waiting for their buses and going about their business as if a homeless couple isn’t copulating a few feet away. People are talking on their phones, talking to each other, talking about the buses and where they are heading and who they are seeing and what they are having for dinner tonight. A dozen mundane conversations continue on with the low murmur of love-making as a musical undercurrent in the background. I wonder if I should call the St. Stephen’s Street Team to come and talk to them. It’s cold and they obviously have nowhere to go or they wouldn’t be having sex in the transit center. They are probably both homeless and mentally ill.

Meanwhile, outside the station a large, powerfully built older gentleman using one of those 4-wheeled rolling stability walkers–a rollator I think it is called–is talking to the people getting on and off the busses. He has a big, booming voice and for the last several minutes he has been asking people if they believe they are square with the world, because the angels see all and want to take the good people to dinner. To Outback and Appleby’s and Perkins and Denny’s. For a burger. Or a steak. Or hash browns. Apparently the angels like American Cuisine. Either satisfied that everyone outside would soon be having a Grand Slam with the angels, or else needing to get in from the bitter cold, he enters the transit station.

Rollator Dude: “Um-hum I see you. I see you all. See through your soft flesh and brittle bones to the burning flames under your skin. I see you.”

Random Transit Rider: “I see you too, brother.”

Rollator Dude: “I’m sure you do. Mmm-hmm. Right through all of you.” (Pauses as he notices the couple having sex) “What is This! What is This! Fornicating in public!”

At this point I reach for my phone, figuring I might need to call the police.

Woman Having Sex: “Hey, Stan.”

I look over. They are still having sex, the man thrusting harder and grunting softly. She is smiling up at Stan, who has ambled toward them with his rolling walker. I look away again, but keep an ear on things.

Stan (Rollator Dude): “Hey, O-Live-E-a. I see you Johnny-John, I see you and hey, Johnny-John, you keep tapping that sweet thing, man. You make your lady happy and maybe later I can tap that as well, umm-hmm. What do think O-Live-E-a? If Johnny-John don’t have no mind.”

Olivia (Woman Having Sex): “I don’t know Stan. Can we come stay with you for a few days?”

Stan: “You know I can’t let no one live with me. I can’t lose my place O-Live-E-a.”

Olivia: (Makes a small little pleased noise) “Just until we find something, Stan.”

Stan suddenly goes off on a long rant about how he is a bank robber who robs banks and gets away with it because he is the best bank robber at robbing banks.

Olivia: “Stan? Stan! Can we come stay with you?”

Stan: “You guys could come over and use my shower. That should be worth something.”

Olivia: “I’m not fucking you for just a shower.” (Pause. Little gasp) “But maybe we can work something else out.”

New Voice: “I keep telling them they can live with me. I’ve got a nice place. Clean. No one cares if people stay with me as long as they’re quiet and don’t smoke crack.”

Olivia: “Yeah, but I know what you want.”

Johnny-John (Guy Having Sex): (Grunt) “I don’t mind.” (Grunt) “Tim’s nice to me.” (Grunt) “I don’t mind at all.” (Grunt-grunt) “Tim makes it not hurt.” (Grunt) “He’s always nice and gentle.”

Olivia: “I just want a shower. I just want a shower.” (Pause. Gasp.) “You’re a good guy Tim. I just—” (Gasp)

Tim walks toward them. I glance over. They are still having sex. Olivia’s right leg has come out from under the coats and towels. She still has on her shoes and socks. Her skin is very pale and her calf is very thin. I look away as Johnny continues to thrust into her. Around us people come and go, keep talking about normal stuff and playing on their phones. Newcomers to the station walk in, pause as they see the couple, then go on about their business. Stan starts talking about how he works for the CIA/FBI/Police and is in disguise. Tim says he is in disguise too. Stan says he can right through Tim, right to his soul, right into his brain. Right through Tim’s life all the way to the womb, all the way back.

Olivia: “Stan? Can we use your shower?” (She is starting to sound a little breathless)

Stan: “Oh. yeah. Come on over. I’ve got a crockpot full of pulled pork and a case of Hamms. We can eat and fuck and shower and have a laugh.”

Tim: “Yeah. Yeah.” (Starts to hum. Stops humming) “Guys! Guys! Cops! No, wait, it’s a taxi. You guys can live with me. We can all live together. I’ve got a clean place.”

Olivia: “Stan. Stan, when does your bus get here? What bus, Stan?”

Stan: “The 23. Whenever it comes.” (Short digression about rare steak and raccoons and how the raccoons will come and steal a man’s steak right off the grill) “Whenever, O-Live-E-a.”

Olivia: “What time does the 23 come?” (No one answers) “When is the fucking 23 going to be here?”

Me: (Looks at the board) “You’ve got 16 minutes.”

Olivia: “Damn it, Johnny, finish up. We’ve got to go. A shower, Johnny. And hot food.”

Johnny: (Grunt) “We’ve got a few more minutes.” (Grunt) “We’ve got time.”

Olivia: “A shower, Johnny! I want a fucking shower.”

Stan: “Here. Here. Let me cover you up. Let me cover you. It ain’t decent, you showing all that leg to these people. All these strangers with their lights. All these strangers watching and wanting and wishing and licking their lips.”

I glance over as Stan kneels down and covers Olivia’s bare leg with a coat. Johnny continues to thrust. Stan stands back up

Stan: “Fornicating! In Public!”

Olivia: “I’m getting that shower.”

The Number 12 bus arrives and I start for the door.

Me: “The 23 will be here in 13 minutes.”

Olivia: (Gasps in ecstasy. Groans. Hums. Sneezes.) “Fuck, Johnny. Come and get off me. I need to put on my pants. A shower, Johnny. A shower and a hot meal. I’m not missing that fucking bus because of you.”

I walk out of the station and board the #12. I stop at Trader Joe’s and buy goat cheese and catch another bus home.

mmerriam: (Default)

Originally published at Michael Merriam. Please leave any comments there.

I climb aboard the #17 at Uptown Station. We’re sitting there stopped because the bus is running early and as we wait, a man in his twenties climbs aboard, does that thing where he starts going through all his pockets looking for money.

“Hey! Hey! Someone got fifty cents? I need fifty cents!”

Finally, someone in the back offers him the fifty cents. He pays, gets a transfer, and sits in the seat across the aisle from me. The bus starts rolling up Hennepin and I can feel him looking at me.

“Hey! Hey, blind guy! Hey, blind guy. Hey, blind guy, what you got in your backpack, blind guy?”

Now, I don’t want to conjecture that this gentleman had nefarious intentions. Perhaps he was just curious. Perhaps. But I doubt it.

“Hey, blind guy, what you got in your backpack?”

So I turn to him and say, “A laptop that stopped working in 2004, four rolls of pennies, a bag of dirty socks, the severed mummified head of Jimmy Hoffa, and one very angry weasel.”

Long, long pause.

“You’re shitting me, man.”

“The weasel’s name is Tim.”

“You’re a crazy man! You’re crazy!”

And he moved to the back of the bus and I never heard from or saw him again.

mmerriam: (Streetcar)
I’m riding the buses to meet some friends for cocktails and snacks after a long and kind of not-so-great Saturday at work. I take my typical #12 Bus to Uptown and get on the #23 at Hennepin and Lagoon, out in front of the Uptown Theater. This is the longest stretch I have to ride, so I settle in read email on my phone for the next half hour.

She gets on near the Uptown Animal Clinic. Late 20s or early 30s. Red hair, black knee-length dress, boots. She looks like she’s heading for a night on the town, to be honest. She has a purse over her shoulder, but is clutching a small drawstring bag in her hand. She scans the bus, which is mostly empty, then walks to where I am sitting behind the back door, settles next to me, puts her head on my shoulder and sniffs.

“I had to put my cat down last week. These are her ashes,” she says softly.

“I’m sorry. I am so sorry for your loss. “I’m Michael, by the way.”

She sniffs a couple of more times, but doesn't say another word, just sits next to me with her head on my shoulder, clutching the little drawstring bag that must hold the ashes of her pet. As we near 38th and Portland she pulls the cord for a stop and gets off. I watch her walk down 38th until the bus pulls too far ahead.

I don’t know who you are, miss. But I’m sorry for your loss.

Originally posted at michaelmerriam.net. You can comment here or there.
mmerriam: (Streetcar)
Monday, while waiting at the corner of University and Dale for the bus.

Man: "Hey, how much is the fare during rush hour?"

Woman: "$2.25."

Man: "$2.25? Damn! I haven't been in prison that long, have I? Damn!"
mmerriam: (Streetcar)
Monday, while waiting at the corner of University and Dale for the bus.

Man: "Hey, how much is the fare during rush hour?"

Woman: "$2.25."

Man: "$2.25? Damn! I haven't been in prison that long, have I? Damn!"
mmerriam: (Default)
And not just marketing the Sky-Tinted Waters anthology and my new novella, The Curious Case of the Jeweled Alicorn.

I took a trip to Atlanta recently for a conference of the professional organization that Beloved Spouse is an officer of. I tend to go along with her on these trips, just like she comes to all the conventions I attend. We support each other's careers pretty aggressively. Since I'm not part of her organization, I treat the days she is in conference, committee meetings, and panels as a writing retreat.

I ride the bus for hours every week, back and forth to the Day Job, and anyone who has ever ridden public transit more than a handful of times can verify that public transit is full of colorful, weird, wonderful people in all their messed-up, beautiful glory. By the time we got to Atlanta, I had this idea about two mages fighting a low-keyed magical duel every morning on the 94 Express bus between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the unfortunate third-party who gets involved.

By the time we got settled into the hotel, I could see the entire shape of the story and even went so far as to (gasp!) write an outline. This made me happy, except I had several scenes sorted out except the opening, so I had no idea how to actually start the story! Deciding not actually knowing how to start was no good reason to not get things rolling, I kind of flung myself at the story, putting words down and not worrying about if they sucked or not. It felt great (though reading back over the beginning, I think it needs to start in medias res). I wrote a couple thousand of words that first day, the prose coming fast and easy, if perhaps a bit clunky and ugly. No worries though, second drafts and rewrites are for clean-up. I loved it so.

But…

There's always the morning after. When I opened the document the next day, I was nervous and fearful. Oh shiny new story! In the sharp light of morning, I feared you would hustle me out the door with a promise to call sometime soon, but instead you showed up with fresh coffee and a warm smile.

Once we returned from Atlanta things slowed down, not because the story had lost the shiny, but because of my own responsibilities (day job, conventions) and because I caught a cold that made writing something akin to pushing my brain through jello. I started to find the flow harder to maintain, but I knew if I just kept pushing forward, things would be fine. This was a rough patch, nothing more.

This week, I was able to get back to it. It's up over 14,000 words and counting. I'm guessing it will hit between 20- 25K before it's all said and done. Novella seems to be my natural storytelling length. Which is weird, because I use to be Mr. Under 4K.

I wrote a nice, quick 800 words on Sunday morning. I've written past all the notes and outlining I had created and am now wondering through uncharted territory. I'm at the end of a scene, so I should probably stop and think about where we are heading before I write myself into a corner.

Originally posted at michaelmerriam.net. You can comment here or there.

Bus Tales

May. 31st, 2012 09:00 am
mmerriam: (Streetcar)
Every morning I commute by bus to St. Paul. Anyone who has ridden public transportation can tell you stories. I've posted some here over the years. I think I'll start posting them again.

Today, on the 94B Express from Minneapolis to St.Paul, I settled into a seat next to the window, folded my mobility cane, and relaxed in anticipation of the usually uneventful ride (we like uneventful rides, as opposed to the bus catching on fire, which happened a few years ago). One of the regular riders, a late-thirties woman who gets off one stop before me, sat down next to me. We nodded and exchanged quiet good mornings, then she pulled out her Kindle and I closed my eyes to get a light doze in on the bus (I've learned the art of dozing on the bus and not missing my stop) since I had a crummy night's sleep last night. I had already dozed on the 665 Express to Minneapolis.

I guess she had the same idea, because part way to St. Paul as the bus went into a curve, she slumped over onto my shoulder. I opened my eyes and found her obviously asleep (I could tell by the slight snore and utterly relaxed posture). I've had this happen before, but still.

So very quietly I say, "Miss? Miss?"

To which she snorts, rolls my direction, grabs my arm, and snuggles down closer to me. Not one to go about wantonly sleeping with strange women on buses, I reached out with one finger and gave her a gentle tap on the shoulder.

"Miss." I give a slightly harder tap. "Miss."

She jerks awake, eyes opened wide, startled. Realizing what has happened, she blushes, sits up straight and begins to nervously smooth her clothes. "Sorry," she mumbles.

"It's okay," I say. "Just, you know."

We ride in silence for a few minutes, then as she reaches across me to pull the cord to ask the driver to stop, she give me a small smile. "At least I didn't drool."

We both laugh softly, and she exits the bus.
mmerriam: (Default)
Line edits on Last Car to Annwn Station are finished and returned to Editor Melissa at Carina Press. It should be a couple of weeks before the CEM arrives. I have a week to finish that, then the manuscript will be complete and delivered. There will be a final proof galley, then at last a book. I can’t wait.

My reading at DreamHaven Books was a success. I started off reading too fast, but got my footing and by the time I read from Last Car to Annwn Station I had settled in. Everyone seemed to enjoy the reading, and several folks said they are looking forward to the novel coming out this summer. We had a great crowd, 41 people by our count.

Super Bowl party was fun, with about 20 people at my house, some of whom cared about the game, many of whom did not, and everyone having fun. There was lots a good food and great company.

Had a nice night out with some other local writer folks. Good conversation, goods people, and a smashing beer and scotch selection at The Muddy Pig in St. Paul.

Speaking of food, we have a new Japanese restaurant in Hopkins, Aji. There is nice review here: http://www.weeklynews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=8267&SectionID=49&SubSectionID=110&S=1

We went with some friends and found everything cooked to perfection and the sushi bar well presented, with a good selection of excellent and flavorful sushi.

We went to see Bill W. and Dr. Bob (http://www.illusiontheater.org/events/bill-w-dr-bob) at the Illusion Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. This show is well worth seeing, and the discussion after the show with the director and actors was great fun.

The MinnSpec meeting today was a presentation about giving presentations and being on panels. There was some really good stuff, though I feel like we focused a little too much on PowerPoint stuff. I know some people really dig the PowerPoint, but I don’t use it. There was also good discussion about what to do in difficult situations (a cellphone goes off, crying children, that one person in the audience who tries to hijack the panel, that one expert in the audience who asks you the one question you don’t know the answer to, that sort of thing). We talked about different things you can do the make your public speaking better, including joining Toastmaster and taking some basic acting and voice classes. Over all a very positive meeting, plus we figured out the topics for the next couple of meetings.

Getting gear up for Con of the North this weekend. I will be spending my birthday at the Con.

I sent in my panel picks for CONvergence. We shall see what happens.

Speaking of panels, I have my schedule for MarsCon:

Friday, March 4:
6:00-6:45 PM--Krushenko's/Concierge (Room 1332)
Fiction Reading: Michael Merriam

Saturday, March 5:
6:00-6:45 PM--Re(a)d Mars/Taylor (2nd Floor)
Panel: The Woods Are Lovely
How do we create modern fairytales and myths? How do we tap into the primal emotions of fairytales in a modern era?
Michael Merriam, mod.; PMF Johnson, Naomi Kritzer

Sunday, March 6:
11:00-11:45 AM--Re(a)d Mars
Panel: Ask a Writer
Always wanted to know how a novel is born? How does a writer structure their day? Is it all glittering parties and intelligent company? Come ask a panel of working writers anything!
Michael Merriam, mod.; Roy C. Booth, Catherine Lundoff, Anna Waltz

1:00-1:45 PM--Krushenko's
Panel: The Western as Fantasy
Myths about the Old West began before the West was old, making it one of the first shared worlds in American culture. We'll discuss the rise and fall of the Old West mythology, and how it has influenced and lent its energy to current genres including fantasy and science fiction.
David Christenson, mod.; Eric M. Heideman, Michael Merriam

2:00-2:45 PM--Krushenko's
Panel: Writing in a Series: Harmonies and Discords
Writers who have done multiple novels or stories about continuing characters and/or a linked world share their experiences, positive or negative, and their advice to aspiring series writers.
Michael Merriam, mod.; Lois McMaster Bujold, Naomi Kritzer

I’ve acquired shooting scripts from several televisions shows and one from a motion picture. I plan to read and study these, watch several episodes of Being Human, Eureka and Warehouse 13, and then create spec scripts. I am also outlining a feature movie script.

My counselor at State Services for the Blind has, in support of my quest for a part-time job, hooked me up with Lifetracks in St. Paul. My worker there has already sent out my resume to a potential employer that looks to be a good fit for me, except it might be too much travel by bus. Still, if they can find me a possible position before I’ve ever had a meeting with them, I’m impressed.

Tomorrow night I will cook Valentine dinner for my Bunnee. We stay in and avoid the crowds on Valentine's Day. There will be good food and small gifts.

Also, still sick. This is the start of week three. I suppose I should go see a doctor.
mmerriam: (Default)
Line edits on Last Car to Annwn Station are finished and returned to Editor Melissa at Carina Press. It should be a couple of weeks before the CEM arrives. I have a week to finish that, then the manuscript will be complete and delivered. There will be a final proof galley, then at last a book. I can’t wait.

My reading at DreamHaven Books was a success. I started off reading too fast, but got my footing and by the time I read from Last Car to Annwn Station I had settled in. Everyone seemed to enjoy the reading, and several folks said they are looking forward to the novel coming out this summer. We had a great crowd, 41 people by our count.

Super Bowl party was fun, with about 20 people at my house, some of whom cared about the game, many of whom did not, and everyone having fun. There was lots a good food and great company.

Had a nice night out with some other local writer folks. Good conversation, goods people, and a smashing beer and scotch selection at The Muddy Pig in St. Paul.

Speaking of food, we have a new Japanese restaurant in Hopkins, Aji. There is nice review here: http://www.weeklynews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=8267&SectionID=49&SubSectionID=110&S=1

We went with some friends and found everything cooked to perfection and the sushi bar well presented, with a good selection of excellent and flavorful sushi.

We went to see Bill W. and Dr. Bob (http://www.illusiontheater.org/events/bill-w-dr-bob) at the Illusion Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. This show is well worth seeing, and the discussion after the show with the director and actors was great fun.

The MinnSpec meeting today was a presentation about giving presentations and being on panels. There was some really good stuff, though I feel like we focused a little too much on PowerPoint stuff. I know some people really dig the PowerPoint, but I don’t use it. There was also good discussion about what to do in difficult situations (a cellphone goes off, crying children, that one person in the audience who tries to hijack the panel, that one expert in the audience who asks you the one question you don’t know the answer to, that sort of thing). We talked about different things you can do the make your public speaking better, including joining Toastmaster and taking some basic acting and voice classes. Over all a very positive meeting, plus we figured out the topics for the next couple of meetings.

Getting gear up for Con of the North this weekend. I will be spending my birthday at the Con.

I sent in my panel picks for CONvergence. We shall see what happens.

Speaking of panels, I have my schedule for MarsCon:

Friday, March 4:
6:00-6:45 PM--Krushenko's/Concierge (Room 1332)
Fiction Reading: Michael Merriam

Saturday, March 5:
6:00-6:45 PM--Re(a)d Mars/Taylor (2nd Floor)
Panel: The Woods Are Lovely
How do we create modern fairytales and myths? How do we tap into the primal emotions of fairytales in a modern era?
Michael Merriam, mod.; PMF Johnson, Naomi Kritzer

Sunday, March 6:
11:00-11:45 AM--Re(a)d Mars
Panel: Ask a Writer
Always wanted to know how a novel is born? How does a writer structure their day? Is it all glittering parties and intelligent company? Come ask a panel of working writers anything!
Michael Merriam, mod.; Roy C. Booth, Catherine Lundoff, Anna Waltz

1:00-1:45 PM--Krushenko's
Panel: The Western as Fantasy
Myths about the Old West began before the West was old, making it one of the first shared worlds in American culture. We'll discuss the rise and fall of the Old West mythology, and how it has influenced and lent its energy to current genres including fantasy and science fiction.
David Christenson, mod.; Eric M. Heideman, Michael Merriam

2:00-2:45 PM--Krushenko's
Panel: Writing in a Series: Harmonies and Discords
Writers who have done multiple novels or stories about continuing characters and/or a linked world share their experiences, positive or negative, and their advice to aspiring series writers.
Michael Merriam, mod.; Lois McMaster Bujold, Naomi Kritzer

I’ve acquired shooting scripts from several televisions shows and one from a motion picture. I plan to read and study these, watch several episodes of Being Human, Eureka and Warehouse 13, and then create spec scripts. I am also outlining a feature movie script.

My counselor at State Services for the Blind has, in support of my quest for a part-time job, hooked me up with Lifetracks in St. Paul. My worker there has already sent out my resume to a potential employer that looks to be a good fit for me, except it might be too much travel by bus. Still, if they can find me a possible position before I’ve ever had a meeting with them, I’m impressed.

Tomorrow night I will cook Valentine dinner for my Bunnee. We stay in and avoid the crowds on Valentine's Day. There will be good food and small gifts.

Also, still sick. This is the start of week three. I suppose I should go see a doctor.
mmerriam: (Coffee)
It's because getting around on public transportation is such a production and hassle. Now that the migraine has settled down to a dull roar, I can explain why my birthday has sucked mightily.

Hear Now My Tale of Woe! )
mmerriam: (Coffee)
It's because getting around on public transportation is such a production and hassle. Now that the migraine has settled down to a dull roar, I can explain why my birthday has sucked mightily.

Hear Now My Tale of Woe! )

Grrr....

Mar. 31st, 2008 05:06 pm
mmerriam: (Dice)
[livejournal.com profile] careswen should be home by now, but her bus picked today, of all days, to have engine trouble and break down. She just sent me a text, and the next bus on the line had picked them up, but damn, now she's going to be 30 minutes later than she wanted to be.

It is getting near blizzard conditions outside, snowing hard and blowing sideways.

Grrr....

Mar. 31st, 2008 05:06 pm
mmerriam: (Dice)
[livejournal.com profile] careswen should be home by now, but her bus picked today, of all days, to have engine trouble and break down. She just sent me a text, and the next bus on the line had picked them up, but damn, now she's going to be 30 minutes later than she wanted to be.

It is getting near blizzard conditions outside, snowing hard and blowing sideways.
mmerriam: (Cane)
So I get out of class early today, and I'm riding on the #12 bus, heading for [livejournal.com profile] careswen's workplace. We're rolling along Excelsior Boulevard, just about to cross France Avenue. As the bus starts up the incline, it starts to slow down, the engine revving up and down erratically. While all this is going on, I start to smell a very strong odor of burning diesel. I am thinking to myself, "Wow. That's a really strong smell of burning diesel. Something must really be on fire somewhere. That's got to suck for whoever it is."

Then someone from the back of the bus yells, "WE'RE ON FIRE!"

I look toward the back of the bus (which is where the engine is located) and there is this thick cloud of black-grey smoke in the rear of the bus. The driver stops in the middle of Excelsior Boulevard, cuts the engine, hits the hazards, and we all pile out of the bus. Black and grey smoke is just billowing out of the engine compartment, thick and nasty and smelling just god awful. Someone yells "Fire!" again and we all scatter, because you know, bus, fire, flammable liquid.

So I'm walking down Excelsior. I pull out my cell phone, and I call my wife.

"Hey, I'm at Excelsior and France, walking down Excelsior. My bus caught on fire."

A minute later the sirens start.

But no mention of it on the local news tonight.

It can only go up from here, I'm thinking.
mmerriam: (Cane)
So I get out of class early today, and I'm riding on the #12 bus, heading for [livejournal.com profile] careswen's workplace. We're rolling along Excelsior Boulevard, just about to cross France Avenue. As the bus starts up the incline, it starts to slow down, the engine revving up and down erratically. While all this is going on, I start to smell a very strong odor of burning diesel. I am thinking to myself, "Wow. That's a really strong smell of burning diesel. Something must really be on fire somewhere. That's got to suck for whoever it is."

Then someone from the back of the bus yells, "WE'RE ON FIRE!"

I look toward the back of the bus (which is where the engine is located) and there is this thick cloud of black-grey smoke in the rear of the bus. The driver stops in the middle of Excelsior Boulevard, cuts the engine, hits the hazards, and we all pile out of the bus. Black and grey smoke is just billowing out of the engine compartment, thick and nasty and smelling just god awful. Someone yells "Fire!" again and we all scatter, because you know, bus, fire, flammable liquid.

So I'm walking down Excelsior. I pull out my cell phone, and I call my wife.

"Hey, I'm at Excelsior and France, walking down Excelsior. My bus caught on fire."

A minute later the sirens start.

But no mention of it on the local news tonight.

It can only go up from here, I'm thinking.

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