The Last Ride
by Eric J. Krause
The latest text message pushed him over the edge. "Danny cussed out his teacher. Probably suspended." He wondered if Julia had been chuckling when she sent it. No doubt she blamed the teacher. Lord knows Danny never did anything wrong. It seemed the only time the two of them talked anymore was when they argued about their delinquent son.
"Mind if I sit, pal?"
Brad blinked and looked up from his phone. The bus had just picked up a few more passengers and not many seats were left. He slid to the window and smiled at the man in shabby business casual clothes. "Yeah, yeah, sorry. Off in my own little world."
"Thanks." Luckily that appeared to be the end of it. Nothing made a bus trip more intolerable than having to make small talk with a stranger.
Half-a-dozen more stops. Knowing traffic--and a quick glance around at the gridlock proved he did--it'd be another fifteen to twenty minutes. He turned his attention back to the phone and mulled over his reply. Anything he typed would be wrong. He needed to find something that would lead to quiet hostility rather than an out-and-out fight the second he stepped in the door. Inspiration did not strike.
Brad watched the next stop come and go. His palms broke out in sweat at the thought that there was one less buffer between him and home. He gripped his phone tight in anticipation of another text, this one wondering why he hadn't responded.
"This is stupid," he said, drawing a look from the big lout next to him. He readied an explanation, but the guy turned back to his sports page without a word. He looked around, saw no one paid him any mind, and shut off his phone, an action Julia deemed sacrilege.
As they made the next three stops, he fingered the power button, but willed himself not to push it. As they neared the stop before his, he almost cheered when someone pulled the cord.
"Why am I doing this to myself?" he said to the guy next to him.
"Don't know, pal." He didn't look up.
Brad laughed. It was so clear now. When the bus pulled away from the curb, he didn't reach up and mark the next stop. He used to have a life that didn't involve Julia and Danny, so why couldn't he have that again?
About a block from his stop, Brad sighed and pulled the cord. He couldn't start a new existence out of the blue. He didn't have the connections to disappear. When the bus stopped, he got off and headed for home.
There were other ways to vanish from life.