In preparation for the Flash Fiction English assignment, we read short stories like an excerpt from "The Things They Carried" to study how powerful stories are written without any dialogue. We had an early brainstorming session, where we came up with a character, created their backstory, and conceptualized a talismanic object, or an object meaningful to the character that helps further the story. We also held an in-class brainstorming session. I knew that I wanted to write a story from the perspective of a child, and I also tried to pull memories from my childhood in writing the story - playing video games, getting an iPod, and other things that carry significance when you are a child I settled on a story that centered around a location: a school bus. My narrative tells the story of Lily Blanchard, narrated by her friend who she meets on the bus. I tried to capture the growth and loss of a childhood frienship through my storytelling.
The Bus Ride
When I met Lily Blanchard I was in the second grade, seven years old. I remember she walked onto the bus wearing black wheelies; and as she moved her way to the second step of the staircase, she wiped out. Her wheelies went rogue as she flailed for the handlebar and fell backward. We all sort of stood up from our seats and saw as the backpack broke her fall. Lily Blanchard’s little red face scrunched up, her fists tightening around the drawstrings of her brilliantly blue sweater as she retreated into the hoodie like a turtle in its shell.
Then she picked my bus seat.
I shuffled over toward the window and let her scooch in. She spent the first ten minutes of the bus ride quietly untying her shoes, picking at the laces with her nubby, nail-bitten fingers. Then she quite unceremoniously attempted to stuff her lumberjack-sized shoes into her Finding Nemo backpack, sweetly suggesting that the shoes get in with a lot of shoving, zipping, and kicking.
The wheelies had these cool red and yellow flames on the side.
I offered to take them off her hands.
“Only if you give me your shoes,” Lily Blanchard said.
I loved my shoes. I bought them from Adidas; so instead I pulled out an old pink Nintendo from the front pocket of my bag and proposed a trade.
She fidgeted with the drawstring for a moment, also chewing on her right pinky nail. But Lily Blanchard didn’t wait for more than that one moment before kindly accepting. I saw the smallest, most resolved smile.
Each day after that Lily would step onto the school bus at Stern Street, wearing her iconic blue hoodie and sensible sneakers, and I would scooch over toward the window, third seat on the left.
I would try and bring a new game for every bus ride. Most of the time it was Mario Bros, but sometimes my sister would lend me her things and we would play Zelda, Dragon Quest, or her Disney games.
Lily loved to play Mario Kart, and she would elbow me if I held the Nintendo for too long.
When she was in fifth grade, her parents bought her an iPod. Lily carried earbuds and it with her to school so we could listen to hype music while we played Nintendo. Sometimes if playing the same games got old, we would look for the weirdest music her parents had downloaded or listen to her favorite songs.
Lily never talked to me when we were at school - and I didn’t really see her around - but when she was on the bus I think she might have been my best friend.
I also think that as we got older Lily grew out of her shell. She would make jokes and laugh with the kids sitting behind us and come up with little songs to sing on the bus rides.
Lily sang from her nose and sometimes sounded nasally. Other times, though, when we would have our soft-spoken conversations on the bus, she whispered in a singsong rhythm, her voice like little bells ringing melodiously.
One time in seventh grade Lily wanted to sit with a few other classmates so she wrapped her fingers on my jacket sleeve and plodded us over to the back row. I remember watching the gravelly ground that ran under the bus in a scribbling motion from my view out the window on that day. Lily forgot to play the iPod music so I just hummed songs in my head.
In eighth grade Lily Blanchard’s visits became more sporadic. Sometimes she’d sit on the third seat on the left; other times in the back or elsewhere. I felt fine with it, though, because Ned and I would then sit together and we’d talk.
Lily Blanchard didn’t take the bus anymore freshman year. I recognized one of her friends on the bus at some point during high school. I asked her if I could have Blanchard’s phone number, but she just looked at me like it was such a strange request. Acting on a stupid urge, I pretended I wasn’t actually talking to her, swiveling away and walking back to my seat.
I sat down, third seat on the left, and I hummed for the rest of the bus ride.