Vievee Francis

The Wheel of the Bus: A Fiction

Ms. Parks at the Henry Ford Museum


The bus made new, yellow, no, white, Yes – moves down the blacktop (cue the organ, fingers darkening the ivory). She hovers like an oversized sparrow, remembers that that day was not extraordinary, that she was not extraordinary (how she once shook like a common rag-doll in a mugger’s embrace). And her relatives – like any other’s – not particularly special. She leaves through the opened gate, hears music, no, a horn. She sees a sidewalk below. A familiar curb? The bus stands polished, illumined as if it had never been driven, all the seats made equal. Mother? she muses. Mother of Manners. Mouth of Doves. Mother. Mother mother mothermother motherfucker. She will tell him what she was really thinking. She can’t remember what she really thought. Pig? Yes – You little pot-bellied pig. She moves closer to the roof of the bus. Shut your filthy mouth. SHUTITJUSTSHUTITSHUTIT. She waves the index finger of her right hand at the bus, moving quicker than she could before she died. In panty hose, sensible shoes, and glasses she lands neatly on the roof of the bus, adjusts her bun. Blake, get out of there! For goodness sake, she thinks, why was I so good so good so very very good? Blake! He too is behind a gate, his fingers white-gripped around the bars. His is a bird’s eye view. A guinea fowl. He has been waiting for this moment. He hears her rage, as he heard it then, but now she is so much louder. He screams, Mam, I’m sorry, so sorry, it was my boss. Rosa kicks out the front window of the bus. The bus is a museum. The bus has no engine. Mother of Muggers. She kicks in another window of the bus moving nowhere, moving through the streets of Montgomery. She eases into a front seat. Come out coward! He doesn’t cry anymore, the way he used to when his wife wasn’t watching. It is her, Mother of Movements, Madre of Martyrs whose pipe he must smoke. The bus backfires, alive now with the smell of fumes, pressed trousers, patent leather purses and paint. She wipes the blood from her ankles, smoothes her lap with gloved hands. Stares at the empty driver’s seat.