Medford was a growing town. The glow of the offices scattered between the mini-marts that dotted the highway lit each other more than the rained out Sun most of the year. Eight out of twelve months, most Medfordians would bare the dark and their outdoor market began to gain some notoriety for its well-fed produce. Then November would come, the market would close as the people would warm indoors and wait for March. At the end of the occasional street, a bright traffic light would polarize itself against the block of otherwise dark sundry trees that sprang out of the ground and ruined the sidewalks.
Twice a winter, the Medford teens and other solitarians would be kicked out into the cold and weren't allowed the warm relief inside offered until they swept the yards clean of fallen leaves. The gutters of Medford would fill and a special service vehicle was scheduled to clean them every eight weeks, November through February. The City sold a water bottle corporation some of the rights to Medford's rain filled reservoir and the town started to see the benefits of city living. A freshly funded, slender bridge crossed over the beginning of the city and connected Medford to the highway. Medford's overpass was the stop before The Medford Transit Center, where The Green Line from the larger San Nico ended.
Mr. Williams lived in San Nico and watched as the 7 o'clock number 57 passed. He sat down bitterly and realized the driver could not have seen him on account of the December precipitation collected on the frosted glass walls of the overpass' bus station. He reached into his pocket, grabbed the monogrammed handkerchief his wife had gotten him for Father's Day out from underneath his change, and cleaned the fogged glass. To make sure the bus could see him, Mr. Williams stood and circled the other side of the wall with his silk flannel as formidable raindrops blimped off the newspaper he was holding over his dry mop of hair. Having washed the stop, Mr. Williams dropped his damp napkin back into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone, and sat on the drizzled bench underneath the covering.
"Hi, I just wanted you to know that I'm going to be home late, again. I missed the bus." He said into the home's answering machine.
Mr. Williams put his phone away, jingled his change, and waited for the 7:15.
Mr. Williams looked up as the 57 rolled passed the empty bus station across the street on its way to The Medford Transit Center and he checked his cubicle for condensation. He looked left as the bus approached and its high beams made two diffracted halos through the pane of streaked glass. The bus stuttered to a stop and its opalescent doors stalled open. Mr. Williams folded his watered-down newspaper and stepped on.
"Hello, Mr. Williams," said the plain looking driver.
"Hello," Mr. Williams said looking into his palm, counting out eight quarters.
"Don't bother. The thing's broken," said the driver, nodding to the lit but glassless machine that collected tokens and printed off receipts.
Putting his change back into his pants, wetting his hand on the still rain-soaked rag; Mr. Williams walked by the man that slept behind the driver and sat in the middle of the bus. Mr. Williams looked up from the reflection of the metal back of the seat in front of him and his eyes met the driver's in the rearview mirror; he wondered where the two had met and realized he was one of only three aboard as the bus lurched forward to its next scheduled stop. Mr. Williams looked away, leaned against the window, and wiped it with his hair. Buildings passed and lamppost lights blinked by through the clear patch his head had made as Mr. Williams started to think about his work.
Mr. Williams was the manager of Howard's Wares, the local appliance store, and was very good at his job. He joined the company in high school as a stock-boy and was designated with the honors of moving whichever refrigerators and washing-machines the owner couldn't. As the years went by, Mr. Williams found he was moving more ovens and dryers until the owner retired. He gave the store to his son who split the business with the harder working Mr. Williams; who was promoted to In-Store Manager and tasked with hiring his replacement. That was seventeen years ago, Mr. Williams had hired several young men to lug around televisions since then and over time many had been promoted through Howard's Wares as it flourished under his strong direction.
One of the boys Mr. Williams had interviewed was a teenager named Ricky who was in possession of two DUIs before the age of twenty and whose special skills included "A totally bitching camaro, dude". This was the reason Mr. Williams had passed his application out of his establishment along to the local Salvation Army and it was Ricky who was now driving the bus.
Mr. Williams noticed the stream of slightly upset passengers step on, reach for their wallets, hear Ricky's admission, and find a seat grateully. Sick of the irregular intersection of his eyes with Ricky's and knowing his stop was one of the last on the route; Mr. Williams took the rather lame first passenger's lead and attempted to sleep, as the bus slowly warmed thanks to the steady gain of passengers relieved by the driver.
Mr. Williams awoke to the sight of an empty bus two stops away from where he needed to be. After an uncomfortable few minutes, he exited through the open front door, stepped onto the cleaned sidewalk, and called his wife.
"Hello, I'll be there soon. I'm just getting off now." Mr. Williams said, reaching his wife.
Headed home a month later, Mr. Williams sat on the 7 o'clock and read the paper. As his stop neared, he read the obituary of a local bus driver who was,
Beaten to death, stabbed twice, and abandoned in a ditch. A memorial will be held next week at The Green Line bus station near where he was found.
Mr. Williams tugged the droopy yellow cord, saw the red sign signal the driver, leaned against the bus, and closed his eyes. He heard the release of pressure as the bus stopped. He exited under the green door light, stepped over some leaves, and stood in the cold.
The next day, Mr. Williams took the bus and walked down the overpass to Howard's Wares earlier than usual. He opened the shop, went into his office in the back, and locked the door behind him. He took out some of the folders from one of the older filing cabinets in the corner of his office, spread the leafs of paper on his desk, and pulled out his cell phone.
On his way to work a week later, Mr. Williams sat on the 57 and read the newspaper when one of the Police Reports caught his attention,
3, Outstanding Warrant, Manslaughter, Attempted Robbery. Richard Terry, 22, has been arrested and charged with the murder of local bus driver Peter Daniels, who was found dead last month. Terry was arrested at a local gas station after threatening the clerk who refused to cash his dated winning $2 lottery ticket with a knife. The Medford Police had placed a warrant for Terry's arrest and had been pursuing him after an anonymous tip had led them to Terry's apartment where Mr. Daniel's uniform was discovered earlier in the month.
Mr. Williams folded the newspaper, leaned his head against the forgiving window, and thought about his work as the early morning leaf-cleaner followed the 57.