Five men are on a bus. One of them is driving the bus, four of them are passengers. One of the passengers is the president.
President: This bus is terrible. I’ve always hated this bus.
Passenger 1: Yeah, it’s not great. Tickets are more than they used to be, and too many stops.
Passenger 2: I agree, it sucks. We need a new bus now!
Passenger 3: I love it. A few years ago, there were no buses around here.
Bus Driver: Just needs a tune up is all.
President: I’m going to buy all of you a new bus. A shiny, gold bus that will hold everyone and always run on time. And tickets will be half price!
Passenger 1: Awesome.
Passenger 2: Hear, hear!
Passenger 3: Sounds good to me.
Bus Driver: Good luck.
Three months later...
President: So we can’t agree on what kind of a new bus to buy; most of them seem worse than this one and more expensive. Turns out buying buses isn’t that simple. But still, really, this bus is so bad, just terrible. It’s falling apart.
Passenger 1: It’s not that bad is it? Maybe just give it an oil change and some new hoses for now.
Passenger 2: This is the only bus that runs through my neighborhood and the tickets are way too expensive. You’re right, we need a new bus!
Passenger 3: I’m grateful for this bus, but newer buses, with cheaper tickets that go to every neighborhood is a great idea.
President: Oh my God! Stop the bus! This bus is breaking down.
Bus Driver: It’s running fine.
President: It’s breaking down! Stop the bus!
Bus Driver: Oh look at that, there’s a body shop right here, let’s have them take a look at it.
Two hours later...
Mechanic: Bus looks fine. Needs an oil change, and the transmission isn’t great, but it’s not going to break down any time soon.
Bus Driver: Thought so, thanks for looking at it.
President: This guy has no idea what he’s talking about—and this bus driver is the worst.
Thee miles down the road...
President: Woah! You feel that!? It’s breaking down again!
Bus Driver: I didn’t feel anything.
President: Oh man, this is bad, this thing might explode and kill us all! Stop the bus!
Bus Driver: No, it...
The president gets up, pulls the emergency break and hops out brandishing hedge clippers and a ball-peen hammer. He pops the hood, snips a few wires and smashes the transmission. He then climbs back on the bus, sweaty and scowling.
President: Engine looks shot ― try it now.
The driver tries to start the bus. After a few tries it turns over, but it wont stay in drive, it just lurches and sputters forward. Smoke begins to bellow out from under the hood and it stalls out.
President: You see what I mean? Look at this thing, it’s breaking down just like I said. What kind of an idiot buys a bus like this? You see all that smoke!? What a crappy bus. So crappy.
Passenger 1: But... you destroyed it. We saw you. And now we don’t have a bus at all. This bus wasn’t great, but it was better than no bus.
Passenger 2: I knew it! I hated this bus before it even started running.
Passenger 3: God help us all.
Bus Driver: Are you going to provide another bus for these people?
President: Yes, of course. Not right now, but very soon, a big beautiful bus for everyone. I mean, this bus was so bad ― believe me, so bad. The new bus, which is probably right down the road, 10 mins away or so, will be so much better, you’ll love it.
The president then hops off the bus, climbs into a limo and speeds off. It’s 106 degrees in the bus, the sun is oppressive and with each minute, a new bead of sweat forms and traces the dried, salted line of its predecessor. After waiting three hours, passengers 1 and 3 realize there is no bus coming for them, so they hop off and start to walk. The Bus Driver then turns to Passenger 2.
Bus Driver: There’s no bus coming. We should start walking.
Passenger 2: No way! Did you hear the president? One is right down the road.
Bus Driver: It’s been three hours. If you stay here, you’ll die of heat exhaustion.
Passenger 2: That’s not true. I’m sure it’ll be here any minute now.
The Bus Driver heads off the bus and begins to walk, leaving Passenger 2 behind.
Passenger 1, who had been jogging for a while, hits his limit and calls a cab. It’s five times the price of the bus, and he can barely afford it, but it’s his only option.
Passenger 3 doesn’t have money for a cab. After seven miles in the sweltering heat, he stumbles onto the dirt beside the road, dehydrated and exhausted. He needs water. He stares up at the sky and prays with his every cell for another bus to come by.
An hour passes, then another, and another, and another.
The bus driver, also struggling, sees Passenger 3 on the side of the road. Entirely depleted, he lays down next to him.
Bus Driver: I’m sorry.
Passenger 3: For what?
Bus Driver: I designed that bus, I did my best. I spent years building it. It wasn’t perfect. It was designed to be upgraded, improved, tuned up.
The two of them lay there, fading, listening for another bus.
The bus never comes.
But a North Korean-built Hwasong 14 missile does. It liquifies everything in a 20-mile radius, including the bus where Passenger 2 was still sitting, convinced the next bus was right down the road.
Previously published on The Overgrown.