The reader’s novel: time when the music rises up in the air from the train

We get out of bed and look out the door and there’s none here, just a canal. The bus smells of sunblock. We stand staring at each other like aliens. A tiny sound escapes from the bus; which is that time in the summer when the music rises up in the air from the train. The group of boys in our group suddenly appear and insist on standing beside us. Who are these kids? What’s their agenda? We lose our credibility quickly.

We let them sit on the seats and stand. They hang on us to our faces, and a couple of other people get uncomfortably close as well. They feel like family. I’m quick to compliment them on their interest in me. Then they sing along with the music. They consider themselves lovers. I realise that this is weird and I’m a little embarrassed by the social skills. Someone starts to look into the car window.

The kids go to the door and try to force us back into the bus. We wait. We hope for something. Eventually, someone climbs out and they run away, and the real show starts: the bus goes out of sight. In half an hour, we’re back. The children are mad because they went down to the canal to look at clouds but we’ve made no attempt to help them out.

When we get back to school, we board a bus. The kids are shouting. I’m asking where they went. They don’t say anything. They might know. We sit down, and we don’t hear them. We say nothing. The bus pulls away. A boy tells us to stop and looks at us. Then he’s looking at us again.

In Buffalo, waiting for the Canadians, by Emma Boyle

The story first appeared in a Readers’ fiction competition.

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