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Day Trip. 6 June

June 11, 2017

“Day Trip. 6 June”

(Previously titled “Generations”)

by Chris Crider 2017

 

The city bus rumbled down the road winding through a landscape of old burned out buildings and homes. It looked like a ghost town. The city had deemed it necessary to still run bus routes through the neighborhood. The stops were few and far between. The benches at each stop were decayed and some were nonexistent. Still the bus rolled on. Commuters were few.

The air conditioning kept the interior of the bus at a frigid temperature because it didn’t compete with body heat and the frequent opening and closing of the door. The driver was at the end of his career and was quite pleased with the route. Fairly uneventful most days and that was just fine with him. Stop number seven was the driver’s favorite.

He came to a slow stop and the front of the bus lowered to level with the curb. The stop had no bench like many of the others. He left the door closed, checked his cell phone and waited. A few minutes passed and he had already scanned the area up ahead of the bus a few times. He looks at his watch and decides to wait a few more minutes. He was always slightly ahead of schedule for stop number seven. It began to drizzle a bit. He switched on the windshield wipers. In between swipes of the rubber wipers on the glass the street became visible, then blurred.

Joshua approached from the sidewalk ahead. The driver could make out his shape and size in between the blur of the rain and the freshly swiped window. It was definitely him. They had never been formerly introduced so the driver just secretly called him Joshua. The silhouette that approached in the mist stood about five feet two inches. Gravity had taken its toll on the old man but his spirit and tenacity stood about six foot four. He walked to the bus in no hurry. Truth be told, he was probably moving as fast as he could but it was a familiar pace to the driver. He adjusted his seat, put his phone away and quickly stood to check and square away his uniform. He sat back down and buckled his seat belt. He had learned early on that Joshua will board the bus without assistance. The bus door opened.

“Good Morning sir!”  Said Sam, the bus driver.

“Good Morning to you as well sir” replied Joshua.

He gripped the railing at the entrance of the bus and slowly clawed his way up each step. He stood next to Sam and rifled through his pocket to find his change. Sam closed the door and patiently waited. Joshua rattled seventy five cents into the bus’ coin machine and walked to his seat. He took his backpack off and fished out a thin jacket. Sam watched him in the mirror and once he was seated comfortably, the bus rolled on.

Joshua sat quietly with his cane leaning up against his leg and his backpack in the seat next to him. He was attentive at each stop even though rarely was anyone there to be picked up. His backpack was a modern style like something you’d see a soldier wearing. His clothes were pressed and neat. The creases in his pants made Sam jealous. He sat with his hands crossed in his lap and eyes fixed out the window opposite his seat.

Sam glanced at him occasionally from the mirror above. Joshua whispered to himself often but Sam never inquired.

The bus rolled on. After about twenty minutes the bus slowed and Joshua sat up straight and looked ahead to the stop. Three young males about eighteen or nineteen were standing in the street waving the bus to stop. Sam knew the three and would rather leave them in the rain. He looked at Joshua from the mirror above again and slowed to a stop and opened the door.

The three rushed into the bus and began to push each other around and cursing loudly. Joshua watched them. The three argued about who should pay the bus fare and eventually tossed change into the coin box. It wasn’t near enough for three passengers but Sam was far past the days of altercations with these thugs. Sam prepared to pull away but checked the mirror above to make sure the new riders were seated. His eyes shifted in the mirror to Joshua and the two locked eyes in the reflection. Sam was ashamed and Joshua knew it.

The bus rolled on. The cursing from the back of the bus continued and got louder. Sam watched from the mirror but was silent. Joshua watched from his seat. One of the three saw Joshua staring at them and yelled

“What’s up old man? You want something back here?”

Joshua just looked at them.

“You deaf? I asked you a question!”

The other two laughed and called him names. They joked and made fun of his clothes.

“Look at his clothes! Look at how buster he looks! Check out his gear!” said the second thug.

“Yeah look at those buster ass shoes! Hey old man do you even look at yourself in the morning?” said number three.

Joshua stared at the three and stayed silent.

“Leave him alone!” shouted Sam. His eyes fixed on the three in the back.

Joshua looked at Sam in the mirror. Sam’s eyes shifted from the back of the bus to Joshua. One of the three jumped from his seat and walked towards the front of the bus cursing at the driver. The other two shouted expletives from the back and started to feed the fury. It quickly escalated and the other two approached from the back of the bus as well. The first male walked past Joshua and screamed at Sam. The other two focused on Joshua. One sat right next to him and began to mock him. The other stood over him and kicked his cane. Joshua gripped his cane tightly. His other hand clutched his backpack.

“Old man if I want your backpack, I’ll take it!” said number two.

Number three grabbed the shirt of number one and the cursing stopped. He left Sam alone and stood next to the other two looming over Joshua. They exchanged looks at each other then one of the three glanced at Joshua’s backpack and nodded to number one to get his attention. One of the three walked to the back of the bus. The other two whispered something about his backpack. They cursed Sam a few more times and kicked Joshua on their way back to their seats.

Joshua and Sam looked at each other again in the mirror above. Joshua’s eyes reverted back to the window across from his seat and just as quickly as it escalated, things quieted down.

The bus rolled on. The three watched Joshua closely. Sam’s eyes watched the back of the bus, but anytime the three saw him watching, he’d quickly look down at the road. Joshua watched Sam.

Ten minutes later a ding! chimed throughout the bus. Joshua’s stop approached. The bus slowed. Joshua gathered his backpack and readied his cane. Sam looked at him in the mirror and then to the back of the bus. The three also prepared to exit. Joshua looked at Sam in the mirror but Sam shifted his eyes downward again. The bus stopped and Sam hesitates to open the door. Joshua stood next to Sam waiting. Sam’s eyes were fixed on the mirror watching the three in the back. They waited.

Joshua put his hand on Sam’s shoulder.

“Open the door Sam.”

Sam spun around and looked at Joshua.

“Open the door. It’s ok.”

Sam opened the door and unbuckled his seat belt. Joshua heard the metal buckle slap against the edge of the seat as it fell free.

“No Sam. Buckle up. You have a route to finish.”

Sam looked at him then into the mirror. The three stood ready at the back door of the bus. The front of the bus lowered and both doors opened. The three hurried off the bus and lingered on the sidewalk waiting for Joshua. He gripped the railing as he did when he boarded and methodically navigated each step off of the bus. When he reached the curb he turned and looked back at Sam.

“See ya next week Sam.”

Joshua turned up the sidewalk and found his pace. He didn’t look back at Sam again. The three pushed each other around and started up the curb. They hurled more curse words at Sam as they walked by the still open door of the city bus. Sam clinched the steering wheel of the bus and then closed the doors. The front of the bus lifted back to driving height and rolled forward slowly. Sam pulled up next to Joshua but he didn’t look up at the bus. Curses continued at the bus from the three. Sam pulled away and looked back on the street behind in the mirrors.

The engine of the bus fades off in the distance and rounds the corner. Joshua and the three are alone on the street. The distance between the men shrinks. The three scan the surroundings looking for anyone else nearby. It’s quiet and the rain has stopped. Joshua’s cane meets the wet sidewalk with each step and to one of his steps the three step twice as fast. At the corner Joshua stops to navigate the step off of the curb. The three meet his position and gather around him.

“Hey old man, we’re not done” said number one.

The other two get closer to him and position behind him.

“Where are you going old man? These are our streets and you don’t have any business out here.”

Number one steps closer to Joshua and flips his hat off his head. At the instant that number one touches the hat a loud clap of thunder rocks the quiet street!

“Whoah! Damn! What was that?” shouts one of the other three. They all look up at the sky as Joshua attempts to pick up his hat.

Joshua struggles to reach it and leans heavily on his cane. The three look back to him.

“What’s wrong? You can’t get your hat? Here take mine! It’s fresh and looks way better than old junk you’re wearing!”

Number two takes his hat off his head and attempts to put his straight billed ball cap on Joshua’s head. He reaches out and as soon as the hat touches Joshua, another much louder crack of thunder rips through the air! It’s so loud that the three jump back away from Joshua.

“What the hell is going on!?” says number three from a crouched position almost on his knees. Joshua still reaches for his hat.

Number one scans the street again for any onlookers “Enough of this! Take his gear!”

The other two are still stunned by the cracks of thunder and hesitate.

“Dammit grab his gear and let’s beat feet down the street!”

They look at each other and one of them reaches for Joshua’s backpack. Just like before, as soon as they touch Joshua they’re met with thunderous protest from the sky above. This time the thunder is accompanied with a blinding flash of lightning. The three are almost thrown back from the man by the flash and sound. They struggle to see and confusion sets in. Confusion turns to fear, then anger. The first thug has had enough.

“Just grab his gear and let’s go already!”

Joshua squares up his posture and looks at number one. His eyes are wide and wildly intense. The first thug lunges at him with reckless abandon and grabs his backpack. The backpack tore open and fell to the ground.

A blinding flash and quake beneath them throws the three to the ground. Their ears are ringing. The sound was so loud it burst their eardrums. They hurt and clutch at their ears. They lay on the wet sidewalk temporarily blind and deaf. The wet ground begins to saturate their clothes. The air they’re breathing tastes of salt and blood. They struggle to see; to hear. What was going on? What had happened? Why did they taste blood and salt? They cried out for one another like baby birds that had fallen from the safety of the nest, blind in the dark. Their shouts turn to screams. Blood curdling screams. They crawl frantic on the ground trying to find one another.

Spitting the salty bloody air from their mouths as they search for each other. Sounds begin to return. The sidewalk beneath them feels like sand. Their fingers sink as they probe around where the sidewalk once had been. Their clothes get heavy with water as they roll around trying to find something familiar. The ground shakes again under blasts from all around. The sandy earth nearby is thrown into the air under the concussion of each blast. More salty, bloody sand. They spit it from their mouths and feel as suffocation will overtake them.

They scream in ways that haunted their private nightmares. Blasts become explosions. Sand is thrown everywhere around them. Smaller cracks of sound ring out and multiple bursts of sand are thrown into the air next to them. Metal meeting metal begins to ring out and ricochets can be heard everywhere. More screams cry out but from unfamiliar voices. Light begins to find their eyes as they wipe away the salty slurry.

Figures all around them are moving in the same direction; into the chaos. Shouts can barely be heard amongst the machine gun fire and explosions. Figures drop dead to the sand while others are tossed into the air like toys, ripped apart.

The three by chance find each other and huddle up behind a metal structure. Screaming and trembling with fear they cling to each other. The waves slam against them and toss debris on them. Empty helmets wash up at their feet. The water is red and littered with bodies. The surf pushes the bodies up against them. Boats drop platforms out in the waves and are instantly met with vicious machine gun fire. Bodies drop in the boats before they can even take a step. Further out in the sea flashes in the foggy horizon can be seen. Seconds later the beach above and behind them explodes.

The three beg for clarity; for safety. The hedgehog anti tank obstacle they’re hiding behind offers them no cover. They dig their overpriced, Chinese made designer sneakers into the sand in an attempt to get closer to the skinny metal I-beam obstacle. Soon the MG-42 will find them. It’s only a matter of time. Fire and smoke hang heavy in the air. Grey and red are the only colors available. The safety of the sidewalk back in their neighborhood was nowhere to be found. The only thing to be found here is pain and death.

“Get up and move you sons of bitches!” shouted someone from about five feet away.

“This is Omaha Beach! Get on your feet and move!”

It was the old man from the bus. His name covered in blood and sand but it was definitely him. He screamed at the three to move or die. He couldn’t be more than twenty years old and here he was. Standing amongst hell on earth, screaming for them to move.

“Get up and fight!”

He fired his B.A.R. towards the beachhead. Sand burst from the ground around him as the enemy bullets chased him. He was lean and strong. He was clearly a leader and made every attempt to move men up the beach. He shouted and used hand signals to advance the men around him. His friends were being mowed down and at any moment he would be too. Still he advanced.

He shouted to the three “Follow me!”

The three frozen with fear just stared at him as they clung to each other. The man ran to them and grabbed them one by one and threw them from behind the hedgehog to another piece of cover. Seconds later the piece of metal they were hiding behind was thrown into the air by an explosion. Only a crater in the beach remained where the three had been just moments ago. The man looked down the beach in both directions and exchanged more hand signals.

“Get ready to move” he shouted. “Let’s go! Follow me!”

The man gave a final hand signal and sprung from behind the metal structure and ran up the beach towards the roar of the MG-42; towards death. The three filed in behind him and ran as fast as they could. Their shoes flying from their feet. Running now in only socks, they could barely keep up. The man was moving so fast. The three chased him frantically shouting “please don’t leave us!” They dove behind cover as directed by the man in the soldier’s uniform.

The man exchanged more hand signals to his left then to his right. The three were surrounded by young men their age. Who were they? Why were they doing this? Some of these faces in soldier’s uniforms looked familiar.

“Get ready!” shouted the man again.

Soldiers on both sides readied to move and with a wave of hands they sprung from behind safe cover and ran straight into hellfire. The three followed single file so close they were actually touching each other. Soldiers fell all around them, on both sides, behind and in front of them.

“Keep going” shouted the man! “Move your asses!”

They raced behind the man to another piece of cover diving into a small crater left behind by a previous explosion. The three burrowed into the sand getting as low as possible. The man sneaked to the top of the crater and peered out to see the advance route. He looked down the beach again to his right and left to size up the advance force. He readied his rifle and instructed others to prepare for the push up the beach. They had about one hundred more feet to the next cover. The three collapsed under the fear that overwhelmed them. Explosions got closer. Bullets ate away at the sand and the cover got smaller. It wouldn’t be much longer and their cover would be no more. Each bullet tore into the sand. More explosions. Sand and blood rained down on them.

“We can’t do this!” shouted one of the young men from the bus. “We shouldn’t be here! We don’t belong here!”

The man in the soldier’s uniform signaled with his hand to other soldiers. This would be the final push.

“Get ready” he shouted to the three!

“No! We can’t do this!” they shouted back.

The man in the soldier’s uniform shouted “You have to! You can do it!…… I’ll be right in front of you!…. Follow me!”

He reached out to put his hand on the shoulder of the first young man from the bus. When he touched number one, a loud boom from an explosion shook the ground around them. The three tucked down further into the sand. The man reached out and grabbed number two. Another loud boom rang out and rocked the hole they hid in. When he pulled number three closer, the ground very close to them erupted beneath them. A thunderous explosion and a blinding flash threw them all from the crater. They rolled around once again blind and deaf. Heavy with bloody sea water they crawled low to the ground searching for anything familiar; searching for the man in the soldier’s uniform. Their ears hurt and they rubbed at their eyes.

The ground stiffened beneath them. They couldn’t hear the man’s voice anymore. The explosions drifted further away and in its place, thunder was rumbling above them. More thunder. Rain began to fall on their faces and the taste of blood and salt diminished. Sounds returned and their eyes were sensitive to the light but they began to see shapes.

Slowly things began to focus as they rose to their feet. They saw each other and quickly ran hands over themselves to check for injuries. No blood. No sand…. They looked around frantically. They looked for the man in the soldier’s uniform. Number one grabbed the other two and they all three stepped back and into the street.

Joshua was on his knees on the sidewalk scrambling to gather up his belongings that had been torn from his backpack when number one ripped it from his backpack. The three stared at each other and didn’t move. They watched him desperately chase black and white photos on the wet sidewalk.

The wind ripped them from backpack and threw them in the street and across the grass.

One of the photos slapped against the leg of number one and clung to his pants. He reached down and picked it up. He looked at the photograph and stood frozen as his mouth dropped open as his flesh went pale white. The other two young men from the bus rushed to help the old man gather up his photos. They chased them into the street and across the grass, gathering them all up. They attempted to wipe them clean. They kneeled down next to the old man and offered him back the photos. Joshua stared at number one and the other two looked at him.

“What is it!? What’s wrong?” asked the other two.

Number one fell to his knees sobbing and said “Look at the pictures.”

The other two collapsed in tears weeping as they looked at the pictures and saw the faces of the soldiers from the beach….

The three wept and holding the pictures to their chest.

The squeak of brakes from the bus broke the silence as it turned up the street. Sam doubled back to check on Joshua. The bus came to an abrupt stop right in front of where everyone was on the ground. Sam hurried and unbuckled, throwing the door open and rushing to the curb. He stopped short confused and just looked at Joshua and the three. Joshua struggled to his feet and steadied himself with his cane. He tucked the damp photographs back in his backpack and zipped it up. He stood over the three and as they wept, they held out the photos they had to the old man.

“Remember.” said the old man.

He turned to Sam and adjusted his backpack.

“You got a route to finish Sam. Get in there and buckle up.”

Sam inhaled deeply and replied “Yes sir.”

Sam stepped back into the bus, squared away his uniform and sat down in the driver’s seat. He buckled his seat belt and nodded to Joshua. The old man gripped the railing at the entrance of the bus and slowly clawed his way up each step. He stood next to Sam and rifled through his pocket to find his change. Sam closed the door and patiently waited. Joshua rattled seventy five cents into the bus’ coin machine and walked to his seat.

Chris Crider 2017

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11 Comments
  1. My Uncle Bob now deceased was there 06/06/42 and told me a similar true story of his trip up the beach never beleiving he would make it to the bottom of a sandy cliff with the Germans shooting directly down on them, how those that made it with him tired to dig in for cover until the shooting stopped or the Germans where killed. They made it to the top and continued fighting their way over land. My Grand parents thought Bob was dead, his sister gave birth to a boy on 07/11/44 and named him Bob in honor of her brother, that was me. That horror story is cemented in my memory!

    • Wow! I was reluctant to write the story. It came to me and I thought about it for a while. Thank you for sharing that!

  2. Ted Stepanek permalink

    I really like this story. Kept my attention throughout and made me want to finish. I want to learn more about Joshua after reading this.

  3. Lauri Holcomb permalink

    This is wonderful, Chris! So proud of you!

  4. hey that’s a good read…thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Jeff Cramer permalink

    Bro….AWESOME…my eyes didnt stop the entire time. Very vivid, I could see everything that you were writing. Keep this up.

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