More Than Life

Entry by: Godai41

29th May 2015

We filed into the auditorium, glancing against each other, shoved and angled, as first graders do, for the hard, folding seats, exchanged the seats we had chosen, and sat down.

The whole room, other than the stage, was dark. The glare of the lights full on the stage docked with our fresh eyes. 8:30 a.m. Assembly.

The darkness in the hall silenced us. Two minutes before, the murmuring had stopped. Outside, where we couldn't see, it was still raining, as it had when we had pushed, shoved, and squeezed into the school doors half-an-hour earlier, before the bus carrying the Indians, as we then called them, had arrived.

We hovered between a sleep which the morning and the dark enforced and a tossing inherent in expectation of the impending performance. We peered from our skins, squirmed in our seats.

Suddenly, the principal entered and blocked the light hitting our eyes.

Staring at us, she stood on the stage. She said nothing. Her mouth suddenly opened and seemed to throw a wave of light at us. "The performance is cancelled. One of the --an indian has been hit by a bus."

I don't remember if she told us to return to our homerooms. I couldn't pick up her words.

I pictured the avenue as it must have been before the impact, the traffic moving, the cars jerking along the street. Stopping, Starting. Stopping again. The traffic lights overhead reflecting amber, red, green on the wet asphalt. The autos, with their lights on, bouncing over the cobblestones and abandoned trolley tracks. I strained to bring the full scene, all the points and dots of the boulevard that fused became umbrellas, trees, and hats, into my vision.

In the scene one of the then newly launched green buses hurried from stop to stop. At each stop rain-drenched passengers closed umbrellas, climbed on, and struggled to the rear. The bus driver sought to close the doors, only to open them again for a passenger running to squeeze in both umbrella and body. The bus jerked forward or stopped for a traffic light. The windshield wipers beat across the window.

The bus angled from the curb and thrust forward. The light had changed, yet the bus pushed through. The bus driver's foot shot a full jet of fuel to the engine. I heard the thud of the front of the bus against the indian's face and chest. His companion retreated to the crowd on the curb.

I watched the feathers from his headdress rise, float, and then fall to the pavement and splash the reflection of the overhead red light with purple, green, and yellow. A few feathers hung in the air and then they too drifted down. Near the curb, water from a puddle the bus had sped through splashed the feet and ankles of the crowd, and, with the dust from the street, formed a mud that started to cake on their shoes, including the moccasins of the standing indian.

The Mohawk lay on the ground at a 45-degree angle to the bus. It fumed smoke, seeming to emerge from the ground and rise through his body, meeting and slowing the falling drops. One foot dangled across the curbside trolley track. The wet street reflected the crowd's faces. Thin, tan leather straps from the indian's cowhide outfit fell on the reflections.

The body lay wet, muddied, and motionless on the pavement across from the school; the crowd huddled on the curb. The bus did not move; its face fronted the body still dressed in buckskin for the performance. The trolley tracks glistened. A line of cars and buses, horns honking, trailed the length of Catalpa Avenue.

From the door of my homeroom I heard the whack of desktops being opened and closed and the bang of books on the tops, but the picture and the sound, as in a badly dubbed film or an explosion seen from a great distance, reached me at different times.