We are waiting for the driver to finish his smoke. He paces the concrete. The bus is half-full. There is quiet chat and nobody grumbles. This is how it is in a small seaside town.
The bus service is limited. It is a luxury. We wait with our bags of shopping. We wait with an eye on the clock. The 31 route connects Weston with Lemington with Bridgewater with Broadmeadows and all the small places between.
We are at Bridgewater bus station. I come over here each Wednesday morning to buy food. It is 9 miles from Weston and the whole mission can take three hours. The journey itself takes 30 minutes, but with the waiting for the bus and the walk between the bus station and the supermarket and the waiting at the counter and the waiting for the bus driver to smoke his cigarette, the day slips away.
A few people are sitting in the shelter. They are waiting for buses. Buses that will take them further. There is a discarded plastic coffee cup on the ground just below the window where I sit. A gull drops out of the sky and walks in the rain over the concrete towards it.
It reaches the cup, peers in and begins to drink. Every so often it pauses, looks around and returns to its beverage. What has the world come to when a seagull sips cappuccino?
Later, wired, high above the streets, carving vast circles, Golden Cap out there west, Penn Beacon stretched out on the water to the east, Lowesdon Hill to the north, it will cast its coffee-pricked eyes towards the ground and, from way up there, will spot Tommy Philips, veteran of Normandy, sat in wheelchair at formica table outside Miranda’s on chilly West Street. It will see muffin aimed at mouth, two coffees steaming October. It will see wife, counting shrapnel back into purse, (saying something to young girl in black polo shirt, wiping table top with dishcloth) and, turning once more in a sharper arc, it will draw back its wings and plummet: a jumble of unnecessary, unwanted and unnatural thoughts rushing through its head; caffeine and sugar guano pouring from its arsehole.
The gull will land in the old veteran’s lap and, totally ignoring the lemon and poppyseed muffin (hunger staved, but belly rumbling), say, ”GOOD MORNING!” It will push its beak into the frothy hot milk beverage and drink with gusto. Tommy Philips will throw his hands up in surrender. Mrs. Philips, coins spilling all over formica and onto the paving, will let forth a shriek. The girl in the black polo shirt (a tag on her chest reads Miranda’s and MANDY) will shoo at the gull with the dishcloth and say, ”CLEAR OFF!”
The bird shakes the froth from its beak and shudders and says, rather too loudly for pleasant society, ”NAH, GIRL! YOU CLEAR OFF!” Mandy recoils in horror, surprise. The customers are generally so polite. Mr. and Mrs. Philips exchange looks of discomfort. The gull looks at the badge on black polo shirt and says, ”…AND ANOTHER THING… MANDY … THIS IS A FRICKING LATTE! NOW GET ME THE MANAGER!”