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Frequent Contributor
doeyeou2
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎04-24-2007
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Lazarus

How important is one minute of your life? Could you place a value on a single minute of your lifetime? Would you pay the same amount? If you were given one additional minute of life, what would you do? Would you give away a single minute to a stranger?

Please, let me know if you like this story and others like it.

Story 1: Responsibility

Walking pass the man in the faded red shirt, it felt like walking pass an open refrigerator. If you were young and busy, you might not even notice the effect. But the old lady walking past him now, felt it and because she did, she noticed him. She wasn’t overly impressed with what she saw. He was reading a newspaper. His clothes didn’t match. He had a tennis shoe on the left foot and a loafer on the right. His slacks didn’t match the shirt. Looking more closely she realized what she had taken for a shirt was a pajama top. His hair was a dirty gray color, though the hair looked recently washed. From the side, she could see he was unshaven but it appeared to have been only a few days since. She couldn’t clearly see his face.

She took the seat across and two rows behind him. As she sat there pulling the sweater closer around her she notice his hands. They were powerful hands, not big or overly rough. They seemed strong. They were a reminder of her father’s hands. He had been a laborer at a sawmill when she was small and she remembered how strong his hands had been. When she had gotten old enough to start having boy guests, the boys would try and keep a straight face as they shook hands with her father. Too many of them winced with pain as her father squeezed their hand and stared in their eyes. Without saying the actual words “You touch my daughter and I will lay these hands on you.” He got the message across. To her knowledge, her father had never actually “laid hands” on anyone. She had always suspected that her father had “talked to” Walter. When she was 16, Walter had tried to kiss her on the porch one night and then he had never came to see her again. Yes, the strange man had some powerful hands. Looking around the bus, the lady noticed everyone else on the bus seemed to have some purpose for not looking in his direction.

At the next stop several people exchanged seats with someone else. Some left the bus and others got on. The old lady knew it was exactly 19 stops from her sister’s house to her own. She had made the trip every week for the last 2 years. On the 8th stop, a couple of wilder type kids got on. When she was much younger, the would have labeled them as “Thugs.” The bus driver having been educated on the trouble he would receive if he tried to stop their fun remained quiet as they hassled an old man for his seat. The taller kid had a face full of pimples and the other had an earring made to resemble a swastika. The pair sat behind a cute girl in the third row. The old lady had seen the girl several times and knew she would be getting off in 3 stops.

The old lady glanced at the homeless man, that’s the way she thought of him now. He was a man who lived on the street, stealing and begging for everything he got. He had not looked up from the newspaper as far as she could tell. Even though she was prone to make early unchanging judgments about people, she did have a faint guilty feeling. He look so dirty, looking very closely at the man from head to foot, she could not find any smears of dirt on him. She wondered, how could someone so dirty look so clean? As she was thinking this, the man turned to face her and showed the smallest of smiles.

One look into his eyes and she forgot everything she had thought about him. The eyes had a presence of their own, yellow. Yes, the color yellow. Not the sickish squash baby food yellow. The eyes were a healthy dandelion yellow, a mixture of flowers, fresh air, and open meadows. He turned back around and began reading the paper after a moment.

* * *

“Pimples” has she now called him, was pestering the girl. He was pulling her hair, her ears. She tried to ignore him, hoping he would just get bored and leave her alone. Finally, she leaned forward in her seat making him stretch across to reach her. When that didn’t work, she turned sideways in the seat, which then made matters worse. “Earring” now had a view for the girl’s breasts and was making crude comments.

The girl had turned back to face forward and was again trying to ignore Earring and Pimples. The old woman wanted so much to help the girl, but was afraid. While she knew she was long past their romantic interests, it would be a several stops before she got off the bus and they could be a real problem if they turned their attention in her direction. She looked to the homeless man, wishing he would do something. But, he went on reading his paper as if he was alone in the world.

The girl timed it very well, once the bus pulled up to her stop she waited patiently until the driver opened the doors then she was up and moving to the door. Pimples and Earring were caught off guard by the girl’s actions. They were three steps behind her when she exited the bus.

The bus driver seeing no one was to get on at this stop timed the closing of the door immediately after the girl stepped off. Pimples was so intent on following the girl that he didn’t recognize the doors were closing until he did a face plant into them. Earring following the girl’s movements through the window walked right into Pimples, slamming him once again into the closed doors.

The whole bus chuckled at the two, causing Pimples to turn a bright red. Shoving Earring away, he yelled at the bus driver, “Open the door!”

“Sorry, this isn’t your stop,” said the driver with a slight tremble in his voice.

Earring was crouched down looking through the window, “Man this is my stop, and I live right over there.”

“Sorry, I can let you off at the next stop. Will you please take a seat?”

Pimples reached back with a fist and started to swing, then stopped. “Let us off or else!”

Ducking his head down in obvious fear, his voice quavering, “Please take your seat.”

Pimples drew back his fist again, but with less emphasis this time, he cussed at the driver and moved back to their seat. Only then did the driver release the door handle and begin to drive forward. The old lady smiled a bit to herself. The driver seemed to be taking a little longer than usual to get to the next stop.

Lazarus put down the newspaper and watched the bus driver. He enjoyed people. There was a constant battle in them. He was still often surprised by which side won the battle. His instincts had brought him to ride this bus today. He had long ago figured out it was better to follow his instincts than to ignore them. He still wasn’t sure why he was directed to the bus, but he had learned patience. Laughing at his memories, it had taken him such a long time to be patient. He remembered back to his struggle with patience. He had dealt with so much frustration waiting for the passage of time. Now, he no longer even acknowledged time. When his instincts sent him somewhere, he went. Glancing down at the newspaper, he enjoyed reading the newspaper and books, listening to songs on the radio, and watching people. When reading, Lazarus had begun focusing on current literary articles or at least those within the last hundred years. He especially avoided history books. History was written by the victors and usually didn’t match his knowledge of the events.

* * *

Before the bus reached the next stop, Lazarus stood and walked slowly to the seat directly behind the bus driver. Pimples and Earring got up to exit and didn’t like Lazarus being in his way. They were still voicing their opinion of the bus driver’s heritage as they walked down the isle. Lazarus was sliding into the seat but evidently it had not been fast enough for Pimples. Pimples reached out to brush aside Lazarus.

As soon as Pimples’ hand touched Lazarus bare arm, Pimples froze like he had been put into a hypnotic sleep. Pimples seem to linger in the frozen state for only a fraction of a minute and then it passed. Pimples backed away from Lazarus and looked genuinely frightened. Without another word he returned to his seat with Earring tagging behind. “Man, what ja doin’ we need to get off here.”

A very subdued, “We will wait.”

Lazarus sat behind the driver seat. He could feel the draw to be in this seat this small place. He watched a mother and young son enter the bus. She waited patiently as the youngster deposited their coins and then hustled him to their seats.

The driver watched the passengers take their seats, close the door, and start the bus moving forward. He looked up into the interior mirror watching Lazarus. The driver liked keeping an eye on people he didn’t know. He thought of his regulars as family and they were important to him.

The next stop was across the ship channel. The driver stayed in the slow right hand lane. The grade up over the bridge put a tremendous load on the bus. The bridge was the pride of the city. It was over 876 feet above the channel and 1700 feet long. High enough to allow the largest cargo ship to travel up the channel. Being in the far right lane allowed the passengers to view the sea and sometimes glimpse ships out on the horizon.

On the down slope the road runs straight for a half-mile from the bridge’s highest point then makes a slight curve before crossing a highway underpass. A couple years ago, a trucker had lost his brakes and had topped 100 mph by the time he hit level ground. The truck sideswiped five cars on the bottom straight away before reaching the curve. The truck driver told the local paper, “When I saw that underpass and the yard wide concrete pilings, I started praying. I knew it [the road] makes a slight curve there and I just knew I was going to do a header into the piling. As it was, I lost my outside mirror and scratched the whole side of my truck.” The truck had taken a mile and half to come to a stop.

The driver had been feeling a slight pain in his left arm since morning. He believed it to be the Philly cheese steak he had last night. He loved the sandwich with banana peppers and onions, but often it gave him heartburn. He had popped down a few anti-acid pills, but they didn’t seem to have any effect. His wife had never let him eat the sandwich late at night. But, she was no longer there to stop him. She had died four months ago and he still came home expecting to hear her in the kitchen.

The bus had just topped the highest point of the bridge when the driver’s heart stopped. The coroner would eventually document the case as a massive coronary, one-second alive the next second, not.

The driver felt a pain so terrible his eyes rolled back and he went unconscious. The pain lasted only the smallest part of a second, then the body relaxed. His head leaned sideways against the window.

The 12-ton bus started rolling down the incline slowly picking up speed.

Lazarus reached out and touched the driver's neck. After a moment, he sat back to look out the window at the sea.

As if waking from a deep sleep the driver opened his eyes and straightened up in his seat. For a few seconds he had trouble recognizing where he was and scolded himself for nodding off. Glancing at his speed, the driver silently screamed at himself again. Driving the bus on the down side of the bridge was fairly easy as long as you kept the speed under control. The bus was now 25 mph faster than he had ever before driven the bus.

The driver began tapping the brakes slowly.

The bus was still picking up speed.

The bus driver continued to pump the brakes trying to decrease the speed.

He wasn’t able to slow the bus down, but he was keeping the bus’ speed from increasing.

By the time the bus reached the bottom of the bridge, the bus was traveling 90 mph.

The driver swung into another lane to avoid rear-ending a slower hatchback.

He continued to tap the brakes as he wove between the slower vehicles.

Once off the bridge, he slowly applied constant pressure on the brakes.

As the bus rounded the curve its speed had dropped to below 30 mph and passed the underpass.

The driver continued to slow the bus until it came to a stop on the road’s shoulder.

Placing the emergency brake on, he laid his head against the driver’s side window and sighed his final breath.
Frequent Contributor
marta_randall
Posts: 166
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Lazarus

Interesting story here. Is it SF? I kinda think not -- Lazarus has some interesting but not too defined powers (just what did he do to Pimples, anyway?) and while they affect the outcome of the story, they don't really create it. The runaway bus scene at the end is vivid, but I think the same effect could have been had if the bus driver had angina and Lazarus kept him focused until the end. This isn't meant to be a put-down of the story, but an SF story has to revolve tightly around the SF idea -- that idea can't be removed or replaced without destroying the story. Here, I can see the story working with any number of non-SF ideas about Lazarus.

I'm a bit disturbed by the way the story shifts focus. I liked the old lady at the opening, but her story (that is, worry about the thugs and whether she will get to her stop safely) utterly disappears when we reach the paragraph where Lazarus puts down his newspaper. Her story feels uncomfortably unresolved. While we're in Lazarus's point of view, we also fall into the truck driver's POV and the bus driver's POV too, which also makes the story seem out of focus.

Think about telling this story entirely from the old lady's viewpoint, so that we never know what Lazarus or the bus driver, etc., are thinking: we just see the action as she sees it. You may be surprised at how different, and how much tighter, the story is.
Frequent Contributor
doeyeou2
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎04-24-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Lazarus - rewritten staying with POV of the old lady.

Think about telling this story entirely from the old lady's viewpoint, so that we never know what Lazarus or the bus driver, etc., are thinking: we just see the action as she sees it. You may be surprised at how different, and how much tighter, the story is.

Thanks Marta,


Walking pass the man in the faded red shirt, it felt like walking pass an open refrigerator. If you were young and busy, you might not even notice the effect. But the old lady walking past him now, felt it and because she did, she noticed him. She wasn’t overly impressed with what she saw. He was reading a newspaper. His clothes didn’t match. He had a tennis shoe on the left foot and a loafer on the right. His slacks didn’t match the shirt. Looking more closely she realized what she had taken for a shirt was a pajama top. His hair was a dirty gray color, though the hair looked recently washed. From the side, she could see he was unshaven but it appeared to have been only a few days since. She couldn’t clearly see his face.

She took the seat across and two rows behind him. As she sat there pulling the sweater closer around her she notice his hands. They were powerful hands, not big or overly rough. They seemed strong. They were a reminder of her father’s hands. He had been a laborer at a sawmill when she was small and she remembered how strong his hands had been. When she had gotten old enough to start having boy guests, the boys would try and keep a straight face as they shook hands with her father. Too many of them winced with pain as her father squeezed their hand and stared in their eyes. Without saying the actual words “You touch my daughter and I will lay these hands on you.” He got the message across. To her knowledge, her father had never actually “laid hands” on anyone. She had always suspected that her father had “talked to” Walter. When she was 16, Walter had tried to kiss her on the porch one night and then he had never came to see her again. Yes, the strange man had some powerful hands. Looking around the bus, the lady noticed everyone else on the bus seemed to have some purpose for not looking in his direction.

At the next stop several people exchanged seats with someone else. Some left the bus and others got on. The old lady knew it was exactly 19 stops from her sister’s house to her own. She had made the trip every week for the last 2 years. On the 8th stop, a couple of wilder type kids got on. When she was much younger, the would have labeled them as “Thugs.” The bus driver having been educated on the trouble he would receive if he tried to stop their fun remained quiet as they hassled an old man for his seat. The taller kid had a face full of pimples and the other had an earring made to resemble a swastika. The pair sat behind a cute girl in the third row. The old lady had seen the girl several times and knew she would be getting off in 3 stops.

The old lady glanced at the homeless man, that’s the way she thought of him now. He was a man who lived on the street, stealing and begging for everything he got. He had not looked up from the newspaper as far as she could tell. Even though she was prone to make early unchanging judgments about people, she did have a faint guilty feeling. He look so dirty, looking very closely at the man from head to foot, she could not find any smears of dirt on him. She wondered how could someone so dirty look so clean? As she was thinking this, the man turned to face her and showed the smallest of smiles like he knew what her thoughts were.

One look into his eyes and she forgot everything she had thought about him. The eyes had a presence of their own, yellow. Yes, the color yellow. Not the sickish squash baby food yellow. The eyes were a healthy dandelion yellow, a mixture of flowers, fresh air, and open meadows. He turned back around and began reading the paper after a moment.

* * *

“Pimples” has she now called him, was pestering the girl. He was pulling her hair, her ears. She tried to ignore him, hoping he would just get bored and leave her alone. Finally, she leaned forward in her seat making him stretch across to reach her. When that didn’t work, she turned sideways in the seat, which then made matters worse. “Earring” now had a view for the girl’s breasts and was making crude comments.

The girl had turned back to face forward and was again trying to ignore Earring and Pimples. The old woman wanted so much to help the girl, but was afraid. While she knew she was long past their romantic interests, it would be a several stops before she got off the bus and they could be a real problem if they turned their attention in her direction. She looked to the homeless man, wishing he would do something. But, he went on reading his paper as if he was alone in the world.

The old lady watched the young girl and admired her wisdom. Once the bus pulled up to her stop she waited patiently until the driver opened the doors and everyone got off. The old lady knew the driver knew this was the girl’s stop. She could see the driver looking in mirror. The old lady thought they timed it well, the girl was up and moving to the door catching the boys off guard. They were three steps behind her when she exited the bus.

The bus driver seeing no one was to get on at this stop timed the closing of the door immediately after the girl stepped off. Pimples was so intent on following the girl that he didn’t recognize the doors were closing until he did a face plant into them. Earring following the girl’s movements through the window walked right into Pimples, slamming him once again into the closed doors.

The old lady with the other participants of bus chuckled at the two, causing Pimples to turn a bright red. Shoving Earring away, the old lady heard Pimples yell at the bus driver, “Open the door!”

The old lady could hear the slight tremble in the driver’s voice “Sorry, this isn’t your stop.”

Earring was crouched down looking through the window, “Man this is my stop, and I live right over there.”

“Sorry, I can let you off at the next stop. Will you please take a seat?”

Pimples reached back with a fist and started to swing, then stopped. “Let us off or else!”

Ducking his head down in obvious fear, his voice quavering, “Please take your seat.”

Pimples drew back his fist again, but with less emphasis this time, he cussed at the driver and moved back to their seat. Only then did the driver release the door handle and begin to drive forward. The old lady smiled a bit to herself. She was so proud of the driver and noticed he seem to be taking a little longer than usual to get to the next stop.

The old lady watched the homeless man as he put down his newspaper and began watching the bus driver.

* * *

Before the bus reached the next stop, she watched the homeless man stand and walk slowly to the seat directly behind the bus driver. Pimples and Earring got up to exit and didn’t like the homeless man being in their way. They were still voicing their opinion of the bus driver’s heritage as they walked down the isle. The homeless man was slow in sliding into the seat but evidently it had not been fast enough for Pimples. Pimples reached out to brush him aside.

The old lady watched the altercation and saw that as soon as Pimples’ hand touched the man’s bare arm, Pimples froze like he had been put into a hypnotic sleep. Pimples seem to linger in the frozen state for only a fraction of a minute and then it passed. Pimples backed away from him and looked genuinely frightened. Without another word he returned to his seat with Earring tagging behind.

She could hear Earring call out, “Man, what ja doin’ we need to git off here.” They stood and walked down the isle. As they came even with the homeless man, the old lady saw Pimples look at him and nod a silent agreement. They left the bus with Earring leading Pimples away from the bus.

Looking out the window at Pimples she saw a very subdued pale young man.

Wondering what the homeless could have possibly done to cause such a drastic change in Pimples, she turned back to watch him as he sat behind the driver. At the next stop, she watched a mother and young son enter the bus. She watched the mother patiently wait as the youngster deposited their coins and then hustled him to their seats.

The old lady had many conversations with the driver. She knew the driver thought of his regulars as family and they were important to him. She knew he liked to keep an eye on people he didn’t know and even now she could see him looking up into the interior mirror watching the homeless man.

The old lady got up and moved to the other side of the bus. She was excited because the next stop was across the ship channel. She knew the driver stayed in the slow right hand lane. The grade up over the bridge put a tremendous load on the bus. She had read in the paper about the bridge, it was the pride of the city. It was over 876 feet above the channel and 1700 feet long. High enough to allow the largest cargo ship to travel up the channel. The old lady looked out the windows at the sea. Being in the far right lane allowed her to view the sea and sometimes glimpse ships out on the horizon. She continued to look out to sea until she felt the bus start on the down slope of the bridge.

Having traveled this route so many times, the old lady knew about the controversy of the next section of road. She had read several articles in the local paper. Here the road runs straight for a half-mile from the bridge’s highest point then makes a slight curve before crossing a highway underpass. The local paper had documented an event, which happened a couple years ago. A trucker had lost his brakes and had topped 100 mph by the time he hit level ground. The truck sideswiped five cars on the bottom straightaway before reaching the curve. The truck driver was quoted in the paper, “When I saw that underpass and the yard wide concrete pilings, I started praying. I knew it [the road] makes a slight curve there and I just knew I was going to do a header into the piling. As it was, I lost my outside mirror and scratched the whole side of my truck.” One of the county sheriffs had documented that it had taken the truck a mile and half to come to a stop.

The old lady knew something was wrong. She was feeling the bus picking up speed as it started rolling down the incline. When she turned away from the window, the driver’s head was leaning against the window. “Oh something must have happened to him.” Getting up she walked to the front of the bus. As she was moving forward she saw the homeless man reached out and touched the driver's neck. After a moment, the man sat back to look out the window completely ignoring the driver.

Before the old lady could get to the driver, she saw him stretch as if waking from a deep sleep. As she stood next to the driver, she called out, “Is everything alright?” She watched as he opened his eyes and straightened up in his seat. She could tell he was having trouble recognizing where he was. She saw him glance down at the speed odometer. “Damn,” she heard him whisper. “Madam, you need to take a seat. This is going to be tricky.” She backed up and sat down in the seat across from the homeless man.

The old lady pulled her sweater closer around her in nervousness as she watched the driver began tapping the brakes slowly.

The bus was still picking up speed.

The bus driver continued to pump the brakes trying to decrease the speed.

The driver wasn’t able to slow the bus down, but he was keeping the bus’ speed from increasing.

By the time the bus reached the bottom of the bridge, the bus was traveling very fast. The old lady could hear several people in the back begin to voice their alarm at the bus’ speed.

Several screams rang out as the driver swung into another lane to avoid rear-ending a slower hatchback.

Several people angrily called out for the driver to slow down even as he continued to tap the brakes as he wove between the slower vehicles.

Once off the bridge, she could see him slowly applied constant pressure on the brakes.

As the bus rounded the curve its speed had dropped to below 30 mph and safely passed the underpass.

The driver continued to slow the bus until it came to a stop on the road’s shoulder.

Placing the emergency brake on, he laid his head against the driver’s side window and sighed.

The old lady watched thinking the driver was giving a silent prayer. The drive down had caused everyone to be nervous. She knew she had silently said several prayers. She kept watching the driver but he did look up again. The homeless man stood up, walked to the door handle, opened it and stepped off the bus. The old lady watched him walk down the road with no sign of a care in the world.

She attended the driver’s funeral. After having known him for over seven years she finally learned his name. Listening to the other mourners she learned that the coroner had document the case as a massive coronary, one-second alive the next second, not. Everyone suspected the high-speed drive down the bridge had caused the heart attack. Looking out past the casket, the old lady remembered the look on the driver’s face after the homeless man had touched him and suspected the heart attack had happened earlier.
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