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Again, on an Egged Bus
by KJ Hannah Greenberg


Albuquerque Quisling Jones drove her elbow into the soft midsection of the young fellow who was shoving past her to the driver’s booth. Tourists failed to appreciate that the last two or three people alighting at each stop would be jostled when a bus zoomed back into traffic. Those persons didn’t realize that no driver wanted to be fined for arriving late on their routes. Locals knew that drivers could pull into busy lanes while punching ride cards or making change and braced themselves, accordingly.

The man groaned and cussed. In the swarm of riders still in the stairwell between the driver and the door, it was difficult to tell who was throwing punches and who was pulling them.

While that other grasped his stomach, Albuquerque and her guide dog, Charlie, inched forward. A large enough subset of humanity was shoving her that she might find a seat before the bus lurched again.

Charlie wagged at the bruised fellow. One of the man’s hands had been full of fried potatoes. The other had concealed the remnants of a pita stuffed with falafel and salad. Charlie regarded the floor beneath those hands. Unfortunately, just as he opened his mouth, Albuquerque tugged on his harness.

Albuquerque muttered. It had been tough to escape Miriam, her father’s sister. Initially, Albuquerque had insisted on visiting every eatery at the Kotel Plaza, but that whimpering and inveigling had not adequately distracted her aunt. Thereafter, she demanded that they walk the full length of an uptown pedestrian mall. Her aunt had tired, but had kept focused on Albuquerque. Finally, at the shuk, Albuquerque was able to liberate herself.

A spice vender had grabbed Miriam’s arm when the aunt had spun, unpurchased packets of cumin, turmeric, and paprika in her basket, to monitor Albuquerque and Charlie, who had slipped back into the market throng. The sound of Miriam’s bad weather coat wrinkling under the proprietor’s grip had been almost as loud as was his Russian, Hebrew, French, and Arabic curses.

Albuquerque and Charlie sped away as quickly as could a blind girl and her canine companion let loose in a crowd. The young one felt no compunction about evading her minder. At least her aunt was easier to escape than was the hired help.

During an earlier flight, on an Egged bus, Albuquerque had pocketed someone else’s game tickets, and a wad of yet another person’s cash, both of which she later gave to Avi, the family’s cook. His subsequent exclamations over her gifts were more musical to her than were the vibrations of the birds that her father identified as hummers. Albuquerque liked the lavender that grew in her window box and was unsure that she really wanted to share it with flying things.

The second time that the girl had run-away, on an Egged bus, she had returned home with little that was of interest to Avi. That time, her heist had consisted of: a pair of children’s mittens, a handful of coins, and an IPhone. Avi had only accepted the phone.

Albuquerque had kept the coins since round money was easier for her to use than paper. She had tossed the mittens to Charlie to chew. Mere days later, those hand wrappers’ fruity yoghurt smell disappeared and Charlie abandoned them.

This time, she meant to cull objects that would win Avi’s praise and reinforce Charlie’s loyalty. During their last adventure, his paw had gotten broken and Albuquerque felt she had to somehow compensate him.

After that second adventure, too, Miriam had gotten wiser to her. The aunt grasped that her niece sought outings not for fresh air, but for the chance to pickpocket. Nonetheless, she recently had accepted Albuquerque’s propitiation. Her niece had promised to open her braille Book of Psalms twice weekly as a demonstration of a sincere desire to change.

Miriam readily recited those verses with her brother’s daughter. Even given the fact that the girl was spoiled by relying regularly on a maid, a cook, a chauffeur, and two bodyguards, she could yet grow up normal. So deluded had Miriam become about her niece’s reform that she failed to anticipate the child’s shuk escape.

While Miriam was screaming for police, for rabbis, for IDF soldiers, and for a lawyer, Charlie and Albuquerque explored. Charlie pulled left and then right. He had never attended Seeing Eye dog school as he had been sourced from a litter born to one of the family’s guard dogs. His mother, unbeknownst to Albuquerque’s father, had been born in a Hezbollah bunker.  Like Charlie, that older, female dog had a subcutaneous GPS chip. Unlike Charlie, hers had not been inserted by the local vet and hers had yet to be detected.

Regardless, it had taken a brutal disciplinarian to train Charlie to his harness. Mostly, the dog’s compliance came from his devotion to his young mistress. When walking with her, he had full access to alleyway dumpsters, all of her uneaten lunches, and many of the small mammals and minor reptiles that she killed (Albuquerque’s hearing was nearly as good as was Charlie’s.)

In the crowded market, Charlie pulled toward stacks of cheese, trays of pastries, and towers of dried fish. He did not similarly wrench his lead toward nut butters or mounds of vegetables; he was discerning.

Albuquerque became annoyed. As they switched back and forth, all she had been able to snatch were: a stone-filled ring, a metal bracelet, and a heavy watch. If Charlie would just stop puling, she could harvest something that might make Avi happy.

What’s more, Albuquerque liked vegetables. She wanted to feel and to smell them. She wanted to feel and to smell some of the stacked fruit, too. As for the flowers, she didn’t mind if Charlie yanked her past those stalls.

Eventually, she and her dog boarded a bus. Albuquerque didn’t care where they were headed as long as they remained free.

Shortly after finding a seat, she heard the vehicle announce the first stop. She clutched Charlie tightly. They were heading into Eastern Jerusalem, home to murderers.

Her bus could get stoned, causing the driver to lose control. Passengers could die if heavy objects flew through the bus’s window. Her bus could combust from a Molotov or a suicide bomber. She and other riders could be killed by a knife-wielding rider.

Albuquerque shuddered. Charlie laid his head on her foot and whimpered. Every time the bus driver opened the door to take on and to let off passengers, Albuquerque tightened.

Finally, if the automated announcements were to be believed, the bus had swung back into City Center. The little blind girl and her dog got off at the bottom of Yafa Street. Left behind, on their seat, were all of the trinkets Albuquerque had stolen. Next to those objects was the girl’s copy of Psalms.

Frowning, Albuquerque used her cell phone to dial her aunt. There were worse things than the punishment she would surely be given by her father.



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