by Anton Wills-Eve
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Transporter.”
“Stop! Stop!” But it didn’t hear me. At the age of only just five I didn’t know that big, red, double decker London buses couldn’t hear, but they could abduct your mother and sister and drive off with them leaving you on your own without another soul in sight. It was so terrifying I was too scared even to cry.
Think what it must have been like. The bus stop was on the Surrey side of the Thames at the start of Hammersmith bridge with its never ending open air tunnel of iron arches. I knew I couldn’t swim, so I couldn’t step onto the bridge in case I fell off and was drowned. I turned round to put the bridge behind me but that was worse. A mile long, so it seemed, dead straight road of private houses on both sides. We weren’t allowed to go into strangers’ houses.
I was trapped! I wanted to wait for the next bus, but I had no money. If you tried to dodge paying the fare you went to jail. They locked you up and left you alone to starve. I was begining to shake and then felt I needed to go to the toilet. But if you took your willey out in public horrible perverted men would jump out of the bushes and do dreadful things to you At least there were no bushes by the bridge, but no toilets either!
I was really worried now and finally had to edge back to the bridge and pee up against the iron stanchion. As I went on looking at the huge bridge I could not understand how people could cross it on foot. I must have been on the point of full blown panic when a bus pulled up on the other side of the road and my mother and sister rushed over to make sure I was okay. On seeing I was alright they treated the whole episode as a very good joke.
A few days later my mother had one of her posh friends round to tea. I heard her say, “Dorothy, we’ve always made a point of making sure the children understand why they should behave correctly, especially in public. The last thing either of them would do is appear rude, afraid or upset in front of other people.”
That was sixty seven years ago and on really bad days I can still barely cross the road outside my house. As for bridges I have still never walked across one anywhere in my life. Just the sight of one brings on a panic attack. But I could never tell anybody like a neighbour or doctor this at that age. They might think me very odd and try to do something about it.