I got on the bus to go home mostly because I wanted to finish my detective novel. It was at a crucial point when the investigator starts to pull together the different pieces of the puzzle and realizes, slowly at first, the tiniest thing that was missed before that has suddenly become a key to solving the two murders. I love detective stories where the writer gives hints to the reader a minute or two before she gives them to the character. I especially love it when despite this headstart, the reader and the character arrive at the same conclusion together. I think it’s a rare talent to do that – when the writer doesn’t treat the reader as a complete imbecile. I used to love the Sherlock Holmes kind of stories, where the reader is often last to know, and the last pages are often devoted (like many Mills & Boons) to letting the reader in on the plot. But now, I have no patience for that. I love it much more when writers create a journey with the character. Of course, I often do not solve the mystery, despite this prodding by the writer. I sometimes get glimpses of the guilty party, but I most often fall for the red herrings. I am a bit prone to the obvious, sad to say.
Regardless of this exposition on what kind of detective novels I like, here I am, sitting by the window, reading my book. I occasionally look up, out of the window, if I hear conversation or when the bus stops. On the way, at a bus stop, a young couple is parting ways. The girl gets on the bus, sits in the empty seat next to me, and waves across my face to the open window to her paramour who is also frantically waving back. Oh, young love. * eye roll *
After settling down, she (of course!) immediately calls him on the phone and they do the goodbyes and the love yous and the take cares that have been forever imortalised in the movies. She finally puts the phone down, and in the relief of not having to hear the saccharine sweet baby voice of love, I look up. And this is what I see:
A young boy is sitting on his haunches at the end of a footpath abutting the bus stop. His back is towards us. He is wearing a pale peach shirt (probably washed a million times), and very tattered shorts. He is hugging a chicken. Yes, a chicken. The chicken has his beak over the young boy’s shoulder, and it seems to be resting there quite comfortably. The boy, in turn, is slowly stroking the chicken’s back affectionately from its pointy head to the feathered tail. Startled, I look again. Unbelievable. A child hugging a chicken on the sidewalk. The bus starts to move. I crane my head to get a better view – I want to confirm what saw and I want to check if the chicken was squirming or trying to get away. But no – it was just a chicken and a boy, for a moment, content and happy together.
I smiled to myself. I love that life is full of such strange surprises. As I am thinking this, I hear the young girl beside me take her phone out and talk to her boyfriend. She is excitedly telling him exactly what I described to you – the chicken and the boy, in an embrace. After a minute or so, she puts the phone down and sighs. I catch her eye. We smile. The two of us, for a moment, content and happy together.