“I don’t know, are you sure?” I asked, clearly skeptical with one eyebrow raised comically and the other set above a stern eye.
Evan nodded erratically to the beat of the cocaine he had inhaled prior. “I’m sure, dude. You totally got away with it. Let’s get out of here and see your winnings!”
A few hours earlier, burglary wasn’t the first thing on my mind. I’m sure that seems typical and such a ‘likely story’ to someone on the other side, one of the victims or somebody who works in retail and sees it all the time. Taking the fall for the guy who came in and swiped in front of their very eyes, making the biggest asshole out of them in the history of the entire world. I tried to shake the thoughts away but seeing Evan bounce around excitedly as he sent me into my mission kept my thoughts on track – even the drugged up cocaine-snorter had no problems dealing with the emotions of the job, so why should I? Plus, we had only stolen a sweater, some sneakers, and –
“What do you got in the bag?”
My trance was suddenly interrupted by a giant man in a security uniform. My initial thoughts screamed, “Flight!” but my reaction time was off and Evan was standing there, dumbfounded, unmoving from his spot.
Just before I could sputter an answer and opened my big, stupid mouth to do so, a short, elderly man in an old-fashioned hat and tweed suit came up behind me. “Oh, there you are, Tyler! Is everything all right, guard? Tyler here is just carrying my bags around the mall and we are about to miss our bus home! We simply must be going…”
By now, Evan was looking about as dumbfounded as me and still hadn’t said a word. The security guard was moved by the elderly man who he may have known, as he cracked a smile and quickly apologized for any confusion. He stood there and watched as the elderly man pushed me along, not speaking a word to me as we went. When we arrived at the bus I put on my skids and the man whispered to me, hand looped in my arm, “Come on, get on. You don’t want to look suspicious.”
When I got inside the bus, I took notice to the fact that it was quite a full house. Now I don’t do very well in these cramped, lively situations with ton of people talking around me and paying me mind. But these people seemed very quiet, very happy with life, just staring ahead as if they had been given the world in their hands. I got a small push on the back by the elderly man whose name I hadn’t yet gotten, and pretty soon I was sitting in a seat in the back of the bus and he was right next to me, smiling his cracked smile.
“I can’t thank you enough, I-“
“I know,” he interrupted. “Now, you best know that you have to be quitting this lifestyle right now before you get so far in that you can’t get yourself back out.”
“Why would you help somebody like me?” I asked.
“We’ve all been through things,” he replied, never breaking his smile. “And I get that.”
“But you knew my name?”
“Ah,” he said with a wink. “There are a lot of Tylers in this world.”
I figured the conversation and knowing the circumstances was pointless, and just to enjoy the ride for the time being. “Where is this bus headed, anyways?”
“Anywhere you want,” he answered honestly. “Everybody rides the bus of better chances when they most need it.”
I just shook my head at the oddness of the situation and rested it against the back of the seat. The ride had started only a minute earlier and the bus was decently quiet. A man across from us in the aisle had his head lowered between his legs and was whispering a prayer over and over again but you meet a lot of strange or shady people in these big cities; in fact, if they knew my history, a lot of people would think that I was one of them and wouldn’t quite be wrong. The silent phone in my pocket reminded me that Evan was left at a suspicious scene, almost caught in my crime, and if he had stolen something himself that day without me noticing he was probably on his way to a jail cell right now. I raised my head from the seat and gasped.
Everybody on the bus was staring straight at me. Even the man beside me.
“Wh-what?” I stammered, not quite registering what was happening. The elderly man who had pretty much saved my life and future was sitting with the biggest grin stretched across his face, hands folded on his lap as if he were waiting for something.
“Well?” he asked, still expecting an answer of some kind. “You’re on the bus of better chances. What chance do you want?”
Not registering, my eyesight bolted across the length of the bus, taking grasp of the people who were talking amongst themselves. The man who had been in the praying position was now muttering softly to himself, just within my earshot to hear what he was saying: “I wish I would have never taken the unstable job opportunity that landed me on the streets.” Another lady, her hair frazzled and eyes open much wider than usual: “I should have never gotten into the drugs. Maybe my son would still be in my life.”
Suddenly, the realization was made, and a sense of approaching supernatural uneasiness made its way into my soul. “Well?” the elderly man asked again.
“So…I’m supposed to make a wish… and that’s going to make my life better?”
He broke out into a short laughter, as did a few other people who were leaning over seats to get a better glimpse at me. “That’s not exactly how it works. Just make a wish that counts; something that you need to happen so your life can get back on track. But ultimately, you are still in charge of your decisions. In the end, only you can control your fate and make sure this never, ever happens again. I’ve ridden the bus only twice. I’m lucky I got the first chance.”
I nodded solemnly, quickly grasping hold of the one thing I wanted more than anything in the world. The man in front of me sitting, minding his own business in his bus seat whispered, “I would love another chance to have a child of my own around the house.” His stern face, dark eyebrows, trench coat, and glasses gave me an uneasy feeling but I felt as if the bus were soon going to reach its destination and so I was running out of time.
“I wish I would have never become a shoplifter.”
The bus hit a bump, and we all flew around in the wreckage before I lost consciousness.
A small boy got off the bus, confused by his bleak surroundings. The street was covered in a mist of fog and the people walked around on cell phones calling loved ones, or holding maps looking for their way back home. He blinked a few times, unsure of how long he had been passed out when an elderly man approached him and put his hand on him, smiling genuinely. “You got your chance, young man. Make sure this time you don’t steal that gum at the candy store, or that shirt from the new shop opening in town.”
The boy, probably no more than 10 years old, blushed and stood there shocked as he wondered how this old man knew so much about his life and his intentions. He had just stood outside the shop days prior, looking at the new sweater in the shop and wondering how easy it would be to walk right out of there wearing it under his coat.
Just then, a middle-aged man with a stern look to his face, dark busy eyebrows, and big eyeglasses resting on his face came up to the young boy and leaned over so they were looking directly into each other’s eyes. “Why, hello there, young man.”
“I-I don’t know where I am,” he admitted sheepishly. “I don’t know how to get home.”
“Oh,” the man said, his expression lightening a bit. “Is that so? Well, it just so happens that I know your father!”
“Really? You know my dad? Can you take me back home?” he asked with glee, happy for the coincidence to have happened.
“Yes, I know your father,” the man lied, a hint of sternness returning to his face. “You just hop in my van over there and we’ll get you where you need to go…” He trailed off, but before the little boy could hop into the van and pull his seatbelt on to head to his new life’s promised destination, he swore he heard the man say, “Yes, new beginnings and better chances…exactly what we needed.”