by Jake Christie

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE.
a story.

“Looks like rain,” said Nancy. The other people at the bus stop, many of them already soaked from the deluge and hiding out in the cramped shelter, looked at Nancy. Nobody laughed.

“But I'm no weatherman,” she said.

For a moment the only sounds were the percussive falling rain and the roars of the passing automobiles. A young man checked his phone for messages. A girl tapped her foot to whatever was in her headphones.

“Hope nobody here is allergic to cats,” said Nancy. One or two of the people looked up, expressions of mild concern on their faces. She paused for just a moment then added, “or dogs!” She pointed up at the blanket of clouds. Somebody groaned as if they were in real, physical pain. A pregnant woman leaned out and stuck her head into the rain, just to see if the bus was near.

Nancy frowned. It truly was a miserable day. She could tell from the groans, frowns, and rolled eyes that her fellow commuters, her fellow human beings, were not happy. She couldn't be sure why – maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the economy, or maybe it was any number of personal, idiosyncratic problems – but she was sure she could do something to help. She had to. A little brightness, a little levity, might be all it would take to bring them into a better frame of mind.

For ten, fifteen seconds, the bus stop was bathed in the sound of the rain. Somebody let out a deep, relaxed sigh.

Nancy whipped out her cell phone and held it high. “Anybody know the number of the itsy-bitsy spider?” she asked. “I have to make sure he's okay!” She searched the people's faces, looking for any sign of amusement, but the damage was too severe. Her performance wasn't working. In fact, a few of the people seemed even angrier than before.


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