All Aden wanted for his birthday was to ride on a bus. All he had ever wanted was to ride on a bus. But his parents told him that walking everywhere was better. Aden didn’t think walking anywhere was better, and he thought it had more to do with money. But money is something you can’t talk about unless you have plenty of it.
Grandpa visited the afternoon of Aden’s birthday. He brought a gift in a paper bag. Aden opened the bag and found a hat. Not a store-bought hat, but a hand-made one Grandpa had picked up at the second-hand shop. The hat’s design was made of four different colours, and sort-of looked like a hockey toque but the colours didn’t match any team Aden knew of.
He thanked Grandpa just the same. Aden put the hat on to show how much he liked it, even though he didn’t, really.
Grandpa winked at Aden.
“It’s a magic hat, Aden,” said Grandpa.
“Magic, like how?” asked Aden, unconvinced.
“Well,” said Grandpa, “just put it on and make a wish and you’ll see!”
Aden put the hat on. He closed his eyes tightly and said his wish in his head. I want to ride on a bus.
“Have you made you wish?” asked Grandpa? “Well, let’s go outside and see if it came true.”
Aden’s mother helped him get his coat and boots on, and she pulled the zipper right up to his chin. “Have fun,” she said.
Aden didn’t think going out in the cold was going to be fun. He hoped Grandpa wouldn’t make him walk too far.
Grandpa and Aden walked halfway down the block. Then Grandpa stopped, and he turned around as if he was looking for something.
There it was, right on time.
Aden stood at the curb with his mouth hanging open. It was a bus, and it stopped right next to him and the front doors opened wide. Aden felt a blast of warm air exhale from the bus.
“Get on,” said Grandpa, giving him a little nudge. “It’s your birthday wish.”
Aden climbed up the steps and turned left to face all the bus-riders. Grandpa paid the driver, then held Aden’s shoulder and steered him to an empty seat.
Aden was entranced. He didn’t utter a single word during the whole ride. He just looked at the people getting off the bus and getting on. He was fascinated by the cord some people pulled, and the red lights that spelled S-T-O-P near the front of the bus.
The windows were fogged up and Aden wiped a window with his coat sleeve so he could see the shops and cars they passed. He unzipped his coat, put his mitts in his pocket, and took off his hat. It was so hot in the bus, but he loved the feeling of the wheels rumbling under his feet.
A few blocks later, Grandpa told Aden to pull the cord. Aden pulled it, and watched the S-T-O-P lights come on at the front of the bus. When the bus pulled up at the curb, Grandpa and Aden got off the bus.
“That was awesome!” breathed Aden. He spoke quietly, as if he’d just come out of church.
“We’ll have to walk back,” said Grandpa. “I only had the fare for one way.”
Aden pulled his zipper up to his chin again, and pulled his mitts out of his pocket. It was then he realized he’d left the magic hat on the bus.
He felt a bit sad about the hat, but he was still floating in elation from the bus ride. Aden pulled his hood over his head and walked back with Grandpa. Aden chattered the whole way about the bus ride.
Gary found the hat as soon as he took his seat on the bus. He felt sorry for whoever had lost it, because it was a miserably cold day out.
Gary took the bus every day to and from work. He had only moved to the city a few months ago and riding the bus was his only social life. He saw the same people on the morning bus, and a different group of people on the afternoon bus. He nodded to his fellow passengers, but nobody ever talked much on the bus.
I wish I could meet some people my age, thought Gary. He’d like to go to the movies or to coffee shops, but he didn’t like going alone. It was difficult to meet people in a big city.
When Gary got off the bus at the downtown depot, he hesitated. His apartment was only a block away, but he decided to make one stop before he walked home.
He went inside the bus depot building, where people waited for their connecting buses to arrive. He walked up to the ticket desk and asked if there was a lost-and-found box somewhere. He held up the magic hat.
“I found it on the bus,” Gary told the ticket seller. She was a nice-looking girl about his age. She smiled at him as she reached for the hat.
“That was nice of you to turn it in,” she said. “I haven’t found people in town to be too helpful since I moved here.”
“I’m new here, too,” said Gary. He had an idea. “Say, do you like movies? I’ve been wanting to see the latest Rapid Ryker flick. Just need someone to go with.”
“Funny, I was just wishing a second ago that I could go see that movie!” said the girl. “I’m Ellen, by the way. I’m off work in, like, two minutes. Can you hang around and maybe we can grab a coffee and make plans for the movie?”
Ellen tucked the magic hat in the lost-and-found box next to her desk, where it waited for its next assignment.