Bandits
By Stephen Bass
The city bus moaned as it rocked its way relentlessly up the hill. The windows were fogged up, cutting
the nine passengers off from the cold night. The driver stared steadfastly ahead, hands stoically planted
on the wheel as if they had grown from it.
Three young men sat in the back of the bus, very alive with the anticipation of a very big something.
There were irregular shapes in their pockets and odd bulks stuffed under their shirts. The tallest jiggled
his leg, the average one idly traced the outline of his phone in his pocket, and the shortest of the three
sat perfectly still. His eyes were focused on the torn seam of the blue seat across from him. He rocked in
rhythm with the bus, waiting. He was ready, but he couldn’t help thinking that they’d taken this way too
far from that conversation at the burrito place.
The bus rounded a corner and began to head down the other side of the hill. There was a stop a quarter
of a mile down. The average man reached behind him to pull the cord, and a soft ‘bing’ signaled that he
wished to get out at that stop. Then he took the last breath of his law abiding life and started to tug at
the bulk underneath his shirt. The material was stiff and smelled like burritos and coke and cigarette
smoke…
***
The burrito place had been small and loud with tinny mariachi music. The burritos were large and greasy.
And Jason, Sam, and Geoffrey had been very, very bored.
“What is there to do in this town?” Jason demanded, though he knew the answer. It was his way of
expressing his boredom and dissatisfaction with the limitations of life in suburbia, all without sounding
whiny.
“Burritos, bowling, and movies,” said Sam, as he shifted his lanky frame into a different, though no less
uncomfortable position in the plastic bench. His adam’s apple bobbed under his five o’clock shadow. It
had taken him two days to grow it, but that didn’t matter; he still had more facial hair than either of his
friends, and at least half a foot in height.
“We could always get arrested. That might be fun,” Geoffrey’s friends were the only ones who
appreciated his sarcasm, which was also why they were his only friends. It could get really lonely really
fast for a short boy with a bad sense of humor, and Geoffrey knew it. His friends were the most
important thing in his life, and he’d do anything for them.
Sam chuckled around a mouthful of chicken, beans, and guacamole. “And how would we go about doing
that? Holding up the bowling alley to get all our money back?”
“No, no man. You gotta think big. Like a…” Geoffrey looked around for inspiration, but by the time his
eyes settled on a possibility across the parking lot, he’d lost the chance for a good laugh. He gave it a
shot anyway. “Like a city bus. Think of it. We’d be like rail bandits. Only… Bus bandits.”
“I see what you did there. Clever, Geoff.” Jason took the last bite of his burrito and leaned back in the
bench.
“Actually, if you think about it…” Sam held the remains of his burrito with one hand and stared blankly
ahead. He spoke slowly. “No cameras. No security. Just people tired from work, and their wallets. Wouldn’
t take more than… three guys, only two of them would need guns. One guy watches the driver, one
watches the bus from the door, and one collects. Jump off at the stop and run like hell.” He looked up
from his burrito. Geoff had an appreciative smile on his face, but Jason’s expression had changed into
something harder to read. It both troubled and encouraged Sam. He stuffed the last bite into his mouth
and chewed slowly.
“Well, I’m not doing anything tonight. All we need is the masks,” Geoff offered, ready to laugh it off and
go to the bowling alley. His smile died on his face, however, when he saw the way Sam and Jason were
looking at each other. God, they were actually thinking about it. They actually wanted to do his stupid
idea. He both cursed and resigned himself as he too finished his burrito. Well, what else was he going to
do with his life anyway?
The details had been remarkably easy to sort out. The burrito place sold souvenir bandana’s that could
be folded so no identifying marks showed. Sam’s dad kept handguns locked away in their basement, but
Sam knew where the key was. He also knew that his dad had bought them before Clinton was elected,
and hadn’t looked at them since. While Sam and Jason ‘studied’ proper handgun use, Geoff looked up
bus schedules and maps from a city about sixty miles away. They’d decided against simply making the
bus driver stop on the side of the road to avoid suspicion. Geoff found a stop that was next to a scenic
point and relatively isolated. Low chance of cops, lots of trees to run through. He would park his car on
a cul-de-sac on the other side of the mini forest. He printed out the bus schedule and walked into his
living room.
“You guys are ridiculous,” he said as he picked up the remote and turned off Lethal Weapon 4. “There
are better ways to learn how to hold a gun.”        
“Not if we want to look like badasses while we do it,” Jason said as he shrugged on his sweater. He
meant it as a joke, but it somehow wasn’t funny as Sam carefully placed the heavy, dull, black handguns
into his backpack. They weren’t loaded, but the reality of what the boys were about to do made the air
in the room thick and musty.
***
Jason wiped the sweat from his forehead as he pulled up his bandana. He quickly walked to the front of
the bus, making sure to step well in front of the yellow line. He pulled the gun out of his waistband.  
“Don’t stop until we get to the bus stop. When we get off, keep driving.” The bus driver turned his big
bald head at Jason for a second, then returned to the road. He nodded just the slightest. Jason took
the opportunity to pull all the wires from the back of the CB radio, being very careful to both keep his
distance from the driver and keep the gun pointed at him. He heard Sam telling the passengers to take
out their wallets and cell phones.
Geoff pulled a plastic grocery bag from his pocket and quickly started to fill it. There were only six other
passengers, so it didn’t take long. Each of their faces was different, and each of their expressions
burned into Geoffrey’s mind. Terror, indignation, anger… He tried to keep his eyes cold and hard. It was
easy, because each one glanced to Sam, who held the gun where they could see it. When their eyes
returned to Geoffrey they were dull and submissive. The power to drain a person’s will was intoxicating,
and Geoffrey found himself enjoying the moment. He contained himself, though. He took the last wallet
and cell phone, stuffed the bag into his sweatshirt’s pocket, and headed for the back exit. As he did,
one of the passengers, a crisp man in a business suit, yelled, “Assholes! You’re all assholes!” Geoffrey
stopped at the utter scorn in the man’s voice. Any feeling of fun he’d had evaporated. He continued
back and looked to Sam. His eyes were hard to heard, but his nostrils were flared wide and he was
starting to breath quickly. The bus’s air brakes squealed and the bus lurched to a stop.
Sam got off first, and Geoff went to follow him. He hesitated though, as something flicked in the corner
of his eyes. He turned and watched as the bus driver’s arm arced through the air. It was holding onto a
heavy something, and that something made a thick ‘clunk’ as it connected with the back of Jason’s head.
He’d turned to get off, and the bus driver had moved faster than any of them had gambled on. Geoff
didn’t even think about the open door next to him as he started to sprint to the front of the bus and
Jason’s crumpled body. The bus driver slammed the bus into drive and Geoff had to grab onto a pole to
keep his balance. This saved him from the businessman. The man had jumped at Geoff, but missed and
crumpled into a well tailored pile in the adjacent seat. Geoff didn’t give him or any of the other
passengers time to regroup. He covered the distance to the front of the bus and pulled the emergency
release on the doors. They flew open and cold air cut into the muggy bus. The driver was driving and
this time didn’t have a chance for more heroics. Geoff hauled Jason’s tall frame up, and took a leap out
the open doors. Even though the bus only had time to get to thirty miles an hour, it still knocked the
breath out of both boys when they thumped to the pavement.
The bus screamed away as the driver raced through the gears. Sam sprinted up, his steps light on the
cold pavement.
“C’mon guys, we have to move. What happened?”
“Bus driver hit him on the head with one of those steering wheel locks or something,” Geoff answered as
Jason writhed slowly on the ground. Geoff and Sam pulled him up, and this seemed to set him right
again. His head was spinning, but at least the blinding white light had faded a little. They ran slowly at
first, but soon Jason’s head had cleared enough for them to sprint through the woods as fast as they
could, adrenaline snapping their muscles faster than they’d ever moved before.
Geoff’s car was still warm from the day’s heat. They piled in quickly, and Geoff carefully pulled out of the
neighborhood. All three boys were breathing heavily from the run.
“Well, how much did we get?” Sam asked, always the first to give in to curiosity. Geoff handed the bag
to Jason, who was riding shotgun. He blinked a little at the bag, then pulled the cash out of the wallets
and started counting. He lost count about halfway through and started again.
Sam asked, “You want me to do it? I didn’t get brained, so I might –”
“I got it, ok?” Jason deliberately fanned the bills out. The air in the car was tense. After a minute, he
announced “Hundred and thirty. Not bad.”
“Not bad? That’s a hundred and thirty bucks I didn’t have this morning. I’d say it’s fantastic!” Sam said.
Geoff was less excited. “Well, I’m gonna’ need forty for gas. The bandanas were five each. You count the
burritos this morning and we’re down to… what, seventy?”
“Sixty five. Mine was a supreme,” Jason added.
“I’d say we got ripped on the damn bandanas,” Sam muttered, slightly deflated. Their adventure
suddenly seemed unimpressive when the net gain was a little bit more than their monthly allowances.
They rode silently for a few minutes, the freeway humming under the sedan’s tires.
“Hey, it’s only nine thirty,” said Jason, looking at the clock on the dash. “We’ll be home by ten fifteen.
And you know…” He trailed off, but Geoff didn’t bite.
“What do we know?” Sam asked from the back seat.
“Bowling alley is open till three tonight. Ten bucks an hour times five hours and some curly fries adds up
to, oh… About sixty five bucks.” Jason smiled as he said it to Geoff and Sam. They chuckled, and the
smiles spread on their faces until the car roared with laughter. They laughed until tears blurred their eyes
and Geoff swerved a little in the lane. The tension of their adventure burned off and left an endorphin-
charged car of teenagers on their way to a regular night of bowling and fast food.