Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bus to the Great Beyond

But for the little crowd at the bus stop, the whole town seemed to be empty. I think that was why I attached myself to the queue.
    I had a stroke of luck right away, for just as I took my stand a little waspish woman who would have been ahead of me snapped out at a man who seemed to be with her, ‘Very well, then. I won’t go at all. So there,’ and left the queue…. So what with one thing and another the queue had reduced itself to manageable proportions long before the bus appeared.
jet-powered-school-bus-prelaunch     It was a wonderful vehicle, blazing with golden light, heraldically coloured. The Driver himself seemed full of light and he used only one hand to drive with. The other he waved before his face as if to fan away the greasy steam of the rain. A growl went up from the queue as he came in sight. ‘Looks as if he had a good time of it, eh?. . . Bloody pleased with himself, I bet . . . My dear, why can’t he behave naturally?—Thinks himself too good to look at us… Who does he imagine he is?... All that gilding and purple, I call it a wicked waste. Why don’t they spend some of the money on their house property down here?
   My fellow passengers fought like hens to get on board the bus though there was plenty of room for us all. I was the last to get in. The bus was only half full and I selected a seat at the back, well away from the others. But a tousle- haired youth at once came and sat down beside me. As he did so we moved off.
    ‘I thought you wouldn’t mind my tacking on to you,’ he said, ‘for I’ve noticed that you feel just as I do about the present company. Why on earth they insist on coming I can’t imagine. They won’t like it at all when we get there, and they’d really be much more comfortable at home. It’s different for you and me.’
    ‘Do they like this place?’ I asked.
    ‘As much as they’d like anything,’ he answered.
    ‘They’ve got cinemas and fish and chip shops and advertisements and all the sorts of things they want. The appalling lack of any intellectual life doesn’t worry them. I realised as soon as I got here that there’d been some mistake. I ought to have taken the first bus but I’ve fooled about trying to wake people up here…. 
    [I] exclaimed, ‘Hullo! We’ve left the ground.’
    It was true. Several hundred feet below us, already half hidden in the rain and mist, the wet roofs of the town appeared, spreading without a break as far as the eye could reach.jet-powered-school-bus-2 C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946, Harper Collins edition 2001) 1-5.

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