Melissa stayed a little longer than expected at the library and missed her bus. It was winter, and the sun was already down. It was cold and dark.
Melissa sighed. The library was closing soon, so she’d have to wait out here for an hour. She tried calling home, but no one answered. She watched people walking to their cars and leaving.
A car drove by and slowed down as it passed. Melissa felt a little nervous. Maybe she should just take the next southbound bus and walk home from the closest stop. The car drove by and slowed down again.
Just then, a southbound bus came. It stopped, and the door opened. Melissa pulled out her bus pass and climbed the steps. “What is the nearest stop on your route to Sunny Pines Road?” she asked.
The driver thought for a moment. “I can let you off on Winkel Street. It’ll be the third stop. You’ll only have to walk half a mile from there.”
Half a mile? That’s better than she’d expected. “Thank you,” she said.
“No problem,” the driver said.
Melissa turned to find a seat. The bus was full of birds. Flamingoes, ostriches, swans, ducks, seagulls, canaries, and more. They all turned and stared at her as she started walking down the aisle.
Why were there birds on the bus? She’d never seen birds on a bus before. Couldn’t they fly to get from one place to another? And why were there no other people here?
Melissa sat down by some little brown birds. They fluttered away to another seat as she sat down. The birds were all quietly chirping to each other. When Melissa looked around, the birds looked away quickly. It was really uncomfortable.
At the next stop, a parrot came down the aisle and sat by her. It looked up at her and leaned its head to the side. “Going south?” it asked.
“Just as far as Winkel Street,” Melissa said.
The parrot nodded and ruffled up its feathers and then shook them. Then it used its beak to rearrange its feathers. Melissa looked around. A pretty little white bird across the aisle looked like it was sleeping, with its head tucked under its wing. The white bird next to it was watching Melissa. Its feathers were all ruffled up.
Was she making the little bird nervous? Melissa looked away. The flamingoes had started honking to each other. It sounded like the little horn Melissa used to have on her tricycle. One of them started flapping its wings as it honked and the one next to it responded by waving its wings and honking back.
A flamingo in the seat in front of them honked loudly and they all looked back at Melissa. She looked back for a moment and then looked away. A canary was sitting several seats ahead, perched on the back of the seat by the window. It was crooning softly to its reflection.
The bus stopped again. Some pretty blue birds flew into some seats near the front. Melissa turned to the parrot. It had finished rearranging the feathers on its back and was working on the feathers under its left wing.
“My stop is next,” Melissa said. The parrot looked up at her. “I didn’t know that birds rode the bus, you know. How do you afford bus fare?” The parrot leaned its head sideways again. “Do you even understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes,” the parrot said.
“So will you answer my questions?” Melissa asked.
“No,” the parrot said. Some birds behind them started twittering. It sounded like they were laughing. When Melissa turned around, it was silent and all the birds were looking away. She turned around again and slumped in her seat with a huff.
She got off at Winkel Street. She hadn’t realized there was a stop here. The sign was small and partially hidden by a tree. She turned back to look at the bus, but it was already gone.
Melissa hurried home. Her mom was in the kitchen. “Melissa, you’re home late,” she said.
“I had to catch a later bus. It was full of birds,” Melissa said.
“How strange. Where were they going?”
“South, I think,” Melissa said.
Melissa’s mom nodded. “I guess that makes sense.”