David Lewis Paget
The Circle Line - Poem by David Lewis Paget
I’d driven a bus for thirty years
At least, for more than a spell,
But now I was getting on a bit
And I wasn’t feeling well.
I’d taken a couple of sickies off
Well, more than I used to do,
And told the boss I would be okay,
It was just a dose of the flu.
But a note was waiting when I got back
All typed on a letterhead,
The company logo was large and black
And gave me a sense of dread.
I had to report to the man upstairs,
Way up on the twentieth floor,
I’d never been past the tenth for years,
Or called to account before.
I couldn’t afford to lose my job,
Cut off at my time of life,
How would I pay the mortgage, then
Explain myself to the wife?
But I took the lift as I had to do,
And stood at a big black door,
Shivered there as I felt the chill
In the long, dark corridor.
A voice said ‘Come! ’ and I wandered in
To an office of oak and teak,
The air was heavy with sandalwood
And I waited for him to speak.
He shuffled the papers on his desk
And his eyes flashed red, like fire,
‘You’ve been a driver for thirty years,
Perhaps it’s time to retire? ’
My heart dropped into my boots at that,
I babbled that I was fine,
I couldn’t retire for ten more years
If it pleased, I’d do my time.
He raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips
And I shook in my shoes with dread,
‘We’ll have to give you an easier route
On The Circle Line, instead.’
I’d heard bad things of the Circle Line
That the drivers didn’t last,
I’d seen so many that came and went
On The Circle Line in the past.
‘That’s it, it’s either The Circle Line
Or…’ (the rest he left unsaid) ,
I thanked him quickly and turned to leave,
Relieved of my former dread.
The lift shot down to the basement where
There waited a big black bus,
A tall conductor approached me then:
‘I see that you’re joining us! ’
I took my seat and I drove it out,
The conductor pointed the way,
‘There’s only twenty-one stops to make,
Just twenty-one stops today! ’
We made a stop at the hospital
And the staff there loaded two,
Then carried on to the city jail
Where a man’s parole was due,
They seemed subdued when they climbed aboard
And nobody even spoke,
Each face was pale as they held the rail,
They seemed to be anxious folk.
The route was finished within the hour
And I said to the man, ‘Now where? ’
He pointed out a lake on the map,
‘We’re dropping them all down there.’
I drove us into a quarry that
Was sitting beside the lake,
And found a monstrous entranceway
To a cave, he said, ‘Now brake! ’
A light was dancing, there in the cave,
Was flickering light and dark,
I said, ‘Is that a fire in there? ’
He answered, ‘Merely a spark! ’
He pushed the passengers off the bus
And led them into the cave,
To those that tried to resist, he said,
‘It’s a better place than the grave! ’
The panic hit me as panic does
When you get a glimpse of the truth,
I may be old but I catch on fast,
Not like when I was a youth.
The bus I drove had a seven up
In front of the sign, as well,
And then I knew that the Circle Line
Was the Seventh Circle of Hell! ’
I took the bus in a squealing turn
And I drove right out of the pit,
I left that tall conductor behind
For he was just part of it.
I dropped the bus in the nearby lake
And I walked back home to the wife,
A job’s a job, but I’d rather take
A little bit more of life.
26 April 2014
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