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Would like some feedback on this one - maybe about what should I do to help this out? Is it too sluggish? If so what could help the pace?
I wrote this one for a writing class at school, and I really want to work on it and get it right. Any suggestions would be wonderful. Thanks!
Potholes covered the road again. I grabbed the ripping blue fabric of the seat in front of me, hoping that the bus would make it through the next onslaught of road. My eyelids clamped down. And then the potholes hit, sending all of us bouncing into the air. I tried to breathe steadily, but the bouncing kept in time with my stomach, which was now gurgling. That added to the ache in my forehead, and things were set on a downhill slope for one destination: sick.
I threw my other hand over my mouth. I gulped, keeping down the breakfast that kept trying to escape. It was only after a good throttling that the bus cleared the worst section of the road and re-entered the more stable run of pavement.
Slowly, I eased my grip of the seat ahead of me and opened my eyes. Outside, stacked buildings made mostly of cement passed by. The bus passed a Pizza Hut and then another pile of tenements. It seemed like every city of Ecuador had been hastily built and then left alone after a decent little living space had been set up. Dozens and dozens of people milled about on the sidewalk, some brashly running across the street amidst a series of honks from taxis and other cars on the road. I watched a mother and her four small children hurry about with woven bags on each shoulder, stopping every person walking by, asking if they would like to buy a sack.
Ty Thomas, the in-country coordinator stood at the front of the bus. He must be used to the roads, I thought. He glanced my way for a moment, but didn't smile. I tried a half-smile, but his face turned back to the road out front. I casually brought a finger up to scratch the side of my head.
The rest of our group from Southwest Bible Church filled the remainder of the bus. Mike Arzie, the youth pastor, sat directly beside me, holding his camera bag in his lap and gazing straight ahead at the road. Maybe he was worried about living too. His back sat rigid against the seat, and not once did he glance over at me. I just twisted my mouth to one side and continued to stare out the window at the sights the bus passed by.
My aches were finally ebbing away, and I hoped that was the end of them. We were headed for the equator – the actual equator where everything goes weird. Our team leader, Mark Sherman, kept telling us about when he had gone to visit the equator. He told us that the tour guides would take us through all these real interesting sights, showing us floating eggs and nails standing on end. Sounded neat.
The bus squeaked to a stop only after we had passed a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a host of other markets and shops dotting the sidewalk. The parking lot was hardly full, only a handful of cars and one other bus in the far corner. We unloaded and stood around as they locked up our belongings in a hold on the side of the bus, right underneath the sign for “El Cisne de la Maria.”
I turned my eyes west and saw a massive building with a metal ball on top. Must have been the world. Mark Sherman bought the tickets for us and we headed inside to look around. A painted line ran up the pathway to the building.
Steven and Brian both stood with one foot on each side of the line. “Hey, look at us! We're standing on both sides of the equator!” Somebody laughed.
My head started to hurt again as I stepped nearer to the building. It rose up in front of me, casting a long shadow over my face. I wandered around the side of the building and saw steps leading up to a walkway that must have gone all the way around. I made a move for the steps, but felt a sharp pain rip through my gut.
Other people on the team had started feeling sick a couple days ago. Now here I was, feeling gross on the last day while everyone else felt great and chipper.
The rumbling in my stomach churned and told me with more and more urgency that I needed to find a bathroom. Quick. My eyes scanned the signs – they were blurring a little now. I shook my head, trying to clear the thoughts jarring together inside. What was bathroom in Spanish? I saw the signs on a few pink stucco buildings and stepped toward them. Leaning my head forward, I squinted until I could read the one closest to me: Los Baños. Duh. Bathroom was baño in Spanish.
I hurried through the door and found a stall on the farthest end. The toilet paper roll was on the outside of the wooden door, so I grabbed a nice handful and stepped inside. Previous visitors had taken some time to carve a few messages in Spanish into the wood, but all of them were hard to make out, especially with my head swimming through its own muck. A horrible smell crept up from the bowels of the toilet. I didn't want to sit down, but I had to. The pain in my stomach commanded the show now. And it only said one word: SIT.
The sunlight hurt my eyes. I staggered forward, looking at that massive building again, feeling my stomach rolling in on top of itself. Only one couple on the far end of the little path milled around. Where had all the other people in my group gone? Where was Mark and Mike and Steven and Brian? My hands shook a little; my mouth ran dry. I stumbled down the path toward the steps, moving with one sluggish foot in front of the other. My head still hurt, and although my stomach felt slightly better, I still could feel it churning.
“Hello? Anyone?” I whispered, flopping to the first step and sitting. My eyes rolled around once sending a wave of dizziness through me.
The edges of my world fuzzed. This is... passing out, I thought. Weight settled into the front of my head and pushed downward. Gravity must have had a strong pull on this side of the equator. My head rolled forward to my chest. I took a breath and tried to jolt my head back up. For a moment I made it, and could see someone coming from up the path.
It was just enough to keep my head up. Ty Thomas was coming toward me. He hurried the last few yards and put a hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay? We didn't know where you went.”
“Yeah, sorry.” I licked my lips, and slapped the side of my face, trying to wake it up a little. “Uh... I'm not feeling good. Can I go back to the bus?”
Ty nodded. “Yeah. That should be fine. I'll let the others know.” He paused. “Are you sure you don't want to have something to eat? We're over at the restaurant right now.”
I thought about it. Maybe food might help the churning just a little. Maybe he could get something carbonated to mess with stuff down there. “That might be good, actually.” I stood up and walked beside him as he led me to the restaurant, another pink stucco building.
“So are you liking Ecuador then?” Ty threw out after a moment of walking.
I nodded. “It's pretty cool.”
“What do you think was your favorite part?”
I scratched my head again, flashing through the past few days. “Probably the special needs school. There was a boy there who I really had fun with. To see the smile on his face as he batted around one of those balloons was just... something I'll probably never see again.”
We reached the doors to the restaurant. “Good. That's one of those memories to keep and share definitely.” He opened the huge wood door with window paneling. Already I could feel the ache start to ebb away. Maybe this time for good.
(c) 2006 by Shaun Stevenson
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