A Character Sketch . . . In which we meet Björn Hooderstund

Water was dripping from my chin like drool from the crooked snout of a cross-eyed retarded poodle as I waited for the number 3 bus on a rainy day in early spring. The cuffs of my pants had thoroughly absorbed the puddle I was standing in and the water was slowly creeping past my knees. My K-Way had failed me, leaving me soaked and in a foul mood.

When the bus arrived, the doors quickly hissed open. As I skulked toward the door, a soothing voice lured me closer with broken English.

“Hallo, me freee-und,” said the voice. “Welcomen to the new-ember tree bouse!”

Lifting my head, my eyes met the bright blue eyes of the driver. His short hair was a natural blond that dutifully matched his eyebrows. His smile was genuine and enormous, stuffed with more rows of teeth than a ravenous shark. He wore his perfectly pressed driver’s uniform with pride and held the wheel with a firm yet delicate grip that showed his affection for the chariot he conducted. To him, it was not just a bus, but a forty-foot Prozac.

His name was Björn and he was bjorn in a rural community in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and a Swedish mother. His bjirth was the fifth in the Hooderstund clan, a family with a centuries-old tradition of constructing wooden shoes. But little Björn was different from bjirth; he wanted to make people happy, not force them into shoes that made them sound like horses on cobblestone. At sixteen, he ran away from home in wooden shoes. It took two hours to jog the fifty metres to the end of his street, by which time his feet were blistered and bloodied. He fell down and wept as a large diesel engine motored toward him. His face was buried in his lap as the engine came to rest in front of him.

He looked up, tears dripping on his wooden soles, and glimpsed his first bus driver. The driver smiled down at little Björn like a Nordic god smiles down on a Baltic insect. Or something like that.

“Little man” said the driver. “Those shoes look horribly uncomfortable. Why don’t you hop on my bus and I’ll show you a way of getting around that will make you truly happy-ish?”

At that, Björn knew that he would forever be a bjus driver.

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