Eugene Dubnov

THE CONDUCTOR

And so I decided to become a conductor on a bus.

And after a two-year course, a dissertation and graduation exams, I was given my very own bus. On its outside was written: "Come in, King, come in, Queen, come in everyone!"

And one day, just as I was selling the tickets and ringing the bell, who should board my bus but the Prime Minister himself!

"Could I," says he, "by any chance obtain a ticket?"

"By all means," I say, "and where do you wish to go?"

"I wish to go," he says, "to my residence."

"Then please to pay fifty kopecks."

"I haven't got any kopecks," he says, "I haven't had time to change my money, I've only got pennies."

"Well, then let me have the equivalent in pennies," I say, "I'll stretch a point in your case, since you are such a great man."

So he gave me the fare. I tore off a ticket for him, and he sat down. We remained silent for a while.

To the left of the bus, gardens unhurriedly slipped by; to the right, houses flickered past; behind, the sands of the desert receded, and in front stood the motionless sea.

"And how are things going?" he asks.

"Well, to be honest," I say, "I had hoped that the King and the Queen or at least the Prince and the Princess might have taken a ride along my route."

"But I," he says, "represent them. They are all of them simply just too busy at the moment, and they have asked me to give you their kind regards. They know all about your work, and they value it very highly indeed."

"You don't say!" I was overjoyed. "Who could have possibly told them about me?"

"Your name," he remarked, "has been singled out in the annual bulletin of the Universal Travellers' League as Conductor of the Year."

"But what have I done to deserve this?" I asked, blushing.

"It was because you have always rung your bell exactly on time and have never made so much as half a kopeck's mistake in calculating the fare for a journey. And that is also why I have been authorised to award you a decoration."

At this point he stood up, smoothed down his beard and moustache and took from his waistcoat pocket a large gold medal depicting Hermes with his winged feet, broad-brimmed hat and cadeuces. This he proceeded to pin to the peak of the fluorescent cap which was part of my uniform.

He had hardly finished when all the other passengers gathered round to congratulate me: "Good luck! God bless! Many happy returns! Cheerio! Ta-ta! Bon voyage!"

"Well, thank you all for your interest," I replied, trying to hide my feelings, "I am only too happy to work for the good of humanity."

And I rang the bell.

Published:
North American Review 285-2,
Southern Review 25-2