at 17:20hrs, i boarded the #39 from Kirkcaldy to Glenrothes, paying the driver £3.00 to travel on a smelly bus.

the bus was busy. i had no option but to sit in a vacant seat sandwiched between, what i was to learn, two piss-stinking pensioners and a baby with a shitty nappy.

everyone and everything seemed to surround me and close in on me.  the stench was unbearable. i felt sick. immediately.

as we exited Kirkcaldy, and headed through the farmlands on the outskirts of Thornton, a new stench began to waft in through the open window:  a country smell.  animal smells.  a fecal matter-of-fact kinda smell.  i was scared to breathe for fear i would project vomit all over the people in front of me.

‘oh for fuck’s sake!’ i thought aloud. ‘this bus smells like a public toilet…!’

a woman, diagonally opposite me, with blonde hair and brown teeth agreed with me. never glancing up from her copy of  ‘les fleurs du mal’ by Charles Baudelaire, she covered her mouth with her free hand. i could hear her mutter “quel stink!”   ‘one of my favourite writers’.  i giggled to myself.

as if in the throes of a strange LSD trip, i began to see the smells… they hung like stagnant clouds… green, yellow, brown… they floated around the interior of the bus… wafting in and around the passengers… slowly disappearing up their noses… little dirty, smelly clouds… hanging in the air.  people’s faces changed: their noses grew larger, and larger… their nostrils flaring like trumpets.   the people continued to chatter; their words floating from their mouths in various type fonts… getting lost in the stench.  people having to wipe the words clean to decipher what was being said.


i was suddenly pulled back from my trip, a little boy burst his balloon and began to cry.

‘five more stops and i can walk out into the fresh air…’ i promised myself. ‘only five more stops, Kathryn… keep it together’

the stench was unbearable. my ability to contain the contents of my bile duct was hanging by a thread. i was trying hard not to breathe, convinced i would taste it should i breathe in too deeply.  i felt dizzy, i felt sick.

on the approach to my stop, i pressed the button and gathered up my belongings. as soon as the bus doors opened i leaped off.  my lungs were about to burst and the contents of  my stomach about to carpet the aisle.

on the pavement outside, i breathed in deep and watched the bus continue on its way, belching out carbon monoxide in thick, dirty, black bursts from its smoking exhaust pipe.  ‘eurgh!’ i thought.

“ah! fresh air…!” i said to myself, pausing to savour “i ain’t seen you in a while…!”


(c) Kat McDonald 2014


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