Stories set in moving vehicles—buses, trains, cars—often give the appearance of movement. The writer establishes a destination, and this often creates a false sense of urgency and suspense. “Care,” by Karin Lin-Greenberg, points out that this sense of movement—in traffic or in life—can prove an illusion. The story starts off with the declarative “You’re a bus driver now,” and already the reader wonders about that now, and what came before it. The immediate problem for the bus driver is Halloween and the resulting mess. “It’s your job to clean it up, even though you’ve written numerous lengthy letters to the Transit Authority regarding the fact that you’re a bus driver, not a maid, and someone should be hired to clean the buses.”
This is the problem that invites the reader into the story. As each passenger boards, the reader waits expectantly, but when a group of nurses dressed like nurses board, it becomes clear the problem isn’t the bus but the bus driver, who recognizes the nurse in the bunny scrubs. “She was there the second and third time you went to the emergency room to get your stomach pumped; she was the one who’d gently inserted the tube down your throat, administered the saline solution, and told you it was going to be OK as you waited for the fluid to clear.”
Alcohol is only part of the narrator’s problem, as we discover when four boys with a pig board the bus. Lin-Greenberg is a master of the telling detail and balances dignity with humor, surprise with satisfaction. “Get your pig under control!” isn’t a line I’ve heard on public transportation before (and I don’t expect to any time soon). Soon after this, we learn that the bus driver was once a promising veterinary student. She cared for animals, but not for herself, and so the story’s title begins to reveal itself.
This story moves. With each stop and each passenger, the reader becomes more invested the bus driver—and more worried about the pig. The final line is satisfying in way that made me want to cheer.