Friday, April 23, 2010

Bus Crash

Friday Flash Fiction

This was written for a writing course around 4 years ago... hope you enjoy.

Juliana hummed a melody she had recently played at her first professional concert. Stored safely below with the luggage was her cherished violin. Regular practise was expected. The drone of the bus sent her into a trancelike state. How hard she’d worked, how kind her grandparents had been and how exciting the next chapter of her life would be. Playing in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra was now just a couple of weeks away.

Suddenly a loud sound shocked Juliana. Was that a gun? She quickly glanced around. The bus jumped, skidded, and tipped, landing on its side, smashing the windows on the loose gravel. Shaken and bruised Juliana stood on the side of the chair and felt physically sick. The sight of bloody and broken bodies was horrific.

‘Here let me help you, my name is Juan’, a young, tall man reached for Juliana’s hand.

‘What happened?’ Juliana asked.

‘I think a tyre may have blown. What’s your emergency number?’ Juan asked.

‘What?’ she was thinking of only her violin.

‘I’ve only been in Australia one week. How do we get an ambulance, you know?’ Juan asked.

‘It’s 000, but hang on, we’re remote here. What’s it from mobiles? It might be 112, or is it 122? Hey, could you give me a hand to get my luggage?’ asked Juliana.

Juan noticed Juliana was dazed but distracted.

‘Hey mate, you help the young lady and I’ll call emergency’, a middle aged man climbed over the seats toward them.

‘Thanks,’ Juliana found a half smile.

‘What’s so important in the luggage?’ Juan kicked out the back emergency window and lifted her through.

‘My violin, I just need to check if it’s OK’. Juliana pulled at the luggage compartment.

‘Do you have knowledge of first aid skills?’ Juan asked Juliana. ‘I really should get back inside, a lot of people seem to be in a lot of pain.’

‘Uhhrrrgh’ Juliana vomited onto the dusty road then continued to climb up to the luggage door. The door was jammed, she threw a glance at her newfound acquaintance wishing he’d either help her or go away.

‘Oh shame, come, sit down here in the shade. You right?’ Juan guided her.

‘No! You don’t understand, my violin is my life! You have to help me find it’. She shook his arm off her shoulder.

‘Just a minute, I think it’s you who doesn’t understand. We’ve been in an accident. You’re in shock, you need to sit down’.

Juliana’s teeth were clench as she hissed, ‘What I need is my violin’.  Her face pale and eyes narrowed.

‘Are you out of this world? There are injured people here and all you want is your stupid replaceable instrument.’ Juan glared past her, his face tense with frustration.

Juliana fell to her knees and cried. She had first aid training and knew she could help but felt paralysed by the need to hold her violin like a child would hold a teddy for comfort. Her whole body shook, sobbing uncontrollably. Juan wrapped his strong arms around her.

After a couple of minutes she lifted her head. Her cheeks streaked with mascara, nose red and dripping. She instantly felt foolish and felt the colour rising from her neck to her cheeks. The man holding her was strong and incredibly good looking. Feeling vulnerable she wriggled out of his arms and pulled at the luggage door again.

‘I know you don’t understand, but I really need your help to get into there. I just need to see my violin and then I’ll be OK’.

‘I think you should sit down. Your whole body is shaking with shock. I’ll have a look for your instrument’. Juan lifted the luggage door with little effort. He climbed in and found a violin case under a mountain of suitcases.

‘That’s it, thank you, thank you so much’, Juliana eagerly snatched her violin from him.

She climbed down to a shaded spot beside the bus and sat hugging the case until she realised Juan stood close by watching her. Juliana opened the case. Gently holding it, looking at it from every angle, the violin was in perfect condition. Again she hugged it and gentle tears rolled down her cheeks.

‘It obviously means a lot to you’. Juan had been watching from the luggage door.

‘More than I can tell you’. Juliana carefully placed her instrument in the case and closed the clasps.

‘Juan? Was that your name? There’s a bunch of people in there that need our help. What are you doing out here?’ Juliana walked around the bus until she found a safe entry point.

‘Ah… yeah, let’s get to it then.’ Juan looked from Juliana and back to the violin case and shook his head.


  1. ‘Are you out of this world?' - a question asked to every classically trained musician and dance I have found. Unlike us writers, rooted in the grim reality and murkiness of desires which I think you convey very well here.

    marc nash

  2. I guess the story is well-told, with good parts of dialogue and very vivid descriptions - more "show" than "tell". There are only 2 points I would like to remark upon...

    1. The very beginning feels like "Okay, let's cram as much information inside as possible so the reader knows what this is about." I think we wouldn't have had to know so much about the girl in the beginning.

    2. When Juliana looks around the bus after the accident, I feel more description would have helped make it even more vivid.

  3. This made me smile despite the situation. My daughter would be exactly like this about her guitar. I think you captured a musician's heart perfectly here.

  4. Oh those passions, they have a way of taking over. Juliana's heart is in that violin, isn't it?

  5. I mean no offense when I say I think you've improved a lot in these four years. Your prose is much smoother now. I don't think you'd write "Suddenly a loud sound shocked Juliana" anymore. I don't say that to insult - you've come along. It's still a neat piece, and it's always worthwhile to look back at where we've come from when we've been walking a long time.

  6. I enjoyed this piece of fiction. xo

  7. Sulci, Laurita & Joanne - I was a musician for many years - yes we all were a little out of this world! My instrument was trumpet and I loved it.

    Diandra - thanks for your suggestions.

    John - no offense taken - I take it as a commpliment. Thanks for noticing that I have improved :)

    Thank you for dropping by Jo Princess. :)

  8. I don't think you have too much info crammed in the first paragraph, though you might excise the "regular practice was expected" line for better flow.

    Always wished I could play an instrument, but never wanted to practice! :)

    Did enjoy your story.

  9. well .. its a strange world isn't it? I was feeling Juan's frustration with her and then frustrated with him when he gave her the time that others needed .. but then in the end once she had her moment .. she was ready to help. In the end I asked myself why am I judging a need I don't understand? I think I'll be asking myself that one for a while.

  10. Juliana's symptoms of shock were dead on. I rolled my mother's car once (front to back/side to side), after some strong-armed man pulled the crushed door open, I scrambled around gathering my things and mumbling, "Dead, dead... she's going to kill me."... this was before they put me on the stretcher and hauled me off to the hospital.

    I enjoyed this piece, it's obvious her violin is her world.

  11. Great tension here! I wanted her to find the violin, but I'm also a musician. My only complaint was that there was too much passive voice in the beginning.


  12. So nice to read some of your older writing too :)
    Liked this, perfect capturing of a musician's feelings.

  13. No matter if it's violin or something else, sometimes we just need a moment to compose ourselves, to find an even keel, before we do the work we need to do.
    For me, it's coffee (!)
    Nice story, Michelle.

  14. I love the ending. Suddenly Juliana is all switched on because she has found her other half. I like that. The beginning was a little too fast too soon. I would have liked a little more description of these two things: The people on the bus or perhaps where Juliana fit into the picture and the bus crashing. I actually had to reread that part to check what happened because I missed it the first time.
    Juan and Juliana was that planned? It may be a little confusing.
    I love the dialogue, it feels real.


  15. Thank you all for dropping by. I think the assignment I wrote this for was characterisation - that's probably why I skimmed over some other parts.
    Really appreciate your feedback - I think I'll re-write it for something somewhere. xx


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