Constant Stalker


Constant Stalker


The bus is late. The afternoon sun is merciless.

“Bad accident,” one of a dozen of us waiting announces, without looking up from studying the screen of his cell phone. “Bus had to be rerouted.”

“How long?” a woman asks, futilely fanning herself with an envelope from her purse.

The guy shrugs.

We’ve all queued up against a retaining wall that intensifies the heat at us. To move would be to lose your place in line, maybe not get on the crowded bus. I’m reminded of pictures I’ve seen of refugees in the blistering heat lined up at feeding stations in places like Sudan.  

The bus arrives, nearly filled. Inside, I wend my way down the aisle past sweating bodies and clasp a pole for balance. It feels sticky.

Five more stops.

An elderly woman sways, then crumples, knocking against me as she goes down. I look at her huddled on my shoes, one hand clutching my pant leg.

“Stop the bus, we’ve got a medical emergency!” someone shouts.

The packed bus pulls to the curb. As soon as it stops, the breeze from the open windows ceases and heat becomes insufferable. Doors open, fellow commuters cautiously step past the two of us, eager to exit though the blinding white heat outside is little better than this sweltering metal tube.

The bus driver’s talking into a cellphone, looking back at me.

“Did you call nine-one-one?” I shout. He nods. Who else would he be talking to?

I feel pressure on my foot. The woman is moving, her elbow is pressing against my toes.

“Are you okay?” Obviously not, or why would she be on the dirty floor of a transit vehicle? I adjust my foot. She flops on her back. Flushed and panting, she stares up at me.

I bend over and take her arm. “Can you stand up?”

The bus driver finished with his call, comes and takes her other arm. Together we get her sitting up against the hard metal frame of the seat.

“What happened?” she whispers.

“You fainted,” the driver says. “An ambulance is on its way.”

My foot, now unencumbered, the driver in charge, paramedics summoned, perspiration dripping from the end of my nose, I decide to make my leave before I become another casualty of the most recent extreme heat event.

Many of my fellow riders cluster in the sparse shade of a street tree while they wait to re-board. I decide to walk the remaining six blocks home.

To get to where I live, I must cross a secondary arterial jammed with vehicles jockeying to gain a car length on their tedious journey out of the downtown core. At the corner, I step off the curb indicating my intention to cross, trying to make eye contact with drivers while I inhale sweet-smelling exhaust fumes mixed with superheated air emanating up from the asphalt. I’m impatient. My neck’s scorched, my scalp’s tingling. A white Toyota hesitates. I make my move.


I teeter on the white line as a panel van in the other lane passes within inches of my precariously balanced body. The car behind me accelerates and I’m suspended between moving vehicles until one driver finally slows and I sprint to safety.

But my home’s hardly safe. A heat dome has developed the last few days and the converted attic I rent in a rooming house is insufferable. I’m never there, except to sleep and have only come back today to shower and change from work before I head out. Dinner on a restaurant patio would be nice, but I can’t afford it and will I’ll have to settle for take-out in the park.

I scrub off the acrid sweat then rinse in cool, cooler, cold water. Stepping out of the shower, I walk naked and dripping to the open window and switch on the fan. While my body air-dries, I look down on the bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic pumping out carbon monoxide guaranteeing an even hotter future. Another bus disgorges more passengers, two attempting to cross where I did.

My eye strays to the upper corner of the window frame. On the outside casing, a lethal-looking spider has woven a web and hangs head down in the center of it. Separated only by a pane of glass, I move closer examining the mottled white markings that form a cross on the abdomen of its pale gray body. It’s beautiful.

A yellow-jacket flies into view busily exploring the outside ledge. The spider tenses, the web reverberates. The wasp lands, takes off, gets closer to the web. The spider is deathly still.

Perhaps it’s the breeze but this time on lift-off a gauzy wing touches the filament coated with minute sticky globules. The wasp is stuck, only barely, but it’s enough. In a flash, the spider is upon its prey encircling it with soft, yet incredibly strong strands. The wasp tries to break free while pivoting to defend itself with its lance-like stinger, but its captor is agile, a skilled killer and avoids the barbs. The dance of death continues for less than a minute until the hornet is immobilized by the cocoon of silk. Then the spider moves in and sinks its fangs into the yellow-jacket’s head ending the struggle.

The drama of this event unfolding inches from my face has left me awed. In nature, death is always lurking. The wasp was alive and full of purpose a few minutes ago. What, I wonder, would it be like to live that way, with death a constant stalker, waiting for any miscalculation, a moment of inattention, a wrong step?

Tires screech on hot pavement. Thud. Then silence.

I look out to the street below and see a young man splayed in front of an SUV. He’s on his

back, the hot sun burning his face. Blood is pooling beneath his head.


Rod Raglin


Rod Raglin is a Canadian journalist, photographer and self-published author of 13 novels, two plays and a collection of short stories. His short fiction has been aired nationally on CBC radio and he’s been a prize winner in Vancouver West End Writers’ Poetry Competition. He lives in Vancouver, BC, where he is, among other things, a paid facilitator of creative writing circles.

Artist Statement

reativity for me is an accurate depiction of reality, an acute awareness to detail knowing even the most inconsequential element can have a huge impact on an image, a story, or a poem. Life is the raw material that I make sense of when I view it through the lens of a camera or interpret it with words I write. Sharing my perspective with you enriches and validates the experience.

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