“You can’t park here without a permit.”
“I’ve bin’ comin’ round ‘ere longer than them petty council laws were in place.” She hobbled down the steps clutching a walking stick.
He studied the small haggard woman. “I’ve never seen you, or this bus you can’t miss.”
“D’ya think its pretty?” She beamed wide at the Inspector.
“For an eyesore.”
“Some call it art.” Her frail hand wobbled, huffing, as she pulled the bus’s side awning down.
“You can’t set up camp here.”
“I’m not campin’.”
“You’re setting up something?”
“I dare ya to ask?”
“Fine. Why are you driving a bus covered in graffiti and splats of paint?”
“Because it attracts the bigger children.”
“Did teenagers paint the graffiti?”
“Adults too. Well, those choosing to remember their inner child and all that hocus-pocus crap. D’ya wanna try?”
“And throw paint at your bus?”
“This is the ‘Wish Bus’.”
“Wish it wasn’t in this park. Hey, permit, lady?”
“You’re parking on council property and selling things.”
“I don’t sell wishes. It’s ‘ere for the children to enjoy.”
“Where’s the kids.”
“Aren’t you a youngster?” She chuckled.
His chest puffed as his chin raised. “I’m a grown-up.”
“Adulting sucks. Trust me, I’ve been doin’ it longer than you. So, ‘ere…” She offered him a small colour ball that sat in the centre of her small wrinkled palm.
“What is that?”
“Paintball. Have a try?”
“You chuck it at my bus.”
He frowned. “Why?”
“They call it art therapy. Or you could play safe and paint paper. But where’s the fun in that?”
“It’s simple. You make a wish, then throw that paint ball as hard as you can at the bus.”
“It works, huh?” Eyebrows raised, he shook his head.
“One way to find out.”
“Um?” He scratched beneath his parking inspector’s cap.
“What’s five seconds of a childhood free moment of fun gonna hurt?”
“You’ll show me your permit after?”
She nodded and held her palm flat balancing the coloured pearl.
“Only live once, right?”
The Inspector hesitated.
He then plucked up the paintball. It’s cool delicate coating was thinner than a shell-less egg. He raised the bauble to the sun and inspected the kaleidoscope swirl of colours that looked like a candy-coloured-world within a world.
“Remember to wish, child.”
“I wish…” And he hurled the large marble towards the side of the bus. It splattered into a huge clash of rainbow shades and bold stripes of greens, gold, violet, red, and a rich royal blue. “Too cool!”
She smiled. “Wanna try another one?”
“I do.” He nodded with eyes shining as bright as his smile.
“They’re inside the bus. It’d be quicker if you fetched ’em for me. There’s a whole tray in the back, can’t miss ‘em.”
“Sure.” The Inspector leaped up the stairs and disappeared behind paint covered windows of the bus.
At the first scream, she smiled.
“This painted bus is so much better than the old ant-riddled gingerbread house. It’s supper time.” And the old witch skipped up the steps twirling her cane in hand as the bus doors magically closed behind her.
(*first published 2016 for Halloween’s Anthology*)