Short

Life out of the carpool lane: A piece of fan fiction about everyone’s least favourite James

Still driving... but now it's a bus

It had been two years since the doors of Hollywood had been slammed in James’ face. He looked out of the window of the number 27 bus and frowned at a poster for The Bad Education Movie 2: Badder Education. Despite being sent straight to Netflix, he knew damn well that it was going down a storm, currently with a three-star rating. The face of his old friend Jack Whitehall smiled back at him, but he knew that that was a bridge burned, too, after the time he and Freddie Flintoff has push over a portaloo that Jack was in at V-Festival.

It was at moments like these when James almost questioned if the zingers he’d told at a charity event in Los Angeles had been such a great idea.

He stared out of the window a bit more, until he was interrupted by an old lady. “It’s green, dear,” she said.

“Huh?” said James.

“It’s green. The light. You can go.”

“Oh. Right. Yes, of course. Sorry, ma’am.” James eased down on the accelerator and cruised through the lights.

At the next stop a bunch of school kids got on. “What you listening to? Adele?” he said to one girl in headphones. “She’s got an amazing voice, hasn’t she?”

“You what?” said the girl, pulling back her left earphone and cocking her head towards the Perspex window.

“I was just saying, Adele – brilliant voice.”

“Right. Ok. I’m not listening to Adele, though.”

“Ah. That’s cool. Stormzy, is it? You should check Adele, though. We’re actually mates. I haven’t seen her for a while, bu…” James stopped talking because he realised that the girl had walked on, sat down and had her headphones on again.

Further down the road a married couple got on and James could tell that they were surprised to see who was behind the wheel. Most people pretended that they didn’t recognise him at all, and he was always impressed at the British public’s ability to act genuinely nonplussed when they saw him, but these two were having a job containing their excitement. “Is this a Comic Relief thing?” the woman asked quietly.

“Errr, yeah,” James lied.

“Oh fantastic. Good for you.”

As the pair jostled down the aisle, James heard the man say, “We should have got a picture. It’s not every day your bus is driven by Peter Kaye.” The British public could be complete fucking idiots, James thought.

It wasn’t until Mrs Mavis got on that James perked up, although he was never going to let her know just how much he thought of her.

“Now, did you remember to pack your lunch today, James,” Mrs Mavis asked him.

“Yesss,” sighed James like he did everyday. He hadn’t, of course. Ultimately because he knew exactly what was going to happen next.

“Oh, right. Well, I’ve brought you some sandwiches in case. Cheese and pickle.” She rammed them through the gap between the Perspex glass and the coin tray, poking them with a Trio biscuit when they got stuck. “And something for pudding,” she winked. The sandwiches now resembled as mix of Pedigree Chum and printer paper. James would eat those later. “Fine,” he said, waving Mrs Mavis away to her usual seat as close to the driver as possible.

“Of course, I remember when you did Carpool Karaoke,” said Mrs Mavis as they pulled away from the bus stop, loud enough for the whole of the lower deck to hear, and half of the upper deck too. “The one you did with Adele was incredible,” she said. “You’re friends with her, aren’t you?” It kinda sounded like Mrs Mavis was reading from a script that had been prepared for her.

“Oh, I don’t do that anymore,” bellowed James. “Happy to be rid of that life, actually.”

“Oh, what a shame,” said Mrs Mavis. “I was going to suggest you give us all a song now. We’d like that, wouldn’t we?” She tried to make eye contact with the other passengers in that way that old people do when they’re stuck in traffic. Nobody said a word, except for one man sat at the back who shouted, “No we fucking wouldn’t.” It was Mat Horne who’d taken to riding James’ bus all day long to belittle him for the price of £1.50.

“I mean, if that’s what my passengers want…” said James.

“We don’t!” heckled Horne.

Continuing to ignore him, James cleared his throat and started to bellow ‘Paradise’ by Coldplay.

At the next stop the whole bus emptied, despite James’ insistence that it wasn’t terminating there. Time for that sandwich.

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