Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Passport Control By Michael Paoli

The Alpine mountains stood high above the bus, their faces shrouded in the blue of night.

Below, the bus’s engine coughed to a halt, and the flat, white electric light flickered on inside. The driver’s voice crackled through the intercom.

“Controllo di passaporti”

An old man shouted down his phone that he had to hang up. He did so, then shook his sleeping wife awake, asking where their identity cards were. She told him his was in his pocket. He took it out and clutched it between his fingers.

The men entered the bus by both doors. The six officers were wearing fluorescent vests, and a silence followed them in.

“Documents” they said, as they made their way from person to person. Two of them stayed at the doors, casting broad shadows over the exits.

The old man held out his identity card and made a joke to the closest officer, who took the card then handed it back. The old man made another joke and laughed by himself.

“And your visa?” one of the men said to a young woman. She scrambled in her bag, possessed by panic, until she unearthed the misplaced papers.

The Somali boy was in the toilet. He had gone in as the bus pulled over and locked the door behind him.

One of the officers tried the handle and saw that the toilet was locked. He rapped the door hard, ordering it to be opened, then shook the handle and knocked the door again.

“Come on,” he called, impatiently.

There was a shuffle from inside, and the Somali boy came out.

His face was young and handsome. He wore a navy blue polo shirt. He didn’t meet the glares of the man in front of him, and when his document was demanded, he made a quiet gesture to the back of the bus. The men tightened their presence around the doors, and one of the officers allowed the boy to squeeze past, then followed him closely to his seat.

“Where are you from?”

Everyone was looking at the boy now.

“Somalia.” He could only mumble.

He opened his backpack and he emptied his pockets.

“Document,” insisted the voice.

“At home,” the Somali boy answered. His shoulders shrank into his chest.

The driver had skulked up the bus to see what was going on. He thrust his finger furiously at the boy’s chest, shouting at him, saying that he’d shown a document when boarding. They looked for it in the bins and under the seats. It was nowhere to be found.

“Alright then,” said the officer. His hand on the boy now, taking him from the bus.

“That’s what you get!” chuckled the old man.

The rest of the officers left the bus and the driver returned to the wheel. As the doors hissed closed, the engine gave a jolt and a rumble, and the bus continued on its course. The electric lights blinked off.

The mountains watched.

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