Every school morning the bus would stop at the far side of the bridge where the river grew lazy and dawdled round an elbow bend. The other children would peer out their smeared windows and even the driver could not resist a curious glance as the Barnum children appeared as they did each morning from the dried hogweed stalks and stepped lightly onto the bus. Two children dressed neatly in the navy uniform of the little country school.
One taller, the older by two years, the other smaller tucked by her brother’s side. Each morning they nodded politely at the driver looked him straight in the eye, but never said a word even though they clucked away at each other incessantly in that funny private language of theirs. And each morning they handed him their money always polished clean and walked to their seats at the front of the bus. The other children who had been kicking and spitting and bragging for the rest of the trip sat and gawped as they had since the Barnum’s had arrived two years before. Givven the driver, for that was his name looked in his rear view and took a deep breath and smelt the clean salt air smell that they always brought and his simple but good mind tried as it always had to get round what sat on his clean and tidy bus. The two were tall slender graceful children not ruffled like the others.
They sat straight backed, looking forward with watchful eyes. But theirs were not human eyes they were eyes from a fishmongers window, or rather like an aquarium for they were very much alive, huge and lidless and the colour of poured gold and turquoise and these curious eyes peered from faces that had no nose to speak of, but large lipless mouths filled with sharp silverine teeth sat above a delicately pointed chin sprinkled with scales that caught and threw the light. Their faces adjoined to heads not unlike the human variety in idea but without earlobes or hair and sloping backwards to a fine point to the rear. The sides of their heads carried more scales that spun and sparkled in colours that often blinded Givven if caught wrong by the light and connected smoothly with the slender neck from which at either side sprouted a gently moving frill of lace like gills.
As they spoke these gills would gently undulate for the mouth seldom moved and the noise they made if it could be compared to anything was like the noise made when a wet finger runs round the rim of a wineglass. Each carried a finely worked leather satchel from which they would periodically remove an oily substance and apply it to each others visible skin, but other than that Givven never saw them eat or what he took to be laugh.
As for their sex the older brother for that was what he had been told, other than being taller was no different from his sister, the younger was too young to have breasts if she ever would and they shared the same slim hands complete with seven nail less fingers. Givven had never laid eyes on their parents and knew of no one who had, but he had once dreamt of a woman with a silver scaled body and felt guilty as hell for it ever since. So he drove and glimpsed and drove some more and when he stopped to let everyone off he felt the usual relief cut through with a wish to watch those strange creatures forever as they left the bus together, nodded a thanks and walked hand in silver hand to the school.