I sat heavily on the wooden bench. The bus shelter was an old one, built from stone, scented with leaf mould.
Jackie, my German Shepherd, sniffed at my left hand and whined.
I heard the woman before I saw her. She was wearing a lot of bangles and they jangled. She sat next to us in a cloud of patchouli.
There was one second of silence.
‘It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?’ she said.
‘It is,’ I agreed.
‘Of course,’ she continued, ‘I have to be careful with the sun. I’ve got this mole on my leg,’ she hitched up her long skirt to show me a small, brown mark.
‘I showed it to my GP and she said it wasn’t anything, you know,’ she lowered her voice, ‘suspicious, but it looks like the photos I saw online. They’re always in such a hurry. I might get a second opinion. Ooh, they say dogs can detect things like that don’t they?’ She looked appraisingly at Jackie. ‘Hey, boy, have a sniff, what do you think?’
Jackie shrank backwards, putting her head on her paws.
‘Well, I suppose they need to know you.’
There was a rumble of traffic and both Jackie and I looked up the road, but it was only a lorry.
‘Ooh it’s nice to sit down. My left hip has been playing up something chronic. My doctor suggested I look up physiotherapy videos on the internet. I mean, really. I’m going to see an acupuncturist. They used to offer that on the NHS you know, but budget cuts and all that. I don’t know what I pay taxes for.’
Jackie snuffled my hand again. I scratched behind her ears.
‘Headaches. I had one the other day, honestly, I thought my skull was going to split. I nearly went to A&E, I mean, what if it was a blood clot? But after last time… anyway it eased off, but still. One of my friends goes to a craniosacral therapist. He charges £60 an hour, so he must be really good.’
There was another rumble. I felt a surge of hope as I saw a bus approaching. ‘Are you waiting for the 54?’ I asked.
‘Goodness, I was miles away, yes!’ she leapt nimbly to her feet and put her arm out to signal the driver.
‘Hip doesn’t seem to be bothering her, eh?’ I whispered to Jackie.
‘Are you getting on?’ the woman called back.
‘No,’ I said, pushing myself to my feet. ‘We just stopped for a rest.’
‘Bye, then!’ she said cheerily.
Jackie pushed her nose against my left hand again. I looked down at the patch of pinkish, too-wrinkled skin that she always seemed to focus on. ‘You know she’s a total hypochondriac, right?’ I said.
Jackie gazed at me with resolute, brown eyes.
I looked down the road. The sign to the surgery glinted in the afternoon sunshine.
‘Oh, all right,’ I said. ‘I suppose I could pop in and make an appointment.’
This piece came out of a writing prompt to write about a conversation at a bus stop. I hear a lot of stories about people using ‘alternative’ therapies to help their various conditions. It’s very easy to cure a condition that was never really there in the first place.