This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
I rode the same school bus from K through 8. I hated that bus. I was the very last person to get on and it was completely packed by the time it got around to me. There was never a place to sit and when there was, it was usually next to some torturous wretch who filtered through the muck of the Missouri river. What followed was generally thirty minutes of foul odor, beaver-trapping stories and a complete overload of my nervous system. No wonder I had anxiety issues.
That all changed starting with my freshman year. For some bizarre reason, the bus routes were completely overhauled. I can only guess now, looking back with my jaundiced eye, that this was due to some sort of financial situation. Whatever the cause, I was elated. Not only was I the exact first person on the bus, but my best friend, Joe rode the same bus. As luck would have it, we were the two oldest kids riding. All of this meant that we got the coveted back seats, where we ruled with an iron fist.
Actually, there could be worse tyrants. Hitler killed umpteen-million people. All we did was offer little girls candy to come sit with us. Of course, being raised by good parents, they never accepted. However, being the fair individuals we were, we would usually give them the candy anyway.
Unfortunately for Helen and Mandy, they always seemed to get forced toward the back of the bus, where Joe and I sat waiting with our Brach's cinnamon discs at the ready. Did we ever once get thanked for our astonishing generosity? Maybe once a little smile.
But we forged ahead, making a name for ourselves on bus #7. Every morning, the first thing heard on the loudspeaker, after the announcements, was "osm and Joe please come to the office." We would invariably look at each other and grin. Our previous afternoon's torture had rewarded us with a school-wide announcement. It was a badge of honor. At that very moment, every single student from the 7th grade up to the 12th knew that we had struck again. Not a day went by that we had to sit through first hour.
But it wasn't Helen and Mandy that got us in trouble. It was our new bus driver and arch nemesis, "Mongoloid". Actually, that wasn't his real name. That was our nickname for him, which was chosen for it's uncanny effectiveness at describing his general facial features. The best way to describe Mongoloid is to have you look at a picture of Eric Raymond. The resemblance is striking. Actually, the resemblance is sickening.
Mongoloid's young son, who was several years younger than Helen and Mandy, rode the bus too. Of course, he stayed up front, where the shockwaves from the back of the bus had decreased to a 4 or 5 on the Richter Scale. Joe and I, being the imaginative, creative fellows we were, concocted an epic tale describing the stormy romance between Mongoloid and his sister, the result of which was Mongoloid's front-of-the-bus-riding son, the "Spawn of Mongoloid". Mongoloid, of course, denied everything, "I don't know where you boys got that, but that ain't true."
One evening, I spent the night over at Joe's. After wandering around the countryside getting drunk, we returned only to be chastized by his grandmother, who assured us that we would be going to hell very soon for our evil ways. We listened to the sermon with glee, knowing her passionate words would add a little extra spice to our getting-drunk story the next day at school. "You boys are goin' out gettin' in trouble and the devil's gonna find out about it and you're goin' straight to hell!" Her message struck me at a profound level and I filed it away for later use.
After our lecture, we locked ourselves in Joe's room and we devised a plan that would be put into action the next morning. One of the common interests that had brought us together in the first place was making films. Joe liked horror movies and I was into science fiction. Both genres were more interesting with weird looking monsters/aliens so we both had developed talents creating latex masks and the like. I had brought a rope of yak hair with me, which was, coincidentally, the same general color as Mongoloid's thinning, greasy shock. That night, we sculpted a fine reproduction, somewhat exagerrated, of course, of Mongoloid's nose. We made a mold of the sculpture and used that to cast a couple of latex noses. The final touch was two pairs of mirrored sunglasses, probably purchased at the same Easy Buy where Mongoloid had found his.
The next morning, we awoke somewhat hung over from our previous night's adventure. We had no problems waking up, though. We excitedly applied spirit gum to our noses and afixed them to our faces. Next, we applied the yak hair to our upper-lips and greased it down with vaseline. Once the mirrored shades were on, we were magically transformed into Mongoloid. From that point on, we spoke, walked and looked like our tortured chauffeur.
We stepped on the bus and paused. It struck me, as I looked toward the back of the bus, which was cleared of any intruders, that my fellow bus-riders looked a little battle weary. Of course, it never occurred to me that those sallow eyes and frightened frowns were OUR fault! In any event, it was a true testament to our fiendishness that our seats were reserved, despite the fact that I hadn't been the first on the bus to claim them immediately.
Mongoloid, his mirrored shades glinting in the morning sun, turned to us, somewhat nervously. Even through the darkness of the glasses, I could make out a definite redening of his face. He chuckled nervously, "I wonder what handsome devil you guys are supposed to be."
Joe chuckled back, mockingly, "just some dumbass."
Mongoloid turned away, frightened of escalating the situation. He shook his head and chuckled again, his greasy moustache quivering.
Joe and I strutted to the back of the bus. Not a peep could be heard on bus #7 as we mounted our thrones. The entire rest of the trip, we sat motionless, staring ahead. We didn't even break out of character to offer Helen and Mandy their daily doses of cinammon when they boarded and trotted innocently to their seats toward the back.
Ultimately, the bus reached school. The high schoolers were the first to unboard, much to the relief of Helen and Mandy, I would imagine. As we walked past Mongoloid, he chuckled again. With a shaking hand, he waved toward us.
"You handsome boys have a good day, now," his voice cracked.
"It'll be a lot better as soon as I find my sister," Joe yelled back. His viciousness surprised even me. I mean, the guy was a loser but, Jesus...
And on the torture went. Of course, our activities weren't limited to the bus. Any class we had together was a guaranteed circus and it got to the point where we would be called BACK to the office throughout the day. We made quite a name for ourselves. That had it's good points and bad points. There were older, bigger kids who loved nothing more than to show us who the real boss was. But bus #7 was our haven.
One day, on the way home, I noticed Mandy didn't get off at her usual stop. I managed to get Helen and her to confess that they were having a sleep over at Helen's that evening. I had a few cinnamon discs left over and I offered one to Helen. She shook her head, frowning.
"All you have to do is come and sit with me! Please?"
"NO!" She snapped, growing quite frustrated with my unusual persistance.
"You know, you should be nice. The devil doesn't like it when people are mean!"
She turned away, trying her best to blot out my existence.
"You two girls have been very mean," Joe agreed.
"I'll bet the devil comes for you tonight," I added, "he always comes when girls have sleepovers."
"Shut Up!" The girls demanded.
"You'd better pray tonight before you go to bed," Joe suggested, "maybe then he won't come for you."
"No we're not... look at my arm." I held out my arm, which was marred with cat scratches, "Joe and I were mean and the devil came for us."
"Leave us alone!"
I have to hand it to them, they maintained a very commanding front. I didn't think they believed a word of it. That didn't stop us from continuing to add to the story until the bus arrived at Helen's home.
The year wore on and Joe and I pushed the boundaries of out-of-control behavior to new levels. It had been a rough year for both of us. We had both missed a total of three months worth of school. Despite all of the time we spent resting on school days, we were quite relieved at the last day of classes. Our exhuberation reached monumental proportions on the bus ride home.
Halfway through the ride home, Joe and I exploded in a spontaneous spasm of celebration. I shook up a can of pop I had with me and opened it, sending the contents spraying all over everyone within six seats of me. Mongoloid had had all he could take. The bus came to a screeching halt on the side of an old gravel road.
I hardly noticed anything was happening, as Joe and I were still celebrating with some of the other kids who we allowed to sit near us without fear of persecution. Suddenly, I realized Mongoloid was standing next to my seat, looking down through his mirrored shades. He was visibly shaking. His moustache twitched, his voice quavered uncontrollably.
"Osm, I'm tired of your shit."
The bus was dead quiet. I looked him straight in the glasses, not once betraying even the slightest shred of subordination.
Mongoloid's face was flushed. He was shaking violently. Everyone watched. I felt them watching. There was no way in hell I could let this guy get the better of me. There was only one thing I could do. I hopped up and shook the pop can violently, sending a rain of sticky, sugared water falling all over Mongoloid. I didn't think it possible, but the bus grew even more quiet. Mongoloid's cheek twitched. Tears began streaming down his face.
"I'm going to recommend to my superiors that you never ride this bus again," he managed to say.
I realized that one line said it all. Here stood a broken man, mercilessly beaten into submission his whole life by his superiors. The same people he went home and bitched about to his wife/sister because they screwed him out of a decent wage were going to save him from the fifteen year old boy who had beaten him down. Mongoloid was utterly powerless and everyone knew it. I felt horrible.
Mongoloid went back to his seat and the bus started back up. Slowly, the conversations resumed until they, once again, reached full volume. Joe and I sat in silence. We had won the war, but victory wasn't so sweet.
The first day of school, my sophomore year. I waited patiently for bus #7. I saw it coming down the highway, right on schedule. As I boarded, Mrs. Kincaid smiled at me, "Hi, there," she said pleasantly.
"Hello!" I smiled back. I sat down in the front seat, behind her, asking her about herself as she drove the bus to the next stop. As the brakes screeched, I got up and made for the back, "well, I'd better get back there before someone else does, nice talking to you."
"You too," Mrs. Kincaid smiled.
E P I L O G
After our sophomore year, Joe moved out of state and I didn't return to the old high school. Several years later, Joe came to visit me. We were in our mid-twenties and had both changed quite a bit. We were walking along the old bluff roads near our old high school. Life has a way of throwing strange coincidences at you and this turned out to be one of them.
Joe was telling me how he had seen Helen at the local gas station. She told him that the night we had told her and Mandy about the devil, they had prayed until they went to sleep so the devil wouldn't come to get them. As we walked along, we noticed a car parked on the bluffs. We walked past and, much to our amazement, it was Mongoloid. He didn't recognize us and we laughed to each other as we walked on. He watched us, smiling nervously. We paused several yards down the road, inconspicuously watching his strange activities. Several minutes passed before Mongoloid finally drove away.
We ran over to the spot where Mongoloid had been parked and found several empty prescription drug bottles. They all had Mongoloid's name on them. One bottle had contained quite a bit of hydrocodone.
That was the last time I ever saw both Joe and Mongoloid.