Jason Lawrence Bell
Stories
Search single story

04-07-19

04-07-19            PUSH ARROW FOR AUDIO

‘Slow down we need to preserve our gas. Who knows when we’ll see the next gas station?’ Said the school counselor to the lost bus driver. What was to be a simple school excursion has turned into a tense embarrassment. The trip to the out of town monument with a bus load of second graders is usually routine, but the bus driver Barry seems hopelessly lost.

The bus is somewhere in the Western Mountain Range where cell phone reception is zero and every road and turn looks the same. Barry thought he must have left the driving directions back at the school and the counselor didn’t notice they were lost until it was too late. Barry had only worked for the school for a few months but the children loved him. He told them jokes and remembered every name and they looked forward to riding in his bus.

But the counselor was not nearly as enamored as the kids, and was starting to show it. As Barry was trying to distract the kids with singing favorite songs, the counselor was sitting behind Barry threatening him. ‘You moron, a simple task of driving for A to B and back and your little brain can’t handle it’.  Barry felt horrible and the counselor wasn’t helping. But he stayed cheery for the kids and sang another song.

A couple of kids near the front were becoming aware of the counselor’s anger and told the other kids. Then they heard the counselor say ‘after today you will never drive another school bus or work for the school district. I will make certain of that. You’d better believe my words’. Barry kept singing and the kids started talking together. ‘Why is she being so mean to Barry. I don’t like her’ said one little girl. So, the kids started singing louder with Barry trying to drown out the counselors mean words. This mad the counselor even more determined.

She stood up and stopped everyone from singing and announced ‘we are lost. This incompetent driver doesn’t know where we are and we are lost. This is very serious and all he does is sing. Believe me we won’t have to put up with him after we get back.’ She then sat back down.

The kids gathered in the back and seemed to talk intently. After a few minutes a boy walked up to the front with the others trailing behind and said, ‘Barry are we lost?’ Barry answered ‘yes Jimmy I am sorry to say we are lost’. The counselor growled ‘you believe him and not me?’ The kids ignored her. So, Jimmy turned to the other kids and said ‘we can do this, with everything Barry taught us we can do this,’ and the other kids stood up excited to help. The counselor thought ‘what do they mean, what Barry taught us.’ Jimmy continued, ‘Okay who is good with lefts and rights?’ Stevie raised his hand ‘I remember all the lefts and rights’. Every day Barry would drive the kids from school and back and every day he had them do something different. One day he had the kids yell out if the bus turned left or right or it stopped on red and go on green or U-turns. The kids loved the challenge and learned at the same time. Stevie was best at remembering left and rights.

Jimmy then asked ‘Okay who is good with reading signs?’ Debbie proudly raised her hand, ‘I read every one and I can remember them like Barry taught us.’ Some days Barry had the kids read all the signs that the bus passed. They learned new words and how to read fast. Debbie was ready to help. Jimmy asked again, ‘Okay who is good with trees’? Immediately Brian stood up and said, ‘there were a lot of different trees and I can remember them like Barry taught us.’ Jimmy continued, ‘then we just go backwards like Barry showed us when we go back home from school’. The kids cheered with approval.

So, the kids yelled ‘make a U-turn Barry.’ Barry smiled and made a safe U-turn. As the bus began heading back Debbie, Stevie and Brian found places by the windows. Stevie announced ‘Next turn is a left’. Debbie offered ‘and it’s close to the sign ‘Middleton 51 Miles’. Brian added ‘two oak trees on both sides of the turn’. In a few miles there was the left turn with the Middleton 51-mile sign and two oak trees. The kids smiled with pride. The counselor just sat quietly confused by what was happening.

Then Stevie said, ‘another left turn’ and Debbie added ‘by the ‘Rest Stop in 2 miles’ sign’, then Brian added ‘a bunch of big ferns on the side’. And in a few miles, there was the left, the sign and the ferns. The kids knew it was working. And after about ten more turns the bus pulled up to the school.

The kids heard the counselor bark at Barry ‘don’t think this will save you. You’re done’ and stood up to get off the bus. Then Jimmy noticed it. In the counselor’s seat was the map that she had been sitting on all the time. Debbie spoke ‘that’s the map, you were sitting on the map.’ The counselor was shocked by what she saw. And what everyone else saw too.

She looked desperately at the children then Barry. After a long uncomfortable moment, the counselor offered, ‘This has been a very strange ride but maybe it’s best that we keep this story to ourselves. Barry and you kids are a good combination.’ Then the kids gave a big cheer for their Barry. Peace**