Dow - Our School Bus Is Missing

 

Our School Bus is Missing

(But not for long)

Image by H. Michael Miley, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Image by H. Michael Miley, couresy of Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license.

A short story by Carl Dow

As far back as the seniors in kindergarten could remember, their school bus would arrive at their stops each and every school day. It was almost always right on time.

The seniors called their school bus Old Number 75. The seniors called it Old Number 75, not because it was old in years, but because they rode in it last year too.

But at the start of school, the juniors, who were four years old, didn’t call it anything at all. This was their first year. They were too busy wondering about everything.

The school bus driver was called Charlie. His real name was Charles. But everyone agreed that calling him Charlie was friendlier.

Charlie was a very friendly man who had a voice with a smile. He also wore a funny hat.

Some called it a cowboy hat. But it wasn't a cowboy hat. Some called it an Australian hat. But it wasn't an Australian hat.

One of the seniors said, "I think we should call it a Charlie Hat."

Everyone thought this was a good idea. So did Charlie.

To the juniors, especially when school began in September, Charlie's funny hat was important. It was easier to understand than the number of the bus.

No matter the weather . . . Sunshine . . . Rain . . . and, later . . . Snow . . . it was always easy for the juniors to know that their bus had arrived because there was Charlie behind the steering wheel in his funny hat.

Charlie was not only a friendly school bus driver; he was also funny. He liked to laugh and sing. He liked to hear his passengers laugh and sing too.

One of the songs Charlie sang was,

Be nice now
Be nice later
Be nice like
A sweet potater.

Everyone enjoyed that song. They would sing it almost every day.

The time for junior kindergarten children to go to school was in the morning. The time for them to go back home or to daycare was just before noon.

After class they would climb aboard their school bus all full of energy.

“Is everyone sitting down?” Charlie would call out, loud enough so that even those way at the back of the bus could hear.

“Yes Charlie!” said fifty-one voices all at the same time.

When Charlie saw that this was true he would close the door and start the bus. He put the bus in gear and it slowly moved away from its parking spot.

There were three speed bumps on the street in front of the school. They were there to make sure that cars and trucks would slow down when passing the school.

“The front wheels are going over the first bump,” said Charlie.

All the juniors would stop talking. They would listen carefully to hear and feel the front wheels of the school bus going over the first speed bump.

“The back wheels are going over the first bump,” said Charlie loud enough for all to hear.

Everyone sat quietly. Nobody wanted to miss feeling the school bus wheels go over the bumps.

“The front wheels are going over the second bump,” Charlie said in his cheerful voice.

No one moved or said anything. 

“The back wheels are going over the second bump,” Charlie announced.

The juniors waited patiently.

“The front wheels are going over the third bump,” Charlie said, looking at all the quiet listening and feeling juniors on his inside rearview mirror.

“The back wheels are going over the third bump.”

Charlie paused a moment before saying, “Now! No more bumps!”

The fifty-one juniors would give a loud cheer.

Then Charlie would start to sing.

We’re on our way

And we won’t turn back

We’re on our way

And we won’t turn back

We’re on our waaay

And we won’t turn back

We’re on our way

By gosh we’re on our way.

Every day Charlie talked about going over the speed bumps. Every day they all sang We’re on our way.

If Charlie should forget, one of the four-year-olds would remind him, “Charlie you forgot the speed bumps.” Or, “Charlie we’re not singing We’re on our way.”

Charlie knew how important it was for four-year-olds to get things done just exactly right every time. Charlie would sing We’re on our way and the whole busload of juniors would join in.

The seniors, of course, knew every corner of their route along the way.

One afternoon, as Charlie was driving the seniors to class, he drove right past the street going to the school. He had been thinking of something he was writing back at home.

Many five year-olds called out, “Charlie, you missed the turn!”

Charlie said, “I know. We’re three minutes early so I thought we would take an extra trip around the block.”

The kindergarten seniors thought this new experience was exciting and so they chanted just for fun.

Next stop! Jurassic Park!

Next stop! Jurassic Park!

Everyone laughed and three minutes later Charlie stopped the bus in front of the school right on time. Just like he always did.

One day it was Charlie’s turn to get a surprise.

The four-year-olds were almost silent. They were whispering to each other so quietly that all Charlie could hear was the comforting roar of Old Number 75’s diesel engine.

Suddenly all of the passengers started to chant,

Charlie! Charlie! Sit beside me!
 
Charlie! Charlie! Sit beside me!

Charlie smiled. He looked at the happy faces on his inside rearview mirror. Charlie gave his answer.

I’d love to! I’d love to!
 
But I’ve got to drive the bus!

I’d love to! I’d love to!

But I’ve got to drive the bus!

It was fun. Everyone had a good time.

But Charlie wasn't just a friendly and funny driver. He was also a very safe driver. For him to be a very safe driver it was important that all the children sat properly and quietly in their seats.

The juniors and seniors knew that if they didn't do this it would distract Charlie. It would make his driving difficult and therefore not as safe as it should be.

All the children understood this and they would do their best not to make a fuss that would distract Charlie from his safe driving. But sometimes someone would forget and do something that was distracting.

Charlie would remind them how important proper sitting was.

Charlie would say:

I hope I don't see anyone standing in the aisle!

Or

I hope I don’t see anyone standing on a seat!
 
Or
 
I hope I don't see anyone throwing something!
 
Or

I hope I hear someone singing a song!

And the children would cheer and start to sing. They sang many songs. But their favorite song was We’re On Our Way.

They would sing We’re On Our Way almost every day.

So riding on the school bus was lots of fun.

Lots of joking.

Lots of singing.

Lots of sitting properly for safety reasons.

But one day something happened.

Everyone noticed right away. Not just the seniors. But the juniors too.

Their school bus was missing!

Sure, the driver was the same Charlie with his funny hat. And sure, it was the same number 75 on the little signs on the front windshield and on a side window.

By this time even the juniors could read the number 75.

But you can’t fool kindergarten kids. No siree! These passengers knew when their school bus was missing as soon as they put only one foot on the first step.

Yep. There was Charlie in his funny old hat. And yep, there was the number 75. But this bus was not their Old Number 75. That was for sure.

When he picked up the juniors in the morning, when he picked up the seniors in the afternoon, they all wanted to know what had happened.

"Hey! Where's Old Number 75?” they asked Charlie.

"This bus is not Old Number 75! What happened to our bus?" all the juniors and seniors wanted to know.

Each time (once in the morning for the juniors, once in the afternoon for the seniors) Charlie held up both his hands to ask for silence.

Everyone settled down to listen quietly. They knew Charlie would have the answer to the mystery. They knew that Charlie would tell them the truth, as he always did.

"Yes," said Charlie, "you’re right. This bus is not Old Number 75. This bus is a spare bus. I had to take this spare bus because this morning I had to put Old Number 75 in a school-bus hospital called a service garage because I found a number of things wrong with it."

"How many numbers?" asked one of the juniors.

"Three," said Charlie, as he held up the fingers of one hand and used the forefinger of his other hand to count off three fingers.  "One. Two. Three."

"Is it bad?" the students wanted to know.

"Will the repairs take long?" said one, who was a little impatient with Charlie for calling a service garage a school-bus hospital.

Charlie smiled. "No. Just a few days. And then we'll have Old Number 75 back with us."

"How did you find out it needed repairs?" asked another student who thought it was funny to call a service garage a school-bus hospital.

Charlie explained what he did every morning before he started on his run to pick up all the students.

"Every morning before I back Old Number 75 out of its parking space, I make a circle tour of our favorite bus."

Charlie said he checks the engine to make sure it has enough oil. He checks the brake fluid. He checks all the hoses. Then he starts the engine and walks around the bus to check all the tires and all the lights. He looks underneath to make sure the exhaust system is good.

"This morning," said Charlie, "I found that Old Number 75 had a front light burned out. Its signal arm wasn't working properly. And a windshield wiper didn't move when I turned it on. So you can see, with these three things wrong, Old Number 75 couldn't be called a safe bus. It needed repairs that couldn't be fixed in time to start picking you up. So that's why we are going to school in a spare bus."

"When will Old Number 75 be all fixed up," the juniors and seniors wanted to know.

"I can't say for sure," said Charlie, "Maybe next Monday."

"But this is Tuesday," said one of the seniors in alarm.

"You mean we won’t have Old Number 75 back until after the weekend?"

"Can't say for sure," said Charlie, "we'll just have to be patient and wait and see."

Well, Old Number 75 didn't come back the next day, which was Wednesday. Nor did it come back on Thursday but then . . . surprise!

The juniors and seniors didn't have to wait until Monday because on Friday, sure enough, they saw Old Number 75 coming down the street to pick them up.

There was Charlie with his Charlie Hat and a big Charlie smile on his face.

Their school bus was no longer missing! It was back!

This made all the students happy!

It made Charlie happy!

And when all of the juniors and seniors could be heard singing We’re on our way, even all the people on the street could see that Old Number 75 itself was also very happy to be back on the job!

Very, very happy indeed!

 

The End

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