Bucks County Writers Workshop
The Yellow Bus
ale, whimpering, and soaked with sweat Mikey Deever clung to his dad in the almost light from the glowing Spiderman figure plugged into the outlet by his bed. With his wife gone, Robert Deever consoled his son as best he could. "Sh-h-h, sh-h-h, it'll be okay Mikey; Dad's right here."
"This dream was the scariest of them all, Dad. Mr. Munford stole all the kids on the bus and took us on a wild ride away from school where he wasn't supposed to. He even tried to kill some of us, but we got away 'cause after he piled the rest of the kids in a white van and drove off, we got loose and Tommy Difford and me stole the yellow bus and chased after the van. You know Tommy, always wanting to be Spiderman or Superman or some comic book guy who saves people."
"Sounds like quite an adventure, Son."
"It was, Dad, it was. The scariest part is Mr. Munford is such a nice man in real life." The telling of it seemed to have a calming effect on the boy, so Lieutenant Deever determined to encourage him and hear it out even though he had an early morning meeting at the office to brief Detective Wainwright on a new case assignment. "There was lots of kids' stuff in the dream and I understood all of that, but there was lots of grown-up stuff too. Most of the grown-up stuff I didn't understand 'cause it was really crazy."
"Will it make you feel better to tell me more, Son?"
"I think so, Dad. It seems like kind of an adventure, like you said, now that you're here to listen." Deever pulled Mikey closer. "There was a wild chase with all kinds of police and goofy people involved. You and Detective Wainwright were working on the case back here in town. Even a lady from the FBI came to help."
"I hope we were not part of the goofy people you mentioned."
"No, Dad." They both chuckled a little. "They were mostly people out on the road. Mr. Munford drove the white van to a blind man's house where a big brown truck was waiting. An injured policeman with a face like Frankenstein was there with the blind man. It seemed like the policeman might help the kids who Mr. Munford moved into the brown UPS truck, but he never did. When Munford stopped for gas, Robert, Darlene, Sophie, and Cynthia escaped out the back door of the truck."
"This is getting pretty complicated, Tommy."
"Yeah, Dad, it gets worse. While Sophie and Cynthia ran into a Dairy Queen, Darlene and Robert ducked into a stretch limo outside the Dairy Queen. Tommy and me was in the yellow bus and saw the UPS truck and the limo. The limo driver turned out to be a weasel and he said stuff to Darlene she didn't like. Then he kicked Robert and her out of the limo at a ramp on the interstate in the rain. And Mr. Munford promised to take the kids in the brown truck to the circus, but he never did. Robert and Darlene hooked up with our school bus at a rest stop. Me and Tommy had just runned over a drunk with it, but he seemed okay."
"This is some story, Mikey. I think you should write a book about it."
"Hardly, Dad ... Anyways, some men in black suits tried to grab Darlene, Robert, Tommy and me. They found us because of a signal from a microchip Darlene's father had got implanted in her wrist without her knowing it. When she found out, she was mad as hell, Dad. The men in black were real pussies and we stole their car. Munford got thrown from the UPS truck and was killed when he crashed it, but the kids inside were okay. Now it really gets crazy."
"Why doesn't that surprise me, Mikey?" They both laughed.
"It turns out Mr. Needham and Miss McGovern were bad and were helping Mr. Munford steal the kids. And then there was this really evil man everybody called the Master. He lived in a big castle and treated people like slaves and made them do things that were not nice. Everybody was afraid of him. Mr. Needham and Miss McGovern seemed to be under his spell and they was always huggin' and kissin' when they thought nobody was lookin'. Mr. Needham and Miss McGovern were supposed to bring the kids home in a school bus, from a hospital where they were getting' checked out from the accident, but they delivered them to the Master instead. He was going to make them into apprentice slaves or something. And then there was this black kid, Alfred, who put Needham and Miss McGovern to sleep and couldn't make up his mind whether to help the kids or deliver them to the Master. There was talk about evil Knights Templar and sodomy and all kinds of stuff I didn't understand. Then all of a sudden I didn't see Alfred no more and Mr. Needham and Miss McGovern were back in charge.
"Mikey, maybe you should try to get some sleep and stop thinking about this stuff. The alarm goes off pretty early."
"No, Dad, I need to finish this. Next thing you know there's bright, flashin' lights and thunder and the sounds of kids playin' and singin'. They're callin' the Master dirty names and singin' weird stuff about him. It seemed to take away his power, like he wasn't gonna be able to do bad stuff no more because the kids made fun of him. He said he lost his mojo. And then there was all kinds of talk about evil and power and people in a writers group writin' the story. I didn't understand none of that."
"I can see why, Mikey."
"What's a mick bastard, Dad? Somebody called me one wunst and I wasn't sure what it meant. Are we mick bastards?"
"I guess some people might call us that, Son. It's not very nice."
"Yeah, and now the dream got whacked out big time. Talk about libraries, Reginald runnin' a writers meeting and Senator Santorum shows up and him and Reginald are askin' questions about the missing bus and Alfred shows back up for a minute and then drops out of sight again. Who are Reginald and Senator Santorum? And who is Buhnne Tramutola? Am I supposed to know them people, Dad?"
"No, your young mind is not ready to think about erudite people like those."
"What's 'erudite' Dad?"
"Forget it, Mikey. Well, now that the Master lost his power, it looks as though all the kids were finally safe."
"No. The kids all come running into the writers meeting and say how they escaped from the top floor of the Mercer Museum. How crazy is that, Dad? Then the Master shows back up with a bunch of bad guys to help him and it looks like Senator Santorum and Alfred set the whole thing up. Then all the kids and writers are forced onto a plane and flown to the Master's ranch in Texas to become slaves. Alfred gets pissed off because he wants to sleep in the Master's house as a reward for helping capture all the new slaves, but the Master won't let him because he's black."
"Do these poor people ever get away, Mikey?" Deever stifled a yawn in an effort to avoid appearing like he was loosing interest, which he was.
"I'm coming to that. Alfred plans revenge on the Master and gets the kids and writers on his side. They trick him into handcuffs and threaten to cut off his balls if he don't sell the ranch, divide the money between all the slaves, and turn everybody loose."
"What did the Master do Mikey?"
"What would you do, Dad, if somebody threatened to cut off your balls?"
"Well, I guess everybody got safely home with a little extra money in their pockets."
"You bet, Dad."
"Now let's get some sleep, Mikey." Deever watched his son put on a dry T-shirt, jam his head into the pillow and fall asleep almost instantly. Lieutenant Deever knew it would not be so easy for him.
He went downstairs. The gray, breaking sky provided only enough light to navigate. He turned on the desk lamp and touched the face of his dead wife's picture. "I know you agree, darling, we have to get Mikey some help. These dreams are happening far too often. Even with a happy ending that was much too sinister." Then he tore a tiny page from a sticky-pad and placed it in his personal phone book under Dr. Honig's name.***
Mason Munford sat reading the Monday morning paper over a steamy cup of coffee. He looked up from his paper in time to see two enormous Maine coon cats skid around the corner from the dining room, bound across the kitchen floor, and slide to a halt in front of their bowls, where they sat looking up at Gloria Needham. Good morning, Casper and Harris. I swear you two sometimes act more like dogs than cats. I'll get your breakfast as soon as I serve Mr. Munford his eggs. Munford put the paper down and smiled at his daughter. "I enjoy when you and Charles have me over for Sunday dinner and I stay over for Monday morning breakfast."
"Our pleasure, Dad," Gloria said.
Momentarily, Jake the Fake, a droopy-eared basset with bloodshot eyes, waddled into the kitchen and took up the vigil next to Casper and Harris. "What a sorry group of animals you three are," Gloria said. The trio cocked their heads and looked up at her as though they'd just been served an exquisite compliment.
"Charles left about two hours ago for an early morning meeting with Ingrid McGovern," Gloria called after Munford as he headed out the door for his ten minute walk to the bus yard. He'll probably get to school about the same time as you. Without turning around, Munford raised his hand and waved acknowledgement.
Munford's first stop as he drove the yellow bus was at a corner, two doors from the Deever house. Mikey was first to board. "You look pale today, kid. Buck up. Let's see a smile. You take life too seriously." Munford watched the boy as he moped to the last seat in the bus before plopping down.
Sophie was next. Her bladder condition always seemed worse during the early morning ride to school. "Don't forget, Sophie, tell me about a block ahead of time if you have to stop at the Midtown gas station."
"Yes, Mr. Munford," she said. "Thank you."
As Cynthia climbed the first step, her hair swung across her back and got caught in the door closing mechanism. She squealed as it twisted her head to the side. Munford jumped up and worked on getting it untangled. "I've told you before Cynthia, hair this long is dangerous. You're going to have to get it cut shorter." As he freed the last locks of hair, she stuck out her tongue at him and stomped off to a seat ten rows back.
The next stop was Mason Munford's favorite: Tommy Difford, Darlene Batti, Bobby Grossman (Motion Sickness Bob, Munford called him),and Susan Haney, the smallest kid in the class. These were colorful kids and he loved to poke fun at them. Tommy cleared both steps with one stride and stood beaming at Munford, waiting for the driver's best shot. "Tommy, take off the silly Superman cape. People will think you're loony." They both laughed and Tommy skipped down the aisle.
Bobby Grossman was next. "Bobby, the next time you puke on my bus, I'm puttin' you off. Let me know when you're feeling sick, you hear?"
"Yes, Mr. Munford," Bobby said, plodding off with a sheepish aspect.
Smiling and clutching her books to her chest, Susan Haney, the smallest kid on the bus, labored up the steps. "Take it easy, Sue," Munford said.
Darlene Batti always had a smart remark, but Munford didn't mind. The two made a game over who would strike first. Darlene seemed the brightest of all the kids. "When are you going to change the silly band aid on your wrist? I'm getting' tired of looking at Mickey Mouse every day. What's under there anyway, a microchip?"
She dangled her hand, pointing a middle finger toward the floor. "Here, can you read upside down, Mr. Munford?" she said. "That's a new one Darlene." Munford started the bus and laughed as Darlene struggled to keep her balance while she headed to a seat.
Alfred was the last kid to board the bus. He lived closest to the school and sometimes walked, which, in Munford's mind, reinforced his image of the boy as unstable. To him it seemed as though Alfred was a kid who pretty much knew where he'd been but was never quite sure of where he was going.
"Listen up kids," Munford said on the intercom speaker ready to make an announcement, which was not part of his job description just something he relished doing. "Remember Friday when I told you we had an exciting week coming up. Well, here it is. This is circus week. Today, Circus Master G. Beauregard Riser will be speaking to us in assembly to tell about the great show he has planned for us when the whole school will be attending the circus at noon on Thursday." Except for Mikey Deever, the children all whistled and cheered. Mikey sat waxen faced in the last seat of the bus.
As Munford wheeled the yellow bus to the unloading area in front of the school, he saw Charles Needham and Ingrid McGovern climbing the steps to the building. He gave a light toot on the horn. The two perfunctorily waved to him and continued their assent.
After the children had disembarked from his bus, Mason Munford fingered the outside of the briefcase on the floor by his side where his loaded Colt .45 resided. Just in case, he thought. You never know what strange things can happen while you're driving a yellow school bus.
On Thursday, the entire school went to the circus. They had a ripping good time. Popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, a program with elephants and horses in unusual poses on the cover added to the excitement of the spectacular. Reginald and Senator Santorum went along to show their support for things cultural and traditional American fun. In honor of the celebrity guests, Circus master, G. Beauregard Riser, had a clown tied up and fired from the cannon usually used by the daredevil husband and wife team 'The Soaring Merlinis.'
At the Friday show, Alfred, Buhnne Tramutola and the entire Bucks County Writers Workshop attempted to sneak into the circus under a loose tent flap. They were caught. Circus Master Riser was furious and had the whole bunch arrested.
The following week, Ingrid McGovern left town with the circus to become a rookie trapeze artist, a lifelong ambition. Not long after, she and Circus Master G. Beauregard Riser became an item and eventually married.
Ingrid McGovern's departure signaled an end to the frequent early morning meetings with Charles Needham and strengthened his marriage to Gloria immeasurably. The morning after she heard the news of McGovern's exit, Gloria served up extra large breakfast portions to Casper, Harris, and Jake.
Tommy Difford eventually lost interest in emulating Superheroes, turning instead to cross dressing. During summer breaks, he worked his way through college with a traveling troupe of female impersonators.
Darlene Batti graduated from college with a degree in computer sciences. She works for the Pentagon developing top secret weapons systems. On weekends Darlene amuses herself by hacking into D.C. pizza shop computers to screw up customer orders and jamming radio communications with their delivery men by massaging her wrist.
Bobby Grossman achieved mention in the Guinness Book of Records for eating four-hundred-twenty-nine-and-a-half crepes in a Paris restaurant on a sixteenth birthday trip to France with his parents. Unfortunately, after stuffing himself, Bobby projectile vomited on a number of patrons and waiters. This prompted the maitre d' to fetch the ancient American flag his father'd used to wave the GIs into town in 1944, and use it to wipe up the mess, mumbling about ugly Americans the entire time.
After high school, Cynthia shaved her head and moved to Tibet, becoming a disciple to the Dalai Lama. Sophie, whose bladder condition seemed to worsen and become more embarrassing as she got older, soon followed Cynthia to Tibet in an effort to gain anonymity.
After high school, Mikey Deever moved to New York City and became a policeman. He delighted in calling other Irish cops 'mick bastards' until his cousin Danny O'Toole, also a New York cop, shot off Mikey's big toe claiming accidental discharge of his standard issue 9mm Glock.
Mason Munford continued to drive a school bus until age seventy-two when he had a mild stroke and was forced to retire. He recently joined the Bucks County Writers Workshop, promising to write a memoir about his experiences on "The Yellow Bus."
Bucks County Writers Workshop