Misplaced Loyalties

The journey home from school today was not a bus driver’s success story. All four of the younger Roberts kids were back after a three day detention for misbehaving in school.

Jethro, the eldest, and Izaiah – suffering anger management problems – sit opposite the driver; Treanna, their sister, sits behind the driver, and little Azariah – with chipmunk agility and a shorter attention span than any amoeba – is squeezed in between two fifth graders with orders to sit on him, if necessary, rather than let him out of his seat.

The root of the troubles had nothing whatever to do with the Roberts family. Sharreta Robinson, a pleasant, friendly, girl who sits near the back of the bus, and a fifth grade boy, Keyshawn Attwell, a friend of Jethro’s, had been engaged in shy conversation at every given opportunity for the last three days. Keyshawn was new to the bus, and the driver was quick to notice a relationship developing between the two.

It made a pleasant change to see two kids enjoying each other’s company. Usually, the bus reverberated with continual bickering and name-calling, occasionally erupting into more serious fistycuffs, so he was happy to turn a blind eye when Sharetta slipped across the bus aisle to a vacant seat behind Keyshawn, better to hear what he was saying above the cacophony of thirty-eight, over-excited, voices.

No doubt all would have been well had not Kaitlin Sanders, a plump and loud-mouthed sixth grade girl sitting across from Jethro, not also had her eye on Keyshawn. Sharreta’s illegal move to another seat was not lost on Kaitlin, who immediately began making loud disparaging remarks about Jethro’s parentage, for no better purpose than to gain Keyshawn’s attention.

Jethro, of course, responded by calling Kaitlin a “fat, lying, bitch,” whereupon the two ended up in the aisle, arms flailing, and emitting language never heard in a church vestry.

The driver’s reaction was to stop the bus, separate the two, then charge up and down the aisle, much like the proverbial bull in a china shop, yelling at the remaining thirty-six kids to settle back down in their seats before they all got referrals.

The Roberts family alighted at the next stop, as did Keyshawn. Jethro still muttered to himself on the injustice of getting a referral for no more than defending his honor, and the meanness of school bus drivers in general.

Kaitlin Sanders sulked for the rest of the journey, knowing her referral meant she would miss the next school field trip. Both she and Sharreta left the bus at the final stop.

The driver watched as they walked away up the street, arm in arm, laughing and joking about nothing in particular.

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Valentine’s Day Massacre

Only the four younger members of the Roberts’ family still ride School Bus 13. Cordell Roberts and his three older brothers were banned by the school principal a few weeks ago, after a fight erupted between them while on the way home one afternoon, causing the bus driver to turn his vehicle around and return to the school.

The cause of the fracas was never established, though according to the other kids, Oakley Canton was the prime suspect. Oakley refused to incriminate herself, hitched up her cushion-stuffed brassiere and sat staring vacantly into space from the long bench outside the school building where sat the busload of kids, squirming as the driver harangued them on the correct behavior of young people when commuting in a moving bus, and how he’d been in zoos where the inmates displayed better manners.

Eventually, the school principal summoned the Roberts’ family parents to collect the offenders, innocents were allowed to re-board the vehicle, and the journey home was completed without further disaster. Apart, that is, from one little second-grader, Selena Astlik, who accidentally emptied a whole bottle of bright red nail varnish onto the seat occupied by Nicholas Lilly, just as he was leaning across the aisle, attempting to deprive Quinton Long of his yo-yo.

Nicholas, bully-boy tactics rewarded, played happily in his seat with the yo-yo, until, on reaching his stop he attempted to alight from the bus. The driver, aware of the boy’s penchant for vacant amnesia, yelled at him to hurry up, but Nicholas continued to sit with a puzzled expression on his face, making occasional wriggling motions with his hips.

Following another tirade from the driver, and dire threats of referrals if Nicholas didn’t “shift yourself”, the lad wrenched himself free from the offending nail varnish, leaving a bright red stain and a goodly portion of trouser behind him.

Today was the last day of school prior to Valentine’s Day and a four day holiday weekend. Over and above the usual cacophony of shrieks, insults, and occasional foul language – “Any more of THAT, Jethro, and it’ll be a referral for you, lad!” – was a buzz of expectation, as today was the school’s Valentine’s Day party. The bus groaned with a ton of goodies packed in thirty-odd Wal-Mart carrier bags. Each parent had recklessly endeavored to outdo every other parent, and kids staggered onto the bus laden down with enough sugar to keep Anheuser-Busch in business for the next twelve months.

The driver made a mental note to stock up on sick bags between shifts.

The afternoon home run was pandemonium. Even without the elder Roberts’s, and Oakley Canton – who’d been suspended for three days for calling Jethro Roberts a name his mother wouldn’t recognize – thirty-odd sugar-crazed kids high on artificial additives, are any driver’s nightmare.

Finally, the last kid was dropped off, the last schoolbag flung out the door at the child who had forgotten it, and the driver could return the bus to the depot and clean up the plethora of semi-chewed candy and trodden-in cookies that littered the floor; the assortment of multicolored, half-licked, lollipops by now firmly adhered to seatbacks and cushions.

Ah, well, the four day break would be welcome. And, after all, they were only kids.

For those who missed them, earlier tales of “School Bus 13” are available HERE [The Saga Of School Bus 13] and HERE [All For The Want Of A Child’s Handkerchief].

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All For The Want Of A Child’s Handkerchief

Regular readers of Sparrow Chat may have been perplexed of late by the lack of posts. It’s the holiday season in America, and that means it’s also the season of viruses. When Sparrow Chat’s files succumbed recently to a digitized type of germ, so did its only contributor – though, to the more conventional form of the microbe.

One major drawback to School Bus 13 is that it’s packed with little germbags. At this time of year, most of the kids are sniffing. Moms today seem disinclined to provide their offspring with any means to wipe their noses, so the early morning bus stop reveals a vista of small urchins, hands a’pocket, and snotty green growths hanging precariously from their nostrils.

The family Roberts is no exception. Excluding, possibly Cordell Roberts, the older boys are not terribly interested in Oakley Canton or any other female student riding the bus, but they still make an effort with their appearance, presumably hoping a real dazzler may one day board and provide them with another interest in life besides beating each other up. Consequently, though sleeve cuffs bear witness to the method of cleansing, older noses are relatively snot free.

The younger family Roberts’ boys, Azariah and Izaiah, are not so particular. Azariah is prone to temper tantrums and anger management problems, both of which can prove particularly infecting of the rest of us whenever he has a cold virus – a permanent affliction, it seems, at this time of year.

Only a couple of weeks back, Cordell Roberts stole a piece of candy from Azariah, whereupon, unable to control his rage at such brotherly intrusion, the first-grader leapt from his seat and rushed up the aisle, red-faced, spouting tears and green pus from every facial orifice – or, so it seemed.

Finally, arriving alongside the driver’s chair and finding himself with nowhere else to go, he bent low at the knees before launching himself upright and emitting a roar of fury that would have done credit to an African lion who’d just discovered a hyena had run off with his antelope sandwiches. The effect of this vocal contortion was to spray enormous quantities of Azariah’s bodily excretions all over the bus dashboard and control knobs.

It all resulted in Azariah being ‘written up’ for leaving his seat, Cordell – for pinching candy, the driver coughing and sneezing for the next fortnight, and, as a consequence, a serious lack of posts on Sparrow Chat.

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