Get Off My Lawn

I can't tell if he's laughing or crying.

Prisoner Transport: Part 1

I stood at the end of the lane waiting for the school bus to pick me up and take me to a new school to start grade 9. The bus was small as there were only a handful of us in this particular pocket of the county who were designated to attend a junior high in the city.

The small yellow bus stopped and the door popped open.

“Are you John?” the driver called out. I nodded and climbed onto the bus. The driver was an elfish woman with a gravelly voice that must have come from whiskey, cigarettes, and a lifetime of yelling. It was a voice I’d only ever heard in the movies. I looked around at the collection of misfits. Bad haircuts, ill-fitting clothes, and a fashion sense that indicated limited access to chain clothing stores. There were the gangly, the sort of fat, the acned, and the crooked-toothed. The place had the atmosphere of first-time convicts on the way to do hard time in a federal penitentiary. You could smell the fear and anxiety.

I sat beside a larger kid with a bowl cut and apple-red cheeks. His hair was much like mine– no style, not cut by any professional, just there on his head with the odd piece sticking straight up like it had never occurred to him to comb it, or wash it, or put it right in some way.

“I’m David Lightfoot,” he cheerfully introduced himself. I had never met anyone named Lightfoot. I shook his hand.

“Do you like Motley Crue?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure. I guess so.” I was bluffing. I had no idea who Motley Crue were. That summer my cousin Sharon had given me the Loverboy album Get Lucky and I had pretty much worn it out, mostly because it was the only record I owned.

“I got a Sony Walkman for my birthday. I can bring it on the bus if you want. You can listen to the tape.” He was being really nice. The bus drove on. After a few minutes of chattering about his family, nervously, he suddenly put his head in his hand. And threw up. The vomit had pooled in his hands and he looked at me in pleading, heartbreaking, way and said, “Oh geez, I’m sorry. That’s really gross isn’t it?” He must have been searching for a place to put his throw-up because he looked around furtively, but, finding no solution, he dumped the contents of his hands on the floor.

He vomited again. It was loud and plentiful. He caught this batch in his hands as well and then dumped it on the floor. It splashed and splattered.

Again he apologized: “I’m really sorry about this, man, this is really gross.”

The smell filled the bus and soon everyone was plugging their noses and making noises of disgust. But no one was angry. In fact a few of the kids were laughing and soon we were all laughing.

When the smell hit the bus driver, her head whipped up to the rear-view mirror and she yelled, “What in the name of God is that?”

Through her chortles, a curly-haired, bespectacled girl with braces said, “That kid puked all over the floor. Ewwww.” She pulled the front of her t-shirt up over her nose.

“Guys, I’m really sorry. I don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

The bus made a detour to a gas station and the driver borrowed a hose and managed to wash out most of the vomit. By this time even she was laughing and shaking her head. We had all gathered around outside and had made fast friends with each other now that we all shared a minor trauma. Even David was laughing. He kept apologizing, but by now no one really cared. It was funny. And thanks to David we were all a little less afraid.

For that whole year riding the bus was the best thing about going to school.

Categories: Non-Fiction, Personal

Tags: , , , , , ,

55 replies

  1. In my seventh grade Texas History class this happened. Only he didn’t catch it. And it was partly on the kid in front of him and on himself. It wasn’t in a regular classroom. It was one of those little temporary buildings. We all had yo sit in there with the Snell because no one came to clean it very quickly. I don’t remember any laughter that day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I kept waiting for something sad to happen (like the kid would have cancer or something–sorry, side effect of the trade), so I’m glad for a happy ending, at least for the bus riding anyway. Most kids hate that part!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Bless his heart. I’m rather afraid to see what is to come if the bus ride was the best part of your experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Vomit. Never thought of that as an icebreaker, but whatever works! 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I love this story. What a cool kid!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think David Lightfoot had a great sense of humor.
    I recall my best friend throwing up on me once on the way home. We were maybe 13 or 14. I was not given a David Lightfoot sense of humor, I pretty much tried to hang my head out the window to get fresh air! No one laughed.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. What a cool story. I was worried that David was going to be bullied or teased but he sounds like he was a good egg. Did you remain in contact with this David Lightfoot? I hope his sense of humor stuck with him.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. John, this is interesting. The way I remember it, if a kid did something like that (puke, pee themselves, etc), the other kids distanced themselves fast. I remember feeling both kind of bad for the kid and kind of horrified. I was waiting for you to say you changed your seat!

    Also, I like that you all stuck together. That too is different in some ways. In grade school and 9th grade my friends were, with one exception, other unpopular (smart) girls but I remember it didn’t take much to get tossed under the bus if push came to shove. Unpopular boys had it even worse. They’d be isolated In short order.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. It was an usual group. We didn’t see each other much while we were at school. It was pretty big. But we did have a ton of interactions on the bus. I think that David was so sincere in his apology coupled with the fact that none of us knew each other made the difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. You made something really gross become heartwarming. So well-written, yet icky at the same time. I loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s hard to hit “like” on a post that features vomit, but it was so positive and heartwarming. I look forward to the rest of the story. ☺ Van

    Liked by 3 people

  11. John, this story is just terrific! The content of the story and how your tell it! I love this line, “an elfish woman with a gravelly voice that must have come from whiskey, cigarettes, and a lifetime of yelling.” I braced myself for what came next!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great tale, John … it’s wonderful that David wasn’t ostracized because of that incident. Good character among the characters on your bus!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What an awesome anecdote!
    Now, in 29 years of nursing, I’ve rarely had patients miss the emesis pan, but my daughter, as a toddler she would come to me with open arms saying “I need you” then puke over my shoulder after being picked up – my little princess !

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Have read both parts – agree that riding the bus was one of the best things about going to school.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Prisoner Transport: Part 2 | Get Off My Lawn
  2. Prisoner Transport: Conclusion | Get Off My Lawn

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