Get Off My Lawn

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

Prisoner Transport: Conclusion

Prisoner Transport Part 1 and Part 2.

The bus I took did not look like this, but I wish it had.

The bus I took did not look like this, but I wish it had.

Our bus driver’s name was Mrs. Dodoo. Her son Stephen rode the bus as well and was in the same grade as me. Not only did poor Stephen have an unfortunate last name, he was, even by our backwoods standards, an odd-looking fellow. He had huge, brown, wide-set eyes and a nose and chin that looked like they had been malleable at one time and someone had pulled on these features, stretching them, resulting in a face that reminded people of a jack-o’-lantern.

I liked Stephen and his mom. They were both quick to laugh and they thought I was pretty funny, although at times I could get carried away acting a fool and Mrs. Dodoo would have to employ some of her trademark screaming in order to settle me down.

“For the love of Christ, John, stop jumping over the seats!”

“Be quiet, John, I can’t drive with all this noise!”

“John! For the love of God stop sitting on her! She can’t breathe!”

But no matter how mad she seemed, I’d give some ridiculous apology, and she always started to laugh.

Once, on a warm spring day, but with some snow still on the ground, I packed a tight snowball and, with a perfect toss, threw that ball of ice and snow right through the open window of the bus while it was driving away. I think someone had dared me, so of course I had to try. I was successful beyond my wildest dreams. It sounded like a small bomb had been detonated and I heard screams and then laughter.

Mrs. Dodoo slammed on the brakes and screamed bloody murder, so I ran for home as fast as I could, which was difficult because I was laughing so hard.

Stephen had a locker near mine. One morning a self-possessed, attractive, grade-nine girl approached Stephen as he was getting his books out to start the day and with a smile, flashing her braces like the teeth of a shark, said, “You’ll never have a girlfriend because you’re so ugly.” She giggled maniacally and scurried away. Jesus, what a thing to say. I think this may have been the first time my heart broke for a friend. He looked at me and I could see in his eyes all the pain that was to come in his life–the persecution for something he could not help, could not change, and the bits of him that would be diminished by the words of pretty girls who hate because they can.

“Well, she’s an ugly dog anyway,” he said. It was a feeble attempt to muster some dignity and I nodded in agreement, making the two of us complicit in this lie. To be so young, and vulnerable, and so without power, made for long days that were all the longer because not only were we unable to help ourselves, but we were helpless in the face of all that pain inflicted on the ones we cared about.

But the bus is what saved us. A bubble where ugly didn’t count. Clothes didn’t matter. Hair was just something that happened to be on your head. Laughter, music, and stories were the measure of quality. It was this state of grace that dried our tears and put us back together as the bus delivered us from evil and gave us a place to stretch our souls and become the children we were meant to be.

Categories: Non-Fiction, Personal

Tags: , ,

56 replies

  1. OUCH, so painful. I wonder about young bullies like that. I wonder if when they become older they understand the impact their actions have had. I wonder if Karma has made them wiser and kinder. Damage to your heart always leaves a little scar that never goes away.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What a horrible thing to say, and while that girl probably didn’t give her words a second thought, they probably lasted a lifetime in your friend’s mind. The old saying about sticks and stones is not true. In fact, I think it’s backwards. Sticks and stones can hurt us temporarily, sure, but our injuries heal. But words can scar for life.

    I’m enjoying these bus-ride tales very much, John!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. You had an awesome bus. Mine was a bully’s playground. Where is the fellow now? Do you know?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Ah damn, poor guy. It never fails to amaze me how cruel kids can be, and for no reason at all other than for the sake of cruelty.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Horrid. Middle school is a nightmare. I found out later that many of those who bullied my son were girls. There was even some physical violence..stuck with needles in home economics class, pushed down steps, etc.I asked him years later when I found out about it why he didn’t fight back. He said, with all sincerity, that “it would have been the wrong thing to do”. It broke my heart. Thanks for sharing your stories. I’m so sorry for Stephen…both yours and mine. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Beautifully written and so deeply sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This story makes my heart hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really IIkea how you wrote this John. It flowed so well and so vividly. (“…he was, even by our backwoods standards, an odd-looking fellow.” >>>great line)

    As I read this, I wondered if the other bus riders would remember the bus the same way. Not that I doubt you or your memory – I don’t mean that – just that people remember/experience things differently. I’m glad you had that bus.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Correction: Um, I don’t really IKEA anything; I really LIKE.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think you should look David and Stephen up and see what they’ve been up to all this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellent writing as always. I really “enjoy” this series. Although by “enjoy” I mean it is moving and heartfelt. You can make us, your readers, have an inkling of what you felt.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Gosh darn it, John, you’re making me cry! The cruelty of girls is a special sort of cruelty. Many of the girls who danced through life handing out venom as if it were candy, grow up to be women who do the same. While my girlfriends and I never took their stuff, we did have to manage it. A fight here, a snub there. But I don’t “manage” their stuff now. These smiling cruelty throwers are on my radar and I speak up for those who couldn’t speak up then, or now.

    Love, love, love this bus series ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Angie. Your kind words please me to no end. Sigh, it is sad that people can walk the earth for the majority of their lives and be the cruel. But it is encouraging to know there are people like you in the world who won’t put up with their shit. Thank you for that.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s been a long time coming, John. A long time coming! To move from “managing” within an environment that one must be in…to proactively choosing my environment ( blogging for example!) and proactively engaging in it…awesome! I especially have my eye on cruel girls of all ages because of my men. Seeing life through their eyes, plus my own experience at the hands of cruel girls, has combined to give me a clarity and a zeal for calling out feminine BS of all kinds. Exactly.

        I really appreciate your big heart, John ❤

        Liked by 2 people

      • And thank you again Angie. You humble me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now that’s saying something 😉 You’re most welcome, John. The truth is the truth ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    • Angie, I really like both of your comments here. I have taken on, and written about the issue of whether people (can) change after childhood and I remain undecided. Let’s say I’ve seen more people retain their essential childhood personality than not. But I allow there are people who take a VERY long time to grow up. (It took me awhile but like you, my stuff was never about being cruel to others.)

      I also don’t roll over for the women who try to bully and push me around. I’m not sure what exactly about me suggests they will be successful, but must be somethin’ because it still happens regularly. When you DO take them on, it feels like righting an imbalance in the universe.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Such a lovely story. Children can be so cruel. (I had a boss named Dodi and the spell checker would always change it to Dodo!)

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Children say things to each other – the same like you threw that snowball – without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately, some words have a long lasting effect. That’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I feel like I should pass you a Twinkie for surviving.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Quite the page turner, Mr. Callaghan.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You’ve sold me. It’s time to get a bus together for us adults to take a vacation away from the pettiness of co-workers and colleagues that somehow never got better when they left the playground but not the mentality.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. i laughed and i cried and i loved every second of this series. well done, john.

    Liked by 1 person

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