Thursday afternoon’s school bus wasn’t too terrible this time. Most of the buses tended to range from “probably pushing its expected useful lifespan” to “you know the district has an extra liability policy on this one.” I put this one at a firm “maybe another 5 years if the mechanics give it a once-over.” The door always worked and wasn’t too noisy. There wasn’t a ton of damage to most of the seats, and only a few of them had had their upholstery covers replaced. The Sharpie doodles and tags that were still intact were all less than 3 years old. It didn’t usually have transmission problems, either. That was always a bonus.
While I genuinely hated riding the bus, I was almost always the first one on board. I had my own territory staked out whenever I did, in the same place every time. The best seat was just behind the bus driver. Nobody ever wanted to sit there. There was always the assumption that you couldn’t get away with anything. That was exactly how I liked it because I simply wanted to get the ordeal over with and get home. If the bus driver’s presence decreased the possibility that anybody would bother me in the process, so be it.
My route’s driver was probably in his late 40s, a tall but fit guy, and clearly there to his job and also get home as quickly as possible. It wasn’t that he was rushed, or mean, or snippy. He just did what he had to do, and not much more.
I climbed up the stairs, nodded to the driver, and tossed my backpack into my seat. It was a large brown bench with under springs that hurt if you sat on them wrong, and any actual padding it may have had in the past had long since deteriorated. Since I was a bit on the shorter side, it was the perfect length for me to lean my back against the wall of the bus and stretch my legs out toward the aisle without being in anyone’s way. After I adjusted my backpack into a backrest, I reached up to pull the window open. It may have been April, but Texas frequently starts up its summer heat early, and of course the buses never had any luxuries like air conditioners. The other kids started to slowly file in and choose their seats further back. I pulled out a book to read. It would still probably be 20 minutes or more before we actually left.
Oh, gods. Not that guy. I blinked and raised only my eyes to see over my book. It was an Annoying Bus Kid. Of all the damn days we had to both pick to ride this week… ugh.
Annoying Bus Kid was at least a grade below me. I never bothered to try and actively find anything out about him, including his name. He was average height and kind of stocky, with dull brown hair that always looked as if he’d just lost a fight with his own pillow. His face was almost always broken out, and his glasses were easily twice as thick as my own. I never saw him associate with anyone else, ever. He wasn’t a goth or a kicker or a gamer or anything really. A true loner, even more than me. In other circumstances, I might have felt sorry for him. He decided to make sure I didn’t have the chance by being an annoying little prick instead.
“It’s a sci-fi,” I said flatly, only lifting my eyes to briefly acknowledge his unfortunate presence. He dumped his backpack onto the floor of the seat across from mine. I sighed and went back to my book. This route never had a bus more than two-thirds full, so his choice of seating was clearly deliberate. Nobody liked this kid, and he obviously knew it. I started trying to read faster in the hopes that I could finish the chapter I was on before he did something stupid.
A mere three paragraphs later, there was a thud on the end of my seat, and I was presented with the putrid and tattered remains of something that probably used to be a sneaker in another life. Attached to it completely across the aisle was the bane of my existence for the afternoon. He was grinning triumphantly. For some reason. “Get that nasty thing off of my seat!”
“No,” he giggled.
I hugged my book to my chest, reared back a bit, and pushed the offensive detritus away with both of my own feet. Ugh, great. It was going to be one of those bus rides. I thought I was done putting up with crap for the day when the last period bell rang. I glared at the kid, rolled my eyes, and resettled myself.
Two minutes later, he did it again.
“Seriously, what the hell, man?” I yelled, shoving his foul phalanges away again. Thankfully, other kids passing down the aisle slowed down his assault on my space, but we repeated this dance multiple times before the driver closed the bus’s doors. The engine started, the kid giggled and stuck his foot on my seat again, and I reached my limit.
“I swear to God, if you put that nasty shoe on my seat one more time, I’m going to chuck it out the window!” “And if she does, I’m not going to stop the bus,” the driver added, chuckling as he started us down the driveway.
That seemed to do the trick. Annoying Bus Kid kept to himself, and I was able to get back into my book. Sometimes, it paid to be “bus driver’s pet.”
Nobody on our route was really very far away from the school, but it was a long and twisty ride. This part of town was full of hills, and there were just some bits the tired old bus had to take the long way around to get to in order to drop kids off anywhere near their homes. The first stop wasn’t for a couple of miles, and it was about 45 minutes before mine.
Halfway to the first stop, there’s a familiar thud on the edge of my seat again. I turn to see the offending shoe, staring at it for a few seconds.
It was untied.
I reached down, snatched the disgusting sneaker off the kid’s foot, and turned and threw it as hard as I could out the window next to my head.
“HEY!” shrieked Annoying Bus Kid. “OH MY GOD!! HEY! HEY, SHE THREW MY SHOE OUT THE WINDOW!”
“Yes, she did! She told you she was going to, and I told you I wasn’t going to stop for it,” said the driver, calmly as could be.
I had turned to face my window with my arms crossed. I couldn’t help but grin like a maniac. This was the legendary kind of shenanigans my dad claimed he got up to in school, and I never imagined myself participating. I
was the quiet kid who drew cartoon characters all the time. Cause trouble? No, not me! Of course not me. This practically felt like an adventure. The rest of the bus was laughing, and I was the one who made it happen. Now Shoeless Kid happened to be the first stop on this route. He’d spent the rest of his ride mumbling about how his mom was totally gonna kill him. He limped off the bus, and everyone else started laughing again as he made his way down his driveway. As we took off, the bus driver made a point to look at me from his interior mirror. “I know I shouldn’t laugh at a student,” he sputtered in between stifled guffaws, “But that was the funniest damn thing I’ve seen all year! Thank you. Absolutely worth having to write a report for.” Shoeless Kid got a suspension from riding the bus for a month. I got peace and solitude on my way home for the remainder of the school year. The next year, I moved to another school, so I never saw him again. That was fine by me.
Maybe I was never involved in such epics like my dad’s Great Carrot Stick War back in the 70s, and I didn’t build model ships and sink them in the creek out back with a BB-gun to try and “study” WWII battles for history class. But I suppose I have, on very rare occasions, been pushed far enough to engage in my very own flavor of mischievousness.
Scooter is a first-year student at LCC. She is pursuing an AAOT, and hopes to transfer and work on a BA in writing in the future. In her spare time, she likes to work on fanfiction, and study animation for fun. She is the current President of LCC’s GSA as well as a peer writing tutor.