Never diss the busdriver's music.
We learned that lesson the hard way.
Wednesday afternoon our busdriver, Carl, had just dropped off the people for West Avenue. Carlee Keddy was right up front in the seat behind Carl, arguing with him over whether Evan Dooley was her boyfriend. Carlee kept insisting he was only her friend and that she already had a boyfriend- Colin.
"Mm-hm. Sure!" Carl said as he manoeuvred the big, yellow school bus around the corner of the winding road that was English Mountain Road.
Carlee gave up trying to convince the old man and settled back in her seat to wait for her stop which was the last on the route. Carl leaned down and turned on his radio. Old-fashioned country music blared from the bus's speakers.
"Aw, Dude!" Carlee cried out in mock pain. "This bus gots crappy music!" She covered he ears.
Carl Lowe snapped. He literally snapped. I saw this huge blue vein pop up and his back straightened like a board had been stuck up his butt. If he had been a cat, his back would be humped and his hair would be standing up. His face turned a dark shade red, almost purple. He pulled the steering wheel sharply and the bus (number 212) swung freely to the right. The back tyres landed in the ditch so the front end was facing the sky. Carl revved the engine and magically, the bus once again had all four tyres on the road. But instead of heading east, towards the rest of the stops. he continued north, into the woods
There was a path leading us. Basically it was just a road for 4-wheelers, but in a special case (like this one), it could be used as a path for a school bus, barrelling through the mud. The ride was bumpy and branches clawed at our windows like bony arms. As the level, Carl sped up even more. We were plastered to our seats like a cartoon. But this wasn't very funny.
"Nick?!" Carlee called to me.
"I'm-I wanna get off!"
We were all scared. The emergency door buzzed, indicating it had been opened. Someone had been prepared to jump.
"Get that door closed!" Carl growled. His eyes were wide and terrifying in the rear-view mirror. They were full of madness, like the eyes of a crazy man gone in insane. "If you jump, you'll die." The bus went faster.
The scenery was nothing now. Only a blur of green as we zipped by it. Carl didn't seem to know where he was taking us. he was just at the wheel, trying to avoid the big trees, but running right over the little sapliings. I noticed the country music was still playing. My mind was just tuning into that now.
All around me , people were crying, praying, wishing they hadn't decided to skip detention. Carlee was the worst of all. Or maybe I thought that because she was the one I could hear the most.
"Oh God! I wish I hadn't mentioned that stupid music."
Carl's ears perked up. "Stupid music? Stupid music?" His voice was shrill. If he had been slowing down, he didn't stay that way. He plowed forward, faster than before. A terrified scream came from the back. Jessica Spinney I guessed.
"DeWolfe!" someone called.
Who said that?" I yelled back.
"It's Cooper!" Jason Cooper replied. "I'm sorry, man, but I lost your Pokemon cards!"
He didn't have my cards. I'd taken them back months before. "It's okay, Coop."
The rest of the bus was enveloped in "I'm sorry's" and "please forgive me's". The bus stuttered. My heart stopped. We were running out of gas. When Carl stopped, we could all make a run for it. My breath was sucked in.
But the bus didn't stop. The trees were still being pushed out of our way and carl still had his foot cemented to the gas pedal. My lungs burst and air escaped my lips. I'd forgotten I was holding my breath.
"We're going to crash!" someone yelled.
"Carl's going to kill us!" another cried.
Suddenly. like seeing light after many years in darkness, a clearing appeared in our little forest of horrors. Carl slowed down, much to our relief. He came to a complete stop, then stood and turned around to face us.
"Do you know where we are?" he asked.
There was no reply.
"Well I don't!"
Carlee opened her big mouth: "Can you change the music?"
The busdriver's hands clenched then relaxed, but the rest of him didn't. His face changed again to the color of a ripe tomato. I could imagine steam puffing from his ears. Carl bent at the knees and grabbed the seat closest to him (which, thank God, did not have anyone in it), and yanked it out with the bolts hanging loosely, and threw it out the window, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the bus.
It landed with a crash while Carl stood by the empty space, panting. He turned to Carlee: "Does that answer your question, Missy?"
Carlee's lower lip trembled. She looked like she was going to cry. "Yessir..."
"Can we go home now?" asked someone in the back.
Carl sighed deeply and took his seat. "Yeah, I'll take ya home." He sounded defeated; as if the system had won and he would forever be chained to this bus, driving teenagers back and forth to school.
He may have driven us blindly 3 miles into the woods at an alarmingly high speed, almost killing us all, but he had been criticised by an insensitive airhead that was Carlee Keddy. He had my respect, if not the others'.
"Hey Carl?" I asked timidly. His eyes met mine in the rear-view mirror. "Can you turn up the music?"
A smile crept into his mouth, his haggard face brightened as he leaned down to fix the radio. But instead of Willie Nelson, came the familiar lyrics of The Matthew Good Band: "Hello Timebomb..."
The bus sang along.
For a few minutes, there was only the music and the bumpiness until Carl turned left at a huge Maple and we were back where we had started from. A cheer rose up then, and Carl Lowe was like a king: the coolest busdriver in the world. Ever.
Except for when he took another left on Poplar Drive and we went over that cliff. I remember thinking it must have been that Spice Girls' music. That stuff can rot your brain.
Caitlin Brydon is a young author from Sackville, Nova Scotia. She lives with her two brothers, sister, and her mom. She enjoys rollerblading, reading Stephen King, The Simpsons, cooking, and skating. Her favorite vegetable is brussel sprouts. [Publisher's note: Eww!] She have been writing for almost 6 years and loves it, and she doesn't think she will ever give it up.