A school bus with flashing crimson lights suddenly appears in front of my car, squeaking in ancient brakeage tongues before creeping to a stop.
“You Move. You lose your phone and radio privileges.” The bus driver speaks from a microphone.
No more confusion here. Foot meets brake. Foot hates brake and wants to break it off. No such luck. Foot is stuck in a dysfunctional relationship while I wait for the start of the school bus hustle.
It commences with a shriek. One child, now two, then three, bounces down a driveway the length of three football fields, heading toward the school bus with mother tagging behind.
She issues orders. “Hurry up. Don’t fall. Don’t forget your lunch.”
How could they? She cradles three lunch boxes underneath an arm like footballs, a charlatan coach on a Hail Mary run.
The minutes tick by, as the three inch-like forms approach the bus at amoeba speed. Five-minutes later, the children begin the Mt. Everest climb onto the bus, while mother catches up, breathless, her chest heaving, the results of a sedentary life, parallel parked on the couch in TV Land ─ too many Bon-Bons, too little time on the treadmill.
My heartbeat quickens. I anticipate an imminent bus launch from the curb. But wait! There’s more mother.
“The lunch boxes!” she screams. “You forgot the lunch boxes!”
As if there was a remote possibility of that occurring in an unfrozen hell. “Humph,” I grumble, unaware of the diabolical plot soon to unfold.
With the one, two, three sprouts planted in their seats, mother grabs the handle inside the door and hoists herself up onto the bus.
“Oh, God. No!” I scream, a helpless witness to a commuting crime.
Her rear baggage disappears, as she ascends huffing her way up the stairs. Hunched over, gasping, her shadowed form limps down the aisle toward the rear, sucking up seconds, then minutes with each intake of breath. She stops and leans against a seat. In slow motion, she hands out a lunch box to each DNA pod. Then mother says “Goodbye” and heads back to the front, an impossible feat with just her two feet.
Hobbling past the offspring of others, mother approaches the perimeter of the bus driver’s lair. She grabs the handrail and turns. “Shut off your iPod,” she warns. “Or I’ll report you.”
I’m ready to report her to the commuter hit squad. One less parent left at the curb; one less tardy employee paying for stolen time.
The bus driver lifts his arm, his middle-finger extended, throws a shadow across her back. A blunt yet surreptitious gesture, as mother disembarks empty handed from the bus.
The door shuts. The engine revs to a rumble. Red lights blink then stop, as the sign slips back inside the bus.
I release a deep relieving breath. Only ten minutes of my life wasted here. I’ve got more to spare before my midlife downward hyper-spin to the otherworld of indentured teeth, adult Pampers, and car key dementia.
The bus jerks to a start, while mother sloths her way up the driveway dragging one foot behind. She looks to be about thirty-five, stuck amid the harrowing onslaught of motherhood, a precursor to midlife-hood, then down-under-hood where you linger in limbo, sitting in an idling car behind a yellow school bus stuffed with souls, heading toward hell for a serving of their just desserts.