The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 26
At a crest of a hill he sped down. In front of him was a green school bus on the side of the road parked under some trees. A woman with three children sat on the ground beside the bus. Rich rolled to a gentle stop. The woman pointed to the children to stay as she walked up to Rich.
“My husband will be back any minute now,” she said.
“What’s the problem?” Rich said.
“He had a mechanic from town come out and look at it,” she said. “It’s the transmission.”
“That don’t sound good,” Rich said. “Where are you heading.?”
“California,” she said. “My husband has a job waiting for him out there.”
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Near Bangor,” she said. “What about yourself.”
“Near Lima, Ohio,” Rich said. “And I’m heading for Maine.”
“Where?” She asked.
Rich smiled, “Don’t know yet for sure, but I think around Rockland.”
“Life’s hard in Maine. That’s why we’re leaving,” she said.
“Well I just got myself to worry about,” Rich said.
“Mom, when we going to eat?” the youngest of the thee said.
“As soon as your Dad gets back and he’ll be back any minute,” she said.
Rich held his hand out and she looked at it as if not sure to grasp it, “My name is Rich.”
“Jean,” she said. “And my oldest is Rob, and the next one is Kelly, and the youngest is Lucy.”
Rich waved at them and smiled.
“My husband is Claude…”
“And he’ll be here any minute now,” Rich said.
“I’m nervous and scared,” she confessed.
“Me too,” Rich said.
“I got an idea,” Rich said. “I was about to eat and I got enough for all of us. There’s no way I can eat all of it before it spoils.” Rich reached into the backpack and brought it to the side of the bus where everybody was sitting. “I got peanut butter and jelly and pastrami. I all ready know what you want.” He handed the peanut and butter to the two younger ones and the pastrami to the older one and Jean. “These sandwiches were made by two little girls about your age.”
They smiled and unwrapped them from the wax paper. Jean urged them to say thank you and all three did so as did Jean.
Half way through the sandwich Jean said, “I can’t imagine where John has gotten to. He should be here any minute.”
“I’m leaving as soon as I finish my sandwich,” Rich said. “But I’ll leave one for your husband.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she said.
“He’s got to eat too,” Rich said.
Rich finished the sandwich while the children cautiously inspected him and the quality of their sandwiches. The one named Kelly went inside the bus and got everyone a glass of Kool-aid. Rich downed it and said good bye. A car came from the direction he was about to head and stopped. A lean dark curly haired man got out of the car and trotted across the highway. The car drove away.
“That’s my husband,” Jean said.
The children ran up to him and excitedly told him about the meal they had. He held out his hand, “Claude Dubois.”
Rich shook his hand. “Rich Larsen. I got a sandwich for you.”
He glanced at Jean and she nodded.
“Thanks,” Claude said. “I suppose you have heard about our predicament?”
“Yeah,” Rich said, “Mrs. Dubois told me.”
He spoke to his wife and occasionally politely glanced at me. “I’m going to have the bus towed back to Brattleboro. I found a transmission off an old school bus in a junkyard. This guy at the garage said I can use his tools and garage for ten dollars and the transmission is only fifty.”
There was the unspoken communication between them that had nothing to do with Rich being there. Identical lines of worry and doubt gradually surfaced on their faces that were subtle but profound.
The oldest gathered the two young ones, “Let’s have dessert.”
Claude turned away. Clouds were gathering, not storm clouds - clouds of doubt, despair, and angst.
They turned from Rich and walked toward the rear of the bus, but he heard them.