School Bus (A Novella)
Before beginning my October residency here at Necessary Fiction, I’d like to thank Steve for inviting me to do this. In the two stories I’ve published with him, I’ve learned to trust his editor’s eye.
During my residency, I’ll be serializing my novella, “School Bus,” which is part of a collection I’m finishing up called Domestic Disturbances. The novella is made up of flash fiction sections of 1-2 pages long, so hopefully each section will stand on its own as well. So here goes….
We sing of bodies changed, of brittle
We pray for rebirth, forbidden
Paths on which to shape
that is sky.
Make of it a canvas. Strike
hard with your patterned stone,
your chalk until
the story runs from memory, holy,
alive between boned hands,
through the worn and broken maze
The First Age
Before the school bus, there was nothing. No distinction between sea, land, or sky. Matter ruled by the discordant voices of children. No sun. No moon. No earth. No road linking the country to the suburban schoolhouse. No fields in which to play early mornings before school. Then the Bus Driver spoke, demanding land and water divide.
What kind of god He was, we knew not. Only that He could bring order from chaos, could create subdivisions, cul-de-sacs, frontage roads, parks, and tree-lined streets where none existed before. He bade the waters spread, and lo there was a playground complete with jungle gym and teeter-totter, a blacktop filled with foursquare and tether ball. He demanded the forests lay down before us, and where none existed before there now sat a school complete with a turreted library to hide in, a state of the art computer lab, and, best of all, a climbing wall in the cafeteria.
Then the Lord of all Creation breathed, and black-pitched tar covered the roads, making some of us sick with the smell. But we didn’t care. He marked the roads with bike lanes and yellow dividing lines. Ever concerned with our safety, He posted stop signs and traffic lights. Then He dug his nails deep into the tar, pulled away globs of it and shaped a crossing guard for our benefit.
Last of all, He spoke to us, His children. Some scattered, running, afraid to be so chosen, but others stayed do His bidding.
Begin with a handful of dust, He said. Dirt and gravel from the side of the road. We gladly ran through the weeds, then, following His example, dug our fingers into the earth until our nails were caked black, and we knew our mothers would be angry. Toss it in the air and blow, He said. And so we did. Do this on a cloudless day, so that the pebbles will glitter school bus yellow in the sun.