By Eddy Montilla.
(Taken from the eBook Real stories told as fiction)
When Miss Lawrence asked her pupils what they wanted to be in the future, the first kid who raised his hand was Alvin and, with his heart pounding with excitement, he did not even wait for his teacher’s nod to answer her question.
“I want to be a bus driver!” he proudly said.
“A bus driver, Miss Lawrence,” Alvin repeated.
According to the teacher’s canons of thought, Alvin’s wish quality (bus driver) and the emotion he showed when he was talking about it did not match well. For that reason, she tried to persuade him to change his answer by recommending him commonly wanted professions. The kid, however, stood as firm as a rock in his decision.
“My father is the school bus driver and he’s always happy, Miss Lawrence. Other adults I know begin to laugh when they finish their work, so my father is always winning!” Alvin said, a kid whose only toy in his entire life was a plastic bus.
“Children’s preferences usually change like a second hand of a clock,” the teacher thought. Nevertheless, that was not Alvin’s case: he only wanted to satisfy his will and find his own identity, two things that merged almost perfectly at a point that Alvin knew well and liked a lot: the school bus.
Alvin lived in a rural area with a lot of rough paths. Except for agricultural work, people’s chances for a better job were very slim and, therefore, the area had gradually lost a large part of its population. Young people and whole families moved to big cities looking for a job and better life, especially those who were reluctant to do manual labor, which forced authorities to close some schools and concentrate all children in one place. Alvin’s father was the person responsible for taking the children to school in the morning and take them back home in the afternoon, and the only way he could do that task on time was leaving the bus school in front of his modest house every day since the students lived in distant places and the school was far away from them, located almost at the top of a hill. Alvin was, therefore, the first student to get on the bus and the last one to get off it. As the bus route was very long, Alvin did his homework inside the bus, but the truth is that he was historically connected with that vehicle even before he was born to a point that it verges on the implausible: he was conceived inside the bus. Because of the unavailability of the local ambulance and miscalculation of his “date of arrival”, he was born there too. On Saturdays, Alvin was in charge of the bus cleaning, doing his job so happily (and tenderly) that to watch him could make lose his head even to the most stoical Roman soldier.
When he was 18, Alvin went to the nearest city to get his driving license. Sometimes, a lot of people were under the impression that he could drive better than his own teacher, and they were not wrong about it: Sitting on his father’s lap, Alvin began to drive the bus school when he was only 7 years old. At 12, he drove alone with his father sitting next to the driver’s seat and at 14, he never needed more instructions. The day when he could legally drive, his father told him only two things like commandments to be remembered forever.
“When you drive your own vehicle, pay almost all your attention to the car in front of you. In the end, the driver who hits from behind is the person who usually has to pay more. And the most import thing, son: when you drive a public bus, never forget that all people who have gotten on the bus have put their trust in you and their lives in your hands. Don’t let them down.”
“Yes, dad. I understand. I will be the best bus driver in the world!”
Some time later, Alvin began to work with his father as a driver’s assistant. As years passed, the time of retirement came for Alvin’s father and a contest was held to decide the new bus driver. Even though there were 39 applicants, the announcement of the winner was something like a mystery novel without mystery. After all, except for his father, nobody knew the bus route between the children’s houses and the school better than Alvin.
On his first day at work, Alvin was wearing the classic blue uniform while a gray-haired man was looking at him proudly from a rocking chair. When Alvin was about to get on the same bus that his father drove during his last years, he got up out of the rocking chair, he fixed him his new peaked cap and told him:
“Do you still remember the most important commandment I told you when you were a child, Alvin?”
“All people who get on my bus have put their trust in me and their lives in my hands. I can’t let them down,” Alvin said. His father could feel a lump in his throat. He put his both hands over his son’s neck, smiled and said goodbye to him in a low voice. Only when his son was very far from him, he let his tears began to flow from his eyes.
The kids loved Alvin for the jokes and stories he told them when the school bus was not in motion, their parents felt the same for him for the sense of safety that he gave them by being seated behind the wheel. The path to school was narrow and, above all, sinuous. Its surface had not been replaced by asphalt in a long time, turning the path into a dangerous road of potholes and pieces of stony ground, which worried them. But rather than that, their greatest fear was the steep ascent to the top of the hill that Alvin had to drive up to get to school. As for their feelings, they were not the only ones, but Alvin always tried to cast out their fears while he looked for a solution. The guardrail at both sides of the path that protected against the cliff was so old that it only played a decorative role over there. Besides, the school bus was as old as Alvin’s father. What happened then? Well, what all of you imagine, but not in the way that all of you think.
It was an almost normal Friday in the morning. A fresh layer of snow covered the path and Alvin and his driver’s assistant went as always to pick up the students to take them to school. Alvin was driving more carefully than usual. If he rarely talks when he drives, on that day, he looked like a cemetery at midnight and this instilled fear in his driver’s assistant who, after seeing a couple of ravens and hearing them growling, making a rough unpleasant cry, he made the worst of all possible choice of words:
“I don’t like ravens, Alvin. They bring bad luck.”
Alvin was shrouded in adamant silence. The bus had gotten the last and most dangerous part: the straight steep path before its final destination. That was the moment when Alvin took a deep breath, held the wheel firmly and began to shift gear with extremely care as the hill got steeper and steeper despite having taken the same road thousands of times because he knew that when daily things become daily routine, danger begins. He had reached almost the top of the hill, only some meters away from the door that leads to the school garden, when a gray rabbit jumped suddenly in front the bus. Alvin could not see it clearly due to the snowflakes and the speed of the situation.
“An animal or a kid? Should I continue or stop the bus?”
Alvin had to weigh up a lot of things, but time was its worst enemy. Finally, he opted to do what most people do in such circumstances, to stop the bus, but, unfortunately, that was the worst choice and, above all, the beginning of all his problems.
The old school bus began to move back. Alvin apply the brakes gently and they failed. Sometimes, misfortunes have the bad habit of coming in the company of others of their own kind. Thus, when he tried to put the emergency brake on, it also failed. The driver’s assistant had a feeling that something was quite wrong when saw Alvin pressing his foot down on the brake pedal several times to stop the bus, but to no avail and rushed to his side. Alvin knew very well the assistant’s tendency toward premature panic. Therefore, before he could begin to shout in front of the children that everybody was going to die, Alvin told him that if he heard a single word about what was going on there, the only person who would certainly die was him because Alvin himself would throw him out of the window to the cliff. That was not a joke since he was not laughing and Alvin always laughed after his jokes.
“Inside the bus, there is a chance that you will survive, but at the bottom of the cliff, you are dead already.”
The kids began to fret since the bus had been moving back for a long time. Alvin told them that he was doing that to sing the song “We are going backward because we will move forward” and asked them to hold on tight while singing it. Alvin, for his part, avoiding any sudden movement, moved the wheel to make backward zigzags, trying to stop the bus in that way. The bus slowed down, but that was not enough to stop it and Alvin knew it well. The part of the path full of potholes was about to finish and once that happened, the bus would not have more potholes to hit and it would gain speed. That would undoubtedly be the beginning of the end.
A lot of things crossed Alvin’s mind at that time … those parents saying goodbye to their kids when they were getting on the school bus in the morning and the way they hugged each other in the afternoon when they were at home already, the trust they had placed in him and, above all, the promise he made to his father.
“I have to do something and now,” he thought. And he did it, but in the most astonishing way that you could ever imagine.
When he saw that he had already done everything possible, but it did not work at all, he decided to try … the impossible.
To continue reading this and other astonishing stories that will keep you fascinated, go to the section ‘Real stories told as fiction’ where you can get information of the book in its electronic version (Kindle eBooks).
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