Down the wooden stairs, through the heavy front door with a thud, “Hey, don’t…slam.” It was too late. Sam was already on the sidewalk in full sprint for the bus stop. Jaime, Frank and Marcus were waiting for the arrival of the comic book purchase for the week. Sam could see them calling him with waving arms, the bus was already there and kids were loading one by one, pushing and shoving for the prime spots. His friends were saving his seat at the back, away from the noisy second and third graders. “Sixth grade was great, almost done riding the bus with babies.” He thought as he reached the doors. Sam’s legs felt like Jell-O, lime green – his favorite. “Did you get it? Let’s see it! Where is it?” His friends were almost as excited as he was when his uncle took him to the comic shop to buy it. “Ok. First, are your hands clean?” Each one looked at their hands. Marcus licking his to ensure they were immaculate and ready for receiving the divine scripture. Sam opened his backpack and pulled from it, Rocketboy #1 First Edition, First Print 1945. He first started to read Rocketboy when he found one his grandfather had tucked away in his old Army footlocker. He loved how this little boy, age fifteen, designed his own backpack and would fly around at first beating up bullies, then saving adults. “That’s right; kids CAN do a lot more than go to school and do chores, “he thought when he read his first Rocketboy comic. Sam held up the comic as if he were Moses displaying the Ten Commandments. An adolescent and angelic “ah” resonated from the back of the bus. With the sounds traveling to the front and Sam’s back blocking the driver’s view; a deep, satanic voice pierced the ride. “WHAT’S GOING ON BACK THERE?” The bus drive, Mrs. Deed, or as the kids called her, Mrs. Dead, was barking towards the back of the bus. Sam almost jumped out of his skin, hence the nickname. Mrs. Deed had piercing black eyes that stole your soul if she caught your gaze for too long. She had long, straw-like silvery hair that stopped at her elbows on her right side. The kids could never tell if the left side looked the same since they never saw her out of the driver’s seat. Her skin was pale and clammy. Brandon Marshall knew this first hand.
One day, he was late to the bus and had to sit right behind her. No one could believe it. No one sat right behind Mrs. Dead. There was a protective bubble that, although was invisible, everyone knew existed and should not be breached. But during this day, Brandon had no choice. The bus was full. He even tried to force a morning kindergarten kid into the seat, but that was like giving a cat a bath. Brandon closed his eyes, took a deep breathe swallowed his gum and sat down. No sooner did his butt hit the seat than the wheels on the bus went round and round from zero to one hundred miles per hour. Brandon, with eyes still closed, reached for the seat in front of him. Grabbing towards the ether, he found something he will never forget to this day. The fleshy part of what he could only assume was Mrs. Dead’s upper arm. It was soft, clammy, and gave way to his grasp. When he opened his eyes and saw his return he immediately released, his hand left a perfect impression in the gelatinous appendage. Brandon immediately lost his breakfast. They say light travels faster than sound. Well, it can be said that smell, this day, was faster than both light and sound. And soon, it was a symphony of vomit. Every child on that bus was soon covered in their own breakfast but Mrs. Deed did not stop once on the fifteen minute drive to the school.
“Nu nu nu nothing Mrs. Deed. We’re looking at my comic”, Sam spoke with the same fear in his voice when Bishop Kelly caught him defacing the baby Jesus in the nativity scene last Christmas. Only this time, it was the other end of the religious spectrum that was calling him out. “Show me what you have.” The beast at the front demanded and, as if being controlled by telekinesis, Sam turned around in a slow, unnatural way. With outstretched arms Sam presented the comic in question. “Comics, huh, who needs them,” Deeds quipped. “NOW SIT DOWN AND KEEP YOUR TINY MOUTHS CLOSED!” The deep vibration from the order was enough to pierce the very soul of every child on the bus and in the neighborhood as they passed. Sam and the gang could have sworn they saw birds falling from the sky as they drove down the street. “I’ll have to show you guys later.” Sam spoke through his throat like a ventriloquist, lips slightly parting, so not to upset the creature now starring at her victims through her soul-seizing portal that hung above her head.
Within ten minutes the bus jerked to a sudden stop. Children were slammed into the seat pad in front of them and immediately ran for any exit they could to escape the now heaving, crazed hair banshee that has collapsed on her steering wheel. Galloping for the front steps of the school Sam stops abruptly as though he has smashed directly into an invisible wall. “Whoa!!!” Marcus rams into him, then Frank and clumsily tripping over the bunch is Jaime. “What the…” Now in a pile on the grass is the entire gang from the back of the bus. “Why’d ya stop?” Marcus is feeling for his glasses. Sam does not hear them. Something in the distance has caught his attention and nothing short of an explosion could regain it. “Hi Sam,” a sweet, innocent, beautiful voice calls to him. His name sounds a million times better in that voice. At the other end of the angelic voice is Amy Ashford. Amy is the new transfer student. Her parents moved to town from Germany and Amy, independent that she is, decided against the military base school and wanted to attend a school within the community. With perfect blonde hair and dancing blue eyes, Sam wished every day to hold her hand even it did mean being harassed by his friends and classmates for liking girls. Amy’s skin looked soft like Sam’s fleece pajamas he got last Christmas, instead of the bicycle he asked for. That year he was lucky to get anything for what he did to Jesus. The moment was interrupted. “Mr. Mutts.” This voice is not so angelic. Not so sweet. Only two people call Sam Mr. Mutts, his little league coach, Mr. Jones, a former marine who calls everyone by their last name and Principal Harris. Sam closes his eyes and hopes it the former knowing it’s not. Looking up, Sam’s sees Principal Harris standing over him with arms folded and nostrils flared. “Weellll? Are you and your friends going to lie there all day?” Not seeing the point to answer a rhetorical question, Sam tries to push himself up, but the other boys are still on top of him, now wrestling and giving each other the mandatory nuggie or wet willy. “Mr. Klemp, Mr. Green, Mr. Peterson do you wish to spend the afternoon in my office?” Principal Harris bends at the waist hoping to show some dominance over the situation knowing that the residue of a wet willy will last for the good part of the day and is hard to compete with. Horseplay has stopped, for now, and the boys are standing in what may seem to be some form of military attention. “Please proceed to class,” Harris has given the directive. The boys, formed in a line facing him, perform a loose unrehearsed salute from varying military and scout disciplines; execute an astounding right-face and being to march to the school building. Everyone within earshot begin to laugh hysterically including Amy. Sam looks over, smiles and sends a salute her way. Amy laughs louder.