Friday morning, Sven Gustavsen paced the small kitchen. A feeling of dread overcame him and all he wanted to do was stay inside his safe, small house. What made him think he should ever go back to driving a school bus? He grabbed the box filled with small packages of his lucky Swedish Fish and threw the box to the ground. At hearing the loud crash, Dee-Dee ran to her husband.
“If handing out the candy still bothers you, leave it home.”
“Ya,” He softly kicked the box.
“The children loved the candy, but they loved you more.”
“Ya.” He swiped at his eyes. “I still see that sweet child sleeping in my bus. He was always the last one off and I always needed to wake him up” His sniffling stopped him from continuing.
“You always told the children not to eat anything on the bus, to eat the candy at home, show it to their parents first. It’s been a year, time to let it go.”
Gus’s voice dropped. “Ya, I know. But I remember it like it’s today and today is Friday. He choked on my candy on a Friday.”
“Let the school be responsible for handing out the candy. The children will know it’s from you.”
“Ya,” Gus said, still worried.
Dee-Dee smoothed out the collar of her husband’s blue uniform shirt with the embroidered ‘Gus’ over the pocket and watched him leave the house.
Gustavsen finally arrived at the fenced-in bus lot, where a fleet of buses stood, ready at attention. He waved to the other bus drivers as he climbed out of his pick-up truck.
A woman driver shouted to a thin man across the lot. “Hey, Marty, look, The Swede returns.”
“Missed you, Gus,” Marty said. “You’re assigned your old Bus #2, next to me.”
Gustavsen walked around his bus, inspecting it, then climbed up the steps, placed the sealed box of candy by his seat, and started the engine. Oh, how he missed that sound. The day went well with only a few rowdy children on the way back home.
“You don’t want me pulling off the road and stopping this bus!” Gus warned. “Ya, that does it every time,” he told the children sitting in the front rows. They cheerfully mimicked back, “Ya.”
At the last stop he gently warned, “Stay seated. Wait till I come to a complete stop.”
Gustavsen glanced back and saw one child still in his seat as the other children clambered down the steps. He took a deep breath and walked down the aisle. In his mind, he remembered that Friday bus ride from last year and a lump filled his throat. The child’s head was bent down, buried in a book. He was so absorbed that he never noticed Gus approaching.
“Must be a good book,” Gus said.
“It is. It’s about fish, you know, sea life.”
Through the boy’s fingers poked a small package of Swedish Fish, the red, an instant warning signal caught Gus’s eye. He started to say something but the boy kept on talking as he thumbed through the pages showing the pictures to his new adult friend.
“Ya, reading is good, but you need to go home, now. And don’t eat that fish without asking mom first.”
“I won’t, Gus,” the boy promised as he got out of his seat, He reached for Gus’s hand and they walked down the aisle together.
copyright © 2016 Elaine Fisher