Chapter 13 The Bus

“Did they ask you about the money laundering?”

“No but another time I was there Halftrack Mike was there and he asked about shipping rates and routes. I told him to talk to father about that. They didn’t introduce him, but I recognized Halftrack from your description. He was also interested in how we got through the Straits of Malacca. I said ‘like everybody else, with a military escort.’ He asked if we called in Rangoon. I said we did. By the time he asked we no longer sailed west from Saigon or Bangkok through the Straits. What’s this got to do with the bus in the woods?”

“Actually, a lot. I always wondered about his connection with the CIA. You’ve just confirmed it, thank you.”

“If you please, would you mind telling me what he has to do with your bus?”

“Well stop distracting me.”

“I didn’t distract you. You went off about Halftrack Mike.”

OK, since you insist but it isn’t a short story with a happy ending.

“About the end of summer my welcome at the farmhouse began to wear. The person I sublet from was planning on returning from Alaska for the winter. He wanted his girlfriend he met in Alaska to move in with him. The rest of the household wasn’t so sure about that so there was a lot of back and forth so I put myself on notice.

Aside from mopping floors at the cafe, months earlier I had gotten a contract job for a private school maintaining their busses, old trucks and tractors that had been donated. One of these was a 10-window Kenworth bus whose engine was sitting next to it in the yard with one cylinder head off. The cylinders had been rained on for a year or so and the school people considered the engine and the bus to be junk. I didn’t think so and I offered to buy it from the school.

The original head was cracked so I began looking for another one. I found one at the rock quarry a couple of towns away and talked them into donating the head from a junk dump truck. In a few weeks I managed to break the rust in the cylinders, dismantle, clean and reassemble the engine with the replacement head. It started and ran just fine and I had myself a 48-passenger school bus.

I drove it home to the farm, much to the horror of Hippie No.1, whose milk house I parked it next to. I spent the remainder of the summer taking the seats out and filling jars with pencils found under the cushions. The pencils I put on the cookstove next to the door of the cafe with a sign saying “Free.” Hippie No. 1 was a carpenter by trade when he worked and with his help I built kitchen cabinets and with some cast-off furniture and appliances, outfitted the bus as a live-aboard. Hippie No. 1 proclaimed it to be ‘palatial’ compared to his milk house. That pleased me no end. I moved into the bus next to the milk house and kept on mopping floors at the cafe. The free meals part was too good to give up.”

“Did you travel in it?”

“No, I didn’t travel, I just lived in it. It used way too much gasoline and I was too poor and besides by that time people were spooked by the oil embargo and gas was three times the old price so nobody was traveling much.

“But as I said, I had planned to move the bus the next day; the day after the accident happened. I had moved my other stuff, tools mostly, to a site on the Columbia River not far from the Canadian border. There was a little community of back-to-the-land hippies at a quarter-section site there. I had pulled a friends travel trailer over the mountains with my pickup so it and most of my stuff was there. I was using the motorcycle for transportation till I moved the bus.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 13 The Bus

  1. Nice!

    Copy edit comments –

    Second paragraph – those short sentences should start with capitals. After the farm? You lived in the woods … trees?

    Missing closing quotes on several paragraphs.

    Possessive of Agnes is probably Agnes’ ; at least that is what I always use for proper nouns ending in s. It gets the job done without fancy flourish. One Web site notes Apostrophes for Names Ending in “S” This situation can get a little tricky, because there is actually no hard-and-fast rule about apostrophe use for nouns ending with “s.” Some people hold that only the apostrophe should be added, without the extra “s,” like in “Charles’ book.” Others say to add the “s,” so that it reads “Charles’s book.” Still others differentiate by the sound of the final letter, adding only the apostrophe if the letter makes a “z” sound — James’ or Lourdes’ — and using both the apostrophe and the “s” if the letter makes the “s” sound — Lucas’s or Agnes’s. A good rule of thumb is to pick one system or the other and to use it consistently throughout, and check with your teacher or supervisor to see which form is the preferred one.

    Hyphen in long-haul probably shouldn’t be there, I’d use long haul. There are no good rules on this, so I go by most common usage, and that reduces to using google on long-haul then long haul and see where I get most hits. Then, sometimes specific hits or contexts contravene my rule. E.g., real-time has been used with hyphen since I’ve been into computers, but Real Time with Bill Maher I would take to be correct also.

    There are style guides to help with all this. Might have to pay for one but an author should have one. Better yet would be a program that scans your document for style, e.g. AP Style Checking Tools. I have not found the MS Word grammar checker to help much, but then I haven’t used it in a long time, but then that’s because it was just getting in the way.

    Which Style Guide Is Best for You? The Associated Press Stylebook (AP style) The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style) The MLA Handbook from the Modern Language Association of America (MLA style) The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA style)


    1. Tommy, thanks for the copy edit comments. WordPress doesn’t always pick up punctuation, particularly quotes when one pastes in large amounts of copy. I try to catch them when I’m posting but I miss stuff. I have several style guides and use whichever is required for the job at hand. Sometimes it’s the GPO, sometimes it’s Chicago. Generally if there’s no requirement I go with NYT. It seems to get the least push back. When I worked at Microsoft they required the use of their style guide which I and many other writers took great issue with. As in “Who the hell are you to rewrite the English language.” But it’s a losing battle as Word is what everybody uses nowadays.


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