“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.