Waiting for the school bus

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Young Jeremy Roswell awoke without opening his eyes and turned grudgingly in his bed. The half-defeated ringing of the dilapidated alarm clock restored him to materiality, instantly collapsing and dissipating his reverie, whatever it had been. Another day of school. He moved again, this time stretching his limbs, his upper body sympathetically twitching as he did so. The summer duvet which only weeks ago had been too warm now barely soothed him, and as he moved he felt the cool of the sheets where he hadn’t lain. It was September and autumn had already replaced the sultry days of July and August. He could sense the clammy air pouring like a stream into his stark bedroom on the second floor at the back of the house. He had forgotten to draw the drapes last night before he retired, but there was yet barely any morning light. It was six o’clock. The school bus would be at the end of the long drive to collect him at exactly 7:15 a.m. He had to get moving.

Less than a year ago the Roswells (Jeremy, his mother and father) had been prompted to move from the City to the country by the appeal of a larger residence with more land at an attractive price. They had translated their former comparatively small urban townhouse into a ranch bungalow on two and one-half acres of scrub land along a dead end concession, the third house from the end surrounded by emerald green fir trees. The place was remote even by the standards of his rural and village neighbours. Because of that distance, Jeremy was the first stop for the school bus driver on his morning route. The bus driver, a humorless middle-aged man who disliked his job, had cultivated his own routine which involved rumbling the hollow yellow chrysalis to the end of the concession, then backing it into the long drive of the house at the cul-de-sac and turning back towards the highway. Here at the side of the road he would sit in silence for several minutes with the engine turned off, awaiting the appropriate passage of time before moving forward to his first stop two hundred yards distant. Because Jeremy’s winding drive was sheltered from view by evergreens, and because Jeremy made a point of remaining hidden behind the trees at the end of his long walk from the house until the driver made his appointed arrival, the confluence of their missions was very much a synchronized affair, though ostensibly unintentional. Neither of them ever broached the possibility of deliberation on the point.

Jeremy, an only child, had been obliged to give up his City friends as an upshot of his parents’ relocation though he hardly cared. Jeremy was not a popular boy and he had never had any particularly close friends if the truth be told. Vicariously he was friends with whomever his parents knew, a casualty of being included in everything his parents did. His parents weren’t, however, part of the morning ceremony of preparing for school. In that endeavour Jeremy was on his own. Being a reserved person, Jeremy was thankful to undertake his morning disciplines without interference or contribution.

At fourteen years of age Jeremy was in many respects more mature than most of his peers, another consequence of regularly cavorting with adults. While he wouldn’t imagine himself as either especially bright or knowledgeable, he nonetheless appreciated that he had a keen sense of accountability. Jeremy generally took things seriously and eschewed what he considered wasteful frivolity. Things had to be done properly and on time. The sputtering alarm clock may as well have been a call to arms. While the moments following the last plunk of the alarm clock seemed to stretch to eternity, it was in fact a matter of seconds before Jeremy’s motivation kicked in and he was being drawn as though by a magnet from his lair. His first duty was to do his push-ups, thirty of them, non-stop. Jeremy had read about the Stoics. He relished the cool morning air which spilled upon the floor and bathed him in bracing refreshment. He knew about asceticism too.

Jeremy while not handsome was nonetheless always presentable. There was nothing either fastidious or extravagant about his appearance. Jeremy’s visual aspect spoke regulation and civility. His clothes, which he pulled from the louvered-door closet and veneered drawers, were utilitarian at best. Already at his age he had settled upon the tans and hues of the world, avoiding bright colours. When he later donned his featureless windbreaker and sensible shoes he presented the view of a young man with a plain but purposeful agenda and a hint of the arcane.

The morning breakfast table was perfunctory, everything being a nod to necessity only. There was no effusion or display of delight at the dawning of a new day; rather it was the commencement of a duty to be performed. The sterility of the family’s association was matched by the mechanism of the meal, always the same, never any sugar, and only dry toast. Even tea was off the menu. Jeremy’s parents were very strict about additives, something which didn’t figure in their fundamentalist religion. Jeremy privately counted the days when he would be free to test the waters. Meanwhile Jeremy glanced at the wall clock. It was 7:10 a.m. and time for him to walk down the lane to await the arrival of the school bus.

At the end of the lane, lined with trees, Jeremy Roswell stood erect, painted in his vanilla colours, holding his black school bag and staring directly ahead across the concession road, over the field, into the silvery cloud behind which the morning sun was rising. Momentarily he heard the sound of the school bus engine starting. He