Note: (Source made it very clear that the dialogue in this article would be spoken with a thick English accent. For the bus driver’s character, it will help if you imagine him as a pirate of old–in contrast to our modern-day pirates. The young boy in this account, Oliver, is six years of age and about to begin Grade One.)
Oliver and his mum had just arrived at the curb near the front of their home when they saw The Exclusivity Bus round the corner and pull to a stop in front of them. The doors yawned open, and Captain Jack, the bus driver, peered toward Oliver. “What say ye, young lad,” he bellowed, “arrrr ye friend or foe of the state?!”
Nervously, Oliver adjusted the mask over his face and turned to his mum. “What does he mean, Mum? I don’t know what to say.”
Oliver’s mum leaned down and looked him softly in the eyes. “Say, ‘friend,’ Oliver. You know, the way that we practiced last night afore bed. And show Captain Jack your boarding pass, the one with the squiggly pattern on it.”
“Aye, Mum,” said Oliver. Reluctantly, he turned from her hug and boarded the bus. When Oliver reached the top step, Captain Jack leaned forward, scanned the pass card that hung from Oliver’s neck, and a large overhead screen flashed “ACCEPTABLE” for the rest of the students to see. As the bus lumbered ahead, Oliver made his way down the aisle and sat opposite another young boy.
“Today should be great fun,” said the boy. “We’re going to learn so much.”
Oliver looked at him and smiled weakly. A feeling deep within told him that something was amiss.
Onward the bus rambled through the streets of Oppressorville. At each stop, he repeatedly heard Captain Jack bellow, “Arrrr ye friend or foe of the state?”
A few blocks later, Oliver smiled and felt his heart gladden as the bus eased to a stop in front of his friend’s home. Janie and her dad were standing at the curb. Oliver and Janie had been best friends for three whole years, ever since they and their parents had met at a local playground.
As Oliver watched, Janie’s dad gave her a departing hug; and Janie approached the entrance to the bus. True to his training, Captain Jack leaned forward and bellowed, “What say ye, lass? Arrrr ye friend or foe of the state?”
“I’m just being me,” said Janie, with a broad smile. She felt excited and happy to be wearing her new knapsack for school.
Captain Jack rolled his eyes and raised his head to glare at Janie’s father. “Be she friend or foe?”
“She’s just being true to herself,” her father stated calmly. “Our family lives and let’s live.”
Captain Jack screwed up his face and sternly demanded, “Does the lass have a pass?”
“No,” said Janie’s father.
“Then, by the power of the state,” barked Captain Jack, “I, deem that she be UNNACCEPTABLE for this bus!” He then slapped the doors closed and pressed hard on the accelerator. Before the bus had pulled away, Oliver stared out the bus’s window and made eye contact with Janie, who was sobbing beside her father.
Seven hours later, the bus rolled to a stop in front of Oliver’s home. His mum was waiting to greet him. As soon as Oliver stepped from the bus, he broke into tears. Despite his mum’s best efforts, she could not calm him. He was inconsolable.
“What’s the matter, Ollie?” she asked, when they were back inside their home. “Didya no’ have a good day at school?”
“I’m no’ going back–ever!” blurted Oliver. Tears were rolling down his red cheeks. “I don’t like it…atoll!”
“Did they mistreat ya?”
“It’s no’ that,” snuffled Oliver. “It’s the meaness. They wouldn’t let Janie on the bus.”
Oliver’s mum’s spine sagged and her face went pale as she realized what had happened. She’d heard of such accounts. “Well, it’s just the way life is right now,” she said. “We must be good friends of the state and do as we’re tol’.”
“Even if it hurts our friends and family?” asked Oliver.
A brittle silence filled their living room, his mum initially uncertain of what to say. Finally: “But you want to learn, don’t you?”
Oliver’s chest quivered to a brief pause. He sat upright and turned to face his mum, his dark brown eyes shining with truth. “Not if this is what they’re teaching me, Mum,” he said. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“I know,” said his mum after a few moments of reflection, “but you’ll get over that in time.”
Dear FamilyOfOne: A prayer that we’ll reach for the best that we have to offer our world. We’ll know that we’ve achieved it by the accompanying good feelings.
Dare to dream (and care for one another).
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2021 – R. Arthur Russell
P.S. Please share this article if you enjoyed it. If you’d like to view my latest book (This Taste of Flesh and Bones–released September 8, 2020), press here. May it help you in your spiritual journey. 🙏🤍