This is the third and last segment about “The Bully”. If you would like to read Part I CLICK HERE.
Hershel Jones was our bus driver. He seemed like a nice guy. He too was old. Of course he may only have been the age I am now but he was old to me at the time. Older than my parents was old. His eyes were watery blue and he was very bald. He had the kind of baldness with side fringe that covered his ears. Mr. Jones didn’t shave every day. His stubble was white on his cheeks and throat. He seemed perpetually tan – even in winter. He had deep creases on the back of his neck. Mr. Jones was hearing impaired. He had large hearing aids that hung around both of his ears, almost covered by his fringe.
One day before we got on the bus I saw Garrison showing off a slingshot to his friends. It was a powerful weapon, nothing like the slingshots we made with rubber bands and a bent coat hangar. I think the brand name was WRIST ROCKET. It had latex surgical tubes for the elastic part that you pull back. Dangerous, especially in the hands of someone like Garrison. It was the kind of weapon that could kill someone.
As the bus pulled up, Garrison stuffed the WRIST ROCKET into this book bag. I was much too scared to sit in back near Garrison and his gang of hooligans. They continually picked on the little ones. I was right behind Mr. Jones. I had a feeling there would be trouble that day. I was right. We had been riding for a while. There were fifteen or twenty kids left on the bus. I still remember what kind of day it was, warm and muggy. The air blowing in the bus windows was moist, not refreshing. Sweat was dripping down the creases in Mr. Jones tanned neck. His bald head was shining with sweat. I was bored.
An ordinary day. An ordinary bus ride. Sleepy, hot, sweaty, dozy. From behind a motion by my head. A big bug? I wondered briefly. SMACK! The windshield splintered, a sagging web of broken shards. It didn’t fall out. It just hung there, a thousand tiny cracks coming from a round hole right in the middle. On the floor was a jumbo marble. Unlike the windshield it had just destroyed, the marble was still intact, rolling lazily across the floor in the front of the bus.
Most of us knew what happened that day. Many of us saw Garrison with the WRIST ROCKET before boarding the bus. Mr. Jones jerkily pulled the bus to the side of the road. It squeaked to a stop. His expression was dark. He was as outraged as a man could be. His normally dark ruddy complexion was dark red, purple really. He got up and faced the children on the bus. On his bus.
Probably because he was hearing impaired, Hershel was not a clear talker, more of a loud mumbler. “Whaaa di I do?” Silence. “Wha di I eer do to you?” he screamed. “How coo you do daa?” I nearly cried for him. We could have crashed. Kids could have been killed. We were in his care. Someone, we all knew who – even Mr. Jones I suspect, nearly caused a very serious wreck. “Who” he asked. I don’t think he really expected an answer. Of course no one spoke up. Garrison and his gang of thugs would never admit to what they had done. No one would squeal on them. Too much potential pain associated with that. We sat there. Quiet. More than just quiet. Still as a stone. Mr. Jones faced us. Rage was on his face. His breathing was ragged. His bony shoulders heaved. He stared at us for a long time. Mainly he stared at the back of the bus where the Garrison gang sat.
Once during this extended period of silence I stole a look at the back. Garrison sat there with a satisfied look, his arms crossed smugly across his chest. He had a look that said, “What are you gonna do, old man?” We sat. And sat.
Mr. Jones sighed and returned to the driver’s seat. There were no two-way radios on the busses in those days, no cell phones. He started the bus and ground it into gear. As we pulled away from the curb, there was a low murmur from the back. A couple of the girls, Lori Lazarian and Stacy Ignarski I think their names were, started to cry. Not sobbing, just quietly leaking tears, holding on to each other.
Then Mr. Jones did something I had never seen a gown-up do. As I looked at that dark wrinkled face from the side, I saw a tear spill over and run down his brown cheek. Slowly it ran its silky course down his jaw line and hung there for a few seconds. Then it dripped off his jaw and landed on his shoulder. I stared at that tear. It stayed for a few moments, a perfect hemisphere of human sadness. Then it was absorbed into the fabric. Mr. Jones was crying. It was Garrison who made him cry.
It scared me. It also made me so mad that I could barely breathe. Mr. Jones wasn’t a particularly good friend of mine, but he was someone I saw a hundred-and-seventy times a year on that bus. For years. I also saw him and the missus at mass. He was a constant in my life. And Garrison made him cry. He was never caught for this. I guess no one could ever prove that it was him. But we all knew.
Garrison never rode the bus after that. He had a big brother in high school. The high school kids got out before us and his brother would show up just as we were piling out of school, running for our bus and Mr. Jones. It was red, that car. Too fancy for a high school kid.
A lot of kids were jealous of him and that red car. Not me. I kept wondering how anyone could be so mean. Why would anyone do what he did? Why would a person risk a bus accident just to get his kicks?
The other question that haunted my dreams for a long time was, DID GARRISON MEAN TO HIT Hershel Jones with that marble? Did he just miss him and hit the windshield by mistake? If it HAD hit Mr. Jones, we almost certainly would have crashed. Garrison and his group of troublemakers could have been hurt themselves. If he had hit Mr. Jones in the back of the head, what might have happened? I mean that WRIST ROCKET could really shoot. People use those things for hunting I think. A glass marble in the back of the head at that speed? Who knows?
When I was in sixth grade, Garrison left Saints Peter and Paul for the public high school. I lost track of him. No great loss there. When he left, it was as if an unbelievably heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was free from the cloud of fear that hung over my head for years.
I did hear once that Garrison was beaten up pretty badly. Sent to the hospital I think. He probably pulled a prank of the wrong kid. I guess he got back a taste of what he had been dishing out. I wonder if it made a difference?
I have a little different perspective all these years later. Maybe Garrison’s home life was a wreck. I know that his older brother lumped him up from time to time. Maybe he had some terrible insecurity he needed to overcome – and the way he did it was by picking on others. I wonder if he ever made it to adulthood; if he ever married or had a family of his own, held down a job, bought a house. I hope so. Through all of the misery he dished out, he must have been a miserable kid. What does he think when he recalls his youth? Does he remember all of the fright and pain he passed out to all of those kids? To all of US kids? I hope he does remember. And I hope, for his sake, that he’s sorry.