The metal of his lunch box clanged, caved and rebounded as he bounced it off his knee in anxious waiting. His eyes looked for his feet, to see his new Roos. They hid beneath the stuffing in his shirt. Not seeing his feet made him kick at the gravel beneath them, just to make sure they were still there. Gravel leapt and bounced out into the street. His feet still lived beneath him at the end of his legs. Relief washed over him. He grabbed at the scruffy fake beard making sure the spirit gum held it fast to his smooth cheeks underneath.
He heard it before he saw it. He looked down the lonely gravel road. Down the hill and then up the next he surveyed. Glimpses of yellow between the trees in the copse occupying the valley. Self-consciousness grew as the transportation approached. Would anyone else understand what he was? Airbrakes screeched in the distance on top of the second hill. The leaves from the trees across the road fell. Auburn, burnt umber, brown and yellow spotted the road and filled the gutters.
The yellow whale stopped and offered this Jonah a spot. The doors creaked and the handle thumped. Bruce sat in his seat. “Join us,” he said to the dwarf looking up the black corrugated rubber stairs. He was pasty, white. Bruce’s eyes leered at the dwarf, his smile slid across his yellow teeth. “Join us. Come on in.”
The boy, he didn’t like the look of Bruce today. The tone of the bus driver’s voice was a drone and not the convivial invite as every day before. The boy stepped up inside the belly of the yellow beast. Bruce sprung from his seat and motioned for the child to go down the aisle and find a seat. All the normal people sat in their normal seats.
Everyone looked at the fat dwarf as he slowly passed each dark green vinyl seat looking for a place for himself to sit. Their eyes followed. They were all pasty and white like they had been in an explosion of flour. Their eyes all wide and seemed sunken for the black around them. Each child stood as the boy moved deeper into the bus. He grew uneasy. Did everyone decide to be a ghost today? They watched him, all standing to face him as he sought his seat.
“I’m a dwarf. Haha,” He said. They all pulled their lips upward, the corners of their mouth stretching exposing their yellow teeth. Great. Everyone is something scary. The boy wished he went for the werewolf costume instead.
“Be with us.” Bruce stretched his arms wide, like a conductor with an orchestra. All the children followed in his tune. “Be with us. Be with us.” They droned.
The boy kept moving to the back of the bus. “Be with us.” The children with their Cheshire grins, blackened eyes and white faces continued their chorus. “Be with us.” Bruce took his seat, closed the door and the yellow monster lurched into gear. The boy fell to the ground at the back of the bus. “Be with us.” His lunch box fell open the contents spilling against the emergency exit. “Be with us.” His apple rolled under the single seat, the thermos clanked against the metal. He looked through the bottom window up the gravel road. “Be with us.” Bruce was pulling up to the stop at the boy’s house. The yellow bus in the window grew smaller and the sound of the horn honking for the absent rider faded. “Be with us.”