Walter Blydenson has had enough. He pulled the school bus over to the side of the road.
“Alright, all you little bastards sit down and shut up for five minutes or else you’re walking home!”
Walter’s reluctant supervisor for the 4th grade school trip to Sutton’s Planetarium-Ms. Dunston-was aghast at his outburst. “Mr. Blydenson, that language is completely inappropriate for children.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Dunston. It’s just that these kids are completely out of control with the screaming and running up and down the aisles. I spoke without thinking.”
“Please remember that you’re on probationary supervision and should act accordingly. And thinking is mandatory for this position.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Walter has been a janitor at Hilson Elementary School for 5 years. Getting the job was not easy. His life was seriously sidetracked when he was 17 and got arrested along with his 3 older brothers for stealing a mailbox from in front of their own house. He was given 3 years probation for being a minor. The whole caper was caught on video by his teenage neighbor, Danny Meeks. Danny’s father, Niles – an Englishman and a bit of a dandy, if you asked Walter – was a videographer, so he had all the high tech equipment . The perfect scenario for a curious and horny teenage boy who’s first foray into the world of HD Video was shooting 5 minutes of Mrs. Reed’s lingerie hanging in her yard and then setting it to the music of Tool. Although her bras and panties were all white, Danny colorized them on the video to fully saturated hues of purple, red and pink.
“You don’t want to be a janitor the rest of your life, do you? Have you forgotten I am here to judge your demeanor and interaction with the children?” said Ms. Dunston, all 97 pounds of her quaking as she pointed her boney finger at Walter.
“I didn’t think so. Now please let’s get these kids back to the school and without any further outbursts from you.”
Walter was seething. Who the hell does she think she is? Walter turned off the bus and spun out of the driver’s seat to address the kids. “Kids, Ms. Dunston has informed me that it’s time for today’s lesson.” He glanced over at Ms. Dunston. “And today’s lesson is titled The Pros and Cons of Smoking.” Walter wasn’t exactly sure what this lesson would consist of.
Ms. Dunston’s face turned white. “Mr. Blydenson, have you lost your mind?”
Walter turned away from the kids and leaned in towards Ms. Dunston. “Ms.-what’s your first name?”
“Never mind that-”
Walter got right in her face. “What’s your first name?!”
“That figures. You never really had a chance with a name like Imogene, did you? Now this is the story. I’m going to give my little lesson and you’re going to sit nice and quietly with your hands folded in your lap. Understand?”
“Yes,” she said, instinctively taking out from under her powder blue cardigan the sterling silver rosary she received from her Aunt Ann on her 13th birthday.
Walter was thrilled to have the class at his disposal. The teachers dismissed him as the jailbird janitor and the older students mocked him, although never to his face.
Walter opened the carton of cigarettes he had in the messenger bag he carried with him everywhere and started handing out the packs. The kids were grabbing at them as if he was giving out Christmas presents.
“We don’t have enough packs for everyone, so I’ll teach you guys first and then the rest of you kids will get a chance. The most important thing to do before smoking is to pack the cigarettes. That makes the tobacco tight in the paper so you get a better draw.”
The kids, for the most part, were thrilled.
One of the little girls in the front of the bus spoke up: “My mother says that smoking is for lowlifes and losers.”
“That’s nice. What’s your name little girl?”
“Okay, Amy, your mother sounds like an uppity bitch, so let me have those cigarettes back so I can give them to a kid who will appreciate this little lesson.”
A huge frown appeared on Amy’s face as she handed over the cigarettes.
Walter threw the pack to a kid further back in the bus. “Move up here so you can hear the lesson. Amy’s going to see what it’s like in the back of the bus.”
“What’s your name, son?”
“Reggie,” he muttered.
Reggie is small for his age, likes to read and isn’t interested in sports. Naturally, he gets picked on by some of the other kids.
“Alright, the first thing you do is hold the pack with your pointing finger on the bottom of the pack. Then you bang it against the palm of your other hand. It looks and sounds like this.” The kids observed with wide-eyed glee. Then they began banging the packs into their little hands. Some packs went flying onto the floor, but were picked up immediately for another try.
“That’s right. Good job, Reggie.”
Reggie, due to his newfound skill, bristled with excitement.
“You’re still a geek, Reggie,” some kid called from the back of the bus, inciting laughter from the other kids.
Walter saw Reggie turn red and his shoulders slump down.
“Just a sec there, Reggie.”
Walter went to the back of the bus, grabbed the kid who put down Reggie and dragged the kid to the front of the bus. Reggie just looked at the floor, afraid to look the kid in the face.
“What’s your name?”
“Danny,” the kid sneered.
Walter let out a maniacal laugh. Imogene shuddered in the driver’s seat.
“How is it, correct me if I’m wrong, kids, that every punk-ass bully in school is always named Danny? Am I right?”
No one spoke up. Danny’s reputation is legendary.
“Am I right?” Walter asked again.
“You’re right,” someone said from the back of the bus.
“Who said that?” Everyone turned around to see Amy raise her hand.
“Good for you, Amy. You’ve really picked up on that back-of-the-bus ballsiness. You feel like a new person back there, don’t you?”
“I guess,” she said.
“See, kids, besides the cigarette lesson, thanks to our friend Amy, we’re also going to learn something else today.” Walter leaned over towards Reggie and Danny and chuckled, “Besides the fact that Ms. Dunston’s name is Imogene.” He continued, “What we’re going to learn about is perspective. Can everyone say that for me?”
The kids yelled out, “PERSPECTIVE!”
“Very good. Now, perspective is the way you see things. Take our little smoking lesson for instance. You guys are having fun, right?”
“I know I’m having fun.” Walter high fived the closest kid. “But, you know what? I can guarantee that Imogene is not having fun. See, that’s perspective. Even though Ms. Dunston is on the same bus as us guys-and we’re having fun-she’s not.” Walter got back in the driver’s seat and started the bus. “Next time we’ll learn about forgiveness and second chances.”