Sunday, March 13, 2005


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

From the Crime Files of Detectives, Inc.
Job #1: Boy Detective

A Numbers Game

Of course, Shawn wanted to know more. He had spent a good half-hour interviewing kids on the bus, getting abuse from Dee Dee and Bruce and their friends, and looking under seats and down seat cushions, just in case Mr. Terry had overlooked something. So he wanted to know what I was talking about when I said I knew where the dog was.

And as I started to explain, Mr. Cecil started the bus and began to pull away.

"No! No! Wait!" I shouted. But it was too late.

"What is it?" Shawn demanded. I looked helplessly at him, then back at the bus that was just now turning the corner. I pointed.

"Look. Look at the fender."

Shawn squinted. He wore glasses too. "I can't read it."

"Well I could when you guys passed us. The number on the fender is 47."

Shawn blinked at me. We kids all knew our buses by our drivers' names, Cecil's bus or Hayward's bus. We never looked at the numbers. "So?" Shawn said.

"This morning, Mr. Terry called it Bus #4. Mr. Cecil's driving a different bus than the one he drove on Friday!"

I thought this was a pretty cool bit of observation and deduction, but of course Shawn proceeded to drive holes through the idea.

"No way," he said. "It looks exactly the same as the one he always drives. It's exactly the same. Maybe they just painted new numbers on it and Mr. Terry didn't know."

"No, he's right."

We turned. Mr. Hayward had climbed off his bus and was walking towards the school building. "Ol' #4 broke down on Friday. Ken barely made it to the depot. So they brought the other one down over the weekend," he said.

I nodded, recalling only then what all of you probably remembered in about 12 seconds: How the bus had been belching exhaust when it left the school on Friday. And Melinda had said something about the bus stalling on the road.

Shawn's mouth hung open. "You mean it really IS a different bus? But it looks exactly the same!"

Mr. Hayward smiled indulgently. "Son, all our buses are the same. My bus and Ken Cecil's bus are identical. The district leases them from a fleet operator in Kansas City and all their buses are the same make and model."

"But...where's the old bus?" I asked.

"Probably still at the depot. If they can't get it started, they'll have to tow it back to KC. Scuse me boys, I gotta see a man about a horse." And Mr. Hayward left us to go in the school.

"So it's a different bus," Shawn allowed, ignoring the fact that I was being Mr. Smug Smirky because I was right. "So you really think the dog is still on the old bus?"

"It's worth a look," I said. "Bruce said he stuffed it down the seat. They never clean the buses. Remember how your scarf was still there when you left it on the seat? Anyway, even if they had, Mr. Cecil might have missed it. Let's go down to the depot and see."

Of course, as I retell this story, I'm amazed at our luck. I keep thinking that the odds should have favored Mr. Terry asking Mr. Cecil about his bus, but of course why would he? He and the drivers weren't on speaking terms and he didn't really believe Bruce anyway. What's more, he wouldn't have had any reason to know the buses were switched, so I guess chance favored us.

That certainly was true in other (but not all) respects on that day. The broken-down bus could have been long gone to Kansas City. Cecil or someone at the motor depot could have cleaned out the bus and taken the dog. Heck, Bruce Peavey could have been lying all along. But I refused to entertain these ideas, and even if I had, I still would have gone down to the motor depot. This was just way too much fun. And I was way too full of myself for having realized that the buses had been switched (In fact, I'm still not over it).

Unfortunately, the district motor depot was way the hell on the other end of town, on a fenced-in scrubby lot across the railroad tracks. If we'd been smart, we'd have waited til Mr. Hayward came back out and asked him to drive us down there, but this didn't occur to us until we saw his bus pass us on the road about two minutes after we started running there. Weighed down as we were with our book bags, it must have taken over a half-hour and by the time we crossed the tracks, we could see the gate was locked and no one was around.

The fence was a combination of wood and chain link, very tall (or so it seemed to us) and with a couple rows of rusty barbed wire at the top. Peering through the chain links of the main gate, we could see the entire fence running a perimeter around a large srubby lot with an assortment of vehicles. On the far side of the lot, the fence ended flush up against the walls of a Quonset hut where town vehicles were serviced, about 100 yards away. Closer to us, we could see bus #47--the "new" Cecil's bus--and Hayward's bus parked side by side ("Gosh, they do all look alike. I never noticed," Shawn admitted). Across the lot from them near the fence on that side, we could see another identical bus, parked next to two considerably older, more dilapidated buses. I pointed to it.

"I can't read the fender number from here, but that's gotta be ol' #4," I said.

And then I said, "YAAAAAAAA!"

Because that's when the giant dog leapt at me from the other side of the fence...


Damn, you were one smart crime fighter. I was constructing a quantum physical solution: Like Schrodinger's Cat, the dog was both there and not-there; both in-the-bus and out-of-the-bus; both cute-and-furry and not-cute-and-furry.

Shows you what I know.
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