An after-school story unfolds mile by mile

Late one bitter-cold afternoon, on my way home to West Pawlet, Vt., from Fair Haven, I caught up with a yellow school bus going my way on Route 22, a narrow road with lots of curves. The double line goes on for miles. Frustrating.

At the first stop of the bus, one of many I knew lay ahead, I pulled up behind the flashing red lights. A small girl (probably a first-grader) with curly blond hair and dressed in a sky-blue snowsuit popped out of the bus door.

Her mom had timed her exit from her front door so perfectly that she was close to the bus, all set to give her daughter a welcome-home pat on the back. Quicker than the eye could follow the mother's motion, she pulled up the hood attached to the snowsuit to keep the child warm during the short walk to the house.

"A good mom," I thought.

At the next stop, a small boy, maybe a third-grader, crossed in front of the bus while an oncoming car waited. As soon as he was across, he was greeted by a thin, short-haired, medium-sized, black-and- brown dog. That dog just about exploded with delight. What a greeting! How long had he been waiting there alone, at the end of his long driveway, in the cold?

Irritation at my slow pace dissolved as I wondered what I would see at the next stop. I was not disappointed. As the red lights flashed, two children, brother and sister, bigger than the other passengers, started to walk across the frozen lawn.

A tall young woman in a bulky black coat came dashing out from the kitchen door at the side of the house. Her black hair framed a face made radiant by the most beautiful smile I have seen in many years. The bus moved on.

At the next stop, I saw a massive shaggy brown-and-white sheepdog lying leashed to a substantial maple. As the bus pulled to a stop, the dog sat up, his eyes and whole body focused on the bus door. Two big boys got off and immediately went over to the dog. Its great plume of a tail was wagging as both boys reached out their hands.

Farther along the road, I came to the place where I usually turn off to go through Poultney. I laughed inside as I passed up the opportunity to escape from behind the bus. I wanted to see what would happen at the next stop. But alas, all too soon I had reached the end of the bus route. The driver opened his window just wide enough to poke out his gloved hand and wave me on.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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