Featured Review on this writing by Joe Stuart

The Lost Boys Bus Ride

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Two Lost Boys, one lunched out old bus and a large hill. What could possibly go wrong?

Submitted: October 21, 2017

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Submitted: October 21, 2017



Somewhere in the nether regions of my grey matter lurked a story that involved a hill, a bus and a degree of unhinged automotive madness that still causes feverish dreams for those involved.

But that was many years ago and the story had become misfiled in my right hemisphere, somewhere between the dangers of Too Much Peyote and valve clearances for a Datsun 180b SSS engine.

I checked my battered address book, reached for the phone and far into my past at the same time. Most of us Lost Boys have kept the same number over the years, but these days we’re just a little more geographically scattered.

Holes needed filling in, so over the next half hour I got hold of two fellow Lost Boys, the brothers Slightly and Nibs. As expected, both were a bit grumpy about being interrupted at 2am. I say ‘interrupted’ not ‘awoken’. Thirty years later we still keep weird hours.

So here is their tale…

It was one of those infernally hot Wairarapa days, the sort when dogs would crawl under houses seeking shade and even the flies were too lazy to move off the ceiling. One back yard however was a hive of sweaty activity.

Slightly’s home, an old SB3 Bedford bus was being prepared for relocation. This was not by choice, rather a calamitous series of events that led to eviction over a utilities dispute. There had been cursing, arm waving, rock throwing and blood. Things had Gotten Serious. It was time to go.

Slightly’s younger brother Nibs squirmed out from under the Bedford clutching a fistful of tools. “Done all I can” he grunted. “God knows what will happen when this thing hits the road, but it aint pretty under there”.

Slightly just smiled. “It’ll be fine” he replied. “We’re just going over the hill…what can possibly go wrong?”.

I’ve never under-estimated the amount of faith us Lost Boys had in Insanely Stupid Moments like this, we were certainly adept at beating the odds but were definitely lacking in the foresight department.

Slightly’s bus was home, art studio and general repository for the spoils of a misspent youth. It was also a communal place for us to get mind-alteringly-howlingly-demented at and then go put a hopscotch on State Highway 1 in stolen marker paint. Just for kicks you understand.

The Bedford had been decaying into the surrounding landscape for a number of years. It now resembled a red oxide and green lichen chameleon with a skin disease. “It’s got character” Slightly would say proudly. Bits were also missing, rusted through or seized.

In true Lost Boy fashion, remedial measures had been employed to counter a defunct fuel pump. Gravity feed was the answer, so a large brewers keg filled with petrol sat atop a beer crate on the front passenger seat, all lashed into place by frayed bungees. It looked like an unwilling victim awaiting an S+M session. The engine cowling inside was removed to allow the fuel line to run straight down into the carburettor.

After numerous attempts the Beddy awoke from its slumber and rattled into life, all squealing belts, chattering valves and blue smoke. “Tally-Ho!” shouted Slightly as he jammed first gear and released the clutch. The Bedford revved hard before it’s frozen clutch finally engaged with a BANG! and lurched forward, Slightly wrestling the wheel to negotiate a hard left-hander onto the driveway.

After clipping the clothesline and extinguishing a grassfire ignited by the nonexistent exhaust the bus sat idling roughly by the curb. Curtains twitched in neighbouring windows and a farmer chugging past on his John Deere shook his head in disbelief. Slightly and Nibs grinned and waved. Ahead lay the Rimutaka Hill, the real adventure.

The first indication that things were Horribly Wrong made itself known pretty damn quick. A dodgy kingpin on the driver’s side had the right wheel pointing inwards, the steering had a ¾ turn of slop and the brakes pulled to the left.

On top of that the Beddy couldn’t get above 30mph in top gear, no electrics worked and with the engine cowling off the noise inside was like throwing handfuls of lead sinkers into a jet engine. Slightly fixed that by donning a pair of earmuffs.

Nibs positioned himself halfway down the bus, doing a passable imitation of a four point rollcage. Here he managed to stop the fridge from walking out, the dresser from toppling and shelves from sliding off brackets.

The bus weaved its way erratically up the Rimutaka Hill, emitting clouds of foul smoke and shedding bits of trim and rust as the wind caught them. Traffic crawled behind in the choking smokescreen, no one daring to pass. With a badly unresponsive steering system it took all of Slightly’s strength to stop the bus from either grinding itself into the left hand bank or darting off the cliff on the right. Oncoming traffic emergency braked, thinking they were dealing with a madman playing chicken in a bus. Not a good look.

They were around two hundred metres from the summit when a horrified Nibs saw the fuel line pop off the keg.  The tube flopped about on the floor, spraying fuel around the interior. Slightly, sans earmuffs, was completely oblivious to Nibs’s warning screams and puffed away happily on his Marlboro.

They reckon time runs slow before a major calamity and this was no exception. The engine coughed, starved of its fuel. Slightly glanced over, saw the disconnected line spraying fuel everywhere and realised the seriousness of holding a lit cigarette. Since his side window was seized shut he took the only available option and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing franticly.

Nibs slid around on the petrol-soaked floor struggling to re-attach the fuel line while Slightly retched foul tasting baccy over the dashboard.  At this inconvenient moment Nibs also realised they weren’t getting full acceleration because a section of throttle linkage was bent. He leant over, gave it a stout twist and the results were immediate.

The bus went from 40 to 100 per cent of throttle in an instant. Considering Slightly had his foot hard on the gas this wasn’t one of Nibs sharpest ideas, as they were negotiating a tight left-hander at the time.

The surge in acceleration round this devilish bend caused the latch on the emergency door half way down the bus to pop, and it swung open into the opposite lane.  Nibs scuttled aft and Slightly watched a mad pantomime in his cracked side mirror as Nibs struggled to close the heavy door. For a brief moment he was completely outside of the bus clinging to it like a monkey.

To say the lad’s nerves were a little frayed at this point would be a fairly accurate observation. Nibs was an odd shade of white after his battle with the door he’d only just secured in time and Slightly had gone a delicate hue of green due to a combination of petrol fumes and chewing a lit cigarette.

Reaching the summit Slightly made the decision to pull in at the tearooms for a calming brew and a quiet freak-out. He judged a gap in the traffic and swung the rotten old Beddy into a hard right. The bus roared into the car park like an automotive escapee from a Mad Max movie, scattering seagulls and day-trippers everywhere. It was also about then he lost pressure in the brakes…

Seated inside the tearooms was a bus tour of elderly Australian tourists all decked out in leisure suits. They’d been enjoying a lovely cheese and tomato toasted with a cuppa until the Lost Boys arrived.

“You might want to think about stopping now!” Nibs yelled to Slightly who was yanking frantically at the handbrake. Let’s just say the plate glass window of the tearooms got frighteningly close before the bus came to a squealing, juddering halt.

A couple of the old dears looked positively terrified; the diggers just glowered and pointed menacingly. Slightly and Nibs smiled sickly and gave a thumbs up. They got both single and double digit responses back for their efforts. “Probably best we don’t go inside” mused Slightly “They don’t look that happy”

A nervous calm slowly returned to the car park with travellers taking photos, toileting toddlers and enjoying a bite to eat. The bus was like the elephant in the room, everyone knew it was there but no-one actually wanted to admit they were witnessing it.

“Oh god!” exclaimed Nibs, pointing out the window “THIS we don’t need”

Sure enough, a police patrol car trickled into the car park and pulled up alongside the bus. A lone female officer got out, stretched and inspected the scene. She gave the bus one long hard look and the combination of horror and disbelief that crossed her face would have won a Grammy in more ordinary circumstances.

The boys held their breath as the officer strode purposefully to the door and rapped on it forcefully. Nibs opened it.

“Afternoon officer!” he said brightly.

“Afternoon…where are you boys off to?”

“Well” answered Slightly “We came up, now we’re about to go down”

“I see” replied the officer, scanning a critical eye over the monstrosity before her. There was an awkward pause as she took in the rust, the missing turn indicators, the cracked glass and the wildly decorated interior. Almost on cue a piece of window trim at the rear fell onto the asphalt with a metallic clatter.

“Just had to stop here for a spell” explained Nibs “The old girl got a bit hot climbing the hill”

“No doubt” replied the officer with a raised eyebrow. “I don’t suppose this vehicle has a current registration or Certificate of Fitness does it?”

“Well…not exactly current…more historical” said Slightly.

“Yes, I’d definitely call 1974...historical” she commented, inspecting the faded stickers on the windscreen. “Perhaps even hysterical. And how would you describe these?” she kicked a bald tyre with her boot.

“Ummm….drag slick?” offered Nibs hopefully.

“Cute, very cute” she replied “Now why don’t you two tell me the real reason this vehicle is on the road today”.

“Well…it’s like this” said Slightly “My brother and I here are working for a company that is involved with shooting a new Zealand movie on the Hutt Valley side of this hill. This bus is an integral part of a scene that is due to be shot tomorrow and we’re transporting it from our fabrication warehouse to the film site in time for that”. He glanced at Nibs. “Aren’t we Nibs?”

“Sure!” exclaimed Nibs, frantically trying to follow the line of utter bullshit his brother had just spouted. “ Er...we’ve had our props guys working flat-out on this for nearly three weeks now. It has to look wrecked so it suits the character who’s playing the owner”. He smiled sweetly.

There was another long pause while the officer processed all this information. Both lads sweated nervously as the sun beat down relentlessly.  She was obviously at the tail end of a shift that had been tiring, sticky and frustrating. To come across a scenario such as the bus would involve a mountain of paperwork. The citations alone could wallpaper a lounge

“Best I better give you an escort down the hill then”

Once again the Lost Boy’s charm of beating the odds had prevailed.

“Sure!” exclaimed Slightly “That would be most appreciated…just give us another 15 minutes for the engine to cool and we’ll be good to go. Look, it’s too hot in here…I'm gonna go get a Coke”

He climbed past Nibs to join the officer, who was already heading towards the welcome shade of the tearooms.

“Bro!...are you mad?” retorted Nibs.

“Listen!” hissed Slightly “I'll keep her busy for fifteen minutes while you bleed up these bloody brakes…o.k?” He pressed the tool bag into Nib’s hands.

“You can’t be serious!”

“Of course I am!” he shot back over his shoulder. “I mean…what could possibly go wrong?”





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