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-Neil Gaiman

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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Communist Bus

The last post about drawing dinosaurs got me thinking about a story I had not thought about in a long time. Mainly, because my drawing was a gift in that it made me somewhat worthy and tolerable in the eyes of cooler, older people, i.e. my brother.

My brother Jimmy is 18 months older than me. Not a big difference, but when you're a kid it is huge. Grand Canyon size. A lot of my current sense of justice and equality stems from the fact that as a kid I often couldn't do things that Jimmy could. Either because:

A. I was a girl
B. I was too young

So my righteous indignation grew at this unfair and unjust treatment. Even now when I hear people say, "Life's not fair..." I both want to vomit and bash their head in with a shovel. Simultaneously.

It's not that I don't agree with it. It's true. Life ISN'T fair. But I was sooooo sick of that being the answer that shut down the conversation. There were no appeals.

Where was I?

Oh yes, drawing. Drawing dinosaurs.

This was the one thing I could lord over my older brother. I could draw! Better than him. Better than most kids. Because of that, I had a special power. My brother would let me hang out with him catching bugs, if only because I would carefully render diagrams and drawings and write with perfect penmanship the words, Bumblebee, Wasp, Cricket, Hornet, Daddy long legs, below their preserve corpses, which were stuck to a large piece of cardboard with my mom's thumbtacks.

So I had a use.

Which meant he would let me hang out with him. I was Igor to his Dr. Frankenstein.

So this was around the time that the game, Dungeons & Dragons had gotten popular. My brother had this game. It was complicated, very creative, and I didn't understand it at all. There was a big many sided die, and all these points and weapons and crap. My brother would play this game with his best friend Tim. Tim was a super smart kid yet he wasn't a dork or geek. He was very cute and it is safe to say I had a big crush on him. So I would hang out in the dining room drawing pictures of kickass dragons and trying not to act all moony and dumb around Tim. But I'm sure I did. I think I might have even drawn him a picture of a knight stabbing his sword through a giant orc or something, which was my version of a Valentine card. Nothing says infatuation like a graphic picture of knight-on-orc violence.

So because Tim tolerates his best friend's dorky little sister (me) I decide that I really like him.

Here is where my public humiliation begins.

I don't even remember how the conversation started. But I know how it ended.

We were riding the bus. The god-awful long ass ride to parochial school in Racine. Because we lived out in the boonies our bus ride was probably 45 minutes long. So there was time for heated discussions, arguments, spit-wad fights, and filthy jokes. An aside: all my best filthy jokes I learned on that bus ride to our Lutheran school. I think that would be called irony.

Anyway, I was being a smart ass and probably trying to impress Tim. But, like I said, he was a smart kid, so he could back up his arguments. Anyway, whomever I was arguing with didn't like what I was saying so they said something like, "No, you can't say that!"

My witty response? "Yes, I can! It's a free country!" So there, hah-hah, nanabooboo!

Then Tim yells loudly, "But it's a communist bus!"

I stare, dazed. What? I don't know what communist means. I've heard the word, know it's something not good. I know it's a witty comeback but I have no idea how to respond.

My brother, who has no idea what communist means either, starts laughing hysterically. They're all laughing. At me. The rage is building but I have no outlet. I'm horrified and embarrassed. I think I say something like, "No, it's not..." but already it's too late; I've lost the argument and my dignity. It doesn't matter that no one else knows what the word means, either.

Then I decided I didn't like Tim anymore.

What I should have said, quite calmly, was this: "Actually, that's incorrect to call the school bus system communist. If anything, the idea of busing and the public school system in general should be called socialist. Like it is in the Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden."

And then added: "But I'm sure you knew that...."

It only took me twenty-five years to come up with my comeback.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I love how you write the stories about your childhood; so funny...couldn't stop laughing.