Monday, December 31, 2007

jack and the magic bean bus

chapter 10 - problems seen, and unseen
Unexpectedly, Brendan had just mentioned driving to Denver tomorrow, and Jack realized that this was his ticket for escape. Two problems came to mind right away. First, Jack wasn’t sure that Brendan would be willing or able to give him a ride to Denver. And second, Jack couldn’t find the beans that Sister Kim had given him. They might be anywhere along the night’s ride or even back at Dog Bait’s house. Jack would have to retrace the route to search for the beans.

A third problem was brewing, but Jack knew nothing of it. Raccoons had been tracking the scent trail left by the raccoon pee on Jack’s rear wheel as he rode all the way from Des Moines. And even though about a half dozen of them had been run over by cars and trucks at various points along the way so far, more raccoons kept joining their ranks from the fields and woods along the way as they relentlessly continued the chase.

Normally the hundred and some odd miles that Jack had ridden would have kept him well out of reach for a few days, but these raccoons had connections. In the middle of the night, along a very dark and lonely stretch of highway, a big Des Moines Register newspaper delivery truck pulled over to the side of the road. The truck’s bright headlights stabbed into the darkness ahead while the taillights bathed the scene behind the truck in an eerie red glow.

The rear door of the truck slid up, and a loading ramp dropped to the ground. Then a small army of raccoons quietly appeared out of the brush on both sides of the road and quickly waddled up the ramp into the truck. The ramp was pulled up again, and the rear door closed. Meanwhile, two raccoons that hadn’t climbed into the back of the truck jumped onto the running boards, and the truck pulled away.

For the rest of the night, the delivery truck rumbled along the same roads Jack had traveled earlier that day. The truck would stop at each intersection to allow one of the raccoons on the running boards to jump down and confirm that they were on the trail.
The plan was almost perfect, except that the raccoons that jumped down from the running boards to scout out the trail still had to waddle out into intersections where they were easy prey for approaching cars and trucks. The carnage was as relentless as the chase itself. But for each raccoon that was hit, another one from the back of the truck took its place. Back at the hospital, Jack took a risk and asked Brendan about getting a ride to Denver. “No problem,” said Brendan. “I’ve got space for you and your bike. I’m leaving as soon as I get out of class tomorrow, so be there right at eleven o’clock if you want a ride.” Jack got directions to Brendan’s place and was relieved. One problem was solved.

Now Jack had to deal with the other problem of finding the missing beans that Sister Kim had given him. Jack quickly realized that retracing his path would be impossible. The beater brigade had zig-zagged its way back and forth all over town during the night, and spotting the beans in the dark would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Also, Jack didn’t want to try to explain to Dog Bait about the beans and the mission that Sister Kim had given him. His best shot seemed to be to return to Dog Bait’s for the night and start looking in the morning. They reached Dog Bait’s house well after midnight, and Jack collapsed on the black vinyl couch near the fireplace. The late summer night was still warm, and Jack was sweating as he drifted off to sleep under the watchful eye of the velvet Elvis painting that hung over the fireplace mantle. Each time he turned or rolled over, his skin made the sound of cheese singles being pulled from their plastic wrappers.

Jack’s dreams drifted toward a chef that looked like Elvis who was frying big omelets on a hot sidewalk while tending an oven full of burning pizzas topped with firecrackers that sizzled but never exploded. At one point, Jack even dreamed that Dog Bait had crept into the living room and built a roaring fire in the fireplace as a mean joke.


to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]

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