The Beer Czar’s evil black bus, with the thugs and the entire raccoon army on board, had
disappeared down the road, shrieking, howling, and tearing each other to pieces. The Des Moines Register’s
computer auditing system was no longer showing that Jack owed the paper any money.
The spare tire was installed and the Short Bus was ready to roll into Missouri Valley for the start of Ragbrai.Bowlingball’s truck made a wide circle in the parking lot and pulled alongside the Short Bus. Roger leaned out of the passenger side window shouting, “I know the back roads into Missouri Valley. We’ll avoid the traffic jam at the interstate exit. Follow us.”
They took a right turn out of the abandoned gas station parking lot and drove east under a narrow bridge beneath one set of railroad tracks before crossing another set. At the T-intersection, Kelby followed Bowlingball and swung the bus to the left. Jack looked out the window just in time to see a sign indicating that they were now on the old Lincoln Highway. Jack’s thoughts turned to
Sister Kim, who had told Jack many stories of how he had helped to build the Lincoln Highway as the nation’s first transcontinental route. Jack remembered how Sister Kim had told of the Lincoln Highway being built from the west coast and the east coast simultaneously, and how the two ends had finally met in the small town of Nevada, Iowa, and how Sister Kim had been chosen to paint
the ceremonial golden center stripe down the road at that spot.
Jack knew that it was a bunch of crap, but he didn’t care. Sister Kim had been like a father to him.
The Lincoln Highway followed the train tracks and the profile of the land the way old roads do, alongside
the Loess hills making graceful arcs just to their right. Then the old road turned, cutting north and crossing the Boyer River toward Missouri Valley. The town’s
water tower was in sight straight ahead, but Bowlingball’s truck turned to the right and Kelby’s Short Bus followed, keeping to the back roads until they finally emerged once again on the Lincoln Highway at the far side of town. They continued past a Pizza Hut and then slowed and pulled into the driveway of Roger’s boyhood home.
Jack climbed off of the Short Bus and out onto the driveway
with everyone else. Some other riders who had already arrived were sitting on
the big porch. Among them were Brendan and Mongo, who quickly introduced Jack toJimmy, Matt, Kristin, and Sherry as well asBeth, Amy, Kim and Chris. And then Jack finally noticed
Sister Kim, sitting with a quiet smile and a hot cup of good coffee.There were hugs and cheers and congratulations all around, and
Jack rapidly became the center of attention and had to explain to everyone all about his adventures since his escape from the orphanage almost a year ago.
When the story was finally wrapped up and everyone else began unpacking and setting up camp, Sister Kim motioned for Jack to have a seat. He introduced Jack to
Rick, and Lisa. “They have a surprise for you, Jack,” said Sister Kim as he pointed around the side of the house. Jack hopped off of the porch and looked around the corner.
There, leaning against the side of the house, was Jack’s old racing bike that he had lost in Iowa City. Sister Kim explained that G-Pickle had found the bike in the shrubs along the river the next morning and knew it belonged to Jack. He passed it on to Rick, who fixed it up again. “We brought it in our baggage truck from Cedar Rapids today,” said Cozad.
Jack thanked them over and over again and wouldn’t be satisfied until he had taken it for a little test ride. It was good to be back on his own bike again.When Jack returned from his test ride, almost everyone had already headed downtown for the evening’s festivities. But Sister Kim was still sitting on a lawn chair on the porch, admiring the sunset and the old Lincoln Highway that ran past the house. Jack carefully leaned his bike against the side of the house and sat down next to him.
After a long while, Jack finally spoke up. “I’m sorry aboutthe magic beans. I took them all the way to Kelby’s but he didn’t want them. Then I lost the beans when I made a stupid bet with the Beer Czar just outside of town. I don’t even know if they were magic beans.”
Sister Kim turned to look at Jack with his kind eyes and gentle smile. “The beans served many good purposes along the way, but the beans themselves weren’t magic. Your quick thinking, the friendships you made, and Ragbrai itself provided the magic. Now you are safe and sound and you have a whole week of Ragbrai in front of you to enjoy.”
Jack thought for a moment and then said, “That’s cool, but I was thinking of taking off about halfway through the week and heading back to Iowa City. I want to start a restaurant or something anyway, maybe go to Europe and see Jason. I don’t know.” A soft snoring sound told Jack that Sister Kim’s narcolepsy had put him to sleep in the middle of their conversation, just like the old days at the orphanage. Shrugging his shoulders, Jack quietly stepped down the porch stairs, took his bike from the side of the house, and headed for downtown. He had friends to meet up with and a red beer ticket to use.
to be read and shared...[a serial by little orphan dbax]--THANKS, DADDY!!
to read and enjoy the entire 43 installments [including the prologue and soon-to-be-published "missing link" chapter 18], go to the "magic bean bus blog" where ALL chapters can be found.