Although the idea of going to church as a family had been abandoned but that didn‘t mean we were done with dodging the a attempts to claim our souls. My brother Bubba was friends with the oldest of Brother Freds boys. I’m assuming it was through him that our mother found out about the good old fashioned tent revival. The revival had the added benefit of having a bus at their disposal. This meant they could pick us up for the revival and drop us off after. Meaning no effort on the part of the adults.
I’m fuzzy on the details and what subtle manipulations must have taken place but somehow I was offered a choice and I agreed to go. Maybe it was the oppressive Summer heat or something had been put in my food. Regardless of the cause I went, and, to my recurring shame and horror, I went willingly.
After dinner we were made to put on our best jeans and shirts with collars and sent outside to wait for our ride. Forty five minutes later it slowed in barreled up the road like a bad omen.
The outside of the retired school bus was rusting through dull baby blue paint that was usually meant for the exterior of houses. The interior was worse off. The idea being that, once inside, a person was pretty much trapped so why bother with luxuries.
On first glance the seats appeared to come in three decorative patterns. The first I would call “Faith in Tape”. Black electrical tape, Silver duct tape and a wide clear tape that picked up hair and fuzz were randomly applied to hold together what remained of blue vinyl seat covers.
The second design would be called “Early Junkyard” all pretense at saving these seats was gone and all that remained were rusted springs and tufts of a sickly yellow stuffing that looked alarmingly like the remains of road-killed bunnies or possums.
I labeled the third style “Garage Sale Special” the blue vinyl was in tact with only a few cracks from age and maybe a little general fading. These seats were obviously the most superior and if I wanted one for myself I would have to act fast.
I pushed past Bubba and the preachers boy, Chad, and quickly made my way to one of the last good seats. In my haste I failed to see the chain stretched across the opening at seat level. I tripped and fell forward stopping myself on the seat cushion and only barely keeping myself from falling through the jagged hole in the floor and onto the white limestone gravel that made up our road.
“Don’t sit there, Can’t you see the chain?” This command came from the general direction of the drivers seat.
I found a mostly taped seat and flopped down in it and waited for my heart to settle down. My fear was just turning about to turn the corner to becoming anger and I was halfway through mentally recounting why these people should be killed for risking my life when the bus went from a city maintained road to a county maintained road. In rural Missouri “County Maintained” was the politically correct term for “not maintained”.
It was now obvious that the same level of care shown for the interior of the bus had been extended to shock absorber maintenance. Each bump and pothole sent us flying. The impact of landing would snap our heads forward sending our front teeth careening toward a steel bar set at the perfect level for crushing even the hardest teeth down to the gumline.
These people were the real thing. They were willing to snatch up unknown children and place their lives in danger. This was real faith. They had Faith that nobody would fall through the floor, they had Faith nobody would need a full set of dentures by the end of the night, They had Faith the bus would stop when it was supposed to, go when it was supposed to and not not burst into flames.
All of this faith must have been contagious. Because for the first time ever I prayed. I didn’t just pretend like I usually do this timeI sincerely prayed. If not for my eternal soul at least for my spine, my teeth and my general mobility.