Rubbing her temples, Miss Quine fell into questioning why she had agreed to this trip. Behind her, the bus full of shouting eight and nine year olds was reaching it’s peak. Trying to ignore her school class, she looked out of the window and saw the same scene that she had seen half an hour ago; the desert. The dark yellow, red sand stretched all around them, sometimes tufts of green poked up breaking it up, but she could not name the plants. Ahead of them appeared some mountains, but they looked long off in the distance.
She glanced across at her teaching assistant, Miss Pointer, who was busy trying to stop Timmy from throwing M&Ms at Becky. Stepping in, Miss Quine quickly defused things and took the rest of the candy off him. Timmy sat down in a huff and began blowing bubbles with his saliva. Miss Pointer helped the crying Becky settle back down again.
Miss Quine shoved the packet into her bag then looked for the other four adults amongst the twenty-five children. Mr Seale and Mr Greene were roughly in the middle and singing along with the wheels on the bus song that some demon child had started up. Mrs Fisher and Mr Bennet were at the back and looked so deep in conversation that they had not notice William wiping his nose pickings on the window.
Miss Quine sighed and decided she didn’t have the energy to deal with that. She turned to face the front of the bus again and caught a worried look flash across the driver’s face. Before she had time to ask, she heard the engine make a weird sound and the bus suddenly jerked off the road as if it was a dog being pulled on a leash.
They bounced and skid across the desert. Sand and stones peppered and rattled off the bus as the brakes give a loud squeal. The children started screaming and crying whilst the adults hurried to calm them. The bus spun into a stop and the engine cut out.
Miss Quine snatched a few breaths then stood shaky up. Stepping over to the bus driver she saw he was tightly gripping the wheel. She patted him on the shoulder, called his name and asked if he was okay. After a few moments he came to life and nodded, ‘is everyone okay?’ he shouted.
A half-hearted reply muttered back to him, mingled with sobs and sniffs.
‘I’ll see what’s up,’ he answered, ‘everyone stay on the bus.’
The driver opened the doors and got out. Miss Quine watched him inspecting the bus then felt a tug on her jumper. She looked down and Roy was standing directly there.
‘Miss, I got to go,’ he said quietly.
Miss Quine rolled her eyes and looked up to see if one of the gentlemen was free. They all seemed busy though and she was unable to catch any of their eyes.
‘Okay, Roy,’ she said.
Miss Quine stepped off the bus and he followed her. The earth felt hot under her feet and the air seemed to shimmer around them.
‘Go over there, where no one can see,’ Miss Quine directed as she pointed the child across the road and towards a large cactus, ‘keep away from that though,’ she added.
Roy nodded and took off. Miss Quine turned to the bus driver, who had opened the bonnet and was looking inside.
‘What’s the problem?’ she asked.
‘I think it over heated….not sure…might have to go and get some help,’ the bus driver replied.
‘Help? Out here?!’
‘Don’t worry. There’s a little shop a few miles down this road. We can walk there, be good for the kids.’
Miss Quine looked down the road, but could not see anything. She clicked her tongue and decided there was no choice. Getting back on the bus, she rounded up her class, told them what was going on and after a brief argument with some of them, they all got off the bus and walked down the road.
Staying in their seat arrangements with their buddy, the row of children and adults started walking with the bus driver leading the way. The children talked loudly, pointing out all kinds of things and seemly happy they were now free of the confinement of the bus. Miss Quine took off her jumper, already feeling warm then paused as some of the kids darted off to look at a lizard.
Walking on and the sun shone down, making everyone hot and grumpy. A few times the kids asked if they where there yet and if they were lost and if they could stop. Miss Quine forced them all on whilst she prayed the shop was close. Telling them to sing a song, she whispered to the bus driver, ‘how much further?’
‘Couldn’t tell you,’ he replied.
Miss Quine gritted her teeth and decided this wasn’t the time to give him a piece of her mind.
Finally, a small white building appeared at the side of the road. The kids cried out and pointed at it. Those that had the energy started running whilst the rest tried to get the adults to move faster. Miss Quine sank onto the porch, her feet sore, her t-shirt soaked in sweat and her face bright red. Someone give her a bottle of water and she gulped it down.
The voices of the children faded into the background for a few moments and Miss Quine sorted herself out. The bus driver came up to her as the last of the children vanished into the shop, which Miss Quine guessed had never had so many people in it before.
‘It’s not far to the town. I’ll leave you here now and go and get some help. Should be back soon,’ the driver said.
Miss Quine nodded, thanked him then watched him walk off down the road. Behind her she heard a fight break out and she stormed into the shop.