By Alan Ten-Hoeve
I nosed the school bus around Bantam Lake.
Let my mind disengage and wander.
It’d been a stressful few months.
Life was unraveling.
And trying to hold on only gave me rope burns.
But it was a beautiful morning.
The sun had just crested the dark hills.
Dense morning mist hovered over the water.
About a half mile away a dark shape drifted toward shore.
Through the mist it kinda looked like that famous picture of the Loch Ness Monster.
When I came around the bend I was able to make out what it was.
A giant unicorn floaty had come unmoored and was drifting freely around the lake.
The kind that could hold a lot of drunk knuckleheads.
One rainbow wing had lost air and dragged in the water.
As I got closer I noticed the peaceful look on the unicorn’s face.
Eyes closed, snout down, giving it the appearance of a sanguine smile.
Like it knew things I never would.
A goddamn air-filled plastic Buddha.
Calmly coursing across an inland sea to bring enlightenment.
Majestic in its natural habitat.
With the dark hills and mist I thought it would make a great picture for Instagram.
Too bad I’d passed it.
Maybe I’ll see it like that again someday.
And have time to stop.
Someday never comes.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that unicorn.
A mile later I said fuck it.
Down shifted and whipped my yellow whale around the triangle on 109, back toward the lake.
Tires squealed on the pavement.
Car horns sliced the air.
“Yo, bus driver, what’re’ya doin’? School’s that way.”
“Snap! He kidnappin’ us yo!”
I’d forgotten about the kids in back.
“This’ll just take a minute,” I said.
When I got to the unicorn I put my hazards on and pulled the bus over.
Retrieved my phone from the glovebox.
Opened the camera.
“He gonna drive us inna lake! Du’s like, I’ma sicka’deez kids, I’ma drown‘eez muhfuckaz.”
Cars stopped in front and behind the bus, drivers craned their necks, unsure what to do.
Wondering if they should pass.
“Yo, that du crazy,” a kid said.
I didn’t care.
Once I got the picture, a strange calm washed over me.
A sensation I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Yo. bus driver.”
The kids were all huddled at the windows looking down at me.
Some looked worried.
Some looked amused.
Some looked worried and amused.
I looked at the picture I’d just taken.
It was good.
Would probably get a lot of likes.
“Yeah. I think I am.”
I got back behind the wheel.
The kids slowly lost interest in me again.
Went back to their phones.
The rest of my morning route went by in a warm fuzzy daze that engulfed me like a blanket.
I was the fucking unicorn.
Who’s crazy now?
Alan ten-Hoeve wrote Notes from a Wood-Paneled Basement (Gob Pile Press) and Burn (KLR10 Malarkey Books). Tweets @alantenhoeve