Jaak’s House – The Valleys
With a bingity-bang like a thousand tin cans Busby the old school bus came rattling down the road… 
Jaak could hear the old school bus grinding its way up the long valley road to where he lived at its end. This noisy approach was somewhat helpful, as the veteran driver a grumpy mountain goat named Thar, waited for no-one if you were late. How these two ancient relics-of-transportation-past managed to hold everything together making the twice daily climbs, traverses and descents of the valley’s often icy roads, was truly one of the marvels of the known universe. Although to be fair, placing the lives of the valley’s children in the hoof-hands of a mountain goat to guide a 30 foot bus safely up and over the valleys many twisting and undulating roads, was not such a bad idea.
Even though Jaak lived near the beginning of the morning bus run and was one of the first to get on, he had learned very quickly that the social order of rural school bus seating allocation was not to be messed with, unless you wanted your whiskers permanently rearranged into underwear lace or your tail twisted like a rubik’s snake-cube. Elementary in the front seats, high school juniors in the middle and seniors at the back.
Jaak frantically grabbed a last piece of toast with one hand, his satchel with the other and tore for the door to make it to his gate – all before Thar had turned the bus at the end of the road. He made it. Just.
The bus door banged shut.
Thar: Tha’ be cuttin’ it fine laddie – ye be at tha’ gate; or I don’ wait!
Knowing better, Jaak said nothing. He quickly made his way to the middle of the bus and flumped himself down on an empty seat. The bus lurched off again down the hill – to collect the next batch of students – all dutifully waiting at their respective gates. The elementary and high school were two valleys away with twisting mountain switch-backs crossing the high ridges. Walking was not recommended.
The bus rattled and door-banged its way through the valley roads. Just before the bus took the last long serpentine haul up, over, and down the ridge to the next valley, it stopped with a screech at a pair of cabins. Jaak sighed inwardly. This stop was the reason that despite there being a number of kids already on the bus, the back seat was still quite empty.
Ounce and Chewie.
Their dads were miners. They sauntered with a smirk onto the bus, the other kids trying not to notice them, suddenly becoming very interested in looking out the windows. As they made their way down to the back of the bus they bumped anyone who may have been even slightly ‘trespassing’ over the armrests into the aisle. As they passed Jaak’s seat, Ounce remarked just loud enough for those around to hear, but not so loud that he could be over-heard by Thar.
Ounce: Hey Chewie – I wonder if the city-litter-boy has worked out how to flush his crap-can yet?
Unfortunately for Jaak, he had made the tactical error of musing a little too loudly and somewhat disparagingly when he first arrived, about the valley waste water system or lack thereof, – and extolling the superiority of the one in the city. Truth be told, he had learned very quickly that the phrase – In the city we… was not generally well received by the valley people. Ounce in particular had taken a particular dislike to Jaak from the outset. His acolyte follower Chewie, who shadowed Ounce everywhere, was quick to parrot anything Ounce said or did.
Chewie: Yeah litter-boy, you worked how to flush your can yet?
If Chewie was capable of original thought he certainly rarely exercised it.
These two, made the same stupid joke everyday and thought it was absolutely freaking hilarious. Jaak said nothing. Getting into any kind of confrontation on the school bus swiftly resulted in all those involved, innocent or perpetrator, being immediately kicked off the bus by Thar – no matter where on the mountain road they were or whatever the weather might be.
Valley High School
The bell rang.
Miss Asha: …and finish reading the chapter we are on, with a written summary of the main points and principles to be handed in by next class. Class dismissed.
The sound of chairs scraping and general exodus filled the room. Miss Asha called to Jaak before he made the door.
Miss Asha: Jaak! Can I have a word?
Jaak turned and approached his science teacher. He liked Miss Asha, but in a slightly awed kind of way. She could be scary when crossed.
Jaak: Yes, Miss?
Miss Asha: Jaak, I was really impressed with the power generator proposal you handed in last week. For most, the proposal was just an exercise – however I wonder if you had considered actually making it?
Jaak: Erm, um, I dunno Miss – I hadn’t really thought about it.
This was not exactly true. The fact was that since seeing the stone powered, steam driven generator at Layan’s satellite station, he had been dreaming of trying to build his own. The main problem other than actually working out how to build a steam engine, was obtaining a stone to drive it. You did not exactly go down to the general store and buy one with your pocket change. The other problem was his father’s dislike of anything modern or even remotely technological. Jaak had not told his father, about the Tet-Net signal now being beamed directly to their cabin. He was fairly certain that trying to build any kind of scientific project at home would be met with a lot of loud unenthusiastic chuffing.
Again, Jaak made it to the bus just in time for the ride home before Thar banged the door shut.
The bus rattled and banged its way up the up the fire circle road one valley and ridge over from Jaak’s own. Jaak was deeply lost in thought gazing out the window.
A well aimed spit wad hit the back of his head.
Jaak: HEY-WAAH! What the F**k??!!
Jaak lept from his seat, made an inelegant somersault with a half-twist over the seat in front, landed on top of a surprised elementary kid, who yowled loudly, finishing his vaulted dismount spread-eagled in the bus aisle.
The back-seat boys were loudly chuffing with laughter, slapping each other on the back.
The bus lurched to a stop. Thar turned in his seat and pointed his hoof-hand towards Jaak and then to Ounce and then to Chewie.
Thar: Thee three! Oot!
Ounce: Awwww! We didn’t done nuttin’!
Chewie: Yeah… we didn’t done…
Thar narrowed his beady eyes and he lowered his head to show his formidable horns.
Thar: I won’ be tellin’ thee three again… now git oot- before I butt ye offa mah bus!
The bus door banged one last time and the bus rumbled away leaving the three boys on the side of the road.
Ounce spun and turned towards Jaak.
Ounce: YOU’RE ROAD-KILL LITTER-BOY!!
Jaak did not wait for Chewie’s echo. Jaak was small, but he was fast. He turned tail and ran on all fours, straight up the side of the hill and into the trees.
Ounce and Chewie tried to make chase, but due to their tendency in life towards general laziness, they quickly gave up.
Jaak however kept on going up and up further into the trees caring little about the low branches that swiped at him as he ran past. Eventually he stopped, breathing heavily. There was no sign of any spit-wad wielding pursuers. He looked around. While he was not exactly sure where he was he did know that his cabin should be somewhere on the other side of the ridge, and he should not be far from the top of the ridge. He also knew that the trail from his cabin that led up to Layan’s cabin continued on down the other side to the road where they had been kicked off the bus. He continued on up through the trees and continued his climb. Eventually he could see a slight thinning of the trees, and just beyond that the ubiquitous rows of parallel logs that lined many of the trails all over the valleys. The going now became easier as he followed the trail on up the hill and eventually as he neared the crest he saw the familiar sight of Layan’s cabin.
 The Bingity-Bangity School Bus; Fleur Conkling, Wonder Books – 1950
Fun fact: The Bingity Banity School bus, was my all time favourite story as a pre-schooler.