“Are you ready, Mr. Fontaine?”, he asked
The two men were in a white, concrete
room sitting on the only two plastic chairs in the room. A tape recorder was
on the table between them
and the faint click and hiss of the revolving tape was the only sound in the
room. One man had dark hair cropped
close to his scalp and was wearing a white shirt and dark slacks and a navy
blue tie that he had loosened at the neck and had a navy suit jacket slung
around the back of his chair. He looked
across the table at the second man who was staring down at his hands in his lap
so that his longish blonde hair fell in front of his face. He was wearing a
yellow black-lined hockey
jacket, jeans and an ‘I’m with the band’ baseball cap rested in front of him on
the table. The dark-haired man spoke
know this is tough but it’s best if we hear your story while it’s still fresh.”
The dark-haired man waited but it was as
if the other man hadn’t heard.
“How did you end up driving?”
“Andrew’s Dad called me at lunch. Said
that our bus driver was sick and wouldn’t
be able to drive. That we would all have
to make sure our kids got to the game on their own. I told him that I had a
Class B license and I could drive if that would help.”
He looked up for the first time and the
deep crow’s feet at his eyes belied the baby face and long hair.
“I drove school buses for a couple of
years after I got out of the Forces.”
you offered to drive? And everybody was
good with that?”
You know how it is. It’s a 90-minute
drive from Carp to Greeley and any parents that want to see the game can hop on
the bus. Only kid that didn’t come was
His voice caught on ‘mine’.
“Why wasn’t your boy there, Mr.
“His mom wouldn’t let him come. He
had a big exam the next day, Friday, and
his marks haven’t been so good lately.”
“You were okay with that?”
He shook his head but didn’t speak for
“Nah, I wasn’t ‘okay with it’ but I
don’t win any of those battles.”
“But you still decided to drive?”
“I didn’t find out until late in the
afternoon that Mitch wasn’t going and by then I couldn’t back out. Kind
of wanted to see the game anyway. Greely’s got the best high school hockey
in the region and I wanted to see how we stacked up.”
did you have to arrange to pick up the bus?”
The man shook his head.
“No, they parked it at the school and
left the keys with the secretary. I
could leave it in the school parking lot when we got back and just drop the
keys at the depot in the morning. Tomorrow’s
Saturday and they weren’t going to need the bus until Monday.”
So, did you go straight to the school?
“Pretty much. I had to stop at the
bank and pick up some
cash for the weekend.”
So, the bus is there when you get to the
school and you had no problem getting the keys and getting on the road?”
He shook his head.
“Sam and her dad were a couple of
minutes late, but they always are.”
“Only girl on the team. Smart, tough,
quick. Be the best player on the team if she was a
little stronger. As it is, she gets
The man paused and looked up.
“What about Sam? Do we know?”
sorry, Mr. Fontaine, we haven’t heard any details—they’re still trying to sort
That wasn’t exactly true. Sixteen were
dead, seven were at the hospital
and one of them looked like he wasn’t going to make it. There were only
two females on the passenger
list they had put together and both were dead.
There were three people who hadn’t needed to be hospitalized, all
adults. He allowed a short silence.
“So, the drive there was uneventful?”
Roads were fine. Not too much
“How many on the bus?”
“Not sure exactly. There are sixteen
kids on the team but Jake
wasn’t there so there were 15 kids and a bunch of parents. Carol and Frank
King, John Francis, Mike’s
dad, I forget his name…I don’t know, maybe 11 or 12 parents.”
“You didn’t keep a list? Just
to be sure you didn’t leave anybody
The blonde man looked up from his hands.
“I knew how many kids and which
kids. The rest of them are adults. They
knew what time we were leaving.”
“Did anybody get left behind?
He shook his head.
Jason drove there with us but wasn’t on the bus back because his Dad
lives out Greely way and it was his dad’s weekend to have him.”
“So, you figure about 25 people
“Something like that.”
“Okay then, Mr. Fontaine, can you tell
me what happened on the way back?”
The dark-haired man had been expecting a
long pause here but didn’t get it.
“It had started snowing by the third
period so when the kids came off the ice we told them to hurry it up so we
could get going but y’know kids…”
Anyway, it’s probably 35-40 minutes
after the game before we get everybody rounded up and the gear stowed and by
then it’s snowing pretty good. But what
do you do…?”
wants to get a hotel when they’re only 90 minutes from home. “
The dark-haired man nodded but didn’t
The blonde man looked at him for a long
time then finally looked back down at his lap before he started talking again.
“Anyway, we get on the road and it’s
pretty bad but not the worst I’ve ever seen.
The snow’s drifting so I can’t see the lines in spots but there wasn’t a
lot of traffic and I’m just taking it slow.
The kids are making a lot of noise in the back but that never bothers
He looked up again as if not sure the
“When you’ve driven a bus full of 1st
graders every day for two years you get used to the noise.”
The dark-haired man forced a smile and
“OK, Mr. Fontaine, so you’re driving,
the kids are having fun in the back, the conditions are pretty bad…what happens
The blonde man looked back down at his
hands and his hair fell back in front of his face. He moved his hands onto the
looking up. His left hand had a long red gash and twitched and jerked before he
covered it with his right hand and then pulled both hands back into his lap.
His head started to come up and then stopped.
He twisted in his chair so that he was now facing the door out of the
room but still didn’t look up from his lap.
The dark-haired man could see his hands, now fists, clenched on his lap
and then he started pounding his knees hard with his fists and rocking slightly
in the chair.
“Just give me a second.” It came out as
They sat there for several minutes until
finally the man turned back to the table.
“I’m not exactly sure what
happened. I think I must have gone on
automatic pilot. You know how it is
sometimes when you’re driving? You get
thinking and you’re not completely focused on what you’re doing? Anyway,
I remember seeing the headlights way
up ahead. We were on a long straight
stretch and I could see that something big was coming and at the same time I
noticed that I was doing about 90.
Faster than I wanted to be going.
So, I edged over a little towards the side and just tapped the brakes to
slow down to 70 or 80. I guess the combination of turning slightly and hitting
the brakes got the back end swinging a little, I tried to correct it but
overcorrected a little then tried to swing it back again and by that time it
was gone and I wasn’t getting it back.”
He stopped again.
“Can you remember what happened next,
“You know, I’ve heard people say that it
happens so fast that they don’t really know what happened until it’s over.”
He shook his head.
“Not this. It felt like it was in slow
motion. I could feel the back end sliding.
Twenty degrees, 30, 40 and the tractor
trailer just keeps coming. I guess he’s
got no place to go. By the time he hits
us, it’s completely broadside. I feel
like I was watching the truck driver’s face for the last few seconds but that
doesn’t make sense because I was facing away from him by that point.”
“The mind plays tricks, Mr. Fontaine.”
There was a knock on the door and
another detective stuck his head in the door as the dark-haired detective
turned around impatiently in his chair, but his expression changed when he saw
who it was.
“Hey Barts, they got the guy who burned
Goodie. Holed up with some chick in
China town – only took three days for him to piss her off bad enough to rat him
out. Looks like a drug thing. Thought
you’d want to know.”
“Thanks Rags. Hang around eh? I want to hear the nuts and bolts.”
The detective nodded, pulled his head
back and closed the door.
“Sorry, Mr. Fontaine, another case we
were working on.”
“That the guy that got killed in the
“Yeah, Bryan Goodie. We were pretty
sure it was a drug beef, but
you never know for sure. So, you were
don’t remember the collision or any noise but there must have been. I just
remember that I’m in the aisle of the bus and the bus is on its side but when I
look back down the aisle there is a gaping hole where the back of the bus used
to be and it’s getting cold and snow is starting to blow into the bus and I’m
thinking that we don’t want to let all that snow in the bus. That people are
going to get cold.”
He shook his head.
“Shock messes you up, Mr.
“Anyway, Jamie’s dad had been up keeping
me company and he’s still in the front left seat, but the seat has been torn
off the floor and is leaning against the doors.
He was unconscious but I could see that he was still breathing. And I
couldn’t see any blood. I tried to wake
him but I couldn’t. And there was no way I was going to be able to drag him out
through the back, so I start working my way to the back of the bus. I’m not
sure what I was thinking. I wish I could say that I was trying to figure out
the best way to help but I actually can’t remember what I was thinking. I get
to the back but it’s a mess. Most of the seats have been torn at least partly
loose and it was an obstacle course. One
of the kids was still in the seat but I couldn’t tell…”
He swiped at his eyes with a coat
“What couldn’t you tell, Mr. Fontaine?”
“Who it was.”
“How did you know it was one of the
The detective was getting used to the
extended pauses and waited without moving.
“At first I thought the bus had been
torn in two, but it hadn’t completely.
One of the bus sides had held but the back end was folded back so the
bus was bent in a V and there was a big hole. The truck was in the ditch on its
side but one of the headlights was still working and even though it wasn’t
pointed right at the road it was shedding some light and the road looked weird
and uneven. I realized after a second
that the bumps were bodies.”
“Has any help arrived yet, Mr.
There wasn’t much traffic and so it took
awhile. I managed to jump down out of
the bus. Might be when I cut my hand.
The first person I get to is Ronny
Gervais. I think I knew he was gone but
I started giving him CPR and...”
The dark-haired man interrupted.
“You’re trained in CPR, Mr. Fontaine?”
“I’ve been a coach and a trainer for
Mitch’s minor hockey teams.”
“Mitch is your son, sir?”
and all coaches and trainers have to have basic first aid.”
“How long did you work on the boy,
He shook his head.
“Not sure. For a while. I stayed with
Ronny ‘till the
ambulances showed up. Just couldn’t
bring myself to leave him. Big, strong
kid but one of the outsiders on the team.
First year on the team and not one of the favorites. Always managed to
say the wrong thing…and not
a great player. Funny how that seems to
matter to the other kids. But, I had a
soft spot for him. He loved being on that
team…maybe more than anybody. I think he
would have found his place.”
“So, you didn’t move from there until
the police and ambulance showed up?”
The blonde man shook his head. They sat
there for a long minute then the dark-haired man reached forward and hit the
stop button on the tape recorder.
“I think we’re done here for now, Mr.
Fontaine. We’ll probably want to speak
to you again, but I think we’re good for now.”
The man didn’t look up.
The dark-haired man cleared his throat.
“Have you got somebody who can come get
The man looked up startled.
“Have you got somebody who can pick you
He shook his head.
“Well, we can find somebody to take you
home if you need a lift.”
The man looked at him blankly for a
second and then realized what was happening.
“I can go home.”
“Yes sir. We’re done for now.”
The blonde man just stared at his hands
as if he could see something there that they couldn’t. The detective shifted
in his chair, impatient
now that the interview was over. The other man began to speak without looking
up as if he had forgotten that he had been dismissed.
“You had some magazines out front.”
Still looking at his hands something
shifted in his face, almost a smile.
“No offense but…Discover magazine? Not
what I expected in a cop shop. I would have guessed Sports Illustrated…
maybe Time, I don’t know.”
The detective frowned.
“Mr. Fontaine, are y….”
“So, there was an article about parallel
universes. You ever heard of that?”
He looked up then, waiting. The
detective held his gaze for several seconds before shaking his head
“I don’t know anything about physics but
I guess folks who do, they say that if the laws of nature work the way we think
they do, then there are an infinite number of other universes out there,
universes almost exactly like ours but each one differing in some small
The blonde-haired man paused, staring
again at his hands. When he spoke, the detective had to lean in to hear him.
“Do you think that might be true? Is
there a place out there somewhere, where
my boy gets on the bus, where his Mom doesn’t mind that he misses school to
The blonde man pushed himself up from
the table but staggered a little bit and had to catch himself.
He gave a little embarrassed smile to
“Foot’s asleep. I’ll be
He stamped the floor twice, hard, picked
his hat up off the table, walked to the door of the concrete room, opened it
and walked out.
All he remembered was coming out of the
door to his apartment and somebody calling out his name.
He had turned and there was a guy in a hoodie
and low riders and a gun held straight out in front of him in one hand. Probably
a jig but you never knew these days
– everybody was a wannabe. The shooter’s
face had been shadowed by the hoodie and he barely got a look before the
bullets hit him.
He had no idea why he was still
walking. He had woken up in an alley
about 4 blocks from his house and he had 3 scars that looked like bullet
wounds. One had almost taken out his
left nipple, another was high on his chest just below his right shoulder and
the other was high on his left thigh.
He stood in front of the mirror in his
boxers touching the scars. They weren’t
even a bit sensitive. But they were
new. Fuck it. Didn’t have
time to worry about old scars he
had never seen. He had to figure out how
he was getting Sofa off his ass. He
turned away from the mirror and walked into the bedroom and flopped on the
mattress. He lay for a second with his hands laced behind his head. That fucker
would kill him twice if he didn’t get his money back. Fuckin’ hookers
and tweak were gonna be the
death of him. He needed ten large.
Either use it to pay off Sofa or the nut he needed to get out of town.
He got up again off the bed and back
into the bathroom to stand in front of the mirror staring at the scars.
He wasn’t sure how long he was in the
alley, but somebody had been in, maybe the cops, while he was gone, ripped the
place up and a bunch of stuff was missing.
They had found his stash and taken it.
Fuckers. They hadn’t taken the
bread and peanut butter or the beer.
That was something. And the cable
was still working.
He hadn’t left his apartment in two
days. It was too fucked up. Maybe
Sofa knew he wasn’t dead and he’d be
waiting. Or one of Sofa’s boys would see
him and it would be same shit, different day.
He’d gone down and stood looking out the front door window…even opened
it a crack and looked up and down the street but couldn’t get himself to step out.
But he couldn’t stay here forever.
Only one fuckin’ way to do this. Take
down a bank. They must have 10 grand hangin’ around. Maybe
more. Maybe get lucky and it’s payday or
One of his buddies said that banks were
easy because tellers were told to give up the cash. It was all covered by insurance,
minded handing over the money. But he’d
still need a piece. Couldn’t go into a
bank with empty hands and a hard-on and hope somebody would give you
money. He’d had one but those fuckers
had taken it too. Fuckin’ dickheads.
Probably end up getting’ into it with the cops and get shot with his own
gun. Fuck that. He’d do
the shootin’ if there was gonna’ be
Mo always had a piece. Maybe he’d give
him a loaner. That would mean phoning him and then Sofa
would know for sure he was still walking.
But he couldn’t do this without a gun.
He went to the phone and stood with the
receiver in his hand for a long time until it started with the busy signal. He
put it back in the cradle, picked it up again and hit Mo’s number.
“Mo, it’s the Goods.”
There was a long silence.
“Who the fuck is this?”
“It’s Goodie, man. What the fuck?”
There was another long pause.
“Goodie got done, man. Stone done.
“Well, then I’m a fuckin’ ghost,
Stop fuckin around I need some help.”
He pulled the receiver from his ear and
banged it twice hard on the table and then stood with it in his hand breathing
deep, his eyes closed, the veins on his skinny arms standing out as he clenched
the receiver tightly in his hand. This
had been a bad idea. He slammed the
receiver back into the cradle but missed and caught his finger between the
receiver and the phone.
“Fuckin’ fuck, ratfucker!!” He
hopped up and down sucking on his injured
finger. He could hear the faint voice
still coming from the receiver and he tore the wire from the wall and hurled
the phone at the wall. It smashed hard,
bounced back and he had to hop quickly to avoid the receiver as it flopped back
at him. He stood in the middle of the
room, his chest heaving and his fists clenching and unclenching at his
side. Fuck, fuck, fuck. That had
made things worse. Much worse. Even if Mo wasn’t sure it was really him,
would still get word to Sofa and Sofa wouldn’t let it lie. He had to move
quick. And still no piece.
Rudy his landlord had one. He and
Rudy never talked but he had heard him chatting with the new girl in apartment
3. Showing off. Saying if she
had any trouble to come get
him. He had just the thing to take care
of any problems. She had asked what he
meant and he had held out his arm like it held a gun and squinted through one
eye. “Feelin lucky, punk?” Yeah, that’s
what he had said. Like anybody would
mistake Rudy for Clint. Fat, bald,
pit-stained Rudy. He’d be lucky he
didn’t blow his own dick off. Actually
hard to believe he owned a gun and had lasted this long.
Goodie stood across the street, watching
people walking in and out of the bank. Might
be more money if he waited a day, they probably loaded up on Fridays, people
taking out money for the weekend. But,
he couldn’t wait another day. It had all
seemed easy thinking about it last night. Now his hands were shaking and he had
to bury them in his pockets so nobody would see. His right hand gripped the gun
and it made him feel better. It was a
good plan. Go in the door with the
hoodie down and flip it up as you walk in.
He hadn’t been able to see the guy who shot him, even looking straight
at him. No way the cameras were going to
be able to see him from an angle. Shout for anybody who was in the bank to get
on the ground. Make sure to wave the gun
around so everybody sees it. Get all the
tellers to lie down except for the hot one, the one with the big tits that
worked the far counter. She could scoop
from all the other tellers. Maybe get
her to do it with no shirt on just for kicks. His mouth felt too dry to even
grin. Who knew, maybe she liked the bad
boys? Maybe she’d be looking at him
while she was pulling out the money.
Looking at him like she wanted some of that bad boy.
had gone wrong from the minute he had opened his mouth. He had shouted for everybody
to get down and one
lady hadn’t moved, frozen where she was standing. He had whacked her with
the butt of the gun
and she still didn’t go down. He had to
hit her twice. Fuckin’ twat. The
hot chick wasn’t working, some skinny fag
in a yellow suit jacket with rolled up sleeves behind the counter. And then
that crazy fucker. Look around and the guy in the ballcap and
hockey jacket is sitting up tying his shoe lace. You fuckin’ believe that? Not even looking at him at first, just tying
his shoelace like that’s what he sat down to do. He shouts at the
guy “Lay down,
motherfucker!!” Nothing. Doesn’t
even look up. He shouts at him again and this time the guy
looks up but he doesn’t look real scared.
A little maybe but not bad. The
guy just looks at him and keeps tying. Stupid
fucker. So, he walked over and the guy
just kept looking and tying his shoe.
So, he burned the guy. One shot
to the head, right through the ‘b’ in band.
Then, one more. Fuck, fuck,
fuck. Didn’t even get the money.
Flipped out and left. Now, he’s back here. And Sofa knows he’s out there with no place
else to go.
Jeff Houlahan has
a B.A. in Psychology, a B. Sc. and Ph. D. in Biology and
has been published in Blackheart
Magazine, Eunoia Review, and Apocrypha