FRESH YARN presents:

Timmy, Hand Momma her Gun
By Jason Micallef

In college, one of my favorite leisure activities was to ride my bike down the old brick path to the library and hole up for a few hours with The Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The Journal, if you're unfamiliar, is a monthly collection of actual scientific studies with titles like "The Grass is Always Greener: Hermaphrodites living in Rural Settings," or "Double Trouble: Bi-polar Disorder in Conjoined Twins." Though titillating, most of these articles are written by men with PhD's or women with hyphenated last names, so they could be placed under the category "intelligent." I'm not prone to hyperbole but I will venture to say that The Journal of Abnormal Psychology is, and continues to be, the single most brilliant piece of printed matter ever to come from the mind of man.

One day I came across a well footnoted story of a female bus driver in Spain who, late at night, would pick up drunk men, pull the bus over, kill them, remove their ears and sew them to the bottoms of the bus seats. True, it's sick, but you have to appreciate the quirky touches. Did she use a needle and thread, or was a Bedazzler involved? Ears sewn to seats, was there a pun involved that I wasn't getting? A lesser murderer would have just shot their victims in the head and left them for dead, but it takes vision to make it into the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and this particular bus driver had it in spades.

She reminded me of Chastity Blevins.

Being a school-aged child in rural Virginia, the school bus is an important and vital part of any youngster's existence. Thaddeus B. Page Middle School was exactly 22.7 miles from my home, a thirty to forty minute drive that was much longer for some other kids. The bus driver that was assigned your route became, by default, an important figure in your life, usually spending more time with us each day than our parents.

Though she was an adult, our driver insisted we called her Chastity, a prospect both thrilling and terrifying. "We all shit sittin' down, and I ain't no different," she'd say, inhaling half of an Eve Slim 100. Yes. She smoked while driving a school bus packed with children, but before you get alarmed, she was sure to roll down a window, unless it was cold. Part den mother, part dominatrix, Chastity ruled the bus like a manic babysitter, dishing out equal parts love and abuse. If you were good, you got to sit up front, right behind Chastity, and were put in charge of her cigarettes and lighter. It was an esteemed position and, when given the opportunity, we held it with reverence. If you were bad, you were subject to verbal abuse, spankings, or you may not have been picked up at all.

Fortunately "bad" for a group of school children was much different than "bad" for Chastity Blevins. Rumor had it that she had been a stripper at the Pole Cat, but was fired for beating a customer to death. Though it's not the natural progression of things to go from sex-industry murderess to, say, school bus driver, this was Virginia and it seemed like a probable career trajectory.

On a good day, it was all smiles and smooth riding.

"Can't beat this, Can ya' kids?" she'd say, caressing her new blue-black spiky hairdo.

"Nothin' better than Friday night, a new hairdo, and some Boone's Strawberry Hill." She slid the brown paper bag that covered the bottle under her seat and lit another cigarette. For Chastity, the bus was not just a job where she picked up and dropped off kids, but also a job that allowed her to take care of errands, like going to the liquor store or getting her nails done.

"I'll just be a minute. Sit tight and don't touch nothin'" was one of her favorite sayings, usually returning with a discount carton of cigarettes or some unidentified animal squirming inside a burlap bag.

Even though there were many "field trips," as she'd call them, we always got to school on time, mainly, because of what Chastity Blevins did to the governor.

"Goddamn governor. Bane of my mother-effin existence."

The governor, if you're unfamiliar with school bus automotive technology, is a device that controls the speed of the vehicle, making it impossible to go over 55 miles per hour. The day Chastity had it removed was the best day of her life.

"That man is goddamn genius," she proclaimed to a third grade girl with pigtails seated behind her.

"In less than an hour, he rigged this bitch so I can push it up to 80 if I want," she yelled as she peeled the bus out on the highway. "80! Goddamn it. Do you know how fuckin' fast that is?"

The third grader lowered her head into her Trapper Keeper as she clung to the side of her seat, holding on for dear life.

With the added extra fifteen minutes that going 80 MPH allowed, Chastity was a free woman. She picked up groceries, went to the Payless, and even stopped to chat with friends. Though we usually got the first day of hunting season off, the following weeks, men in blaze orange and camouflage could be seen all over the county, walking along the side of the road, carrying their rifles after a day of hunting. A shit-kickin', snuff chewin' George Bailey of sorts, Chastity was quick to offer a hand, French-tips and all.

"Carl?" she'd say to a buck-toothed man, caressing his gun. "I will not let you walk all the goddamn way to the Little Sioux. Get your goddamn ass up in this bus." She opened the door, and Carl hopped up and took a seat. The bus now contained 22 school children, two cartons of cigarettes, a bottle of Irish Cream, a rifle and an ex-stripper.

"Efficiency, kids. That's what it's all about. Anything you can take care of while still on the clock is just more mother-effin' free time for you." It's sad, but I think I learned more from Chastity than any other teacher. She chimed in on a myriad of topics, including politics: "I ain't votin' 'cause they're all the same anyways… The only difference between a Republican and a Democrat is one fucks you in the pussy and one fucks you in the asshole." And sex. "Boys. One word. The clit. Do NOT neglect the clit. I don't care if you're only eight years old. You're gonna need that advice when you're 14."

Ask me the capitol of Malaysia or when the Magna Carta was signed and I'm stumped, but I do know how to make a radar detector out of tin foil, pipe cleaner, and baking soda, all thanks to Chastity Blevins.

Another thing about bus drivers in the South is that, usually, they take their buses home with them. The schools barely have enough money for a fully equipped football team, and they certainly have no money for extravagances like bus yards. I assume there was a rule that said you weren't to drive the bus on weekends for personal use, but Chastity Blevins was a visionary and a maverick who had no use for rules. I once saw Chastity's bus parked outside the Grog N' Tankard, our town's only bar. The windows were cloudy with smoke and the bus rocked from side to side as moans filled the yellow steel hull creating a cackling echo. The next Monday morning, I was sure to choose my seat wisely.

I loved Chastity and she loved me.

"Hey brown eyes," she'd say eyeing my butt through the giant mirror as I took my seat. "If you were just two years older..." I was 12.

She also took a shining to my friend Christine. "Christine. You are pretty as a China doll."

Chastity Blevins was our town's only openly bisexual resident. But then again, Chastity Blevins was the only resident in our town that could afford to be open about her love for "fuckin' it all," as she put it. She could, and regularly did, kick anyone's ass who would dare challenge her or whoever she slept with. Chastity was fond of saying, while eyeing poor Christine, "Why limit yourself? I like the rod and the sod." She was a fountain of knowledge and we loved her for it.

Of course, on Chastity's bad days we learned a whole lot more.

You could always tell when you were entering into one of Chastity's off-days. The bus would fire up, the door would open, and there'd be Chastity staring straight ahead, her leathery skin trying to hang onto her expressionless face. Any kid in the neighborhood with any sense at all knew to get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on. Her bad days were usually a result of her on again off again boyfriend, Dell. Dell had rid Chastity's bus of the oppressive governor, and by the way she talked about him, his hands worked magic in other areas as well.

After taking my seat and securing my backpack to the center pole, the bus swerved past the highway, and onto a dirt road that went nowhere near our school.
"Hold on. Momma's got some business to take care of." Momma was the name she called herself when she was upset.

The bus careened off the dirt road, and onto a driveway covered in oyster shells. Chastity slammed on the brakes, and the bus skidded to a stop, about a foot away from a beige and brown mobile home.

She took a deep breath.

"Timmy," she said to the blonde sixth grader that won cigarette duty for the week. "Hand Momma' her gun."

Timmy, knowing what was best for him, passed Chastity the shotgun she kept under the front seat, "just in case."

"No, not that one. The big one… with the scope."

Chastity walked off the bus, emotionless, carrying the gun, glided up the concrete steps, and before pounding on the front screen door, fired a single shot in the air. Inside, we flocked to the side of the bus that afforded the best view and watched as a sleepy man, in his underwear and no shirt, opened the door. Chastity nodded to him, said something that we couldn't hear, and entered the trailer.

I'm not sure how much time had passed, or what transpired in the trailer, but when Chastity returned, she didn't have a scratch on her. She got on the bus, shut the door and peeled out.

"Timmy. Momma needs two cigarettes. Light both of 'em." Timmy did so and she continued.

"Now. If you want to learn a mother-effen lesson, one that's better than all the crap-ola those uppity teachers will learn ya', the lesson is that you do NOT, and I repeat do NOT "f" your girlfriend's mother under no circumstances, even if she's got a great effin' body and pays you 35 bucks."

Yes. I suppose that was a good lesson to learn. Good thing Chastity wasn't a resident of a part of the country like the North or California where any abnormal behavior would have been identified early, treated, and medicated out of her before she even had a chance to fully develop it. But, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology doesn't quite make it down to rural Virginia, and so folks are free to be themselves (and I don't mean this in a celebrate-diversity-sort-of-way, I mean it in a you-should-lock-your-doors-sort-of-way.) No, much like our President, Chastity had no use for uppity "scientists" telling her what was right or wrong with her. She had her bus, a bottle of blue-black Clairol, and a loaded weapon -- proof there "wasn't nuthin' wrong."

"Now sit down, hold on and shut the fuck up. We gotta' haul ass if I'm gonna' make it on time. My Mom's house is way up the county, and I gotta' kick her ass, then get you assholes back to school before that goddamn bell rings."

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