28: Karma on the Middle School Bus

28: Karma on the Middle School Bus

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Karma on the Middle School Bus

I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that I will fall heir.

~Joan Oliver

The chaotic din of restless kids filled the yellow school bus. I leaned my head against the black plastic seat, feeling every bump as the driver jostled down the snow-filled streets of the sleepy hamlet of Jamesville. The squeaky brakes signaled each stop and even though I knew the bus carried fewer and fewer students, the noise level remained high. The girl with the biggest mouth sat directly behind me. She ran her freshly manicured nails through long strands of perfect blond hair that framed her flawless complexion. Classmates buzzed around her as if she were a queen bee. I tried to keep a safe distance so I wouldn’t get stung. But on this day, she tested my limits.

I ignored the annoying kicks to the back of my seat. I wanted to scream at her, “Quit it!” I slowly sunk deeper into the hard seat and said a soft prayer begging God to help me remain calm. The more I prayed, the louder she became. I searched through my backpack trying to find a book to read, anything to distract me. I only had a math book and even though I didn’t want that, I opened it to the chapter on fractions and pretended I cared about my homework. Her ridicule grew intense. I felt as if I were going to implode. On the inside I was screaming, “Shut up!” but this girl would never know because I remained aloof.

I thought about the snacks that awaited me at home: a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows bobbing at the rim and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t wait for my mother’s arms to hold me. I looked out the window and realized I was still miles from home and I wanted to cry. “Please, God, keep me strong,” I prayed under my breath, “and make Olivia shut up.”

I played with my soft pink mittens and admired my bronze skin, a suntan I kept year round—a gift from my Romanian ethnicity. I felt blessed that Mom and Dad adopted me from a horrible orphanage. I decided Olivia was just an annoyance. I smiled at the strength God gave me, but it faded quickly.

“I’ll take that,” Olivia sneered as she snatched my fuzzy pink hat from my head.

“Please give it back,” I asked in a timid voice. I sat sideways on the seat with my feet in the aisle so I could look her in the eye. “You don’t even wear hats, Olivia. Give it back.” Without a moment’s hesitation, she lunged from her seat and stomped on my foot, the one with a bone tumor. I felt a surge of pain shoot up my leg. “Oww! Olivia, you hurt me!” I cried. She threw my hat in my face and got off the bus. I used it to wipe the tears that flooded my eyes so the other kids on the bus wouldn’t see. I was almost home.

When the bus driver stopped in front of my house, I carefully walked down the aisle. Each step was as painful as the kick Olivia delivered. I struggled over the snowbank and up my long driveway. I was so happy to see my Mom that I burst into tears. After I told her what happened, she examined my foot to see if I needed another operation.

“I think you’re going to be okay,” she said through a long swaying hug. “We need to talk to Olivia’s parents and the school principal.”

“No,” I pleaded. “It will only make her mad.”

“It can’t be avoided,” Mom said, still holding me.

“Will she be punished?”

Mom thought for a moment. “It’s all about Karma. What goes around comes around.”

I didn’t quite understand, but Mom said in time I would. My mother insisted she would take care of everything. Even though I trusted her, I dreaded going to school the next day. I had to face Olivia in the principal’s office, where she gave me a half-hearted apology. When I thought about bullies, I didn’t picture one with long blond hair, twinkling blue eyes and a superficial smile. Olivia was a bully in disguise. I distanced myself from her and managed to get through the rest of the school year without any repercussions from the bus incident. I sat directly behind the driver and kept a low profile. Olivia sat in the back seat and blabbed up a storm to anyone in earshot.

All kids love the last day of school because it represents the end of homework and the first day of summer vacation. It was the best for me because of the bus ride home. Olivia was being a bully as usual, making snide comments to unsuspecting kids. On this particular day, one fifth grade boy was bearing the brunt of her wrath. He was unusually small and his ashen face looked troubled.

“What are you looking at?” she bellowed.

“Nothing,” he mumbled, looking terrified.

It seemed as if he wanted to say more, but when he opened his mouth to speak, he ended up vomiting all over Olivia and her taunting smile. She was covered head to toe in the stuff, and the bus broke out in a jubilant cheer, making the weary fifth grader a hero. I, of course, was his biggest fan. As I walked up the driveway to my house that afternoon, I wasn’t singing my usual “No more teachers, no more books.” Instead, another thought swirled around in my head: “What goes around comes around.”

~Andrea Canale

More stories from our partners