Weird Band Chaperons
We are close friends who were brought together through our repeated years of band practice. Meg is quiet and shy, with or without her flute. Dan, who plays trumpet, and Kyle with his French horn, are our loud ones. These two tall giraffes can be attention-grabbing fanfares even without their instruments. The other guy in our friendship gang is Dakota. He is short, intense, and as relentless as his drumming in the band performances. I am Dee, the last of our group, the other girl of our five, and I play the piano in our band flawlessly.
We all live in the small country community of Agassiz, just a speck of five thousand people. But, according to Dakota, our statistics nerd, Agassiz sits northeast of the bustle and big city hustle that runs along Number One Highway from Chilliwack to Abbotsford and on to the Greater Vancouver area of 2.6 million people. My story is about our school band trip to Vancouver, which stretched our friendship to the point of breaking like a rubber band. It was only to be a day trip instead of an excursion to hell and back.
That morning, I was sleepy and felt rushed as I boarded the bus with all the other band members. Meg spotted me from near the back of the bus and waved for me to come to her seat. Dan, Kyle, and Dakota were sitting behind her seat on the left part of the long bench, backseat of the bus. Two-parent chaperons shared the back seat with the boys, so we five were pretty much on good behavior as the bus departed town. We were headed to the Vancouver Kiwanis Concert Band and Orchestra Festival at Massey Theatre in the New Westminister part of Vancouver.
As the bus entered the busy Number One Highway westward toward Vancouver, Mr. Lenard, our band leader, made his announcements. He rattled off: when we would arrive at Massey Hall, our performance time in the program, and various details and instructions that he probably knew we would not remember. He also introduced our two-parent chaperons as the fathers of two of our band members, Ruben and Ralph. But no one in our group could think of any students by those two names in our band. The five of us exchanged puzzled glances. Dakota turned to the two chaperons to ask them which instruments their sons played in the band, but his words caught in his throat. The men looked at him with blank eyes, and an expression that he felt was unfriendly, even menacing.
Not one, to not get an answer, Dakota sent a text to all of us, which read, “One of you should ask the two adults about their sons because they are too weird for me to speak to them.” Both Dan and Kyle were eager to ask the chaperons about their sons. They were not easily intimidated by adults or anyone. They were sure Dakota was exaggerating the chaperons’ weirdness, as they often say that most teachers, parents, and adults are born weird and never grow out of it.
I heard Kyle ask forcefully, "Excuse me, but which of you is the father of Rueben and who is the father of Ralph?”
One man answered, “Reuben is my son.”
The other man said, “Ralph is my son.”
“Which band instruments does Reuban play?” Dan asked.
“He plays the accordion,” the man answered.
“But we don’t have an accordion player in our band,” Dan said bluntly.
“Then I must be on the wrong bus,” the man said, “or I have the wrong son.”
Kyle challenged the other man; which instrument does Ralph play?
“He plays the lute,” the man replied.
“Do you mean a flute? Kyle questioned, and the man shook his head no.
We don’t have a lute in our band.” Kyle stated firmly.
“You should,” the man said. “I guess I, too, am on the wrong bus or have the wrong son."
Both men smiled at each other and laughed together like they were laughing at us or at some private joke.
As their laughter faded, the bus lurched sharply, there was a road sound, and it felt like we had blown a back tire. The bus served, and about on the highway. The bus driver yelled, “Everybody, keep seated and hang on!” He struggled to keep control of the bus.
I blurted to Meg in a panic, “If we go off the highway, we’ll hit the ditch, and the bus could roll over.”
Meg whispered back, “It will be alright; the bus has to stop so the two ghosts can get off the bus. She pointed to the two men in the backseat, our chaperons.
“You think the chaperons are ghosts?” I gasped.
“Yes, I see things that others don't see, but keep that just between us. Meg said like it was no big deal.
My teeth began to chatter in fright, and I shivered in a cold sweat as the bus swayed and veered from side to side on the highway. I closed my eyes and prayed like I used to do as a little girl. “Lord, I am not good enough for heaven, and neither are my friends; please give us more time here. I hope Meg is wrong about ghosts on this bus; even the thought of them creeps me out. Don’t let the bus flip over, please, Lord.
When I opened my eyes from my prayer, the bus driver had managed to stop the bus on the shoulder of the highway. The two chaperones were stationed in the bus aisle near the front and back of the bus saying with authority, "Everything will be okay, so stay seated and calm. Fred, the driver, is checking out the bus. Mr. Lenard is outside with him, and they will tell us what is going on soon. Is anyone hurt or bruised or cut? Let us know.”
Meg nudged me and asked, “Dee, are you okay?”
"None the worst for a wild ride," I said, sounding like I wasn't still trembling inside.
“Good, glad you are okay, and you need to know that the two chaperones are not ghosts. The one chaperon had a tiny cut on his hand, and there was red blood on the cut, so for sure, that man isn't a ghost. Also, his blood was not green, so he is not an Alien,” Meg informed me like a police detective.
Dan and Kyle had been hanging their heads over our seats, listening to us. They asked us, "Why would you think the two men beside us are ghosts?”
Meg, usually so shy, said with all the force of Martha, the cafeteria lady, who barks orders and takes no nonsense from any of us high schoolers. “I am developing my sixth sense, and it’s a work in progress, but as sure as I am sitting on this bus, there is something not right about those two men. I don’t talk about my ESP to you guys because you would laugh at me behind my back and avoid me. You have me pegged as a shy little mouse and nothing more. But, for your information, we did not have a flat tire; the noise was the rumble of an earthquake. The road was shifting in its roadbed. The pavement cracked and divided a few inches in one section of the highway that we went over. Thankfully, it was a tiny, localized earthquake.”
Dan, Kyle, and I looked at Meg with our mouths open, but no words would come out of them. Thankfully, Mr. Lenard drew our attention to the front of the bus announcing that there did not seem to be a problem with the bus, and we would resume on our way to the festival. The whole bus was silent as the bus started up and took to the highway towards Vancouver. The bus was running okay. So, the noise level returned to normal on the bus. The two men had returned to their seats in the back with Dakota, Dan, and Kyle.
Dakota, wearing his earplugs, had used his cell phone when the bus came to a stop on the shoulder of the highway. He was trying to get through to 911 to report the bus needed help. And he became absorbed in using his cell phone, as he kept getting either a busy signal or an answer that asked him to hold. Dakota had spotted another student trying to use his cell phone and went to his seat and shoved in beside him. He found the other student also had the same no response with his cell phone to 911. When Mr. Lenard announced that the bus seemed okay and we were continuing, Dakota returned to his seat beside Dan and Kyle and put his cell phone away in disgust. With the chaperons returned to their seats, Dakota asked them if they were still on the wrong bus.
The men seemed almost pleasant, explaining that they were big brothers or mentors of Paul and Tim, who played in the band and had promised to accompany them on the band trip. It was true, Paul and Tim were in our high school band. They were not inclined to socialize with other band members, but they were also newer to the band than most of us.
As we traveled on, the bus stopped at a rest area for a toilet break, and it was also our chance to eat our bagged lunches. As the five of us ate together, everything was awkward at first. Dakota, who was on his cell phone and had not heard what Meg had told us, noticed it quickly. He questioned us, “Hey, what’s the deal with you guys? Did Dan and Kyle get all snotty with each other again and ask you, girls, to pick a side between them?"
Meg spoke up immediately in her Martha's chainsaw voice, "They don't know how to react to me since I told them I have a talent for ESP, and those two chaperons are not legitimate in some big way. I have a feeling they are deceiving us and everybody.”
Dakota, always unflappable, said, "Having a sixth sense is really neat. You know I am a science and tech nut, but not everything can be explained by facts or careful test observations. Having gut feelings has helped many people in strange or difficult situations.”
"Thanks, Dakota,’ Meg said, “but because I said I thought the men were ghosts or aliens, the others are uncomfortable with me now, but I stand by my pronouncements,” Meg added.
"It's not strange you felt the chaperons were ghosts; I got that vibe too when I was going to ask them a question. For a brief instant, I thought they were soulless and maybe even sinister,” Dakota said to Meg.
Meg and Dakota were having a great discussion and would have continued, but a voice beside us said, "Mr. Lenard wants everyone on the bus in ten minutes." It was said by one of the chaperons, and he added, "I'm sorry, but I heard part of your conversation, and I can tell you, Meg, and Dakota, that we are not soulless ghosts or aliens, but honestly, we have been called way worse." Then he walked away laughing his weird laugh.
Kyle said, "Man, those two guys are getting creepy to be around.”
"Do you think they are stalking us?" I asked, feeling more and more uncomfortable about them.
"No, I don't think so, but there is safety in numbers, so stick together when they come near us," Dan said, answering my question.
Back on the bus, we were relieved to see the chaperons had traded seats with Mr. Lenard and his helper Rob. The puzzle of their true identity was not solved, but at least they were not sitting beside the guys. I felt uncomfortable sitting beside Meg, but when I saw she was quietly crying, I said. "Meg, don't be upset. You know I am as deep as skin. I'm a hair, nails, makeup, and trendy clothes type. It is about me, myself, and I if I think at all. No one takes me seriously except when I play the piano. I hope there are no ghosts or aliens. If you can read minds, you know I am afraid of anything not normal. You are the brave one, watching the horror movies with the guys. You know my two greatest horrors: having to clean the cat's litter now and again, or when I have to change a dirty diaper babysitting. Those two things are enough horror for me." When I finished my ramble, Meg was laughing at me.
“You do not know how much I envy you, Dee. You see all of life in terms of what is pleasant for you. Mostly I’m into normal and comfortable, but sometimes I become aware of other people around me, especially if I feel they are terrified, angry, dangerous, or insane. Yes, some people register with me as not from this world, either ghosts or aliens or something else. I have wanted to tell my parents about having all this intuition concerning strangers, but they both work hard, and I have younger brothers and sisters, and the pressure is for everyone to be normal. My parents love me and are proud of me, but they would be devasted if I shared with them that I have a sixth sense. They would see it as a mental illness.
The guys broke into our conversation, saying we were almost at the festival. It was not the first time we had taken part in the yearly band competition at the Massey Theatre. Mr. Lenard was proud of our performance. We were all excited not because we placed well in the intermediate level at the festival but because we would eat at the vast buffet before heading towards home.
The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Palace was a challenge we teenagers were eager to experience. I liked to try a little of any food that looks good, while the boys mainly see any food, not vegetables or salad, as worthy of all they can eat. The supper was great fun, but before, most of us were getting ready for the desserts sections real horror struck.
A masked and hooded person burst through the entrance doors of the Buffet Palace with a gun in hand, firing at anyone he could see. People were screaming, running, hiding under tables, behind food stations, and fortunately for us, the five of us were at a far back table with several other band members. We were too shocked to react. One of the chaperons appeared and spoke to us in our shock, "Quick follow me; I spotted a storeroom; I'll hide you there.” We all followed him quickly, too terrified to say anything. He ushered us into a big room stacked with Kitchen supplies. The man instructed us to go as far back into the storeroom as possible to make room for the other band members. He said, “Lock the door after me and only open it if they knock only twice and if Meg says it is okay.” We looked at Meg, who did not seem surprised by his words.
We huddled in that storeroom in dread. Many of the girls hugged each other. All of us were personally facing the fact that death might be coming through the door at any second. We were into so much personal agony that there was a combined composition of cries, wails, sighs, and whispers. Some were profoundly angry this situation could be happening. On the other hand, we all knew that we were in a living nightmare from which there might not be any awakening.
There were two knocks at the door, and we looked at Meg, and she nodded her head yes. Kyle opened the door, and the other chaperon rushed in with more of our band members. The storeroom was now almost full of band members. The chaperon said, "Lock the door and do not make any noise. Don't open the door unless Meg says so." And he was gone out the door. As he left, we could hear more gunshots.
After what seemed like an eternity, we heard shouts of, "All clear here!" Then two knocks and Meg nodded yes, and when the door opened, one of the chaperons said, "Come on out, the danger is over." Our combined sigh of relief was unanimous. We filed out of the storage room feeling like we had been in hell. We assembled outside the Buffet Palace by the bus and were happier than we had ever felt before because everyone was there and accounted as present and unharmed.
Mr. Lenard treated us all the same before we got on the bus. He hugged each of us with tears in his eyes; even the boys needed his hugs. Police cars, ambulances, and stretchers littered the parking lot. We were among the lucky ones to leave the Buffet Palace alive.
There were two big news stories that night. The first was the account of a deranged gunman opening fire on innocent victims eating at a Vancouver restaurant. The second was the report of a slight earthquake tremor, and minor damage to a section of the Number One Highway east of Abbotsford.
We now all have absolute respect for Meg’s sixth sense, and second thoughts about the reality of God and good and evil. Meg is certain that the chaperons on our bus were not from this world. Until our band trip, she never believed these creatures actually exist. There have been reports of them for thousands of years, but much of their work is invisible. Sometimes the evil coming in a day is so great they can be seen in human form. They cannot prevent all evil but rescue and help as many as possible. They’re guardian angels.