Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones
Claudine Jones

How many times has an audition taken an unforeseen turn because of sheet music you failed to bring, or a last minute decision on appropriate clothing or somebody you see across the room who cuts your confidence off at the knees.  But'll never know, will you. Maybe it was your hair that reminded the director of his ex-wife.

I'm with those who go by the motto "No magical thinking".  I don't believe that stepping on a crack will break my mother's back, or thinking bad stuff will bring it on.  And hell, I could wish for all kinds of goodies & never wake up to see them piled by the bed.  Still the woods are full of weird little unexplained happenings that can reduce hardtack to a pool of custard.

When I was 11, my family had just undergone yet another rough patch and we thought maybe we were due some good times.  My dad had landed a well paying job, enough for us to buy a house, so my mom was temporarily happy again.  We were pulled out of our big city school at the Christmas break; I said good-bye to my first boyfriend, Erik—the first guy who actually asked me to dance at a platter-hop and shot me googly-eyes in the hall next to the lockers—but, hey, the family ended up relocating not five miles from our very first house, where I'd started school & made friends.  My old ballet school was still there. It felt good, like we were returning from exile.

The downside of this semi-country living was that my dad's commute was brutal; up & out by 7am, no chance of me catching a ride to school like other kids on the block.  The distance wasn't the issue: it was the roads with no shoulder to walk on. Pretty dangerous & fast traffic. You could use some residential streets and weave your way through, but the last bit was tricky.  I got used to it, but a tinge of resentment was there under the surface.

Around springtime, I had the lay of the land; had all my classes & teachers straight, hooked up with congenial kids to sit with at lunch. Things weren't bad at all, if you didn't count Mr. Grabowski's bad temper in Math, and the ridiculous, time-wasting crap in Home-Ec. I was on the cusp of a long love affair with theater and wrote poetry, too.  Spoke better French than anybody else in my class & had a vocabulary of 50cent words from Edgar Rice Burroughs to impress my English teacher. I started noticing my armpit odor, though.  That was a drag.  

I was an active bookworm and when you count the long days and the wicked softball games at lunchtime, sometimes I got pretty tired out by the afternoon.  Trudging home felt like a real chore, so a few times I just hopped on the school bus. No biggie, it went right out by my neighborhood, maybe a half mile to trot on home.  In fact I grabbed a ride once in a while coming on into school, especially if it rained.  Bus #1002.

On a Thursday afternoon, the sun seemed like it was already low in the sky. Shadows on the sides of the school building were long and slanting. The big curving drive where the yellow buses sat waiting was deserted but for one. I was either early or late, but I didn't care. My books were heavy and I wanted to sink into a seat and look out the window.  There were a few other kids onboard; didn't recognize any of them, couldn't care less—sometimes it was full, sometimes not.

A moment or two later, we started down the drive.

I was about three-quarters of the way back on the left by myself, where I usually chose to sit so I could read or think. Now, I can't say when I began to worry, only that my daydreaming state snapped, and it occurred to me that I didn't know the bus driver. Stop.  One kid got off.  Pulled back into traffic.  Made that big turn at Morningstar Drive. Stop.  Another couple of kids got off.  The bus was thinning out.  About another half mile or so to my stop, a bare couple of minutes and I'd get off.   

Then he turned the wrong way.

Bumping down the pavement, going a little faster than I thought usual. This was no detour. Away from home, heading for the freeway, it looked like. I could see familiar sights, but those belonged on trips with my folks, going to Monkey Wards or Penneys, for shoes or ice cream, or to the movies.  My heart started thumping.  Walking home from this distance would be okay, but if we got onto the freeway, how would I find my route?  Nobody else was paying any attention. Sun glaring in the window hitting my eyes, the bus driver's face in the oversized rear-view mirror, impassive behind sunglasses, I thought weakly 'maybe I can pound on something, and get him to stop'.

At that second, as if reading my mind, the driver began carefully applying his brakes and cruised to a gentle stop, right there on Buskirk, within view of the apartments where us kids sometimes would shortcut, and get home through the muddy field beyond.  The door swung open with a ssmwoosh; like an automaton I moved to the steps and hopped off.  I heard the door slap shut behind me and I looked back.  

There was no one but me, standing in the dirt by the side of the road, hugging my sweaty books, watching him pull away.  The swaying yellow bulk moved smartly onto the freeway entrance, merging with the whizzing traffic ahead.


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©2009 Claudine Jones
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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June 2009


June 2009

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