As the bus turned onto a freeway, the students started to toss knives around and fire guns, aiming to hit Dartmouth. He braced himself, his arms wrapped around his neck, trying to shield himself from a barrage of bullets. “Oh, Jollimore, this is why I’m so sceptical of the safety of our school!” he clamoured angrily, a flying bullet just barely tearing some flesh off the nape of his neck. “Ah, they’re just rebellious teens, y’know?” chuckled Jollimore. “And I hate you for that…” Dartmouth rasped under his breath, patting at his neck.
The bus moved into the middle lane when the driver spotted a sign directing them towards the beach. Dartmouth felt a sudden chill from above on the nape of his neck, realizing the students sitting behind him had turned on his air conditioning. “Heh… They do something in my favour for once…” he smirked softly. “We thought you were feeling a little hot, Mr. McKinnon-Graham.” “Heh, thanks, you stupid kids,” Dartmouth suddenly snapped, still not forgiving the others for shooting bullets at him. “That’s Dartmouth for ya,” Jollimore giggled at the driver, shrugging.
A student sitting opposite Dartmouth and Jollimore, who was carrying a lengthy selfie stick, suddenly opened the sun visor on the windscreen to let the bright sunlight illuminate the inside of the bus, dazzling Dartmouth and turning his sight almost completely white. “Argh! My eyes! It’s too bright! I can’t see!” he clamoured, frantically waving his hands around in front of him. “That’s why I’m wearing sunglasses,” smiled Jollimore, sliding his sunglasses down onto his eyes, protecting them from the gleaming sun rays. “But I’m not!” Dartmouth retorted, whipping around rapidly from left to right in his seat, still dazzled. The students sitting immediately around Dartmouth and Jollimore guffawed uproariously, including the one with the elongated selfie stick, seemingly oblivious to the potential danger of causing a lethal crash. “Well, the good thing if we crash is that Dartmouth will die!” a student quipped, and the others laughed out loud in agreement. Dartmouth’s sight was so white he didn’t even notice or hear – he kept waving his hands about wildly.
The bus slowly veered off the freeway onto a smaller trunk road leading to a service area. “Okay, kids, you’re gonna get your lunch for today here,” the driver announced over the PA. “Oh, good, they’re gonna need all that energy to spend on the beach later,” said Jollimore, glancing back at the students, who seemed a little listless. Dartmouth rubbed his eyes and shook his head to remove the dazzle from his eyes, his sight gradually returning to normal as the bus pulled up beside a gas pump. “Oh, man…” he moaned to himself. The driver automatically opened the doors, and all the students started rushing towards the entrance, shouting excitedly. “Kids, kids!” Jollimore called, trying to get them to slow down to avoid bumping each other. “We’re not at the beach yet!” yelled Dartmouth, his sight having finally recovered from being dazzled by the glorious sun, but he was promptly sent tumbling to the floor by the crazed student stampede. “Rrgh… This is why I don’t trust our student community at all…” he grumbled gruffly, slapping his face with his open palm.
Once the students had emptied the bus, making a beeline for the truck stop shop, Dartmouth and Jollimore both disembarked, followed by the driver. Dartmouth ominously stomped up to the student with the selfie stick, the one who had dazzled him. Holding his suitcase high above his head and roaring out, he launched his arm in a good swing and banged the student’s head on the hard leather casing. The brusque impact tore a nasty gash in the student’s scalp, bleeding profusely. He screamed in agony and pressed his hand against the injury, trying to halt the gush of blood. “How dare you blind me! You could’ve caused a fatal crash, and we’d all get killed!” bellowed Dartmouth, smacking the student with his suitcase a few more times, making him pour more blood. “And all because of your irresponsible idiocy!” He stormed off towards the shop, leaving the student to cry off the smarting pain.
Inside the shop, the students chattered to each other while they decided on what to have for lunch later. The automatic doors slid open, and Dartmouth came stomping in, his fist tightly wrapped around the handle of his suitcase, which was spattered with a good deal of blood from hitting the selfie stick student. “Oh, Dartmouth. You just came,” Jollimore smiled at him, picking up a ham-and-mustard sandwich, seemingly not noticing the huge splotch of blood on Dartmouth’s suitcase. Dartmouth only gave a low grunt of discontentment as a reply, grabbing another ham-and-mustard sandwich from the deck.
Dartmouth and Jollimore picked up some bags of potato chips as their ‘hard snack’ to contrast with their soft sandwiches, and a bottle of fizzy soda each for their drinks. Dartmouth suddenly felt a hand grabbing onto his collar, and him being unexpectedly thrust head-first into the freezer compartment, where the ice creams and lollies were kept. He felt an unpleasant chill seizing his face up, and he could hear some students laughing out loud from behind. “Arrrrrgggggghhhhh! It’s t-t-t-too c-c-c-c-c-cold!” he shuddered, his teeth chattering together, which only made the students laugh even louder. One tried to shut the door with part of Dartmouth’s body still inside so as to leave him to freeze to death.
Just then, Jollimore noticed that Dartmouth had disappeared from his side, so he quickly whipped around to find Dartmouth partially inside the freezer. “Oh, who put you in there, Dartmouth?” he asked, still smiling, opening the door fully and safely tugging Dartmouth into the warm air outside. “Those stupid kids!” roared Dartmouth, his teeth still chattering because of the sub-zero air from inside the freezer lingering around the upper half of his body. “Been trying to turn you into a Dartmouth-flavoured popsicle, then?” Jollimore chuckled good-naturedly, but Dartmouth just gave an annoyed groan, shivering with a chill.
Nearer the checkout, Dartmouth and Jollimore picked up some chocolate bars, potted desserts and packets of chewy candies for the sweet ‘course’. The students enthusiastically snapped up as much candy as they could, cheering while they playfully fought for control of the pick-and-mix candy machine. “Hey, hey!” Dartmouth snapped at the squabbling students, trying to break up the jocular brawl, but he got caught up in the struggle, getting kicked, punched, slapped and shoved about. “Oh, Dartmouth…” Jollimore mock-sighed, chuckling again as he placed his candy and desserts into a paper bag.
Dartmouth emerged from the play-fight with a few bruises and slap-marks on his face, hands, arms and neck. “Those kids roughed me up some good…” he moaned rather lamentably, rubbing his forehead to ease the pain a little. He rubbed up against Jollimore to warm himself up after getting thrust into the freezer. “Aw, Dartmouth…” Jollimore cooed at him affectionately, stroking Dartmouth’s back.
The students started sending their lunches through the checkout, with Dartmouth and Jollimore’s supervision. The clerk looked at Dartmouth with a somewhat bemused expression while he scanned all his lunch foods in. “Just don’t mind me,” Dartmouth grumbled to the clerk, folding his arms, shaking his head a little. “These marks are just a normal part of my job.” The clerk gave a slight nod, as if he was saying “Okay…?” “We’re teachers, in case you didn’t know,” Jollimore told the clerk, nodding. “Ah, and all those kids in black are your students?” asked the clerk, indicating some of the students sitting around just outside the shop. “Yeah,” Jollimore nodded in agreement. “And they’re the worst students you’ve ever had come here on a school trip,” Dartmouth affirmed in all brutal honesty. “One of them dazzled me on the bus while we were coming here. We could have crashed badly!” “Dartmouth, Dartmouth, not in front of the clerk…” Jollimore chuckled rather nervously at Dartmouth, shaking his open palms. “We’re trying to keep our school’s reputation at the top, y’know?” Dartmouth gave Jollimore a hard, stony glare. “I know it isn’t…” he growled quietly to himself, turned away from Jollimore.
Once everybody had gotten their lunch, including Dartmouth, Jollimore and the driver, they all returned to the bus. Dartmouth glowered back at the shop for a second, folding his arms and giving a grunt of derision. “What a terrible chill I had in there…” he griped, shuddering a little as if he was still cold from the freezer.
The driver re-embarked the bus first, followed by Dartmouth and Jollimore. “Come back on, kids,” Jollimore called all the students on, and they started clambering back on board, feeling even more excited now that they were actually heading for the beach. “Calm down, we’re not there just yet,” Jollimore tried to slow them down. “You heard him, you dumb kids! Slow the hell down!” Dartmouth barked at the students. In climbing back into his seat, one of the students thumped Dartmouth straight on the head with his fist, dazing him for a short moment. “You kids just never listen…” he moaned, feeling a little giddy from the sharp blow.
Jollimore sat back down in his seat beside Dartmouth, re-buckling his seatbelt. Dartmouth shook his head to regain his balance. “Man, our students sure are rough and tough, aren’t they?” he asked Jollimore, sighing. “Ha ha, yeah,” Jollimore agreed, nodding and giggling.
The driver started the engine again, revving the bus’ engine back up, and he began to turn out of the service area. “Alright, kids, next stop’s the beach!” he called over the PA, and the students all cheered with a thrill, throwing their arms up and down. Dartmouth gave another weary sigh, and Jollimore clapped his hands together with excitement, grinning as he glanced out of the window.
At the service area exit, the driver turned left onto the trunk road leading back onto the freeway, moving back into the middle lane towards the beach. “We’re going to the beach! We’re going to the beach!” the students cheered like a crowd in a stadium, punching the air with both their fists. “Yes, yes, we’re going to the beach! We get it!” snapped Dartmouth, annoyed with their cheering, and he was swiftly slapped across the face by a student to hurt him and shut him up. He gave a short yelp of pain, pressing at the place where he was smacked. “Naw, we need some good cheer to get us all beach-ready!” the student smiled with a comeback. “I agree. We want to be bright and cheery like the summer sun!” laughed Jollimore, sliding his sunglasses back down onto his eyes and spinning his lei around his neck. “What a slap in the face,” Dartmouth thought aloud, rubbing the fresh slap-mark on his cheek to alleviate the throbbing.
The bus continued cruising down the freeway at a steady speed, switching lanes occasionally to let other drivers pass through while staying on course for the beach. One of the students unsheathed a penknife, sliding the blade open and aiming it at Dartmouth like an archery arrow. Licking his lips, he rapidly tossed the blade straight towards Dartmouth, who gasped and quickly ducked down to avoid getting slashed. The blade sliced through his seatbelt, hacking it diagonally in half, meaning he was now totally unprotected in the event of a crash. “Argh! My seatbelt’s chopped in half!” he screeched with shock and rage, jolting up from his seat and nervously jumping about. All the students, including the one with the penknife, roared with laughter. This attracted the driver’s attention. “Oh my God, Dartmouth, if we crash you’ll get lunged forward into the windscreen and possibly killed!” he exclaimed over the PA. “But that’s what we want!” joked a student. “A dead Dartmouth is a good Dartmouth!” The others hooted in agreement, enraging Dartmouth even more. “You stupid kids! You’re putting my life in peril thanks to your idiotic tricks!” he roared noisily and furiously, shaking his fists at the students.
Dartmouth stomped up threateningly to the student carrying the penknife, giving him a good few whacks with his suitcase. Blood spattered across the windows and onto his suitcase, which was already bloodied well enough from hitting the selfie stick student earlier. “This is what you get for endangering my safety!” Dartmouth bellowed with each strike, clouting the student from left and right continuously. “Dartmouth, Dartmouth, you’re scarring his face!” Jollimore called him out, feeling alarm for the first time that day since they left the school.
Just as Jollimore was thinking about intervening, the bus suddenly veered off the freeway onto a main road to the beach. The unexpected swerve caused Dartmouth to keel over across to the left-hand side of the bus, bumping against a window and landing shambolically onto the laps of two students. “See what I mean?!” he growled crossly, and the students holding him laughed out loud, with the others soon joining in. “Least you had a soft landing,” smiled Jollimore, and he laughed with the students too. “Now you’re just insulting me…” rasped Dartmouth under his breath, clenching his fists and teeth together.
The bus pulled up at a bustling junction between a hilly main road and a tightly-packed residential street. “Hold on tight, kids, we’re gonna ride a really steep slope…” the driver warned over the PA while he turned left onto the hill. “Ooh, better keep a grip, then,” Jollimore smiled, clutching on to the rail in front. “Well, I can’t hold…” Dartmouth began with indignation, when he was suddenly thrust forward as the bus started careering down the hill, colliding with the seats up ahead. “Garrgh! So much for chopping my seatbelt up, you stupid kids!” he barked, crouching down to squeeze beneath the other seats, but he rolled out into the aisle when the bus hit a dent in the road. The students pointed and laughed at Dartmouth while he struggled to crawl down the aisle, but the bus’ angle and momentum sent him zipping all the way down towards the front of the bus, banging his head up on the gearbox. “Ugh… My day and my body aren’t getting any better…” moaned Dartmouth angrily, slapping his face with his open palm, but the students only laughed at him again.
Dartmouth sat up, shaking his head to calm the smarting pain, and he clambered back into his seat. He growled at his halved seatbelt, the buckle still attached to the security mechanism. “Oh, missing your seatbelt, Dartmouth?” giggled Jollimore, and he slipped his seatbelt around Dartmouth’s neck and chest, binding them tightly together. “Now we’re both safe,” beamed Jollimore, but Dartmouth only gave a disgruntled sigh. “And I’m stuck to you,” he groaned humourlessly, but Jollimore chuckled a little at Dartmouth’s slightly unintentional pun.
At the base of the hill, the driver, spotting another sign for the beach, turned onto a downtown boulevard dotted with green spruce and fir trees. Jollimore peeked out of his window, catching a glimpse of the thin turquoise line of the sea on the horizon. “Ooh, who can see the sea?” he cooed to the students. “Me, me, me!” each one called back in unity, shooting their hands up in the air. “Yeah! We can see the sea!” cheered Jollimore, and he and the students began to sing We Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside all together. “Oh, I’ve always dreaded this… A sing-along on the bus…” Dartmouth complained softly, curling his fists around his ears to block their singing out, but unfortunately it still squeezed through into his ear canals.
As the bus cruised down the boulevard, the sea drew closer by the second, and Jollimore and the students’ excitement soared. “Okay, everybody, we’re approaching the beach,” the driver stated over the PA. Jollimore spotted a thin strip of golden sand beside the ocean on the horizon. “I see sea and sand!” he called out to the students, who cheered with exhilaration. “But I don’t see sun,” said Dartmouth, folding his arms with difficulty because of Jollimore’s seatbelt stretched over his body. “Oh, but I do,” grinned Jollimore, sliding his sunglasses down onto his eyes, catching a glimmer of sunlight up in the clear blue sky.
The bus hurtled down a smaller slope, revealing the sea and sand of the beach in its entirety, and the students whooped, clapping their hands rhythmically. “Sun, sand and sea – the magic three of the shore!” the driver cheerfully announced over the PA, turning left onto the promenade. “Hooray! Here we go to the beach!” exclaimed Jollimore joyously, clapping with the students. “I’m not looking forward to this at all…” Dartmouth sighed jadedly, glowering at the glittering sea and sandy beach.
The bus continued down the promenade until the beach was partially obscured by a fine emerald periphery of spruce and fir trees, where the driver turned onto a small lane leading to a sanded parking lot with marked boundaries. Reversing into a space reserved for buses and coaches, he heard a sudden slight wooden thump from the back, perking up and startling Dartmouth, Jollimore and the students. “Oh. Must’ve hit a post,” the driver chuckled to himself, manoeuvring the bus a tiny bit out so it fit neatly into the space, then he set the gearbox into neutral and switched off the engine.
Jollimore and the students cheered and applauded. “We’ve finally arrived!” announced Jollimore, opening the curtain to let some sunlight in and catch sight of the shore. “Yay!” the students cheered again, opening every curtain on the bus to fully illuminate the inside and reveal the whole view of the beach. “Ugh… We’ve only just started…” groaned Dartmouth, shaking his head a little, face in his hand.
The moment the driver opened the automatic door, the students’ chattering rapidly picked up in volume, and they started another lively rush for the exit. “Slow down, slow down!” Dartmouth commanded them sternly. “You haven’t even set foot on the shore yet!” “When we get outside, you can all run for the sea, okay, kids?” promised Jollimore, unbuckling his seatbelt and slipping it off Dartmouth’s body, freeing him. “But they don’t have their swimsuits on…”
Just then, a bolting student hastily pounded Dartmouth on the back with his outstretched arm, knocking him over the rail in front and onto the driver’s seat, sliding head-first into the pedal compartment. “You dumb kids never follow orders…” he grumbled, his face rammed against the accelerator pedal, though luckily the bus’ engine was off.