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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 164

Another One Rides the Bus, Part 4

     Jedarri D'Acques has spent this entire day believing it had to happen sometime, and it finally has. The bus has just passed a sign indicating that their exit is a mile away.

     Jedarri looks at her watch. Seven o'clock. They'll be lucky if they're even allowed to register, but at this point, it is not the achievement of success at the tournament that is the driving force -- she's never for a moment felt that her North Southville team members had a chance for a winning record, much less any sort of victory -- but the simple act of arrival itself. The odyssey that has been this day is finally coming to a close, except that as she allows her mind to explore the comparisons between the voyage of Odysseus and the bus ride of Jedarri D'Acques and the Seven Deadly Sins, she finds few true similarities. She is not aiming toward home, but to a faraway destination, so she cannot expect a welcoming Penelope nor a house filled with suitors nor a confused Telemachus. She has seen no Lotus-eaters or Circes or Scyllas and Charybdises, unless one were to count the fact that Pucci, the bus driver, did scrape one of his mirrors at the last tollbooth. On the other hand, there was stately, plump Bits Brennan…

     "We're finally there," Pucci says, pulling over to the exit lane.

     "I never thought we'd see the day," Jedarri replies.

     "Miss D'Acques?"

     Jedarri turns. Gluttony has made his way up the aisle of the bus, and is looking marginally green around the gills. "What is it?" Jedarri asks.

     "I'm not feeling too good. I think it was that pizza we had. I think it was rotten."

     "We all had the pizza, Jimmy. Everyone else is doing fine." Along the way they had stopped at a combination Roy Rogers slash Sbarro's, a divine blend of restaurants known on Interstates far and wide.

     "I had the meatballs," Jimmy continues. "The ones that looked like what you called deer grapes."

     "Oh." Jedarri remembers those meatballs well, because they did so little resemble anything from the family of known edibles. "Well, we're almost there now, Jimmy. Just hold on for a minute."

     "I don't think I can." He is looking a serious shade of Kermit green.

     The bus screeches to a halt. "Nobody's urping on my bus!" Pucci yells. The bus is now halfway up the exit as he hurls open the door and rushes out of his seat in the blink of an eye to grab Gluttony by the arm and chuck him out of the bus.

     Jedarri is shocked; she has never seen a bus driver move so quickly in her life. "The boy is sick," she says tightly, following Gluttony out the door.

     "You ever clean up vomit on a bus?" Pucci calls out after her. He narrows his eyes and turns to the remaining Deadly Sins. "Any of you feel like urping too?"

     Six heads shake as one.

     "Then keep it that way."

     At which point Pucci is thrown face-forward into the bus by the force of the collision at the bus's rear, and he is suddenly licking at the floor.

     "What the hell was that?" he asks, pulling himself to his feet.

     The Seven Deadly Sins less one are all unharmed, and staring out the back window. Pucci follows them back to see the cab of a semi truck with its nose in the school bus's rear end.

     "Is everybody all right?" a voice calls from the front of the bus. It is the driver of the truck, in white coveralls.

     "We're all right," Pucci responds. "What the hell happened?"

     "What the hell happened? You're right in the middle of the exit. You're blocking everything. You're lucky we all didn't get killed."

     "Lucky? I'm pulled over to the side of the road. I'm not blocking anything."

     "You're blocking the goddamned road, that's what you're blocking."

     "Are you calling me a liar?" They are now nose-to-nose.

     "What I'm calling you is a lousy driver, especially with a busload of kids. What the hell are you thinking about?"

     "I'm thinking about this!" Pucci says, hauling back his right arm and punching the truck driver smack straight on the nose. The truck driver reels backward, puts his hand up to a face for a minute, takes a deep breath and lurches on Pucci, pushing both men down to the floor of the bus.

     "Is everyone all right?" Jedarri D'Acques asks, coming into the bus behind a deflated looking Gluttony.

     "We're all right, but the two drivers are killing each other," Lust informs her.

     Jedarri looks down and nods. "Of course the two drivers are killing each other," she says softly. "Sit down here, Jimmy, and wait till they're finished." She motions for the urped-out boy to take the seat next to hers in the front of the bus. While the two drivers curse and punch and howl and roll around on the floor, she pulls her directions out of the folder and takes one last look at them. They are less than a mile away from the school.

     And it definitely has been an odyssey. She would have settled for Scylla and Charybdis any day.


Morality on Paradise Island

     "You're a million miles away," Amnea Nutmilk says to Tarnish Jutmoll

     He looks at her blankly, then gives his head a little shake. "I'm sorry. I was just thinking."

     "About what?"


     She nods. "Well, at least it's something worth thinking about."

     They are sitting alone at a table for two at an Italian restaurant, part of a chain that prides itself on the low price of its cheap red wine and the willingness of its waiting staff to break out into operatic arias at the drop of a eggplant. The noise level is roughly equivalent to Hurricane Floyd on a tin roof. The Bisonette team -- Chesney Nutmilk, Jon Binko Marcellus, Gloria Fudless and Worm Padrewski -- are sitting with ronin Disney Davidson at another table. The place was crowded to the gills when they arrived, and they found that breaking up would secure them a meal a lot faster than holding out for a table of seven, so expediency won out over family aka values.

     Tarnish breaks off a piece of sesame breadstick and swoops the jagged edge into the pat of butter on his bread plate. "If you see something that you probably shouldn't have seen, and it's marginally a crime, or maybe definitely a crime but a victimless crime, but you don't know any of the background into why the crime took place, are you obligated to do something about it?" He pops the buttered breadstick piece into his mouth.

     "Obligated to do what?" Amnea asks.

     "Let's say, obligated to tell the authorities."

     Amnea takes a sip from the juice glass of red wine she was served. If they had waited a couple of hours, it could have been served it as vinegar instead. "It depends on the crime, I would say."

     "Does it? Or does it depend on the circumstances of the crime?"

     "What were the circumstances?"

     "That's what I don't know."

     "Then what was the crime?"

     Tarnish furrows his brow, the two thick white slashes over his eyes taking on a slightly satanic slant. "Car theft, I think. Or car theft in the broadest sense."

     "Car theft is not a victimless crime."

     "It is if it's your car."

     "You're saying you saw someone steal their own car? I wouldn't get too worked up over that, my dear."

     "It's not that I saw them steal it," Tarnish replies. "It's that I saw them dispose of it."

     "They disposed of the car that they had stolen from themselves? How did they do that?"

     "By tossing it off a cliff."

     "Good heavens! You saw someone toss a car off a cliff?"

     Tarnish Jutmoll nods. He doesn't meet Amnea's eyes as he dips another piece of breadstick into his butter.

     "That has to be a criminal offense. If you saw someone do it, of course you have to come forward and report it to the authorities. You're a witness. You have a legal obligation as a citizen to see to it that justice is done and that the laws are obeyed."

     "Seeing that justice is done and that the laws are obeyed are not always the identical thing."

     "So where would the justice be here in not seeing that the laws are obeyed."

     "The person who tossed the car off the cliff was one of my students."

     Amnea Nutmilk nods. "I think I see it now. You don't want to get the student in trouble."

     "It's not that so much as, if a student tosses a car off a cliff, a certain amount of trouble is going to ensue naturally, not to mention that a certain amount of trouble has probably already led up to this cataclysmic adventure."

     "In other words, the tossing was the result of one thing, and presumably the cause of something else, and your feeling is that adding legal considerations to those two somethings might be superfluous."

     "In a word, yes."

     "You wouldn't want to tell me which student, and how much exactly you think you know about the case."

     Tarnish shakes his head. "I don't think so. No."

     "I can understand that. In which case, however, I can't give you too much specific advice."

     "You don't think I should go to the authorities? Or to put it into moral terms, do you think that I have seen a categorical wrong that I must right?"

      "It is, as you suggest, a moral issue. A moral dilemma." She takes another sip of her wine. "It does neatly demonstrate the difficulty of perceiving the difference between right and wrong in the average everyday situation, I will grant you that, based on the little I know of what happened. But I would suggest that the ethics of a situation are rooted both in that particular situation and in a general feeling that there are certain ethical rights and wrongs that are immutable. Doing the right thing is predicated on the ability to analyze correctly how the immutable rights and wrongs apply to the particular situation at hand."

     "Categorical imperatives applied on a case-by-case basis?"


     "That's an oxymoron."

     "Doing the right thing may be a conundrum, and it may not always be clear, but right is always right, and the best you can hope for at times is to do what you think is right, for whatever reasons you think that it's right, and hope that in this particular case you have, in fact, gotten it right."

     "Right and wrong are immutable, and it's people that change."


     "You're a very practical woman, Amnea. Although you're a little loose as a philosopher."

     "I'm loose as a lot of other things too, Tarnish."

     "That's what I love about you."

     "That's what I thought." She winks at him. "Welcome to the Bahamas, my dear."

     He dips the last piece of breadstick into his butter. "Welcome to the Bahamas," he repeats.

Will Gluttony regain control of his intestines?

Will Pucci and the truck driver pummel each other into bloody pulps?

Will Tarnish Jutmoll solve his moral dilemma?

Will the next Survivor show be set at the Harvard Tournament?

What are the Clintons going to do with all that swag they ripped off on their way out of the White House?

Set your phasers on stun for our next episode: "How did Travolta get so fat, or, Does anyone know the release date for Battlefield Earth II?"

Go to the next episode due Valentine's Day, 2001. "I love you, Hal."