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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?
They do the final mile on foot.
Pucci and the truck driver had run out of steam relatively quickly. There isn't much space on the floor of a school bus to have a real hoopdy-do wrestling-wise, because you can't roll around enough to allow a steady rotation of who's on top and who's on bottom. Considering that the damage from the accident was minimal, the situation didn't call for either of them beating the other to a bloody pulp, so after some perfunctory wild punching and grunting and name-calling, they gave up to face the disapproving stare of Jedarri D'Acques from the front seat. After assuring herself that no one was hurt, Jedarri decided that she and the Sins would go on, leaving Pucci to deal with the local gendarmes.
"That's leaving the scene of an accident," Pucci had said to her as she and the Sins collected their debate materials.
"If the police want us, they can find us," she replied. "Meanwhile, we've got a tournament to go to. We'll leave the luggage with you. After you sort things out, you can come and join us."
"What if I can't find the place?"
"You go off the exit ramp and turn right. There's no other turns. Keep looking for it, and you'll find it."
"You go ahead, lady," the truck driver chimed in. "I'll make sure this bozo gets where he's supposed to."
As Pucci turned to face the truck driver yet again, Jedarri and the team exited the bus. If tempers were to flare yet again, she didn't want to know about it.
It has been dark now for some time, and the weather is that nighttime cold of late autumn that blows the last leaves off the trees in a concerted effort to turn the world into winter faster than anyone would want it to happen. Jedarri walks quickly, her coat buttoned to her neck against the iciness. The Seven Deadly Sins are strung behind her in a line stretching an entire block into the rear distance.
She stops and turns around. "Can't you people walk?" she asks.
"We're walking. We're walking," Avarice responds at the front of the line.
Jedarri shakes her head. "Get the damned lead out, the lot of you."
She starts walking again, as quickly as before. They'll catch up. It is a straight line, after all, with no turns. They can hardly get lost--
Except, after this day, she wouldn't put it past them. She stops again.
"Come on, people. Move it!"
None of the Sins makes any noticeable attempt to move anything.
"Oh, to be young again," Jedarri mumbles under her breath, "with nowhere to go and nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it."
After a few more minutes she sees what has to be the school up ahead on her right, exactly where she thought it would be. She speeds up slightly in anticipation of being indoors in the warmth and of actually arriving at her destination. When she sees the sign confirming that this is, indeed, the place, she feels a sense of inner glow. The everyday act of taking a bus ride has become a momentous event, and they have now accomplished their seemingly impossible goal.
They have reached the tournament.
Jedarri turns down the driveway. There don't seem to be any cars or buses here. Everyone must be parked somewhere else, she decides. Probably around back. They usually have special places for school buses to park, even at schools where there's plenty of room for them to turn around and navigate. Usually the buses are filled with their drivers, holding their own social agenda around their vehicles for the duration of the event.
They definitely must be around the back.
Jedarri walks up the steps to the front door, and it is with a lurch of triumph that she pushes the door to enter and mark her final arrival.
Except, for some reason, the door is locked.
She tries again.
The door is locked. Very definitely locked. And worse, the hallway inside is deserted. The hallway itself is lighted, but as far as she can determine in either direction, none of the other lights are on in any of the rooms.
"Let's go inside," Avarice says, coming up behind her.
"What's happening?" Sloth asks.
"I'm still not feeling too good," Gluttony says.
"If you're going to hurl again, Jimmy," Lust says, "please do it somewhere else."
"I'm not going to hurl again. I just don't feel good."
"Then keep it to yourself," Pride says. "Let's go inside. It's cold out here."
In a futile effort of hope over logic, Jedarri tries the door one more time. "It's locked," she says.
"Let's go around back, then," Pride says. "The doors have to be open somewhere."
"Why don't you just yell out?" Envy wonders. "Somebody inside has to hear us."
"Hey!" Pride yells, starting to bang on the door. "Anybody there?"
After a couple of minutes of banging and repeated efforts by each member of the team to try the door, as if it is an Excalibur waiting for the right Arthur, a large yellow SUV pulls into the school driveway. The headlights bear down on them as the vehicle pulls to a stop at the bottom of the steps.
"Stand away from the door," a voice comes out from the vehicle over a loudspeaker.
"Good grief," Pride mutters.
"What are you people doing there?" the voice continues in an electronic mix of doom and threat.
Jedarri separates herself from the Sins and walks down the stairs. "We're trying to get into the tournament," she calls out.
"The tournament?" The door on the driver's side of the SUV opens, and an elderly white-haired man in a Red Sox baseball jacket comes around the front of the vehicle. He stands at the edge of the glow of his headlights. "There's no tournament here today. What tournament are you talking about?"
"What tournament?" Jedarri repeats incredulously. "The debate tournament."
"The debate tournament." The old man shakes his head. "There's no debate tournament here."
"What do you mean, there's no debate tournament here. This is Algren-on-the-Beach, isn't it?"
"It's Algren-on-the-Beach, lady, but there's no debate tournament here. The debate tournament was last week."
The words enter Jedarri's subconscious but they do not register yet in the active part of her brain, the part that is trying to make sense of the fact that she and the Seven Deadly Sins are here, and the tournament isn't.
"You're a week late," the old man continues, trying to connect with her.
"A week late," she repeats.
"That's right. A week late."
"The Algren tournament was last week."
The old man nods. "A big tournament. Lots of kids. Always is big. Always lots of kids."
"And always last weekend. Same weekend every year, come hell or high water."
"Come hell or high water."
"What's happening, Miss D'Acques?" Pride calls out to her.
Jedarri D'Acques turns to face the Seven Deadly Sins on the steps of Algren-on-the-Beach High School. "I have an announcement to make," the coach says. "I hereby declare the end of the North Southville Debate Team. I hereby quit as the coach, and I hereby declare that the team itself is disbanded."
"What about the tournament?" Pride asks.
"There is no tournament," Jedarri tells him.
"There's no, like, tournament?" Lust asks, as if to correctly position this unacceptable thought in her mind.
"There is no tournament, there is no debate team, there is never going to be a tournament, and there is never going to be a debate team. Not ever. Never. Not ever again."
Jimmy, aka Gluttony, chooses this moment to regurgitate the remainder of his deer grape pizza, clutching his diaphragm as he holds himself over the edge of the steps. Also at this moment, the North Southville school bus turns into the driveway, and Pucci pulls up next to the SUV.
He opens the door of the bus. "Hot damn!" he whoops out joyfully. "We made it!"
"Everybody back in the bus," Jedarri says.
"Sorry, lady," the old man says.
Jedarri nods as the Sins desultorily walk onto the bus. Gluttony is the last one on, then Jedarri.
"If you're going to throw up again," Jedarri tells him, "just do it. At this point, no one will even notice."
"What's happening?" Pucci asks as she comes up the bus stairs.
"We're going home," she tells him.
"What about the tournament?"
She looks at him for a moment. "It's not the destination," she says. "It's the journey that matters,"
She takes her seat in the front of the bus and looks at her watch. At the rate they've been traveling, they should be home by Easter.
As the bus rolls away from the school, Jedarri D'Acques starts thinking about her next career, the one she will commence immediately upon returning to North Southville. She will no longer coach, she will no longer teach, and she will never again enter another school bus.
When Pucci takes the wrong entrance onto the highway, taking them in the opposite direction from home, Jedarri closes her eyes and falls back against her seat.
And Odysseus thought he had it rough…
Is this the end of Jedarri D'Acques?
Will we never see how the Seven Deadly Sins got their names?
Is there really such a thing as deer grape pizza, and how late do they deliver?
What ever happened to Ralph Nader?
Can his Columbia students vote Al Gore off Manhattan Island?
Find out how to fold hospital corners in our next episode: "Buy My Clothes or I'll Shoot You, or, Maybe They All Have that Nickname, by Sean Puffy Connery."
Go to the next episode due Feb 28, 2001.