no turn on red / by Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

Friday, as has become my routine, I get up late. Somehow, I'm able to squeeze a small cup of coffee out of the end of the bag, scarf down a bowl of cereal and head to work with the intention that OK, for once this week, I'll be on time. Maybe. First though, I need to stop and resupply my coffee beans and jazz my day with a double espresso. It's risky, but doable, because it only involves a quick detour on my morning commute.

I turn onto the narrow street that leads to the coffee shop. Halfway there I encounter a stopped school bus. Parking is allowed on both sides of the street so passage is difficult. The bus lights aren't flashing but the stop sign is out. I stop.

I can see no signs of children but there's an obligation, a social contract everyone has signed, including myself, that says, when the bus stops and the sign goes out, we stop. We all stop. We agree on this because it'll only take a minute and it's for the kids. Our precious children. Then we wait and watch. And the children, because all of this is done for the children, the children, all merry and eager to be with their pals, scamper from their homes to the school bus. And before they enter the bus, they reluctantly turn and wave to their parents and off they go to fill their minds with knowledge and eventually take their place as productive members of society. We watch this parade, humbled with fond memories and girdled with the hope that someday, yes, those poor, unknowing, bastards will take our place on the morning commute.

It's all about the children.

A minute passes. No kids. A car pulls up from the opposite direction and stops. We wait some more. A minute at least. Now two. No kids. Nice bus driver waiting like that for the kids. I look to the houses on each side of the street decked out with their pumpkins and their spooky spectacular fake cobwebs and think, OK, any second the door will open and a frantic parent will motion to the bus driver that it'll be just one second, hold the bus, Johnny forget his mask, and today's the big Halloween parade at school, and just be patient...but there is no parent. No Johnny. Just the yellow bus. The stop sign. The dashboard clock. My low fuel light.

Perhaps they don't know the bus has arrived. I'm surprised the bus isn't honking. Let's go Johnny. Hurry up now, tomorrow you can sleep late.

Jeez, where are those kids? Well if the bus driver is afraid to honk then I'll help. I tap my horn. We wait some more. Honk. No kids. The car opposite me turns around in the middle of the street and heads back from where it came. Damn. I can't really do that because it would mean a 3 or 4 block detour and besides, I can see the damn coffee shop from wear I'm sitting.

I tap my horn again. Gently, so as to be polite, but to facilitate the situation. Nothing. I read the back of the bus. FEDERAL LAW MANDATES THAT YOU MUST STOP WHEN THE BUS IS LOADING AND UNLOADING. Damn. Screwed. How long can this possibly take?

I look at the stop sign. I look at the houses with the doors closed and I look again at the sign...while loading and unloading...but they aren't loading and unloading...slowly....slowly, I pull out and begin to inch down the street. There's almost no room to pass so I have to go really slow. Then bus driver opens the door into traffic forcing me to stop. She motions me to get back.

Have I missed some small child tying his shoe in the front of the bus? I cautiously look. Nothing. I inch forward again. Now the bus driver opens the door farther and leans out and begins to yell at me to get back. I ask her where are the kids? She yells, get back! get back! But there aren't any kids, I protest. Get back! I'm calling the police. Fuck you! I clear the bus and head to the coffee shop.

Jeez, thank God that's over. Maybe I can get my coffee now and get on with my day before the police arrive. Yes, a lucky break, the first, the spot right in front of coffee shop is open. I pull over and look back. The bus is still stopped in the middle of the street. What the hell can they be doing?

I run inside, grab a pound of coffee and the roaster happens to be standing there and says, hey we got some fresher roast if you prefer. Yeah! Score again. The barrista pulls my double shot. Now. That's better. The day begins to open.

I walk outside. Yikes the school bus has pulled up next to my car. Oh shit. What's going to happen now? Will she block me in till the cops come? But then I think, what about those kids? don't they need to get to school?

Down come the bus windows. Up come the special needs children all dressed in their Halloween costumes. Yeah! There's the skeleton. And a princess. How sweet. Barack Obama? Sure. Obligatory Power Ranger. Kids in costumes, ready for the parade. Some have suckers in their mouths. A little early for treats, but hey, it's Halloween. Brings a smile to my face.

Then, as if on cue. They begin pelting my car with half eaten candy bars, lifesavers, and sweet tarts pulled from their tiny mouths. Yuk. Within seconds my car is covered in a sticky, gooey mess most likely harboring vast quantities of swine flu virus.

Hey, I yell. Stop that. You can't do that. You monsters! I start toward them. Then the bus door opens and the driver emerges. Oh shit. She steps out of the bus, walks over to my car and promptly dumps a pint of chocolate milk on my windshield. Fucking asshole she mouths so the kids don't hear.

She turns to kids. What do we say kids? TRICK OR TREAT they yell in unison. I shake my head and pray the siren I'm hearing in the distance isn't for me.

I clean the windshield and start the car. The bus driver boards the bus, pulls the stop sign in and drives away and the kids gather at the back of the bus and give me the finger.