Years ago, when I was a young mother and babysitter, I rode the bus with my son and my young charge - everywhere. What else do you do with two five-year-old boys with endless imagination and energy? We rode downtown, to libraries, to parks, to the next town over, to visit friends. We also walked and later, in the summer, we rode bikes.
Everywhere we went, we told stories. After reading William Steig's The Amazing Bone, we came up with a story about a talking donut. Every bus trip for a month or so, we added adventures about the donut and King Rupert, the donut's best friend.
And then there were the tales of Llewellyn the Lion, who worked as a late night radio host and rarely went out in the day. He rode a motorcycle and had a tab at the butcher's. He lived in fear that people would realize that he was not just a gravelly voiced, hairy recluse but a lion - a real lion. As time went on, Llewellyn told us of his friends - all graduates of the Philadelphia Zoo's secret Animal Intelligence project - and we met Llewellyn's teacher, Professor Freeman. The animals were tricked into a reunion and were drugged and kidnapped to become stars in a traveling animal act. Fortunately, one of Llewellyn's friends was a dainty gorilla. Along with the Jaguar, ocelot, rhinoceros, several lions, a seal and a rhinoceros, they all managed to escape.
I wrote that story up and shoved it into the glove compartment of my old black Impala. When the car broke down and we had it hauled to the junk yard, the story was lost forever. The rhinoceros - or was it the seal? - was a poet and some of her poems were in that story. They were haunting and surprised me. Stories can be pieced together. Poems evaporate.
And then there was Super Anders and his sidekick Critter Man. These stories were made up bit by bit of the things that my boys suggested, cartoon characters that they enjoyed. Danny Dunn and his friends got tossed in there, too, since we read every Danny Dunn book we could find. I liked these stories best of all. The boys were always trying to save Little Annie, the Orphan Apple Selling Girl from danger. But Little Annie just as often had to save our heroes.
I miss Llewellyn and his friends. I miss Critter Man, who ba-a-a-a-rked! And I miss King Rupert and his talking donut.
Perhaps, I will ride the bus for nostalgia sake and remember small boys, stories and a time when I was young.