There’s a Boy on My Bus That Smells of Death

📅 Published on June 28, 2020

“There's a Boy on My Bus That Smells of Death”

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.82/10. From 11 votes.
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I have been doing this for many years.

Sure I have changed schools a couple of times, had to even move states to help with my wife’s elderly parents. But I have always viewed the kids on my bus as an extension of my family.

At the beginning of the school year, I prepare a welcome bag for them, something simple like a box of crayons and pencils for the kindergarteners and maybe a few notebooks for the upper grades.

They always enjoy every minute on my bus because I take the time to really truly get to know each one of them. I keep a record of their names, try to associate it with something like favorite food or song, and then memorize those details.

I know this probably seems like a lot of work when I am only getting paid a measly thirteen dollars an hour but it matters to me. Sometimes these kids are all alone and come from bad homes. It’s my job as part of the educational system to provide them with a safe place, even if it is for only an hour coming and going.

I think the kids that have the roughest time adjusting to school are the ones that come in late. With zero friends and no clue as to what’s happening, I try to help as much as I can. That was my intention when my boss gave me a new rider on March 30 this year. It was only a few blocks away from one of my other spots and according to the paperwork the kid was 6 years old and named Jack Calford. The file also said he had two siblings but neither of them was old enough to ride and that his mom’s name was Samantha and she had recently separated.

That told me already that this kid was probably going to have a tough time. I lost my dad at that age and it’s never been easy to connect to anyone. Had it not been for a few strong male figures in my life I probably wouldn’t have had anyone to consider a father.

So that next Monday morning I went the extra mile to get ready to meet Jack, I got two sets of crayons, pencils, some staplers and glue, and even a backpack with wheels.

I drove up to pick him up around 7:15, the time we had arranged with the mom and got my first look at his house. A few of the other kids were already making a few remarks because of the dirty unclean nature of their yard but I guessed that the mom probably didn’t have many choices when it came to finding housing. I’ve always been the kind to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I put my air brake on and the flashing lights told them I was outside, as I opened the door I smelled this strange distant odor. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first but it was very distinct. I think it reminded me of something I had found under my house once, like old mold.

But Jack never came out and I knew I couldn’t wait so I drove away.

The other kids jeered and I had to focus on settling them down the rest of the ride to the elementary as I thought about Jack and his current home conditions. I wanted to know for sure he was ok.

Jack didn’t show up to get on the afternoon route either and I asked my boss if I had gotten the wrong address.

“You know how it is. Parents never remember the first time they try to get their kids out to the bus on time.”

I couldn’t argue with that so the next day I decided to wait for a few extra minutes to make sure Jack could make it on the bus.

Again when I opened the door I smelled the repugnant odor and I felt my mouth starting to go dry. A few of the kids that I had already picked were starting to complain so I honked the horn.

Jack’s mom waved at the window and I smiled, glad to finally make some progress.

A few seconds later the door to their house opened and I saw Jack step out. I’ve seen a lot of kids come from bad situations, but the way this boy was dressed just hurt my heart.

It was clear that the mom couldn’t afford to get him clean pants, or even a shirt that was the right size. And as he got closer to the bus door I saw that his face was dirty and that odor I had detected earlier seemed to follow him as he got on the bus.

It took me a moment to refrain from being repulsed by the smell. I knew it wasn’t this child’s fault. So I smiled at him and offered him the backpack filled with goodies that I had been planning to give him the day before.

“Welcome aboard, Jack. You can call me Mister Charlie,” I said with a broad smile. The boy made no response and just took the bag and shuffled his feet toward the back of the school bus.

As he passed the other kids by, several of them started to make sarcastic and derogatory comments about his smell.

“Did you sleep in dog crap?” “Don’t you own a bath?” “Disgusting!” one little girl shouted. Jack didn’t bother to lash out. He just quietly got to the back of the bus and found an empty seat.

Unsurprisingly, nobody wanted to sit by him. Near the end of my route before we get to school, my bus gets typically packed and I nearly got into an argument with a high schooler about Jack.

“Mister Charles that kid smells like death!” the girl said holding her nose and trying not to gag.

“You either sit there or you walk to school!” I shouted at her. I hated to raise my voice. But the truth was during the entire bus ride, the other kids had complained. I knew that Jack was going to have problems as soon as he got into class.

After all the kids got off, I gave Jack a halfhearted smile and hoped that his teachers could find a way to get off that smell. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but I couldn’t imagine that his mother wanted him to go to school smelling like this. It just bothered me to no end, especially what that one girl had said. Jack smelled like he was covered in the odor of death. That wasn’t an exaggeration. It literally could only be described as the smell you could get if you had killed an animal and left it out in the hot sun for a week. And it made me so sad to imagine that poor kid having to be bullied and taunted all day because of that smell.

Not to my surprise that afternoon I found out Jack’s teacher had made him go home early because too many people had complained about his smell.

“I don’t think we can let this kid ride on the bus until his mom takes him to a doctor and figures out why he stinks so much,” my boss said. That just rubbed me the wrong way even more.

“It’s not their fault! Larry if you saw his house you would understand. These people are poor. They need some help,” I told him.

“Maybe so but that isn’t our problem. We have about fifty other kids to take care of on that route and we can’t be busy worrying about just one. The school will handle it from here,” my boss told me.

I told him I was fine with that, but it just sat wrong with me. I wanted to do something more than just stop and check to see if he could ride on the bus yet.

Maybe it wasn’t my place to do any of this, but my heart just went out to the kid. I went to Wal-Mart that afternoon and bought him everything I felt he needed and waited until I got off work to stop by his house.

I’ve always been told that after-hours we aren’t supposed to get sociable with our kids or their family, but I felt like this was an exception.

I got there about 4:15 and parked my car right in front of their driveway so there wasn’t any surprise about someone being there. I grabbed the backpack and walked up the door, doing my best to ignore the pungent smell that was all across the entire front yard.

Knocking on the door, I held the backpack behind my leg and got a better look at the toys that Jack was playing with scattered throughout the yard. There were dolls with their heads bitten off as though the boy had been chewing on them, mismatched LEGO sets that didn’t seem to have any particular pattern and action figures that reminded me of those messed up toys from the first Pixar film. All of it told me a troubling story about how Jack’s home life was going. Was that the reason for his smell?

His mother appeared at the door a moment later, her eyes filled with questions and surprise at seeing me.

“Who… who are you?” she asked.

“Ma’am. I don’t mean to bother but I work with the school. I’m your son’s school bus driver,” I told her as I briefly glanced inside their home. The mess that was covering the yard easily spread into the first living area. Was it so bad that they couldn’t clean up after themselves?

I didn’t want to judge so instead I showed her the gifts I brought for Jack. “I know that you want to give your child a good education. And all of us at the school are worried about him. This is my way of pitching in to help,” I said offering the backpack to her.

Her eyes welled up with tears and I wasn’t sure if she was going to have a breakdown or shout in my face. Sometimes it was impossible to be sure how a parent would react.

“I can’t accept this,” she finally said.

That was not the response I was expecting.

Before I knew how to even reply, she closed her door hastily and I was standing on the trash covered front step of her house alone.

I sighed, figuring that she must have her reasons and left the bag with the clothes at the side of her door. I didn’t mean to embarrass her but now my main concern was for the welfare of her child.

The next day Jack rode it seemed like his mom had overcome her apprehensive attitude because he was wearing the clothes I had bought. They fit him almost perfectly. Walking out to the bus, I saw he seemed happier than before, and I thought maybe this was the start of a new chapter for him.

That changed though when I opened the door to let him on the bus. That same foul smell covered him like a stench despite the new clothes and this time I found myself doing my best to avoid throwing up. It was that bad.

“Didn’t you take a shower?” a girl on the front seat asked.

Jack glared at her, seemingly embarrassed that his new clothes weren’t hiding his smell and then tossed his backpack down and ran back inside his house.

Some of the kids giggled and it took all my self-control not to yell for them to quiet. But I knew one thing for certain, Jack wouldn’t be going back to school until that smell was off his body permanently.

I don’t know why I felt obligated to reach out and help. Maybe because I was already so invested in him. Maybe because he reminded me of myself? But that afternoon I stopped by their house again with a new goal. It occurred to me that maybe his mother couldn’t afford clean water.

“I wanted to extend my house to you and your son,” I told her. I knew that being older she wouldn’t consider my intentions to be anything except friendly. But she still declined.

“I know you have been so kind to Jack. But you just need to stop. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you,” she said.

That thought made little sense to me as I couldn’t fathom how helping Jack out would harm me. And the way she acted bothered me. Was she… scared of her son?

It couldn’t be that. I felt like she was hiding something.

She had turned away help from me and from the school time and time again and I couldn’t grasp why that was. So I did something I have never had to do in my career and contacted CPS.

I think I was a little angry, maybe because I was just so worried about Jack. But I couldn’t think of any other way to help him.  I told the representative that I talked to the entire situation, and they thanked me for my diligence.

“You have done an amazing job, Mister Charles. We will handle it from here,” a woman told me.

That whole weekend my stomach churned and I worried about what would happen to Jack. They said they would get to his house as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t so sure it was going to be that easy.

Monday rolled around again, and I tried to resume normal life and put the worry out of my head. But it got stronger as I arrived at Jack’s house. Something was wrong. This time as he boarded the bus he looked angry and hostile. As though I had stabbed him in the heart.

The smell was also stronger than it had ever been. I literally had to hold my breath when he was near me. And I saw his mother standing in the doorstep glaring at me. It looked like her arm was covered in scratches. Had Jack attacked her because he was apprehensive about returning to school? It bothered me to no end. What if CPS had come but hadn’t found anything disturbing at all? It all felt like something had happened in that house and it wasn’t good.

I have made it a habit of mine to trust my gut, and this told me I needed to get inside that house and find out what was happening. I was sure I would likely lose my job over this, but I needed to know the truth about why Jack’s smell hadn’t gone away. Why CPS had not taken this kid away to a better home. I needed answers.

“Jack… is there something happening in your house that you are scared of?” I asked the boy.  I made sure he was the last one off that day. I knew the mother would open the door when she saw the school bus and it was going to be my only chance. He only nodded, not even bothering to explain. Not that he needed to. That told me that this mom was not the doting concerned parent I had given the benefit of the doubt to.

So I helped him off the bus and walked up to the door. The mom saw the look on my face and said, “You shouldn’t be here.”

“I need to see Jack’s room. He took something from me and I want it back.” (This was the lie I had prepared by slipping my Rolex into his pack from the previous day) The mom hesitated at first and then looked down at her son. As though checking with him that it was all right.

Jack gave a slight nod and then led me inside. The smell of death was even stronger here. I swear I saw a dead cat in the corner of the room. And it seemed like feces covered the floor. Jack guided me by the hand to a set of stairs that led to the basement.

“What’s down there?” I whispered. My blood was boiling, I was so angry with the mom for letting them live this way.

But Jack didn’t seem bothered. He just tugged my hand and encouraged me to come down with him and said, “My room.”

The basement was damp and moldy, a single dim bulb burning and hanging from a clothes string.

As we got to the bottom of the stairs, I saw something on the floor that looked like it was made of wood and had a cover on top of it. Getting closer I realized it was a tiny coffin, just large enough for Jack.

“Is there where you sleep?” I asked.

He nodded and I heard a muffled scream. There against the wall was a man about half my age, probably old enough to be Jack’s father. He was chained up and had half of his stomach pulled out, blood dripping on the concrete floor. His noises distracted Jack and he went over to his father and I watched in shock as he began to feed on the mangled organs dangling from his side.

I stumbled back toward the steps, my eyes not daring to look away as Jack kept eating and snarling. This was no way for a child to live. But then the glint in his eyes and the way his teeth gnashed against his dad’s flesh told me the truth. This was not a child at all. It was a ghoul.

I ran up the stairs. The mother was there, trembling and crying as she watched helplessly.

“Why don’t you tell the police?” I asked frantically.

She covered her mouth as she watched her son keep feeding. “Have you ever had children, Mister Charles?”

I ran from the house and toward the bus. I got back to work as quickly as possible and when I shut the bus down I held my breath for a few moments and counted to ten.

Then I realized I had left Jack’s backpack on the bus again. The stench of death was still coming from it. I dared to unzip it and look down to see decaying flesh stuffed in his pack like lunch meat. I pushed it away and gagged. I needed to tell someone.

As I got off the bus, I found myself staring at Jack. Somehow he had followed me from his house a few blocks away.

“You can’t tell anyone,” he warned.

Then he gestured toward the pack and encouraged me to unzip it again.

I looked in the goop of blood and bones and saw something shiny in there. I reached in and pulled it out. It was the badge of one of the CPS employees.

I looked up at Jack and he smiled and walked away.

Ever since that day, I have had Jack sit on the front row of the bus. And given him the best treatment. I’ve recommended his teachers do the same.

Rating: 9.82/10. From 11 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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8 months ago

ummm help that family

3 months ago
Reply to  olivia


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