Ernie's Writing Corner
The "GAME" is scheduled for tonight and the Bowmen are ready to take on the Buccaneers, but the game they are about to play will not be played on any hardwood basketball court; their opponents will not be a six-foot guard, forward, or center.
The Archer Bowmen basketball team are the Division "B" champs, and their opponents for the "GAME" are the Wilkinson Buccaneers, Division "A" champs. The "GAME" as it's been dubbed by the media, is a non-sanctioned, end-of-the-year rivalry between two good teams.
This year the game is to be hosted by the Wilkinson High Buccaneers. The game is scheduled to start at 8:00 P.M. but by seven-thirty, the Bowmen haven't shown up at the high school for their warm-ups prior to the start of the game.
By game time the media goes on a frenzy about the missing Bowmen.
The Bowmen however are nowhere to be found. Chief Connors, Archer's Chief of Police, was there to send the busload of basketball players, their cheerleaders, and the Archer News sports reporter off shortly after six P.M..
The Bowmen, will not be playing a basketball game this evening. Their opponents will not be six foot guards, forwards, or centers, but rather the elements of life itself. The game they will be playing will be for their very life.
Although Coach Tolman is anxious to get the game underway as much as the ten young men who are under his charge, an eerie unexplainable sensation overcomes the veteran high school basketball coach.
As the team climbs aboard, Chief Connors can see the weird look on the coach’s face, so he walks over to him, and asks, "Is everything okay, Jim?"
"As far as I know it is, Tom. I’ve just had a weird feeling in my gut all day, and it’s even stronger now for some unknown reason."
"Weird! As in how, Jim?"
"I’m really not sure, so it’s hard to say."
"I’ll give you guys an escort to Mountain Road and then you're on your own. Kick some serious butt down there, Jim."
"Thanks, Tom, we’ll certainly try," the coach says as he then loads the water cooler, the bag of basketballs, and the first aid kit on board.
As the doors to the school bus close, family, friends, and students cheer their team on as Chief Connors leads the bus out of the parking lot.
Nick Perelli knows that the shortest route to Wilkinson, eighteen miles to the south of Archer, is Mountain Road. For over four years Nick's traveled Mountain Road back and forth twice a week, since his mother was placed in a nursing home there. He also knows that the alternate route to Wilkinson will take the school bus over forty miles around Hadley Mountain and be twice as long.
He can recall no more than a dozen times when Mountain Road was closed because of snow or icy road conditions. Where Mountain Road is open, and the weather forecast calls for temperatures to be in the mid to upper thirties, Nick never hesitates to steer bus thirteen-zero-seven onto the single lane road.
As the school bus turns onto mountain road, Coach Tolman says his final words to the Bowmen, and asks, "Is there anyone of you here who feels you can't go out there tonight and give one hundred percent?"
With the cheerleaders at the rear of the bus rhyming off several of their cheers, Coach Tolman waits for a reply.
"Okay then, men. At this moment you don't need any more of a pep talk from me. You know the drill. I only expect the very best. Whether we win or lose is less important than knowing you gave it your all. Sit back, now, and in about fifteen minutes we’ll be there," the coach suggests as he turns around in his seat and tries to relax.
Harry Thompson sits halfway up the bus and separates the cheerleaders from the team. With a penlight in his mouth, the articulate reporter tries to write a pre-game story enroute to Wilkinson. His tripod and camera are on the seat next to him. On his lap, however, is his briefcase he uses as a desktop.
The sounds inside bus thirteen-zero-seven are now quiet as everyone focuses their attention on the upcoming game with the Bucs.
Nick Perelli rounds the last of the "S" curves before the slow climb to the highest point on Mountain Road. What lies ahead of him is the Danielson Hairpin Curve. It is so named for the late Jacob W. Danielson, the first person to have lost their life on that very curve. Nick knows from experience that he needs to drive slow to execute that turn safely.
As Nick starts the slow climb a thick layer of clouds loom ominously in front of him and soon engulfs the entire bus. The clouds are so thick the high beams only shine a few feet in front of the bus. Nick slows the bus down to ten miles an hour as he inches his way to the peak. He passes one sign that reads: "TRUCKS CHECK AIR BRAKES-SHARP DECLINE AHEAD. Moments later he passes another sign that reads: DANIELSON HAIRPIN CURVE-700 FEET AHEAD – GO SLOW.
These signs he’s seen so many times before, that they became almost non-existent until tonight. They are the only things that stick out above the few feet of asphalt road he can see in front of him.
As Nick Perelli reaches the highest point of the road, as a matter of routine he checks the bus’s brakes and the brake pedal slams hard to the floorboards of the bus.
Bus thirteen-zero-seven is now well on its way downhill, as Nick pumps the brakes like crazy, and the bus continues to pick up speed fast.
Forty… forty-five… fifty miles an hour. Nick has to think quick or sure death for all, lies less than three hundred feet in front of them.