The brand new mission bus stood magnificently white underneath the neem tree, oblivious to the commotion of little bodies being shuffled in by a flustered nun. Sister Hazel picked the last of her Sunday-School pupils up and handed her to Brother Brown, checking around one last time to make sure no one had scampered off.
The balding school park was empty but for a couple of shirtless teenage boys chasing after a ball. Beyond them, the sun was going down, casting an orange illumination over the tiny class room blocks littered around the field. Issifu, the watchman, sat inside of his small security post by the one large gate that served as entrance and exit, tuning his radio set while slowly sipping from a mug. He paid no attention to the bus or children. He wouldn’t have to concern himself with the gate till evening, for now he could listen to his ‘cools’ and relax while it stood bare. They would find their way out.
Hazel’s gaze fell to Brown and they exchanged smiles. It was going to be a long drive to Biribiso. Surely, evening would meet them on the road. 12 pm she had told Father Intsiful to announce, it was past 4:30 when the last parent had brought their child.
She did a quick headcount with her eyes and turned to watch Brown get into the driver’s seat. Signaling him to wait another 10 seconds, she called on Alberta, the Sunday-school prefect to give a short prayer.
“Father Lord, we thank you for this day. We thank you for our mummies and daddies, Auntie Hazel and Brother Brown. God bless this trip Amen.” High pitched, uneven Amens rung through the bus, each voice trying to loud over the others as the engine came to life. The bus was quickly filled with a cacophony of voices.
A calm settled with time and from behind Brother Brown’s seat, Hazel looked through his side mirror, watching as trees whisked by, slowly disappearing behind them. She remembered the last time she had taken a trip outside the village, it had been during Papa’s illness, when her Uncle had transported her mum and herself in his pick-up truck to the capital. They had carried their food flasks and bottled beverages in a basket, excited to visit husband and father at the hospital; in the end they had only met his corpse.
A shudder coursed through her, forcing her up and on her feet. Kneed on her seating, she hunched over the children.
“Who wants to give us a song?”
A dozen hands shot up, some stretching so hard their owners had to hold the seats to keep from falling off. She looked around and noticed Paa Kwesi. He was seated alone at the very last row, intently focused on the window.
“Yes, Paa Kwesi!”
He turned, surprised.
“Give us a song”
The little boy scratched at his head, amidst a barrage of whispered suggestions.
“Jesus loves the little…”
Brother Brown’s heavy eyes startled open as the strong beams of a tipper trucks headlights fell squarely on his face. The trucks horn blared, he yanked the steering wheel to the right and off the road.
In the coolness of the evening Bediako looked up from his traps, gun draped over his shoulder. It came as visions did, a white car floating in the sky, surrounded by scuttling birds; white and celestial. It soared through the heavens in slow motion, descending in an arc into the green growth of forest. The bus slammed to the ground and toppled over its side, skidding in a zigzagged frenzy till it collided with a tree.
For seconds all was silent, and then a tearing sound as the tree slowly teetered forward, crushing into the felled car.
A pool of blood crawled out from underneath the wreckage.
“Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight…”