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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write something in the YOUNG ADULT or TEEN genre (06/07/07)

TITLE: The Bullies On The Bus
By Dolores Stohler


With queasy stomach, Isabel De Silva mounted the steps of the school bus and searched for an empty seat near the back. There it was, as always, waiting for her--the dunking chair, as she preferred to call it. With head bent to avoid any taunting eyes that might confront her, Isabel moved quickly to the waiting seat and sank down, unfastening her back pack as she did so. She quickly removed a textbook and buried her nose in it, pretending to read. Black curls tumbled forward, obscuring her face.

As if on queue, voices began to chant, “Izzy, Izzy, fat and dizzy. Curly hair that’s always frizzy.” Brian Dean’s voice rose above the rest, deep and snarling. Like a tiger, she always thought. Isabel shut her eyes and tried to block out the voices, but the chant went on and on.

“Hey, back there,” yelled the driver from the front. “Knock it off or I stop the bus.” He always said that but never followed through. Isabel despised him along with the rest of her fellow travelers. As the voices grew in volume, she repeated the silent prayer she always said on the bus. Please, God, help me to find a way to handle this. I can’t bear it much longer. Please, please, before I go crazy.

The bus stopped with a lurch. Startled, Isabel opened her eyes to witness a new girl enter the bus and nervously search for an empty seat. There were only three and two of them were next to boys--Brian and Scott--Isabel’s chief tormenters. Better not sit there or you’re in for it, she mentally warned. Visibly scared, the girl made a beeline for Isabel’s seat and sat down abruptly, right on the back pack. Titters of amusement swept through the bus and Isabel turned to look at her. Oh, poor kid! She has a bad case of acne. She’s thin but not very attractive otherwise. Isabel warmed to her immediately.

Speak to her, make her feel welcome, an inner voice admonished. Well, why not? Isabel turned to her and spoke softly, “Hi, my name’s Isabel and I’m a junior at Madison High. You’re new here, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” the girl replied, speaking so low that Isabel barely heard above the noise. The voices had resumed their chant, adding a new line, “sitting next to crater face.” It had its desired effect. The new girl flushed and her eyes took on a haunted animal look.

Stirred to compassion, Isabel spent the rest of the trip talking to her seatmate and learning something about her. Sheila was an army brat and moved whenever her father did. “We just transferred here from Fort Benning,” she said in a very sad voice. “That place was full of creeps as well. Can’t get away from them.”

“I’ll be your friend,” said Isabel, giving her a pat on the arm. In the weeks that followed, the two became close friends. They were inseparable in school and out. They learned to mount the bus with heads held high and proudly walk to the back. Then they chatted together, ignoring their tormenters, until the bullies gave up in exasperation. Not that it mattered for Isabel had learned something of great value, as she related to her youth group at church one evening.

“When you’re focused on yourself and wanting to be popular,” she said, “you’re vulnerable to getting hurt. Others pick up on your lack of self confidence and feel free to bully you. But when you get involved with others and focus on their problems rather than yours, your own troubles seem to shrink in size. I don’t think success is about being pretty or popular; it’s about doing something that makes you feel good inside. Sheila isn’t an A student like me so I‘m helping her to boost her grades. Then she helps me by getting my nose out of the books and doing something physical. We go cycling together on weekends. So I’m losing weight and eating better. I don’t think I’m “fat Izzy” anymore.”

The kids gave her a round of applause and she sat down. She turned around to look at Sheila who was thumping her on the back. Why did I ever think she was plain, she asked herself. My God, she has a beautiful smile.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon06/14/07
This is very good. You had my attention from the beginning, and kept me wanting to read on.

I'm not sure about Isabell's speech at the end. It might be "lecturing" the teenage reader too much -- like message overload. I think you do a great job of getting a number of messages across in the story, without the big speech. Let each teen reader learn what they individually need to learn from this.

Great job putting the reader in the bus.