Craig Davidson's latest book is a memoir entitled Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077.
Davidson has achieved success as an author numerous times. But at one point, he was struggling to keep the coffers filled. And so...."I took a job driving a school because I was penniless; it was that simple."
But Davidson ended up finding more than monetary gain. He drove Route 412. "Special needs. Six students. One wheelchair, five walks."
Davidson started keeping notes (with permission from the families) on his charges, his thoughts, their interactions - and the changes that year brought. Those notes are this book. "Anytime those kids said something hilarious or quizzical or profane or insightful or humane - well, I'd rush to my notebook (not while active driving!) and jot it down."
In the beginning Davidson is unsure as to how this job will work out, but he soon becomes invested in his charges - and more involved with one student outside of the bus. We come to know each student, their personalities and their peccadilloes. Davidson is a staunch vocal (and physical) defender of the 3077 kids, but soon comes realize that that it is his own perceptions, uneasiness and awkwardness around the disabled that are fueling his temper. When he lets that go, the 'disabled kids' that he's driving lose that descriptor for him and simply become 'kids.' Kudos to Davidson for being so honest in describing his own behaviours - a few of actions did surprise me. In some ways, Davidson is just as fragile that year as some his charges.
And over the year, Davidson finds himself changed..."If I was broken, then the bus fixed me. You guys fixed me. The physical truth is that I drove you. The deeper truth is that you drove me. Drove me to step out of my own sickened skin, to stop feeling sorry for myself and to see the world for its beauties more than it's agonies..."
Excerpts from an unpublished novel called The Seekers are interspersed between chapters - it's easy to see the inspiration and metaphorical matches for the kids on Route 412.
I'm a bit disappointed that Davidson's contact with the riders ended at the end of that school year. I would have liked to know where the kids are today - especially Jake, who described Craig as his 'older brother.'
As they say, the best stories in life are the real ones. And this recounting of a year in the life of a school bus driver and his riders is a darn good one. Read an excerpt of Precious Cargo.
Davidson's last book Cataract City, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Trillium Book Prize, and was a Globe Best Book and national bestseller. Hi novel Rust and Bone was made into an Oscar nominated film of the same name. Davidson also writes horror and thrillers as Nick Cutter. (Loved The Troop) You can connect with Craig Davidson on his website.