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Chapter the First -- Section 4

The Happy Bus pulled up to the curb and the team sprang into action.  Well, at least Louie sprang.  He grabbed the step and reached down while Schlepp lifted Terrance up.  With a grunt Louie swung Terrance up inside.  Then he lowered his tail so Schlepp could climb up bear-wise. 

 With everyone safe inside, they quietly took their places, Terrance hunkered down under a seat glancing out from the protection of his shell, the furry one seated comfortably like he owned the place, and Louie scouting the road ahead from the seatback above. 

 “Heads up, guys,” called Louie, “Our stop is next.”

 Getting out was easier than getting in and the gang soon stood on the curb waiting for their transfer—the Central bus was next. 

 The Happy Bus pulled up, but the driver didn't see them.  No one got out and the doors didn't open.  Just when they were despairing of getting on, they heard rapid footsteps behind them.  The bus door opened and they got ready to follow the human on board. 

 “What have we here?” came the lady's voice. 

 Suddenly Louie was picked up and found himself face to face with the human.  Next thing he knew, she had scooped Terrance and Schlepp into her arms. 

 “And where are you going, such a motley crew?”

 She gently placed them on the seat next to her and looked expectantly at them.  Louie was too startled to speak.  Terrance stayed tight in his shell, his orange eyes watching her carefully. 

 Schlepp broke the silence, “Thank you very much, ma'am.  Its very kind of you to give us a lift.  We need to catch the southbound Number 2 bus.” 

 “Well,” the lady replied, “You certainly know your way around.  This bus will take you straight up Central to Eubank and you can transfer there.”  She continued, “I'm going all the way up to the Four Hills Park & Ride.  Why don't I help you with the steps on the Eubank bus on the way?” 

“That would be wonderful,” responded Schlepp. 

Louie was amazed.  Stuffed animals can't talk to humans, even if humans often talk to their stuffed friends.  How could Schlepp and this lady be holding a conversation?  But then Louie remembered how Caro knew right away what his name was, his story, who Mandy was, and how he'd been found along side the freeway in a drenching rainstorm.  And of course Karl could talk to all the stuffed critters and the live ones, too.  Maybe this lady was one of those few humans who had the gift? 

The bus rolled on up Central under the railroad tracks, past the old High School, towards the University.  Schlepp and the red-headed lady continued to chat.  Terrance closed his eyes and napped.  Louie watched the buildings go by and wondered why only some humans could hear stuffed animals.