I wrote this dorky story in the 1970s. Enjoy! Or not!
3. The Concert in Reno and Some Bad Luck on The Way Home
Just before the show, waiting for the emcee to announce them, the Partridges all felt the same peculiar feeling, like a wind-up toy that has been wound up too tightly, with a catch inhibiting its action.
The kids and Shirley took their places on stage, heard the amplified (but distorted and indecipherable) babble of the emcee. Waiting to perform was a shivery feeling, like standing too close to the edge of a cliff.
The emcee’s final words were intelligible: “–The Partridge Family!”
There was a burst of applause. The curtain went up, and the Partridges launched into their first number.
There were shrieks from thrilled young girls, for Keith and Danny.
It was hard for the performers to see much of anything with the spotlights glaring into their eyes, which incidently made it hard to read the sheet music, too. But they had rehearsed enough so that they required a minimum of reference to the printed music.
Each song was seamlessly followed by another; there were no glaring inconsistencies such as placing a very fast song after a plodding one, or a mellow tune after a mega-rock song.
The kids were really engaged with the audience, Reuben was pleased to see. It was the sort of thing that most music teachers didn’t cover, so the musician had to figure it out for himself.
Finally the concert wound down to a logical and satisfying ending, like someone telling a wonderful story. That aspect of the performance fascinated Reuben, and he nodded approvingly.
Afterwards, the kids and Shirley did a meet-and-greet — depending on the venue, and the audience’s behavior and security, it wasn’t always possible. In this case, the audience was not overly boisterous. Security personnel were visible but not odious.
Later, the Partridges got their instruments off the stage and into the bus. They stayed at a nearby motel. As usual, the boys had one room, Shirley and the girls another, and Reuben had his own room. Simone stayed in the girls’ room.
There was a discussion in the room where the three boys stayed, but it got late enough and Chris went to sleep. Keith was on the edge of going to sleep.
“Keith?” It was Danny’s voice reverberating in the dark.
“Do you feel funny?”
“Not especially,” said Keith, hoping that Danny would conk out.
“I mean, do you have a feeling that something bad will happen?” pressed Danny.
“Like last year?”
“Yeah. Like last year.”
“Do you think that I would think that anything like that would happen again?” asked Keith, confusingly.
“Yep,” said Danny.
“Well, then, you’re right. You know it — Tracy knows it — Laurie knows it. So — what are we supposed to do about it, call Mannix?”
Danny sounded surprised. “Keith, you took the words right out of my mouth!”
“Danny, if you don’t shut up about that, I might take the teeth right out of your mouth,” growled Keith.
“Okay,” shrugged Danny. “Don’t tell me your problems tomorrow when the bus is on the blink in the middle of nowhere.”
Keith shut his eyes and didn’t listen to Danny, who was continuing to talk.
“Keith, are you listening? Wake up!” his mother was saying.
Keith opened his eyes. “‘Morning, Mom,” he yawned, getting out of bed. “I thought it was Danny, still yakking.”
“I was not yakking,” said a voice.
Keith looked over his shoulder. Danny and Chris, dressed in “civilian” garb and with combed hair, were waiting to head for home.
Danny was glaring at him.
“I was not yakking,” he repeated. “I was merely gabbing.”
“And a lot, at that,” said Keith.
“Keith, get your civvies on. Your stage-suit is all wrinkled. You shouldn’t have slept in it,” said Shirley.
Keith looked at himself in a full-length mirror.
“Ugh,” he shuddered. “I look rotten.”
“So what else is new?” whispered Danny to Chris.
Shirlet said to Keith, “Come to our room as soon as you have everything of yours ready to go. Tracy, Reuben and Laurie are already done packing.”
She left and Keith got dressed. Then he got his stuff packed. and the boys went to Shirley’s room. Reuben was there with the Partridge girls and their mother. When Chris, Danny and Keith came in, Reuben stood up.
“Well, they’re here. Let’s get on the road,” said Reuben.
“All right,” replied Shirley. “Kids, we’re going to have breakfast en route, so let’s get this stuff in the bus so we can get going.”
“But who’ll drive?” asked Keith.
“Either Reuben or I. We’ve both eaten already.”
Soon, the luggage was loaded in the bus and the Partridges and Reuben were on board as well, and they were going quite fast along a dusty road and the bus seemed to be going farther and farther into the wilderness.
“Shirley, shy did we have to go on this lonely woods road? The California-Nevada Southwest Freeway wouldn’t have taken more than seven hours. On this road it will take years!”
“Reuben, it’s prettier along here.”
Reuben sighed and just kept quiet.
Keith felt uneasy. He was sure that they’d taken a wrong turn back aways.
“Keith, are you cold?” asked Laurie worriedly.
“You’re shaking like a leaf.”
Danny immediately looked at Keith. He smiled smugly and sat down by Keith. “Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?” he inquired.
Keith looked grim. “I’m thinking exactly what you think I’m thinking.”
“That we took a couple of wrong turns, right?”
“Exactly,” replied Keith.
“Good. I mean, then you’re with me.” With that, Danny went back to his seat.
At that given moment, the bus halted abruptly. Danny fell to the floor. Tracy was hurled into the seat in front of her. Simone crashed into Reuben, who in turn, crashed to the floor. Keith almost flew through the front window of the bus.
Laurie was thrown halfway over the seat in front of her. Shirley managed somehow to brace herself.
Simone made a noise between a howl and a moan.
“Ouch,” said Laurie.
“Everybody alive?”asked Keith, getting up painfully.
“Where’s Chris?” asked Danny. Chris’ head appeared from behind a seat.
“What happened?” he asked. “I was looking at my Batman Secret Decoder Ring, and then –”
“Then everyone went flying,” finished Keith.
“I thought I saw something run in front of the bus,” said Shirley.
“Open the door, Mom,” said Keith.
Shirley pulled the door-lever.
Keith disembarked cautiously. He was examining something in front of the bus. He kneeled down and touched it. Then he went back into the bus. He looked astonished.
“Mom, you’re not gonna believe this, but that thing out there is a Cape Buffalo.”
“A what?” asked Laurie, unbelieving.
“A Cape Buffalo,” repeated Keith. “You know — an African animal.”
“Oh, Keith,” his mother said in a shaming voice.
Keith blinked. “It’s true, Mom. You can see for yourself. But you’d better be careful. He’s still alive. He’s bleeding and unconscious, but alive and not too well.”
Shirley cautiously went out. When she looked in front of the bus, she gasped. A large hoofed animal was there, struggling to stand up. The rest of the Partridges and Reuben came out of the bus.
“That’s not a Cape Buffalo,” said Laurie. “See how tame he looks? he must be a water buffalo. Cape or African Buffalo have never been domesticated.” Presumably she’d read a book on the subject.
“I don’t know if he’s so tame, though,” said Reuben.
The water buffalo needed food. He bawled loudly, unable to get up.
“He’s hungry,” said Keith, pulling a handful of long grass from the ground. He offered it to the buffalo.
“Keith, be careful,” cautioned Shirley.
The buffalo nibbled the grass. Soon, Shirley let the other children feed him grass, too,, because she saw that he was very tame. Simone seemed to like him, and the buffalo liked Simone. Keith and Laurie noticed that they seemed to be talking to each other. The buffalo would grunt, and then Simone would whine or bark.
The buffalo stopped bleeding after awhile. He was not hurt badly. The Partridges found that he had been grazed by bullets on his sides. Someone had probably been after him for a trophy — a majestic, taxidermied water buffalo. He had fallen in front of the bus in his panicked run. The bus had hit him on the head. By some miracle, there were no scratches or dents on the bus.
Then the Partridges heard the pounding of hooves. A girl of about 13 was riding on an Appaloosa towards the bus.
“Hello,” said Shirley.
“Hello,” replied the girl. She dismounted.
“Is Ramu all right?” asked the girl, motioning towards the buffalo.
“Not quite. Someone’s been hunting him. He fell in front of our bus, and he was hit,” explained Shirley.
Ramu sat up when he saw the girl.
“I’d better take him home,” she said.
“Where did you get a beast like that?” inquired Reuben.
“I’m with a circus. I guess some men coaxed Ramu out of his pen and went after him for target practice. But when they saw some other people — well, I guess they just split. They must be at least to Newfoundland by now. It’s hardly any use to get the fuzz after them now.”
Laurie was trembling with rage and hatred. “But how could they do such a thing? Hunting down a poor, dumb animal like that?”
“I don’t know,” the girl responded. “Maybe it’s because they wanted to get rid of Ramu because there was a rumor that he almost killed a child. Actually, he saved the thing from a fire. It screamed and bawled like it was being attacked by the devil himself. Ramu looks like the wildest and most fierce creature on earth, but he was raised by humans, from a calf, without his mother, so he doesn’t what those two hatracks on top of his head are for.”
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the story ends here, as it ran out of gas. I used to make up stories as I wrote them, and this is a surprisingly long example.
I forgot about the paint on Simone’s paw (see Chapter 1). I don’t know why Laurie would be so knowledgeable about any type of buffalo, so I added the bit about her having read a book. I don’t think that buffalo generally go around saving small children, but this is fiction…
I thought that the story was going pretty well until the buffalo showed up.