you’re not going anywhere without me,” she said, stomping her own way up the steps into the bus, bringing all of her sixteen-year-old spunk and hink with her. “If you two disappear, guess who’ll be held responsible? Guess who’ll get in trouble? Me, that’s who. And if I’m going to get in trouble, it had better be for something really good. I’m going with you.”
“No way Bobbi,” Will began to argue. But Bobbi held one finger up in front of her brother’s face to silence him.
got to look after you kids. Mom and Dad would kill me if I let you go alone.”
“They’ll kill you anyway,” said Will. “They’re going to kill us both.”
“What’s going on in here?” Fish demanded, as he too clambered up into the bus.
“I’m not going home, Fish,” I shouted over my shoulder to my brother, climbing over boxes stacked in the aisle. “I’m going to Salina Hope. I’m going to Kansas and I’m going to find Poppa.”
“On this bus?” Fish snorted.
“Yeah,” said Bobbi, her sneer sounding almost cheery in its rebellion, making it seem now as though she was on my side. “We’re all going to Salina, Fish-boy. If you’re too scared to swim upstream with the rest of us, you may as well just hop off.” Bobbi cast a sudden, swift look over Fish’s shoulder and out the front window of the bus. “But make your mind up quick because I think the driver of this bus is on his way out of the church right now.”
We all spun around to see that Bobbi was telling the truth. The sad-faced deliveryman was coming out of the church, carrying two heavy boxes of pink Bibles and looking downcast. Me and Will Junior and Bobbi and Fish looked at each other, waiting to see who might be first to bolt from the bus or who had the nerve to take the dare and stay on.
The deliveryman was almost to the bus when Miss Rosemary appeared in the open double doors of the church, surveying the parking lot like a prison guard.
“Quick! Hide!” shouted Bobbi. “We can’t let her see us!”
In a panic, the others scrambled after me to get to the back of the old bus, tripping and slipping and bumping boxes and spilling Bibles out like pink stepping-stones across the floor. I was suddenly none too sure about this plan. Maybe I’d been too hasty. Maybe it would have been better to walk all the way down to Salina.
whispered the angel in my ears.
At that moment I didn’t need that little tattoo telling me how Bobbi was feeling. We were all feeling the same and nobody had time to pretend any different. Without thinking it through, I’d gotten us all hedged in on that big pink bus. We were stowaways now, unless one of us got brave enough—or crazy enough—to climb down off that bus right in front of both the deliveryman and Miss Rosemary and ruin it for everyone. But nobody made a move to flee, and I was grateful for it.
Hiding behind crates of pink Bibles, all wondering if we were awake or if we were dreaming, we dove deeper behind the stack of boxes at the back of the bus as the deliveryman climbed aboard. At the very end of the bus, we were surprised to find an army cot and a sleeping bag wedged between the boxes, along with a battered suitcase spilling out mismatched socks and extra overalls. On the floor beside those, there was a half-eaten bag of potato chips, a couple of Slim Jims, and a toppled stack of
magazines—some bent and faded, others crisp and new.
The biggest surprise, though, was Samson.
Samson had pulled himself into a tight ball underneath the cot, like his turtle in its shell. He’d been looking at the pictures in one of the old, old magazines, with his wide dark eyes open to an article titled “Strange Habits of Familiar Moths” when we invaded his hiding space. But Samson didn’t even bother to look up until the big noisy rattle of the bus’s engine set the bus to vibrating.
I held my finger to my lips, warning Samson unnecessarily to
Kenneth Eade, Gordon L. Eade