John Larson gave a simpering smile to the driver, and slipped off the school bus. Instead of walking straight ahead, towards the towering brick building in front of him where he should have entered through the heavy double doors, should have battled the crowd and made his way to his locker in the east wing, should have grabbed his math textbook and slid into a desk in Mr. Watkin’s room, should have been steeling himself for another boring lecture on calculus, he doubled back, ducking in front of the bus, and dashed across the street.
It’s not that John didn’t like learning: he did, but only about subjects that interested him. And calculus did not fit into that category. And when Freddie had suggested they cut class and meet up at the bank – we’ll grab some cash, then hit the town for the day! – well, John had thought that sounded like a great idea.
He turned west on 123rd Avenue, crossed the park with the statue that looked like a pile of shiny deer turds standing unironically in the center, and jumped on a city bus headed downtown. John watched the mostly unfamiliar city slip by outside his window. This new place his family had landed was bustling, busy, always humming like the inside of a beehive. It was so different from home. So loud. So unorganized. So exhilarating!
John paid careful attention to the stops. At McCulley and Easton, he dropped his change into the meter – cling, cling, clang – and for the second time that day, gave a simpering smile to the bus driver, and climbed down the stairs. He spotted the bank kitty-corner, and made his way across the square. He entered, waved to Freddie standing a few people in line ahead of him, then prepared himself to wait.
John was counting the number of peach-coloured tiles in each rectangle on the floor when the women in front of him turned, looked him up and down, and said, “Is there any chance you’re Mary and Bart Larson’s son?”
“Yes,” he said sheepishly. How in the hell?!
“Shouldn’t you be in school” the lady asked, frowning. He’d flown across the ocean. He now lived on a new continent. And he still couldn’t skip school without being recognized. Damnit!