Winter 2017 — THE POTOMAC

I escape detection once more

  Roger Netzer

     "Never had any sense and never will."
     Half–a–dozen buses were idling in the circular drive outside Ferguson Depot Elementary. Etta Einarson manned the wheel of the one I had just climbed into.
     Mrs. Einarson was way the fattest woman I had ever seen except on television and maybe even on television. She was also the one who had pronounced judgment on the person with no sense. That must be me, I figured, the only kid on board so far.
     It was cold out. White plumes leapt from the exhaust pipe of the bus in front of ours. Through its rear window, I was able to make out the true culprit, who it turns out was not me after all: Handsome George Jaeger was giving Mrs. E. the finger from the rearmost seat. His amber eyes were fixed on her, hypnotist–style. They were set above cheeks fair enough to show a blush if George was the sort who blushed.
     Overweight as Mrs. Einarson was, it had not occurred to me to give her the finger. But George Jaeger was in sixth grade, three years older than me, so one day I might still turn out bold and bad as he was.
     "Just ignore him," Mrs. E. instructed.
     She was doing a good job pretending indifference, so George commenced to wiggling his middle digit slowly. Nothing else changed. His up–from–under stare did not waver, except to sneak a sidelong glance in my direction. The deep plunge I took into his eyes was like sinking into pine tar.
     The buses filled up. George turned his back on us. I wondered what Etta Einarson must look like without clothes on.
     Up ahead the orange vehicle at the front of the line pulled away finally. Mrs. E. shifted out of neutral, the gears made a loud grating noise, then boys' voices growled in unison behind us.
     "Grind me a pound!"
     A familiar relief settled into my loins as we began to roll forward. No class till morning. I was a cleverer student than pretty George Jaeger, but I hated school only a fraction less than he did. What made us different was I was cowed, lacking in defiance.
     That was not about to change. On the way home I kept mum about what went on in my head. Nobody's business.

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