The girl rides the bus home from school every day, but before that, in the green-carpeted classroom, she loses herself in colors and smells and noises. Noises that invite her insides to dance. Afternoons she rests on a scratchy red mat until the teacher whispers, wake up, wake up. She follows the children outside; allows toothy boys to chase her round and round the building until there is no breath to breathe and they all fall gasping, sharp-boned, to the spongy grass. They pluck handfuls and throw them at each other’s faces, staining their hands and tickling their noses. Inside again: red, blue, yellow and See Jane Run and See Spot Stop and Humpty-Dumpty cracked wide open, and Cow lured Owl over the moon with a knife and a spoon.
A bell-buzz and it’s line-up time for the bus that smells of smoke and farts and old cracked vinyl. A big kid sits in the seat in front of her. His bark-brown hair curls in the back and bounces on the collar of his shirts. Pink eraser ears poke out on both sides. The kid turns around and sticks out his tongue. It’s long and red, pointed at the end. He wiggles it in circles. She turns her head toward cows—buildings—fields—sky—mountains. Swirls of color fill the metal-edged window.
The boy leans over his seat. Hot bologna-breath lands on her cheek. She looks into his gingerbread-boy eyes and he stares back. His lips land, like feathers, on hers. She screams. The bus lurches to a stop. The driver, a man with a face stretched too tight, points a long quivering finger at the girl. Her toes curl in her shoes.
You, he says, sit up front where I can keep my eye on you.
Katrina's work can be found in recent and upcoming issues of Ink Pot; New Delta Review; Lynx Eye; Parting Gifts; SmokeLong Quarterly; edificeWrecked; and previous issues of Long Story Short. Contact Katrina.