IN AND OUT OF SCHOOL
Backpack strapped in place, he comes running as fast as he can until he reaches the end of the walkway. There he skids to a halt, but for only a brief pause to look both ways. Several school busses sit parked in a silent row, waiting for herds of children that soon will be filing aboard. The street is void of moving traffic, so he continues his mad dash across the bus lane to another sidewalk.
He stops once more to look to his left for oncoming cars. Seeing that the way is clear, he gives a quick glance to the right before hurling himself full-speed across the second lane, heading straight for the parking lot, his dad and the parked red van.
Bon Adventure waits behind the wheel, watching David’s every move. As soon as the boy gets close, his dad leans over to push open the passenger door. It is in this act that the man catches sight of the school psychologist, Miss Stern.She follows in the boy’s wake, and the woman leans forward with an attitude as she makes huge strides toward the red van. A sheet of paper held in one hand flutters wildly, trying to escape her grasp.
But he isn’t aware of the lady, or of the fact that she now stands outside next to his window, until the dad speaks to him.
“Open your door again, son.”
David looks to his right. Miss Stern stares at him through the glass with both hands set on her hips, and the fluttery paper is still with her. The surprised boy exclaims,
He then unlatches the door, and he pushes it open carefully.
Miss Stern leans in slightly. She first offers the driver a polite hi before placing her right hand on the left shoulder of the boy. She then looks directly into his face and began speaking the moment his little eyes meet hers.
“Don’t you ever run away from me like that again, David Bon Adventure!” She pronounces his name with a slight British accent. She also speaks slow and deliberately distinct.
“You must wait as the other children do. And only when I allow, may you proceed; and only then.”
The boy does not flinch or move a muscle.
“Do you understand me, young David?”
David attempts to slide down as far as his seat belt will allow, or at least lean away from the woman. Miss Stern, however, has a firm hold on his belted shoulder, so he sits pinned upright and in place. He half-mumbles, half-grumbles a reply.
Bon Adventure interrupts at this point .
“What was that, my boy?”
He speaks quietly but as uncompromising as the lady holding both papers and child.
The boy looks at his dad and then back to the woman. “I meant ‘yes, maam’.”
Her fire abates somewhat at that show of respect, but it does not go out. She keeps her hand on his shoulder as she continues.
“Furthermore, David, you must always wait until I am able to personally walk you here to your father’s car. And there will be no running; none at all. It’s that clear as well?”
“Yes, maam,” He repeats, looking up directly into her eyes.
The flames flicker; the fuel being spent.
“Then you go and have a most wonderful weekend, and we shall all see you here again this next Tuesday. Alright now. Enjoy yourself.” Her consternation calmed, she relaxes her grip and pats his shoulder twice before withdrawing her arm.
As she turns and walks away, David pulls his door shut hard, and then looks over at his dad. They trade each other big smiles as Bon Adventure cranks the van and slides the transmission into gear.
The red van then inches forward slowly. The parking lot is filled with parked cars and running children. At the edge of the lot Bon Adventure decelerates before braking to wait for three on-coming cars. He turns to David.
“Do you see how much better things went after you were polite to her?”
“Yes. Yes, dad. I mean, yes sir.”
Without looking at each other, the son and the dad both smile as the van accelerates and turns onto Timber Street, headed in the direction of their home at the edge of the swamp.