Thoughts and Prayers

Roll call in homeroom is shorter by four names today. The empty desks have already been pushed to the back of the room. Outside, the flag flies at half mast, which means we’re still allowed to say goodbye. I add my name to the cards on their desks and pray their souls find peace.

Soon, the flag will rise to full mast, and when it does, we won’t be allowed to say their names anymore.

Why?

“It’s the price of our freedom,” they say, and, “this is not the time for questions.” They’re angry when we speak. How dare we bring it up at all. It’s the price of our freedom.

Except, I don’t feel free at all.

Free Kites

There’s a shack in the middle of a field. On the roof there’s a sign that reads, “Free Kites.”

What’s the catch?” someone asks, almost by the minute.

“No catch,” I say. Pick any kite you like. The kite of your dreams. Then fly it. You’re welcome to try.

Most wander inside and only gape at the kites hanging from the beams.

“You’re welcome to try, anytime,” I say.

Some grow bored and leave.

A few do select a kite, the kite of their dreams, and take it out for a flight. They let out the string and run, and if the wind is right, their kites are pulled swiftly to the sky. Then they stop, and watch. They don’t correct their course, they don’t heed the winds, and inevitably, the kite plows straight into the ground.

I have found they generally do not pick up their kites again. Instead, they gather around and reminisce with joy about how they once flew, sometimes stopping to watch that one kite still flying high above them, the kite they dream is utterly and impossibly out of their reach.

Whose kite is it? That kite could be anyone’s.

You’re still welcome to try.

The Orange Bus

The bus leaned as he climbed the steps. He was heavier than the other kids.

“Did anybody see an orange roll by?” He stopped inside the doors, a stupid grin on his face, anticipating a reply.

None, from a bus full of students.

“Loser,” came in a murmur, then snickering rose from the seats.

He exhaled, and plodded up the aisle.

“This seat’s taken,” said a boy, who slid into an empty seat beside him. It was repeated twice more. This seat’s taken. This seat’s taken..

He reached the back of the bus, where there we no more seats to take.

“Ah,” he said, and picked up an orange by the wheel well. He tossed it in the air and caught it, satisfied, then clomped back towards the front.

“Walk much?” said someone. Laughter followed him as he clomped. When he reached the front he stopped clomping, and turned to face them. From his coat pocket he removed something shiny and slim. Two keys on a ring. They sparkled when he shook them.

“Anybody know the way to school?” he said, and grinned. “I’m new.”

Cold air sank into their throats as he slid into the empty driver’s seat. He wedged the orange on the dash, and turned the key. The floor rumbled under their snow covered shoes. Brakes hissed and released. Heavy tires crushed salt and snow, then pushed the bus out into the street.

He watched them in the long mirror above the dash, a stupid grin on his face, anticipating anything.