If . . .
Everyone Knew Your Name
those who ride the bus
usually get busted.
Haley was still choking on the convertible’s exhaust
fumes when a dingy yellow bus rounded the corner and stopped
in front of her driveway. A pair of graffitied doors with
cracked glass opened. Bracing herself, Haley stepped inside.
“This isn’t the bus for Hillsdale, is it?”
she gasped, looking around at the sea of misfits.
“No, it’s the bus to Disneyland, kid,”
the driver said. “Take a seat,” he ordered.
Haley wobbled down the aisle as the Millers’ quaint
new house became a speck in the distance.
She scanned the rows, looking for a seat, while goons with
facial hair and girls pierced six ways to Sunday glared back
Haley had heard that her bus route began in the Floods, an
undesirable section of Hillsdale where rainstorms turned backyards
into lakes and streets into rapid-flowing rivers. How bad
could it be? she had thought when her mother warned her.
Pretty bad, she now realized.
Halfway down the aisle, a boy’s leg was outstretched,
blocking her path.
“What have we got here?” he said.
The boy was wearing a black tank top and had a wad of chewing
tobacco stuffed in his lip. One look at him and Haley knew
that his bell had already reached its curve and that it was
all downhill from here.
“Aren’t guys like you supposed to drop out of
high school?” she asked.
“But then we wouldn’t have met,” the boy
said with a smirk.
“Leave her alone, Garrett, you freak.” Johnny
Lane delivered the ultimatum without looking up from the Paul
Westerberg biography that lay open in his lap. Haley recognized
the good-looking brooder as one of the boys who had played
basketball at Reese Highland’s house the week before
and wondered why he, of all people, was riding the bus.
“Easy, tough guy.” Garrett laughed. “Guess
I’ll check you later,” he said to Haley, finally
letting her pass. He stared at her as he put his headphones
on and resumed singing aloud to an obnoxious tirade of rap
“Hey, thanks,” Haley said to Johnny, but he either
didn’t hear her or didn’t care, because he continued
to read his book.
Haley kept walking and finally found a seat in the back next
to a boy with pale skin and crooked teeth that were covered
in braces. It was, Haley thought, like looking at a set of
train tracks snaking through a jagged mountain range.
Across the aisle, Haley noticed an Asian girl hiding beneath
an oversized gray sweatshirt, doodling in a large black book
with frayed edges. The artist seemed oblivious to her surroundings
and clearly unaware of Haley, who was now craning her neck
to get a better look at the sketchpad.
With Haley in midlean, the bus lurched to a stop, slamming
her into the seat back in front of her. Startled, the Asian
girl turned and made eye contact with her. . . .
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