by Bryan Russell
Sara checked her hat and her mittens. The other kids were already heading out the door, except Michael. Sara stomped her feet, her snowpants making her legs feel like heavy balloons.
“Yellow Bus?” Michael said.
“Yes, it’s time for Yellow Bus,” Sara told her classmate.
Michael’s smudged face turned down to his coat. He tried to do up his zipper, but his fingers did not seem to recognize the task. Ms. McCarthy started to walk over, but Sara was already pulling her mittens off with her teeth. They dangled there, red and woolen, as Sara grasped Michael’s zipper and did it up.
“Yellow Bus?” Michael said.
“Come on,” Sara said, pulling her mittens back on. She walked out into the hallway and Michael followed. “Quick, quick,” she said, “we don’t want to miss it.”
Sara pushed out the heavy door to the parking lot, and as it swung back it banged Michael. He was always slow to push through, but sometimes Sara forgot.
“Sorry,” Sara said.
Michael pointed. There were a row of yellow buses, but Michael was only pointing at one of them. It was a third the size of the others, and idled at the end of the row. There were lots of yellow buses, but only one Yellow Bus.
Jasmine sauntered over. She was an older girl.
“Yellow Bus!” Jasmine said, miming Michael’s faint lisp.
“I take Yellow Bus,” Michael said.
“You take the Dumb Bus,” Jasmine said. “It’s little cuz your brain is little.”
Michael put his head down.
Sara pulled him. “You gotta get on your bus, Michael. Come on. You gotta get on Yellow Bus.”
Jasmine sauntered after. “Dumb bus, dumb bus, dumb bus.” She wore low-slung jeans. She had older sisters. Everyone said Jasmine was cool. Sometimes she smoked.
“Come on, Michael,” Sara said, trying to push him up the steps onto the bus. His face had scrunched in on itself. His eyes were wet.
“Dumb bus, dumb bu-u-u-us.” Jasmine was singing now, pretending she had a microphone.
The Yellow Bus turned its lamplight face and looked at Jasmine. It growled its engine and then jerked forward, its grill opening and yellow teeth clomping on the girl, swallowing her head. Another bite and most of her torso was lost inside. There was a crunching sound. Only the legs, the low-slung jeans, stuck out.
Sara watched the legs wiggle a moment, one shoe falling off, and then Yellow Bus tossed its head back and the legs slid inside. Crunch crunch. The wipers flashed across, once, twice, and then again. A puff of smoke belched out the tailpipe. Yellow Bus was chewing, though its bright gaze had already turned back to the road, to the larger buses ahead.
Sara pushed Michael onto Yellow Bus. He was calm now. The doors swung shut behind him.
“Everyone ready? Sara?” Ms. McCarthy called.
There was a sneaker on the ground. Turned on its side. Sara kicked it under Yellow Bus.
“I’m ready,” Sara said.