Fourth grade was the first and last year I rode the bus to school. The bus driver wasn’t very nice. She had a helmet of curly red hair, and the shrill way she used to yell “SHUT your mouth!” still rings in my ears whenever I think of the experience. The seat we chose the first day of school became our assigned seat for the rest of the year or until whenever the driver let us pick seats again. Somehow, I always got stuck next to a kid named Provard, whose nose was always runny. I don’t know if Provard was his first or last name, but I remember how loud he was and the yelling matches he would get into with some of the older kids sitting in the back. Cue the driver, “SHUT your mouth!”
To pass the time, I would do word searches. (Let there be no mistake: I was a nerd.) Mom would buy me books of them at the grocery store and put them in my backpack. It was impossible to tune Provard out, but they made it easier to ignore him.
I hated the bus and intentionally missed it more often than my mom would like to know. The next year — at my behest and to save herself from having to leave work to come pick me up at home and take me in — she bought a house two blocks from my school.
Still, I can look back now and call it the beginning of something to do with me, words and cheap newsprint.