Abandoned Schoolbus off Timber Run Rd.

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In the summer we knocked all the windows out. Side-kick to the windshield like Bruce Lee, sheets of glass folding in. Climbed in over square glass crumbs, slashed our names in the seats.

Come fall they moved in: skinny man and skinnier boy, black-haired pale-skinned. They talked to our folks on the creek bank: It’s free, you can’t beat that. They patched the bus windows with newspapers, rebel flag, trash bags, duct tape.

At school the boy made a police badge, Dayne County Sheriff, tinfoil on cardboard. Every day he wore it, bright silver, on the same black sweatshirt. We chased him with rocks from the bus stop. Running, he’d point one finger back: Bang. We caught him, threw his badge in the creek, watched it come unglued in the current. Shreds of brown and silver swirled down to red mud.

Christmas break, the cold came. The boy slept against the man’s back, and they didn’t freeze. The man brought home Dumpster food, old bread, stolen cans. Some days, whiskey to keep them warm. The boy said he’d grow up, be a cop. The man slapped him and cried.

After a while the man left. Told the boy don’t leave till he got back. Snowdrifts piled up to the windows. Snow-broken trees fell down across the hood, branches tore the windshield trash bags loose, flapping in the wind. Worst cold in fifty years. County come looking for the boy when the snow went down. It was on the news for days. He wasn’t dead, but they cut his legs off.

Now we tell everyone he was our friend.

Previously published in Literary Potpourri and Ink Pot.

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