I waited nervously behind the library steps until I saw that my bus, number seven, was nearly full. I bolted from my hiding place like a sprinter from his mark and fell into line just as the doors were closing. Sanctuary. The school ground had become, in those days of my twelfth year, a very hostile and unforgiving place, with only two such sanctuaries: the school building and the school bus. Anywhere in between these two free zones, I became fair game. You see, for the first time in my young life, I had made an enemy.
For my first endeavor at such undertakings, I did quite well in choosing the largest boy in the sixth grade. Duane was at least 150 pounds, although I can't be sure because on recent visits to my old classrooms everything seemed much smaller than I remember it being. Maybe Duane was only 75 pounds, but next to my frail frame, he was a hulking Sasquatch.
Duane had somehow become convinced that I was responsible for the crude caricature of him that appeared one day on the bulletin board. I guess he recognized my stylistic nuances because he had vowed publicly to end my life. Now I was living my life in fear, running serpentine between the school and the bus like John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima.
"Bam! Flat like a pancake, Anderson!" His words resounded in my head as I made myself as small as possible in the bus seat. I thought about the Swedish pancakes my Mother made. They were really flat.
On the long ride home, it began to snow. Snowflakes collected like icy sequins on the sill of the school bus window as I drifted off into a snowfall induced trance. By the time the bus arrived at our house, the wind had picked up and was whipping the falling snowflakes into tiny white cyclones all over our driveway.
"Darwin, Public and Parochial. Dassel-Cokato..."
A unison cheer drowned out the announcer's voice. We had heard the magic words, the words that are the envy of our southern cousins everywhere, announcing a Snow Day.
The wonderful white manna was starting to accumulate in two or three foot drifts all over our property. The wind howled like a symphony of angry woodwinds and it was delicious music to my ears, indeed.
Naturally, I suited up and hit the perimeter to explore. In my mind, I was Alan Shepard on the moon, leaping weightlessly across the terrain. Oblivious to my fantasies, the wet petals kept falling out of the icy black sky.
The blizzard raged on for four more days and by the end of its reign, set new precedents for what a winter storm should be. The drifts covered a corn picker completely, with only its mouth sticking out of the snow, as if it were mouthing a despondent "O."
There were great terraces of snow in our back yard, which inevitably became the groundwork for an elaborate network of tunnels. It was a whimsical fantasy wonderland where I never once thought about Duane Kohl.
Until the following Monday, when school resumed.
I was dead. I had allowed myself to be trapped between free zones and now I was going to die. I slumped limply up against the library steps. It was Duane, all one hundred and fifty homicidal pounds of him.
"Hey Anderson, my Dad might buy a car from your Dad."
"R... really?" I stammered.
"Yeah, and it might be mine someday."
"Wow, that's ... that's great," I said, laughing rigidly.
With that, Duane slugged me in the shoulder and lumbered off towards bus number four. I stood there for a minute, rubbing my arm. I knew that he had to do something to me for drawing that unkind picture of him, but somehow I had expected more than that.
I see now, looking back, that used automobiles make strange bedfellows. If Mr. Kohl had decided to buy a new car, I might have been carrion hanging from the jungle gym. Or flat like Swedish pancakes, like my mother makes