Escape

There is a large pillar at the end of the driveway, made of flagstone Grampy plucked from the yard when he was building the house back in the 40s. This is where Michael sits on the second day of school, high up, away from the other kids, who not only stop making fun of him and his orange rain boots, but don’t even look at him anymore. Maybe they don’t see him at all.

Yesterday, the first day of kindergarten, he toddled up the long gravel driveway to the road, holding his mother’s hand. The other boys, the neighbors, they snickered at the rain coat and boots that he’d picked out with Grammy at K-Mart, and they’d snickered more when he hid his face in his mother’s flowered skirt. She looked down at him, away from her watch, away from the bend in the road the bus was supposed to be rounding, and asked what was wrong, but he said nothing.

Today, it was Dad’s turn, and he hadn’t held Michael’s hand. He’d been too busy trying to keep Michael’s little sister, Ashley, from plowing her big wheel out into the road. That’s how Michael got onto the pillar. With Dad distracted, he made the climb. And it had been so nice, with his kid sister busying playing in traffic, to sit in peace and watch the world, the cardinals Grammy loved so much playing the crabapple tree across the way. But now Dad had the big wheel under one arm and Ashley under the other and he was saying, “Get your ass down from there.”

The other kids, silent until this moment, they cackle. But then Dad gives them a look—no words, just a glare—and they shut right up.

“What were doing up there?” Dad asks.

“Trying to escape,” says Michael.

Dad smirks, Ashley still wriggling under one arm, even though she knows she won’t get put down until she is still again. “This family,” says Dad. “we’ve been trying that for decades.”

“What’s a decade?” says Michael.

“Never mind,” says Dad, setting Ashley down, now that she’s gone stiff as a board. “You just keep trying,” he says. “Who knows? Maybe one of you kids’ll be the first to succeed.”

As soon as she’s set down, Ashley runs out into the road again, looking over her shoulder and sticking her tongue out at the two of them.

Luckily, the school bus stops in time.

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