Canton glanced up as everyone congregated at the corner, like water building against a dam, allowed to flow every few minutes. People turning and crossing, waiting and talking. The web of conversations. Gregory Pitts liked Sandra White. Satchmo Jenkins feared he might be eaten by a dog on his way home. Cynthia Sower was putting on a show at 3:33 p.m. Some banter on boogers, and everyone wanted to know what secret things Fatima Moss was always writing.
He watched his classmates tap-dance with tongues, challenging one another, slipping and sliding from story to story. Watched his mother perform a kind of ballet. How she spun, stepped into the street like she was made of more. Blew her whistle. Put a hand up for a bus to stop. Put a hand out to wave the walkers through.
When all the Latimer students had walked off, headed home or wherever they went after school, Ms. Post removed her vest. She slung it over her shoulder. Pulled the whistle over her head. Another day, job done.
“Ready to walk?” she asked Canton, who had been working nonstop on his assignment.
He nodded. “Yeah.”
Canton stood, the broom dog falling from his lap like he had forgotten it was there. Ms. Post picked it up.
“Sheesh. This thing has seen better days.” She examined it. The mangled straw. The pieces of felt that were meant to be ears long gone. “I know it’s supposed to be a dog, but now it kinda looks like a bus.” She handed it to Canton. “The eyes are like the headlights, and the mean mouth—”
“It’s a smile,” Canton corrected.
“Oh, right. The smile . . . is the grille. Funny.”
Canton had never noticed that. The broom dog had just become a thing he had, a thing he knew was there if he needed it, but it had been a long time, he realized, since he’d actually needed it.
“It’s all faded now anyway,” Canton said, grabbing his backpack. They stood on the corner, looked both ways before crossing.
“Still want it?” his mother asked. Canton shrugged, tossed it up in the air. Caught it. Tossed it again. Caught it. Again, and loose straw separated from the bunch. Again. And more loose straw, falling down on them. And more. Ms. Post laughed. “Look at that. A school bus falling from the sky.”
Canton smiled, knowing a school bus is many things.
So is a walk home.