ã€€ã€€I was in the fifth grade, so my day was divided into periods, with different teachers and classrooms for each. For the first period, I had West Virginia history. History was one of my favorite subjects. I was coiled and ready to raise my hand as soon as the teacher asked a question I could answer, but he stood at the front of the room next to a map of West Virginia, with all fifty-five counties outlined, and spent the entire class pointing to counties and asking students to identify them. In my second period, we passed the hour watching a film of the football game that Welch High had played several days earlier. Neither of those teachers introduced me to the class; they seemed as uncertain as the kids about how to act around a stranger.
ã€€ã€€"Aw, come on," he said and shouted at Dad, "I'm going to take your girl upstairs.""Sure," Dad said. "Just don't do anything I wouldn't do." He pointed his pool cue at me. "Holler if you need me," he said and winked at me as if to say he knew I could take care of myself, that this was just a part of my job.
ã€€ã€€WHEN WE ALL GOT home that afternoon, Mom and Dad were eager to hear about our first day.
ã€€ã€€We steered clear of tollbooths by taking two-lane back roads, where we usually had a long line of drivers behind us, honking in exasperation. When one of the Oldsmobile's windows stopped rolling up in Oklahoma, we taped garbage bags over it. We slept in the car every night, and after arriving late in Muskogee and parking on an empty downtown street, we woke up to find a bunch of people surrounding the car, little kids pressing their noses against the windows and grown-ups shaking their heads and grinning.
ã€€ã€€"When do I get to go on the ride?" I asked.
ã€€ã€€* * *When I started sixth grade, the other kids made fun of Brian and me because we were so skinny. They called me spider legs, skeleton girl, pipe cleaner, two-by-four, bony butt, stick woman, bean pole, and giraffe, and they said I could stay dry in the rain by standing under a telephone wire.
ã€€ã€€"Bo-nanza!" Brian cried out.