Even the kids who don’t like reading are excited while waiting outside this morning. It’s the book fair, which always feels a little like a holiday. So many colors and sounds and smells, so many new things, and not having to go to class. And even without class, the day is so full! Definitely some type of holiday. The bell rings. That means it’s time to go in!
The gym is sparkly clean. This is the cleanest it will be all year. It’s never even this clean to welcome the kids to the first day of school after summer break, but it always gets this clean for the book fair people at book fair time. Must be a holiday. Now to walk around and explore!
Jeremiah and Zophiel are one group of explorers. They met in the waiting room outside the Principal’s office when they were going to get consequences. They each get in trouble a lot. Now they are good friends, and sometimes when they get bored in class, they make trouble together to have a good story.
Now, they are running around the gym playing tag because they don’t have money for books. Run playing is what gyms are for, right? They are laughing and having so much fun, making sure not to run into people. All those extra twists and turns make it extra fun. Jeremiah swings his arms in narrow shapes. Zophiel does a cartwheel between two tables.
They hear a whistle and start giggling and running faster! They are in trouble! This is exciting! Now, even though they can’t get any books, they will get a good story.
Both of them get taken outside. Trouble! It’s happening! The teacher talks about right and wrong, but they don’t pay any mind until she says she will call their parents if it happens again. Oh. They don’t like that.
Both Zophiel’s parents and Jeremiah’s parents take trouble too far, so much so that it hurts to remember. They don’t talk about it, but maybe it’s part of how and why they’re friends.
They go back inside, thinking about right and wrong, and focusing on not getting in trouble. Jeremiah doesn’t like reading but Zophiel loves it, so he lets them read him the titles of the books as the two of them walk around. It’s so sparkly and clean everywhere. Ideas of right and wrong go round and round in their heads.
Zophiel reads the title of a little book, and Jeremiah smiles. He likes that one. Zophiel looks around to be careful, picks it up, and puts it in their backpack for later.
“Zophiel!” Jeremiah says. “Stealing is wrong!” Both of them start to get a weird heavy feeling in their hearts and in the backs of their eyes, which start to get wet. But neither of them know why. Jeremiah wipes his eyes. Stealing is wrong.
Stealing is wrong. They think about the watery apples and expired pastries they always bite out of the plastic packaging at free breakfast.
Stealing is wrong. They think about the sixty night limits at the family shelters and the distracted case workers who smile funny.
Stealing is wrong. They think about everyone fighting at lunch recess over who gets the ball because the school only has one.
Stealing is wrong. They think about the time Zophiel got taken away by child services for two whole days.
Stealing is wrong. They think about how old man KT who lives across from school in the tent on the corner got arrested for robbery after he picked an orange from the tree in the mayor’s front yard and has not been seen since.
Stealing is wrong. They think about the families who moved into the empty buildings and then got beat up by the police.
They are crying now. Stealing is wrong.
Stealing is wrong. They think about their parents hitting them after they got in a fight to show them fighting is wrong, and how the two of them never got in a fight after that.
Stealing is wrong. They wipe their eyes. They need a break. Stealing is wrong. Zophiel zips up their backpack. “Zophiel?” Jeremiah says.
“Yeah?” says Zophiel.
“Can I give you a piggyback out of here? And then you can read us the book outside?”
Zophiel nods and jumps on his back. The book fair is always a full day.