The tracks were Michael’s favorite part.
When the big yellow school bus went over the railroad tracks, sometimes he could jump in his seat, and if he timed it just right, he’d float for half-a-heartbeat before the wheels, and his butt, fell back to earth.
Michael knew the driver could see the boys jump in their seats; he had that gigantic mirror above him that let the driver see any misbehaving. Michael didn’t like to misbehave, but just like the driver could see everything in his mirror, Michael could see the driver and last Friday when they’d gone over the tracks, Michael saw the driver smile, so he knew jumping in his seat wasn’t misbehaving.
Unfortunately, there’d be no jump today. Michael tried not to be too sad, his mother always told him “Attitude is everything,” so Michael tried to have a good, positive attitude, even when things were sucky.
So Michael looked out the window at the train passing. He used to love trains when he was younger; something about the repetitive and rhythmic motions made him feel good. That ended when his Daddy got drunk and drove into a train last year. Michael’s mother said it was just an accident, but the kids at school said he’d done it on purpose.
Michael never much liked his Daddy anyway, so he was sad, but maybe not as sad as he could have been. He was mostly sad that Michael and his Mother needed to move to a smaller house on the other side of town, and that Michael couldn’t have new toys any more. His Mother told him that “Times were tight” and that he needed to “Buckle down.” He didn’t know exactly what she meant, but he wanted to be a good boy.
Good boys didn’t make trouble. Good boys did their chores. Good boys didn’t talk back.
When the bus stopped, Michael grabbed his patched-up backpack and ran down the aisle. He figured he’d empty the dishwasher first, because last time the machine didn’t get all the spots and his Mother had started crying when she saw that the dish was dirty.
There was a box, all sealed up with tape, on the front porch, big enough that Michael didn’t know if he could lift it, but when he picked it up it was surprisingly light.
Michael put the box on the kitchen table and walked over to the dishwasher and started unloading the dishes. The first few plates were clean, but the next one he picked up had a little caked on food. Michael walked towards the dishrag on the back of the kitchen chair when the box exploded.
At least, Michael thought the box exploded. Everything went white, painful in the spot behind his eyes, and when he was able to see again, he was lying on his back and the plate was in pieces on the floor.
When his vision cleared, he saw that the plate was the only thing broken. So maybe not an explosion explosion, but something happened.
Except the box looked exactly the same. Well, it looked kind of the same. Maybe it was different?
It had a top now. With holes in it.
Michael walked closer to the box and when he heard it, his whole world changed.
He couldn’t believe it, but he couldn’t think of what else it could be. He ran to the box and tore of the top, and sure enough, that’s exactly what it was. He’d asked and asked, and finally he had been enough of a Good Boy that his Mother had listened and got him just what he wanted.
Inside the box was a brown and white puppy.