Henry J watched his feet swinging under the cracked vinyl bus seat, his forehead pressed against the seat in front of him, as the bus rattled and bounced down the street. The other kids were laughing and chatting quietly, but he had the seat to himself as he swung his feet and thought about the miserable breakfast he had left half eaten at home.
Protesting groans from the brakes announced the arrival at the next bus stop. The driver pulled the handle, and the door stiffly opened halfway, creaking and jittery.
A frizzy haired brunette pushed the door the rest of the way open and bounced up the steps, her backpack jangling with the multitude of keychains dangling from its two zippers: a mini stuffed animal, an electronic pet with dead batteries, and her name written on three different rhinestoned, sequined, or glittery pieces of plastic. She plopped on the bench next to Henry J as he sat up and wiggled over to give her more space.
“Guess what? My tooth is loose!” she announced by way of hello.
“Oh yeah? I have an elf,” Henry J replied as the bus lurched forward.
The girl, whose name was Molly, stared at him. “Really? Where? I want to see! What’s his name?”
“Well…he’s at home. He lives in my shoe.”
Molly glanced down at Henry J’s feet. “And you’re squashing him?!?” she cried.
“No! No, he’s in my closet. I left him on my flip flops. He was mad that Dad made me wear these shoes today, but he said I had to because of the weather.”
Molly considered this. “It’s bad to have an unhappy elf.”
“Yeah, he said he’d get back at my dad for this.”
“We have to make it better then,” Molly replied brightly. She pulled a yellow and pink zebra-striped scrunchy from her wrist and tied her hair back into a messy ponytail. She tugged a soft lunchbox with a unicorn on it from her backpack. It momentarily got tangled in the keychains, but she freed it quickly. Opening the lunchbox, she removed a sandwich, a bag of carrots, and an oatmeal cream pie and set them on the bus seat beside her.
“I have a plate, two forks, a bowl, and three cups,” she said, gathering a small collection of battered Barbie dishes, and dropping them into Henry J’s hand.
Henry J smiled for the first time that morning. “Thanks Molly,” he replied as they both stood up to get off the bus and head into school.
Several times, I have been asked why I’m involved with raising funds for breast cancer research. People who know my history know I lost my mother to heart disease not breast cancer. I don’t think that is the point.
The author of this chapter is my youngest daughter. She is a competitive shooter and among her accomplishments she was the NCAA Women’s Champion as a junior in college. She was named to the United States Olympic Pistol Team and now she shoots for the Texas National Guard and as a pro competitor.
She is one of the reasons I’m involved in raising funds for breast cancer research. You see, for me, it’s not about who we’ve lost, it’s about who could lose. Like most men, I have dozens of women in my life and I don’t want to lose any of them.