...growing on a short vine around the oak trees in the front yard. It is a vine we never expected to see again, because last summer there had been no rain, and most of it had dried up, even baked away in places where buds should have appeared. But it is raining today, and has been raining since Wednesday. It is hot in the car waiting behind the school bus, watching the blinking red lights, listening to the fans blowing in the dashboard. Stopping at every corner as the kids get out.
Sometimes it is a small one -- t-shirt and jeans, camouflaged knapsack over one shoulder, androgynous from the back. Youngish teenagers, arms and legs too long, hide cigarettes in their palms and take quick drags as if biting their thumbnails.
There is only one bus. The big teenagers ride in the back. Walter Marlin has stretched his arms across the back seat, one reached around Patricia, and his shoulders make little hills beow his ears. He is wearing his cap backwards. There will be no football team next year, and Walter feels cheated. He's waited a long time.
He has to ride past the last corner of what can be called Town, the corner where Patricia gets off. They kiss as if it will be months before they see each other tonight. She takes his cap and puts it on her own head, brim-front. The cap is bue and white, reading Spartans on the front, 40 on the brim. She points to the wisteria vines, but Walter doesn't see what she means. He is reaching for his cigarettes in the pocket of his shirt. The driver lets him smoke this last half mile because he is the only one left, and because he wants one himself.
Patricia has two blocks to walk, but her mother is there with the car to pik her up, an umbrella over her head and plastic scarf on her hair. She is waving, partly to Walter, but he doesn't see. He is striking a match.
The rain comes in waves, slowing a little, then heavy again. The bus turns around on the Marlins' land and waits for stray traffic to pass before it heads back to the other end of the road to park behind the elementary school until morning.
People like to argue doesn't it get hotter every year, but then someone says, no it's just that when you get older you feel it more. Someone says, no you remember more summers, just like you think the winters are different because there are more to compare. Polar ice cap, someone says. Someone who subscribes to National Geographic. Does that substantiate the heat or the cold? There is a clap of thunder and the dogs get scared.
That road the bus is on, that's Juniper Street for a about five miles. The rest of the time it is Rt. 17, going down toward Van Doren in one direction and San Bernardo in the other. "Directly between Van and San," someone tried to coin. It's not accurate, but that "directly," made it sound better. We are closer to Van Doren, where the 3M plant is, only about 20 minutes from the northside of town. Most of the citizens of Fulton work there, making tape. But the videocasette business is nearly dead and the Van Doren plant may have to switch to the transparent kind. Fulton worries about this, and for good reason.