Tyler's Sticky Situation
TYLER MOSS was a second grader at Public School 16 on Bunting Avenue, smack in the middle of a crowded city. He lived with his mother and little brother, A. J., who went to day care and not a "real" school. Tyler's father was a fireman. Monday to Friday he lived on the top floor of the firehouse not far away. On weekends he would join the family.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
More than anything else in the world, Tyler loved candy - Milky Ways, Starburst, gooey Sugar Daddies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, M&M's, Kit Kats, licorice sticks, frozen Junior Mints, any kind at all, the sweeter the better.
Of course his mother wouldn't have let him eat all that candy, and his piggy bank was empty, but a kid could always dream. Even a second grader.
"One piece of candy for dessert Saturday night," his mom would say. "Take your pick." No matter what kind Tyler chose, the candy was sure to disappear fast. Munch. Munch. Down it went. He liked candy better than cookies and ice cream put together. Better than butterscotch sundaes. Better than pizza. Better than ... recess.
Tyler knew that his mom wasn't being mean or anything like that, not at all. She was just watching out for him.
Every school day she and A. J. would wait with Tyler on the sidewalk in front of their apartment building for the bus to pick him up and take him to P. S. 16. It was a good mile away. What's unusual is that it wasn't a school bus that stopped for him, but a big city bus, crowded and smelling of soot and grime. Tyler had to pay the bus driver 25 cents for the ride. Kids' rate. Whenever his parents took the bus they had to pay double. A. J. went free.
That meant Tyler's mom had to give him two quarters every morning - 25 cents for the ride to school, 25 more cents for the ride home at the end of the day. Two quarters. He'd put one in the coin machine next to the bus driver (different ones all the time) and put the other safely inside his pocket.
"Hang onto your lunchbox," his mom would shout from the sidewalk, as she and A. J. waved goodbye.
The year before, when Tyler'd been a first grader, taking the city bus to school had been kind of scary. All those people. All those sounds - roaring engine, squeaky brakes, strange voices. No other kids he knew. One of the bus drivers had a beard and yellow teeth. Seats were often hard to find. Tyler's heart would thump-thump, and he'd never say a word. Coming home was easier because the bus wasn't so crowded.
It had taken a while, but now the bus ride didn't bother Tyler at all. In fact, he sort of liked it. Liked watching all the people getting on and off. Liked some of the bus drivers, the ones who'd say a word or two. "How's it going, kid?" or "Anything good for lunch today?" One lady driver he liked because of the nice perfume she wore. He got to like the sound of the engine, almost as loud as the fire trucks his father drove. And he no longer cared if he got a seat or not. He was proud and brave. Besides , what second grader worth his salt would be afraid of a bus?
One sunny day, while waiting at the bus stop, his mother said, "Tyler, I don't have two quarters to give you today. Here's one quarter, two dimes, and five pennies. Don't lose it."
O problem. For as any kid knows, two dimes and five pennies are the same as a quarter. It's just in a different form. And as for losing the money, no way. Tyler was too smart for that.
Moments later the door to the bus swung open and Tyler got on. He put the quarter in the coin machine ("Hey kid, how goes it?"), pocketed the dimes and pennies, found a seat, and waved out the window to A. J. and his mom. He took a peek inside his lunchbox to see what goodies his mom had packed - cream cheese and jelly sandwich, granola bar, apple, and orange. No candy - again. "Guess I'll have to wait 'til Saturday," he thought to himself.
But he was wrong.