On the ride to school, the first day of the new academic year, Charlie is a bundle of zip-zapping energy. He speaks rapidly while listing the names of the former class mates he plans to seek out first thing at recess. With lightening speed, he offers up random facts about tarantulas and wolf spiders. (We’ve already met Charlie’s new teacher and the class pet, a tarantula named Chili.) Charlie’s voice crackles, his word-bursts snap and pop out at me one after the other, like a beach side bonfire shooting blistering hot sparks.
“Yes, Char. It’s going to be a great year.”
“See you at three o’clock. Don’t be late.”
“Okay. I won’t. (I put the car in parking mode.) Ready?”
“Of course I’m ready. You ready?”
“Of course. Have a fantastic first day, Charlie Bollinger.”
“Yep.” As the “Bollinger Boy Smirk” makes a brief appearance on his slightly tanned summer face, Charlie opens the car door, shooting out of the vehicle as if shoved by another. The door is slammed with great force (as is Charlie’s way) and the third grader bustles away from the vehicle in a half-jog, half-walk. His new and stiff green plaid backpack slides from side to side on his back as he rushes forward, the pack’s long black straps and buckles flap every which way. Charlie pauses to readjust the backpack on his shoulders and then he hikes up the waist line of his too loose jean shorts. He turns right on the concrete walkway and heads swiftly toward the first day of third grade in Room #8.