Troy drives the quarter of a mile back home from dropping Asia off at the bus station. Junior has finished getting he and his brother dressed as his father opens up their front door. “Dad, Beary and I
are ready for school”, he says matter of factly. “Good. I’ll fix you two some oatmeal for breakfast”. “I think we should have some waffles”, says Junior. “Because mom said to try to save our nonperishables”. “What’s perishables mean?” Asks Beary. And Junior responds to his little brother saying, “you mean what’s nonperishables mean?’ It means food that won’t spoil and that will keep for a long time”. “Oh” responds Beary with his cute bear self and says, “yeah I want some waffles”. Troy fixes the waffles and then gets in the shower while the boys eat their breakfast. He quickly dresses in old jeans and a sweat shirt for his construction job. While putting on his construction boots, he thinks of his wife. Saying to the boys, “I wonder how your mother is making out in the city?” “Yeah dad, I hope she is okay”, Junior replies. Beary says, “mommy’s gonna be alright!” Troy looks at his young son and says, “you are so right Beary, and so smart too. We all have to stay positive and continue thinking that way”. He then hugs both of them and says “You two boys do as mom said and behave in school, don’t get into any trouble, and don’t talk too much to your friends. Your mom and I love you very much and we don’t want you to get hurt”. Cocking his head to the side and looking up at his dad, Beary asks, “we can’t talk to our friends?” “Sure you can Bear, but don’t talk too much”. Junior says,
“I know what you mean dad”, as he wraps his arm around his little brother’s neck in a loving embrace, bends down, whispers in his ear, and leads him down the hall to get their book bags for school.
Just as Troy is reaching for his work bag, He hears a knock at the door. He says the same thing his wife said hours ago, “okay here we go”. Junior and Beary come running to the door as he opens it up. They stand behind their dad, each hugging one of his legs. It’s their neighbors, Karla and her son, Jamar. She’s once again frantic with worry and fear. And this is shown as she begins talking incessantly, “Troy I’m so glad you’re still here. I am so scared. Is Asia here or is she gone? What are you guys doing? Can you take Jamar with you?” She would have continued going on if Troy didn’t stop her by putting his hand on her shoulder and saying, “Karla calm down. Everything’s going to be alright. You have to try not to panic and try to take things one by one and have a positive attitude. I’ll take Jamar with us. You go on back home and stay safe and alert. Okay?” Karla looks at her neighbor and says, “thank you, but I don’t know if I’m going to stay calm”. Troy thinks, she never even said good morning, and he didn’t get a chance to either. And he says this to her and then says, “good morning Karla and Jamar”. “Oh good morning Mr. King”, Jamar says in a low and frightened voice. Karla then gives her apologies to Troy and the boys saying, “I’m so sorry Troy, and how are you Junior and Beary?” The two boys respond back respectfully and accordingly then wave to Jamar for they are all good friends. Karla and the boys walk towards the car in the driveway as Troy locks up the house. Karla waves a goodbye and Troy and the boys get into the car and he drives them to the school bus stop.
Even though the school bus stop is only three roads down from their house, Troy and the boys could already see it’s a chaotic scene as he pulls up. Cars are parked several roads deep. Most are one right behind the other, but some are parked on the other side of the line of cars waiting for the school buses to come. And this is creating frustration and conflicts. Neighbors who have known each other for years without any prior disagreements are now shouting at each other. Cathy, who lives around the corner, is saying, “why are you parking over there?, we don’t want any accidents”. Sly, who lives across from her, responds back with, “look, I don’t have any time to play get in line. I’m already late to work. So don’t get your panties all bunched up in a ball”. Cathy is in shock. No, that no good Sly did not just say that to her. She gets out of her car and slams the door shut so hard that her alarm goes off. This makes an already tense situation even more tense. Now standing in the middle of the road, with her hands on her hips, she screams back, “you no good adulterer who plays on his wife. How dare you talk to me like that!” By this time, all the surrounding neighbors and their children who congregate at that school bus stop are listening to this confrontation.
This is not the only argument and fight occurring. Several other neighbors are also having some type of disagreements and conflicts. Troy is stunned into silence. He cannot believe that so many people are acting so crazy and he hasn’t even gotten out of the community yet. He and the boys sit there with wide eyes watching all of this going on around them. Junior says, “dad what’s going on”? Turning his head from side to side as to say I don’t know, Troy responds with, “y’all see this right? People are already acting crazy and this is only the first day of the curfew. This is why I said earlier to not talk too much. You see why now”? Beary says in a frightened voice, “daddy I’m scared!” “Don’t be, Bear, if you get scared and want me to come get you from school, I will. Tell your teacher she can call me.” “Okay”, he says but Troy knows his son is still scared. He thinks everyone is scared. That’s why they are acting like this. But this is the wrong way to act. This is not the time to start turning on one another. And he continues to think, oh boy, if he’s going through this up here in what used to be quiet town, he’s scared to think what his wife is going through down in the city. He picks up his cell phone and scrolls down to Asia’s number. He punches the send button and his wife’s phone begins to ring in his ear. It rings until he hears, “sorry, but the person is not available, goodbye”. He stares
at the phone for a second, but only for a split second because before he can think of anything else, Junior points his finger and says, “here comes a bus dad”. There are at least twenty cars with children waiting in them to get on a bus and only one school bus arrives. Sly jumps out of his car and snatches his son out to get him on this first school bus. Cathy sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes at him. He snarls back at her in a rude returned gesture. Other neighbors jump out of their vehicles to fight to get their child on the same one school bus. More fights and arguments erupt because of this. Troy and the boys continue watching this surreal scene in amazement.
Troy then slowly backs out from his parking space easing out of the lined up cars. He has to continuously stop and then creep, stop and then creep again so as not to arouse any more anger from his frustrated and scared neighbors, and also not to hit anyone, heck, not even come too close to them lest he’ll be in a fight. Junior asks, “dad what are you doing?” “I’m trying to get out of here as safely as possible. Every child waiting here is not going to get on this bus. I’ll drive you guys to school instead.” He says this with a frustrated sigh. He then says a prayer out loud, “Lord please give me and my family the strength we need to endure just not today but everything else and what is to come”. “Amen”, says Junior and Beary for they are used to their parents always praying. Jamar doesn’t say anything. He just sits there twirling his fingers over and over in his lap. His eyes are wide and round and Troy thinks this poor boy is scared out of his wits. He finally makes it to where he can successfully turn their car around away from the school bus stop and irate parents. It takes them almost forty minutes to get to the school building when it normally will only take them about ten minutes, because many other parents had to also drive their children to school. It’s also chaotic at the school, when Troy arrives with the boys.
Many parents are trying to talk to the teachers and school staff all at once. Administrators are at the front doors, and one is saying, “please take the younger children from grades pre-kindergarten to second to the cafeteria. And take the older children from grades three to six to
the auditorium.” Another one, who is clearly flustered and frustrated is saying, “please don’t crowd up in the lobby. The school will send home notices with the children explaining if and what changes will be made. Thank you for your cooperation.” Troy thinks, yeah that is an important word, cooperation. People are going to have to cooperate with one another if there is going to be any type of civilized semblance with this new government curfew. Junior is saying, “dad, me and Jamar can go to the auditorium by ourselves. You take care of Beary, we’ll be alright.” And again for the second time that morning, Troy is proud of one of his sons. Looking proudly at his son he says, “okay Junior, I’m proud of you. Be brave, be smart, and remember what me and your mom have been telling you and your brother.” He hugs him and gives Junior a kiss on his cheek. Junior hugs his father back. Troy also hugs Jamar and tells him to be brave too.
Troy and Beary walk down the long hallway on the left side of the school. It has shiny, beige tiled floors and walls that are also painted beige. It gives off a nice bright and cheery atmosphere. Many parents and kids are walking with them. Troy hopes this will help to calm people down. One of Beary’s friends spots him and waves to him saying hello. Beary waves back but remains quiet. Troy is holding his hand and he gives it a soft squeeze that translates in to a knowing thank you. When they reach the cafeteria, Troy again thinks to himself that he’s glad the boys couldn’t get on the bus. He was supposed to bring them to school today. He feels it is God’s will and favor that’s done this. Beary spots his teacher and class sitting near the wall with the water fountain and points toward them saying, “daddy there is my class”. Troy looks to where Beary is pointing and sees the teacher and class. He sits Beary down, pulls out his cell phone to call his job, and patiently waits his turn to talk to Beary’s teacher. Troy’s turn comes and he greets Beary’s teacher with a smile and hand shake, and tells her to please call him if she needs him to pick Beary up early. She smiles back and says, “thank you Mr. King for your consideration, we need more parents like you”. Troy then gives Beary a hug and kiss and tells him the same thing he told his brother before saying goodbye and leaving him. Troy is thinking he has to get in touch with his wife. He can only imagine that she is going through ten times more worse than what he’s experiencing. And he doesn’t know how right he is when he thinks this thought. As he’s walking back down the school hallway headed to work, he pulls out his phone and tries to reach his wife again. He scrolls down to her number, presses send, and lets her phone ring until he once again hears the operator say, “sorry but the person you’re calling is unavailable”. He worriedly looks at his phone with a frown beginning to form on his face as he reaches his car. There are parents, school personnel, and children all frantically rushing past him but he is oblivious to it all.