I went to the apartment and kept doing what I'd been doing: sitting around and reading. Rusty-James liked it better with me there, I think. Maybe he'd got sick of going to the hospital all the time. I still had to go back often; I got Cassandra to drive me. If I saw someone I knew, I ignored them. Guys were always waving at me, asking where I'd been. We just drove by.
It wasn't long before they downgraded me to a smaller cast. The only really important thing about this was I could pull my jeans down over it. I made my reappearance at the hall like nothing had happened, and no one mentioned it. They mentioned it when I got around to going back to school, though. I got called into a counselors office. I'd been in there before, mostly for little things. I didn't cause a lot of trouble. No sense causing trouble where you're likely to get interrupted before the fun really starts. Some of the teachers didn't like the way I stared at them, especially when I blanked.
Mr. Kheel pressed him fingertips together like little steeples and leered at me. I didn't think he had any reason to be mad. Accidents happened, kids missed school. "Do you realize you've missed a substantial amount of classes, young man?"
I couldn't remember the last time someone called me a young man. It sounded derogatory, the way he said it. "Yes. Does the doctor's note not cover everything?"
"The doctor's note is fine," he intones, like he's saying something profound. "What I want to know is, are you going to be able to catch up?"
"I'm not behind." Rusty-James got some of my books for me. I didn't have any patience for it, cooped up in the apartment, but I'd got some done, and I could catch up easy.
Mr. Kheel tilted his finger-steeples toward me, like he was aiming a gun. "Can I set you up with a tutor?"
I almost laughed. "I don't need it."
His face was going kind of purple. "Young man, do you realize that midterms are coming up soon?"
This guy was getting on my nerves. "I'll be ready for them. I'll ace them, if it makes you happy."
He guffawed, once; sounded like a goat getting its throat slit. "If you ace those exams, I'll eat my hat!"
I don't know if he ever did eat a hat. He did expel me, though. I didn't mind. The hospital bill had come in, and I needed some time to scrounge around for the shortfall.
I'd done enough thumping around, hitting up everyone who owed me money and shooting pool for the rest, to pay the bill when they called me in again to take the cast off. I wasn't even thinking about how much they might charge me for it. By then, almost everyone know I'd busted my leg, and I wanted to be back in prime shape before anyone got it in their heads that this was the time to come looking for me. I don't put up with that - anymore, but that doesn't keep it from happening.
Cassandra drove me, said she wanted to go out and celebrate afterwards. I climbed in next to her, my leg feeling surprisingly light. We went to the bar and got beers, just like we would've any other night. I wondered if this really qualified as celebrating. Maybe the celebratory part was how Cassandra kept telling everyone how I was 'all fixed up now.' If I hadn't been in such a good mood, I would've left. When I got fed up, I shot pool instead, though most of the guys there knew me too well to play for money. A few I hadn't seen since my last joyride came and played me. They smelled like pot, but I let it go 'cause I was feeling pretty good and they were loose with their bets. I'd made a few hundred dollars before Cassandra called me back to the bar.
"They're replaying the Academy Awards," she explained, shoving a topped-off mug into my hands. I kinda felt like I might go out soon; I was having trouble focusing on her. But the mug still felt good, chill. "Have you ever seen one, Motorcycle Boy?"
"No, I don't believe so." I glanced up at the little black and white, resting an elbow on the bar.
"Well, I missed it. Sit and watch with me."
I wasn't expecting much. It was even harder to focus on the TV than on Cassandra. Then the black and white burst into color, and I jolted all the way back from the edge, right into my seat, and my ears felt like the noise of the bar was exploding, pitch-perfect, into them. I grabbed the edge of the stool. "I've seen this before," I whisper. Cassandra isn't looking at me. "I'm going for a ride."
She doesn't notice 'til I'm halfway out the door. There are a few cycles parked out front. I pick the one that looks sturdiest, straddling it to make sure the fit's good. Cassandra's calling at me from the door. I hotwire the cycle and pull out. Whoever owns the cycle I hijacked doesn't seem to have noticed.
I coast through the encroaching twilight, feeling the wind ripping at me. The cycle didn't have a helmet with it. Usually I wouldn't mind, but after the latest concussion, I figured I'd lift one once I got out of town.
Now, which way was California?