CHAPTER 1 It is English, and I am watching Rebecca Schwartz's head. It tilts down ten degrees and rotates slightly to the left. The sun catches it and turns her hair a more lustrous brown. Her hand is moving across the page, and loopy letters are following her pen. I am transfixed by this, even though I am supposed to be charting the syntax of a sentence about why people become flight attendants. I think I have a crush on Rebecca Schwartz. I haven't spoken to her much. I am in awe of her. It would be like Moses speaking to the burning bush. Whenever I go to speak with her, I feel like I should take off my shoes. I guess I am also pretty timid. I imagine speaking with her. Sometimes I construct whole conversations where we say unusual things to each other. I picture us walking through the forest in the spring. This is not a particularly original fantasy, I know. For one thing, it is in about every personal ad Tom and I have ever read. "SWM," they say, "seeking SWF, nonsmoker who enjoys long walks in the forest, quiet evenings by the fire, and strolls by the sea." People are not very original when it comes to romance. I think that's too bad. Sometimes you want to see a personal ad that says, "SWM seeking SWF, nonsmoker who enjoys flailing in pig poop, puking, and honking on bagpipes. Women who do not know 'My Lassie Yaks in Bonny Mull' need not apply." But I am not in the mood for pig poop today; so instead, I kiss her in the forest. There is sun and lots of mosquitoes. I look up from my diagram and see her face rotated at one quarter as she looks toward the clock. I feel awful for having thought about kissing her. It is after the time when the bell should ring. I tap my pencil three times on the desk impatiently. I look down. I draw a stem for the prepositional phrase to sit on. I clearly and deliberately write down "to many satisfied airline passengers." The bell rings and we are going out of the room into the hall, where there is banging and shouting. I quickly try to maneuver toward Rebecca and her friends because she is talking to Tom, who knows her better than I do. I angle a few steps in that direction. They are heading for the lunchroom. I wade toward them. Suddenly Jerk appears at my side. He is as big as a roadblock. His hand-me-down pants are too short for his legs. I am thinking desperately of things to say to her. Jerk is in repellently high spirits. "Chris! Hey, Chris, I thought that would never end. I thought did you get number four?" He squints. "That was the one with the guy who had a layover in Newark. It was real hard." I say curtly, "The hardest." Jerk is unwelcome right now. I am considering my conversational options with Rebecca. "It was so boring!" Jerk is still exclaiming. "So boring! Boring, boring, boring!" "Let's go over and talk to Tom," I say carefully. I push in that direction. They are moving down the hall. I am keenly aware that, conversationally, appearing with Jerk in his happy-to-see-you mode is like taking a dead moose as carryon luggage. "More boring," he adds cheerfully, "than a very boring thing from the planet Tedium." Tom, Rebecca, and the rest have reached the stairs. They are going down. I am estimating whether I can reach them in time. Jerk keeps pace with me. "Hey, Chris!" exclaims Jerk. "Isn't that your brother? Waving to you?" He gestures down the hall away from the stairs. My brother is there, waving to me. I swear and move in the opposite direction. No time to lose. "Chris!" I hear my brother shouting over the din. "It's your brother!" Jerk says, tugging at my arm. "Really, Jerk? I guess that would explain why hAnderson, M. T. is the author of 'Thirsty', published 2008 under ISBN 9780763638955 and ISBN 0763638951.