Yelnats was the only passenger on the bus, not counting the driver or
the guard. The guard sat next to the driver with his seat turned around
facing Stanley. A rifle lay across his lap.
Stanley was sitting about ten rows back, handcuffed to his armrest. His
backpack lay on the seat next to him. It contained his toothbrush,
toothpaste, and a box of stationary his mother had given him. Hed
promised to write to her at least once a week.
He looked out the window, although there wasnt much to seemostly
fields of hay and cotton. He was on a long bus ride to nowhere. The bus
wasnt air-conditioned, and the hot heavy air was almost as stifling as
Stanley and his parents had tried to pretend that he was just going away
to camp for a while, just like rich kids do. When Stanley was younger he
used to play with stuffed animals, and pretend the animals were at camp.
Camp Fun and Games he called it. Sometimes hed have them play soccer
with a marble. Other times theyd run an obstacle course, or go bungee
jumping off a table, tied to broken rubber bands. Now Stanley tried to
pretend he was going to Camp Fun and Games. Maybe hed make some
friends, he thought. At least hed get to swim in the lake.
He didnt have any friends at home. He was overweight and the kids at
his middle school often teased him about his size. Even his teachers
sometimes made cruel comments without realizing it. On his last day of
school, his math teacher, Mrs. Bell, taught ratios. As an example, she
chose the heaviest kid in the class and the lightest kid in the class,
and had them weigh themselves. Stanley weighed three times as much as
the other boy. Mrs. Bell wrote the ratio on the board, 3:1, unaware of
how much embarrassment she had caused both of them.
Stanley was arrested later that day.
He looked at the guard who sat slumped in his seat and wondered of he
had fallen asleep. The guard was wearing sunglasses, so Stanley couldnt
see his eyes.
Stanley was not a bad kid. He was innocent of the crime for which he was
convicted. Hed just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was all because of his
He smiled. It was a family joke. Whenever anything went wrong, they
always blamed Stanleys
Supposedly, he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from
one-legged Gypsy, and she put a curse on him and all his descendants.
Stanley and his parents didnt believe in curses, of course, but
whenever anything went wrong, it felt good to be able to blame someone.
Things went wrong a lot. They always seemed to be in the wrong place at
the wrong time.
He looked out the window at the vast emptiness. He watched the rise and
fall of a telephone wire. In his mind he could hear his fathers gruff
voice softly singing to him.
If only, if only, the woodpecker sighs,
The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer.
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
He cries to the moooooon,
If only, if only.
It was a song his father used to sing to him. The melody was sweet and
sad, but Stanleys favorite part was when his father would howl the word
British Parliament asks Amazon to clarify why it pays $9 million in income tax on $23 billion of UK sales.(May 20 2013) Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate...