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Greyhound BusVashti had been so tranquil and calm throughout their travels together that John wasn’t sure from where the screaming that awakened him was coming. “Hush, hush!” Tamika’s familiar voice extolled as she juxtaposed the contradictory desires of demanding urgency and administrating calming vocal balm. “It is alright, my little Buttercup. Mama’s here, Mama’s here.”

John was amazed at how soundly he’d slept. Even at home in his tiny studio apartment he never seemed to relax fully enough to reap the rewards of a deep and restorative slumber. Maybe this decision making experience would make a new man out of him in more ways than one. “Hey, Tamika,” he interjected between Vashti’s wails, “Everything alright over there?”

“Yes, yes. Sorry. My little Buttercup’s siren went off. I think she slept on her arm funny and it fell asleep. Hurts like the devil when you’re an adult and scary if you aren’t anything but a little slip of a baby girl.

“It’s okay,” she cooed to her daughter, “you’ll be alright in just a minute,” she added, massaging Vashti’s arm with her hands: “There; does that feel better?”

Vashti sniffled and tears rolled down her face but her anguished wailing was replaced with breath catching sobs. “You’re all right, little Buttercup, you’re all right.”

Aziz and Arsu were turned toward one another and both of them had their heads pointing downward so that each brother looked at his twin with a look of impatient disgust. John was certain that he knew what they were thinking and was impressed that they were disciplined enough to not verbalize their disdain for their little sister’s outburst: Amazing how much control the loving yet searing tongue of their mother had over them.

“I’m sorry, John” Tamika said after Vashti’s breathing was back to normal, “you were sleeping soundly when she woke you up; weren’t you?”

“Uhm, that’s alright,” he answered checking his watch, “Good Lord! I slept for over an hour!”

“Does that surprise you?”

“Well, yeah. Not exactly a power nap. I do feel refreshed though. How about you, guys? You fell asleep before I did.”

“We wasn’t sleeping,” Aziz retorted.

“Weren’t,” Tamika insisted, “And if you weren’t sleeping then you were doing a mighty fine imitation. I even fell asleep,” she admitted with a grin.

“How much longer, Mama?” Arsu asked.

“Must be about halfway. From Jackson I mean! Less than two hours if things keep going well.”

“Good,” Aziz piped in. “I’m bored. Can we play more games?”

“If you mean the electronic kind then not only may you not, you cannot either. My battery is awfully low. You’ll have to wait until your daddy picks us up, then we can plug my phone into a charger. Won’t anybody be very happy if my phone is D, E, A, D dead when we get to Memphis and I can’t call him. Don’t you have a checkers or chess set in your bag? I told you to bring it.”

“I forgot.”

“Yeah, you forgot alright. You forgot that I wasn’t going to have you staring at some screen the whole way home. Now it looks like you’ll just have to read some more. Unless you want to write a story?”

“On a computer?” Arsu asked.

“Does it look like we have a computer here? I have paper and pencil. Why don’t you two get together and write a story so Daddy’ll know what he missed? We can make that man right jealous he didn’t come with us. It’s either that, read, or talk. Quietly. Dealer’s choice and you’re dealing.”

“What you think, Arsu?”

“Story.”

“Yeah, me too. Story, Mama.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry. Story please, Mama,” Aziz amended.

“Much better. Sit up a minute Vashti so I can get your great big loving brothers something to entertain themselves with so we can all know peace. And, Arsu? Turn the light on, it’s getting kind of dark to write in here.”