John wound up reading first and last. Tamika gave Aziz and Arsu more time playing video games on her phone than she had promised but when she did finally call time the bus was still ten miles from Jackson.
John had suggested to Loki that she first read The Skylight Room which she said she enjoyed and after John read two out loud, taking turns didn’t necessarily mean going back and forth after each story, she’d just finished reading The Green Door. “I think I like that one even better than that ambulance doctor one; it was more mysterious,” she confided.
“Yes. There’s no doubt that The Green Door has more mystery to it,” John answered, nodding. “And at least Porter called the black man an African in this story.”
“Who’s Porter?” Aziz asked.
“Ah! You are listening!” John said to the twins. “I figured that you probably were now that your little pinball machine is gone. Porter is O. Henry’s real name.”
“Our what?!” Aziz demanded.
“Pinball machine. That’s what they had back in arcades before there were videogames. I was trying to be funny.”
“Didn’t work!” Arsu exclaimed.
“Arsu! Watch your manners!” Tamika remonstrated.
“Oh, Mama! Mr. John knows I’m just joking; don’t you, Mr. John?”
“I know, I know. Even so, I think I’ll start calling you Brutus.”
“Guy who stabbed Julius Caesar. In the back.”
“Stabbed!? That’s harsh,” Aziz piped in.
“Hey! I’m just joking; right Arsu?”
Arsu broke into a big grin. “Yeah, we’re just joking, Aziz. Lighten up. What ‘cha gonna read to us now?”
“Arsu,” Tamika said quietly, “maybe Mr. John and MS Loki would like to just read to each other?”
“What? No way!” John insisted. “Just let me figure out a good story and we’ll ride this one into the bus terminal. Hey! You know what? I’m going to read The Pimienta Pancakes that I told you about.”
John finished Pancakes as the bus pulled off the interstate. “So what’d you think?” he asked excitedly. Isn’t that great?”
“Hmmm. I think Red Chief was my favorite, then your Pancakes and then the one about that homeless dude,” Aziz answered.
“Yeah, me too,” Arsu agreed.
“How about you, Tamika?” John asked. “Which one was your favorite?”
“Well, I was only half listening because I was keeping little miss Vashti entertained here but I think I’m with Loki; I liked that Green Door one. It was romantic and kind of spooky; you know? Boys? When this bus stops you stay put until I say so. We have thirty minutes in the terminal and then we are right back on the bus, so you know what that means.”
“Bathroom break,” the boys dejectedly intoned together.
“That’s right, so be ready,” she confirmed. “You’re getting off the bus here, MS Loki?”
“Yep. I’m heading west to Oklahoma. It was nice riding with you. You have a nice passel of kids.”
“Well, why thank you,” Tamika answered gravely. “It’s been nice riding with you too.
“John?” she asked as the bus came to a stop in the terminal slot, “I’ll see you in about half an hour.”
Loki elbowed John in the ribs. “I need to get my stuff. Are you coming?”
John nodded. “I am. Tamika, see you in thirty.”