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Chapter 1: Scene 2: Waiting on the Bench


       I flop down on an old, brown vinyl couch and it gives a big whoosh. At Wheatland High , I'd have grinned, making kids think I'd cracked one , but nothing is funny anymore. I look around at the other guys. There aren't many. One average-looking kid, brown hair falling over his face, slumps over asleep, his mouth hanging open. Two rough-looking guys further on down have their shaggy heads together, talking so quiet I can't hear their voices. The fourth one, a good-looking black guy, sits off by himself, like me, but when I glance over at him he glares at me, so I look around like I'm sizing up the place .

       I stand up to go over to the guard behind the desk, but he jabs his finger at me and I plop back down. Sit where I'm told. Wait like I'm told. I'm here and I can't get out. My nose starts to run and I wipe it off on my arm. I sag down on the couch and turn my face away from the other kids. Damn. I can't let these guys see.

       The man I guess is Kelly lets the guard out the door and goes back to a desk. He's forty, maybe more, partly bald, about my Uncle Pete's age, maybe my Uncle Red's. Pete's likely checking the cattle in the back pasture about now. Red's probably working on machinery in the tool shed . As soon as they've cut the wheat , Pete starts working on things for next year. "Ranch work's never done," he says practically every day.

ThinkLink: When have you ever felt as nervous as John is right now?

       Kelly's face stiffens when he looks at me. He buzzes another man in and they come over. The guard who brought me in is the only one who wears a uniform so it's hard to tell who these guys are. I don't know if I'm supposed to stand up, or what. I move up to the edge of the cushion and hope it's enough.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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