When I was a kid the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving was always the dullest period of the year. School had fallen into a steady groove, which meant I’d gotten past the initial rush of starting a new year and new classes and had now slipped into just barely managing to pass everything, my once neat notebooks scratched and battered and shedding homework as I went through the halls. It was also the time when winter finally kicked in and the weather started to get seriously cold, but not cold enough for it to snow so there was no chance of school being cancelled.
The one break to the doldrums was the occasional field trip. Most of them were day trips, to the theater to see a local production of a Shakespeare play, for instance, or to a local park to collect specimens for biology class. Still there was the occasional overnight trip, usually to somewhere out of state. We’d all pile into the bus and set off. Sometimes we’d go to an all-day, or even all-weekend event. I was taking Latin and would go to Junior Classical League events that would run from Friday through Sunday, usually on a college campus where the undergrads must have been really surprised to see a bunch of kids wandering around in togas and even more surprised we weren’t reenacting any scenes from Animal House, but that’s another story. Because it was late in the year and the days were getting shorter it was often dark long before we’d get to the hotel or dorm where we were staying and the trips could get pretty long. We’d all find creative ways to keep ourselves entertained, trading seats, telling jokes, singing songs. I was so proud when we all finally managed to get to the very end of “Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall”. Or rather I finally got to the end of it. There was gradual attrition and the only other guy who was still with me dropped off around eighteen bottles but I carried on by myself and finally got to zero bottles of beer. On a few of the longer trips most kids, and teachers, would drift off to sleep, but not me. I had trouble sleeping even under the best circumstances but on a bus rolling through strange territory even if I didn’t have anything else to think about I worried that the bus driver hadn’t had a chance to get a nap before setting off and would fall asleep at the wheel. And it was because I was still awake on one trip that I heard my friend Trav talking in his sleep.
“She was born into the world nude,” he muttered.
This was the same guy who got me in trouble for pointing out that the Latin word for river, “flumen” sounds a lot like “phlegm” and anyway I can’t resist talking back to people who talk in their sleep because they usually say the funniest things, so I said, “Isn’t everyone?”
“No!” Trav was still slumped in his seat but he practically shouted this. “Sometimes pregnant women swallow bits of lint and yarn and the babies knit it into mittens and sweaters and Big Bird stocking caps.”
I’m pretty sure my laughter woke up everyone on the bus, especially the driver.