Jessica Martin wants to play an angel in the school pageant but she is stuck playing a hobo instead.
Mrs Jordan was as wide as a bull and she stood in front of the class, her hands on her hips and shaking her head. ''Class,'' Mrs. Jordan said, in her croaky voice. ''If you don't be quiet, I can't tell you which students got what parts in the school Christmas Pageant."I sat up straight. I put my knees under me and touched the ground with my shoes. I held in my breath, in anticipation. She placed a note card on each kid's desk. Each note card gave the actor's name and which part he or she would play. ''Beggar child,'' I thought.
I let out all the air I had been holding in and my lips sounded like a balloon deflating. I slid down in my seat. ''Yes, ha ha,'' I heard Judy Miller exclaim. "Lead angel.''
''She looked at me and smiled. I shot her a mean look. She just stuck out her tongue at me. I looked away, folding my arms across my thin chest. ''Why does that jerk get to be the lead angel and I'm stuck being a dumb beggar?'After class, I walked right up to Mrs. Jordan and whined. ''Mrs. Jordan,''I complained.
''Why did Judy get to be the angel and why do I have to be the stupid beggar?''
''The beggar is an important part; why don't you want to be the beggar?''
I rolled my eyes. ''Because I want to be the angel.''
''I see,'' Mrs. Jordan said, rubbing her chin. ''And what makes you want to be the angel?''
''The angel gets to wear a pretty blue robe and be on stage the longest.''
''I see, well, I have made my choice and I am afraid the parts are staying the way they are.''
''Ugh,'' I grunted, throwing my hands up in the air and stomping out of Mrs. Jordan's classroom.
I didn't talk to anyone on the bus ride home, even my best friend Stephanie. She pouted. ''You don't have to be rude; I was just going to ask you a question.''
I just stared out the window. Silent, arms folded across my narrow chest. I noticed her out of the corner of my eye. The corners of her mouth and her head hung low. I thought about when we were both five years old and she beat up, Todd Monroe, the bully that used to live down the street from me, from the time I was born till shortly after Stephanie beat the boy up. ''I'm sorry,'' I said. ''I'm just bummed I just didn't get the lead angel in the Christmas pageant.''
''Well, I bet Judy's a witch and she cast a spell on Mrs. Jordan, and that's why she cast her as the lead angel.''
My mouth spilled open. ''Om goodness,'' I said. ''That makes so much sense, you're a genius!''
''I should be a detective,'' Stephanie bragged.
''You'd make a great detective,'' I chimed in.
She smiled and gave a quick nod. When dinner time came, I didn't have much of an appetite. I sat there prodding my peas with a fork. Mom looked at me and raised an eyebrow. ''What's wrong?''
''Nothing,'' I mumbled.
''Don't feed the fib fairy, he's plenty fat already,'' Mom said.,
''I think Mrs. Jordan hates me.''
Mom frowned. ''Why do you think that, angel?''
Tears welled up in my eyes. ''She won't let me play the angel in the Christmas Pageant.''
''Well, what part did you get?''
I groaned. ''The stupid beggar.''
Mom chuckled. ''What's wrong with that?''
''The beggar only has one crummy line.''
''I see, so what's the line?''
''Sounds like a nice line.''
''But a bum says it.'' I protested.
''So, what's wrong with that?'' Mom inquired.
I slapped my palm against my forehead and shook my head. ''Nobody cares what bums say.''
Mom hung her jaw. ''Please tell me, my daughter did not just say that.''
''Come on, mom, you know how kids are,'' I added.
''Not my child,'' mom clenched her teeth.
''Yikes,'' I thought. ''I don't wanna make mom mad. I guess it won't be playing a bum, er, I mean homeless person.''
Mom gave me a nod and we ate in silence. I guess the sandman filled my eyes with extra dream sand because I had a weird dream.
I found myself on a train. The stars twinkled overhead. The world whirred passed me at a dizzying pace. I heard the sound of music. It sounded like it was coming from the box crate or near it. Was it a ghost? ''No,'' I thought. ''There's no such thing as ghosts. What could it be?''
On wobbly legs I dragged myself across the box car and ventured over among the cobwebs and darkness to find out what was playing that music. I saw a kid, a few years older than me, maybe twelve, playing a harmonica. His face was covered with dirt and his jacket was too big for him and it was tattered and full of holes. He must have felt me staring at him. He glanced up and gave me a simple nod. ''Yo,'' he said.
''Um, yo yourself.'' I replied.
''You don't look like a transient.'' The kid said.
''Huh,'' I replied.
''A drifter, a bum.''
''Oh,'' I whispered. ''I'm not, my name is Jessica Martin.''
''Swell, my name is Buzz Bleach.''
''Ha ha, seriously?'' I cocked my head.
''No, my name is Joey Cotton, he he.''
''You're a fibber,'' I said, pointing at the bum.
Joey spoke in a hushed whisper.
''I know, that's what I am on this train for; the conductor is taking me to see the fib fairy.''
I shook my head. ''What? You mean the fib fairy is real?''
Joey nodded. ''In dream world the fib fairy is real and he hates kids that fib.''
My eyes widened. ''What does he do to kids?''
''He locks fibbing kids up in his dungeon and only feeds them bread and water and the worst part is, the kids have to fight off rats the size of farm cats for our supper.''
I shrieked. ''I fibbed to my mom during dinner; do you think that's why I'm on this train too?''
''Yikes,'' I thought. "Is there anyway we can escape?''
''Yep, we have to jump the train.'' Joey's green eyes gleamed in the moonlight.
''No way,'' shaking my head, vehemently. ''It's too dangerous.''
''Not if you use the right technique.''
''What's the right technique.'' I stood, hands on my hips, once again channeling my mom.
Joey took me by the hand and walked me over to the huge door. ''Roll up in a ball, tuck your knees up to your chest and jump as far away from the train as you can.''
''No way,'' I protested. ''That sounds way too dangerous.''
''Would you rather be imprisoned in the fib fairy's dungeon?''
''No, of course not.''
''Then take a chance or else....'' Joey took a deep breath and leaped from the boxcar. He tumbled into the grass and stood up, dusting himself off. I shut my eyes, inhaled deeply and jumped from the boxcar. Luckily, I landed next to Joey. He helped me up and I dusted myself off and we found ourselves thrust into the night, like a couple of wolves, foraging ahead, in the wilderness.