By Helen Lemus
Flyer #173 rolled down Owl Street on the way to Wilmore Elementary as he did every morning for as long as he could remember. He usually needed to pick up 18 kids.
He knew numbers. There were numbers on his body: model numbers, part numbers, serial numbers, operator numbers and his favorite identification numbers. He was Flyer #173. That meant that he was the bus Flyer model whose ID was 173.
Flyer #173 had seventeen passengers on board at the time. He arrived at Maggie’s corner and responded quickly to his bus operator, Operator 21. She boarded the bus and went to the back near his heart, the engine. Maggie and Flyer #173 were friends.
“Maggie. Maggie, it’s over,” he whispered to her with his rumbling voice.
“What’s over?” asked Maggie. She took her My Little Pony backpack and pulled out her little notebook and pen. “I am ready.”
“What is that for, Maggie?” he asked.
“This sounds important. Mrs. Laudes my English teacher taught me how to take notes so I don’t miss anything,” she said solemnly.
“That is good. I will be retired in two days,” he rumbled. He crossed Flamingo Boulevard and proceeded North.
“What’s retired?” asked Maggie.
“I will not be able to take you to school anymore. They will park me in the garage and let me rust away,” he said. “That’s what they do to buses born before 1985.”
“Oh, please #173, don’t be afraid. We’ll find a way,” said Maggie. She put her notebook away. Flyer #173 stopped at Crow Street right in front of the school. Maggie walked out of the bus but instead of walking into the school, she ran behind a bush in front of the house next door. Maggie had a plan. After the bus driver drove her friend away, she walked North. She knew where the Grand Union Bank was. She was going to save Flyer #173.
Sooner than she could sing the National Anthem all the way through, she arrived at the bank on Heron Avenue. Maggie’s father knew the bank manager Mr. Quiñones. She walked into the lobby and slipped into the elevator. Soon, she was in his office. She noticed his secretary was talking to a woman wearing a purple hat. Maggie waited until the secretary bent down to get something from her desk’s bottom drawer to sneak into the Manager’s office.
“Mr. Quiñones. Hello, how are you?” she asked. He was looking at his computer, but paused and smiled when he saw her.
“Maggie. What a surprise. What are you doing here? You know that you should be in school,” he said.
“Oh, Mr. Quiñones, I need your help. I need a loan,” she said.
“A loan? You’re still a girl. This is a bank, my sweet girl, and you need collateral, here,” he replied.
“I need to save Flyer #173,” she said.
“You could be trying to save the world, which I am sure you will someday, but right now, you need collateral,” he replied.
“This is important. Flyer #173 is my friend,” she said.
The manager rose and walked towards her. He put his arm around her shoulder and led her out of the office.
“Now, go back to school like a good girl,” he said.
“No buts. Go back to school,” he said as he opened the door and shooed her out. Maggie stood there for a second, then had another idea.
Maggie left the bank and headed to the East on Heron Avenue. She needed to get to Falcon Street where the big business buildings were. Mrs. Li, the CEO of the largest chain of supermarkets in the city, was a friend of Maggie’s mother. She would help.
To be continued…