His hood is pulled up, casting his face in shadow. The bus rolls to a stop in front of him, and he steps on board. He ignores the driver’s terse greeting. It’s not like he means it. Years of driving kids to school has turned this ritual into little more than a Pavlovian call-and-response.
He walks toward the back of the bus, looking for an open seat. One of the upperclassmen makes room for him.
As he takes his seat, the upperclassman peers under his hood. “You’re looking healthier. Eating better?” he asks.
He shrugs. It’s not like it matters. He always looks gaunt.
The upperclassman notices what he’s holding. “They’ll never let you take that into the school.”
“I know,” he replies. “It doesn’t matter.” The upperclassman nods like this makes sense.
At school, he steps up to the metal detector. One of the guards approaches. “Sorry, Famine. I can’t let you take the sickle in. You can get it back at the end of the day.”
Famine nods. This, too, is ritual. School policy. It’s not like he really needs it.