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Cast of Thousands, chapter 7

The morning was icy but brilliantly lit, charging all the senses to stand at attention for Nature's wonders. Jessie could barely stand to bike to school on a morning like this, so struck was she by every green-to-scarlet-leaved tree she passed and every dewily jeweled expanse of grass.

She had already lost one of her mittens this year, so she rode with one hand in her pocket. Her rotund and heavily weighted backpack strained against the bars of her bike basket, unwisely mounted on the handlebars, so that she had long ago had to learn to compensate for its weight with each turn. Friends who tried to ride her packed bicycle would twist wildly and finally capsize without having gone more than a few feet.

By the time she arrived at the schoolyard bike racks, the sun had begun to dry the landscape and melt the frost. Jessica tethered her bicycle to a rack and ran in, slipping into the school library for a few minutes before class.

It was her favorite part of the school. Their library was warm and quiet, and unashamed to hold tremendously old books - old at least to the average junior high student. Their shelves held books like The Great Gatsby, Flowers for Algernon, and the book of the Superman movie. There were probably newer or more childish books too, but Jessica secretly loved the books that must have been best-sellers once and now felt forgotten and worn. She felt as if she were participating illicitly in the culture of an older generation, taking both Britney Spears and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn into her cultural milieu.

Too soon, the warning bell rang, forcing her to run to the librarian with her hands full of books. She jammed a quarter in the pen machine while she was waiting and was thrilled to get a pen with shiny metallic magenta patterns encircling its barrel.

In Algebra, she rested her feet on her backpack, having forced the stack of books to fit under her chair. The teacher was a youngish man with red-orange curly hair who put all his energy into engaging his students. That, however, was the best that could be said for the experience. There wasn't much for him to engage in them at seven forty five in the morning. He was lucky to get them all to acknowledge that they were present. Jessica quite liked algebra; it was like a series of puzzles. She could turn the numbers and variables around in her head, working out how they related to one another, as if they were characters in a book.

This early, however, something of the experience was diminished for her.

Chapter 8?