I’m a sneaky kid.
I mean, I’m good at finding small places and stuff. Last night, I slept in a school bus. It was better than the gas station, anyway. I know the bus driver, Greg. He’s a nice guy. Well, I don’t actually know him, but I’ve seen him around. There’s a whole bunch of school buses that come to this big parking lot every night. All the bus drivers leave them there and then head home. I heard them talking to each other, and I heard them calling Greg, Greg. So, that’s how I know Greg.
I was out of a place to sleep last night, because the gas station upped their security and got a better lock. So I broke into Greg’s school bus, curled up on one of those long seats, and slept. It was kinda weird sleeping there, the buses were all dead quiet, and I could smell the mustiness. I made sure to get up early, ’cause I knew Greg would come to do his job. So I was outta that bus and on the road at the crack of dawn.
I asked some people for money, anyone who I saw I asked, ’cause I’m all out. And I was hungry; my stomach hurt from hunger. Most of the people said no. No one trusts me, even if I’m just a kid. But I got a few bucks here and there, enough to buy some Snickers bars and Coke.
It was hot as heck outside, and I felt the sun steaming my skin till it was nothing but a melting puddle. So I decided to run down to the sea. There’s a small beach filled with junk and stuff where I hang out. I mean, I usually do, unless the big boys come. I almost cut my toe off there on a broken bottle when I was running down to the water. The water was nice and cool on my body, and it felt good to wash the dirt from my hair.
Later, I went to the baseball game that some big kids were having. I like to watch the games and think of how good I would be, if only they would let me play. I make sure to hide myself. Like I said I’m a sneaky kid. I hid beneath the bleachers, lying down on my stomach. You get a real good view that way. And nobody yells at you to scram either.
When I was leaving, the kids saw me. The kids saw me and started shouting. I felt my blood rush and my body froze. I stood there, paralyzed for a second, and then I was outta there. I was running for my life, my feet pounding on the cement. They were bigger than me, and stronger, but I’m small so I can hide easily. I ran to where the fishermen dock their boats. It’s another one of those big lots we have around here, and it’s empty of boats during the day. But there’s one boat that’s always there. It’s Mr. Kreisler’s boat. Mr. Kreisler is an old man. He has white hair and he has a limp. I see him around a lot, and I figured from people talking that this is his boat. It’s broken down; the white paint is peeling. He never uses it; he just leaves it there, rotting when it should really be in the junkyard. It’s not like anyone is ever gonna sail that thing. The boat is called The Paula. I know this, ’cause it’s spelled out in old blue paint.
So I ran to the empty lot. The kids were just a block behind me. I saw The Paula, and I just jumped inside it. So there I was, hiding in the rickety old boat. I swear it felt like it was about to crack beneath my feet. But I’m used to hiding out in small spaces like that, so I just made myself breathe and stay calm. I realized that if the kids found me hidden in there, I was trapped. I heard them skid into the lot; I heard them shouting to each other. “Where’s the kid? Where is he?” And I shut my eyes, praying that I would be safe, just like my mama used to pray. I had my fingers crossed and everything. It felt like years and years passed before they left. Even after they were gone, I stayed in The Paula, my heart pounding and my fingers locked tight together.
I awoke to the sharp call of “Hey what you doing here, kid?” I’m used to waking up to those words. I opened my eyes and looked up at the sun. It was probably near seven o’clock. A man with white hair looked over me. I smelled the whiskey on his breath, and his eyes were bloodshot.
It was Mr. Kreisler. I swore under my breath and scrambled to my feet, hitching my jeans up.
“What you doing here, kid?” he shouted again.
I leaped off that boat and started running again. My head felt light, and my feet were not sure and steady. I reached the gas station and tried to enter through that door I used to go through, before I remembered that they had got a better lock. I swore again and stumbled away from the door. Before I had gotten very far, I heard an alarm blaring. It’s a familiar sound in this neighborhood, but it scared me like hell then, ’cause I knew it was me that set it off.
I was sweating, the air was sticking to me, and my stomach was growling again. I was running down the pavement, along the wiry, parched grass that grows along the beach. I ran all the way to the other lot, the one with the school buses, and I headed straight for Greg’s bus.
I didn’t realize that Greg was in there before it was too late.
He was sleeping in the driver’s seat, snoring, with a bag of chips in his lap. He jolted awake when I busted through the doors.
“Wha—?” he said blearily.
An idea flashed into my head. It was a crazy, stupid idea, but I could still hear the alarm blaring in the distance.
“I fell asleep in the bus, Greg,” I said.
Greg shrugged his shoulders, getting a crick out of his back.
“Hmm? Do I know you, kid?”
“You didn’t take me home. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I was here.”
“What the—?” Greg breathed. “I checked the bus for sleeping kids. There’s even a sign in the back that says no sleeping children.”
“You must have missed me. I’m small.”
Greg eyed me for a moment.
“All right, kid, what’s your address?”
I blurted out the address of a nice big house that was far off. I remembered it because it had a big clock on the outside. I liked to look at that clock and that house.
“I don’t remember anyone with that address on my route…”
“I’m new. “
Greg rubbed his eyes. “Okay, get to a seat.”
I sat in one of the seats, my head pressed against the glass window, banging when the bus hit a bump. We rolled out of the lot and onto the road. I watched as the broken-down delis and boarded-up stores passed me by. I saw some cop cars outside that gas station and cringed. I looked out at the water, a deep blue, and the dirty beach. We whizzed passed it all, and then houses began popping up. Nice, big houses.
Greg finally pulled to a stop in front of the big house with the clock on the outside. “Here you are,” he said.
I started heading down the steps.
“You sure you live here, kid?” Greg was scrutinizing my dirty jeans and my hair that was still damp with sea water.
“Yeah. Thanks, Greg.” I said perkily, like a rich kid would say.
Greg shrugged tiredly and began to drive away. I waved at him until he was out of sight.
I turned to the big house with the clock. A kid, ’bout my age, ran out the door. He was crying and screaming, his mouth opened wide. I watched in awe as a woman ran after him. “Sweetie, come back! Come back right now!”
He ran down his front lawn, saliva and snot dripping down his face.
“Everything will be fine, honey,” the woman said, wrapping the boy in her arms and leading him back to the house.
I rubbed my forehead and began to walk away. My feet ached, and my stomach grumbled.
And I still had to find a new place to sleep that night.
The neighborhood I was in was nice. There was nobody like me around. They all stared at me, the people that lived here, at my scruffy clothes.
“Money?” I said, “money?” And I made my best beggar face, the big-eyed, skinny-cheeks one. I got a few coins here and there, but mostly people looked scared of me. I don’t know why. I’m just a kid.
Even the guy at the deli looked at me weird.
I slept on a park bench that night. It was hot out, and the bench smelled a little strange, but it’s not like I had another choice.
In middle of the night, a guy woke me up.
“This is my spot, kid,” he said, shaking me. “I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to go.”
I rolled off the bench and landed on the floor with a thud. The guy began settling himself on that bench, with a blanket and all.
“Mister?” I said, scared like. “Would you know of somewhere else I can sleep?”
The guy snuggled deep under his blanket. I put my fist in my mouth, trying to think of a new plan.
That’s when I heard the sirens.
“Oh no! Oh no, oh no!” I said, and my fear filled me and made my mind whirl.
“Shut up, kid,” the man on the bench said sleepily.
“They’re after me; they’re gonna take me away!”
The man sat up. “Who’s after you?”
Next thing I knew, me and that guy were racing outta that park.
“Stupid kid, pulling a stunt like this. What am I thinking? What am I doing?” the guy muttered under his breath the whole time.
“Sorry, Mister.” I said breathlessly.
“Stop calling me Mister!” he snapped at me. So I kept my mouth shut and just followed the guy.
We reached the subway at last. The stairs were dark and menacing in the nighttime.
“The subway?” I gasped.
The guy shoved me forward. “Keep moving, kid.”
We jumped the turnstiles and ran to a platform. I didn’t even think trains came that late at night.
The guy looked around, real quick and easy. The station was empty. There was only the sound of squeaking rats. He pushed me toward a door labeled “Caution” in big red lettering. I swallowed hard.
“Open the door!” the guy said.
I heard the sirens wailing down the city streets and I did what he said.
The door opened to a big room. It was silent and dark in there.
“It’s Jake,” the guy said loud.
A light switched on and the room came into view. It was a dirty, ugly room. But there was food, and there were people. So many people.
“Picked up a stray, Jake?” a woman asked.
“He’s running away from the cops.”
“What did you do, kid?” the woman asked.
I stared at them all, my mouth open. “I tried to break into a gas station,” I answered.
She chuckled. “You sure this was a good idea, Jake?”
The man—Jake—pushed me forward. “Want some food?”
“Yeah,” I said.
The room was filled with a low humming of chatter. I heard the sirens off in the distance.
“You have a name, kid?” Jake asked me as I scarfed down some food.
Jake laughed. “What should we call you then?”
I shrugged. The woman from before joined us. “Of course, the kid has a name, Jake. He’s been trained never to tell anyone. Can’t you tell?” She traced the snake that was tattooed on her neck with a long finger. Jake sighed.
“Don’t mind him,” the woman said to me, her eyes laughing at Jake. “He’s had a rough time.”
Jake shook his head at her. “All right, kid. This is where I leave you.”
“What?” I said, scared.
I looked around me and I saw people that were sleeping on the hard dirt floor, big tough people. I saw people eating and people arguing.
“Don’t worry, no one will hurt you here. We’re all your kind. Bye, kid.” Jake patted me on the back and rushed away. The woman with the snake neck raced after him. I was alone.
I’m good at finding my way around situations. I’m good at these kinda stuff. I stuffed as much food as I could inside my mouth. I was so freaking hungry I couldn’t get enough of it into my mouth.
“You, kid,” a man said to me.
I glanced at him from under my hair that was growing to my eyes.
“You gotta work for your food here. It’s not some free-for-all. Bring in money, bring in some food, and you can share in the earnings.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Good.” The man smiled at me, and his teeth were gold.
I slept in the room in the subway that night. The floor was hard, and I heard the rats squeaking nearby, but my stomach was more filled than it had been for a long time. I woke up a few times during the night to the slamming of the door and footsteps around me. At four in morning, the man with gold teeth began to shout.
“Get out of here everyone!” he shouted. “Time to empty out! Move it, let’s go!”
I made myself get off the hard cement floor, and I grabbed some food, stuffing it in my pockets.
“Hey!” the man shouted at me. “Thief!”
I raced outta that room, jumping over the people still on the floor. The man raced after me, shouting. I’m used to these kinda chases, but I was on unfamiliar ground, so I was scared, and my nose was running. I wiped my nose on my sleeve and ran like hell down the platform. There were people in the station that eyed me, confused. But I just kept going. I wasn’t giving up that food, no way, no how.
The floor rumbled beneath my feet, and I heard the steady screeching of the train. It pulled to a stop, and I hopped on right before the train announced, “Stand clear of the closing doors please.”
I couldn’t hear the shouts of the man with the gold teeth anymore, so I thought I was safe.
I sat on the train, feeling pretty good. I mean, I had food for a few days in my pockets, and I had escaped the man with gold teeth. I felt pretty good.
The train chugged along, and I watched the blurred houses out the window. It was weird for me. I was never on a train before, and I figured I liked it. There were some other people in the train car, but they didn’t pay attention to me. I’m just a kid. They read their books and stared at their phones. I just stared right out the window. The houses we passed looked pretty junky, trashy houses. But I thought I would give anything to live in a house like that, sure as heck, I’d give anything. I wondered about the people that lived in houses right by the train tracks. It was strange to think about that, about the people there and their lives. I thought it’s an easy way to die, that’s for sure, just throw yourself on the tracks, easy way to die right there. And the thought made me laugh to myself. I was feeling pretty confident, and I felt the lumps of bread in my pocket.
I stayed on that train for a long, long time. People came and went, all different kinds of people. I became used to the rhythm of the train, the stops and the smells. An old man in a wheelchair came around, begging for money. I looked away, thinking, that’s what I look like when I beg I look like that old man, saying “money, please money,” and my cheeks got hot.
I fell asleep twice and woke up hungry and ate some of my food. Only some, I was being careful with it, careful not stupid. It was dark when I awoke. The windows looked out on darkness.
I decided I should get off the train. The doors slid open, and I thought, goodbye train, and I stepped off.
I smelled the subway smell, and I walked down the grimy steps away from the train.
I didn’t know where to go then. I looked around, not knowing where to go. It was hot, hotter than ever. Mosquitos buzzed around me, and I killed them, slapping my hands. Nothing I hate more than summertime mosquitoes. I had the black, dead mosquitos on my hands now, and the blood they sucked, and I wiped my hands on my jeans.
I wandered around the muggy night, feeling out my surroundings. I figured it was something like six o clock, and I was in some kinda town. There were a lot of houses, and some kids playing kicking cans around. I was tired just then, really tired, so I sat on the ground, looking up at the moon. The moon was a weird kind of yellow. I took another bit of food from my pocket and ate it. The moon was real weird that night.
“Who are you, kid?”
I heard the words and jumped to my feet. I thought it was the man with gold teeth, coming after me.
Instead, it was some kid, not much older than me. He looked tired.
“Hmm? Who are you?”
“Okay. Can I have some o’ that food?”
“Don’t have none.”
“Sure. Just like I don’t have any feet.”
I had to laugh, ’cause here I was and a guy was begging food from me.
“Come on, I’m hungry, kid. Be nice, come on. Do a guy a favor.”
I swallowed. “I need my food.”
“And I need my feet. I guess that makes sense, huh. I guess it does.”
The guy wasn’t making much sense to me, but I just nodded along.
He sat down beside me, tired like.
“So, what you doing here?”
“You don’t talk much, huh?”
I shrugged. I was kinda nervous. Every other time there was big kids around I would get hurt, but this guy seemed okay. He seemed pretty okay.
“See those lights down there?”
He pointed down the street, and I saw some lights, purple and blue.
“Yeah. Sure, I see ’em.”
“That’s from the carnival. Ever been to one? To a carnival?”
“They are nice. Boy, I wish I could be there right now. Hot dogs and cotton candy. Boy oh boy.”
Seemed like the guy was wishing for things he couldn’t have. Those were rich stuff, and I had this guy figured out. He was no rich kid, no way. He looked like me. His hair was messed up and choppy like, and his clothes were dirty like mine.
“You know what? I’m gonna go. I’m gonna go to the carnival. To hell with the money. I’ll go anyway.”
I looked at him in surprise. The tiredness was gone from his face, and he was grinning with savage hope.
“How?” I asked.
“Easy. Oh boy, a Ferris wheel and Coke. Easy, kid. It would be too easy.”
He got to his feet. “I’m going. I’m doing it.”
I shrugged and looked back up at the moon.
“You coming or what?”
“Come on, kid. Let’s have fun.”
The guy looked down at me excitedly. “I can’t do this alone,” he said. I looked at him for a second, and then I thought, screw it, why not.
“Okay, I’m coming.”
And we set off towards the blue and purple lights.
It was easy, just like the guy had said. We slipped through the bars. Nobody noticed, nobody said a word. It was like magic, the carnival. The lights shone, and we ate cotton candy. It melted in our mouths like butter, but it was a whole lot better than butter. It was like heaven.
“Oh wow,” I said.
The guy grinned at me. “I’m Chase. Who are you?”
“I’m Kid. Just call me Kid.”
“Okay, Kid. Sure.”
We went on the Ferris wheel next. It turned high up in the sky, and the lights were bright in the darkness. It was magic.
“It was worth it, huh, Kid?”
“Yeah,” I breathed.
We got off the wheel, and we were going to the hot dog stand when we heard it. It was the wailing of sirens, loud and clear.
“Oh man,” I said.
Chase looked at me, and I saw that his eyes were green. It’s funny that I noticed it at that moment when the sirens blared, and I was frozen with fear. But just then I noticed that his eyes were green.
“Your eyes are green,” I said stupidly.
“Well, yeah. Heck yeah. They’re green.”
Chase looked at me like I was crazy or something.
“I gotta go,” I said.
“What? But we just got here.”
“You don’t understand. The cops.”
Chase slapped at a mosquito on his arm, where it made a red mark. “They’re not after you. You think the cops care about little people like us?”
“I gotta go,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, Kid. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.” He rubbed the squished mosquito on his jeans.
“Bye,” I said.
And then I was running hard, sweat all over me, into the night.
It sure is hard, running like that. I knew Chase didn’t believe that the cops were after me, but they were. I knew they were. I raced through the town, panting like a dog. This is it, I kept thinking, this is the end. I was running blindly, I was in unfamiliar territory, and I was lost. I made a sharp right into a driveway and hid tight next to some garbage cans. This is it, the end, it’s over. I shut my eyes tight and fell asleep to the sound of sirens wailing.
I opened my eyes. They found me, I thought, this is it, they found me. I groaned, feeling my aching head.
“Who are you?”
That was no cop. No, that wasn’t a cop at all. A girl was looking down at me, and she was about to scream for help.
“Shut up, don’t!” I whispered.
Her eyes were narrowed. “Are you the kid the cops were looking for? They said, teenager of medium height, with light hair. I guess that would be you. Stand up so I can see how tall you are.”
“Are you crazy? Can you talk a little quieter?”
She smiled. “Why do the cops want you?”
“It’s not me. They don’t want me.”
“Right. So, why are you hiding out here?”
“Don’t tell anyone.”
“I’ll kill you. Don’t you dare.”
She laughed. “Can you tell me why they’re after you?”
I sighed. “I don’t trust you.”
“What am I supposed to do now? Leave you here? Let’s say you’re a murderer and you’re gonna kill someone if I don’t report you? What if you’re gonna kill me?”
“I said I’ll kill you if you rat on me. No other reason.”
“So they don’t want you cause you’re a murderer?”
“I’m not a murderer. Can you shut up?”
She looked at me. “This is the only exciting thing that ever happened to me.”
“What a hard life you must have,” I said bitterly.
“You know, maybe I don’t run from the cops, but my life can be hard too.”
“You ever gone hungry? You ever not had a place to sleep?”
She rolled her eyes at me.
“Do you have some food?” I had been feeling around in my pockets and I realized I was all out.
“What if you’re a murderer? Wouldn’t that be aiding and abetting?”
“I’m not a murderer. God! Are you always like this?”
She laughed. “I’ll get you some food. Don’t worry.”
I waited nervously by the garbage cans. I was sure that the girl wouldn’t rat on me, but you can never be too sure, and I was ready to run at any second. She returned after a few minutes with some bread and butter.
“Thanks,” I said, and I ate quickly. She watched me eating.
“Do you go to school?” She asked.
“What do you do all day?”
“None of your business.” I wiped my hands on my jeans. She was staring at me like I was from a different planet or something.
“You got a problem?”
“Good.” I chewed hard, thinking. “Do you know of somewhere I could lay low for a while?”
“Uh, yeah. You can stay in the shed.”
“You crazy or something?”
“I’m serious. No one ever goes in there.”
I eyed her for a minute. “Fine. I’ll take it.”
“So, where you gonna go next?”
We sat in the shed. It was bare, with some old bikes and tools hanging on the walls.
“I don’t know.” And to be honest, I really didn’t know what I was gonna do. I was far from any place I knew of, and I didn’t know anyone round here. I wrapped my arms around myself.
“What’s your name?”
“Do you ever stop asking questions?”
“I’m sorry, I’m just curious. What do you have against me anyway?”
I looked at her oval, pale face and dark eyes. “Call me Kid,” I said.
She looked like she was gonna laugh. “I’m Laura.”
“Maybe you’d better leave me here.”
“Why? I told you this is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“This might be considered aiding and abetting.”
“So you are a murderer,” she said triumphantly.
I rolled my eyes. “That’s not the only crime in the world, you know.”
“Who did you kill?”
“Nobody!” I exploded.
She stared at me. “You don’t have to get mad.”
“Can you leave?
“I’m sorry I even let you stay here,” she said angrily. She tossed her long hair over her shoulder. I stuffed some more bread in my mouth.
“Aren’t you gonna apologize?” she asked.
She snorted. “Where are your parents?” she asked after a while.
“Oh,” she said. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Nah,” I said easily. “I’m better off on my own.”
She looked like she didn’t believe me.
“Where do you usually stay?” she asked.
“Okay, tough boy,” she said crossing her arms.
I grinned, and she grinned back.
“Wanna go for a bike ride?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
We smiled at each other again and then grabbed the bikes off the walls.
“Here we go,” Laura said.
“Here we go,” I echoed.
We biked down the wide hilly streets of Laura’s neighborhood. I had never seen a place like this, the big houses, the trees, the smell. I pumped the bike hard, and I felt free like a bird, the stars shining in through the tree branches. The air was sharp and it smelled like leaves and sunshine. Laura was ahead of me, and she hit her brakes and I did so too.
“Here’s where I stop,” she said.
“Why?” I asked sticking my hands in my pockets.
“If you go any further on this road, you’ll hit a bridge filled with twinkly lights and cars. That takes you to the city.”
“I come from the city.”
“I’m not allowed there. Not on that bridge, not ever.”
“Aww, come on. Imagine biking across a bridge with twinkly lights. Who would ever know?”
She looked at me and at the rusty bike she sat on. She whipped her hair from her face and grinned. “Let’s go.”
And we were off, off to the bridge and its lights.
Yeah, I’ve never seen anything as cool as it. It was really cool. There were lots of cars and trucks shrieking right along next to us, honking at each other. We biked and looked out at the sea below us.
“Imagine if we fall,” Laura called to me.
“Shut up,” I said, and she laughed.
There were ships below us too, lit up fancy ones that rolled through the great big ocean without a sound. Laura and I whooped out loud, and I bet that was the funnest thing Laura ever did, going against her parents and biking to the city. At last, the bridge ended, and we stopped, our brakes shrieking and dragging.
“I’ve gotta go home,” Laura said to me. “You can go on. Keep the bike.”
“Okay,” I said looking down at my hands.
“G’bye, Kid,” Laura said. She wheeled her bike around, and then I was alone once more. The city greeted me, with its buildings taller than the clouds and the bustle of people, shoving and moving. I went into a city bus, skipping the fare by going on through the back door. I sat with my face pressed against the window, watching the world go by, missing my mama for the first time in a long time. The bike Laura had left me pressed against my legs, and the cold metal left marks all over my knees. I got off the bus at the last stop. It was late into the night by then, and I knew I wasn’t gonna have any chance of sleep. Instead, I sat around begging with a bunch of other people. All of us looked kinda the same, tired and dirty, tired of life. Morning broke, and I biked a little with whatever strength I had, scouting out my surroundings.
That’s when I saw him.
It was Greg, the bus driver, in his yellow school bus. He was picking up a line of tired kids clearly heading off to day camp. I joined the line and went onto the bus.
“Hey, Greg,” I said.
He rubbed his eyes and peered at me thoughtfully. I sat in the back of the bus, away from the noise and chatter of the other kids.
We drove for about an hour until the kids reached their day camp. Greg kept on driving, and I knew exactly where we were headed. The lot where all the buses stay.
I got off the bus when we came to the gravelly lot, remembering this place, my old place. I went straight to the gas station where I had set off the alarm and noticed that they had new locks on every door.
I ran from there, to the beach. The glass and bottle caps still littered the sand. I almost cut off one of my toes again. The water was cool and the sun was hot on my head, and I felt the dirt of a week sliding off me. I lay down on the sand after that, with the sunlight beaming on me, and I slept for about an hour.
Later, I lay on my stomach beneath the bleachers to watch the rich kids have their daily baseball game. I bet I could beat any of them any day.
That night, I busted into Greg’s bus and slept in the back seat. I’m able to do stuff like that cause imma sneaky kid. I mean, I’m good at finding small places and stuff.
So I curled up in that school bus, with my stomach howling in hunger, and prayed. I prayed like my mama used to, fingers crossed and everything. I prayed for myself, for me, Kid, and for Chase and Laura, and for my mama up in heaven.
The next morning, I awoke to the shrieking of sirens.
“Oh lord,” I said. I knew this praying thing wasn’t gonna work. I raced outta that school bus and into the morning air. I needed to find a better place to hide. And I’ll find one, ’cause I’m a sneaky kid. I’m good in these kinda situations.
Chaya Friedman lives in Brooklyn, New York, with five too many siblings. When she’s not asleep, she can usually be found typing furiously at a plethora of unfinished novels.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Hot Dogs and Cotton Candy”:
The voice of this piece makes it stand out from the beginning. Author Chaya Friedman hit a home run in that regard. But the charm of this piece doesn’t stop there. The main character is interesting and compelling and fun to be with on his adventures. The dialogue is spot on, and story line makes the piece a delight to read. And the piece circles back around to where it began, making for a complete and satisfying story.