The boy took steps lacking in trepidation, except concerning his balance. Moving from pole to pole, his gaze rooted to the negative valley of the lumpy canvas and cotton mass in the corner of the transit, he was not yet old enough to set his mind on the contrast of something so immoveable being borne at all times.
As he broke through, the whiteness of a single eye appeared and shifted to his round head. It was the weirdest thing the boy had ever seen, at least in the last hour. Just that eye above that tattered scarf, a whiteness that commanded more attention than the colored part. He could not even tell you what color the colored part was; that’s how bright the white part was.
And the transit shifted suddenly and caught the boy inexperienced, and he yelped in spite of himself and found his fingers gripping air first and denim second, the knee of the mass of canvas and cotton and denim and fearful largeness which happened to have a knee as well.
“I’m sorry,” the boy said, but the mass said nothing. He let go of the knee as soon as he could, if it could ever be said he had truly caught it.
“Um, can I ask you something? Can I ask you something? Hey, can I—”
When the sound came, it was like a tool across wood long ignored and allowed to sit on a workbench. And it came through the tattered scarf so very high above him and from the eye, which had closed.
“Okay, um. I was, wonder, just wondering about, you’re the biggest, I mean, you’re so big.” And the boy held the pole and waited.
“Well,” said the words which might almost now come from a voice, “I suppose that’s true.”
“How big are you, anyway?”
The mass shifted a little, and the boy felt like he could see maybe shoulders.
“Bigger than you.”
The boy considered this briefly. “Well,” he said with purpose, “I suppose that’s true.”
A different sound came out from the scarf, and a massive hand appeared and pulled down the tattered scarf to allow for more air. The boy stared again into the hollow place, not as a bird before a snake, but…
“What’s wrong with your face?”
“But, I mean…”
“Nothing is wrong. I can breathe, I can eat, I can talk. I can see.”
The boy could not look away.
“But your face is hurt,” he prodded.
“How did you hurt it?”
“Ahhh,” said the mass, and it came in such a sigh that the canvas creased just a little. “Now you have asked a question.”
The boy waited patiently. Though he was desperate to know, he was a quick learner.
“An accident happened to me.”
“What kind of an accident?”
“Never mind that.”
The mass shifted and the boy could see more of a human shape now, one that took up nearly two seats and stretched to he didn’t know how far up.
“You’re so big,” he stressed. “My name is Franklin.”
And he remembered the other part.
There were two eyes now, and they flicked down the car. They met a watching, the usual watching, always watching, and they landed on one worried face.
“I am Ston. You know, Franklin, you’re very brave, for someone so small. I think your mother would like you back now.”
Franklin turned to see the worried face. He turned back and thrust out his right hand to shake. “Pleased to meet you, Ston,” he said proudly, but no hand met his. Instead the massive head leaned in close, and the voice slipped inward to the workbench once more.
“Franklin, why did you come over here?”
“I don’t know. I just sort of wondered about you.”
“And you weren’t scared?”
“Not even a little?”
“No. Well. A little.”
The face did not smile. An older boy might have noticed the smile lines and known it was possible, at least in an archaeological sense. A man might have understood, a mother might have cried. Franklin only stared and wanted it to tell him, anything, anything.
“You go back now. It’s your stop I think. Franklin, you should be scared sometimes. There’s a reason to feel scared. It keeps you from getting hurt, sometimes. Not everyone likes to talk.”
“But you like to talk, right Ston?”
“No, little brother. I don’t.”
It was too soon, but it was the right stop.
The boy took his mother’s hand, but only because she made him. It was long ago, and the platform was wet with the melting snow as spring made its stealthy, stabbing entrance. As he walked home, he stomped through puddles when he could, he hollered at the top of his lungs, and at the edges of the sidewalk he crushed the crystals under his boots, destructive and victorious because he was bigger than them.