"Did we miss our stop?" said the small boy with the small backpack to his older brother.
"What? Hey, you're right. I think we did..." said the bigger boy with the bigger backpack. "Sit still here for a minute and I'll ask the driver."
"Please take your seat" said the heavyset man in the hydraulic chair up front.
"Did we pass 9th street already?"
"Sure, we're almost at the end of the line now."
The bigger boy walked back to the middle of the bus, stopping to yank the stop-request chain on his way to the seats by the back door.
"Yeah, we missed it. We're getting off at the next stop."
"Where are we?"
"I'm not sure yet, but we can't have missed it by much. Hold the door for the lady."
"Which way is home?"
"Let's walk to the corner so I can get my bearings.... OK, we need to cross here. Wait for the light. Hold my hand, Quentin."
"How far is it?"
"It's about twenty blocks. We can play a game to make it go faster."
"It's called... fractions. Each time we finish another block we'll figure out how far we've gone and how far we still have left to go."
"Sure, like here we just walked a whole block, cross with me before the light starts blinking! That wasn't so bad, was it? That means we've gone one block out of twenty, or 1/20th."
"It gets funner. Think of it this way. If we were working on a dollar, we'd have a nickel by now.... You know, I'm sorry I let us miss our stop. It was that Jonah Hex comic."
"You didn't let me read it."
"You're too little. Also, I thought we were on the M-one-oh-one to sixth street. If I daydream on that one it's just three blocks to walk back. ... OK, that's another block. Are we going too fast?"
"You seem out of breath. We've got a minute or so till the DON'T WALK sign changes back."
"What fraction is this?"
"Well, we've gone two blocks out of twenty so that's--"
"Right, but 2/20ths is also 1/10th."
"Right, so we're up to a dime. Since we're walking here, there's something else I wanted to say I was sorry about."
"You know that game where we tease you and say you're not the real Quentin and that the real Quentin disappeared and you're a little different in some small way that we never explain and then we blame you for abducting Quentin and trying to take his place?"
"Well, it's just a game, you know. We don't really think you're the fake Quentin."
"But it's not just that. It's just... I'm sorry for teasing you."
"You know I don't like it."
"It's like Dad says, 'needle, needle.' I can't help it some times, but it's mean and -- hey, look, 3/20ths."
"Yes, it doesn't really reduce. Anyway, I'm sorry if I was mean."
"It's OK. I know I'm the real one."
"Robbie from upstairs told me he thought you were starting to believe us, but I told him you knew we were just kidding."
"Well, I knew you were kidding but I didn't like it."
"I know. I said I'm sorry. That's why I was feeling bad. It wasn't nice."
"It wasn't nice. You shouldn't make fun of me so much."
"Look, 4/20ths, that's one fifth. We're doing good. Are you sure you're not getting tired."
"I'm... maybe we could go a little slower?"
"Sure, I just wanted us to get home before dark. Maybe don't tell mommy we missed the stop?"
"OK. Maybe we should so she knows why we got home late?"
"How about if I get you a treat?"
"What kind of treat?"
* * *
"It means 'fire' like firing the President. Where did you see it?"
"There, the sticker on the wall. Peach Nixon."
"Nix on Nixon," said Oliver, largely to himself. Then, "5/20ths. A quarter! Not bad. How you doing?"
"OK," said Quentin, looking down.
"We can go slower..."
"...but we might not make it home before dark. Not that you should worry. There're lots of people around."
"I'm fine. What's 6/20ths?"
"We're not quite there yet, but it will be 3/10ths, not so exciting."
"Ff-- Fff--. Dog feces. Daddy said it."
"Feces is poop. Doo-doo."
"It was when that guy hit him, at the playground."
"I know dad said something about that guy's dobermans going in the fountain with all the little kids."
"He said they could get feces in there. It wasn't clean?"
"The guy hit him for that? I didn't see it."
"No, Daddy was yelling at him to take the dogs out of the fountain. Then the man came up to him, with the dogs, and when Daddy was talking he punched him in the eye."
"I know. I went to the hospital with you."
"I just wondered what feeces was."
"Hey, 8/20ths, that's 4/10ths or 2/5ths."
"We're not even halfway yet, are we?"
"No, but nearly."
* * *
"9/20ths. Nothing special. Are you getting cold. Put the hood up on your parka."
"What's my treat?"
"I told you, you have to wait till we're closer?"
"How many blocks is that?"
"How many did we go so far."
"Nine... plus a little, nearly half."
"So what does that leave?"
"14 take away 9 is..."
"Right, five blocks to your treat, or actually, four, because we just made it halfway, and the next block is Houston, so we'll be in the numbers soon. Hold my hand."
* * *
* * *
"What is 12/20ths?"
"6/10ths, or 3/5ths?"
"That's still boring."
"What's the treat."
"OK, but you can't tell."
"What is it?"
"Not real peanuts. They're like marshmallows, but they're orange."
"Not like soft fluffy marshmallows. It's too hard to explain! Just wait. They taste like banana."
"You know the fake candy banana taste that tastes stronger than a real banana? Like with some of our Christmas candy last year?"
"Banana like that. This is 13 now. One block to the treat. 13/20ths is..."
* * *
"A quarter gets you one of these."
"How many peanuts are there."
"One, two, three... seven. You can have two and I'll have two and I'll keep the rest."
* * *
"What do you think?"
"Sweet. Can I have one more?"
"OK, but here's the thing. They turn your tongue orange."
"When we kiss mommy, she'll notice and ask you, but you promised not to tell."
"I have to kiss mommy."
"I know. Here's what I figured out. It's fourth street, we've got five blocks to go, we've come 15. That's three-quarters of the way! At each corner, we have to spit a few times into the gutter, to get the orange color out of our mouths. We also have to work up more spit in between, OK?"
* * *
"Let me see your tongue.... Looks good. How's mine?"
"It's not even really dark yet. How are your feets?"
"A little sore."
"You did great. You can ring the intercom."
"I wasn't scared."