By Amy Jo Burns
Excerpted from Cinderland
As if Mercury itself somehow knew how badly I wanted out, Thursday night of Spirit Week was the last town fire I ever took part in. At dusk, the homecoming amoeba prepared to parade through town. Its course had already been set, and it was an expanded version of the path all the students took the day of the explosion at the McCandless car dealership: starting at the elementary school and ending at the high school where a homecoming bonfire waited to be lit.
In the elementary school parking lot, someone handed me a bucket of candy, and I had to pull my hands out from the cuffs of my sweater to hold it. The air was getting colder now. Inside the bucket, I found peppermints, Smarties, and butterscotch in golden cellophane, all the hard candy flavors I used to collect as a child when I’d stood on the side of the road, watching the floats as they passed by and dreaming of the day when I would get my turn.