Her students said she was magical.
Maybe she was — she didn’t know. She didn’t know a whole lot.
Oh, sure, she knew about the water-cycle, and diverse ecosystems, and the food-chain. She knew about physics, and chemistry, and temporal engineering, and faster-than-light-travel. She was a gardener, a historian, an artist, a mechanic, a librarian, a chef — and many other things beside — but, above all, she was a teacher. She knew all of her students by name, face, handwriting, hobby, and voice. And she loved them.
But about herself, about her own heart and history, she knew nothing. As far as she knew she had always been a teacher at Walker elementary school. But that was silly wasn’t it? She knew she had a past and a family; why her cousin Murph had stopped by last week. She remembered growing up, but it fell away when she thought about it too closely. Like a wet newspaper falling apart before she could read the text.
She was vaguely aware that the other teachers gave her strange looks when she passed by in the hall. Vaguely, she knew that none of the other classrooms went on field trips everyday. But really, she thought, what other way was there to learn about the universe except by experiencing it? One couldn’t just lay about at home when all that wonder was playing out around you. The cosmos was too big and brilliant to sit back and watch. You had to go out and see it up close. To touch it. Caress it. Learn it. Know it.
And, of course, the cosmos was too big and brilliant to keep to one’s self. She just had to share it with her students. As someone had once shared it with her. But she didn’t remember that someone, or the sharing. She was only sure that it had happened once. A long time ago. Maybe in another life.
She was painfully aware of the fact that the school’s other staff had home lives, and, indeed, homes to go back to. She slept in her bus at night with only her pet chameleon for company. She was also aware that most pet chameleons weren’t telepathic aliens. She didn’t remember where she had obtained the little lizard. There were so many mysteries in her life. She knew that for other people, normal people, carpet bags were never bigger inside than out, dress and earring ensembles didn’t change pattern to suit their wearer’s mood, and, of this she was certain, school buses could never change shape, or fly, or travel through time.
Magic didn’t count for anything when you were an outcast.
Still, she had her students, and they loved her.
She knew that her name wasn’t Valerie Felicity Frizzle. She remembered, barely, choosing that name — that was her earliest memory, and one that she often clung to during the long, dark hours between 3:00 PM and 8:00 AM on weekdays, all day on weekends, and through the long, dismal summers, when there were no children present to call her teacher.
She remembered — Valerie for forgetfulness, Felicity for life after (what?), Frizzle for the hair. And that was where the memory ended. Except for a whisper-thin thought that her hair hadn’t been frizzled when she renamed herself, and it hadn’t been red either, except that was impossible since she didn’t think she was the sort of person to sink to the vanity of hair dyes. Yet, in her mind’s eye, she had a clear picture of herself as a blond.
She pinned all the discrepancies down to magic. What else could it be? Tomorrow she would teach her students about stellar life cycles — she liked it when her field trips went into space. She felt freer out there. More real. Closer to home.
But that was ridiculous. Wasn’t it?
Besides, said the whisper-thin thought, this is your home. You have nowhere else to go.
School buses weren’t supposed to change shape, or fly, or travel through time. And they certainly weren’t supposed to get inside your head and encourage you to remember things that you only wanted to forget.