By the time the sun was over the ridge, Carl Veltre had already been up for three hours. He had milked the Holsteins before Lynne was awake, washed down the milking house while the kids were eating breakfast, and brought the school bus around to the house just as Lynne was handing lunch bags to their two boys and sending them down the driveway. For the past forty-odd minutes, he had nursed the aging bus along winding back roads, practically standing on the gas pedal to get it to crawl up the steep hills and stopping at all the least convenient places—blind corners, the very bottoms of long climbs—to pick up kids as young as five and as old as nineteen, an age bracket that, on mornings like this, Carl understood as the widest range of possibilities for obnoxiousness that the school system would allow.

“Hey, you all,” he shouted to the wide, oblong mirror that framed pretty much the whole bus. “Whoever threw whatever that was I saw come from somewhere back there—are you smilin’ at me?—whoever that was better not be smilin’ an’ better not do it again, neither.”

People on couch
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