So this was Massachusetts. Jiro had been unable to sleep through his seemingly interminable flight, but at least the fates had been merciful enough to let the journey be a safe and timely one. Even his luggage had been delivered to him promptly and undamaged. Now, though, he wasn't quite sure what to do. The concourse of the international airport swarmed with humanity, among which, naturally, there was not a familiar face to be seen.
Surely the people who had arranged his flight would also have provided for what happened afterwards? How far was Wickham from Boston? How big was Massachusetts anyways? If he remembered his geography, the region was a state in the United States... his only other visit to this country had been a visit to the Johnson Space Center in the state of Texas. That left considerable room to place a school... he hoped Massachusetts was at least somewhat smaller than Texas.
The tower dorms are one of the more interesting structures at Ikibomot. The pool and veranda pleasantly located in the center of the tower dorms continues to provide an ideal lounging place for the various students at various points in their endeavours.
Sanders sat by the pool with a curious grin on his face contemplating his work so far. It was a cardboard rectangle, about twelve inches by thirty-six inches. On it were clearly inked the letters "IKIBOMOT HIGH SCHOOL."
Some people walked by and seeing this sight either had a puzzled look, or were clearly enjoying the same thing that Sanders was. One person asked of another:
"What is he grinning about?"
The other responded with a smirk, "Oh, he does this every year."
When the sign had finished drying Sanders drew it up and headed for his car. The vehicle, apparently an older type Ford LTD, started with a comfortable rumble. Sanders put it in drive and headed out for the airport.
Jiro stood in the concourse. His brain felt very fuzzy. Appart from the few poor snatches of sleep he had caught in the airport in Tokyo he had been up for two or three days, he wasn't sure anymore. He tried to remember which way the dateline went, but he was so tired he wasn't even able to remember which direction the sun went. Slowly an idea occured to him. It had a hard time bringing itself to his attention. Bubbling up through Jiro's consciousness at this point was like swimming through tar that wasn't quite liquid anymore. The idea was also annoyed by the way Jiro was so easily distracted by the simplest things. He stood for ten minutes once just staring at a travel poster telling him to visit beautiful Texas. Jiro was wondering where they had gotten the beautiful girls for the poster. The last time he was in Texas he hadn't seen any. He had spent most of his visit in an all male dormitory, but that minor detail was lost somewhere in Jiro's sleep deprived brain. The idea bubbled a little closer. It decided that when it finally got there it was going to tell Jiro to get some sleep already. Maybe it would also remind him about how poorly he had come off trying to ask Mikiko to the dance at the end of the last school year. It would make him uncomfortable to remember. Disgruntled thought processes can be very nasty.
The idea was this, maybe it would be a good idea to (at this point Jiro was distracted again by the sight of a mobile vending machine that trundled past his location, it's mechanical (but somehow very sexy, due to the cleverness of some marketing team somewhere) voice calling "Coke, Coke, wouldn't the real thing be nice right now?" Jiro would have followed it but he didn't have any American change. The idea decided to be particularly nasty about how much Jiro was going to remember about the things Mikiko had said.) ... a good idea to look for a taxi. Maybe the driver would know where Wickham was.
Jiro picked a direction to look for the taxi stand and headed hopefully in that direction. When he came to the security scanners he realized that he had gone the wrong way and went back. After several more false starts he found his way to the outside and was presently facing a long row of several dozen taxis. He started towards them.
At that moment, a very fat old lady emerged from one of the taxis and while trying to fish her taxi fare from her purse (seemingly a nickel at a time) lost control of her toy poodle "Chichi". The dog made a desperate dash for freedom and shortly before its escape was ended by Chichi's being abruptly flattened under the wheels of a passing truck, she managed to wrap her leash around Jiro's legs. Jiro found it particularly difficult to walk thus encumbered and after a few wild hops and near catches he fell face forward and found himself lying accross a garbage can by the curbside.
There were several letters floating in front of Jiro's eyes. He could just make out "BOM". There seemed to be a piece of cardboard behind the letteres and when Jiro backed off a bit he was able to see more of the letters
The cardboard read "IKIBOMOT HIGH SCHOOL."
Jiro's mind took a step or three backwards, eventually catching up with his body. Attached to the sign was a rather odd grin, being worn by a fellow who looked like an equally odd character. Seeming to be about Jiro's age or a few years older, the boy, not much taller than Jiro himself, was leaning back against one of the largest, most ungainly-looking automobiles Jiro had ever laid eyes upon. It was probably older than Jiro. It was certainly not a taxi.
"Ah..." Jiro stammered, having to make an extra effort to bring his English to bear, "Are you a taxi?"
"No," answered the grinning youth in flawless Japanese, "I'm a student. And so are you, right. This is part of... Ikibomot High's S.O."
"Student Orientation," the individual said, lapsing into English. "You're a student, as we've established, and you look as though you could use orientation. See, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West; thirty days hath September, April, June, and November..."
Which, incidentally, supplied Jiro with some information to fill a nasty gap which had been lurking in his brain for a while. "East!" He cried, slapping his forehead. "That's it! The dateline is east!"
"Well, depends which direction you're coming from."
Jiro sighed. For a moment it had all almost made sense. At this point, his self-appointed 'big brother' took advantage of the momentary lapse of Jiro's attention to grab his baggage and casually fling it into the cavernous trunk (which Jiro could have sworn he hadn't seen open before), then grab Jiro's arm and fling him into the front seat on the passenger side. Sliding into place himself and starting up the vehicle's engine with a thunderous roar, the grin announced, "Okay, time to get you to school. Say, you look thirsty. Want a soda?"
"Sure," Jiro replied, grateful that at least one of his needs was being recognized and attended to. The strange individual reached underneath the driver's seat and pulled out an unfamiliar-looking but still-welcome soda can. The label read 'JOLT PLUS' - not any brand he was familiar with, but he supposed he'd have to get used to these Amrican sodas. He popped the top and took a sip. Not bad tasting at all. "What is this stuff, anyways?"
"Well, you know Coke?"
"Of course, I love it."
"Well, this is even better." The car had by now left the airport parking area and was beginning to accelerate as it reached the open road. "We've got time to spare. I think I'll take the scenic route."
Jiro settled back in the seat as he eagerly consumed the cold soda. This guy was all right, he thought. Maybe things weren't going to turn out so badly after all.
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