Josh wondered why every time something really good happened, something else had to spoil it. It had been like this since he could remember, like biting into a ruby red apple only to find a brown worm crawling through the crisp, white fruit. For the first time since he’d moved to his new neighborhood, he had been recognized, and his unusual talent had been appreciated. So why was it that that same fame had kicked up the muddy rumor that got a high school kid looking to bash his teeth in?
For the moment, though, riding the school bus, he was safe. The school newspaper in Josh’s backpack filled his whole body with an electric current of joy and pride, so much so that his cheeks burned. He sat alone in the very front seat and kept his eyes ahead, ignoring the stares and whispers as the other kids got off at the earlier stops. When Jaden Neidermeyer, the new girl from Texas who’d written the article, got off at her stop, Josh stared hard at his sneakers. He just couldn’t look.
After she left, he glanced around and carefully parted the lips of his backpack’s zipper. Without removing the newspaper, he stole another glance at the headline, baseball great, and the picture of him with a bat and the caption underneath: "Grant Middle’s best hope for its first-ever citywide championship, Josh LeBlanc."
The bus ground to a halt at his stop and Josh got off.
As the bus rumbled away, Josh saw Bart Wilson standing on the next corner. The tenth grader pitched his cigarette into the gutter and