"Eight minutes. That's how long it takes for her photons to leave her and bombard my feet."
"Come on, Jojo," wailed Claire. "I'm sure the bus driver doesn't care about the Sun."
"But the Sun gives life," exclaimed Jojo, raising his hands robotically. Claire pulled him by the shirt and headed for the first completely available seat as the bus pulled away from the curb. The other children all stared at the pair, as they did everyday.
"Did you know that the Sun is blue in the middle and only yellow on the outside?"
"Yes, because you've told me before." Claire pressed her cheek against the window, smooshing the flesh flat.
"It's full of protons. Technically it's hydrogen with the electrons stripped away--a plasma--and they are held together by the force of gravity but that's not the only force important in stars. No. The weak nuclear force allows fusion to take place and its fusion that produces all the light and heat and what makes the Earth work and creates all life and--"
"Shut up Jojo!" said a beefy kid sitting front of Claire and Jojo. "You freaking idiot!"
"I'm not an idiot," said Jojo in a monotone. "I'm smarter than you."
"Shhh," said Claire. The boy snarled menacingly, then slipped back into his seat and busied himself with staring vacantly out the window.
Jojo glanced at Claire then looked at his hands in his lap. He flicked his fingers in rapid succession, performing comforting mathematical calculations in silence. The bus rolled along under a boulevard with mature, overhanging trees. Sunlight streamed down in dappled patches. Jojo froze the progression of his calculations and started bouncing in his seat. He looked at Claire and sighed deeply, pressing his lips together to keep himself from talking. He sat on his hands and closed his eyes tight but the sunlight still came through his eyelids. Suddenly he stood up, bracing himself against the seat ahead.
"Electron capture causes core collapse!" announced Jojo at the top of his lungs. The bus driver slammed on the brakes and Jojo toppled over into the next seat. All the kids stared at him, flailing to right himself. Claire tried to pull him up by the waistband, but the beefy kid started punching Jojo in the back.
"Don't you touch him!" yelled Claire, punching the beefy kid squarely in the nose. He screamed and fell back against the window, releasing several expletives in her direction.
Jojo finally scrambled up and ran to the front of the bus, descending the stairs and pushed his weight against the doors. the bus driver rolled his eyes.
"Let me out, let me out, let me out..." droned Jojo, scratching the top of his head furiously.
"I can't let you out," said the driver. "Not until we get to school."
Jojo fell silent and looked at his feet. His eyes were wet and he sat on the top step.
"Look, why don't you sit here," said the driver, pointing to the nearest seat which was singly occupied by a terrified little girl in a green sweater, clutching her bookbag close to her chest. Jojo glanced up at her, and she suddenly got up and ran to the back of the bus. Jojo scratched his head again.
"You could tell me all about fusion if you like," said the driver.
"Fusion is when two or more protons glue themselves together because the get to close because of intense pressure--"
"Okay," said the driver, "that's very interesting. Now could you please take a seat and continue?"
Jojo put a finger in his mouth, glanced down the length of the bus and took in the multitude of faces that stared back at him. Claire got up from her seat and walked forward.
"Two or more protons..." whispered Jojo.
Claire reached the front of the bus and patted Jojo on the head. She slid into the seat and sat next to the window. Jojo climbed in after her. The air brakes released and the bus jerked forward.
"It's nice up here," said Jojo. "You have a really good view of the Sun."
"Yes," said the driver. "That's why I took the job."