On days where a field trip is required I always find a new dress in my closet.

Treasure will be found if you only get off your couch and dig for it beneath the cushions. 5 17 18 24 93

It was an oddly specific fortune cookie. But when one of the kids in my classroom gets an oddly specific fortune with their chow mein, it can only mean that it’s field trip day. The dress covered in springs and couch pillows makes sense now.

“Come on, kids! Everyone aboard the bus!”

No one ever asked about the bus. Not the school board. Not the administration. Not the other bus drivers.

“Not another field trip.”
“I thought we were going to learn long division this week.”
“Not again, Mrs. Frizzle,” the children whined.

“Hup to, hup to. Learning requires sacrifices from time to time,” I said, clapping my hands together.

The kids dutifully filed out to the bus and took their seats. The bus winked a headlight on me as I boarded behind them. I dropped into the driver’s seat and starting cranking things like I had any idea what I was doing.

The bus knew the way, though. The bus always knew the way.

She took off like a flash and I whooped and laughed as we rose into the sky. In two shakes we were outside of Arnold’s house. Of course it was Arnold, this time. Arnold hated the field trips more than the other kids. The bus always planned something special for those kids who didn’t appreciate her offerings.

We bounced against the window like a butterfly and held on tight while the bus shook it off. I laughed as the bus stretched and pulled, looking for the right size to get through the opened window – for the children’s sake more than my own. Inside, my stomach flopped over two or three times as my molecules were stretched and squashed back and forth before the bus settled on the right size for me.

Arnold’s house was pristine as we swooped over the beige living room carpet, past his mustachioed father with the red hair – sound asleep in an arm chair – and dove between two beige couch cushions. What treasure we could possibly find down here, I had no idea.

“This is what we call strata,” I announced as the bus sunk deeper into the couch.

“Like the layers in the earth,” Arnold said.

The sides of the couch cushions boxed us in on either side as we held our collective breath to see what we’d find on the bottom. The bus bounced lightly on the springs on the couch before coming to a stop. I waited a beat to see if it was done before letting the kids run loose.

“Welcome to Arnold’s couch.” I pulled the lever to open the doors and the kids spilled out, bouncing slightly on the uneven ground.

“It’s like walking on the moon,” Liz said, letting one of the springs push her up into the sky and tumbling back to the surface. The other kids picked up on it quickly, giggling from the sky as they somersaulted and ran into each other in the sky.

All except for Arnold, who’d found the broken spring of course. His just cast him into the bottom of the couch harder.

“Ouch. No wonder my dad is always complaining that this couch isn’t comfortable.”

The couch had been vacuumed recently and there were no treasures to be found at this level. The bus beckoned. “Alright kids! Everybody aboard. It’s time to go deeper.”

Arnold disengaged himself from the broken spring while the other kids shot themselves into the bus easily. The bus got a rolling, bouncing start before it hit a spring springy enough to shoot us back into the air. It flew straight up towards the cushion above us before performing a little loop de loop. She dropped us down in the crevice between the arm of the couch and the springs. As we dropped down, Arnold gave a strangled cry looking out the window.

I looked out. Beside us was a black slab covered in round buttons.

“That’s where the remote went!” Arnold shouted. “It must have slid down here when I knocked it off the arm of the couch.”

Well look at that. He found his treasure. And the kids would all be a good deal more likely to look for missing things here in the future. We slid past it without retrieving it. The bus only showed us things that could be retrieved once we got home in our regular size. We rarely had the chance to fix things during the field trips, themselves.

As we traveled, the fibers in the couch grew larger and larger. We were shrinking. I hated shrinking.

“Here we go kids!” I kept my voice cheery. For them. “You’re going to get a chance to look at your furniture in a way no one else ever has.”

The interlocked springs hovered in a structure above our heads when the bus landed. The fabric beneath our feet was soft, weak. Arthur tore right through it, his leg dangling awkwardly out of the bottom of the couch. I wondered what would happen if he fell through altogether, whether the fall to the carpet would kill him at this size or if the bus would save him.

The rest of the fabric held, though, and he managed to pull himself free. He rolled away from the group a bit due to a sag in the old fabric. The other kids waved and laughed as he dusted himself off.

I waved back at him. But I didn’t laugh.

We’d disturbed them. Dust mites. Swarming out of the couch around us, each one with a body three or four times our size now that the bus had shrunk us.

We were too far away to help Arthur.

The kids watched in stone-faced silence while I narrated. “Those are dust mites, kids! Tiny, almost microscopic organisms that live everywhere that humans do. Some of you might even have some very tiny ones on you right now. Haha!”

They didn’t laugh.

“Dust mites eat dust,” I continued. “To me more specific, dust mites eat the tiny bits of organic material found in dust. Bits of plant matter. Tiny little flakes of hair. And skin. Lots and lots of dead skin particles.”

I couldn’t keep my voice cheery as we watched the mites descend on Arthur. Learning requires sacrifice, and the bus requires blood to work.

Dianne Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and classic science fiction. She once dreamed of being an astronaut. Or maybe a lawyer. Or an artist. She settled for being as many of them as she could all at once through fiction writing.

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