Shout Out: Southwood

We saw our names in lights (like a movie marquee). Southwood Middle School was packed with book-loving parents and teens...all scurrying around the Scholastic Book Fair in search of something "amazing" to read..."Stuff about vampires," said a ponytailed girl, who swiped a handful of TCO buttons off my table. Or romances that don't suck. Or kickass graphic novels.

I spotted a boy in the front row, pouring through MAUS.

"It's awesome, right?" I told him.

He grinned. "Yeah."

I shared the spotlight with Gaby Triana (and a stuffed friend, who perched at our booksigning table in case of crows).

We took turns behind the podium. For some reason, the projector refused to cooperate, so I showed my animated trailer off my laptop. The lights still hadn't clicked back on as I began to read. But I was cool with it.

Gaby read a passage about a fortune-teller at the fair. "Ever had your fortune told?" I asked.

She nodded.

"Did it come true?"

She nodded again.

On the way out, the teachers gave us candy bars. Everybody was talking about the VP debate, but I was looking at the lockers, smelling the sweat and ink-paper smells, wondering about the kids who wander these halls, every single day, and the epic stories inside them. Like the boy who has OCD and plays the violin. Or the twins, Taylor and Trystan, who share the same long eyelashes, the same books (and maybe super powers).

"It's weird being here at night," said a girl with pink-framed glasses.

Even weirder, walking though the empty parking lot, lugging my laptop and tote bags. As I fumbled with my car keys, a yappy dog bolted toward me. I bent down to pet him, but he just zigzagged away.

"He only pretends to be friendly," said his owner, a man in a jogging suit.

I laughed. When I crouched down again, the dog trotted back to me. He knew what I was thinking. It's always weird, hanging around schools at night.

It's also a little magical.