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Spring Hill Lake

Alex took to arranging his bus maps chronologically along his bedroom wall, at a height where he could study them carefully from his upper bunk, and where his little brother Argus could not easily get to them. This led to an endless fascination on the five-year-old's part. He would lie for hours in his lower bunk gazing up at the grids of tiny black lines and bolder red ones as if the secrets of the universe were embedded somewhere in there. Alex knew what all those lines represented, and he was certain they were the key to something more substantial - the way to most efficiently cover the territory.

Alex and Sapphire had different goals in mind for this adventure. Sapphire wanted to go everywhere, or rather, to have been everywhere, on every street. Alex wanted to see everything, to have seen everything, to know what things there were and where. He had a genius for memorization and a desire to fill up his brain cells with tidbits of random knowledge. Sapphire wanted notches on her belt. Her idea was to fan out from where they were, take it one neighborhood at a time, as if it were guerrilla warfare and the surrounding streets were the occupying army. Alex pointed out that this would make their travels that much longer each time. He proposed a more systematic solution; map it out and take the bus. Sapphire had to agree that made a lot more sense.

She had made a list of the streets she'd already been on, and it was a fairly long one. She had relatives in different parts of town, so she could claim substantial portions of those far-flung neighborhoods as conquests. Her list had three columns - the name of the street, a column for her own check marks, and a column for Alex. She figured it counted for both if even only one of them had been there. Alex wasn't so sure about that, but he decided to put off that discussion until later. Alex wanted a strategy. Part of the reason was financial. They would each have to buy a bus pass and that would cost money, so he wanted to make the best use of it.

As he stared at the maps on his wall, he tried to decide how to get it done. Should they cover the farthest regions first, so the job would get easier over time? Should they alternate between remote and distant areas, so they wouldn't get burned out? Should they tackle the safest neighborhoods first, saving the sketchier ones for when they were a little older and more experienced, or should they cross out the bad sections first, just to get them out of the way? He scanned the maps in order from the most recent to the oldest. They were largely the same. Spring Hill Lake was not a huge city, and it hadn't changed much in recent years. Alex didn't even know why he had nine years of bus maps on his wall, only that he liked to skip from one to the next, as if that would freshen his thinking. The bus routes had changed from time to time, it's true, and only the current map was actually useful, but they all gave him ideas. They made him wonder why the 22 no longer went through Skyport , but skirted around it, leaving that neighborhood to the 46 alone. Had demand diminished, and if so, why? Was Skyport not what it used to be?

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