Frank's eyes cracked open. He slammed his hand on the snooze button and squinted about the room. The blackness confirmed that the sun hadn't risen.
"It's not even light. Why's the alarm buzzing at night?" Frank focused on the clock. "I don't have to be up for another hour."
He started to reset his alarm when his eyes brightened and he smiled. He shut off the alarm clock.
"Oh yeah." Frank hopped out of bed. "I've got somewhere to be before school this morning."
"What are you doing up so early?" A heavyset man looked up from the sports section and glared at his daughter.
"I need to be at school early," Maria mumbled, attempting to sound nonchalant. Watching him pensively, she approached the refrigerator. "I hope you don't mind me making breakfast early and keeping it warm in the oven."
Her father shrugged. "Whatever - as long as it's hot when I eat."
"Just take it out and turn the oven off at breakfast time." Maria broke some eggs into a bowl. "I'll even set the alarm if you want."
"I'm not an idiot," her father snickered. "I can get myself to work on time without your help."
Maria blushed. "Sorry, Dad." She breathed deeply. "Are you coming to church with me tonight?"
He half-growled. "What do you think? You know how I feel about that church stuff."
She nodded sadly.
Olivia slid toward the edge of the bed slowly, so as not to wake her mother or anyone else in the cots nearby. She was one of the first to waken.
She grabbed her toiletry bag and some clothes and snuck toward the communal restroom, weaving her way through cots and stray clothing on the floor.
Generally, she would have had company as she dressed, but she had an early appointment this morning. She said a quick prayer, asking for a shelter-mate to attend too.
Olivia looked at her watch. She had to get moving. She got ready quickly and left the shelter, pecking her mother on the cheek as she departed.
The kitchen smelled of coffee as George Miller grabbed two mugs from the cupboard. He filled both, leaving one on the counter. He strolled toward the living room and placed the other mug on a small table.
A brunette was seated beside it, reading her Bible. George tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
"Thanks, sweetheart." She grabbed the mug and took a sip. "When are you leaving?"
George glanced at his watch. "Now, actually."
"Really? Lots to get done before class?"
"As usual, but at 7 I've got..."
She smiled. "That's today, isn't it?"
"Sure is. Curious about the turnout."
"I'm guessing you'll be pleasantly surprised." She winked. "I'm sure they'll be glad to see you there, too."
"Could be." George leaned in and kissed his wife. "Talk to you later."
"Have a good day, dear."
George grabbed his briefcase and coffee cup and went to the car for the five-minute drive to Central High School.
As he drove, George again wondered who would show up. He could think of at least half a dozen kids in his English classes he expected, and was certain others would surprise him.
He pulled into the staff parking lot and took a spot near the back. As he exited, he looked toward the school's entrance. About a dozen kids were gathered around the flagpole.
As he got closer, faces came into focus. The first he recognized was Olivia, from homeroom. She must have walked all the way from the homeless shelter. What a trooper. One he was not expecting was Maria, though he though he had noticed a Christian undertone to her writings. Guess he'd been right.
A chorus of "hey, Mr. Miller" came from at least half the students gathered. He smiled and waved, then backed up and sat on the school steps about a hundred feet away. Some other students he didn't recognize joined the group. One of them cleared his throat.
"I guess we should get started. It is 7, after all."
The group faced the boy. George now recognized him as Frank Whitsom, junior class president.
"First, I suppose, a little background." Frank pulled out a small piece of paper. "'See You At The Pole' started in 1990 at one school in Texas and is now in all 50 states and 20 foreign countries. It's a chance for students to pray for their school, friends, teachers, government, and country."
"So, shall we start?"
NOTE: "See You At The Pole"(tm) is held annually on the fourth Wednesday in September. More information can be found at www.syatp.com.
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