The students who show up at Maple Hill Elementary are divided into groups by age: K-5th grade, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th. The high school group, including Miranda, has thirty-one people, but she isn’t friends with any of them. They wait in child-sized furniture until their old principal arrives. Mrs. Sanchez tells them that there aren’t many high schoolers at either location, and even fewer teachers—at Maple Hill there is only her and one English teacher, with an additional four at the high school. They’ve decided that all the high school classes need to be held at the high school. The students all react poorly to this news—one panics about getting into college without AP courses, and others say it’s not safe to walk through town, contributing rumors about missing girls. Specifically, they talk about how a classmate, Michelle Schmidt, was snatched during the day while walking home from church.
After having worked with Matt to figure out a plan so she could safely get to and from Maple Hill Elementary, Miranda learns the rules have changed again and she’ll have to go through town to the high school instead. While female students react to the safety concerns, a male classmate is dismayed about AP courses—either a very privileged prerogative, or he’s in denial. Miranda’s fears about the dangers of girls being alone in town are confirmed when she hears that a classmate was abducted in broad daylight.
The students in the room slowly begin to give up and leave, but Miranda is enjoying just spending time with kids her own age—even if the talk is about depressing topics like whether or not there’s still an FBI, or a point to learning, or even a future. The bleakness of it all hits Miranda and she leaves, stopping at the office to collect homeschooling textbooks for herself and Jonny.
Much like the final days of school in the spring, the value of this day is the exchange of information with other students. Miranda enjoys talking to people who are not family—until she realizes that it’s all complaints and pessimism, and she doesn’t need more of that.
As Miranda is leaving the office, she notices boxes of school supplies. Seeing piles of notepads and blue books and pencils, she quickly empties her book bag and fills it with these because her journal is full. Miranda is so excited about the prospect of more places to journal that she even sticks extra notebooks under her shirt and fills her pockets with pens. Back home she tells Laura her decision to homeschool and promises to work hard. She then escapes to her room, which feels like “the only safe place left.”
At school Miranda enjoyed being around other people, but once home she craves the privacy of her own room. Her joyous reaction to having pilfered a stash of blue books is related to the release Miranda finds in journaling her experiences. Much like her room, journals are Miranda’s “safe place” to record her feelings.
September 1-5. Miranda writes three short entries, each of which gives an excuse for why she’s not going to start schoolwork that day.
These brief and humorous entries are the author’s way of showing that even in a post-apocalyptic world, we still procrastinate unpleasant tasks.