Schlesinger laid an open palm on the cover of the notebook.
“Son, I gotta tell ya, everything I read in here is beyond the pale. Ab-
solutely beyond, I—”
He had to gather himself before adding, “You’ll get a chance to tell
your side of this. But first, first, you’re telling me where you got that
He picked up the receiver of his phone and waved it at me. “And I
had better believe every word you tell me, or I’ll get someone from the
sheriff’s office down here in a hot second.”
I told him it was just corn syrup and food coloring, and he looked
relieved as he took my statement on a yellow legal pad.
“The notebook says he paid you for it. How much?”When I said forty dollars, his lips parted in disbelief.
“Forty dollars,” he said. “For forty dollars you lied about having hu-
man blood and brought it to school? Was that worth it?”
Without thinking I answered yes, and for a second it looked like
Schlesinger might shout, but he was able to restrain himself.
“So that’s it, Jacob? That’s what your integrity costs?” He soundeddisappointed in me, like suddenly he’d known me my whole life.
“Imagine,” he said, “what your mother will think when she gets here
and I have to explain all this.”
I figured he was confused. “She’s at work,” I said. It was a Wednesday
morning, which meant she’d be at the jewelry counter. Her manager had
once fired one of her coworkers for showing up in open-toed shoes twice
in the same month. The idea that she could have left her shift to come to
school was absurd.
“We already reached her,” Schlesinger said. “She’s on her way.”
A pained look must have crossed my face because Schlesinger smiled.
“Forty dollars isn’t so much now, is it?”
“You shouldn’t have called her there.”
He might have yelled at me for talking back if I hadn’t started to
cry. I didn’t cover my face but just stared at a place on the wall where
Schlesinger had hung a photograph of himself in a beige vest holding up
a fish that looked too small not to throw back.
“You might have thought of your mother when you came up with
your brilliant plan to go around selling fake blood.”
His voice was still angry but defensive, as if it were an unfair turn of
events that I should appear helpless. But he’d misunderstood. I wasn’t
sad or scared. I wanted to kill him. Actually kill him. The only person I