He gave my shoulder a squeeze, and I understood what I was beingasked to do. I just had to point to Ronny, and like that I’d be transformedfrom culprit to victim, a poor boy lured into revolting acts with threatsand stolen money. As soon as a story was settled on, the sheriff’s department could be called and Ronny would disappear once and for all intosome vast institutional world where troubled boys were jumpsuited andcaged and marked for life.
Schlesinger opened the door and led me inside. The usually bustlingoffice was quiet, and there was no one behind the front desk. As we gotcloser to Principal Judmann’s door, I could hear the grave murmur ofadult voices. I thought about Annie’s look of disgust and of Ronny flying down an empty country road in his father’s truck, feeding his dog aroot beer. Schlesinger was walking on one side of me with his hand stillon my shoulder, but he didn’t notice when I mouthed the word “No.” Ihadn’t been bullied. Ronny, I would tell them, was the smartest person Iknew. And I was proud of the work we’d done.