If evolution was real, why did people have to invent shoes? How much
food would you have to give an elephant to kill it? What would happen if
you shot an atom bomb with a bow and arrow? At thirteen, Ronny was
already five ten and thin but tough-looking, with a head of dark, matted
curls. Hyde was half a foot shorter than Ronny and tended to answer his
questions as if humoring a superior. Ronny’s hand stayed raised, and
Hyde let his shoulders slouch as he almost whispered, “Yes?”
Ronny cleared his throat and said he actually had two questions.
First, he wanted to know how our bodies told the difference between
pee and poop. Second, he was curious if the two ever got mixed up, pee
coming out of a butt or poop coming out of a peehole.
The students who usually laughed at Ronny’s questions looked at oneanother with their mouths hanging open, trying to read from each other’s faces if they’d heard him right. Hyde’s bald head turned a velvetyshade of red while Ronny waited for an answer, a chewed-up Bic poisedover the open notebook on his desk.
“That is enough,” Hyde said, his voice husky with rage. “That is
enough out of you.”
“If you don’t know,” Ronny said, “just say so.”
“Quiet!” Hyde shouted. “I don’t want to hear another word.”
He slammed the stick of chalk he was holding into the board’s metal
tray. The stick broke, and the top half fell to the floor, rolling under his
The class was caught off guard by Hyde’s overdue outburst. Everyonewas silent as he banished Ronny from the front row and told him to keephis mouth shut for the rest of the year.
His new seat was next to mine, and when he dropped himself into it
the legs gave a quick screech against the tile. Ronny cracked his knuckles
and seemed to think the situation over before turning to me and whis-
pering, “It’s because I stumped him.”
I had a healthy fear of Ronny, so I nodded. He could have told me
he was the eighteenth president of the United States, and I would have
nodded all the same.
In the fifth grade Ronny had picked up our lunch chaperone, Mr.Vestruvio, and placed him upside down in a garbage can. He narrowlyescaped expulsion on account of his seemingly earnest belief bothduring and after the incident that he and Mr. Vestruvio had been “justclowning.”