I followed Ronny out behind the gym while he explained that the moneyhad come from his dad’s wallet. According to Ronny, his father’s alcoholtolerance used to be untouchable, but eight months ago he’d gotten intoa bar fight with a man who’d tossed him through a window. His left armand half his left leg ended up having to be amputated, and the loss ofbody mass as well as the three weeks in the hospital drying out meanthe now came home swaying on his crutches, his wallet fat with the undrunk tens and twenties from his disability check.
“Is your dad okay?”
Ronny looked back at me and squinted. “I just told you how he is.”
He belched loudly enough for it to echo against the gym’s cinder block,
then took a seat on a picnic table that rested on a grassless patch of dirt
between two dumpsters. I was five minutes late for history and risking
a write-up for loitering, but the twenty-dollar bill in my pocket was all
I could think about. At home our cupboards contained cans of olives
and pumpkin-pie filling we’d gotten from the school’s can drive. When
they’d been collecting nonperishables in our homerooms, I’d brought in
a dented can of green beans to avoid the embarrassment of not contrib-
uting. Later an elderly volunteer in a two-door LeBaron dropped a box
of food at our house, and I was grimly amused to find that same dented
can. With Ronny’s twenty dollars I was already planning my trip to the
grocery store after school.
Ronny rolled up the newspaper he’d been carrying and chucked itout into the parking lot.
“Sit down,” he said. “I’ll tell you about the experiment I want to do.”I sat next to him, and he started flipping through his notebook.
“How are you doing in Hyde’s class?”
“All right, I guess.”
“I’m getting a C+.”
The way he put emphasis on the plus made it clear he was bragging.
He looked up from his notes to make sure I understood.
“I’m no suck-up,” he said. “Science is just interesting.”
“Yeah,” I said, caught off guard by so much sincerity coming from a
boy who once had to be banned from the cafeteria for trying to fart on
people’s lunches. “It’s pretty cool.”
Ronny slapped my chest with the back of his hand.
“Right on,” he said. “That stuff about stomach acid was killer, butHyde doesn’t have the stones for real science.”