Ronny opened his right hand and showed me a folded square of paper the size of a nickel. He said he wanted me to eat it to determine thedestructive powers of the human digestive system. Would I be able tosee it when it came out? Would the text still be readable? Ronny neededto know. And if the results were interesting, there’d be another twentyin it for me.
We regarded each other for a moment in which I considered themoney already in my pocket and that dented can of green beans.
Earlier he’d said I seemed smart, but since intelligence clearly wasn’t
a prerequisite for what I was about to do, even he could see that a more
honest explanation was needed.
“You’re poor,” Ronny said. “I figured you could use the money.”
“How did you know?”
Ronny laughed and pinched the sleeve of my T-shirt as if admiring
“I’ve got this same shirt.”After I got off the bus, I walked past the screened-in porch of our brickduplex and cut across the empty field of dead grass separating ourhouse from the DeVeaux shopping center. At FoodTown, I headed forthe frozen pizzas, where a three-for-one sale meant there was enoughmoney left over for a box of Zebra Cakes and issue #365 of The AmazingSpiderMan.
At home, Mom was asleep on the couch with her department-storevest still on. Attached was the plastic name tag that said her name wasTina even though it was actually Pamela. During the day she worked ata jewelry counter, where her manager had explained that the tags wereexpensive and her real name didn’t matter.
My brother Sam got to ride his bike home from high school, so hewas already watching a rerun of The Simpsons in the other room. I snuckback to the kitchen to put the pizzas I’d bought in the freezer, then wentto my room, where I stashed my other purchases under my bed.
Mom woke to the smell of a pizza baking in the oven and found megetting plates down for the three of us.
“What could smell that good?” she said, rubbing her right eye withthe heel of her palm.
“A guy from church dropped off pizzas.”