couch as he passed through town on his way to Fairbanks, Virginia, fora new job. He had taken Sam to lunch at the mall earlier that day andwas driving me to Dairy Queen for ice cream. In Virginia he was takinga job selling aboveground pool sealant, an opportunity he said wouldhelp him send us money every month. The money never came, of course,and the satisfaction I now felt at having provided my family with frozenpizza made my father seem impossibly small to me.
A feeling of pride burbled up in me like a joke. I found myselflaughing as I remembered Ronny’s excitement over the piece of paperI’d eaten. He’d made sure I didn’t unfold the square of paper or try toexamine it before swallowing it. He wanted to be certain that I onlyread it, well, after. The ridiculousness of it set me off laughing evenharder until I came up with an idea that made me go quiet and sit upin my bed.
The paper, I recalled suddenly, had been peach-colored, the exactsame shade of stock on which The Bronco Bulletin always printed theschool’s lunch menu. All I had to do was pull out an issue of the Bulletinfrom the loose papers in my backpack and copy the menu verbatim inorder to provide Ronny with what he was sure to think was some valuable data. And so that’s what I did.
I waited a few days to hand Ronny the menu I’d copied. He looked downat the paper wide-eyed before telling me that I was “fucking disgusting.”But there was admiration in his voice as he said it, and he asked me tofollow him back to his locker, where he gave me another twenty-dollarbill and told me to meet him out at the picnic table after class.
When I found him outside, he was writing in his notebook, his freehand holding down the pages as they fluttered in the breeze. He told meto sit down, and I did.
“All right, Life Science. Thanks for showing up.”“My name’s Jacob.”Ronny looked at me.
“Okay,” Ronny said, seeming to give this some thought. “I’m prob-
ably gonna keep calling you Life Science, because that’s what I’ve been
calling you in my head, and I feel like we’ll lose momentum if I try to
remember a whole new name.”
He started to flip back through his notebook as if looking for some-
thing. “Do you know what momentum is?”