Ernie – I’m a numbers guy. Letters mean nothing to me. I like words even less. Words compiled into monotonous biographies or strung along into chains of flowery phrases about dainty fairies and magic unicorns actually give me indigestion.
Naturally, it goes without saying that stepping into a building dedicated entirely to the preservation of words makes me extremely gassy. That’s why I fart on entering the Boca Linda library. That’s why everyone abruptly stops what they’re doing, turns, and looks at me while the sound echoes, reverberates off the walls and windows, and eventually fades into the stacks.
“Ew!” Summer shouts. “Did you just fart on my netbook?”
“No yelling in the library!” I shout back, slamming her netbook shut.
The librarian lady sitting at the nearby help desk looks up from whatever she’s doing and gives me a dirty look.
“Young man, can I help you?” she asks.
“I, uh, need to study for a pop quiz,” I say, and quickly move past her, trying to put as much distance between me and the stink cloud as possible.
The creamy center of the library is all cramped tables stuffed between towering bookshelves that reach up to the ceiling. There are desktop computers here and there, but they’re all being used at the moment. Stupid high schoolers. Probably checking their World of Warcraft accounts or looking up various cures for acne. I mean, J.H. Christ, look at all the nerds. Tall, skinny nerds, short, fat nerds, nerds with glasses, nerds with bigger glasses, nerds with big, brown, semi-Asian eyes and perfectly-smooth complexions on well-balanced semi-Asian faces—
Of course he’d be here.
I sidle on over to where he’s sitting and trying to hide behind his ginormous Toshiba Satellite.
“So, this is where you’ve been hiding out, huh?” I say, sitting next to him and setting Summer’s netbook beside the Toshiba. It looks like a flimsy plastic toy by comparison.
“Oh, hey, Ernie,” Theo whispers, totally pretending he didn’t see or hear me come in. “Did you get lost on your way to the cafeteria?”
“It’s nice to know the New Eyes haven’t affected your smart-ass tendencies.”
Theo’s eyes boggle, and he glances quickly around before grabbing me by the shirt collar and yanking me face-to-face. “Dude, that’s personal, remember?”
“Fine, fine,” I say, and loosen myself from his grip. I open Summer’s netbook. She’s still got her face pressed up against her webcam (or the webcam of whomever’s computer she’s using at the moment).
“Why don’t I have my netbook back already, Ernie?” she screams.
“Why don’t you calm down already!” I scream back. “Geez! I thought gymnasts didn’t get periods!”
“Um, excuse me,” the librarian calls out from behind her desk. “There’s no yelling in the library.”
The girl on the other side of me looks like I’m invading her space, and scoots her chair a few inches in the opposite direction.
“It’s not me,” I tell the librarian. “It’s the jockette here.” I point at the netbook screen.
The librarian frowns.
I nudge Theo in the ribs. “Hey.”
“What?” he asks.
“I need to borrow your laptop for a sec.”
He narrows his eyes. “What for?”
“So I can send Summer her laptop back.”
He pays the netbook a glance. “What are you doing with Summer’s laptop?”
“Duh! I’m sending it back to her.”
“Well, you can’t. I don’t have SMN installed.”
“Install it, then!”
Theo shakes his head. “No way. This is my work laptop.”
I sigh. “If you don’t, I’ll start having sex with the table.”
He looks at me, narrows his eyes…calls my bluff. “No.”
“Fine. Have it your way.” I grasp the tabletop with my hand, throw my head back, and start gyrating in my chair. I can hear several of the other students (Summer, too) gasping in disgust. “How long, Theo? How long are you going to let this go on? A minute? Five? Ten? Long enough for me to get my babies up inside this table so that, nine months from now, she’ll be giving birth to a whole litter of half-flesh, half-wood bastard tables that nobody will want because of the moral implications of human-furniture interbreeding—”
Theo’s resolve cracks; he slides his laptop in front of me. “Okay, okay! You can use my laptop—just stop humping the table!”
Placid Ernie mode activated.
I do my thing, downloading, installing, and launching SuperMegaNet. Then I set Summer’s netbook in front of Theo’s beast, click “Send Home,” and we’re good to go. The netbook winks out of existence.
“Oh, wow,” says the guy sitting across from me. “Did you just…how did you—?”
“Dude,” I say. “SuperMegaNet. Ultimate collaboration. Get with the times.”
On Theo’s screen, Summer is picking her netbook up, turning it over in her hands, scrutinizing the LCD for signs of fatness. When she’s satisfied I haven’t voided the warranty, she scowls at me one last time and walks away.
I slide Theo’s laptop back in front of him. I’m about to say thanks, but he’s not looking at me. He’s looking behind me.
I turn around; the librarian chick is standing over me, and she’s got an I-hate-you look on her face.
“Okay, you two,” she says to me, to Theo. “That’s quite enough. I want you both to go to the Principal’s office immediately.”
She hands each of us a pink slip.
Theo nearly chokes as he takes his. “Excuse me, ma’am, but I had nothing to do with this. I don’t even know who this fat-ass is! He just came and sat by me…” He trails off, realizing he’s just said “ass” to a teacher.
Mark my words: Theo may look all cute and innocent, but he’s got a temper.
Time for damage control.
“I apologize, ma’am,” I tell the librarian, scooping up Theo’s laptop, his books. “He’s kind of tightly-wound, if you know what I mean. I’ll make sure he gets to the Principal’s office safe and sound.”
Theo tries to set me on fire with his eyes as we make our way towards the entrance. “I’ve never had to go to the Principal’s office before. Thanks a lot, fat shit.”
Water douses fire. “You’ve got to watch that potty mouth, Junior. It’ll cause you nothing but trouble.”
Theo wrinkles up his nose.
I realize it’s because of the stink cloud hovering near the help desk.
“Ugh,” he gasps. “It smells like a fart in here.”
“It wasn’t me,” I lie.