I’m heading toward the gym for wrestling practice when Ernie intercepts me on the breezeway.
“Bug Eyes! Bug Eyes!” he calls out, waving his hands back and forth excitedly as he waddles up alongside me.
“I have a name, you know,” I say.
“Shut up and listen to me!”
“What.” (Question intentionally phrased as a statement.)
“Theo got busted by the principal today!”
Stopping and folding my arms, I raise an inquiring eyebrow and ask, “What for?”
Ernie bends over slightly, resting his hands on his knees and inhaling great, gluttonous lungfuls of air. “He went masquerading around school in that jungle boy skin of his, and even auditioned for a part in some theater production. But he freaked out during rehearsals and got naked and jerked it all over the stage, and, like, six girls slipped and fell on his spunk, and three of them ended up getting pregnant, and now Theo’s got to take a paternity test to see which of them are carrying his child and which are just your usual, everyday knocked-up Boca Linda toilet-sex tarts looking for free child support!”
“Yeah, you know—all those affluent valley girls who abuse their hall pass privileges to give blowjobs in the boys’ restroom.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well, you would if you were a toilet-sex tart, which I guess you’re not. So, there’s that.”
“Ernie,” I sigh, “that’s the single most asinine thing I’ve heard all week.”
“The part about Theo’s penis parade or the toilet-sex tarts?”
“But it’s true!” Ernie insists.
Highly doubtful. “Really?”
“So, you saw Theo masturbating onstage with your own eyes?”
“Well, Suki told Leo, who then told Sacha, who then texted Britt, Adolf, and Enrico, whose phone I was spying on during sixth period.”
“In other words, you were playing Chinese whispers.”
Ernie’s face goes blank.
“The telephone game.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“One person whispers a message into another person’s ear,” I explain, “and then that person whispers it into another person’s ear, and on down the line until the last person announces the message out loud to everyone. The idea is that no matter how hard you try, the message will be changed in some way from the first person to the last.”
“I have a question,” Ernie says, raising his hand as if in class.
“Do you have to speak in Chinese when you play the game?”
“No, you can speak in whatever language you like.”
“Then why is it called Chinese whispers?”
I shrug. “Because back in the old days, Europeans had a hard time understanding the Chinese.” Or something like that, if I’m remembering my useless trivia facts correctly.
Ernie shakes his head. “That’s totally racist.”
“You’re the one who goes around calling Theo ‘Chinaman,’ ‘Asian Adjacent,’ ‘Made in China,’ ‘Hong Kong,’ and whatever else that trans-fat brain of yours can fart up!”
“Hm. ‘Asian Adjacent.’ I like it. It acknowledges Theo’s halfbreed status politely but accurately. I’ll have to remember that one.”
He throws his hands up in the air. “Theo wanked in front of Principal Sandalwood today, and all you can talk about is racist telephone games!”
“Not that I want to see Theo playing with himself, but what proof do you have besides ‘so-and-so told so-and-so?’”
“What, my word’s not good enough for you anymore?”
“You word was never good,” I say, “and even if it was, it wouldn’t matter, because Theo didn’t, uh, do what you said he did.”
“Oh, I get it. You’re one of those people who believes we never walked on the moon just because you yourself haven’t.”
“And you believe everything everyone tells you.”
Ernie glares at me. “You’ve got a very distrustful nature, you know that?”
“I’m late for practice.”
“Seriously. Keep it up and you’ll never dupe a man into marrying you.”
I resume walking toward the gym. “Go home, Ernie.”