“So, this is what it feels like to be on your way out,” Ernie sighs, sitting across from me at our usual lunch table. “To know your best days are behind you and yet to have to carry on as if anything you do from here on out will have the slightest significance—like Phil Collins after 1991.”
Wonderful. Another patented Monday afternoon Ernie Goodale Self-Pity Buffet. Not as gross as his usual cream-filled sponge cake inhalation ritual, but definitely twice as annoying.
“What are you talking about?” I ask (might as well be polite).
“I’m talking about our final days as SuperMegaNet users. I’m talking about Theo’s parents freaking out over what happened to him during the weekend. I’m talking about them calling your parents, Eva’s parents, my grandparents—”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about Theo, and Eva—”
“Don’t interrupt, Czech!” Ernie dabs at his sweaty brow with his shirtsleeve. I’ve never seen him so worked up over something not involving porn. “I’m talking about every legal guardian within a fifty-mile radius converging on a single Denny’s and laying out plans for the complete and total annihilation of SuperMegaNet!”
“Theo told his parents about SuperMegaNet?”
“You bet your European ass he did!”
I smirk. “So, he broke your little pact.”
“Our pact! We’re all in this together! At least, we were supposed to be before our chinky computer nerd friend had a tattlegasm and laid everything out for his mommy and daddy!”
Makes sense. Not that I’ve been sitting around expecting Theo to be the first to blab; it just makes sense that if anyone blabbed first, it would be him. “What do you mean by ‘tattlegasm?’”
“I mean he pulled down his pants, jerked his meat until it was nice and raw, and then jizzed our secret all over his parents’ faces!”
“Why would he do that? The breaking our pact thing, that is. Not your twisted little fantasy about him masturbating in front of his parents.”
Ernie rolls his eyes. “Theo has hamster eyes. Geez, don’t you pay attention to anything?”
Hamster eyes? “Huh?”
“Apparently, he was jealous of you and how you’re like sex-glue to Bug Eyes. He couldn’t stand the thought of you plowing her first, so he got New Eyes last week. He thought he’d look less geeky without glasses, and would thereby be more attractive to her since jocks obviously make her giney tingle. But, stupid idiot he is, he got so worried that his parents would find out that he tried to get his old eyes back, and he ended up fucking his original eyes up period. But don’t tell him that I told you any of this.”
Wow. I didn’t know Theo liked Eva. “Is he okay?”
Ernie shrugs. “He’s got these special contacts. They don’t let him watch movies or see through girls’ skirts or anything, but I guess they’re better than nothing.”
I nod. I think I understand why Theo would want to stop using SMN—why our parents would want us to stop, too. It just makes weird kids weirder.
Ernie shakes his head woefully, removes a gigantic 64-ounce tub of Mountain High yogurt from his backpack, sets it on the tabletop.
“What is that?” I ask, bewildered. Really, I’ve never seen anyone store an entire tub of Mountain High in their backpack until lunchtime.
“It’s yogurt,” Ernie replies. “Duh.”
“You’re eating yogurt?”
“My grandparents are dead-set on having me lose weight. But I’m two steps ahead.”
He winks at me and reaches back into the pack, withdraws a Hershey’s chocolate bar, breaks it into a dozen or so chunks, and sets the chunks neatly on a napkin. He pops the lid off the yogurt container, fetches a wooden spoon, and starts stirring in the chocolate.
“Presto!” he exclaims after about a minute of careful ministrations. He holds out a gob for me to see. “Chogurt!”
The whole Theo/SuperMegaNet thing is momentarily gone from my mind as I watch Ernie avail himself of his new culinary creation. If you can call it that. “I’m amazed, Ernie. But is it safe to eat yogurt that’s been sitting in your backpack all morning?”
While continuing to eat, Ernie uses his free hand to tilt his open backpack toward me so that I can see inside. There are no books, no binders—just bagged ice.
A pair of older students passes our table. When they see what Ernie’s doing, they stop talking and merely stare, mesmerized.
I cover my face with my hand and wait for them to go away.