While the rest of us grub in relative quiet, Ernie and Mark go face-to-face with their Hella War peacocking, swapping stats, dropping clan names, and exchanging obnoxious wang-related boasts. So important is their showing off that Mark’s now eating his lunch while standing. Ernie, too. It’s like they’re marking their territory or something.
Eventually, the warning bell rings.
I stuff Mini back into my bag and grab my tray, heading for one of the tray trolleys. “Later, guys,” I say, waving.
Jan and Eva wave back.
Mark nods, pops one last potato wedge into his mouth, and departs.
“Wait for me!” Ernie shouts, hurriedly stuffing surplus snacks into his backpack. My hope is to lose him in the crowd of kids returning their trays, but as luck would have it, he catches up, dispenses his tray, follows me into the Boca Linda main hallway and to my locker. He stands beside me, securing his bath towel with one hand, watching the other students walk to class. “You see it too, right? It’s not just me?”
“See what?” I ask. I open my locker.
“This school is full of pregnees all of the sudden.”
I glance down the hall. Admittedly, there are more than a few girls sporting suspicious stomach bulges. But that’s nothing new. “Boca Linda has always had a lot of pregnant girls. You’ve just never paid attention before.”
Ernie frowns. “I’ve paid attention.”
“It’s pattern recognition, wishful thinking. Like when you hear a new word for the first time. Suddenly you start hearing it everywhere. But that doesn’t mean no one’s said it before, or that more people are suddenly using the word.” I smile, watch another pregnant girl go by. “Then again, maybe there’s an Ernie Goodale look-alike contest going on.”
“First prize—a year’s supply of chocolate-covered corn dogs.”
“Fuck you and your delicious insults.”
Messenger bag loaded, I close my locker and walk to class.
Ernie trails along, mosquito-like.
“What do you care if all these high school kids can’t control their raging hormones?” I ask him.
“I don’t care about them,” Ernie says, “I care about being right. And I’m willing to put fifty bucks on it.”
“Fifty dollars on what, exactly?”
“On my being right about a single, evil fucking tape causing all these unexpected pregnancies. Are you game, rich white boy? I know you’ve probably got fifty bucks in pocket change right now.”
“Do you have fifty bucks?”
“No—but I don’t need to, because I’m right!”
I stop outside my fifth-period classroom. “Thinking you’re right doesn’t make you right. You need proof, facts, and, oh, what’s that thing called? Evidence?”
Ernie nods. “So, it’s settled. I’m going to find El Cassetto, prove to you that I’m right, and then I’m going to knock up your cute little RKO ass with it.”
“I’m a guy.” I shake my head disappointedly. “I can’t get pregnant.”
“Nah-ah! Arnold Schwarzenegger totally got pregnant when he fucked Danny DeVito in that movie!”
“Go to class, Ernie.”