Ernie may feign ignorance, but he’s got to see it, too: Eva’s friends aren’t her own. They’ve been chosen for her. I’m sure of it. Perfect little friends for her parents’ perfect little girl living the perfect little life. That’s why she’s still a card-carrying member of the Runt Squad along with fat stuff, Jan, and myself: she doesn’t want to be perfect. She only pretends because it’s what’s expected of her. I’m sure I’m sure of it.
Summer and Lily cartwheel over to the snack table.
“Hi, Theo!” they greet simultaneously.
I wave, smile dorkily.
Ernie (barely) makes room for them, takes a sloppy bite of something from his armful as he regards Summer’s designer strophium and accompanying subligaculum. “Hey, Summer Vacation.”
“Hello, Ernest,” Summer replies, sighing.
“You’re an elite gymnast, right?”
“Junior elite, but yeah.”
“Then you know that LeJohnson Tyreena chick, right? The one who posed nude in Bombastadore’s exclusive college spread last month? Is she on SuperMegaNet?”
Making a visible effort to control her “get me away from this sticky fat-ass” reflex, Summer reaches for a celery stick. “I’m not that elite.”
“Come on. All you celebrity types are always hanging at each other’s pads, buying each other dinner, doing each other’s laundry. I bet you go to the same gym.”
Lily surveys Ernie doubtfully. “What gym do you go to?”
Summer smirks. “What, like the cupcake company?”
“No, not the cupcake company!” Ernie barks, pretending to look offended. “It’s actually a Catholic gym. Our Hostess of Those Left Behind. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, intolerant gentile!”
“Cute. So, what did you get Eva for her birthday?”
“I brought her the gift of my presence.” A Twizzler dislodges itself from Ernie’s armful and tumbles onto the deck.
Summer smiles, stoops, picks it up for him. Then she steps in close and, replacing the Twizzler in his armful, whispers loudly into his ear: “Listen, fat boy. I don’t know what loophole you exploited to be here, but I’m on the lookout to make sure Eva doesn’t fall in with the wrong crowd.” She pokes his belly. Twice.
“And I’m here,” Ernie responds, “to make sure there’s always a roll of toilet paper within arm’s reach of Lilypad’s feral butt crack.”
Lily shifts self-consciously—like she’s only now become aware of her unrelenting butt cleavage.
“Apologize.” Summer frowns, pokes Ernie’s belly again, causing it to jiggle.
The main theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly escapes an open window next door. (Either someone’s coincidentally watching the film, or else they stand by their window with it cued up, waiting to press play the very moment a throw-down happens.)
Ernie calmly deposits his junk food on the snack table, then waddles behind Lily, takes out his student ID, and pretends to swipe it along the length of her crack.