I poured more syrup on my pancakes.
“Want to fuck around with the ping pong ball after breakfast?” Sherman said.
“Sure,” said Stewart.
“I wasn’t asking you,” said Sherman.
“I’ll play ping pong with you,” said Stewart. “I’m a ping pong genius.”
“It’s on,” said Sherman, jamming his knife into his hash browns so his plate squealed. A hand stroked my shoulder.
“Eddie,” Pearl said.
“Pearl,” I said. I covered my mouth.
“So this afternoon, free time in the sports room. Remember?”
“Right,” I said. “Let’s do this.”
“Was I talking to you?” Pearl said.
“Something reeks like patchouli,” said Andy. “I was just telling your boyfriend about this amazing new discovery. Soap? Pearl, get in on this.”
“Why are you so mean to everyone?” said Pearl.
I stood and pointed. “Stop it, Andy.” My finger quivered.
“Last warning!” said P.J, looking at Andy. “Who wants an early ticket home?”
I sat down.
“One o’ clock,” Pearl said. She poked my tricep, tossed her hair and walked away.
Sherman stood and said, “At least somebody’s getting some action. High noon, Stewart.” Stewart perked up.
“I’m a ping-pong genius,” Stewart said. He flicked his sausage into the trash.
“Hey you,” whispered Andy. He cupped one hand around his mouth. “Tonight I am going to stab you.”
“Sure,” I said. “I will look forward to that.”
“I’m not kidding, man. You are going to die,” said Andy.
“Okay,” I said.
* * *
I raised the chicken suit by its shoulders. Fluffy yellow down, gold beak, crimson comb, tail feathers. Detachable head. You could see through the nostrils. It belonged on a fifty-yard line, under stadium lights, exploding through a paper poster.
“Try it,” Pearl whispered.
“Why don’t you?”
My heat filled the costume. The suit felt buoyant, but I couldn’t move the head with my head. You had to swing your body around to face things.
“Amazing,” Pearl said, giggling. When she laughed, her bottom lip quivered and curled. I wanted to touch it. I imagined my ruined face brushing her face, my pustules rasping her skin, her shudder and recoil.
“We’ve totally got to use this suit,” I said, feeling my face flush.
“When?” she said.
“Ooh, tonight,” I said. “Midnight we meet outside my cabin? If you’re not scared?” Pearl shook her head and then nodded.
“Was that a yes?”
She laughed and gave me the thumbs-up. I took off the head and held it in my armpit. The air felt good on my face.
“We will be folklore,” I said. “The Native Americans shall speak of us to their children’s children’s children.”
We smiled. She looked away.
“I have to apologize for Andy,” Pearl said.
“You weren’t here last year, but he almost got in a fight, like, daily. It sucks that he’s in your cabin.”
“He leaves at night,” I said.
“Stewart and Andy sneaked out. I couldn’t find them.”
“Wow,” Pearl said, “How troubling.”
We stuffed the suit in the bushes. Pearl had picked a spot behind a defunct archery range.
Walking back to the cabin, I was imagining her face on my face again when I remembered the Accutane.
No package, but the store lady handed me a note from the secretary. “Your mother says the doctor says a few days off the medicine won’t harm you,” it read. “Also, some other stuff in Spanish. Sorry.”
She must not have even sent it Priority. Three or four more days?
Nothing trapped me inside the camp, no electric fence. I could sprint through the woods, find a road, thumb a ride to the docks, ride the ferry to my bed, the pills, my leather drum stool that creaked pleasantly.