Moorhead's latest cigarette reads CARRY A COPY OF GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. He stares at it with alarm.
I don't really blame him. Lest you forget, receiving mysterious messages on cigarettes is a pretty alarming proposition, any way you look at it.
Plus, this message tells him to carry a copy of Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon's legendarily unreadable novel. Eight hundred pages long. Dense, wordy, kooky. Exactly the sort of thing to impress a smarty-pants like Lucy Sokolov, but a daunting prospect for a tiny brain like Moorhead.*
But I guess the most alarming thing about this particular cigarette is where he found it inside an orange he just peeled. That was childish of me.
There he stands, in the middle of the hallway, slack-jawed. Ripped-open orange in one hand, pulp-covered cigarette in the other, getting jostled by the class-bound hordes. He turns warily in a circle, scanning the vicinity for someone - a magician, perhaps? A playful god? - who could have done this. But there's only me. And I'm scratching my butt with my pencil case.
Vice Principal Hruska storms past, mentally calculating the number of seconds until he can retire. He plucks the cigarette from Moorhead's fingers. "Not on school property, Neil."
Moorhead points urgently as Hruska walks away, "Wait! Read it . . . "
But Hruska has already crushed the cigarette in his hand and dropped the soggy shreds in a garbage can. "Read what?"
Moorhead stares at the old man, then at the garbage, then back at the old man.
"Read what, Neil?"
Moorhead turns and walks silently back to his classroom, letting the orange slip from his limp fingers. It's like he's forgotten he was holding it.
See, not everyone like's surprises. Some people love 'em; some people have heart attacks. It's a matter of taste.
Does Randy Sparks, the Most Pathetic Boy in School like surprises? Let's find out.**
*Note that I didn't tell him to actually read the book.
**This is what's known as a segue.