At dinner, we were served pork and spinach. It was simple but sat well together on the plate and had a pleasant smell. I nodded as another boy told me that the pork was so tender because the pigs were fattened on the flesh of new boys who could not fit in. His speech was practiced. He had heard it from someone before him, or he had given it many times. He was handsome, I decided. He had little else to say that wasn’t about the book he was carrying with him. I hadn’t read it, or any of the books he compared it to, because I have no taste for fiction, so I found it harder and harder to listen to him.
“I’d like to focus on my tender pork, if you don’t mind,” I said.
The boys around us flinched. They seemed to hiss through their teeth.
“You should focus on having a shower,” said the bookish boy.
I was in damp and muddy clothes, it was true, and my trouser leg was torn. But I’d been instructed to report directly to the dining hall where dinner was being served and so hadn’t been able to tidy up or bathe.
“Did you know,” I told the boy, “that we are now one person beyond capacity? The Headmaster instructed me to report back if I had any thoughts on who we might be able to send packing. Anyone who might fare better on the streets than in a civilized facility. There are only so many beds, and there is only so much you can teach a person.”
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