Boot Camp

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

Book: Boot Camp by Todd Strasser Read Free Book Online
Authors: Todd Strasser
gonna start a fire,” Pauly whispers desperately, as if to convince me that he has a plan.
    I give him a dubious look.
    â€œI’m serious,” he insists.
    â€œYou mean, like in a wastepaper basket?” I ask.
    â€œNo, a
fire,” Pauly says. “Sarah and I have been collecting stuff. We’ve got matches, a couple of bottles of nail-polish remover, some spray paint, and a bottle of alcohol from the infirmary. The rags won’t be a problem. Everyone will have to evacuate. The fire department will have to come. In the confusion we sneak out.”
    â€œYou set a real fire, and someone could die,” I tell him.
    â€œAnother winter here and I’m dead anyway,” Pauly says. He means it. Sarah nods in agreement.
    Mr. Sparks enters the room. His clothes are askew, and he looks flustered as he tucks in his shirt. There’s a long, reddish scratch on his arm and a smaller one under his left eye. “Everyone up. Back to quarters until further notice.”
    A female chaperone takes Sarah and the other girls back to the female wing. Mr. Sparks marches us males toward our dorm. We turn a corner, and lying on the floor is something that looks like a giant brown caterpillar with silver stripes. It’s Megan, wrapped in a blanket that’s been duct-taped closed like a full-body straight jacket. Duct tape covers her mouth as well. Her eyes are swollen shut, and her face is streaked with drying blood.

    â€œYou cannot initiate a visit to the infirmary.”
    It’s a desperate plan. A thousand things could go wrong. I know they want and need me to join in, but I can’t see taking that risk. The odds are way against them, but I’m worried just the same that they’ll try it without me.
    I leave Sarah a note:
    Do you really think pauly’s joke is funny?
    At the next meal she leaves her answer:
    I’am, not sure I care.
    She’s so up and down. But in a way the answer is reassuring. At least she’s not gung ho to torch the place.
    Two days later she leaves another note:
    3 PM-Infirunary
    Around two forty-five I’m in my carrel, studying chemistry on the computer, which makes no sense considering there are no labs for experiments. I prop my elbows on the desk, press my fingers against my temples, and close my eyes.
    â€œWhat’s up, Garrett?” Mr. Sparks comes over.
    â€œHeadache, sir.”
    He studies me. Kids are always making up excuses to go to the infirmary. Some want to get out of whatever job they’re doing. Some are tired and want to rest. Some are just so desperate for a pill they’ll settle for Tylenol. There have been times when I could have gone, like when I had that nosebleed with Joe, but I’ve purposefully resisted. I’m not even sure I knew why. It’s almost as if instinctually I understood that I had to save them for when I really needed them.
    â€œWhat do you want to do?” Mr. Sparks asks.
    â€œNothing, sir. It’ll go away.”
    He accepts that answer and goes back to his chair. I pretend to look at the computer screen. Five minutes pass. Mr. Sparks returns. “You haven’t touched the keyboard.”
    I fake a wince. “Give me a minute, sir. I’ll get going.”
    â€œYeah, right,” Mr. Sparks says. “Ron, take Garrett to the infirmary.”
    Level Six automaton Ron pops out of his carrellike a jack-in-the-box and accompanies me out of the room. I can’t help thinking back to the night Harry and Rebecca first drove me here, and the way Harry lectured Rebecca when he thought I was trying to manipulate her. I may not have known much about manipulation then, but I’ve learned plenty about it since.
    Out in the yard we cross the grass toward the infirmary. The breeze is dry and fresh, and it feels like fall is coming. A few leaves have begun to turn yellow. The Faith family of females is lined up in the yard doing jumping jacks, led by their

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