The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland(10)

By: Rebekah Crane

Grover’s eyes don’t leave mine. “Did someone say balls?” He winks. I look down at my plate with bread crumbs scattered all over as my cheeks heat. Coop doesn’t make me blush. He doesn’t make me anything other than better at French conjugations, and I like it that way.

I steal a look at Grover, uncomfortable with how little space is between us, when someone plops into the seat next to me. A short, fat kid with blunt blond hair cut straight across his forehead sits breathing heavily, his eyes wide on me.

“They’re trying to kill me,” he says.

“Who?” I ask.

“The counselors.”

“Why?” Grover leans across the table toward the kid, intrigued.

The kid looks around the mess hall with wild eyes. He eases back in his seat. “Okay, they’re not trying to kill me. But I heard they run secret experiments on campers in the middle of the night.”

“Really?” I ask. The kid nods.

“That’s why they lock us in.” He pokes me in the shoulder and laughs. “I’m just kidding.”

“What’s your name, guy?” Grover gets out his notepad.

“Tim.” The boy grabs a piece of bread from my tray and stuffs it in his mouth.

“Nice to meet you, Tim.” Grover holds out his hand. “I take it because the ladies can see you, you’re real. So what got you into this place?”

“I killed someone,” Tim says with a mouthful of food, while he shakes Grover’s hand. “And actually, the name’s Pete.”

“Who’d you kill, Pete?” Grover asks.

Pete takes my water and slugs down a gulp. “I’m just kidding. And actually, it’s George.”

“Okay, George.” Grover makes a note. “Let me guess . . .” He puts his pen to his lips. “Compulsive liar?”

“I’m not a compulsive liar.” The kid sits back in his seat, his brow knitted, and shakes his head. “Fine. Maybe I am. But I could be lying.”

I glare at him, totally confused. “So what’s your real name?”

Tim/Pete/George looks me square in the eyes. He can’t be more than a freshman in high school, with rosy-red baby cheeks and pale skin that would burn if exposed to five minutes of sun unprotected, like me. “Alex Trebek.”

“Like the old guy from Jeopardy?” I ask.

“That’s not your fucking name,” Cassie groans.

“Yes, it is.”

“How do we know you’re not lying?” I ask.

“I’m not lying.”

“But you’re a compulsive liar, so anything you say could be a lie,” Grover says, tapping his pen on the side of the table.

“Maybe I’m lying about being a compulsive liar.” Alex Trebek takes another swig of my water.

“Then that makes you a compulsive liar.” Grover’s eyes narrow, like he’s thinking hard.

“But my name really is Alex Trebek.”

Grover shakes his head. “But you could be lying about that.”

“So basically, we can’t trust a word you say,” I cut in.

“Correct.” Alex nods.

“But what if he’s lying about that?” Grover points his finger at Alex and snaps. “Then that means we really can trust what he says.”

“My head hurts.” I bend down, pressing my forehead into the cool table.

Grover pats me on the back. “This is fascinating,” he says and continues. But all I can pay attention to is Grover’s hand on my back. It’s hot through my clothes. When I can’t take it anymore, I peel my head off the table and scoot my chair away from Grover.

Alex Trebek stays at our table for the rest of dinner. I eat a few bites of what’s left of my bread and my salad. The spinach leaves a gross film on my teeth, but I don’t touch my water because Alex drank half of it. With all this humidity, I’m not sure I actually need to drink water to stay hydrated anyway.

When everyone is finished eating, Kerry walks us through the camp’s very extensive cleanup regimen. “Put your tray here. Dump any leftover food here. Stack plates here. Napkins go in the recycling bin. And hand your silverware to the counselor at the end of the line.” Kerry points to the male counselor standing behind a table, a bus bin in front of him.

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