Harriet’s craving for fish sticks sent me to the freezer. She was lucky: We had a package of Mrs. Paul’s. I waved them to her, and she smiled brightly.
“So I take it you don’t like working with Eddie Peacock?” I said, returning to my seat.
“He doesn’t know a thing about anything,” sighed Harriet. “And you know what’s worse?”
Harriet snorted. “Well, you’re right,” she said. “He is pretty hard to take, isn’t he?”
Harriet was right: Eddie Peacock was about as unlikeable a kid as there was in our class. To look at him, you couldn’t tell. In fact, if you just saw a picture of him, you would think, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind working with him on a science fair project!”
Because, you see, Eddie Peacock was—at least in the eyes of most of the girls in our class—good-looking. He was pretty tall for seventh grade—5'10" or so—had dark wavy hair and the most perfect teeth that parents could buy—and they apparently could buy a lot. I’m sure they spent more money on his mouth than Father had spent on my entire body in my entire life.
Eddie Peacock wore different clothes every single day and always looked cool—as if nothing in the world bothered him, as if everything in the world was beneath him, especially girls and women.
Harriet was disgusted with him. “He has no interest in even trying to win the trip to Niagara Falls,” she was saying. “All he wants to do is look at his reflection in every shiny surface in the room.” At that moment she was checking her own reflection in the side of our toaster. When she heard me snort, she laughed too.
“Didn’t he used to, you know, like you?” I asked. Harriet looked at me sharply. “I mean, I used to see you together in the hall … for a while.”
“How observant,” said Harriet. She sighed deeply. “Yes, I actually went with him a few days … until I realized there was really nothing to him. I mean, he seemed, I don’t know, as if he wasn’t even a person … as if he was a … a …”
“A simulacrum,” I said.
Harriet shot me a look. “A what?”
“A simulacrum,” I repeated. “An image. Something that has form but no substance.”
Harriet just stared at me. And then … “You know some good words,” she smiled. “Some very good words.”
“Anyway,” she went on, “talking with him was like talking to yourself—no, not as good as talking to yourself. Because when you talk to yourself, at least someone’s listening!”