Fulfilling a Goal
There were two rich birthday cakes at Pat O'Sullivan Pinkerton's birthday party—one all for him and the other for his 10 best friends. Pat O'Sullivan Pinkerton was finishing his cake, licking the frosting off the tiny pink feet of the 14 candles, when the two short-legged chairs he was sitting on broke beneath him. His best friends snickered, giggled, then bellowed with laughter. He hated being made fun of, particularly at his own party, and he stomped out of the dining room. In his fury he forgot to walk sideways like a crab, and he stuck fast in the doorway. Purple with anger, he charged forward, cracking two walls and taking the door frame with him. He puffed and panted upstairs and flung himself face down on his double bed. His bed collapsed with a thunderous crash, and Pat O'Sullivan Pinkerton came back through the floor to the dining room in a white plaster cloud, splintering the table he had just left.
"That does it!" said Mrs. Pinkerton.
"Boarding school?" asked Mr. Pinkerton hopefully.
"Boarding school," said Mrs. Pinkerton.
Pat O'Sullivan Pinkerton howled from the wreckage of his own birthday party. It was a sad cry, like that of a wounded jungle beast. "Oh no, no, no! They'll starve me!"
He was exactly 13 years old, and his whole life was about to change.
The boarding school Mr. and Mrs. Pinkerton had picked was President Coolidge School for Boys on Lake Brown Bear near the Canadian border. It was known to boys as a hockey school, which is to say that it was famous for its hockey teams. Its big rival across the frontier, Queen Mary School, was in the south of Canada on Lake Black Otter.
His mother and father had not picked a school famous for hockey because Pat was fast on ice. Not at all. They picked President Coolidge School because it was the only school they had written to that hadn't asked to see a photograph of their son. The school application form didn't go into such things as appetite or whether he was a normal-sized boy. The school asked little more than "to send your son along with plenty of warm woolen clothing."
Mr. and Mrs. Pinkerton loaded Pat in the back of their padded half-ton truck and drove north on opening day. It was an hour's trip, so they gave Pat a suitcase full of Southern fried chicken for company. Pat sat thinking only black thoughts. He was certain this was the saddest day of his life. It was his fault, though—his being where he was. He had so often been warned: "You break one more thing in this house and off you go to boarding school!" He just managed to finish his chicken suitcase, throwing so many white polished bones out of the back of the truck that a wolf pack could have followed him straight to Lake Brown Bear.