He drew me increasingly away from the Butt Room crowd, away from Brinker and Chet and all the other friends, into a world inhabited by just himself and me, where there was no war at all, just Phineas and me alone among all the people of the world, training for the Olympics of 1944.
Throughout the morning, equipment for the Winter Carnival had been spirited out of the dormitory and down to the small incomplete public park… Brinker supervised the transfer, rattling up and down the stairwell and giving orders. He made me think of a pirate captain disposing of the booty. Several jugs of very hard cider which he had browbeaten away from some lowerclassmen were the most cautiously guarded treasure.
I HAVE ESCAPED AND NEED HELP. I AM AT CHRISTMAS LOCATION. YOU UNDERSTAND. NO NEED TO RISK ADDRESS HERE. MY SAFETY DEPENDS ON YOU COMING AT ONCE.
(signed) YOUR BEST FRIEND,
ELWIN LEPER LEPELLIER
“A Section Eight discharge is for the nuts in the service, the psychos, the Funny Farm candidates. Now do you know what I’m talking about? They give you a Section Eight discharge, like a dishonorable discharge only worse. You can’t get a job after that.”
We roamed across one of these wastes, our feet breaking through at each step the thin surface crust of ice into a layer of soft snow beneath, and I waited for Leper, in this wintery outdoors he loved, to come to himself again. Just as I knew the field could never grow again, I knew that Leper could not be wild or bitter or psycho tramping across the hills of Vermont.