Brian Cochran cannot believe his eyes—chocolate sales are dropping “at an alarming rate.” Yesterday saw the sharpest drop of all, and Brian nervously worries what Brother Leon will say when he sees the dismal figures. Leon gives Brian the creeps, and Brian worries that Leon will punish him even though he is simply the bearer of bad news.
Brian Cochran is afraid of Brother Leon on a good day. On a bad day, which brings news Brother Leon will not like, Brian is downright terrified of facing Leon’s wrath.
When Leon enters the room, Brian warns him right away that the figures are bad. Leon asks Brian to read off the names of the boys who have reached or surpassed their quota; there are only five of them, including David Caroni. Leon asks Brian to continue reading down the list in descending order of the number of chocolate boxes sold, and Leon listens intently as Brian does so.
Leon seems to relish hearing the names of those who are still committed to the sale, and is perhaps even taking mental notes of those who have remained loyal to him even in the face of Jerry’s rebellion.
When Brian at last reaches the bottom of the list and reads off “Renault…zero,” Brother Leon becomes incensed. He tells Brian that the other boys have become “infected” by Jerry’s apathy—at least, he says, the “carrier of the disease” is known. Brian looks on in horror as Leon whispers Jerry’s last name to himself, over and over, “like a mad scientist plotting revenge in an underground laboratory.”
Brother Leon is allowing Jerry to get under his skin in an unhealthy and even disturbing way. The way he speaks about Jerry is reminiscent of the very thing Leon cautioned his students against becoming in an earlier chapter—Nazis, or fascists—and his “mad,” unsettling repetition of Jerry’s name demonstrates just how unhinged and potentially violent Leon truly is.