An Eighth Grader Recalls
There I was, lingering in the aftermath of a migraine, in the row in the test center where the seating chart said.
I was reacting to the page in front of me. Little jiggles of script, followed presumably by four possible answers, filled page 26. Do not, I repeat, do not make any marks with your number two (hahahahahaha! Number Two! Get it? Hahahahahaha! And they want us to concentrate–focus on this thing) pencil other than in the spaces marked for your answers. So I look at the bubbles on my answer sheet and make the required darkened dots, first a “c” because it was in the middle, then a “b,” then a “d,” then another “d,” then “b, b, b,” then another “c.” Turn the page. I read from the bottom up, as usual, and it says STOP! Do not go on to the next page until you are told to do so.
I had a dilemma. OK, I knew good and well that somewhere, someone wanted me to do more bubbles before I STOP! But I wanted to be true to myself. Edward Theodore Simpson or whoever’s initials were ETS, would just love for me to follow his instructions to the letter to add to his database. I want to be a wildland firefighter like my older sister Kylie. She didn’t pass and walked out at 18. She worked for a contract crew and worked her way up to a crew leader and that’s what she’s doing and she loves it–bought a four by four Tacoma and her own chainsaw. The teacher walked up behind me, so I closed the one eye and the squiggles stopped long enough so I could read it:
“In the previous passage, what does the word ‘transgression’ mean?”
I looked at the bubble choices—A) A place of comfort. B) A breach of contract. C) To go beyond the limits of the law. D) To be punctual.
Since I hadn’t read the “passage,” which I figured meant some paragraph or other, I was going to go for A) because I didn’t want to do another C), but I like B) because of its shape, so I put D). D) and B) are the same to me because one of the weird people who comes in and re-organizes my life every so often says I am dyspeptic or something. Whatever. The teacher over my shoulder made a choking grunt of some kind, so I erased the D) bubble and let my pencil go slowly over the other choices until I heard her sigh when I stopped on the C).
Finally, the test was over. I knew because the teacher said time was up and everyone MUST put down their number two. I wanted to hold onto mine, just to see what would happen, but I complied. The teacher’s helpers picked up the booklets and the answer sheets separately, like you couldn’t figure out they were different from each other. They gave us a big long break, I guess because the test was so difficult. My migraine had evaporated as usual, and all in all, I felt pretty good about the day. Jimmy Cantenflaus, who, if I had one, was my best friend, tried to shove me down the stairs, but I caught his shirt and ripped it a little. We sat together at lunch and he poured salt on my pizza and I poured milk on his. They had apples that were pretty good, and then some cake. Mrs. Bonta is the cook and she is nice except when you mess with her food. She was not happy with me and JC but that wasn’t the first time, for sure.
A few months later, I don’t know how many, our tests came back and I don’t think anyone was pleased with my scores. First, I got a tsk tsk from the counselor Mrs. Florenzi and then in the parent conference, lots of deep sighs and low voices—very proper language which wasn’t at all the way we talk at home—from my step-dad and Mom, of course. The scores put me in some dismal percentile and eligible for Special Ed. Then they did the unthinkable—took me out of Art and Band. I see stuff in my head and I can draw really good. Mr. Graf, the art teacher, said I paint like Van Go or someone. And Band, let me tell you! I play trumpet and it was like someone had already told me how to do it before I even picked it up for the first time. A page of music is like my own language or something. Reading in English is not so great, but music is like, “Oh! I already said that!”
So now, I’m in Home Work Study, in other words, let loose in my head. I have my core English, math, and science, and then last period of the day PE so I can hit the streets all sweaty. I am going nuts without art and music and so my math packet took on some great shapes where I connected two of the problems at the top for a really great looking Goth guy and then blacked out a solid chunk at the bottom for his dark screams.
I started liking it a lot, so I turned it over and I could see the shadows from the front and took off from there. Now the teacher has to get all intense and asks me what I think I’m doing, like he couldn’t tell a Goth guy. So I say the obvious, like, it’s a Goth guy, and he says, what about your algebra? And I say, what about it, and then we stare at each other a long time until JC starts laughing at something on the computer and the teacher snorts and goes that direction.
My Goth guy fades and I draw a box inside a box inside a box inside a box and really, really can’t wait for the bell to ring.
©2017 By Bill Powers
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