This week’s Tuesday Tale:
Isaac stared at the pages. He chewed on the eraser and hoped his mother would call him down for supper before he could start the first problem. Geometry. How could anyone survive this class? His older sister had, but she had also scored a near perfect on her SAT. Isaac resented her for that. How was he ever going to live up under that precident? His sister was going to Columbia University and Isaac was flipping through brochures for the local community college. His dad made enough money so their mother could stay home, but not enough they could go to college without a good scholarship. It was true that Isaac had had yet to take the SAT, but he was pretty sure he would not like the result. He did not even understand the first problem on the take-home geometry test.
He fell back on his pillow and stared at the ceiling. He had taped a poster of the latest Spider Man movie up there beside Christian Bale’s Batman. Superman’s hung on the back of his door, while his other heros hung around on various spots of his bedroom walls. His collection started at the tender age of two, when his give him his first action hero. His own drawings filled in the gaps between the bright posters.
Isaac pulled his sketch pad from the stack of comic books on the night stand. A couple of the publications fell to the floor. Isaac thumbed through the pages of his book. Black ink stained every page. There were a few heroes, but Isaac did not like to draw the good characters. His heroes were the perfected ones that hung on his walls. Isaac spent his time dreaming up the nastiest villains for them to defeat. He created monsters — the scarier the better. Sometimes the characters he made up haunted his dreams and sometimes it was from his nightmares that he drew them.
Jeremy barged through his door. Isaac ignored his little brother, hoping he would leave.
“Mommy says that if you finish all your homework we can get pizza. So hurry up!”
Jeremy ran out, no doubt to inform everyone of the criteria for pizza.
Isaac’s stomach growled at the thought. He sat up. The geometry test was still blank. Pizza would not happen tonight — not for Isaac anyway. He read the instructions for the first problem again, but it still did not make sense. He was certain that the teacher gave him the wrong test. He thought about calling his friend Curry. Curry was just as lousy at geometry as Isaac, but he had an older brother who helped him out. If Isaac ever asked Lisa for help, he would be ridiculed. Lisa was not mean, but she loved to lecture him on how she was so successful.
“I study hard for every test I take. I do all my homework by myself. The only way to learn is to do it yourself. Now if you have a specific question on homework—” She always said homework in a way to imply that she would be appalled if he asked a question about a take home test or quiz. “— then I may be able to help you, but Isaac, how are you ever going to get good grades if you don’t learn for yourself?”
She loved that lecture. Isaac rolled his eyes at the thought of her standing there with her hand on her hip as she recited it. He had finally learned not to ask.
He thought about Curry again, but it was no use. He could not get to the phone without someone overhearing. If his parents found out he was getting help on a test, he would be grounded.
Isaac put the point of his pencil on the paper. He scratched his name in the top corner — that had to be ten points. He read the first problem again, but it still did not make any sense. He pulled out his textbook. He never understood take home tests. He was allowed to reference his textbook, but he could not get help from his straight-A sister.
He thumbed to the current chapter and tried to find a similar problem. He found one that looked right and started to copy its formula. Then he stopped. It was different. He tried to erase his work, but the eraser only left black smears. He rubbed the eraser clean and started over. He wrestled the problem over and got a reasonable answer. Isaac slammed his pencil down. There were still three problems to go.
The aroma of pepperoni crept up the stairs and filled his bedroom a half hour later. They had ordered the pizza and he would not be allowed a slice until his test was done. Isaac knew better than to ask.
It would be impossible to concentrate now. Isaac put on headphones and blasted his favorite band. It would not help him with the test, but it might distract him from the ache in his stomach. He tapped out the beat with his pencil. After two songs he looked back at the test. Problem number two did not look so daunting. He gave it a stab. He was almost finished it when Jeremy ran in.
“Go away!” Isaac yelled over the music in his ears.
Jeremy was crying, but he did not run out. He stood there — like an idiot, Isaac thought. Annoyed, Isaac pulled his headphones down.
“I said beat it. I’m busy.”
Jeremy shook his head. Isaac rolled his eyes and contemplated the trouble he would get in if he dragged his brother out of the room. It was his room, but his mom did not like him to pick fights. She would say he was picking a fight. Jeremy wiped his eyes and sniffed.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Jeremy had pizza sauce around his mouth and stains on his shirt. Isaac’s stomach growled. There was actually a hope he would get done in time to eat if he was left alone.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Jeremy ran out.
Isaac hunkered down to finish the test. He was almost done. He nearly did not believe it himself. He had fought the four problems and managed to arrive at reasonably possible answers. Lisa would be proud. He thought he might even show her the grade he got on it, but he knew she would just think he cheated even though he had not. He had worked up an enormous appetite on top of the normal one he already had. He hoped there was still pizza.
Finished, he bounced down the stairs. He felt accomplished and ready to embrace his reward. The pizza box was unguarded on the table. He probably could have snuck down hours ago, but he was proud he had actually finished the test. Discipline always feels good afterwards. He stuffed a slice of pepperoni pizza in his mouth and searched the refrigerator for a bottle of Coke.
Isaac turned around. He could proudly face his sister, even with a wad of pizza bulging from his left cheek and the liter bottle of Coke, uncapped and ready to be poured directly into his mouth.
“What?” He managed to say through his food. He knew she would interrogate him about his homework, but his completed test was on the table ready for her inspection. He pointed to it with the Coke bottle.
She glanced at the table, but stepped further into the kitchen without picking up the test.
“Isaac, you must have had your headphones on.”
“I finished it!” His words were barely coherent through the pizza. He took a moment to chew it down. He swigged the Coke. “Yeah, I had headphones on. What’s the big deal? I finished my homework, didn’t I? Look it over yourself.”
Lisa shook her head. Isaac rolled his eyes and went to snatch another slice of pizza. He hoped there was enough pizza left to sate his hunger.
“I’m glad you finished it. I’m sure you did a good job, Isaac.”
Isaac raised an eyebrow before tilting the Coke bottle for another drink. Lisa never said good job and his name in the same sentence unless it was preceded by ‘never.’
“What’s going on? Where’s mom?”
“Um, mom stepped out.”
“Stepped out? Where’d she go?”
“Isaac, mom and dad had a fight. You didn’t hear it. You were upstairs with your headphones.”
Isaac put the bottle down. “What ya saying? Mom and dad have fights all the time. That’s nothing new, but you’re crying.” Isaac was proud of himself for noticing. That should prove that he was not as insensitive as she thought. “And Jeremy. He was crying earlier. What’s going on?”
“Dad lost his job. He got laid off this afternoon and he didn’t mean to say it out loud so I could hear, but the bank it taking the house. Mom couldn’t handle the news, I guess. She lost it over her second piece of pizza and then they started yelling. She took the van and left. Dad thinks she is just blowing off steam… that she’ll be back after a while.”
Lisa broke into sobs. She slumped into a chair at the table and covered her head with her hands. Isaac looked from his usually poised sister to the last bite of pizza crust in his hand. His completed geometry test lay crumpled under her elbow and the pencil marks on problem two were smeared by her tears.
Thank you for reading! I’d love your feedback on the comment section below. -Abby Morales