I Knew the Answer

“No one knows the answer to that one?”

I had my hand up, waving the little green flag we’re supposed to use whenever we wanted to be called on.

“No one?”

I started wiggling it a little bit more.

“Going once, going twice. . .”

No one else waved their flags.  Maybe she couldn’t see me for the shadow I sat in.

“OK, moving on.”

I kept my arm up, with my flag in my hand and did a few last waves, until the people sitting next to me started to stare with their eyes cast down on me like I’m stupid.  I’m not stupid.  I knew the answer.  I just didn’t get called on.  I lowered my hand, but still they gave me downcast eyes.  I looked at them, then looked away.  I could still feel them staring at me.  Their eyes had moved on, but still they stared at me.  I could feel it.  They thought I was stupid.  I’m not stupid.  I knew the answer.

So I blurted it out.

“35!”

The teacher stopped.  She glanced over her glasses my way.

“35!”

“Why did you say that?” she said.

“That’s the answer.  It’s 35!”

“We’ve moved on.  Why didn’t you raise your hand?”

“I did.  You just didn’t see it.  The answer is 35!”

“You’re disrupting the class now.  We’ve moved on.  We’re not on that problem anymore.  We’ve moved on.”

“The answer is still 35!”

She turned her back to me and started writing on the chalkboard.  I could feel the downcast eyes again.  The pity glare.  The annoyed glare.  The shut-the-bleep-up glare.  The you’re stupid glare.

I’m not stupid.  I knew the answer.  I got up and stood on my chair.  Now I got the big eyes.

“35!  35!  35!”

“Sit down!  Sit down!” the teacher shouted.

“The answer is 35!  When someone gives the right answer, you say ‘correct’!”

She glared at me.  I couldn’t tell which eyes she used, but the other students wavered between the big eyes and the squinty, giggly eyes.

“35!  35!  35!  35!  35!  35!  35!  35!  35!  35!”

I think some of the other students started to chant with me.  But I didn’t notice.  The teacher came to my corner of the room and withdrew me from the shadow.

“We’re going to the principal, young man.  I will not have disruptions in my class.”

“35!  35!”

“Enough!”

She clutched my wrist and yanked my arm.  The students kept chanting 35.  Now I could hear them as we went down the hall.  The other classrooms heard them, too.  Faces appeared in cracked doorways.  They heard the 35s and wondered what on earth was going on.  Their eyes stared big at me.  A few teachers looked, too.

“35!  35!  35!  35!  35!”

She pulled me down the hall and down the stairs.  I almost tripped a few times, but still she pulled.  More big eyes fell upon me, from the custodians and the hallway guards.

“35!”

We entered the main office.  She flew through the pony wall  gate with me in tow.  She bypassed the receptionist and took me straight into the principal’s office.

“He is disrupting my class!”

“She wouldn’t call on me when I had the answer.  The answer is 35!”

“Really?” the principal said.  “That’s not like you Joseph, not at all.  You’re usually such a quiet young man.”

Then he gave me the downcast eyes.  I couldn’t tell if he thought I was stupid or if he pitied me or if he pitied me because I was stupid.

“It’s still 35,” I said.

Though it was too late.  His office had a shadow and I found myself withdrawing into it.

© 2011, gar. All rights reserved.


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