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The Best Day Ever (Through the Eyes of an 11th Grader): The Year without a Chem Regent

As I drove my son to school for his New York State Chemistry Regent (for those of you not from New York, high school students here take Regents Exams to assess their mastery of New York State Learning Standards), I recalled my own chemistry regent, which was scheduled exactly 28 years ago today on June 20, 1989.

I woke up that bright sunny June morning to my radio alarm clock set to broadcast the Z Morning Zoo on Z-100.  It was a zany morning talk show, that I loved listening to.  That morning, the wacky DJs were talking about how the answers to that morning’s Chemistry regent were printed on the cover of the NY Post.

Naturally, I thought it was a hoax.  Still, dreams do come true.  I raced downstairs to tell my mother what I had heard.  I expected her to denounce the news.  Instead, she told me to quickly get ready for school, and run up the block to buy a newspaper.  I think she wanted the paper, but I did what she instructed anyway.

Racing to the corner store (three blocks from my home), I eagerly found what I was looking for.  Sure enough, the cover of the NY Post displayed the answers to the test!  I was ready to burst!  Some kids stole the regent and sold the answer key for $2,000.  It was quite the scandal.

Dutifully, I dropped the newspaper off at home, and went to school for more information.

At school, my classmates were as excited as I was about the theft.  Kids who always ran late were at school early.  We all waited anxiously for someone to make the inevitable announcement.  When it came, it was better than expected:  The June 1989 Chemistry Regent was canceled!  Not only that, all students scheduled to take the regent who had a passing grade in their chemistry class would not be required to take a make-up test.  We were given full regents credit.

It was the greatest day in my regent taking experience.  All these years later, I still delight in the fact that I didn’t have to take the test.

Good luck to all of those kids who had to take the regent today!

New York Cancels Regents Exam After Newspaper Carries Answers

School Days

“Become a teacher, he said.  You’ll get summers off, he said.  Molding young minds is rewarding, he said.  Except he left out this part of the job.”

“Talking to yourself again, Tom?”  Liam stepped into the room and let out an expletive.  “I was wondering what was taking you so long.  I thought we were going out for a drink to celebrate the last day of school.  What the heck happened?”

“Those brats are possessed.”

“You’re over reacting just a bit, aren’t you?”

“Am I?”  Tom watched Liam gingerly step over a pool of vomit, before sitting on the desk facing him.

“They’re six-year-olds, little more than babies.”  Liam said.

“Except they act more like the plague.”

Liam’s eyes fell on something in the corner.  “Tom?”

“It’s poop.  I’m not sure whose.  They’re little, feral animals, every one of them.”

“Look on the bright side, you’ve two months of freedom.”

“It’s not enough.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Today, I got kneed in the nuts.”

“An accident.”

“Maybe.  It happened while wrestling the scissors away from Peter, who was cutting Lucy’s hair.  While my back was turned, Angie spit in my drink.”

“Come on!”

“Katie added a booger for good measure.  The class sat giggling as I gulped down the contents of my water bottle.  Robert told me about it as I removed the glue stick he shoved up his nose.  I sent him to the nurse because he put another one in a different part of his body.  Then Jen bit me and threatened to say I punched her if I sent her to the principal.”

“You’re a grown man.  How could you let this happen?”

“The worst part is, this was the best day I’ve had all year.  So, are you going to untie me, or what?”

 

 

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Blood Is Life

“…become a Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“What was that, Mrs. Heks?” I was distracted by my new partner, Chen, who was vomiting as if possessed by a demon.

The wrinkly woman scowled.  “Please pay attention Officer Jill.”

I managed not to roll my eyes.

“She’s Detective Kalbag,” Chen joined us, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.  “What did I miss?”

Mrs. Heks eyed him for a moment as if trying to decide whether it was better to deal with a woman, or a detective who was still wet behind the ears.  I must have won because she turned to me. “The neighborhood has become a den of inequity.  Full of criminals.”

“Except for you,” I said sarcastically.

“Of course.”

“Did you know the victim?”

“Her name was Cookie Ruiz.”

“Did she have family?”

She shrugged.  “Who knows?  She was a forty-year-old hooker who rented the apartment over my garage.”

I raised my eyebrows.  “You rented to a prostitute?”

“She paid her rent on time, and never brought clients home.”

I left her to Chen, and joined the medical examiner.  “What’s up, doc.”

“I have to get her back to the lab to confirm, but at first glance, I’d say the crossbow bolt through her heart was the cause of death.”

“This is a high traffic area, so I’m guessing she died sometime this morning?”

“Dead since Thursday.”

“Three days?  So, she was killed somewhere else.”  The hair on my arms stood up.  “Like the other one.”

He held up a piece of paper. “Her body was drained of blood.  He left another message.”

I took the paper and glanced at the familiar writing:

Life is blood,

Blood is life

Creatures of the night

Feed on strife

“What’s it mean?”

I frowned.  “It means Warwick Falls has a serial killer.”

Penance in Pike County

Jenna slept late.  She couldn’t take another day of traipsing through the woods while mosquitos snacked on her, so she made it clear last night that Mary and Tristan should go hiking without her.

As she stood on the back porch overlooking the lake, she watched ominously dark clouds roll in.  Her sister owed her big time, begging that she spend Spring Break in Pike County, Pennsylvania.  She preferred vacationing in warm sunny climates, not places where she had to wear heavy sweaters.

At least Tristan’s cousin was arriving later, so she would no longer be the third wheel.

Mary and Tristan had sung Paul’s praises.  He graduated top of his class from Yale, competed in the Olympics, and spent summers building orphanages for kids.  She got the impression Mary wanted to set them up.

She zoned out, watching the gently rocking tiny rowboat tied at the end of the wooden dock.  Did lakes have a tide or was it just the wind?

The early spring weather could be unpredictable, and she was getting cold. Just as she was about to turn toward the door, movement in the water caught her eye. She squinted.  It looked like someone was struggling to swim to shore.

Rushing down the stairs, she kicked off the flip flops she wore around the cabin, and raced to untie the boat.  Silently cursing whoever had secured it, she wasted precious time untying the knots.  Once undone, she stepped into the boat a little less cautiously then she should have and slipped, hitting her elbow.

At least she had managed not to fall into the cold water.

Grabbing the oars, she pushed away from the dock and headed toward the swimmer.  She had never rowed a boat before, but how hard could it be?  She was working on her doctorate in physics and rowing was all about motion.

She glanced at the figure in the water, who seemed to be staring at her while treading water. She assured herself that she could do this and started rowing.

It was rough going at first.  Her coordination was off, but she got into a rhythm and was making progress.  Or so she thought.  She looked at the figure, who she could now see was a man.  He was swimming towards her.  She had managed to row halfway across the lake.  Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction.

“Stop rowing!”  He called out.  “I’ll be right there!”

She pulled the oars out of the water, and waited for him to get to her.  She was supposed to be rescuing him.

When he finally reached her, he adroitly hoisted himself into the boat.  Usually Jenna would object to a grown man in a speedo, but this one had the body for it.  He was very attractive, and very angry.  “What were you thinking?  The lake isn’t the place for an inexperienced rower to be out alone.”

“The same applies to a lone swimmer.”  As if to emphasis her point, lightning flashed followed by the rumble of thunder.  “I saw you struggling and was rescuing you.”

“Struggling?”

She nodded causing her pony tail to bounce

He laughed, breaking the tension.  “I was wondering why you were racing out of my cabin.  I expected someone to be chasing you.”

“You’re Paul!  You arrived early.”  Had she known who he was, she wouldn’t have rushed to the lake to make a fool out of herself.  He had been on the Olympic swim team and won a medal.  “I’m Jenna.”

“Mary’s sister.”  He smiled, causing two dimples to appear and reminding her of a clean-shaven Tom Selleck.  She wondered if there were laws about dating your sister’s soon to be cousin-in-law.  “Let me row.”

She gratefully handed over the oars – her arms were already sore.

He made rowing look easy.  She tried not to stare as his muscles flexed with each stroke.

“So how are the lovebirds?”

“Making goo-goo eyes at each other, and forcing me on marches through the forest.  I swear they intend to sacrifice me if we encounter a bear.”

He laughed again, making her wish she had fixed her hair and put on some make-up.  “You’re no longer alone.  I prefer sleeping late, card games, reading on my porch, and watching movies.”

“Salvation at last!”

The chatted amicably as he rowed and Jenna realized she felt more comfortable with him than she had with a man in a very long time.  There was something about their camaraderie that felt right.  And it didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eye.  She wanted to get to know him better.  “Paul, would you like to go out with me tonight?”

He stopped rowing, his cheeks turning red.  “You’re asking me out?”

She wasn’t in the habit of asking men out, but was sure most men didn’t panic when a woman took the initiative.  “Are you seeing someone?  Mary said you were single.”  Perhaps he wasn’t attracted to her?  She blushed, certain she was making a fool of herself.

“Jenna I’m officiating Mary and Tristan’s wedding.  I’m a Catholic priest.”

Her mouth fell open.  The first thing she thought was, what a waste.  The second was I’m going to kill my sister.

“Don’t kill Mary.  You penance is going to be bad enough for lusting after a priest.”  He winked at her and started rowing.

Had she spoken out loud?

The Importance of Being Rudyard

“Rudyard is a stupid name,” Gus declared.

Lisa frowned.  “What about Oscar?”

“As in Oscar Wilde?  Only if you want my nephew bullied.”

“Dickens?”

He gave her the thumbs down.  Looking at his brother-in-law, he said, “Dan, don’t let her name him.”

“I’m surprised by how much I like her choices.”

“See,” Lisa smiled triumphantly.  “What’s with the eye roll?”

“To quote Wilde, ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple.’”

“The baby’s dancing on my bladder, I’ll be back.”  She kissed Dan and waddled out.

“Fess up.  You can’t want to name your son after those stuffy Victorians.”

“Wilde wasn’t stuffy.”

“Kipling was a goody-goody.  And Dickens?  Do I even need to mention why that’s not okay?”

“I enjoy their work.”

“Since when? You hate English literature, rhetoric and poetics.”

“Is Oscar better than Rudyard?”

“Anything is better than Rudyard.”  He sighed.  “Why’re you considering these names?”

“Lisa’s into poetry.”

Gus raised an eyebrow.  “She wouldn’t insist if you hated them.”

“True.”

“So?”

“I’ve been talking to parents and visiting parenting sites.”

“That’s normal.”

“Yeah, well, from what I’m read, kids aren’t just hard work.  They’re real pieces of crap.  They turn your life upside down, cost you a ton of money, and are completely ungrateful.  The teenage years are nightmares.”

“It’s too late to worry about it now.  Besides, once he’s born, you’ll love your son so much, you won’t care.”

“That’s just it.  I know I’ll love him and forgive him for all the crazy things he’ll do:  the temper tantrums, messy room, rude comments, the works!”  Dan looked him dead in the eyes.  “That’s why I want to give him the worse name I can think of.  Revenge before he’s born and I’ve grown to love him unconditionally.”

“Brilliant!”

“Just don’t tell Lisa.”

 

 

 

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