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Good Day Tanner
“Tanner, why are you late for class?” Mr. Doman shouted.
“I had to ask Mrs. Robertson for extra help in math. Because I’m dumb.” Tanner offered, grinning bashfully at Mr. Doman as he slunk to his seat.
“Huh. Did she write you a note?”
“Oh, Tanner, Tanner, Tanner.” Mr. Doman shook his head. “What am I going to do with you?”
Tanner carefully placed his binder under his chair. He’d had to stay after and talk to Mrs. Robertson because he had fallen asleep during the lesson and had missed the assignment. What could he say? Not everyone was a morning person.
“As you all know, today is Thursday. So it’s quiz day. Study quietly while I make the quiz.”
Tanner pulled out his notebook and looked at the pages. He hadn’t taken any notes on anything Mr. Doman had said thus far this year. How could he? Spanish was too hard. It made no sense. Besides, he couldn’t take notes and hear what his friend Michael Casey had to say at the same time. And at least what Michael said was understandably in English; not to mention much more interesting. Michael was a good friend. He always told Tanner what he’d missed at the football games and practices when Tanner couldn’t go because of his probation or his In House or detention.
“Tanner, you should have been at the dance,” Michael whispered. “Morgan looked so hot.”
“What dress was she wearing?” Tanner whispered back, glancing at Morgan Corrigan (real name Zoey) who was brushing her thick blond hair into a side ponytail while giggling at something Tanya had said.
“A red one. And red shoes.”
“She dance with you?”
“No, I forgot my money and couldn’t go in. they let me look in through the door, though.”
“No talking!” Mr. Doman shouted from the front of the classroom. “Michael, leave Tanner alone so he can study! You could stand to do some studying yourself. And Rebekah! Stop bugging Morgan! Morgan, stop messing with your hair!” Mr. Doman loved girls who have long hair, and he often admired Morgan, Mary and Tanya’s hair. The only problem was it was so admirable sometimes the boys would start admiring it too. “Quinton, get back in your seat! Tyler, get away from Corbin! You always cheat off Corbin. And Andy. Keep away from Andy, you cheater. Holy Shamolians.” Mr. Doman shook his head. “You are a bunch of hooligans!”
Tanner swallowed. Mr. Doman often added questions to the quiz when people talked. Once the quiz was fifty questions long. He hoped Mr. Doman would spare them today.
Mr. Doman left the room to go make copies of the quiz. Instantly everyone began talking.
“How’d your hearing go?” Mary asked Tanner politely. “What did the judge say?”
“I’m not going to jail. I got to pay two hundred and fifty dollars for my fee, and I think some counseling, but I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
Tanner shrugged bashfully. “I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Mary fished around in her binder and laid two dollars on his desk. “Here’s for the fee. I don’t have any more.”
Tanner looked at the money, surprised. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
He slipped the meager two dollars into his binder carefully. He didn’t want to get distracted and waste the money on a soda at lunch. It would be better if he forgot he had it until after school.
Mr. Doman clunked into the room and tossed the stack of quizzes on his desk. “Clay, you wanna go get the red pens?”
“Sure!” Clayton Duckworth, known as Duckworth or Clay, bounced up from his seat and out to the teacher’s lounge, his football sweatshirt catching on the corner of the door as he left, causing him to trip a bit. All the boys in school played football, even if they weren’t tall or heavy – like Tanner – or if they weren’t serious, like Clay. Clay was just in it because if he played football he got his face on one of the three-dollar Booster Club pins.
Rebekah handed the quizzes out. “Clear off your desks,” Mr. Doman warned. “No cheating. Especially you, Tyler.” Tanner slumped over his desk, his binder on the floor. How in the world was he supposed to know the rule of number and gender? If you’re a guy, you’re a guy. If you’re a girl, you’re a girl. Or wait. That’s right, Spanish has masculine and feminine words. Okay, that made more sense.
But Tanner still didn’t know the answer.
Mr. Doman flipped through his attendance book at the front of the classroom. Minutes ticked by. Tanner clicked his pencil against his teeth. He wished he had one of those watches that had told the date. Or a calendar that he could put in his binder. All he had was his watch that was stuck on daylight savings time because the knob broke. He didn’t know any of the questions, but at least he could write his name and the date, if he knew it.
Slowly his slipped out his phone. It told the date on the little screen. Carefully he flipped it up. First day of October. He carefully scribbled October 1 at the top of the test, and slid his phone back into his pocket.
“TANNER ARNOLD, PUT THAT PHONE AWAY!” Mr. Doman bellowed. “You bunch of cheaters! Phones aren’t allowed! You cheater, you can’t have a phone!”
“I didn’t cheat, Doman, honest. I just needed the date!” Tanner watched as Mr. Doman set his cell phone on the corner of his desk. “I wasn’t cheating.”
“Look at the top of the board, Tanner.”
Tanner squinted at the whiteboard. Up in the right-hand corner at the top, printed lightly in green expo marker, was the date. Oops.
“How was I supposed to see that?” he asked.
“I don’t’ know. Maybe if you paid attention sometime you’d have noticed it.” Mr. Doman began looking through Tanner’s phone. “Geez, you have no pictures. How boring.”
“I have a text from Kendra, if you want to read it,” Tanner offered, hoping his sister’s text might put Mr. Doman in a better mood.
“ ‘Tanner, where are my keys, I need them bad,’ signed Kendra,” Mr. Doman commented. “Very nice.”
“Oh, I have her keys,” Quinton exclaimed quickly. “Tanner asked me to hold them. Let me get my phone, I’ll tell her.”
“Stop, you cheater! No phones!” Mr. Doman smacked his desk. “Everybody get to work!”
Tanner hunched over the quiz. How did you say ‘dog’ in Spanish? How do you conjugate a verb? He didn’t know. He glanced over at Mary, scribbling away. She probably knew. She was probably getting them all right.
But Tanner wasn’t a cheater. He didn’t cheat. He wasn’t that way. He kept his eyes on his own paper the whole time.
“Okay, time to correct. You know the drill.” Clay passed out the red pens for correction. Mr. Doman’s policy was you correct your own paper. If he saw a pencil on your desk, you got an F on that assignment, no questions asked. Some people know how to get by that, but not Tanner.
As Mr. Doman read off the last answer, the bell rang. “Okay, mark the number you got right on the top and put them on my desk. Clay, get the pens.”
Tanner traced a smiley face inside the zero, hoping it would reflect the rest of the day. He laid his blank sheet of paper on the desk as he walked out the door, binder under his arm. He watches as Clay shoved the pens in the box and tossed them into the teacher’s lounge, running to his locker next to Mary’s and Corbin’s. Clay was lucky: he got a locker in between the two smart kids.
Tanner carefully pulled his science book out of his locker. Science was fun because they got to time stuff and do experiments. Tanner slammed his locker shut and strode down the hall, eager to get a seat next to Michael. Today they were doing a lab, so it would be fun. A good day.
Maybe he would buy a soda at lunch today.