Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Times Test

By William Howard-Snyder, Age 12, Washington


I walk into math class. I try to keep my binder together, but stuff still falls out. Kneeling down to pick up my papers I spot something on the white board, two words, “Times Test.” I immediately feel a sudden burst of adrenaline. This is my chance to shine and beat my brother. Walking to my desk I catch his eye, he knows what’s going on, what thoughts I have running through my mind. He shows no emotion on his outside shell of titanium, but inside his shell I know he’s burning up. Titanium is a very good insulator.

Our teacher sets the timer. I begin to feel nauseous. She turns on the projector. My hands begin to tingle. She places the timer. Anxiety wells up within me. “I can do this, I can do this,” I keep telling myself. Our teacher counts down, 3, I’m freezing up; 2, my body just put on emergency override,  I feel like a turtle hiding in its shell while a hungry predator looms over me; 1, I look across the room at Peter and he looks as calm as the predator in my metaphor. I can’t beat him in this multiplication test. “GO!” the teacher shouts. I finally begin to calm myself and I feel a little better. Then I realize everyone has begun. I feel sick. Peter has gotten a head start and will win, inevitably. But then I feel a flicker of hope seeing that his lead is weak about half a centimeter from the point. I start writing, anticipating the moment his lead breaks and he has to sharpen his pencil. I feel more secure knowing I have a chance.

Pencils scribble down numbers. I hear the scratch-scratch of graphite scraping up against paper. I listen for the moment when his lead breaks. “SNAP” I hear the satisfying crack of his lead. I feel like a hungry owl stalking its prey listening for the mouse’s heartbeat. The lead breaking was its heartbeat. Now I’m swooping down like an owl, scribbling in numbers. Scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch. I look at Peter feeling triumphant. But I see him discard his pencil. A thump and then he picks up an extra pencil. “Stupid, stupid William!” I tell myself. But then I see another weakness. Peter’s hands are getting sweaty.

I lick my lips tasting victory; and part of my pizza that I had for lunch. Hhhhmmmm, leftovers.  My mind drifts back to the prehistoric age. I’m a strong, fierce tyrannosaurus licking my lips, tasting the tomato sauce from my last meal. My tongue, rougher than sandpaper, wiggles in-between two of my sharp teeth to snag a piece of cheese.  Peter is dead meat. I scribble down more numbers and glare at Peter with the ferocity of a monster. I breathe in the stale air tasting the fear Peter gives off. I know I can win this. I can taste victory. So I clamp my jaw around it.

I smell expo pens. The smell is so overwhelming I am getting a headache. I feel like giving up, but if I am to beat Peter and restore glory and honor to myself, I have to trudge through this smog of toxic expo fumes. I begin to fade out of the real world and land in a foggy swamp. I feel mud squelch beneath my feet. Chopping through thick vines and thorny brambles with my stainless steel machete I hunt on, my nose my only guide. The stench is overpowering, I begin to fade back and my machete turns to a pencil, which I have stopped writing with. Uh-oh, I think, Peter has gotten the lead. I take one huge breath, taking in as much air as I can hold . I must beat Peter, and if trivial needs are in my way, such as breathing, then they are not to be met.

I look at Peter. He seems to be half way through his last column. I’m just finishing my second last column. Fortunately his sweaty hand slips. That is the only boost I need, I’m now winning. I scribble down the last few numerals. I just finish, right before Peter. I’m a king! I look across the room at him and give him a smile that says, “Nice job, you tried your hardest” in the most mocking way possible. He looks back at me, I see his smile and it says, “Oh, we’re not done yet.” I catch his eye and brave a “What do you mean?” look. He smiles back with the old fashioned “You’ll see!!!”

“Times up,” Mrs. Tachiyama announces. I feel great, like I just won a marathon. Mrs. T starts shouting out the answers. I know I got them all right so I just sit and watch. Then I look down at my paper. She just said that 12 was the right answer, and I wrote 54. Hmmm, I think, that’s not that bad. I just missed one. Then she says another answer. I get that question wrong too! As the teacher goes down the list of numbers I notice I got every single one wrong! After the test Peter casually asks “So what was your score on the test?” I stalk off infuriated. I had gone to such lengths to beat him and I failed. I guess we’ll do this again the day after tomorrow.