From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

A Perfect Score

Failure is success if we learn from it.

Malcolm S. Forbes

“Hey Lara,” Susan called. “How about lunch? We haven’t talked in so long.”

“Can’t. I’ve got a bio test next period,” I yelled, rushing off to the library. I opened up my book and frantically crammed any extra information. I need an A, my mind kept repeating. That would make another perfect quarter and a definite place on the honor roll. I studied till the last minute of lunch and rushed to class.

Good, I thought, glancing over the first page. I quickly filled in the answers, smiling with confidence. When I reached the last page, my mind went blank. I read the question over, but the words started to jumble, and although I could picture the pages of the book, I could not read the text. I stared at a diagram of the plant cell. My mind wouldn’t function. I started chewing the pen. Concentrate, Lara, you studied this last night. I tried to remember what was written in the book. After studying until midnight the night before, I felt I had a good enough grasp on the material. I had fallen asleep with a mental picture of a plant cell.

So why can’t you remember it now? I asked myself. I glanced up at the clock. I had fifteen more minutes. Okay, the round circle has to be the nucleus and the lines . . . my mind wavered. The pen cap fell to the ground. I reached over and grabbed it clumsily. The fifteen minutes evaporated into three. Soon everyone left, and I was still staring at the paper.

“Lara, class ended seven minutes ago. I need you to pass in your test,” Mrs. Phloem said, stretching out her hand. I quickly placed random names in the blank spaces and reluctantly handed her the test. Slowly gathering my belongings, I left the room.

After school, I went to the locker room and changed at the very back for basketball practice. I heard giggling up front but couldn’t be bothered. There were more important subjects to deal with, like the biology test.

After practice, I quickly changed and walked home. The air felt nippy, my nose was frozen, and even with gloves on, I felt the cold air freeze my fingers. I shivered, wishing the sun were out. I disliked the short days and long nights of winter. It made my time feel compressed. Especially now, with basketball, my life seemed like a nonstop race. I awoke at six the next morning for school. Practices started at three thirty and I wasn’t back home until eight.

That night after dinner I sat down to finish The Great Gatsby, which was due the next Friday. I thought “Great American Novels” would be the appropriately challenging English class for the semester. Unfortunately, with overly idealistic characters like Gatsby, the book truly felt like a waste of my time. Yet the fact remained I was afraid to open my biology text and check the answers, although I refused to believe I might have done poorly on the test. The worst grade I could receive is a B. That would just about keep in balance with my brother’s perfect high-school record. How I wished my brother wasn’t so perfect. It made me work twice as hard to prove myself to others. On the other hand it was a challenge, and I liked challenges.

Soon it was eleven-thirty. Finishing the book I pressed back into the chair. Do I have anything else? I asked myself, glancing at the table. Outside, thunder rumbled and interrupted my thoughts. Staring at the window, I watched drops of water slide down the glass pane. “It’s the middle of January, and it’s raining,” I said aloud. “How profound.”

The next day in biology I got my test back. I stared dumbfounded at the red marked: 76. Not even a B minus, my mind screamed. Just average. It’s over. No perfect record.

When I reached home that night, I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. I felt like a failure. Now I wouldn’t reach my brother’s standards. My brother was so smart that he got a scholarship to Harvard. How could I prove myself with a 76?

I sat at my desk, stuck on the same math problem for an hour. Sighing, I laid down the pencil. Outside the thunder clamored. I jumped at the unexpected sound and stared at the window. It was raining again. This was the third night. I reached over abruptly, unfastened the storm window and pulled it open. Sticking my head out, I yelled, “Stop it! I’m trying to concentrate!” I got sprayed with the sudden force of water. I retreated and closed the window. Laying my head on the cold glass I glanced down at the empty street. There was only one dim streetlight, which highlighted each drop of water. It reminded me of the way Gatsby had stood outside Daisy’s house after the accident, waiting for the perfect life. It had never happened. “Hmm,” I solemnly grinned. “Now, here I am, trying to make my life perfect,” I said to my reflection. Sighing, I realized it would probably rain tomorrow and that I would probably be starting the new chapter on photosynthesis. Yet unlike a great American classic, my story would continue, because I did have a second chance. “Wow,” I smiled, “school can teach me a few lessons in life.” It wasn’t the most profound moment in my life, but turning the lights off I got under my bedcovers and thought, Maybe tomorrow I’ll have lunch with Susan. The fact is, one test is not my life. Taking the time to build a friendship that will last all the exams of life and believing in myself and in doing my best will always be the ultimate best score.

Lalanthica V. Yogendran

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