In which see Ms. Bradstreet try to discipline her discipline
The Maria Chronicles, #49
It's exam day in Maria's U.S. history survey. The test today is on
Finishing a chapter, Maria looks up to see Mia, who, to her surprise, is not looking down at her test. Instead, she's looking across the room at Jake. And when Maria turns her own gaze at Jake, what she sees is Jake gazing surreptitiously at Kenny's exam and writing down answers. Is this what she thinks it is? She really hopes not. But it sure seems that way -- and she suspects Mia isn't the only other one who thinks so. Damn. Maria didn't think she had to distribute different versions of the exam in this school the way she did her last one. That was a mistake, and now she's going to have to act. But how?
Willie is now getting up, naturally the first to finish. But Vanessa, Derek, and Kenny are clearly almost done -- Kenny appears oblivious to whatever Jake has been doing. If Maria is going to do something, it's got to be now. With difficulty, no longer needing crutches but awkward in the boot she wears on her foot, she gets up and walks across the room to Jake. She can feel the eyes of the students on her as she semi-limps her way to him. "I'll take that," she says quietly.
"But I'm not done," Jake says, surprised.
"Doesn't matter," Maria says as evenly as she can. "I'll take this now, Jake, and we'll talk about it tomorrow."
Jake is too shocked to resist. Maria suspects her fragile balance prevents him from any dramatic moves or resistance to taking the exam from him. She pivots to save Kenny a trip to the front. "Here," she says, "you can give that to me." Kenny hesitates momentarily -- is she suggesting he cheated too? -- but decides, perhaps on the basis of Maria's reassuring smile, that it will be OK.
Jake looks stricken, unable to decide whether to say something or to go. Maria decides to ignore him. Other kids are getting up now, shooting looks at him as they do. Jake clearly wants to talk about this, but Maria decides it's neither the time nor place. She needs to think this through. "Go on, Jake. Come by my office tomorrow. Are you free before school?"
"Very well then. I'll see you at 8:15." Mia approaches and Maria takes her exam. "Thank you."
Jake exhibits a combination of exasperation and defeat, but leaves the room. By now, the whispering has probably ricocheted to the other side of the school and back. Maria flips back to Jake's exam to take a look. He's changed a few answers on the multiple choice section; usually this is a mistake, but here they're changed from wrong to right. It's clear Jake has done very badly on the IDs that make up half the exam. Lots of unanswered questions -- nothing on Guadalcanal, Battle of the Bulge, Rosie the Riveter, Yalta. He's failed.
Congratulations, kid, she thinks to herself. Now both of us are going to have a lousy night's sleep trying to figure out what happens next.