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August 13, 2019 Fiction

Timed Test

Kim Magowan

Timed Test photo

We’re practicing doing timed tests for the AP Language and Comp exam, and the prompt Ms. Anniker gives us is “What Are You Proud Of?” I think immediately, “my chin,” but then Ms. Anniker specifies that it has to be something you’ve done or earned. It can’t be something you just are, with no work on your behalf, e.g. tall. 

Delia immediately points out that that’s confusing, because some things you are, like being thin, do take work on your own behalf. At this juncture I can’t help myself from looking over at Mirabel Cohen. Mirabel is anorexic; she’s literally killing herself working on behalf of being thin. (I think that’s an appropriate use of “literally”; Ms. Anniker is always correcting its misuse). Mirabel is studying her desk like there’s a fascinating movie playing on its woodgrain surface. 

Ms. Anniker makes her trying-to-be-patient face and says, “You all are smart enough to understand the criteria.” Then, as if she’s holding one of those black checked flags and we’re beginning a race, she taps her watch and says, “Start now!”

I will never be any good at these timed tests because as soon as they begin, my mind becomes a giant white board over which an eraser goes swipe, swipe.

  1. I’m proud of Saturday when we were all at Lacey’s and Lacey, Stella, and Mimi were watching that YouTube video about how to give a blowjob, and instead of watching I went outside. I sat cross-legged on Lacey’s scratchy lawn and looked at the stars.
  2. The stars were tiny white pricks, like the sky was a big piece of black construction paper that someone had punched pinholes through. I thought that, and then I admired myself for coming up with such a cool image.
  3. Then I laughed because here I was, sitting outside by myself because I didn’t feel like looking at or discussing pricks, and look at me, thinking about pricks (different context).
  4. And then I thought, English is such an interesting language, words mean so many different things— a prick can be a penis but also a tiny white hole.
  5. Also the human mind is terribly interesting, veering in all these odd directions. This is prob what Ms. Anniker means by stream-of-consciousness.
  6. And how cool, that I was thinking all these thoughts, and I wasn’t even stoned. (Because sometimes when stoned one thinks thoughts that one believes are cool, but in retrospect, e.g. sober, are not in fact cool).
  7. Ms. Anniker says a good essay should work like a geometry proof, in logical steps whose order can no more be randomly shuffled than one would shuffle the steps in a geometry proof, culminating [which means ending] in a QED.
  8. “I am proud of being an independent thinker.”

image: Aaron Burch


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