An A Plus

“I got an A on that last paper. Couldn’t believe it. I worked on it for like a day -”

“You always get As, man. Always.” Jake shook his head.

I chuckled, “yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know how I do it.”

Jake slowed our walk until we stood just in front of the library.

“What are you doing for Jackson?” He asked.

I looked to the sky and shrugged, “writing an essay. At least…yeah, writing an essay.”

He nodded, “cool.”

Turning to head into the library he paused with a hand on the door.

“You’re gonna be the best lawyer, man. You do everything.” He sighed, “you’re gonna be the best.”

I thanked him as he disappeared through the doors. Letting out a deep sigh of my own I couldn’t quite place why my stomach had bolted together.

Walking back to my dorm Casey Jones ran up to me. Her hair uncombed, she was out of breath.

“What’s going on?” I asked

“Did you? Did,” she closed her eyes and reopened them when her breath had caught up with her words, “what did you get from Freedman?

I shrugged, “an A.”

She swallowed, “oh. Okay.”

I waited a moment and then broke down and asked, “what did you get?”

She beamed, “A plus.”

I nodded a few times. Those bolts clamped down harder and seemed to staple themselves all the way up to my throat. Casey Jones didn’t stop smiling, so I walked away.




Dear Jenny,

I can only hope you figured out the code from my last letter. Dad would never want you reading this story. The last time I was home you asked why I got sent to military school. I can only assume you asked so as not to follow the same path. I can’t say that I blame you, but I must argue that military school may be the best thing that ever happened to me.

But, how did I get here? It started when I was arrested. On a cold October night, the kind that chills your blood to the core, I went to my old friend PJ’s house. You wouldn’t remember him. I did my best to keep him away from the house as dad would never have approved. PJ was a trouble maker. He had the biggest file in school, bigger even than Jackie Jones’ and you know what kind of nut she was.

Me and PJ sat around his basement playing nintendo. The lights went off right as we were finishing the last level. So, pissed at the world and with the world in a blackout we decided to do something daring. The first gas station we came to we robbed. I have to admit that I egged PJ on far more than he ever did me – something dad refuses to believe, even today. We took a few beers and tried to break into the safe. The cops arrived not long after. Since you know I was arrested you’ve probably already guessed that we were caught.

Dad paid my bail. When we got home we had a long talk. Here’s what we said (if you don’t want to drown in the same river, pay attention):

“You’re such a good kid, Toby, why the hell didcha go and do a thing like that for?” Dad said.

“I wanted to know what it would feel like.” I responded.

“But why? You had a future, Toby, a real future. You were going to go to college.” Dad said in that voice he uses when he talks about his old hockey dreams.

“That’s just it Dad, I don’t want to go to college.”

This of course stunned him. He sent me to my room and two days later I was on a bus going to Madison Military Academy.

Did you pay attention?

I’m not going to college. That’s why dad sent me here. But it backfired on him. Because now I’m not just disciplined to do what I’m told, I’m disciplined for all the things I want to do. And I want to be a writer. Which is why I robbed that gas station, Jenny. I wanted to know exactly how that felt so that I could write about it. And now I’m going to write about my dumb father who can’t be his own person. Going to college isn’t the only thing, it is one thing, and the more people who know this the faster the world can progress.



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