The Exam

“I mean, don’t you ever want to get out of this town?” Rune didn’t know if his father’s question counted as a non-sequitur. Ice cracked again in the glass.

“I . . . don’t know — ”

“Bullshit you don’t know.” There was an edge now to Paul Banks’ voice, giving him at least the appearance of lucidity. “Every child in Bark Bay dreams of leaving.”

Rune felt the urge to argue, not because the statement was necessarily false for him (truth being he had never in his life, until this moment, considered whether his adult life would be spent in the same town where he had lived as a child), but rather because he knew the views of his friends on the fencing team were different. Some of them, anyway — Double-J already had one foot out the door and The Bird also seemed ready to take wing, but Butch? Rex? They never expressed an interest in getting out. Even Annie, yes, who not only traveled extensively already with her family but also had the brains, skills, and means to go pretty much wherever she wanted, even Annie had never talked about leaving for good. Bark Bay is home for me (it hurt him now to remember what she’d told him last week, but her father’s argument forced the memory onto him like a powerful lunge to his four). It’s the place where everything I’ve ever enjoyed exists, everybody I’ve ever loved lives. Rune knew he should cut his father off and tell him he was wrong, but the edge he heard in the middle-aged man’s voice kept him silent.

“You’re still young, Hugh. Your life, it’s like an exam sheet that hasn’t been filled in. There’s no mistakes yet, no wrong answers you wish you could change.”

An idea came to the teen, too inspiring to keep to himself. “So maybe, instead of trying all kinds of stuff and starting to fill in those answers, I should take my time and look at the questions a little longer.” 

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