“This Is a Test”
by Stephen Gregg
It’s Homecoming Spirit Day at Roosevelt High, and it also happens to be the day for the biggest test of the semester in the Sophomore History class.
Alan’s friend, Louis, has convinced him that staying up all night the night before to study would be the way to ace the test. Now that it’s time for the test, Alan isn’t so sure that doing so was a good idea, and he blames Louis for making him do it.
Louis convinces Alan to try to relax and think of something else. Alan starts thinking of a drama game from the previous day. He envisions his nemesis, football quarterback, Evan, and Evan’s girlfriend, Autumn, playing the game. Then, oddly enough, his mother starts playing, as well. Louis tries to get the game out of his head, but it’s stuck.
The other students and the teacher arrive. They notice Alan’s odd behavior. The teacher asks Alan if he’s all right, and he says he’s fine and snaps out of watching the game in his head. When the very first question on the test stumps him, he falls into a daydream about how he studied the night before. Oddly enough, Autumn, Evan, and Alan’s mother, once again figure prominently in his daydream.
The teacher rouses him from his reverie, and he realizes that the amount of caffeine he drank to stay awake all night not only causes him to lose his concentration, but makes him paranoid. As he tries to focus on the test, he becomes aware of the fact that all of the students around him are cheating. He tries to draw the teacher’s attention to them, but she ends up suspecting him of cheating instead.
He returns to taking the test and is relieved to see that the next section is true or false - until he reads the first question: “Explain the nature of the Universe.” As this is not a true or false question, he is stumped, and decides to skip it. The rest of the questions are similarly not true or false questions. He begins to randomly answer them, until he realizes that some of the questions apply to his lack of dating experience. Offended, he protests that he’s been on dates - well, one date, at least. He drifts into reminiscing about his date, which had taken a turn for the worse as it went on. He relives the humiliation of his failed date, until the teacher breaks into his reverie once again.
Alan returns to trying to concentrate on the test, when Kris, who has been asking how much time is left every few minutes, asks for the time again. Alan loses his temper, causing her to cry. The teacher rebukes him, and he apologizes. When the teacher answers Kris that there are nine minutes left to take the test, Alan freaks out, trying to figure out what happened to the previous 45 minutes.
While Alan is in freak out mode, Evan, who has been missing from class, enters with Autumn, and apologizes for being late - and gives the teacher an apple to make up for it. When she starts to have him take the test, he gives her a candy bar. She decides he doesn’t really need to actually take the test and has him tell her whether he knows the answers. Evan assures her that he does, and she gives him a 100 on the test. When Alan protests that this isn’t fair, she accuses him of jealousy, and points out that since Evan has already been accepted into the college of his choice, it doesn’t matter what test scores he gets.
Alan is bitterly aware that he isn’t athletic or studious. The helpful chorus in his head reminds him that his future is bleak. To get his mind off of the accusations of his mental versions of Evan, Autumn, and his mother, Alan tries to focus on the test, and panics when he sees that the next section is an essay question. However, the essay is an opinion essay. His spirits rise, until he realizes that the question is written in Chinese. Upon questioning the teacher why, he finds out that the class learned Chinese on the day he had a dental appointment.
Overwhelmed with despair, Alan collapses on his desk, moaning how everything is a nightmare. His mother appears and waking him up, tells him he’s been dreaming. She encourages him about how hard he’s been working. She tells him she’s made him cookies, and that there is a thick envelope from his favorite university downstairs. Just as everything seems to be going well, Alan’s mother disappears, and the teacher is suddenly at his side, scolding him for not working on the test.
He settles down to work on the test again, and realizes that he is now the subject of the questions. The students argue over which of Alan’s faults should have been listed in test, and the teacher strikes the question. Right as Alan finally finds a question to which he knows the answer, the bell rings, and the test is over before he can write the answer down. The cacophony in his mind builds to a fevered pitch, and he yells out that this is the end.
And suddenly it is. The alarm rings, the birds are singing, and it’s going to be a great day for a test!