Sunday, November 1, 2015
1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Roberts
Name: Jessica Roberts
Genre: New Adult Romance
In most of my classes at Princeton I make it a point to never sit next to the same person more than twice. But in Smarts 101 class, Dan Harris likes to copy my notes, and I like that he’s not very social. So the arrangement works.
“Let’s have a bit of fun before class ends,” Professor Bell says excitedly from the front of the stadium-styled classroom. His eyes twinkle, just like they always do at some point during the hour. It makes me want to smile. Obviously, teaching Smarts 101 is the highlight of his life.
“We have fifteen minutes,” he continues. “Perfect!” He shuffles through his notes until he finds what he’s looking for.
Fifteen minutes… I look down at my desk and let my bobbed, choppy, dyed black hair fall over my face, masking myself from a hundred classmates for another fifteen minutes. It’s not the first or twenty-first time I’ve wished I wasn’t in this class. But Smarts 101 is a required course for all freshmen who are non-Smarts, or “Commoners” as the average person is called, so I had no choice in the matter. Spring semester ends in a couple weeks, I remind myself. I can stay invisible in this class for two more weeks.
“Okay,” Professor Bell says with a grin. “You all know how I love brain teasers. I have two quick ones for you. Teaser number one: How many students do we have in this class? Don’t answer out loud, just glance around the room quickly and make an educated guess.”
Professor Bell paces impatiently as students survey the room. A few lift off their seats to get a better view. Not me. I stay sitting, unnoticed in the corner on the last row, doing everything I can to not draw attention to myself. Thankfully, that usually means doing nothing.
“Okay, teaser number two,” Professor Bell continues. “Which of these two sentences is most correct: Seven and five isthirteen or seven and five are thirteen? Now write down an answer to only one of the two brainteasers given.”
“Yo, Jennifer,” Dan says from my left. I turn toward him with a pen outstretched. “Ha, thanks.” He takes the pen from me.
For a moment I am calmed by the quiet commotion of rustling papers and scribbling pens. But the reprieve doesn’t last and the noise quickly dies. Taking a deep breath, I silently reach in my backpack and tear off a corner of loose paper to write down my answer.
“Okay,” Bell says. “Raise your hand if you wrote the word ‘neither’ or something to that effect.”
It looks as if every student in the class raises their hand.
“Yes.” Bell chuckles in satisfaction. “As suspected. And your answer is obviously correct. The sum of seven and five is twelve, not thirteen, so the question as it refers to grammar is irrelevant.
“Now, if you had a brain like theirs, you would have written something very different. Anyone have a guess as to what theywould have written?” The class quiets as Bell hastily looks around to see if he has any takers. “They, class, would have written the number ninety-five. Anyone want to take a stab at why?”
A girl seven rows down from me raises her hand. Her name is Ashley Watkins. I don’t know her, but I’ve noticed she’s always happy. I like that about her. Under different circumstances—as in, if I had different parents—we might have been good friends. But there’s no sense wishing for things I’ll never have, as much as I waste time doing so.
“Yes, Miss Watkins?” Bell acknowledges.
“Ninety-five is the number of students in this class. They would have written down the answer to your first question about how many students are in this class.”
“Yes,” Bell eagerly responds. “When it was time to write down an answer, the majority of you, if not all of you, chose to answer the second question; the one you knew the answer to. By raise of hands, did any of you choose to answer the first one instead, the one on the number of students in this class?”
No hands rise and Bell chuckles again. “Now, as some of you may vaguely remember, the first day of class I mentioned that we had ninety-five students in this class. It would have taken seconds for them to call up that information from that first day, milliseconds, in fact. Essentially, to them both questions would have been easy. Where all of you wrote off the more difficult brainteaser, because of their nearly perfect memories, Smarts would have had no reason to.
“However, it actually boils down to something much more basic. Simply put, first questions are the logical ones to answer first. And Smarts are logical to the core.
“Which brings us to a few last details about them to prepare you for your spring term exam.” Bell continues pacing the room as he begins counting off a list on his fingers. “One, all Smarts have the abnormality on chromosome six in their DNA, which is how we now know that Einstein, Hitler, and Mozart were Smarts. We also know that the rare abnormality can be present in the offspring of both Smarts and Commoners, as well as mixed parents. However, for some unknown reason, it’s rare for two Smart parents to be able to have children at all.”
I inch further down in my seat, feeling a little exposed and a lot like the oddball statistics say I am.
“So basically, what we need to remember is that all of them are products of a genetic defect?” Mara Jones pipes in, as she so often does, with one of her off-color comments.
A few students laugh, the same few who laugh every time a bit of bashing goes on in class. It can’t be helped, I remind myself as I hamper the idea of yelling out, “Don’t talk about my parents like that!” After all, who isn’t a little uncomfortable with differences? This is a class of all Commoners. And some Commoners are pretty narrow-minded.
“Yes,” Bell responds. “That’s correct. An abnormal chromosome ultimately differentiates them.”
I’m surprised this is all he says. He can get slightly defensive sometimes. No, defensive isn’t the right word. Passionate. Admiring. Obsessive. Yeah, that sounds more accurate. It’s also why I’ve grown to like him so much. He’s endearingly fanatic.
“But it’s a genetic defect I wouldn’t mind having,” he cuts off my thoughts with a snort.
Instead of laughing like I want to, I look at the clock. Five more minutes.
“Okay, we’re running out of time. Our last item of business today…” Bell walks toward the middle of the room and stops front and center by the microphone podium. He lifts his hands and clasps them together, resting his elbows on the stand. “Because this class is all about Smarts, I want to address the current rumors that are circulating around campus here at Princeton.” Since he rarely uses the microphone, his magnified voice seems to carry more weight as it booms through the air and echoes off the walls. “I am here to assure you that although the possibilities are indeed threatening and could pose a very real danger to everyone, Smarts are not out to get us. They aren’t secluding themselves in secret hillsides and valleys and forming little hidden societies as the rumors go. We can and will coexist in peace with them as we always have.”