Sunday, November 8, 2015
1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Roberts Rev 1
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, the guy I sit next to—whom I’ve so originally nicknamed Beach Bum—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. He rubs a chubby hand on his bald head and then drops it to his slightly graying, light brown beard, smiling in that eye-twinkling way he always does at some point during the hour. I want to smile with him. 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 bangs fall over my face, using my dyed black hair as it was intended, to mask myself…for another fifteen minutes. It’s not the first or twenty-first time I’ve wished I wasn’t in this class of a hundred students. But for the past six years, since scientists found the chromosome that identifies a Smart, or people with abnormally high intelligence levels, Smarts 101 has been a required course for all freshmen. Well, all freshmen who are non-Smarts, which is most of the world. So I had no choice in the matter. Spring semester ends in a couple weeks, I remind myself. And even if everyone knows who my parents are, I can remain mostly 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, quiet and unnoticed in the corner on the last row, doing what I can to not draw attention to myself, which 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.”
If only I could put my hair behind my ears; smile, laugh, and answer questions every time I wanted in class. But as the loner daughter of two of the most prestigious Smarts in the world, I can’t.
“Yo, Jennifer,” Beach Bum 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,” Professor 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.” Professor 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.”
“Now, let’s review 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.”
“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, I understand that people can be uncomfortable with differences.
“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 type away on my laptop like everyone else. Hiding my emotions shouldn’t bother me after doing it for so long, but I’m pretty sure one of my “genetic defects” is not being able to hide my emotions without it bothering me every. single. time.
I shift in my seat, looking at the clock. Five more minutes.
“So, our teacher wants to be part of a group who favors world domination?” Mara Jones whispers loudly to a neighbor and then chuckles once.
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. “Valid question, Mara. Since this class is all about Smarts, I suppose it would be appropriate to address the current rumors about them 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 recent rumors go. They are normal people, like you and I, only with the gift of extreme intelligence. We can and will live in peace with them as we always have.”