Contest #198 winner 🏆

185 comments

American Sad High School

Okay class! Pop quiz. If you've been doing the readings, this should be a piece of cake. Remember to fill out both sides of this paper. You have the whole class period to finish. Good luck.


1. Christopher Columbus first traveled to the Americas using which means of transportation?


A) A cargo ship

B) A steam locomotive

C) A Boeing 747 airliner 

D) A vintage red 1985 Camaro with a crack in the middle of the windshield and no heated seats



2. What is the term for the pilgrims leaving England to journey to America?


A) Immigration

B) Emigration

C) Migration

D) A breakup



3. What is the name of the people who were already living in America before the arrival of the Mayflower?


A) Indigenous Peoples

B) New Yorkers

C) Canadians

D) A fiancée



4. Founded in the early 1600s, Thanksgiving best symbolizes which of the following?


A) Eating a Tofurky dinner alone in a home that smells like pumpkin pie and the leftover bottle of aftershave you found under the bathroom sink and summarily poured down the drain

B) A celebration of the harvest and a means of giving thanks for other such blessings of the year

C) Your five-year-old son choosing to spend the holiday at his father's new apartment

D) Both A and C



5. Salem, Massachusetts, was famous for its witch trials, wherein a number of men and women were accused of performing acts of dark magic and sentenced to death. Now, imagine a woman named, say, Sally. Which of the following is something a guilty woman like Sally might reasonably have been accused of?


A) Sneaking off with another woman's fiancé during your springtime PTA meetings

B) Luring a woman's son to Thanksgiving dinner with the promise of cooking a real turkey

C) Driving a vintage red 1985 Camaro that doesn't belong to her to the Safeway in your neighborhood, despite her apartment, which she now shares with the car's owner, being on the other side of town, twenty-five minutes away.

D) All of the above



6. Please select the adjective you think best describes Sally from the previous example.


A) Caring

B) Considerate

C) Thoughtful

D) None of the above



7. Please select the adjective (or phrase!) you think best describes the nameless fiancé from question 5.


A) Ignorant

B) Hedonistic

C) Confused

D) Doesn't understand he's letting a good thing go by choosing Sally instead of the superior PTA woman.



8. What is the definition of a "pilgrim"?


A) A person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place.

B) A person who journeys, especially twenty-five minutes away, to an apartment in the gutter of Bismarck, North Dakota.

C) A person who journeys, especially twenty-five minutes away, to a supermarket in the heartland of Bismarck, North Dakota, with the intent of running into people on the PTA so she can "accidentally" display her new engagement ring, the same sapphire ring that fit on someone else's finger not too long ago.

D) A woman who shares joint custody of her turkey-bribed son, a woman who tucks him in and reads him a bedtime story every night and kisses him on the forehead, then spends the next thirty minutes scrolling through her ex-fiancé's social media posts in the hopes that she'll see her name pop up.



9. What is the name for someone who invades a foreign state or nation with the intent to dominate or gain control over its settlers?


A) Homewrecker

B) Adulterer

C) Sally

D) Colonialist



10. What was the reason the pilgrims left their first home and strayed to America?


A) They said their needs weren't being met with England.

B) They wanted to break away from the Protestant Church and start their own religious community.

C) They said they hadn't been truly happy in a long, long time.

D) They said the only reason they hung in there as long as they did was because of the five year old.



11. Which of the following statements is true, pertaining to question 10?


A) England watched the pilgrims sail away to America, watched them drift toward the horizon until they were nothing but a speck in the sunset, knowing there was nothing they could do.

B) England waited for days, weeks, months, hoping the pilgrims would come back, checking every starlit night for a sign of their return. 

C) England would still take them back with open arms, even after they chose another place and another life, if they only chose to come back.

D) All of the above



12. Do you think the pilgrims ever thought about returning to England when they were off with their homewreckers/adulterers/Sallys/colonialists?


A) Yes, definitely

B) Maybe once in a while

C) Every other weekend, when the joint custody kicked in

D) No (briefly explain your reasoning in the space below, if chosen)



13. How quickly things change. Not even 200 years after the arrival of the pilgrims to America, the founding fathers spearheaded the American Revolution, instituted the presidential system, and even created the Declaration of Independence. Which of the following is a line from that famous document?


A) "We need to talk."

B) "Look, Lainey, this just isn't working out anymore. It's not you, it's me. Please don't bring Sally into this."

C) "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

D) "Daddy said you can come to his wedding with me, Mommy. Why are you crying? He said you can come too."



Extra credit bonus question: You finish your quiz early. When you walk up to the front to turn it in, you notice your teacher is at her desk, silently weeping into her thermos of lukewarm first-period coffee. What should you do?


A) Turn in your paper, say nothing, and return to your desk—chances are that if she scheduled a quiz for the entire class period, she probably needs some time to herself.

B) Turn in your paper, say nothing, and return to your desk—chances are that your teacher is like England when they were waiting for the pilgrims to return, and with enough time, she'll understand the truth.

C) Turn in your paper, say nothing, and return to your desk—chances are that you could end up like her someday, because history repeats itself.

D) All of the above.

May 20, 2023 02:47

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

185 comments

Aeris Walker
02:21 May 21, 2023

I have every confidence that we will be seeing this story with a little star or a trophy beside it come Friday. This is exactly the kind of clever, emotional, and creative piece I could have only hoped to come up with in response to this prompt. Not only did you present us with a legitimate assignment--an actual quiz testing our knowledge of American history, but you wove a story into it--a pitiful, emotional story. Something about the "setting" of the story being a classroom full of kids makes this teacher's heartbreak all the more sad. She...

Reply

Zack Powell
07:12 May 21, 2023

Thank you for the vote of confidence there, Aeris! I have no predictions for how this one's gonna shake out, but I wholeheartedly appreciate your belief in this piece. It was a fun one to experiment with. (Also, I thought of you while writing this, and I hoped you would get a kick out of the Historical aspect, given your love for that genre. Bet you got all the questions right, too.) Totally agree with your take on the setting. Gives it that nudge into the realm of "tragic" when a teacher has to come to work and cover up their own personal ...

Reply

Aeris Walker
20:30 May 26, 2023

CALLED IT! Congratulations on your *5th* win!!!

Reply

Zack Powell
21:06 May 26, 2023

Quite the unexpected surprise to start the holiday weekend (well, unexpected for me - you were five steps ahead of all of us)! I hope you'll hold onto your story from this week and try to get it published elsewhere. I know there's a market for it.

Reply

Aeris Walker
21:40 May 26, 2023

Thank you ;) and yes, enjoy your weekend! I advise wearing sunscreen…so you don’t get burned…You know, from basking in all the glory 😉☀️👑

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Naomi Onyeanakwe
11:23 May 21, 2023

Hi Zack! As always, good to see a story from you. Exams have been so choking that I only remembered around midnight that there was something like Reedsy I checked every week. But I'm very glad I did and ran here the moment I woke this morning because wow. It would have been such a shame if I missed this story. I really love the way you experiment with form. Immediately I started reading the story and noticed the format, I thought, “Of courseeee Zack would do this. This is such a Zack thing to do.” In one of the comments, somebody called it ...

Reply

Zack Powell
13:57 May 21, 2023

I hope your exams have been going well, Naomi! That's definitely the top priority, since me and Reedsy will always be here later. (But I'm still glad you checked the stories this week. 😂) Very glad the form experiment seems to be well-received by people. I had my doubts during the writing of this piece (which inspired my denial of calling this piece 'clever'), but I just couldn't resist telling a story via pop quiz. Also, what was better in high school than hot gossip? This would've spread like *wildfire* in this woman's school. Thank you ...

Reply

Naomi Onyeanakwe
16:35 May 26, 2023

Congratssssss! Very well deserved win. I checked and saw this is your fifth! So double congrats! The way I get so excited for your wins (and shortlists), one would never think this person already has so many Reedsy accolades 😂. But idc, I'll keep being elated for every win because you deserve. Congratulations once again!🎉

Reply

Zack Powell
20:02 May 26, 2023

😂 I get excited from your excitement, Naomi. That stuff is contagious, I swear. Thanks for always being a great friend and reader, and hope the exams are (were) well!

Reply

Naomi Onyeanakwe
06:54 May 27, 2023

You're welcome, Zack! And yes, the exams are now in past tense finally, and they went alright I guess 😭😂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Riel Rosehill
12:31 May 20, 2023

Zack, yay, so nice to see a new story from you! I'm late reading because I didn't take the train this morning which is my usual reading slot! But, what, you just somehow managed to write a story in multiple choice quiz form?! When first looked at it I thought, not possible. And you managed to pull it off! I've never seen this before, but it was an excellent read and an insanely fun idea, so hats off to you! I especially love the specificity of Q4A 😂 And where in Q9 the story is less veiled with the answer choices. Just Sally xD I know if i...

Reply

Zack Powell
15:43 May 20, 2023

Definitely caught the writing bug again after reading your sea story, so you're directly responsible for this piece. Just thought you oughta know. xD I'm just glad this format worked for people. It was a super fun test (no pun intended) to see if a multiple choice quiz could work as the structure of a story, because who doesn't love experimenting with style and form? But OH BOY, coming up with the questions, and the fake answers, and then having to put a REAL answer in there too, and then the order in which the answers appear...My brain is ...

Reply

Riel Rosehill
15:38 May 26, 2023

OMG IS THIS A NEW RECORD?! Congrats, congrats, congrats!!! The experiment here definitely paid off, I'm so happy for you, and for the success of this story, because I genuinely loved reading it. Woohoo, go celebrate, Reedsy champ!!! How exciting!!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
22:59 May 20, 2023

Ditto for what all the other commenters said. So well done and unique. Think she got to keep her job after this risky tactic? Congrats on this well deserved win!

Reply

Zack Powell
01:05 May 21, 2023

Thank you very much, Mary. I'd like to think she kept her job, but gossip spreads fast among students, so it's anyone's guess there.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Will Willoughby
14:58 May 20, 2023

Hi, Zack! As someone else has already said, this is masterful. As someone else has said, too, I can't pick a favorite line. I love how the concision of question 9 regulates the pace in a really arresting way; coming right after relatively long question, it refocuses the reader's attention on the visceral emotion. And I'm just a sucker for stories that show inner turmoil bubbling out in inappropriate ways. Also, wouldn't it be cool someday to build this whole story as an actual interactive quiz with correct/incorrect answers and auto-feedba...

Reply

Zack Powell
01:23 May 21, 2023

Wow, thank you very much, Will! I was hoping someone pointed out the disparity between the lengths of answers in questions 8 and 9, and you've done just that. Makes me feel very seen. I truly appreciate it, as a fellow fan of stories that show inner turmoil bubbling out. I implore you to write that auto-feedback quiz story! This format was super fun, and I think, as you've suggested, there are even more bells and whistles that you can put on it. Wish I'd thought about the interactive route. That's good stuff right there, and it could give t...

Reply

Will Willoughby
16:18 May 26, 2023

I don’t want to brag, but I called it! 😁 Seriously, great execution of a cool idea. Well earned. Congrats!

Reply

Zack Powell
20:00 May 26, 2023

Wish I could say I'd had your level of confidence for this piece, Will. 😂 Shoutout to you for being on the same wavelength as the judges this week. Thanks for the kindness, too! (And I really do hope you write that interactive quiz story sometime!)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Lily Finch
14:57 May 20, 2023

Zack, talk about a riotous quiz! Oh boy. I thought this was so damn sad about a breakup of the worst kind. The illusion vs the reality of relationships. A cheater vs a cheatee. Whichever side you fall on it is awful. The teacher is broken up and sadly done for with this one. The brilliance of writing a story as a multiple choice question quiz is boss! Best line for me: C) Turn in your paper, say nothing, and return to your desk—chances are that you could end up like her someday, because history repeats itself. Ain't that the truth....

Reply

Zack Powell
20:53 May 20, 2023

Thanks, Lily. You got it exactly with perception vs reality. Can be hard to come to grips with, and this woman is definitely broken up and struggling with accepting the shambles of her life. Thanks again for the kindness!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
14:23 May 20, 2023

Wow, it took me a hot minute to catch on. Great story, and I'm glad to see a new story from you!

Reply

Zack Powell
15:33 May 20, 2023

Thank you very much, Ms. Wafflez! Glad to be back writing.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
12:00 May 20, 2023

Masterfully done here, Zack. The verisimilitude is wholly on point. Best line (of which there are many, but this one -- oof): C) Turn in your paper, say nothing, and return to your desk—chances are that you could end up like her someday, because history repeats itself.

Reply

Zack Powell
01:53 May 21, 2023

That's just about the best compliment a guy can receive, especially coming from a writer they admire. Special thanks for naming the penultimate line the best, as it was the one that was fiddled around with the most. Makes me feel like maybe it was worth 10,000 re-edits.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Delbert Griffith
11:16 May 20, 2023

Damn, Zack! What an amazing way to attack this prompt. Very clever, and a great vehicle (maybe a vintage Camaro?) to convey some hard truths about a heartbreaking breakup. I noticed that some of the questions had more than one possible right answer (8, 10, 12, 13) without having an "all of the above" option. Was that intentional? We are shown everything about the couple that is important, poignant, insightful, and inevitable. This is a brilliant profile of a man who cheats on his fiancé, his rationale for doing so, and the destruction he...

Reply

Zack Powell
17:49 May 20, 2023

Del! Before all else, I've been away from Reedsy for a bit, but I wanted to congratulate you on getting that big win! That story is at the top of my reading list this weekend. I knew a big win was coming one of these days, and I couldn't be happier for you if I tried. Of course, now you know I'm expecting you to get a second one, too. ;) I'm glad you noticed the possibility for more than one right answer in some of the questions! That was indeed intentional. In my mind, the teacher was actually less concerned about the students answering co...

Reply

Delbert Griffith
18:44 May 20, 2023

Thank you very much for the congrats, Zack. And, yes, I'd love to win a second competition here. You're a class act, my friend. Your tale was stellar. Absolutely stellar, my friend. Cheers!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
09:38 May 20, 2023

Clever story in a quiz! I had to read it twice.

Reply

Zack Powell
17:39 May 20, 2023

Thanks, Scott! Was fun to play around with form and structure a bit.

Reply

15:15 May 26, 2023

Congrats on the win this week. That was such a clever concept you used in the story!

Reply

Zack Powell
20:03 May 26, 2023

Big thank you, Scott! And I genuinely encourage you to hold onto your piece from this week (which, between you and me, was my favorite story of this contest). I think you could easily submit that to other magazines and get published.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Michelle Oliver
06:12 May 20, 2023

This is an excellent take on the prompt. The story you didn’t tell is all there, clear as day. Such anger, pathos, hope, disappointment, disillusionment, bitterness and all of the above in this. Clever, succinct and poignant. Well done.

Reply

Zack Powell
16:54 May 20, 2023

Thank you, Michelle. I love stories that tell two narratives at once, so I'm glad the emotions from the 'untold' one came through here. Personal life mixing with professional life. What could go wrong, right? Thanks again.

Reply

Michelle Oliver
03:51 May 27, 2023

Congratulations on the win! Perfect winner in my humble opinion. This story is so out there and different that if it didn’t win, I think I would have given up on Reedsy altogether! I love this character who is barely holding life together and has to show up and do her job anyway.

Reply

Zack Powell
05:22 May 27, 2023

A big thank you, Michelle! I was thinking this story might be TOO out there for the judges, so it was nice to have been proven wrong. (And, as an added bonus, you don't have to give up on Reedsy!) Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Jasey Lovegood
05:43 May 20, 2023

Hey, Zack! Well done on another great entry. Is it weird I was able to figure out where this story was going to go based on "A vintage red 1985 Camaro with a crack in the middle of the windshield and no heated seats"? Jasey

Reply

Zack Powell
15:10 May 20, 2023

Thank you very much, Jasey! I really glad you caught on to where the story was heading as quickly as question #1. I was hoping the specificity of the Camaro line would get people's minds working, and yours did exactly that. (Not a shock; you're a great reader.) Thanks again!

Reply

Jasey Lovegood
03:44 May 21, 2023

You're welcome! Well, mission accomplished, I was surprised to see I was right in my thinking. (Good thing you're a great writer too.) Looking forward to the next piece!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Katy B
03:12 May 20, 2023

This is so genuinely clever. And I'm tearing up. Great work.

Reply

Zack Powell
03:57 May 20, 2023

Thank you, Katy. I don't know about clever, but I'll definitely take the kindness. Great to see you on here again.

Reply

Katy B
16:07 May 26, 2023

Congratulations!

Reply

Zack Powell
20:03 May 26, 2023

You too, Katy! Talk about coming back with a vengeance. You're still consistent as ever in getting those accolades.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kilroy _
21:45 May 30, 2023

here are my answers: A D B A D D A B C C C B D Bonus: D Also, good job Zack, that was a very creative interpretation of the prompt, you definitely deserved that win (I hope sally gets hit with a bus).

Reply

Zack Powell
23:31 May 30, 2023

With those answers, I would definitely give you an A+ on this quiz, Kilroy. Thanks for the kindness, and for playing along with the quiz. (I also hope Sally gets hit with a bus.)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Teresa Renton
14:55 May 27, 2023

Brilliant storytelling! Am I right in believing this is an example of the hermit crab story? Where the story inhabits a form meant for a different purpose?

Reply

Zack Powell
15:57 May 27, 2023

Thank you, Teresa! It's funny - I'd never heard of a hermit crab story until you mentioned it, but I looked it up and it seems that's exactly what this piece is. Using a familiar form as a vehicle to tell a simultaneous story. Right on the money. Thanks for teaching me something new.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Chris Miller
14:54 May 27, 2023

Congratulations, Zack. You used this simple prompt in a very creative way and produced something funny with a sympathetic character and a nice slice of emotion. The format you chose lends itself to quick reading and adds to the pace of the jokes. Great work.

Reply

Zack Powell
16:00 May 27, 2023

Thank you very much, Chris, for the generous comment. Makes me happy to hear the format, emotion, humor and sympathy transferred to the page. This just made my morning.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Laurel Hanson
13:32 May 27, 2023

Love it! What an ingenious way to turn a pop quiz into a witty story with wit and rather touching story. When I read the prompt, that opening line requirement struck me as dead in the water. There was no way, I thought, it could engage. How delightful that you proved me wrong. This was creative, a super fun read, and a reminder that the standard conventions of the story format are there to be broken for the right purpose. And this is the right purpose. I've been off reedsy for a while, so this was a great story to come back to.

Reply

Zack Powell
15:25 May 27, 2023

Thanks, Laurel! Was fun to take this prompt (which I also thought was dead in the water, or at least the biggest uphill battle of the five) and just run with it in a weird direction. Very glad this nonstandard format worked for you - I had my doubts when writing it. Oh, and welcome back! Your presence has been missed. Hope to see a new story from you in the (near) future.

Reply

Laurel Hanson
22:33 May 27, 2023

Oh my word, I seriously just figured out what those little triangles next to the icon were for. Jeez Louise. I think I did that right anyway.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kelsey H
10:45 May 27, 2023

Congrats Zack, hope you are celebrating your (counts...)5th win! Great achievement and so well deserved! I love how you pulled this off, its such a creative idea to use the quiz as the story format. I feel like this kind of thing is hard not to just veer into being all about the gimmick, but instead the further it got into it the more it became about the story. I'm impressed by how much of a picture and background you can create just with a bunch of single sentences, some of which are directly related and some being metaphors, and yet we can...

Reply

Zack Powell
15:43 May 27, 2023

Thanks as always, Kelsey, and I'm glad the format worked for you. Had a lot of fun writing this, though I was desperately afraid it would come across as gimmicky. Happy to hear the portrait of this woman's crumbling life trumped that. I appreciate the shoutout of question 11. I personally think those three answers are the crux of the story for this character, and I love your interpretation of that sentiment being universal (which I hadn't even considered). And it's nice to hear this came across as "effortless seeming." This was one of the...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Dimitra M.
10:07 May 27, 2023

I really like your story, something in it reminds me of Palahniuk's style: somehow bitter and funny at the same time... Well done ! :)

Reply

Zack Powell
14:26 May 27, 2023

I'm a big Palahniuk fan, so that comparison is high praise, Dimitra! Thanks for the read and the lovely comment.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Charlotte Kelley
04:30 May 27, 2023

This is absolutely brilliant! Such an interesting use of a unique format. Congrats on the win!!

Reply

Zack Powell
05:21 May 27, 2023

Thank you very much, Charlotte!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.