Gilbert Einstein awoke to the smell of breakfast simmering in the kitchen. His stomach growled with hunger, but he didn’t go downstairs immediately. I’m forgetting something, he thought. But as much as he tried, Gilbert couldn’t recall what it was, so he jumped out of bed, got dressed and made a mad dash downstairs. “Good morning, Mom,” he cried out. “What’s cooking?”
“Eggs and bacon, Gilbert, or should I call you Gee?”
Since the first day of school, Gilbert had been called Gee Einstein by everyone in his class, including his teacher, and now it seems his mother had heard the news. “Whatever you want, Mom. I’m happy either way.”
She placed a plate of bacon and eggs on the table, next to a glass of orange juice. “Eat up, Gilbert. You’ve got a busy day ahead of you.”
Secretly, Gilbert was relieved to hear his mother’s choice. Though he didn’t mind hearing himself being called Gee or Gee Einstein by anyone at school, it felt good knowing he would come home and be called by his real name. After wolfing down his breakfast and clearing the table, Gilbert ran out the door calling back to his mother, “Got to catch the bus, Mom. See you later.” And like that, he was gone.
By the time Gilbert reached the bus stop, he found the bus was already waiting for him. So, without hesitating, he hopped in the open door and sat in the first seat he could find. When he looked to see who he was sitting with, he found Sally Green in the seat next to him.
Gee Einstein, couldn’t you cut the time any closer?” Sally sarcastically replied. “I hope you’re better on the spelling test tomorrow than you are at getting on the bus.”
It was as if the lights were turned on in Gilbert’s head. That’s what I forgot. Gilbert’s heart sank and he wailed, “The spelling test is tomorrow? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Weren’t you listening to the teacher, Gee? Just before we got out of class, yesterday, she told us she would hand out a list of twenty spelling words today and we would be taking the test tomorrow.”
Sally’s dire warning rang like a fire drill bell in Gilbert’s head, for he knew spelling was his one weakness.
What am I going to do, he thought? There’s no way I can learn to spell so many words in one day. He thought about studying as soon as he got home, but there was one problem. There’s going to be an after school special on TV that I really wanted to watch. Should I skip it and study for the test? He knew there was no way he was going to do that. I can study after supper.
So, Gilbert went to school and sure enough, at the end of the day, the teacher handed a list of twenty words to each of the students. As soon as Gilbert got his, he stuffed it in his backpack and went directly home.
For a moment, he thought skipping TV and study his spelling, but that thought quickly dispersed, and he turned on the TV to begin watching the after school special. There, he sat until his mother called him to dinner.
As they sat around the table, Gilbert’s mother spoke. “I have a surprise for you, Gilbert. I went to the store and bought that video you wanted so much.”
Filled with excitement, Gilbert blurted out, “Really? You bought the Buzz Lightyear DVD for me? Thanks, Mom! Can I watch it tonight?”
Gilbert’s mother smiled. “Well, if you don’t have anything else to do, I don’t see why not.”
The thought of the upcoming spelling test lingered in Gilbert’s mind. I really need to study for that test, he thought. If I don’t do well on it, the other kids won’t let me forget.
Since the first day of school, Gilbert’s classmates picked on him for having the last name of Einstein. But for the last couple weeks, they seemed to have forgotten him and moved on to other distractions. He was afraid if he failed the test, they would pounce on him again.
But I really want to see the movie, he thought. The image of the sheet of paper with twenty spelling words entered his mind. What should I do? The movie or study? Taking a deep breath, he made his decision. “I’m finished eating, Mom. Can I watch the movie now?” And with that, Gilbert found himself in front of the TV until it was bedtime.
Later that night, as Gilbert lied in bed, he began to dwell on the decisions he made today. Maybe I should have watched the movie later. I could have seen that anytime, he thought. But the spelling test is still tomorrow. He glanced at his unopened backpack, then at the poster of Albert Einstein on his wall. What do you think, Uncle Albert? Do I have time to study now?
It was no surprise to Gilbert when Uncle Albert didn’t answer, so he decided for himself. Grabbing his backpack, he unzipped it and pulled out the spelling words. I’ve got all night to learn these words. With a little luck I should be able to ace that test tomorrow. Delighted with his plan, Gilbert began reciting the words on the list. “Dog, D-O-G. Cat, C-A-T. Cow, C-O-W…
Time dragged on and Gilbert nodded off several times. Still, he forced himself to stay awake and continued to study. Easy, E-A-S-Y. House, H-O-U-S-E…
Gilbert was abruptly awakened by his mother’s voice. “Hurry up, Gilbert. The bus will be here shortly.”
Looking at the clock, Gilbert realized of how little time he had. Driving himself into high gear, he jumped into his clothes, ran to the kitchen, and out the door. As he neared the street corner, his jaw dropped as he spotted the school bus driving away. Too late, he thought. Now I have to ask Mom to take me to school.
As Gilbert’s mother drove him to school, Gilbert could barely keep his eyes open. I’m so sleepy, he thought. How can I take the test? I can’t even remember what the words are, not to mention even how to spell them. Maybe if Mom drives slow enough, it’ll be too late for me to take the test, then I won’t have to worry about it.
Unfortunately for Gilbert, it wasn’t his lucky day. His mother arrived on time and Gilbert was sitting in the class, just as attendance was being taken. “Okay,” his teacher cried out. “Clear off your desks. We’re going to take the spelling test now.” She handed out blank papers to everyone and began to recite the spelling words. As she did so, everyone wrote down the answers, except for Gilbert. After he heard each word, he stumbled and faltered, and found himself struggling with even the simplest of words. After the teacher recited the last spelling word, the ordeal was over.
Everyone traded their test papers and began to score them. As Gilbert heard the correct spelling for the first word, he groaned to himself. How could I misspell Cat, he thought? And the list went on. When the corrected tests were returned, Gilbert was pleasantly surprised to see he did as well as he did. Fifty-five was better than zero.
But the rest of the children thought differently. “Gee Einstein, shouldn’t you have done better than that?” or “Gee whiz, Gee, what’s wrong with you?”
But Gilbert was too tired to be phased by their remarks. All he wanted to do was go home and sleep and when school finally let out, that’s exactly what he did. As soon as he got home, Gilbert jumped into bed and fell asleep.
It wasn’t until suppertime when his mother stirred him from his sleep. “Are you feeling well, son? It’s not like you to sleep so much.”
“I’m fine, Mother,” he said. Then he told her what happened the night before. The scolding he received was no surprise to him, but beyond that, there was no further punishment.
“I think staying awake for so long is enough punishment for one day,” his mother chided him. After supper, you’ll go to your room and get some sleep.”
There was no argument from him. After supper, and without changing onto his pajamas, he jumped into bed and looked at his poster. “Good night, Uncle Albert. I don’t know how you did it, but I know it wasn’t when you were supposed to be sleeping.”
Gilbert closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep. That night, he dreamed about Einstein and how he changed the world with his eyes wide opened.