My hands shake and I can feel the bags growing under my eyes by the second. I go over my answers once, then twice, then check the bubbles to see if they are filled in correctly. Sighing, I see that the bubbles match the correct answers on my test and look up to see that there are still five minutes left. I start to check my answers again before my eyes start to blur over, and all I see are degrees and multiplication signs.
I give up! I never want to hear SOH CAH TOA again! I think. My chair makes a satisfying honk as I scoot it away from my desk. I practically toss my test and the formula sheet onto Mr. Matthew’s desk, right next to his giant Tupperware.
“Thank you Callie,” Mr. Matthew says in his smooth, deep voice that makes the other girls swoon. It used to make me swoon too, until I became immune.
I grunt and turn out of the classroom. I feel my muscles relax and the hairs on my neck go back to their lazy positions. This is the second time this semester that I’m leaving a math test with actual feelings of confidence. The first time I took one of Mr. Matthew’s tests, I was put at ease by his youth and Crest commercial worthy grin. So was everybody else, that is, until we got our marks back. A twenty six percent smacked me in the face and I never looked at Mr. Matthew the same way again. His tests were much too difficult. To the other girls he was just, “extra smart and challenging!” But for me, he went from a transcendent leader who emanates beauty, to a “good teacher”.
“Ugh,” I hear a tidbit of the conversation behind me, “I can’t believe I forgot to put my calculator in degree mode for half the test! I had to start over and I was so stressed.”
Degree mode, I think as my stomach sinks to my toes. But then I remember that I put my calculator on degree mode before entering the classroom and my stomach returns to its rightful place. But then I remember that my calculator was reset at the door of the classroom because the teachers do that before every test.
“No!” I squeak as I pull it out.
Radian Mode my calculator’s pixelated screen chuckles at me. This means that all of my calculations were incorrect. I’m pretty sure that my stomach is patting my toes again as I run back into the classroom, but the world is spinning too much for me to care.
“Back so soon?” Grins Mr. Matthew when I run into him, “I knew you loved math all along.”
“No!” I set him straight, “I just need to fix some mistakes on my test.” The whole test, I think.
“Well can it be fixed in…” Mr. Matthew glances at the clock, “The two minutes before time is up?”
I think of all the twenty six calculations I did wrong, “Sure, if you multiply that by ten!” I even used the correct mathematical term.
Mr. Matthew laughs and hands my test back, “A minute and forty seconds and we’ll see.”
I manage to complete a total of two questions before the timer beeps and Mr. Matthew collects all the tests. He collects mine last: a shrimpy attempt at kindness.
I am not pleased when I get my results the next day.
Thirteen percent. It was expected, but really? Thir-teeen per-CENT. That’s it. I’m done. I’m dead. No mark I get on the final will redeem the sickle wound this trigonometry test has given my grades. I wheeze as angina spreads throughout my chest.
“Hey Callie,” says Mr. Matthew, kneeling down next to me, “I think you left your calculator on radian mode so-”
“I know that!” I hiss, and Mr. Matthew retreats a bit. “You have to let me retake this! Please.”
“I’m sorry Callie, but you already took a retest this semester. But there’s always summer school.”
That’s right. I was so confident that I knew trigonometry, that I cashed in my one retest for another unit. It raised my grade from 41 to 42 percent. Pathetic.
“My family’s going to Austria this summer, I can’t.”
“You could always just watch the Sound of Music,” Mr. Matthew chuckles and walks away.
Doesn’t this man have any sympathy?! What kind of person says that? Well certainly not a “good math teacher”. I now officially see Mr. Matthew as just mediocre. Not a teacher, and certainly not a good one. Just mediocre.
When I calm down a bit the next day, I try to reason with Mr. Matthew.
“May I please retake this test, sir? It means a lot to me and I know what I did wrong,” I say sweetly, looking into his mediocre eyes.
Mr. Matthew sighs, “Callie. You already know the answer to that. You already took a retest and that’s it.”
“Can’t that retest be undone? It only improved my grade by one percent!”
“That can’t be done, Callie. And besides, there’s always summer school.”
“We’re going to Austria!” I screech.
“Hey now!” Mr. Matthew says, chuckling, “I’m the teacher. Only I can raise my voice.”
“Oh really? Because you’re sure not acting like one.” After a little bit of silence I play another card, “Okay Mr. Matthew. I’ll give you thirty nine dollars for a retest,” I pull out my wallet.
Mr. Matthew throws his head back and guffaws and I get a glimpse of his mediocre collarbone.
“Oh no!” he laughs, “What will I ever do without a whole thirty nine bucks, Callie?”
“A whole lot less than you think!” I say, storming out of the room. I can still hear his mediocre laughter floating after me as I stomp down the halls. I make up my mind to never speak to Mr. Matthew again.
I follow through with my plan very well. When Mr. Matthew greets me in the hallway, I look through him. When he offers me diploma exam help, I turn away and go to the other math teacher. Even when he realizes that I’m ignoring him in a massive display of immaturity, and joins me for lunch, I pretend not to notice him.
“Callie,” Mr. Matthew sighs, “You know, ignoring me won’t help things. Don’t you want to enjoy your last few weeks with me?” He chuckles.
I face forward and continue my lunch.
“Look, I’m very sorry this happened, but I wrote it very clearly on the board, ‘put your calculator in degree mode’!”
What makes you think I look at the board?! I think, scrolling through my phone.
“I’ll tell you what,” Mr. Matthew bargains, refusing to give up, “I’ll get you a thirteen percent discount for your summer classes. Get it? Because you got a thirteen on your test?” He begins to laugh.
I slurp my pasta with so much rage, a noodle flies up and smacks my eye. Mr. Matthew laughs harder. At least have some sympathy! I think. Now I’ll be blind and uneducated!
As if he read my mind, Mr. Matthew abruptly stops giggling and puts his arm around my shoulder. Even though he does this in a friendly teacher way, thick jealousy buzzes around us.
“Callie,” Mr. Matthew makes his voice really low and sweet, which makes me even angrier. It’s like he knows how gorgeous he is and is deliberately taking advantage of my weak, teenage girl brain.
“I’m so sorry this happened,” he continues, “Really. Maybe we can work something out?”
I refuse to look at his mediocre face. I refuse to look at his mediocre face. I refuse to look at his mediocre face. I tell myself, and it almost works, but then he continues.
“And also,” Mr. Matthew coughs, “I’m sorry for laughing at you. I should have been more understanding.”
I can’t do it! I turn and look right into Mr. Matthew’s dazzling eyes and a wave of pubescent lust washes over me. No man who looks this beautiful while apologizing can be titled mediocre. His hair looks as soft and pure as a lamb’s wool and his jawline is so majestic that I relent.
“I-” I say before, I’m rudely interrupted by the Head of Discipline and his megaphone.
“EMERGENCY MEETING IN THE AUDITORIUM NOW,” He bellows.
Everyone mutters and shuffles to the auditorium. When we get there, we learn that there is a thief within our walls. Somebody has been stealing Mr. Rick’s cookies, which he bakes to reward his third grade class. This has happened five times now, and whoever is the thief will be severely punished. Everyone gaspes or murmurs, except for Mr. Matthew. His nonchalant yawn really stands out in the crowd.
I sit around for two hours after school, and once most people leave I commence my plan. Mr. Matthew walks about twenty five feet in front of me, hurrying to his classroom with his hood on. I hide behind a corner and watch him, waiting for him to slip back out. While I wait, I whip out my phone. After a minute, Mr. Matthew sneaks out of his room, and slips his large Tupperware container into his a black bag. I press record on my phone and tip toe after him. Please let him be going to Mr. Rick’s classroom, I pray. Mr. Matthew seems to be heading in the right direction, but then he suddenly ducks into the janitor’s closet.
When he returns, he’s wearing a ski mask and holding a plunger in one hand, and some weird wooden thing with elastic attached in the other. Without warning, he begins to sprint down the halls, into the grade three section. Finally, Mr. Matthew stops in Mr. Rick’s classroom and begins his task.
Mr. Matthew takes the odd wooden thing and puts the plunger into the elastic. He’s made a bow and arrow, I realize with confusion. After releasing the plunger onto the security camera, Mr. Matthew takes off his mask and walks towards the cookies. I hold my phone up as he stuffs the batch into his Tupperware. The cookies that don’t fit in the container get shoved into his mouth. A giggle escapes my lips, causing Mr. Matthew to twirl around in a manner that puts him at risk for whiplash.
“Ma-ligh!” Mr. Matthew exclaims. I’m pretty sure he said Callie, so I’m just going to go with that.
“Don’t just greet me, Mr. Matthew,” I say sneakily. “Greet Mr. Rick and everyone who’s going to see this video once I send it out.”
“Moogh!” He protests. After chewing for a bit he continues, “No! Please delete that, Callie.”
“Sure! Under two conditions.”
Mr. Matthew groans. So I continue.
“First, you share some of those with me. Second, you let me retake my trigonometry test!”
He sighs and gives me some of his feast. Then, probably out of guilt, he puts the rest of the cookies back and stomps to his classroom. After I delete the scandal, Mr. Matthew schedules a retest for me on Monday.
When Mr. Matthew hands my second trig test back on Tuesday, I am pleased to find an 89 percent boasting at the top of the page. I look directly into Mr. Matthew’s eyes and thank him profusely for the opportunity to raise my mark. He forces out some praise for my good grade with a glare hiding underneath his grin.
This time, I look at Mr. Matthew’s face and I don’t feel anything. Any person - no matter what they look like - that steals cookies from third graders is undeserving of a positive title. The best they are, is mediocre.