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I stand in this hallway looking towards this door. I am afraid of what’s on the other side. I know he will say “Come in, Danna,” when he hears me knock. I’m scared. He is in there lying on his bed with the television on. I can hear the newscaster talking about Nikita Khrushchev’s upcoming summit meeting with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I don’t know what that means. I am twelve, and I don’t care.

I don’t want him to yell at me. I know he will. I only want to ask a few questions. I’m stuck on my homework assignment and can’t find the answers to the problems. He will know the answers, but he won’t give them to me. He will say, “Look it up in the Book of Knowledge.”

I’m lazy. I know that because he told me so. And I have grades to prove it. He will tell me that it’s for my own good to look things up instead of getting the answers from him. He will ask me what I did today besides go to school and work on my homework. He’ll say, “How much exercise did you get?” and “Did you read the newspaper?” He knows I didn’t do either, and he will punish me.

Maybe I should just go to bed and tell my teacher tomorrow that I wasn’t feeling well and fell asleep by accident and didn’t have time to finish my homework. She will be angry. I want her to think I am smart like the rest of the kids. Sometimes I even raise my hand when I don’t know the answer to her question so she will think I’m contributing. She will call on me because she is delighted to see me participate. I will tell her I had an unrelated question. The kids will laugh.

My report card is always disastrous. It is filled with check marks on the right side that tell my father that I wasn’t paying attention and that I talked when I was supposed to be listening and that I didn’t get down to work on time. My teacher stiffens her index finger and taps my head hard while saying “Get down to work and stop talking to your neighbors.” It hurts me. The left side of my report card is filled with Cs except for the As in spelling and P.E. and the Ds in math and science.

I am very ashamed of my poor grades. I can’t pay attention. I can’t listen. I can’t comprehend. The night before the tests I try to read the chapters in the book, but I can’t make sense of anything because I don’t take notes in class and never open my books. On the day of the test I copy the answers from the test paper of the girl sitting next to me and glance down at my lap where I keep my cheat notes.

But I knock now anyway. I am even more frightened when I hear his voice telling me to come in. I slowly open the door and watch his eyes still on the newspaper he holds up to his face as I walk towards the end of his bed. He asks, “What is it that you want, Danna?” I say, “I — I — I can’t figure out the answer to this question, dad.” He tells me to look it up in The Book of Knowledge. I turn around to walk out but not before he says, “Danna, how much exercise did you get today?” and “When was the last time you read a newspaper?” I turn to say, “I didn’t, dad,” but he’s not waiting for my answer and shakes his head with disgust and says, “Go to your room” and “What’s the matter with you?”

You can find more stories by Danna Colman here.

Writer and copyeditor. “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about” ~ J. Wright

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