Tony's Test Anxiety

By Chad Leigh Kluck on

The clock turned and twisted as it marked the passing seconds. Seconds at times an eternity but now spinning off the clock and into the drain near the fish tank. Drip, drip, drip went the seconds, down, down, down the drain. The fish, Neptune by name, mimicked the sound with his mouth as he watched Tony fumble over a test. Tick, tick, tick, drip, drip, drip. Time went by, Neptune watched, eyes bulging, surprised that Tony was failing.

Failing, falling, falling into fear, questions combined on the paper forming scrabbled messes of spaghetti and strings. Answers floated away from Tony as Neptune watched. Floating, floating into the air above Tony as balloons do at the fair when they release themselves to escape children carrying snow cones and corn dogs.

Neptune mocked Tony, hot under the collar with no answers in his mind.

Miss Peterson looked up from her desk, at the front of the class, gazing over the students whose pencils flowed with answers, but not Tony. Tony, lost in the back of the class. Tony, lost in arithmetic and jumbled up sentences. Any other day his pencil would be flowing, but not today, not today as his mind wasn’t in it.

Neptune laughed and his eyes were even bulgier than before.

Tony shifted in his seat, sweat coming down his neck and onto his back, his shirt sticking, clock ticking, sink dripping. Drip, drip, drip. Classmates had dared him to drink sixty seconds out of the fountain during recess. The basketball court was hot, he was sweating, mouth dry, face wet, water quenching. Sixty seconds, he could do it, gulp, gulp, gulp.

The heat of the sun made the water even cooler, tasted like rust, quenching the thirst, later ready to bust.

“Go! Go! GO!” the kids all screamed, water was flowing, Tony was drinking.

Minutes after recess, Neptune fed, kids seated, tests distributed. Numbers and decimals, fractions and percents flowed from the pencil in Tony’s hand. Around question six, Tony’s mind went a flutter, when his thoughts drifted from math to his bladder that the dare had filled with water all the wetter.

Tony shifted, his mind all a fluster, watching the clock, as it turned and twisted, seconds drifting away from the test into eternity, each tick marked a time of grief and pain, Tony had to go, go, go. Filled to the gills, he closed his eyes, think, think, think, finish the test. The sooner the better.

The clock ran, ticking all the while. Now the sink heckled Tony with a drip, drip, drip. Neptune smiled and wiggled in his water, splish, splash. Tony squirmed, sweating and bothered.