“Are you taking Algebra next year?” Will asked Rich as they walked along the downtown city street.
“Yeah,” Rich said confidently.
“Do you think you can handle it?” Tom asked with a concerned wrinkled brow.
“Sure, why do you ask?” Rich said.
“I know you had a hard time in math,” Tom said as if concerned. “And if algebra is harder than math; you know what I mean.”
Rich didn’t know what to say. He felt as though being interrogated or interviewed for acceptance into a fraternity. “Why this sudden interest. If they grade on the curve I’ll bring the curve down and that’s good for everybody. You should pray I’m in your class. I may not be good at math, but I can apply it. Algebra is about finding the unknown. I just might find myself.”
There was a mild titter from them.
Will gripped Rich by the shoulder. “If you need some help, just let me know.”
“Thanks,” Rich said and supposed, in their own way, they were being charitable, but in another way, he felt they were telling him his place too.
“You’re not taking Latin are you?” Tom continued.
“French,” Rich said.
“Everybody in college prep takes Latin,” Tom said smugly.
“The Pope speaks Latin and Brigitte Bardot speaks French,” Rich raised his eyebrows up and down. “I’ll go with Bardot any day.”
“Seriously,” Tom said, “if you want to go to college you must take Latin.”
“Not if you go to college in France,” Rich concluded jesting.
“As if you’re going to college anywhere,” Will said, “you just made it out of the eighth grade and you failed in the fifth grade.” Will quieted quickly.
It leaked out. Although Rich knew he felt some shame for blurting it out, he was too conceited to apologize. Now Rich knew what they thought. No one said anything. Will’s comment was cruel but honest.
Rich began to wonder more and more, why they invited him to go to the movie. Was he there for the witty quips and laughs only?
They watched the movie, Taras Bulba with Yule Brenner and Tony Curtis. Rich found nothing humorous nor amusing, given his present state of mind.
After the movie, Tom used the phone at the ticket booth to call his mom. After calling he handed the phone to Rich.
“That’s okay.” Rich did not want to call a bar in their presence.
“Aren’t you going to call your parents?” Tom extended the phone closer.
“They know when to come,” Rich said. “They know when the movie is over.”
“That’s incredible!” Will said. “My mom and dad don’t know where I’m at half the time.”
Rich smiled. “But at least they know where you are the other half. You know ‘is the glass half empty or half full.’”
“What?” Will wrinkled his nose.
“You must pay more attention in boy’s guidance class,” Rich said.
“Paying attention!” Tom squawked. “You were too busy cuttin’ farts.”
They laughed and that relieved some tension Rich felt.
The three huddled beneath the marquee of the Sigma Theater shielding themselves from a drizzle. After fifteen minutes of teenage banter and a review of Taras Bulba, Tom’s mother pulled up in their black ’62 Chrysler. Tom and Will jumped into the car.
Tom’s mother rolled down her window, “Can we take you home?”
“No thanks, my mom and dad will be here any minute.”