Dad has promised me a new watch, one that shows not only the time and the date, but also has a stop watch with a memory, an alarm, a timer–it’s truly an amazing piece of engineering. All I have to do is make it to the final round, advancing to the national level.
I’m not sure I even really want the watch. The best thing about all this attention is that mom and dad sit in the audience, actually sit next to each other. I’ve seen more of dad in the past weekend than all of my visitation weekends combined last month.
The watch is good incentive, but I’ve got another: if I make it to Washington, mom and dad might, at some point, actually like sitting next to each. Maybe they’ll even stay in the same hotel room.
This morning while I sip on a cappuccino and dad smokes his wake-up cigarette, I broach this subject.
“Dad, why can’t you stay with me and mom in our room? It’s just two nights.”
He practically chokes on his smoke.
“Sam, I don’t think your ma would go for that,” he answers deflecting the blame to mom, and I know that even though he doesn’t realize it, he’s truthfully answered my question.
Other hopes hinge on making it to the final round. Gail Woodard has hinted that she might go out with a guy who’s been to “our nation’s capital”–that’s what she calls it. It’s a long way from Columbus, Ohio. The next few seconds will seal it all. If I don’t choke.
My body is a reservoir of sweat. Moisture collects on my upper lip in little droplets. I hope the cameras from the local news station, WVTC, can’t see them. The sweat collects around my waist, pooling at the base of my back. I bet you can see the dark blue sweat stains in the armpits of my new dress shirt. Why do they make these lights so bright?
Though I can’t see them, I know mom and dad watch from the expanse of parents and teachers beyond the blinding glare of lights. I wonder if they hold hands, supporting each other at this, the pinnacle of their only child’s academic career. It seems a lot to hope for, but with Nia Dickerson standing next to me, all other contestants slowly, painstakingly eliminated, a kid can hope. And suddenly, I hear my name.
“Samuel?” It repeats, and it’s the voice of one of the judges. In my daydreaming, I’ve missed something important: it’s my turn.
“May I have the definition?” I have no idea what the word is. My voice is shaky. I hope they can’t hear it. The sweat has increased exponentially. I hope they can’t see it. I may drown here, in front of everyone.
“Certainly,” the disembodied voice answers, “Tesseract: the generalization of a cube to four dimensions. Tesseract.”
It’s time to finish this, and so I start: “T-E-S . . .”