"Angela!" Tony yelled as he practical ran through the front door. "Angela!" He put down his briefcase on the front table and quickly stripped off his leather jacket, hanging it on the coat hook.
Panic could be heard in her voice, as she ran out of the study. "Oh, my gosh! What's wrong? Is somebody hurt? Is the house on fire?"
"Better!" Tony grabbed her hand and lead her over to the couch.
"You won a million dollars!
"Better!" He leaned in and kissed his beautiful wife. I have to tell you what happened on campus.
"Did you get tenured?"
"I don't understand." She began searching for some spark of sanity in her husband's eyes. She had known him to go off the deep end every once in a while, but this looked like sheer lunacy. "Tony, why don't you take a deep breath and tell me what happened."
"Okay. Fine. Well it all started when…"
"Professor Micelli?" The Dean of the History Department said as he tapped on Tony's open office door.
"Yes, Sir." He said rising from his seat to greet his guest. "Dean Gage, how can help you?"
"I wondered if you might help me out for a couple of hours. I'm sure you know Professor Lindain left yesterday for mid-term break.?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sure she's relaxing under an umbrella on Cocoa Beach about now."
"Well, I'm sure she didn't count on her T.A.'s wife going into labor today. Justin left a few minutes ago to meet his wife at the hospital. I was just wondering if. . "
"If I could supervise Professor Lindain's next mid-term exam?"
Tony looked down at his watch, collected a stack of his own mid-terms to be graded and smiled at the Dean. "Hudspeth Hall right?"
By the time Tony arrived at the classroom, the students were already seated. He quickly glanced around the room and guessed there were at least fifty students in the class. He put everything down on the front desk and grabbed the single sheet mid-term stack from the top of his pile. Without making eye contact with any one in particular, he quickly passed out ten sheets to each person in the front row.
"Hello, my name is Professor Micelli. I'm pinch hitting for your T.A., Justin, whose wife just went into labor. Good news is she's doing well. Bad news is you've still got to take the test." When no one laughed, Tony continued his instructions. "You've got an hour. Ten questions. Try to answer them in the space provided. Please put everything else away. Good Luck. You may begin."
As the students began taking the test, Tony looked over Professor Lindain's exam. He hadn't even thought to ask which of her classes he'd be covering. Medieval History 302 was typed in the top right corner. Junior level class. Those were the days, he thought to himself, so happy his days on the other side of the desk were over. He happily realized that he remembered most of the answers to her questions and almost wanted to pat himself on the back.
As he gave a little smirk, he felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket. Quickly pulling it out and flipping it open, he saw the home number flash on the Caller ID. Looking over at the students, he quickly walked out the door to answer the call.
"Hello?" He said whispering.
"Hey, Son-in-Law. Where do you keep the toilet paper?" Mona asked in complete seriousness.
"You're calling about that right now? I'm in the middle of a class. I told you, Mon' only call me between noon and four if its an emergency."
"It is an emergency. I'm out of toilet paper in my apartment and I need a few refills."
"Fine. Closet in the hall. Second shelf from the floor. I gotta go, I'm in the middle of a class."
"Hey, what's for dinner?"
As he hung up, he could hear papers being shuffled and backpack zippers in the classroom. He knew all too well what that sound meant during a closed book test. Cheaters. He was anxious to catch someone in the act, but the moment before he could take the next step back into the room, he heard a chair scoot back and a throat being cleared.
With a nervousness in his voice, the young man said, "Hey guys. I know that we've all had a hard time this semester. Everyone is stressed trying to make good grades. Trying to keep scholarships and trying to keep jobs. I'm working 18 hours a week right now. I'm taking 18 hours this semester myself. I know from experience that keeping up my grades with this class and all the others has been rough. I've spent every spare moment I've had in the last two days studying for this test. And I'm going to be honest with you." The young man paused for a moment and took in a deep breath. As he started to speak again, Tony could tell that all the fear and doubt had left him. "I'm not going to throw away my chance to be able to look at myself in the mirror every day with a clear conscience, by cheating. If I pass this test, it'll be because I tried the best I could. Not because I cheated. You might hate me, but I'm not going to let any of you lose sleep over this, either. I promise right now, I will be the first one to turn any of you in that I see cheating."
As Tony finished the retelling of the young man's speech, he saw a single tear come down Angela's cheek. As she tried to find the words to express what she was thinking, all that came out was, "That boy's mother must be really proud of him."
"She is, Angela."
"His mother is you." Tony brushed the tear from Angela's cheek and continued the story. "I smiled for a moment outside the door. I knew that voice anywhere. When I first walked into the class, I hadn't seen him. I didn't want to embarrass him any more than I'm sure he already was, so I thought I'd take in another moment before I walked back in the door. In that instant, I could hear all the extra papers getting put back and all the back packs getting zipped up. When I came back in the class, I pretended not to have heard anything. But I could tell the room felt different. You'd expect the kids to be mad at him for saying he'd snitch, but as I looked around the room, everyone was smiling. It was almost like everyone was more determined to do a great job. I tell you Angela, I have never been more proud of our son in my whole life."
Tony could see Angela was on verge of a tearful gusher. He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and began once again to wipe her tears.
With a smile on his lips, he took his crying wife in his arms. "I told you it was "better."
Inspired by a true story from the life of J. Ballard Washburn
recounted in "Simplify" by Carolyn J. Rasmus
copyright 2007 Deseret Book