'Twas the Please that Caught My Memory
Rose Macready sits at her desk, thumbing through the dozens of packets that have continuously passed through her hands ever since the college had opened up the application process. Being the head of the department, she thankfully doesn't have to deal with the thousands of people trying to get in, but even so, trying to figure out which student is worthy of entering the freshman class at Dartmouth, when they're all outstanding, can get quite taxing.
They all tend to run together—though she won't admit that to anyone—the names and statistics all vying for her attention. She's set a few aside already, deciding they'll make the cut, and moves on to the next application. Usually, she doesn't spend much time on the name itself, since truthfully that's the aspect she'd only need to pay mind to when addressing an acceptance envelope, but as she glances at the application in her hand, she's struck dumb, so to speak.
For right there, in neat, but definitively male (and shaky?) handwriting, is the name "Dean Winchester." Underneath it is an address that she can't be bothered to check. She simply stares blankly at the nomenclature for a good minute, thinking it must be a mistake, that there's certainly more than one Dean Winchester in the world, but somehow knowing that that's not the case here. Unsure how to proceed, she puts her pencil behind her ear, and thinks back one year ago, thinks back to Truman High School, class of '98…
On the top of his paper is scrawled a hesitant "F," the red pen almost but not entirely obscuring the lazily written "Dean Winchester" in the upper right-hand corner. There's a note off to the side, in the same red pen, that dictates "See me." It's the note that every student dreads, the one that'll produce only looks of pity and contention, ending with the student's promise of trying harder, most of the time resulting in the same rut as before.
Dean would blow it off, but it's not like they're on a hunt, and he knows Sam would just get back to the motel and do homework, while John works some more on deciphering what it was that killed Mary, while Dean twiddled his thumbs, so why not? He quickly dials John's cell phone number and tells him in a bored tone that he has to stay after. John tries to sound disappointed, but Dean knows all he's really doing is poring over papers, and doesn't really register Dean's words.
The seventh and final class period ends, the bell hurrying people out of their rooms in a rush to go back home, or talk to friends, or whatever else it is that normal kids do; Dean doesn't really know, to be honest. As everyone files out of Mrs. Macready's class, Dean stays behind, making sure his Bowie is still stuffed out of sight in his pocket, and drags himself up to the front, hoisting himself up on a desk across from hers.
"Dean," she says with a pause in her voice, coming around the side of her own desk to lean against the side closest to Dean. "I'd like to talk with you about your work."
"Kick me outta class, if you want," Dean says with a shrug, his back stiffening ever so slightly.
She gives him a smile with undertones he can't really pick out, and then reaches behind her, shuffling through a pile of reports, choosing one, and then handing it to Dean. "It's the funniest thing," she remarks shrewdly. "I found this under my door the other day. No name, but had a certain…ring to it."
Dean glances down, looks at the neatly typed print, and clenches his jaw. "What's it gotta do with me?" he asks, his hands gripping the paper a little tighter. "Don't see anything."
Mrs. Macready clasps her hands in front of her, looking at Dean with a mixture of fondness, confusion, and sadness. "Dean, let's stop with the façades here," she remarks sternly. "I've been a teacher for twenty years. I know how to identify what work is done by whom. I think you know where this is going."
Dean swallows, his booted foot giving a minute twitch. "Look—"
"Dean, why do you do this to yourself?" she interrupts, her dark blue eyes piercing. "You can't kid me. Here is what I know: I know this paper is yours, and I know it's the best one I've gotten in a very, very long time of assigning this. I know the one you turned in with your name is one you tried to make bad. I know you deliberately fail your assignments, and yet ace every test I hand out, and submit two papers, one which is deserving of more than an A, and one that I might as well use as fire tinder."
She stops, and sighs. "I want to know why you do this. Why do you want to look like you're bound for prison? With this kind of work…you could be instead bound for Dartmouth. I don't understand, Dean. What is the point of officially submitting assignments that, despite any tests you may score high on, will undoubtedly cause your grade to fail?"
"I got better things to do," Dean says gruffly, tossing the paper on his teacher's desk and starting to walk away.
Not intending to have any of that, and long since having stopped being afraid of threatening students, Mrs. Macready gracefully steps in front of Dean, staring firmly at him, her glare enough to make Dean feel like he isn't sixty or seventy pounds heavier and a good ten inches taller than her. Her unspoken order clear, Dean takes a seat on the top of the desk again, watching as her heels click-clack over to her previous position as well.
"Does it have to do with your brother?" she asks, appraising her sometimes-best-sometimes-worst pupil. Dean's eyes narrow at the mention of Sam. "He's a very bright boy, Mr. Wyatt speaks quite highly of him. Is it because of him you desire to make yourself look like a delinquent with no brains and no future?"
"It ain't because'a Sam," Dean replies harshly, realizing belatedly he'd basically just confirmed Mrs. Macready's suspicions of the fantastic papers being Dean's. She tilts her head, prompting Dean to continue. "Look, I don't have a future, I know that. What's the damn point of making myself look good?"
Mrs. Macready frowns, the utter certainty in Dean's voice worrying to her. "Then why try so hard?" she asks, referring to the, in effect, second persona he submitted. "If you think you don't have a future, why not actually do badly?"
Dean can't respond for more than a few moments, and then runs a hand through his short hair, and then dropping back on his denim-clad thigh. "I dunno," he says, his gaze downcast, and Mrs. Macready believes that, to an extent, he really doesn't.
"You want me to tell you what I think?" Mrs. Macready says quietly, with her voice pulling Dean's green eyes up to hers. He doesn't answer, but she takes it as concession anyway. "I think you do want to do well. I can tell, and not just from your work, that you're a very smart young man, Dean. You've got a good head on your shoulders, and you obviously care about your brother, and your father.
"But I think that's a fault of yours. You want Sam to do well, and not be encumbered by yourself. At the same time, though, you don't want to completely give in to the personality you show, that personality being that you simply don't care about anything involving education. So you try and juggle the two, and it seems to be working…just not for your real self. How am I doing so far?"
"What do you want me to say?" Dean asks, once again indirectly confirming what Mrs. Macready had envisioned. "I'm not gonna cry, if that's what you're looking for."
Mrs. Macready chuckles, and lays her hand gently on Dean's tensed forearm. He looks at the hand like it's simultaneously offensive and something completely unfamiliar to him. "I'm not," she says calmly. "I'd just like to find out why it is you think you're somehow undeserving of attending higher education, even if you don't believe you have a future to go along with it."
For a moment, she's afraid Dean will close off for the umpteenth time, brush away her hand and straighten his posture within his worn leather jacket, go all James Dean's apprentice on her. But he reneges at the last minute. "I don't want to be disappointed again," he answers depressingly, hanging his head again. "My life's always been disappointment, and I figure I might 's well not add this to the list."
"Then why the astounding accomplishments you turn in?" Mrs. Macready inquires. "If you don't have any plan to further them?"
Dean gives her a humorless half-smile. "Little masochistic pride, I guess," he answers offhandedly. He glances up at the clock briefly, and fears if he doesn't leave now, he won't necessarily want to, get dragged into whatever his teacher's selling quite successfully. "Listen, I have to go…"
"Dean, wait," Mrs. Macready halts, standing up as Dean does. "At least consider it, will you? Just to try. Please?"
He doesn't answer her, but she's nearly a hundred percent sure that in that silence bore an agreement. "See you tomorrow, Mrs. Macready."
Dean's almost out the door before her voice makes him turn around once more. "Oh, and Dean?" she remarks placidly, gesturing to the somewhat crinkled paper Dean had tossed on her desk. "Make it easier on the both of us—just turn in your good work. I'll fake the F, if it's what you truly, truly want, but how about we save trees, hmm?"
She manages to make him laugh lowly, a little, and he nods. "Thanks," he says by way of departure, closing the door softly as he exits, leaving his instructor to sigh deeply, admiring how Dean had, however self-deprecatingly, managed to juggle two separate lives within the same person, the same school, the same family.
Jostling herself out of the past, Rose looks again at Dean's application, running through the details and realizing none of it really surprises her. In spite of the impressive amount of different schools he'd amassed in the seven months that had remained of his senior year, Dean had still maintained the level of work she'd seen when she'd been his teacher, even gotten a 1500 on the SAT. She wonders if he'd gone through the same routine with his other ones, and thinks, sadly, that he had.
Knowing that Dean would probably want her to fake an F on this paper, too, regardless of that he'd submitted it in the first place, Rose smiles to herself, and puts it on the top of the pile for shoo-ins to her university, the applicants that would shortly receive an acceptance letter.
She is also fully aware that Dartmouth won't be receiving a reply from Dean Winchester.