Nick stared off into the distance trying not to think about going home. He held a crumpled test in his hand, concealing the big 'F' printed in red ink on the front. He rested his head on the table where everyone met for lunch. Daniel was the first one to see him.
"What's up with you man? You look like your dog just died. And you don't even have a dog", Daniel grinned his cheesy half smile, trying to cheer up his friend. When it didn't work he sat down next to him, "Alright, really. What's wrong?"
"I failed that chem test I had last week. It's the third test I failed this month. My dad's gonna kill me", Nick slammed the paper on the table.
"Is that it man? Don't show him the test. What's the big deal?"
"No, man. I have to show him the test. It's part of our agreement. C+ average or I go into the army, and I have to bring him any test that I fail. Man... Oh, man. He's gonna be so pissed, man."
"Hey, calm down. Calm down!", Daniel raised his voice to stop Nick from groaning, "Look, does your dad know you failed the test?"
"Does your dad know you had a test?"
"Then burn the damn thing. Stop freaking out!"
"I can't burn it. What if he finds out. Plus, he like, trusts me man. I don't know. I can't."
"Fine. Go home and get your butt roasted. I don't care"
"Shut up man, I don't want everybody to know I still...you know. It's embarassing, man"
"What's embarassing", Kim walked up behind her boyfriend, grabbing him by the waist and kissing his ear.
"Nick's supreme lack of testicles", Daniel flinched as Nick hit him in the stomach and stuffed his test into his backpack. He'd tell his dad after band practice.
5:46 "Nick can I talk to you for a moment"
It was 5:46 already. He could have sworn it was just 4:30 a minute ago, but sometimes Nick got so caught up in his drums that he completely lost track of time. He'd gone past band curfew again. He knew the lecture that was waiting upstairs. The argument was the same one they'd had a dozen times. Music vs school, c+ average, joining the army. Nick was so sick of it all.
"Dad, I really think that I could make it as a drummer"
"Nick, I really thought that I could walk on the moon, but, you just don't see any moon rocks around here, do you?"
"Thanks for the talk, Dad", he went to walk away as his father rose to his feet.
"Was that sarcasm?"
"No, sir. I just, I don't know..."
"Come here.", Nick whirled around and saw his father's angry face. He felt panick rising.
"No, I didn't mean no, I just..."
"Come here, Nick"
"No, wait, let me explain."
"Nicholas", Nick's father undid the belt around his waist, taking a step towards his son.
"Dad", the boy pleaded, stepping back instinctively. His father grabbed his wrist and brought the belt down on his thin green shorts. Nick hissed and bucked, but he knew better than to try and squeeze from the grip. His dad brought the belt down four more times, bringing tears to his son's eyes. He released the sore teenager and replaced his belt.
"Now look son. I will not tolerate any attitude from you, is that understood? And I will tolerate disobedience even less. When I tell you to come, you come, are we clear?"
"Yes, sir", Nick sniffled.
"Good... Look son, I just want you to keep your grades up. If you want to join the army, I want it to be a choice, not something I forced on you. But if you keep up the bad grades, that's where you're headed. I won't have you waste your life. What's your average now? I know you were struggling in chemistry."
Nick felt a slight twinge of guilt. When his dad was done lecturing and whipping, he was actually really cool. And he trusted Nick most of the time. But especially after feeling the belt, the teenager wasn't inclined to show his failed test right away. He's do it in the morning when he wasn't so sore.
"Chem's fine, Dad. I'm doing okay. Is it still cool if I go out with my friends"
"Sure, son. Come back at a reasonable hour, clear?"