In Forest Hills, Queens, New York, halfway between the La Guardia and JFK airports, a teenage student was staring through a classroom window. Peter Benjamin Parker, like many teenagers before him, was bored by his science lesson. Instead he stared out across the patch of grass, watching the way the birds flew in the wind, the shape their wings took to propel them upwards. Peter wasn't knowledgeable enough to recognise the breed of birds – insects were more his area of interest. But there was enough in the physics of the bird movements to maintain his fascination.
Trees sat just beyond the fences that marked the edge of the school property, and several of the flock were already waiting. One by one, the flying birds reached their destination, but one continued to struggle against the gusts. Instead it landed – though Peter was too far distant to see the pain on its face, he had enough empathy to imagine it.
His teacher's voice drew him back into the room.
"Is there any chance of you joining us in the room, Mister Parker?"
Peter looked around, and realised in discomfort that attention was focused on him. Mr Edwards was stood only a few feet away, looking into him with stern, disapproving eyes, his stiff, unsmiling lips holding an even deeper sense of disapproval than normal.
"I've completed the work, sir."
"How can you have finished? I've not told you how yet."
The middle-aged teacher's tone was certain, clear, and superior.
"My Uncle Ben has taught me all of this, sir. I've been doing experiments like this with him for years."
Peter's tone was pleading, full of doubt.
"Oh? What PhD does your uncle have?"
As embarrassing as the attention of the classroom was, the implied insult to his uncle was the first thing Mr Edwards had said that made Peter angry. How dare he just blindly assume that Uncle Ben – a man Mr Edwards never met – didn't know what he was doing?
"We went through the textbooks sir, and several respected pop science books." Though he could hear the giggles of his classmates, Peter's eyes were locked on his interrogator - he was determined to show his teacher the appropriate respect. "I recognise the next part of the process, sir."
"So you think you're so smart that you can disrupt my lesson do you, Parker?"
That was a blatant distortion of what he'd been doing. Bored by an assignment that was beneath his ability, he worked quickly through the assignment and avoided drawing attention to himself.
As Peter felt his cheeks redden, he looked round the room. His classmates' faces were an equal mix of sympathy and amusement. Gwen Stacey winced as their eyes locked; Harry Osborn smirked – he was clearly enjoying the show.
"You can check my answers if you want, sir?"
Peter picked his notebook, and earnestly, desperately, held it upwards towards his tormentor.
Mr Edwards looked him square in the face, pursing his lips for a noticeable period of time before speaking.
"I don't have time to single you out for special attention – in case you hadn't noticed, I've a class of over thirty students to teach."
As he spoke, Mr Edwards turned away, no longer paying Peter that special attention.
"You're a lazy smartass Parker, and you'll never amount to anything."