Anabel is a writer, a book person, a lover of history, and though this chemistry class—even the word “chemistry” intimidates— is for non-science majors, she is forced to sit in this huge auditorium and listen to lectures without a Bunsen burner or beaker in sight.
She takes notes, which, somehow, morph into daisies, milk cartons, wedges of pie, and a whole line of cartoon faces, each wearing a different hat: beret, fedora, sombrero, baseball cap. She draws freckles on one of them and decides he needs red bangs. Wishes she had colored pens in her backpack.
When she finally looks up, everyone’s gone. She frowns at her silly cartoons.
She sleeps through two chemistry classes, then misses the next one and the one after that. She figures, no worries. She has her textbook. She’ll go to the library every night, away from the dorm delirium, and hunker down, read the chapters, take notes. But then, Grace from across the hall, invites her to a bon fire on the beach. She goes and comes home with sand in her underpants.
She skips the next chem class to do her laundry. She has to. She’s wearing her tiny roommate’s jeans, her T-shirt, her bra, and Anabel’s boobs are squished.
This weekend for sure, she promises herself, she’ll meet with the chemistry study group she joined, the one that meets at the fraternity house with the volleyball court. She’s tall. They need a setter.
Somehow, she misplaces her textbook. It’s not under the bed. Not in her closet, and she can’t afford to buy another one, so she may have to go to class, but she won’t understand a thing. To settle her nerves, she smokes a joint.
Her parents call to ask how she’s doing, and by the way, how’s that chemistry class?
“Ohhhhh. Chemistry,” she says, realizing she’s totally forgotten about it. When she hangs up, she does a thorough search of the room. Finds it under her laundry.
The night before the final, she trudges to the study room at the U-CEN. There’s not an empty seat in the place. She sits on the floor near a wall, lays open her moldering book, and spreads out the borrowed notes from the study/volleyball group. She takes a couple of Adderalls and tries to read/skim/pray the textbook and notes. There’s effort here, but eventually, her eyes close and she goes to sleep.
The janitor, singing “Going Down to the Devil,” wakes her up the next morning, a sheet of study notes stuck to her cheek. She sprints to the lecture hall and finds a seat in the back. Looks over the exam, sees only squiggly lines before forcing her eyes to focus. She surveys the questions, shocked that she knows one or two answers. She plugs away, hoping for the best with her stabs in the dark.
She worries for days, dreads the results of the test. She knows she failed. How could she not? She doesn’t know a circuit from a circus, angstrom from angst, hertz from hurts, heavy metal from, well, heavy metal! But, as it happens, she passes because, why?
She can’t believe it. She vaguely remembers some mention of the laws of probability or was it, possibility? Either way, she’ll probably never take science again and there is a small possibility she’ll get to her laundry next week.
Gay Degani has received nominations and honors for her work including Pushcart consideration, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions. She’s published a collection of eight stories, Pomegranate, a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.