One day when Nicky Peele was around 13 years old, school was out and summer was just about to begin, but about a month before school was out, final exams and testing were going on. You see, Nicky was in the eighth grade. Nicky, Robert, and Patrick were all best friends, and they had already made plans way before school was out or summer had begun. Every one of the eight graders were talking about working a summer job, and earning some money to buy things and start their “independence.” The whole eighth grade class was at that age where they all were 13 about to turn 14, although some were already 14. Everyone talked about getting a summer job after school, and just the thought had led up to a waiting game; this was going to be a very long nine months of attending school, waiting, and wondering.
Summer was pretty much in full season, and school was about to come to an end. Of course we couldn’t forget about graduation, it was on every eighth grader’s mind. Although it had been an exhausting school year, it had started to become an even more exhausting summer. The days were getting even hotter, and the school year was coming to an end. What had started in September and escalated all the way to June was finally approaching along with graduation, finals, summer jobs, and independence (freedom); everyone was on very high alert trying to juggle everything all at once.
Nicky, Patrick, and Robert, who knew that this was just a few weeks away were determined to reach this moment, and not to let anything stop them from achieving their dream of a summer job. Nicky told the rest of his friends that he knew that he was going to pass the final exams, and they all had talked about it. Two weeks before graduation everyone in the eighth grade took the final exams for reading and math; it was a long exhausting two hour test, and the teacher collected them after the time was up. She said in a confident voice, “I hope that everyone put their best effort into it.” The bell rang. It was a Friday before the weekend so everyone rushed from their desks, and quickly ran out of the room, down the hall, and out of the school.
This was the beginning of the summer and everyone that Nicky, Robert, and Patrick knew couldn’t wait for Monday to get here to find out who passed and who didn’t. No one was thinking about scores after the test. They were only thinking about wanting to play, swim, or hang out with each other. All they wanted to do was graduate and start earning some money to help themselves, and their struggling families out. Everyone just wanted to work and pass the finals to make it all possible.
Monday morning had arrived and the stress of waiting to hear the test results was just about to be over, at least they thought. They all had to prepare to hear the final results from the teacher, but they didn’t expect the unexpected- that not all of them passed or failed. Talking during the weekend, Nicky had told his two best friends, Robert, and Patrick that he just knew he had passed, and had even bragged about working at a summer job, as if he had already gotten his passing grades.
But during that Monday morning, once they all went to class and the teacher had arrived and entered the class room, she told everyone “good morning class,” and everyone said good morning in return; that was when some of my classmates began to bite their nails, look nervous, and wait impatiently to hear the test results. But this day the teacher took her time about reading the grades out to the class. Everyone knew that she was always a good teacher, but this time she took two long hours before she got around to telling the class who had passed and who failed.
The students became even more impatient, and this day had already started out all wrong compared to other days. Nicky looked over to Robert and Patrick, who were in the row behind him, and whispered “what in the hell is wrong with her?” They looked just as amazed as Nicky did. It was as if the teacher was deliberately stalling for time, but that day I guess she didn’t know how to tell them the truth or break their hearts, because some of them were going to be in for a rude awakening once she read the grades. Nicky and his friends didn’t expect the worst.
Time went by so slow that day, and it was going on ten o’clock; the class was getting even more upset, uncomfortable, and impatient. The teacher finally pulled out the test results at nine forty five, and the wait to hear the scores that everyone anticipated the whole weekend was finally here. The teacher placed two stacks of papers on the desk. One on the right side of her, and the other one on the left side of her.
No one in the class knew why she did that. Maybe one was for the people who failed, and the other was for the people who had passed. Either way, they were out in plain sight for the students to see, and that was a sign of relief for everyone. As the students all straightened up in their desks and chairs like little perfect soldiers, it got very quiet in the classroom. Nicky looked over to Patrick and Robert with a grin on his face, and said” here we go fellas,” but no one was laughing or grinning in return.
The teacher began reading the grades and scores out, and it didn’t surprise the class that she did it in alphabetical order which was normal. She told everyone their grades out loud; some passed and others didn’t do so well. Up next was Nicky’s grade because of his last name. She said “well, Mr. Peele, you did well in your reading and writing, and you scored very high on these tests.” Nicky was so delighted to hear that, and the weight that he had endured the whole damn year had finally come to an end. A few seconds before hearing the devastating news he was just sitting over at his desk blushing, and smiling, as if he had won a medal or an award.
The teacher said,” but, unfortunately Mr. Peele, you didn’t score well enough on your math test, so you missed it by six points.” Immediately, Nicky’s face had started turning blood shot red, and what was supposed to be a joyful moment of success, and the expectation of working a summer job went down the drain. The tears came streaming down his face, and Nicky replied, “six points!?” The teacher replied “yes, six points, Mr. Peele. I’m sorry to inform you that you will have to go to summer school.” Nicky shouted out, “Summer school!!? This was supposed to be one of the greatest moments in my life,” he replied. The tears, frustration, and anger built up at that moment; he couldn’t believe it, “summer school,” he sighed.
“Oh my God, can I take that math test over?” he asked. “I wish that I could allow you and those who didn’t do so well in other areas to take it over, but I can’t. It’s school policy, and the guidelines,” she said. The teacher continued to tell the rest of the classroom their grades, but when she called Robert, and Patrick’s name, they were shocked to find out that they too had to go to summer school. It seemed as if half the class had to attend summer school.
The feeling of going to summer school didn’t sit well with them for the rest of that day. The group of friends felt as if they wanted a do over, but here in the world Nicky asked, “do they give do overs?“ One of his classmates replied, “Yes, summer school.” Nicky had to go home and tell his mother and the rest of the family the bad news. He dreaded even entering the house that he shared with his family and siblings.
All that crossed his mind was what was mother going to say to him once he told her the bad news, and how was his brothers, and sisters going to treat him. He walked in with the imprints from dried up tears on his face. His grandmother was sitting in the kitchen waiting for his mother to return from the grocery store. Grandmother asked Nicky in her calming voice, “baby, what’s wrong?” Nicky told her about his plans for a summer job, his grades, and how going to summer school destroyed those dreams, how everything just felt like it was ruined and over with for him. Grandmother opened her arms so that she could embrace him because that is what most grandmothers do and just as he walked over to her, Mother had arrived. She immediately began to shout at Nicky, saying “so you failed, and have to go to summer school, and you have the nerve to ask for a do over, as if you were entitled to have one or something.”
Mother also told grandmother thanks for watching the house while she was gone, and that she could leave so that she could finish talking to Nicky, but Nicky knew that was just a front- she wanted to continue belittling and criticizing him about not passing. Grandmother had gathered up her belongings in less than five minutes and left out. Nicky’s mother told him to bring his ass over to the living room where she was, and she repeated, “a do over?”
“I don’t believe you, maybe you should have studied more, focused on your classes, went to see your tutor more, or invested more time in preparing for this exam instead of trying to be a class clown, and hanging out with your goofball friends!” Mother didn’t make Nicky feel any better about the bad news, but only made the situation worse. Nicky continued crying even more as he went to his room. You could hear mother his shouting as loud as she could “you’re a dumbass!” Nicky just walked away.
After the school had its graduation and the festivities were over, the rest of the eighth graders congratulated each other including Nicky, Robert, and Patrick. Nicky realized that the camera that they had at the graduation only had one more picture left to take. He looked over at both of his grandparents who were there, and he decided to take the last picture with the both of them together. He never had both of his grandmothers around him at the same time, so Nicky asked a friend to take the picture. Once he saw the both of them together with him, Nicky realized that summer school wasn’t going to be that bad. He told himself that it was only for a couple of weeks, but having a picture with the both of his grandmothers at that moment in time made him realize nothing else mattered, and that this was “the color of paradise.”