a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

skipping the fine print

< by Madeleine >

I think we’ve all cut corners before.

I was 15. My French-class name was Madeleine; my bestie’s was Bijou. I sat behind her in our worn, wooden desks with the enamel hardtop surface.

The kind you can write on.

Every Monday before quiz-time, I ran through my mental battery of French vocabulary words (mots), usually pertaining to dinner, sports, and other European Union-caliber topics. I could either risk everything on memory, or put some insurance in place.

So I’d look past Bijou’s blonde head of hair at that blackboard (“questionnaire aujourd’hui!”), and then start copying all the answers in my tiniest print onto that taxpayer-subsidized desk.

la plage (the beach)
les étoiles (the stars)
le sable (the sand)
le soleil (the sun)
la …

“So, THAT’S how you get an A every time!”

I jump. Only Bijou has seen my microscopic subversion.

Just then, Madame emphatically announces silence (testing time!). I stare at my worksheet. All I have to do is lift the page, and my neatly penciled réponses will appear.

Just peek at the desk! the small voice urges. No one will know!

I look around. Bijou, golden head bowed, is still on page 1. That jerk Pierre finished already (QUEL SURPRIS).

I think about how I never trust my own knowledge. How Bijou is that kid with seven million study flashcards. That one time she said I was the smartest person she knows. How I’ll probably never forget that, as long as I live.

I realize I know all the mots. I hope Madame doesn’t see me surreptitiously erasing my desk.

Madame grimly collects our papers. When she gets to me and Bijou, she belies a ghost of a smile. “Les deux amies”, she nods, taking our papers — and our secret — with her.

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