“Begin!” My stomach twists as this word reverberates. Shutting out distractions, I focus on the paper in front of me and, inexplicably, become one with the #2 pencil I nervously grasp. Today is the U.S. History SAT II exam. U.S.A. Dixon Ticonderoga is emblazoned on the gold body of my trusty Old Yeller #2. Hopefully, this is a good omen for the exam. Dixon, I muse as my pencil heads for the paper. Thoughts of the Mason-Dixon Line invade my consciousness and a string of facts pounds my brain. Ticonderoga, I think, recalling the fort and the famous Green Mountain Boys. Clutching my pencil, I pretend to be a history expert, but the blank page of blisters dares me to prove it. We are compatriots, #2 and I, fighting yet another tough battle in the College Entrance War.
Crouching over the paper, I am ready for battle. Here goes nothing ... or everything ... or something in-between. Andrew Jackson, I decide, and fill in the first blank. The next question is about immigrants. My #2 waits patiently as my brain wanders from its horrid task. My grandparents were immigrants. I always listened to their stories intently. I fill in C.
I go on, prodding my pencil to darken the correct blister. I’m on a roll. There’s an A, followed by C and E. Another omen? Wow! Will I really A-C-E this test? Oh, no! I’ve been distracted into playing an alphabet game. I crush Old Yeller against the paper until I regain focus. The pencil’s point begins to dull. Both #2 and I are becoming numb. I shake my hand and look at the sheet. The blackened blisters form a pattern on the answer sheet; it resembles a ... no!
This Saturday morning is for facts, not charming analogies. We continue our skirmish. Suddenly, my pencil stops, awaiting a command, but there is none. A blank blister stares at me. I bite my pencil in frustration. Checking to make sure the numbers line up with the blisters, I watch them form into bubbles which float around me. Thousands of bubbles magically emerge from my #2 pencil-wand. Colorful rainbows appear on their chubby bellies as they glisten in the sun, and then ... pop! Reality intrudes. Hastily, I regroup as #2 blackens another circle. Go! Go! I have lost time. Then, I hear, “Time is up. Stop!”
Old Yeller drops to the desk. Wearily, I pass in the paper with its profusion of black bullet marks. I wonder if they represent triumph or defeat. Only time will tell. Though tired and a bit bruised, I am strangely relieved as I assure my golden friend that we will never give up. His color reminds me of New York City taxicabs. Like those cabs, he fought the traffic jam in my brain and navigated a world of bubbles. SATs, SAT IIs, and APs are strong opponents, but my soldier was brave. Though soft on the inside and a little scarred, #2 still has a few good inches left. I sharpen and store him for the next show of force. We will rest for a while but, all too soon, Old Yeller and I will valiantly battle once more.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.