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The Assignment

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Chapter One


(Listen Here)



It's a good thing I excel in speech and drama; otherwise, I'd be screwed in Mrs. Todd's class this year. Kelly is by far the biggest distraction in my life right now, without a doubt. I called her at least three times over the summer and hung up as soon as she said hello. Thankfully fate gave me an hour each day right next to her in class. We've spent the entire time bonding while our teacher became nothing more than background noise. It's worth trading my A+ for an A- as long as I get a date by year's end.


It looks like Mrs. Todd has an announcement to make, "Alright, class, I'm going to assign you to groups of three. You will have two weeks to write a one-act play. I'll choose the best one, and we'll perform it in front of the school. You'll have plenty of time to work on it most days in class, so two weeks should be ample." There is a stellar chance this is not good news for my pending relationship. No way will she put Kelly and me in the same group.


After separating about half of us into teams, she finally says my name. On my trip to the front of the class to await my fate, I can't help but think of how my instructor will ruin my life. My progress, destined to fall apart if she doesn't match us up. Maybe I can will her to call Kelly's name with my mind. It's worth a shot, "Kelly, call Kelly! Mrs. Todd, call Kelly's name," is my thought that will hopefully make it to her brain somehow. Oh gosh, here she goes; my fingers crossed, and she says, "Miller." "Seriously! Miller? He is not who I sit at my desk thinking about all day. He doesn't make me dizzy, nor does he give me that 'Christmas morning' feeling in my stomach," I think to myself. The teacher speaks again, "and Kelly." Yes!


It took me a solid twenty minutes to get over my excitement, but my bliss didn't prevent me from coming up with a strategy. In all honesty, I could have knocked out a decent one-act play in a night by myself, but I convinced my group of three we should meet after school to work on the task. We planned on me picking them both up on Tuesday to rent a conference room at APSU. It would give me more time with Kelly and hopefully a chance to seal the deal on that date I desperately wanted. Thanks to my quick thinking, blinding sparks will fly, and our love will ignite the darkest Tennessee sky.


"Mom, I have to borrow the car. It's a mandatory assignment, and if I don't, then I could fail," she reluctantly rewarded me with the keys after my plea. Okay, so I didn't entirely tell the truth, but I didn't lie either. Her car is an ugly mammoth tank that enjoys stalling in the middle of traffic. I'd rather walk or ride my bike in most cases, but the brown beast is my only hope in this scenario. Sometimes a guy has to decide, and I'm determined to do whatever it takes.




Miller is practically my neighbor, so I have to pick him up first. It would look a little suspicious if I went to Kelly's house and then circled back for him. I'd have to think of something clever to get him in the back seat instead of shotgun. Before he could even open the door all the way, I said, "Hey buddy, it might be polite to let Kelly sit up front since she's a girl." He informed me that he tends to get car sick if he rides in the back and sits beside me. It wasn't the best excuse, but it's all I had, and it failed miserably. On the way to our next stop, he insisted on me taking him home by six for dinner, or his parents would get mad. That only gives me a couple of hours with Kelly at most. He's been in the car for one minute, and I already want to leave him on the side of the road.


As soon as I pull up, Kelly comes busting out; she hops in the back, and we head out on our adventure. Whenever I look up into my rearview mirror, her reflection catches my eye and puts me in some weird trance. "Dude, watch the road," Miller says with a bit of dread. We turned on Riverside Drive, and the car died, so I had to coast to the turning lane. It's a pretty good workout with no power steering, but I managed. We sat there for a second before restarting it and merging into traffic. My anxiety would have been manageable if Miller hadn't flipped out. More than anything, it's embarrassing because I'm doing my best to make a good impression on Kelly. After catching her giggling in the mirror, it made me feel better. There is no sign of panic in her eyes, so I should be good.


After acquiring our room, we worked on the script for ten minutes before more interesting topics took over the conversation. Knowing Miller had to be home by six, I suggested grabbing a Blizzard at Dairy Queen afterward. Kelly perked up and agreed that was a great idea. Miller told me he'd like that too but reminded me that he had to be on time for dinner. "Darn, Miller, I totally forgot about that. Well, crap, it looks like it'll just have to be me and you, Kelly. I'll take him home, and we'll come back to town for ice cream," I said, trying not to look overly excited.


We began discussing the play again, and Miller excused himself and went to the bathroom. A few minutes alone with Kelly is all I ever wanted, and now I have it for the first time. She has no clue that she seized my heart more than a year ago when I caught her beaming over one of my stupid jokes. It was a combination of laughter and sympathy because it wasn't funny at all. The situation was less about her reaction and more about having her full attention, even for a few seconds. After that, there was no hope; she had me, and I fell hard. Hopefully, tonight's unofficial date will turn into an official date very soon.


Miller shuffled back into our private room and insisted he had great news. "Don't keep us in suspense; what's up?" After being ripped from my deep conversation with the girl of my dreams, I asked. "I called my parents, and they said I could stay out until seven, so I can go to DQ with you guys after all," Miller said with great enthusiasm. My friend raised his hand for a high five from both of us. The fake smile I summoned was only to hide the feeling of disastrous disappointment. He has once again unknowingly thwarted my plan to sweep Kelly off her feet and drive off into the sunset in the brown beast. After concluding fate may not be on my side, after all, I decided to suck it up because Miller is my friend, and I'd never dream of hurting his feelings.


We left Dairy Queen and headed toward Kelly's home as the evening came to an end. I was determined to make my own destiny today because some things in life are worth the extra effort. The first date with Kelly isn't going to materialize by itself, so I have to take charge with another plan. My schedule is open all week, and if it weren't, I'd cancel whatever I had to if it meant another day with Kelly. Even if Miller had to tag along, it would be worth a few more moments with her. We're only a couple of minutes from the stop, so I'd have to make my move quickly.


I spoke up as we turned on to her road, "We should do this again this week; what works best for you two?"


"I'm good anytime," Kelly says from the backseat.


Miller jumps in, "I have tennis practice every day but Friday, so that's best for me."


My genius idea, "Aww man! The only day I'm available is tomorrow." That sucks, Miller. I guess Kelly and me will have to go without you. I don't mind pulling a little extra weight on the project so you can go to practice; I mean, what are friends for, right?"


They agreed it was a good idea before Kelly hopped from the car and strolled inside. Miller talked about tennis the whole way back to his house. At least, I believe that's what he was rambling on about during the drive. I dropped Miller off and headed back to Mellon Road with a heart full of hope. Tomorrow is another day, and it looks promising. About the time I parked Mom's car Whitesnake came on the radio. Is This Love packed my chest with optimism while I looked up at my special moon from the front seat of the big brown beast.


Chapter Two


(Listen Here)

Life can be jam-packed full of second chances. Sometimes we have to orchestrate our melodies, and occasionally, the day plays an unplanned piece so sweet we're not even sure if we are supposed to hear it. Welcome the tragic tunes and the victorious versus all the same because seasons are short, so we'd better listen close while we can.


"Chris, I told you the car needs work, and it's not safe enough for you to drive. It died on me three times on the way to Montgomery Ward," Mom said for the final time, again.


"Mom, I need to borrow it today; it'll be fine. If it dies on me, I'll restart it," I begged.


She countered with, "It's not going to happen, and if you keep asking, I'll never let you borrow it again.


"Mom, please! You don't understand. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important."


"Leave me alone, Christopher! Maybe you can use your brother's car. He'll leave it with me today, so I'll have something to drive until mine gets fixed. I'll ask him before you get home."


Well, that never dawned on me at all. My brother, Larry, loves his ride. There's no way he will let me use it after school today. It's a sweet, bright white 85' Cutlass that I've admired since the first day he showed it off. Kelly would flip out if I picked her up in it. I'm not even sure if I am worthy enough to sit in the driver's seat of something that special. She's deserving, though, and maybe I'll come home to some good news.


Lucky me, this has to be the longest ride home ever. As soon as the bus was ready to leave MCHS, some kid in the back barfed, and it flowed as far as my seat before it stopped. He got to enjoy his fruit cocktail cup twice today, good for him. Who knows what the pink stuff is that the driver sprinkles on top. It smells almost as bad as the vomit. Between that and Todd's little brother asking me to join his birdwatching club, I've had about enough. I've had a little time to reflect on the day in between the excitement.


It made me feel pretty spectacular when Kelly's best friend, Jennifer, told me that her homeslice was excited to see me after school. The nagging feeling of my brother possibly saying no has been eating at me since the first period. Telling Kelly we may have to cancel wasn't an option because I wanted to project the illusion that I have everything together. So much for being in control of my fate. All I can do now is pray that things work out in my favor.


The giant yellow bus swings around our barn to reveal the stunning automobile I desperately hope to pilot. Everything feels like slow motion as I make my exit and walk toward the impeccable machine resting in front of our house. Gently placing my hand on the trunk, I let my fingers glide over the paint as I circle to the hood. Peering through the windshield, I imagine myself in control of this masterpiece.


"Chris!" blares through the screen door and snaps me from my daze. My stomach feels sick as I march toward the front entrance into the unknown. The smell of the pink stuff still lingers in my nostrils, and that isn't helping at all. One of two things is about to happen; I'll call my friend to cancel our encounter, or I'll pull up in her driveway in Larry's brilliant white beauty. Why do I feel like my life is over?


Tracy Chapman's, Fast Car plays on the radio, drowning any outside noise leaving me solely with my thoughts. The steering wheel of my brother's 1985 Cutlass feels right at home in my hands as I cruise down Salem Road. If my smile were any bigger, it would have to sit in the backseat to make room for Kelly. Man, this day has indeed turned around, and I will not let it go to waste. My actual assignment isn't writing the play at all; it's asking her out on a date. My confidence level is through the roof, so this should be a cakewalk.


"Oh boy, I just want to turn around and go home," I said to myself as my spirit took a nose dive turning into her driveway. She's probably going to say no, so I should save face and treat her like she's Miller or something. I'll picture his head on her shoulders and maybe survive the whole trip without sounding like an idiot. Kelly comes strutting out and jumps in the front seat before I get the chance to walk to her door.


"Too bad Miller can't be here, huh?" Kelly expressed.


"Miller? Who?" I mumbled as the reality of her sitting in my front seat smacked me in the face like that softball the time the sun got in my eyes. "Yeah, it's um too bad he couldn't tag along," is all I could think to say after hearing her sweet voice glide along through the air. The scent of her perfume overtook any leftover odor from the pink stuff and sent my senses into a fabulous frenzy of joy.


"Chris!"


"Yeah!?" I shook my head and yelled as if someone rubbed smelling salt on my nose.


"We should probably leave before it's time to be back, don't ya think?"


I wholeheartedly agreed, put the car in reverse, and pulled out into the road. Maybe it's a self-esteem issue, but I never once pictured myself in a situation like this. A guy can spend his entire life thinking and dreaming of this very moment, but it always seems so out of reach. Well, until it finally happens. We're talking and joking like we do every day in speech and drama class in no time at all. It feels right.




"I love this car. Who's is it?"


"It's my brothers. I can't believe he let me borrow it." The one I drove yesterday finally gave out, and I'm glad it did because this is an improvement."


"I'd say so. It's nice, but the adventure was fun yesterday, not knowing if we'd stall in the middle of traffic. You kept me guessing for sure."


"Welp, I'm known all over Tennessee as an adventuresome man of mystery, you know," escapes my lips as I push up my glasses while realizing how lame that sounded.


"That was lame," Kelly snickers.