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The Quiz This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , Shongaloo, LA
Do you have a hard time telling left from right?
My mouse hovers uncertainly between
yes and no. I stare at the screen, which glows so bright it nearly makes the words disappear. I swallow and run my tongue over my cheek as I reread the question.

Do you have a hard time telling left from right?

Slowly I move my pointer toward yes, holding my breath. This is the beginning. If I start this test, I'll have to finish, have to see. There is no turning back. Do I really want this? I let out a breath, click yes firmly, and scroll down to question two.

Have you been considered a bad speller?

My mind wanders for a moment, thinking of all the spelling tests at school, sitting with my chewed pencil and wrinkled sheet of paper, my mom quizzing me. She is looking right at me, her eyes boring into me.

“Spell the word ‘chief.'”

I bite my lip and tap my pencil, trying to remember, to picture the word. The only thing that flickers across my third eye is an old Indian sitting on his horse looking regal as he gazes across his land, his people. I watch as he rides among the tepees and leads his tribe in a hunt for buffalo –

“Sally.” Her voice dissolves the image and I am back, looking at the page. “Do you know?”

I sigh in defeat and lower my head in a mixture of frustration and shame. I feel the burn in the back of my throat as tears long to overflow. “No.”

Have you been considered a bad speller?

I click yes and trudge ahead. The next sentence is short, but I still have to look at it for a moment before I understand what it's asking. With it, more images come to mind.

“Sally, please read the next paragraph.”

My heart skips a beat as I look at the handout. I glance quickly at the other students and back to the teacher. She smiles warmly, oblivious to my dread. I want to shake my head and pull my short hair over my face, but I have been taught not to be rude.

I reach for the sheet and stand. My heart drops instantly. Cursive! Cursive with long complicated words.

I swallow, take a deep breath, and start reading, my mind desperately trying to decipher the chicken scratch on the paper. The words are there and I can see them clearly, but my eyes can't focus on them; they dance all over the page. I try to catch their meaning as they twirl and spin. I have to go slowly, and my cheeks grow hotter as each second ticks by. I am not stupid, I am not stupid, I am not stupid, I remind myself.

Finally, I finish and take my seat. I look down at my shirt and smooth it out, like I'm concerned it has a crease, but really I just don't want to see my peers staring at me in disbelief as the teacher tries to get the lesson rolling again. I slide the sheet of paper into my bag and raise my chin high, thinking over and over, You're not stupid, you're not stupid, you're not ­stupid.

Do you hate reading out loud?

I decisively click yes.

When saying a large word, do you sometimes have a hard time pronouncing it correctly or with the sounds in the right order?

I have to smile at this one.

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” my brother says, so quickly that the words blur together.

I grin at him and try. “Peter Piped picking pep –” I frown and try again, this time slowly, “Peter Piped picky peppers –”

My tongue trips over itself and leaves me feeling it is too thick and clumsy for my mouth. I release
an irritated breath. Words are always smashing themselves together and creating strange combinations, even when I'm trying to converse normally.

I answer yes. Again.

I continue down the page, clicking yes more than no. I keep going until I reach the end of the quiz. At the bottom is a small button. Submit. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. If I do this, I will have labeled myself. Even if this is not an official diagnosis and no one knows about it but me, I will still be branded.

Do I want this?

I remember all the times I felt weak, unintelligent. I remember all the times I thought I had conquered a word only to be stabbed by it the second I turned around. I remember all the times I wrote down a phone number and inadvertently switched the digits around. I remember all the times I practiced reading, starting with the easiest books, the ones with pictures so I could improve.

I remember the work, the struggle, the effort. I remember lifting my chin up high, fighting back the humiliation that boiled in my gut when I made a simple spelling mistake. I remember the pride I felt when I could confidently write down a complicated word like knowledgeable or success without having to ask anyone. I remember my personal battle.

If I click this, I will be branded. I will be branded forever.

Do I want this? Is it worth it?

Ralph Waldo Emerson's words come to mind as I hover in my insecurity, “Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.”

I open my eyes and glare at the button. I square my shoulders and sit up straighter. Yes, I will be marked when I do this, but it will not be a shameful title. It will be one that declares my constant battle, my continuous fight. It will tell of how I have trained and mastered myself. It will speak of how I have won war after war.

I firmly grip the mouse, my sword in this fight, and determinedly click submit.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Tiger_Lil said...
today at 5:41 pm:
Wow, your perserverence, and perspective are so moving. Thanks for writing this.
 
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