Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tauy Creek Digest #43: BTV

“Thank you for coming in Mrs. Griffin,” the principal said. Connie Griffin and Bobbo sat down in the chairs in front of Principal Lundgrens’ desk. “This isn’t an easy conversation to have and I hate having to do it but your son, Robert, isn’t going to pass his eighth grade year of middle school. You probably know this, Mrs. Griffin, but we have to go over the options with you on what steps you want to take with Robert.”

“This comes as a surprise to me,” Connie began. “I knew he wasn’t doing great this year but I didn’t know it was this bad.”

Bobbo was listening but looking out the window behind Principal Lundgren. He could see most of the parking lot but in his head was going through a scene from his imaginary television show he had been running for the last year. It was a daily soap opera-like show featuring little figurines of random pop culture characters he had accumulated through the years. He called it Globe and he kept track of the episodes in a daily planner after he had acted out the episode with the figures.

“Bobbo,” Connie exclaimed, snapping Bobbo out of his trance.


“Why did you do so badly this year?” she asked. He had always been so good in school. Sure, he had trouble with math but being good at everything else usually canceled that out. “And it’s not just math like it usually was but science, social studies, and English, three subjects you absolutely love. What happened?”

Bobbo shrugged. “I don’t know. I just…I was also doing other things.”

“What other things? Your main job is going to school and nothing should be more important than that.”

“Then when am I going to get any writing done?” Bobbo had started on a science novel back in fifth grade and he was still working on it. He figured that he was about halfway through it but he wasn’t sure. And that was aside from the fake television show and detailing “episodes” from he and his friends’ life into a kind of episode guide.

“I love that you want to be a writer and are really throwing yourself into that kind of work but you are fourteen. You are only in middle school. There will be plenty of time to write when you are older.”

“When? When I’m in college? When I’m working a job I don’t like to make money? When I’m taking care of a wife and three kids? When I retire? How about when I’m dead?” Bobbo argued.

“Bobbo,” Connie sighed and placed her hand on Bobbo’s knee. “We will talk about this when we get home. What are our options?” Connie turned to Principal Lundgren.

“Well, there are two options. One, Bobbo retakes eighth grade year. Two, we do a social promotion. He still graduates,” Principal Lundgren explained “he still crossed the stage and shakes hands but there won’t be anything in the envelope. Also, as long as he is in this district and, really, in this state, he has to pass the rest of his grades or he will be held back and forced to repeat them.”

The last four words bored into Bobbo’s heart and brain. The incidental music playing in his head stopped. He started thinking about what being held back—whether it’s his eighth grade year or his sophomore year—would mean to him. He’d become even more bored in class, probably lose what few friends he had. None of these options were ones he wanted but these were the ones presented to him.

“He should probably be held back. Better to do it now than when he’s in high school and the grades and effort actually matter,” Connie said.

“What? No, I don’t want to be held back,” Bobbo exclaimed. “It’s not fair.”

“How is it not fair? You didn’t do the work. You didn’t pass. You shouldn’t be rewarded for failing like this.”

“I’m not being rewarded. You know I’m smart. You know I can do this. You both know this. I’m having a bit of a struggle and the solution is to paint a big red A on my chest? Whether I’m held back or receive an empty envelope, it’s a huge punch in the gut,” he nervously laughed and tried to keep tears from falling from his eyes. “And…and what if I struggle in high school at some point and fail?”

“Bobbo…” Connie sighed again. “These are the rules, or the laws, or whatever. We have no control over them. It may not seem fair, it may not seem right but they are the only options.”

“Then I choose the empty envelope,” Bobbo said, crossing his arms.

Connie turned her body in the chair to face her son. “Bobbo, you have to do better next year.”

“I can. I will. I can handle work, school, and writing,” Bobbo said. He had applied to work at Greenbush College in the food service department. Several other teenagers were going to work there including his friends Brooke and Max. The job was supposed to start the Tuesday after Labor Day and Bobbo was excited to finally have his own money since his mom had never given him an allowance.

“I don’t think there will be any work in the near future,” Connie shook her head. “And writing should also be put on the back burner because school needs to be your only focus for the next year.

“But I want to keep this job. I’ve been excited for this job since I was in sixth grade,” Bobbo said. “I can do it. Give me a chance. I can do it,” he seemed to be almost hyperventilating.

Connie sighed again. Bobbo had never heard her sigh this much. “To keep the job you have to stay above a C, got it?” she said.

Bobbo nodded. “Yeah,” he gulped.